Monday, January 27, 2014

When the Impossible Becomes Possible

Today--at sunset--I got to witness perhaps the most amazing event of my cousin's entire life:  his wedding!  A few years ago he told me he wanted to get a girlfriend.  I actually giggled (not to be rude)! He and I laugh and joke about a wide variety of topics, and with the way our conversation was going at the moment he disclosed this idea to me while we sat in his group home for the disabled, I actually thought he was joking.  But he was dead serious.  As time went on I truly began to understand that one of the greatest afflictions associated with his cerebral palsy was loneliness - in every facet of his life.  I wasn't about to shoot all his hopes down, but I did try to warn him that he could face some disappointments.  The chances that he would be able to find someone who was willing to see past his physical handicaps was going to be an uphill battle, even though he has no mental disabilities.  I for one, had never heard of or seen anything of the sort happen before, and knew it would be difficult, especially because he is not able to talk and can only communicate through pushing one key at a time on a key board.  He wasn't happy to hear these things, and he truly did experience disappointment as he began the process of on-line dating.  I would receive texts where he would ask, "Do YOU think I'm a nice guy?"  It seemed rough for a while, but Jilliam is not a faint-hearted spirit.  He may have physical handicaps, but he has a SOUL OF FIRE!  He forged on!
About 9 months ago, a miracle happened.  He found Jewel!

That's when Cupid's Arrows surely began to fly!

Teddy bears and hearts showed up all over their facebook pages...  They even used their names interchangeably - Neil N Jewel and Jewel N Neil.  Love was in the air!  He was worried to tell his family - what would they say?  I told him it wasn't a secret at all - his family had probably already seen his facebook pages & knew he had a girlfriend!

These two started to dream about riding off into the sunset together, and they started spending hours on Skype together every day.

A little over a week ago, Jewel flew into town, and brought all of her things.  In a matter of days Jilliam gave her a ring and they announced their engagement on facebook.  I felt like I needed to talk to them on Thursday night, and when we connected, I was shocked to hear that they were going to get married at the Justice of the Peace the very next day after they got their marriage license.  I told them they simply couldn't do that.  That was not allowed!  I wanted to be there, and I needed some time to at least alert the in-town family and send out announcements.  Our wise friend, Dallas reminded us that we didn't have to meet at the JOP, so we started trying to track down the Bishop's phone number.  Jewel & Jilliam moved their date to MONDAY - which would be Jilliam's 43rd birthday.  It's a good thing that became their new plan, because on Friday, the anxious pair walked a few miles just to ring the bell at 4 pm & find that the office was closed.  On Saturday, they assured me that their plan was still on for Monday, so we moved forward with faith, even though they didn't have the marriage license in hand. 
Our cousin, Greg stepped up & secured a beautiful location that also had meaning to Jilliam - a special oasis in the neighborhood Jilliam has lived in for the last several years.  Greg called me Saturday evening and told me he found a perfect grassy knoll overlooking the pond.  I was so relieved!  I created an E-vite to announce the wedding that would occur 48 hours from the time I sent the email.  At church on Sunday, my Aunt Karla, and cousin Tracy helped me plan the wedding details.  My former mentor & piano teacher, Chris Gray, "just happened" to see a post I wrote, and happened to have all the things I had pictures of in my mind - such as bubbles, decorations, battery powered candles, etc.  She loaded up the back of my van with all these wonderful things.  My sister in law, Ashley, agreed without hesitation to make a cake for the couple.  My mom helped me make a banner, and my husband found some simple, but elegant ideas on the Internet.  He called me into the computer to check out his research and explained: "If we're going to do a wedding, we're going to do it right."  That made me cry.  He's always so supportive of my hair-brained ideas...or in this instance, Neil & Jewel's hair-brained idea! 
This morning after I dropped Tyson off at school, I called the two.  They were getting ready to go get the marriage license.  At 9:45 they were trying to get Jilliam loaded up in his wheelchair.  At 10:35, they were at a bus stop & needed to know where the bus routes were going.  That's when I began to worry that they'd get off at a wrong stop & lose all the time we didn't have to lose.  At 10:50 they were on the bus and didn't need the info anymore.  At 11:05 they were getting off a bus and planning to walk perhaps 3 miles.  I have no idea what happened in the next hour and a half, but somehow they made it to the courthouse and were walking in the doors at 12:15.  "You have your identification, right?" I asked.  I twiddled my thumbs.  I worried that the courthouse would be on lunch break - because that would just be our luck.  I worried that they wouldn't approve his marriage license, even though he's his own legal guardian.  I never heard anything from them.  I finally called.  It was 1:20, and their DETERMINATION finally paid off!  The document was purchased, and Jilliam was currently signing the papers!  That's when I heard his familiar happy sound and we all realized that this was REALLY happening! What a birthday!
The whirlwind ensued - calling everyone to tell them it really was going to happen, reminding people about assignments, rescheduling piano lessons, getting dressed, loading the car, making sure the song-list was ready, picking up the cake, picking up & meeting the bride, setting up like a crazy person, people running late, calling my in-laws to make the can trail & sign to hang on the wheel chair that I forgot, double checking that my mom had the leis, setting up chairs.... Before we knew it, 5:30 had arrived and we had something that was more beautiful than any of us could have imagined:


 Jilliam chose his former caretaker, Scott, to be his best man & help with the wedding rings.  Scott has always cared about Jilliam in a way that fills my heart with gratitude and love.

"Take, take my hand, and I will show you a world without sadness - a world of love!" - Translation of Toma mi Mano, from the Gilbert Temple Cultural Celebration songs
Yes - that would be a wedding ring on his finger, and lipstick all over his face--this was even after some had been wiped off.  He is one happy man!  So priceless!
Bishop Weston & The Happy Couple

Lalovi & Jared & kids, Jacob, & The Happy Couple
Jacob thought that the text this morning about his brother Jilliam getting married TODAY was a joke.  It's a good thing someone explained to him that it wasn't so he could be there!

These are the elders that have brought the Sacrament each Sunday to Jilliam for the last several years.

 Would you look at this crowd?  It's a good thing we only had 48 hours to plan the wedding.  With the kind of love that is in Jilliam's heart, and with the way he has affected people throughout his life, if we had more time to spread the word, the size of this group would have been incredibly big, and we wouldn't have had enough chairs!  But Jilliam was ready to move on to the next phase of his life - waiting 43 years for a day like this had been long enough!  In fact, not only is he ready to move on with his life - Greg pointed out that today he took a short-cut.  On the same day he got married, he also became a grandpa to Jewel's grandkids.  How's that for catching up?

 Making the marriage official!

 Jilliam chose me & Lalovi to be the witnesses of his wedding!  It was one of the greatest honors of my life!  I have never been an official witness at a wedding until today!

James focused on the more important things while the documents were being signed - like hanging a Just Married sign & cans to the back of Neil's wheelchair!

 The Tenney Family with the newest Mr. & Mrs. Tenney!
Everyone in this picture was so supportive & helped set up or take down, make things, drive through rush-hour traffic to get there, etc.  My mom made the leis herself (that was perfect, because both Neil & Jewel are from the islands!), my dad was invited by Jilliam to say the opening prayer, we were lucky to have Uncle David & Aunt Linda in town...they are usually in Utah, and Aunt Armeda drove like crazy to make it.  When the celebration was all said & done, we all felt like we were so glad that we didn't miss this - it was a once-in-a-life-time experience, and even when it was official, we still had some shock that it's real!

Miles is acting like the DJ, but Mitchell really did all the work!


These are current & past members and caretakers of Jilliam's group home.  These people are larger than life to me for all the things they have done and continue to do to take care of my cousin, because they care for him both ON & OFF the clock!  I feel the love of God when I am around them and they make me want to be a better person because of the kindness they exemplify.

Ryan, James, Neil, Jewel

Cutting the cake!


This quilt is the most meaningful gift Jilliam & Jewel received tonight.  It is a blanket of all his Samoan family that was given to our Grandma Tenney when she was still alive.  It used to hang in her room over her bed so she could see it, and feel of their love - especially during the days that she was sick & dying.  I have several pictures of Grandma in her bed with this quilt behind her.  Aunt Diana has felt for a while that she wanted to give this to Jilliam, and today was the perfect day of all, so her daughter Tracy picked it up and brought it with.  I feel like Grandma Tenney was behind this on the other side - looking out for the one, and that she is part of this gift to Jilliam, too.  Perhaps she was more involved than we know in helping all the little miracles work out that made this day so incredibly special!  Perhaps she was next to me, giggling with joy every step of the way as I planned the wedding.  What a trip!

I am so happy for these two, and wish them the best of luck!  What a privilege it was to see them "riding off into the sunset" together!  Now the real journey begins!  I feel like God helped bring these two together, I feel like He was in the details, and I believe He will be there no matter what life brings as they embark on this journey together.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My EPIC Couponing FAIL

Remember that time when you were going to get $700 of groceries in the $200's zone, and you were going to be so stocked up with food & supplies that you weren't going to need to shop for your family for over a month?  You sacrificed your sanity watching football for an hour & clipping coupons, and then you spent an hour and a half, decked out in mis-matched pajama's & fuzzy blue slippers while averting smirks and stares from other customer's shopping in the middle of the night. While you were filling your cart with BOGO's and WYB5's, you subconsciously patted yourself on the back for following the prophet.  If an emergency were to happen, this stock pile could get your family through several weeks before you would need to break into your emergency food supply.  But when your mile long receipt was printing & you swiped your card, the cashier said, "Hmmm, maximum transaction limit?" 

SCREECH!  Thud, thud, thud.

The world halted!

Like, what?

You tried everything - called your sleeping hubby at 1am and he just kept sleeping, you called the bank, you checked online banking, you wrote a Minion check, you put your cart on hold & drove to the ATM....  And even though the bank said your available balance was many times the amount of what you needed to buy your groceries, the card wouldn't work in a store or in an ATM due to "irregular activity" on your account...even though only a few transactions were pending.  Only cold, hard cash worked, but you only had $60.  So then you had to drive back to the grocery store from the ATM in slow motion to face your humiliatingly ginormous Mt. Kilimanjaro grocery pile, get back all your coupons, push your mountain on wheels through a different line, and have the cashier help you work your favorite deals within a new puny limit.  That's when you subconsciously whacked yourself upside the head for not following the prophet.  Why didn't you have a quality amount of cash in your emergency cash stash...?

By the time you got home at 2:30am, you swore you'd never coupon again, even though you "need" to, and you thought, "At least it wasn't as bad as the last couponing fail..."  Actually, maybe this one was worse.  It is hard to beat, however, that one time a few years ago when you thought you were getting $200 worth of products for a mere $30 at Walgreens, but when it the transaction rung up, the total was astronomically high - like $400 high, and you bought it like that's what you meant to do, and then you freaked out at home, but you didn't want to go back, so you tried to return the products to a different Walgreens who obviously said, "We don't know what to do with this much product - you have to return it to the store you bought it from."  And that's when you sent your husband back to the store you purchased it from so you didn't have to show off your cherry-red-face with every bleep in front of the same cashier you bought the cartful from.  You felt relieved that you didn't have to face the lady again, until you realized your hubby threw you under the bus (and rightfully so) with every bleepity-bleep-bleep, and so for the next year you drove out of your way to visit any other Walgreens but the one closet to your house JUST so you wouldn't have to face that lady who WOULD remember you.

Wait.  Excuse me?  Wait, what?

You don't remember these things?

Perhaps that's because these RIDICULOUS events only happen to the unsuspecting, but overly ambitious couponing newbies...the unsavvy...the unlearned, and unwise...the unlucky....(ME)!

Come Monday when I went to the bank to figure out what happened & why my card wasn't working, they said it was for "possible identity theft".  No one stole my card, folks.  It was JUST ME.  But seriously, this WOULD happen to me.  Why wouldn't it?  I live in a world where I'VE STOLEN MY OWN IDENTITY!

Back to 1am. Pretend you're me at the cashier's stand.  Now decide whether to laugh hysterically or cry.

It's a toss up, right?

Time is money & money is time.  Maybe I should forsake my couponing adventures & go back to shopping at Costco.  ...using CASH ONLY for the rest of forever.  ...just to be safe.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

I Need Jesus

So often in my life I feel like my best just isn't good enough.
  It's not good enough for me.
It's not good enough to keep my house clean.
     It's not good enough to be the wife, sister, mother, or friend I want to be.
  It's not good enough to get all the kids' needs met efficiently.
    It's not good enough to make my high & lofty daily goals come to fruition.
It's not good enough to get all the jobs I need done for church done in exactly the way I envisioned.

     Essentially, my BEST efforts NEVER MEASURE UP in anything!

And then I find Jesus.

No, it isn't the first time.

It happens over and over again.

When I am DONE whipping up worry, and stress, and get sick of believing that what I'm working on WON'T come together....  When I finally recognize that by trying to be "in control" of everything has turned my situation to something that is OUT of CONTROL.... When I choose in my heart to turn it over to the Lord...that's when I find Him again.

He's there.

He always has been.

He always will be.

And He knows that I will forget this lesson--maybe even tomorrow.

But He waits patiently until I turn to Him again.

It so happens that in this moment when peace floods my heart that I remember He was always there and I shouldn't have been so worried.  We put our best foot forward and HE makes up the difference - EVERY TIME.  Whether it be a personal endeavor, a community service, a family struggle, or any other problem, assignmnet, or challenge we might face, He is there!  He is steady.  He waits for us to hand over the reigns to Him...(of course, He was already in control before we turned the control back over to Him). 

I am always amazed at the grace and beauty of Christ's love, and for the way it touches the various aspects of my life - usually the smallest details are the ones that amaze me the most.  Why would He care to make that final touch happen?  But He does, because He knows us, and He knows how to speak to us in ways that no one else can - it's through the little things.  It's in the details that we remember Him, because He has remembered us.

It's in those seemingly insignificant but undeniably small miracles that I feel most strongly of all that I need Jesus. I can only hope that tomorrow when I try to rely on my own strength that I will remember He is in the details BEFORE I despair, that I will see His hand blessing me as I walk IN the journey & not just when I look back at the end, and that I will walk with peace in my heart before I've doubted.

Every day this year, I pray that I will seek the Lord. 

That I will find Him. ...Love Him. ...TRUST in Him. 

I pray my kids will always do the same.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Happiest of Years - 2014

I've decided that the Year 2014 is going to be a fabulous one.  For my New Year's Resolution, I have chosen to pretend like having 3 kids ISN'T difficult for me.  You heard me.   NO, I am not choosing to live in denial.  However, I have felt recently that the more I reaffirm it's a challenge for me to raise 3 children, the harder it feels.  It's like the more I focus on the 10 waking hours that were stressful, the less I remember the 2 hours that were blissful...of course, the 2 hours never occur all at once - it's usually accumulated through MOMENTS here and there.  But the truth of the matter is that those moments DO come, and those are the moments I live for.  Perhaps those moments wouldn't mean so much to me if they didn't come with such a large price tag.  It takes everything I have to be a mom, every day; I know for Mitch, it also takes everything he has every day to be a dad.

So because yesterday was New Year's Day, and we had Mitchell (and Tyson) all to ourselves, we had a great day!  Truth be told, it really was blissful for the majority of the day - so blissful that when the applejuice spilled all over our stroller when we were in the middle of the mall, I was able to say, "No big deal!  It's just apple juice!"  Instead of, "Uuuugggh!  Are you kidding me?"

Here's how it started:

That would be a sparkler that he's holding!  I love this crazy child!

Thank you Aunt Ashley, for the incredibly amazing beanies that couldn't be found at a store if we tried!

Yes, Miles stayed up ALL THE WAY through the New Year's countdown - he did rub his eyes a few times - can you tell he's a little dazed by the late night & fireworks?

Tyson had a blast hanging out with the older kids - we are glad Logan is still alive after his collision over a fire-work!

Yes.  That IS Cherryl "ringing in the New Year". With hand bells.  For 31 minutes.  I laughed the whole time.  Okay, maybe not for 31 minutes straight, but it made me happy to join in the New Year's parade around their culta sac!

Alisa was the hostess of the New Year's party we attended.  Lisa, Bruce, & Cherryl are to the right of me.  We had a fantastic time.  We didn't know what we were going to do for New Year's Eve, and about the time it was too late to invite ourselves somewhere, and simultaneously a little too late to plan something of our own, we received a text from Alisa's actually made me teary eyed - we had somewhere to go & I didn't have to stress about making a party of my own!  Between the hours of 6 and midnight, there were probably 80 people at their party.  It was awesome!  Mitch made bacon wrapped smokies to share - I'm pretty sure it's going to top the list with everyone we know, right along with his world-reknown kettle corn. :)  One of the most memorable moments of the night happened when we had everyone surrounding the fireworks - 5 or more were going off at a time for 45 minutes to an hour.  Out of the blue, I saw a teenager named Eli jumping over one in the middle.  I was shocked and immediately told my little tykes, "Don't you DARE ever do that."  THE SECOND I FINISHED MY SENTENCE, who did we see FLYING towards us through the sparks?  None other than MITCHELL JAY BORDEN.  He landed and everyone laughed at my futile scolding attempt with my usual, "Mitchel Jay!" voice.  He smirked his well-known mischevious smile, and immediately looked the boys in the eye & pointed, "Don't ever do that!"  *Sigh*  There are no words for the irony and personal shock factor I endured in that moment! 
After we survived the night, slept in, and worked a little, we headed out as a family to brave the mall.  We met up with Nick & Ashley, and enjoyed one of our most favorite places of all - The Sea Life Aquarium.

And for the first time EVER, we visited the Rainforest Cafe.  It was everything we dreamed it would be!  Flashing thunderstorms, aquariums, animatronics on the elephants, leopards, & gorillas, exotic food selections like "Jurassic Tidbits", and an all around fabulous family environment.  Not to mention, we had fun company & our kids were so excited to eat there since they adore animals.  Not to mention, it was only $2.99 for a kids meal on Wednesdays.  Cha-ching!  Can you say Happy New Year?

 The timer went off early, haha!