Wednesday, June 30, 2010

15th Anniversary of Life Without a Colon

Fifteen years ago, I wanted a BIG present to celebrate my birthday and graduation from high school; it cost more than both of their cars put together.

I was asking, pleading for a colectomy. Every year at this time, I think about this surgery, which for me, happened to be my cure from ulcerative colitis.

I am so lucky. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Over the past 4 or 5 years, I've realized that now, I have lots of peers and dear friends who are far wiser than I--their struggles make this event 15 years ago look like a trip to Disneyland. That smug wisdom I had at 18 is over.

But, for a few years, that illness made me wiser than many of my peers. I learned about mortality. I knew, as only a select group of teenagers ever know, that sometimes, no matter how badly you want to live, your body won't cooperate. You'll keep bleeding, loosing weight, getting weaker.

No matter your positive thoughts.
No matter your prayers.

And, I learned that sometimes, for whatever arbitrary reason (because the older I get, unfortunately I realize that who stays and who goes feels terribly arbitrary), healing can happen, though it's often not in the form I originally thought it would come in.

Instead of the miraculous healing I prayed for, the one where my symptoms disapper, and I walk out of the hospital, leaving doctors scratching their heads... I ended up with a different result, one without a colon and a few adjustments to my life, but a healing just as miraculous because of the many lessons it taught me.

If I hadn't gotten so sick that summer, I think the life I led would have been very different. There are dear friends I would have never met.

I think it even had a profound affect on the person I chose to marry. Perhaps you've met Nate...We didn't (don't) seem to have much in common on the surface, but 1995 was a rough year for both of us. And the things we learned that year (though such knowledge came under very different circumstances) formed part of our immediate bond when we got reacquainted in college and still frames our lives today, carrying us through difficult times--perhaps you've also heard of June 2010? There have been days where I think it's trying to give June 1995 a run for its money as the WORST. MONTH. EVER.

Anyway, I wouldn't have gone into religious studies or found hospital chaplaincy. I don't think I would have applied to the graduate schools that I applied to and certainly wouldn't have had the courage to go to the one I ended up going to. In fact, my mantra for five years post-surgery was, "I can do that. I've gone without food or water for 40 days, I've been in the hospital for 2 months, and I've lost a colon. This is nothing."

That last flare-up taught me more about God and charity (and how God uses others to show love, do God's work, and comfort us) than I have learned before or since. It also taught me a reliance on God that I don't know if I could have learned any other way. I learned that when it's 3 am, and I had to wait 2 more hours before my next doses of anti-nausea medication and/or pain medication, well, there wasn't anyone else who was able to sit in that room and wait with me quite like Jesus did (though my mom was a close second).

And, on the lighter side, really, the excuse, "I can't...I don't have a colon," is just a pleasure to spout out every once in a while, even when it makes no sense.

A couple years ago, I had an ob/gyn give me an exam. She looked at my stomach 14 inch vertical scar and the 6 inch horizontal scar. She said (as most people do), "Oh my gosh! What happened?!"

I explained I had a colectomy. She said, "You know, they only make about a 4 inch incision now for the whole surgery."

But, I'm happy with my scars because a 5 inch incision just wouldn't do justice to the illness or the healing. As I've reflected all month on where I was 15 years ago (yes, I'm a little embarrassed that I have thought about June 1995 this much), I wish I could show that 18 year old Emily my stomach today, pregnant with Baby #3, with the faded scars and most importantly, I'd have her notice that there aren't any new scars. She never had another flare-up that would necessitate more scarring, she even got pregnant and that trusty pseudo-colon made it unnecessary for the Cesearans the doctors promised she'd need.

That ugly stomach would show her that she did what she feared she'd never be able to do when she got out of the hospital--grow up, move out, and move on.

Technically, this post should have been posted yesterday, but I was feeling just a little too tender to get it up.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Scenes from a Marriage: Who's Got Your Back

Actually, we've learned this past week that lots of people have our backs. Offers of babysitting, house and yard cleaning, and just genuine friendship have been given freely. We have a mountain of thank you notes to write.

Conversation 1:
Asher: Mom, you are REALLY hurting my feelings.
Mom: Asher, I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, but you've got to do what I ask.
Asher: Whatever, Mom. I'm going to have Aunt Rachel spank you bottom SO HARD.

Aunt Rachel is also the "best mom" according to Asher because she takes them swimming (see photos) and never yells at them.

Conversation 2:
Emily: Nate, tell me you made the little mouse teeth markings with a knife in the butter I left out last night, so I don't have to buy more traps.
Nate: Um, yes...yes, I was the one who did that. Certainly, not a roof rat like the one I caught while you were in Utah.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My latest project

Once I commit to an organization, it's usually stuck with me. My Mormon feminist group, Exponent II, would be one of those groups.

Since September, one of my favorite friends, Aimee, and I have been rebuilding this historic paper as co-editors. And, today, we are excited to announce the publication of our first issue as co-editors (and the first issue since Winter 2009).

Aimee, our layout editor, Margaret, and our webdesigner, Jana, were lovely last week when I had to call 5 days before we published this issue and tell them, "Please change this and this and this and this, and I won't be of any help until next week if I'm even up to helping then."

It's been hard to get this out while we've been dealing with Starr's death, so I also want to dedicate my work on this issue to him. He was one of the best Mormon feminists I knew, and I'm grateful that he raised his sons to be like him in that respect. He always encouraged me in my graduate work in feminist studies, even expressing his pride in the work I had chosen to do. And, frankly, Starr put his own hours into this issue (Starr, could you watch the boys today, so I could get this part of the paper finished? And, what about next week when I meet with the Uppity Women's group for lunch?).

And, you can also see Nate's cousin, Tessa's lovely cover art above, and Nate's mom, Judy's diligent and inspired poetry collection as our poetry editor. Clearly, I married into an amazing family.

Monday, June 7, 2010


There are many different kinds of holes in the world. There are good holes, bad holes, big holes, little holes. Some holes lead to wonderful opportunities, and other holes just lead to the opposite side of the fence, button holes, rabbit holes, doughnut holes, and post holes. Truth be told, there is a hole for every occasion. But the grand-daddy of all holes is the black hole, the biggest, darkest, meanest hole of them all.

A black hole forms when a starr no longer burns hot enough to support its structure. When no fuel remains, the spent starr dies by collapsing on itself, and forming a dense dark mass with gravity so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape.

The starr is exhausted, collapsed, a black hole remains that sucks in the light and energy from our lives.

But this starr, while he was alive, gave life and light. This starr emitted charity and radiated kindness to friends, family and strangers alike. This starr's light will be recycled and passed on to warm hearts and strengthen minds generations removed.

When held in the balance, the knowledge, life and love that shown from this starr while he burned will eclipse the black hole that has been left behind.

Each night we search the sky for that guiding starr.


We find only this hole.

For H. Starr Curtis,
April 27, 1941 – June 7, 2010

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pregnancy Indulgences

Treat Tummy*: I want a Tofutti Cutie.
Me: How about a banana?
TT: No, a Mint Chocolate Chip Tofutti Cutie.
Me: Ok, you’ve already had 2 of those in the last hour. What about cherries?
TT: No.
Me: a peach?
TT: No.
Me: Some toast with Granda's raspberry jam?
TT: No.
Me: Anything else?
TT: Well, I could handle a chocolate chip cookie.
Me: You just had two of those in the last 15 minutes.
(pause and sigh)
Tofutti Cutie it is.

*A Treat Tummy is a stomach separate from one's regular tummy. It allows you to have a complete meal at a resturant and still be hungry for dessert. It perplexes my dad and my husband that they can eat with the women in our family who say, "I am completely full," and then, say, "So, where's dessert?"

(And I do worry that my TT seems to negotiate with me the same way my 5 year old does.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Memorial Day in Utah

Three days after I returned from Europe, the little boys (remember Nate's busy work, it continues), my in-laws and I piled in the mini-van and headed to Ephraim and Springville, Utah to celebrate Memorial Day.

The trip went well; our boys are starting to be good little travellers. We made it to Page before we had to break out the DVD's--a record for us!

First stop was Ephraim to Grandma Wanda's house. Nate's cousin (and my travelling companion), Tessa, has been renovating the house this year, and I simply couldn't believe the transformation. I'm kicking myself now that I didn't take any pictures.

We stayed in the local hotel where the boys slept ALL NIGHT and woke up to go to the Scandanavian Days parade. Asher and Luke were super excited about all the candy that was thrown at them. And, Judy had the good idea of getting Luke a dog leash at Wal-Mart because I had forgotten a stroller. The leash worked really well with the added bonus of getting Luke more worn out, but I think Nate and I will stick to strollers. The looks ones gets for putting their child on a leash!

And, I don't know if it was the pregnancy hormones or what, but golly, did I get emotional when I saw those people dressed in pioneer clothes with their pushcarts waving those Scandanvian flags. Every year we go to Ephraim, I think, "This was my ancestors' promised land?"Not that San Pete County isn't lovely, but really, what faith and determination!

Then, we went to the Scandanavian Days fair at Snow College, where it is one of the highlights of my year to get myself some Swedish meatballs.

Starr and Asher played some pioneer games. And, then, we waited in line for 45 minutes for hot dogs for the boys. After all the adults and children were tired and bored, I realized I would be waiting until next year for my Swedish meatballs. Asher got to play with some delightful second cousins, and Luke enjoyed a little Dora the Explorer at the Ephraim house. Once the boys fell asleep, I realized it was my chance to drive up to Springville.

We stayed with my grandparents who are some of the most gracious hosts around. Granda made delicious meals and Grandpa watched the kids in the yard.

Luke broke a paper maiche box that I remember from when I was growing up and a coaster and he pulled up about four tulip bulbs before unpotting 6 potted plants. Granda and Grandpa were very kind, but I was pretty embarrassed.

Granda and Grandpa also did their Memorial Day celebrations early on Saturday so that we could hit the rode early Monday to make it home in time for the boys to start school. We made the rounds at the cemetary, putting flowers on Granda and Grandpa's parents' and siblings' graves; it also gave us a good chance to talk to Asher a bit about mortality while Luke went and tried to spin all the pinwheels he could find.

It was another delightful Memorial Day Utah celebration, but one certainly made all the more enjoyable and possible by family members.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Post-Trip Wrap-Up

So, the after effects of my European trip aren't as bad as I thought. Of course, it looks like it was a little rough while I was gone, see Luke's end of the year playgroup picture to the left.

But, it only took me 2 days to find the bad smells in the fridge. (Thank you to everyone who fed Nate and the boys--they didn't touch a thing I left them.) We're still digging out from laundry, and I haven't begun to think about cleaning, but at least the bills are paid.

But, the thing about being a stay-at-home parent is that's about all the catch-up I have to do. Someone else had to feed, bath, and entertain my children while I was gone. I don't have to do any of that because my mother-in-law and mom did it all, and I mean ALL. I came home to boys with haircuts, clipped fingernails, and brushed teeth. (And while Nate did an excellent job in so many areas, well, I know those things were taken up by the grandmas.)

The only ill effects for the boys seems to be:

1. Luke's separation anxiety has increased exponentially. Today was his first day of preschool. The first day ever that instead of leaving him tantrumming in my arms he was permitted to stay...only to wail at my departure.

2. Luke has taken to calling me, "Emily."

"EMILY, you have a TIME OUT!"
"EMILY, I want my CHEESE!"

3. Asher has taken to informing me that he will "tell his dad on me."

On the plus side:
1. Nate thinks I'm, like, the BEST THING EVER!
2. I think Nate is pretty awesome, too.
3. And, best of all, I got a chance to spend some time with some lovely, lovely relatives and live life as a person and not as a mom.

Maren, Nate, Judy, and Mom (and everyone else who helped!), thanks for one of the best birthday presents I ever received!
So, it may take a while to regain my former status as the boss of the house, but I feel up to the task, especially when people give me lip around here.

Now, I just say, "Hmmm, I think I need to go plan another trip..."