“Once upon a time”…I had plans. Those plans included romance, marriage, children, growing old with my husband…
Like many young girls, I created my own version of “happily ever after”. My version had me married by the age of 21. I would have five children all spaced exactly two years apart (I even knew all their names). My children would NEVER be the ones with snotty noses dripping all over the shopping carts. I would always be thin and beautiful. I would be the perfect mom. My husband and I would grow old together and serve a mission for my church. You get the picture!
Like many young girls my plans did NOT include trials. Why would they? After all, “once upon a time” always means “happily ever after,” right? I just figured you create your plans and then you “live happily ever after.”
When I was about 2-years-old, my parents realized that I had vision problems and took me in to get some help. They were informed that I had a lazy eye and that it was imperative they patch my good eye so that I would not become totally blind in the lazy eye. In addition, I wore glasses. I must say I looked really cute with my “cat-eye” glasses. Although at the time I didn’t think I looked cute.
Anyway, my poor vision contributed to some of my shyness. Partly because I had grown such a fear of things when I was an infant because I could not see properly and partly because once they corrected the problem with glasses I got teased! Glasses are not viewed the same now as they were then. I always hated being called four-eyes!
|Love the hair and the cat-eye's!|
|See, don't I look cute?|
My senior year of high school I entered the job release program and went to cosmetology school. I was so excited to have my cosmetology license at just 18-years-old. I thought how cool it was going to be to work until I got married at 21 and then I could quit and stay home. I could create beautiful hairstyles on my daughters!
When I was in my early twenties, I had already started to see my plans change. At the age of 21, I felt impressed that I needed to serve a mission for my church. I was blessed to have the opportunity to go to England for 18 months. While I was on my mission, I was able to overcome my shyness and many of my insecurity issues. People who know me find it hard to believe that I was shy. Yes, I was terribly shy. Just ask my family.
I returned home from my mission and started to date. I became engaged to a really nice guy. The only problem was I didn’t feel good about it. I couldn’t understand why it was not the right thing. After all, he was a good guy. But, those feelings did not change, so I called my wedding off four weeks before it was supposed to happen. It was a very tough thing to do. Many people questioned me. I knew that some people thought I was just afraid of marriage. It was hard knowing or at least feeling that people were “judging” me.
As I continued to work in a salon doing hair, I came to the realization that my plans were not what I thought they were going to be. I was now 23 years old and home from a mission and still just dating. I was not married. I started to think about furthering my education. I decided to go to college.
While working and going to college I continued to date and meet some very nice guys. Before I knew it, I was graduating from college with my bachelor degree. I had a double major in Family Studies and Communication.
I still had not met my “Prince Charming”. I was starting to wonder if he existed. My plans were quite different from what I thought they would be. One of the hardest parts of this trial in my life (yes, it was a trial) was to deal with comments I would hear from others. I heard that I was too picky. I worried that people thought I had blown my chances. I even started to wonder if I had blown my chances. I had opportunities to marry and did not take them. Was I really too picky? What was wrong with me? Whether real or imagined, I was sure that others were wondering the same things too. I even started to feel like I was not good enough in God’s eyes to be married.
One day, I met a man and we hit it off. He was so fun to be around. He was the life of the party kind of guy. We dated. We got engaged. We made plans.
I started to have concerns. I ignored the concerns. My parents were not excited about this match. Come to think of it, I don’t think any of my family or friends were too happy about it. They just weren’t vocal about it like my parents.
I had this feeling my fiancé was not being completely honest with me. I felt like he was seeing his ex-wife behind my back. He never would confirm it. Furthermore, he was always telling me things that I needed to fix about my physical appearance. He would say things like, “tanned fat looks better than white fat”. He would also say things like, “just think how much I will love you when you get thinner”. He just knew I could be a size three instead of a seven. Oh how he loved bright red nail polish on fake nails!
Somehow, I put up with his emotional abuse. This man did not accept me for who I was. I was not fat. But he started to convince me that I was. He would call and check on me every day to make sure that I had gone to the gym. He would ask me what I had eaten for the day. He was one of those people who was very good at manipulating you…he made everything he said seem logical and real.
Plan change…one day after being engaged for five months, he informed me that his ex-wife wanted him back. He said that he wanted to be with me, but if he went back he could be with his young daughter full time. The rest is history…he chose to go back to his ex-wife. To this day, I am grateful his desire to be with his daughter was greater than his desire to be with me. In case you were wondering, yes, he is divorced from his wife again.
After this disastrous relationship, I was done. I felt like my chances were gone. I figured that all the plans I created for my “happily ever after” were not to be. Even though I felt tired and defeated I started to date again. Not that I was too excited about it.
Just four months later, I met my “Prince Charming” on the bus. I know funny, right? He and I both worked downtown Salt Lake City. I won’t go into all the details on this post, but lets just say, it was a match made in heaven! While we dated I never had any fear or doubts of any kind.
A year later we were married. So, at the age of 32, I married the most amazing man. I was so grateful and still am that I was blessed to find him. As I look back, I know that God has been guiding my path all along.
My husband was previously married. His first wife suffered from mental illness. Unfortunately, she chose to take her life. My heart is sad for her and all the suffering she endured. When I married my husband, I became the stepmom to three children. I say children, but really they were two teenagers and a young adult. I was anxious to start having more children to add to the family. After all, I wasn’t getting any younger and neither was he. He was seven years older than me.
Well, as usual my plans were changed. It took longer than I expected. I was a little bit angry with God. First of all, He made me wait until I was 32 to get married and now I was forced to wait longer to have children…seriously? Now I get to struggle with infertility too?
Well, it finally happened after almost three years. I finally got the double lines on the pregnancy test. What a thrilling moment! Plan change…at 25 weeks pregnant I started to have a lot of contractions…preterm labor…I was forced to quit my job and stay home on bed rest for 10 weeks. Fortunately, only a few weeks early, I had this beautiful new baby daughter. She got her nickname of Cinnamon at this time because she had the most beautiful colored hair!
My new baby was so beautiful. My new baby was also very inconsolable. She cried all the time. I mean all the time! I remember one of the nurses in the hospital called her a brat because she was such a fusser. Obviously, I didn’t like that nurse very much! Seriously, who tells a new mother their baby is a brat?
To say that the first few months with our new baby was rough is an understatement. My baby was fussy while she ate. She would arch her back when she has held. She was so upset at three days old that she managed to roll over from her back to her stomach. Not only was she fussy, she was not gaining any weight. After testing in the hospital and an overnight stay, it was determined that she had severe reflux. She was placed on medication. Now, we were also working with a pediatric gastroenterologist. After a couple of weeks on the medication we saw improvement and she started to gain weight.
After a miscarriage, we became pregnant with our second baby. Once again, I suffered pre-term labor. This time, it started later and I only had to do bed rest for 6 weeks.
Our sweet little Skippy (nickname she inherited because she started to skip around everywhere she went at a young age---in fact right after she started walking) was born almost 4 weeks early. Plan change…she did not have trouble breathing, but she had major blood sugar issues which landed her in the NICU for a week. During that time it was also discovered that she had severe reflux after she had a “blue episode”. I am grateful she was in the NICU when it happened. She had aspirated while sleeping and was not breathing. Fortunately, they monitor the babies closely while they are in the NICU and they were able to help her. Had she been at home she may not have made it. This was another one of those times I counted my blessings!
Plan change…as time went on we noticed that our Cinnamon was very sensitive to sounds, textures, bright lights, and changes to her routine. She was struggling in school socially and a bit academically. Half way through her first grade year, I found a neuropsychologist for children. After a lot of money and testing, we discovered that our daughter had Asperger Syndrome. She also had a math learning disability. Asperger Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder.
Someone with Asperger Syndrome can be very high functioning, like our daughter. You do not look at her and think, “what is wrong with that child”? The older she gets the less I see of the Asperger traits. Although, I still see it at times…mostly socially. With time, she is learning to handle and overcome this trial. I have explained to her that some people struggle with depression; some people struggle with ADHD (which is what they were originally thinking she had); some people struggle with diabetes; some people struggle with other ailments. We all have our struggles in life...whatever that may be!
I am constantly trying to remind my daughter that there are many famous people who have been diagnosed with or thought to have had Asperger Syndrome! She really is such a delight to me. My heart aches as I watch her cry because she struggles so much with friendships.
Plan change…in 2009, his back really started to bother him again. Paul had broken his back when he was working as a lineman for the phone company in his early twenties. We knew that another surgery might be headed his way. In 2010, we knew that he was going to have to have surgery. He could hardly walk and his leg was starting to atrophy. We took Paul in to the Neurosurgeon and we were told that his L4 and L5 were rubbing bone on bone.
It was decided that he would have surgery on May 21, 2010. I remember that day well. That was my first glimpse at what it would feel like to lose my husband. The surgery they were performing was called an ALIF (Anterior Interbody Lumbar Fusion). In this procedure they do the surgery through the abdomen rather than the back. They move the organs out of the way to expose the spine. While moving things somehow a vein attached to the Iliac artery ripped.
As the doctor started to speak his voice was very shaky...he did not make eye contact with us...he said, "There has been a complication. I am not sure exactly what happened...he is bleeding from a vein...we are working to save Paul's life". At that moment, I could not believe what I was hearing...What? He went in for back surgery? Why are they having to save his life? After several intermittent updates, over a two hour span, they finally came and told us he would be going in to ICU...We had to wait for another hour or so before we could go in to see him...
I was not prepared for what I saw when I walked into Paul's room...I almost collapsed...he was full of tubes and IV's and his face was very swollen...but he did have good coloring in his face. As it was explained to me, Paul had coded on the table, had received 15 units of blood, had two vascular surgeons working on him and really was lucky to be alive. We were informed that yes, he was truly a miracle!
Two months later, Paul went in for surgery on his back again. Only this time they did it the traditional way, through his back. After a couple more months of a grueling recovery, he was finally able to go back to work. He had been off for six months!
Plan change…after Paul had been back to work for 13 months, we discovered that he had cancer. You can read the cancer story on my blog. The first post is this Are you serious?. My husband died after a valiant battle with stomach cancer on February 25, 2013.
No, my life is not what I planned. My plan did not include cancer. My plan did not include my mom dying just six months before my husband. My plan did not include becoming a widow at a young age. My plan did not include having a child with Asperger Syndrome. My plan did not include having a child with major OCD issues. My plan did not include my plans changing.
My “once upon time” is very different from what I thought it was going to be. But you know what? The plan that I am on is what I needed. God knows what is best for me. He knows how to help me. I am not alone. He knows what my “happily ever after” WILL be.
Everyone experiences changes to their plans. Everyone has trials, whether they are directly related to their change in plans or not. Some people’s trials are less obvious than others. There are people who silently suffer daily. No matter what your trials are, know that God loves you and is mindful of you. With God’s help, your trials will make you stronger if you allow them to.
I have met other women who have written about the changes in their dreams and plans. They are sharing their own personal struggles and trials and how they are dealing with them. You can read about Veronica here Giving up My Plan and Learning to be Content with God's Plan; you can read about Julie here My Name is Julie; you can read about Ashlee here I Dream.
In the talk Your Happily Every After, Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop…Enduring adversity is not the only thing you must do to experience a happy life. Let me repeat: how you react to adversity and temptation is a critical factor in whether or not you arrive at your own “happily ever after.”
When I hear the phrase “happily ever after” it sounds like eternity to me. I know that someday I will be reunited with Paul and all other loved ones that I have lost to death. Now that sounds like “happily ever after” to me!