Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Graduation from 25th grade!

Having recently successfully defended my dissertation for a PhD in Biology, I have had time to reflect on the journey that has been my education. Honestly, many times, I thought that I would never finish and that I would be a student forever or eventually give up. I can barely take credit for a fraction of what I did, and so I wanted to document the inspirational people who helped me every step of the way.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This is a question I remember being asked a lot, as I am sure most people can relate hearing this same question as a child. I remember giving stereotypical answers including wanting to be a police officer and fireman. But to be honest, I really wasn't interested in "growing up" so I didn't really think about it. In high school I remember thinking I wanted to be an engineer, even though if you asked me what an engineer did, I would not have been able to tell you. My sophomore year of high school, however, I really liked my chemistry class. Learning about the periodic table of elements and how they behaved and were organized made a lot of sense in my mind and seemed fascinating, so I decided I was going to major in chemistry when I got to college. Still, I didn't know what I was going to do with a chemistry degree, or what I wanted to be, I just was interested in a subject and decided to roll with it.

Freshman Year of College

I was elated when I received my acceptance letter to Brigham Young University. There was no where else I wanted to go. I remember a high school teacher saying I should try applying to Stanford or other schools, and I laughed. Stanford, or anywhere besides BYU just wasn't for me. This was for 2 reasons 1) I wanted the unique experience of practicing my faith while attending school. I had had enough of swearing, drinking, crude jokes, bullying, etc. that was found in high school, and I figured being around 99% mormons could allow me to practice my faith, have a fun social experience, and get a well-rounded education. 2) I wanted to go someplace warm. Utah, to most people is a cold place, but coming from Alaska, it felt tropical.

So my first semester I moved into the dorms, made some friends, and declared myself a chemistry major. Unfortunately, this was also my last semester as a chemistry major. I lacked the maturity and study habits to do things like, "stay awake in class", or "study before a test". So I finished my first chemistry class with a C-, and really jeapordized my future GPA. This meant that it was back to the drawing board for my future career, and I decided my next semester just to take general classes until I figured it out.

My mission

Another reason for only taking general classes was that I knew I wanted to serve a 2-year mission for my church, and I didn't want to get into my major and then have to try and remember courses for 2 years. In preparation for my mission I received the Melchizedek priesthood, and decided to get my patriarchal blessing. Eva, my sister came to my blessing, and I am so thankful she did. It was one of the most spiritual experiences I have had in my life and it was great to have her to share it with me. Before the patriarch gave me the blessing he asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted to know or was seeking answers for. I had only one thing on my mind. I said "I would really like to know what I am going to be when I grow up". There were many sacred things said in that blessing, but among them were specifics to a career involved in teaching about "life and living things". After thinking about it I realized this was an interest I had that just didn't recognize. I had pet lizards, gerbils, and snakes, spent most of my childhood outdoors, and was fascinated with animals. My new goal was to become a professor of Biology, but I knew it would have to wait till after my mission before I could get into taking classes.

On my mission, I didn't really learn much about Biology, but I did learn a lot about people. I learned how to work hard, and to serve others no matter what I got in return from them. I learned how to study and apply what I had learned. I was disciplined and focused. When I returned from my mission and went back to school, I knew I would be better able to succeed in the challenges of studying and learning. 

As a Biology Major

As a 21 year-old sophomore I started taking Biology classes as soon as I came back to school. I also made friends with some pre-med students who were much further along in their major. They would meet in the library and study often times late at night, and would go crazy, pulling all-nighters before exams. My first batch of exams were not good (Cs and Ds). While mulling over these horrible grades, and looking at the examples of my new, nerdy friends I realized I need to be more intense in my  studies like these pre-med students. In a bit of a "Captain Obvious" moment I learned that if you wanted an A you had to know EVERYTHING the teacher had taught. It seems so simple, but that's all it took. I rebounded from a bad first round of exams and started getting A's and B's in my classes. One of the courses I got an A in was Biodiverstiy with Dr. Kent Hatch. During the course Dr. Hatch asked if anyone was interested in volunteering for research in his lab. I jumped on the opportunity, and did my time as animal care worker before he offered me the opportunity to do my own experiment. But he didn't have the money to fund it, so I also applied and was awarded my first grant.

As I continued doing research and taking courses I got into the groove of how to study and started take more interesting classes as I got further along in my major. One course I found particularly interesting was Mammalogy with Dr. Duke Rogers. One of the assignments was to write a research proposal. I wrote a proposal about working with migrating bats, and applying some of the research methods I learned in Dr. Hatch's lab. This proposal was important to my graduate school education.

Getting into graduate school

I didn't know much about how to get into graduate school, but I wanted to use my research proposal assignment to maybe get my foot in the door of anywhere that would accept me. I looked up every bat researcher I could find and emailed all of them about my research project and being admitted into their research lab. I heard back from some of them, but after a few email attempts many of them stopped responding.

Luckily I married up...way up. My wife, Kim, and I were married in December of 2003 and she encouraged me to pursue my dreams. She has always been my biggest supporter and cheerleader. She was also raised with the mentality/motto that the "crazy man always wins". This was a bit of a new concept to me, as I tended to be a little more passive in my pursuits. After I had not heard back from anyone in a while Kim told me I need to call any and everyone that would possibly take me into their graduate school until it happened. Reluctantly during Christmas break I gathered phone numbers and decided to call all the professors I had previously contacted. Nobody answered, I left a few messages, and then, someone picked up the phone. Dr. Troy Best of Auburn University picked up the phone and we talked for 10 minutes or so, and he said he was very interested in my project and it was something he was trying to do as well. That developed into many exchanged emails, and an interview in Auburn. The only hindrances was that I didn't meet the minimum verbal GRE score.

I have always been great at math/logic, but reading is something I never really gravitated towards. I had a good technical vocabulary within Biology, but the GRE tested on a variety of vocabulary and reading skills, so I was not naturally inclined to do well. I decided to take a GRE prep class and retake the test. The GRE was given electronically and your score was given to you instantly. I'm not sure how much the prep-class helped me, but I did my best and prayed hard during the test. When I submitted the final question and the score popped up I didn't want to look. I finally peeked through my hands to see I had done well on the math portion. I slowly scanned down to my verbal score and saw...... the exact minimum score I needed. I said a prayer of thanks and then ran out of there to tell Kim. With that score I was accepted to graduate school and also given a Graduate Teaching Assistantship, which meant I would get paid a small stipend and have my tuition paid for. I was also accepted to work with Dr. Hatch at BYU if I wanted to pursue a Master's there, but felt it would be better to diversify and we moved out to Auburn, Alabama.

My Master's degree

I loved graduate school. It was much more flexible than undergraduate school, the classes were stimulating and I was given opportunities to teach labs. I did not have any problems with my committee members or classes, but I changed the species of bat I wanted to do my research on. The only problem was this species had only been caught in a few locations in the state and I needed a lot of them to do a robust analysis. I spent many nights in Northern Alabama and had a lot of help, and I was fortunate enough to find a decent number of these bats, perform my analyses, and write my thesis. It seemed to go without a hiccup and I finished my master's degree in only 2 years. I looked at a few other PhD programs but decided to stick with Auburn, thinking it would be a seamless transition.

My PhD degree

To begin my PhD I did not have a research project firmly decided. I had a few ideas and explored them, but nothing that sounded too promising. During this formative time in my PhD program my sister called me and told me about a friend of hers in Barrow, Alaska, where she was living. It just so happened that she was babysitting for this friend who worked for the Department of Wildlife and did lots of work with polar bears, caribou, and other Arctic animals. My sister said to contact her (Dr. Cheryl Rosa) and I sent her my CV and a link to my thesis. From there a project developed working with baleen from bowhead whales, and I had a more firm objective and idea of my research.

So everything seemed to be going easy peesy, and I felt like I was coasting through my PhD. My advisor was very hands-off and did not require much from me or others in his lab, but made himself available as needed. This hands-off approach to mentoring, my family, and other needs on my time attributed to me becoming less engaged in my program and department. It wasn't a conscious decision, but I just didn't put the time and energy into my PhD that I should have. This became apparent when I took my written and oral exams, and my committee noticed. After these exams I had a conversation with Dr. Wooten (one of my committee members) and he bluntly told me he thought I made a mistake in staying in Auburn, that getting a PhD was not going to be easy, and essentially that I was not living up to my potential. This was a wake-up call for me, and was exactly what I needed to hear. That very conversation was a turning point in my education. He was right, and I knew it, except I also knew I could change and do better.

After this conversation I did a few things that made a big difference 1) I made a more conscience effort to be involved in my program. I started to organize lab meetings for my lab, attended other lab meetings, attended more seminars, immersed myself in the scientific literature, and engaged myself in my PhD. This active involvement paid off. While attending seminars I found that other graduate students questions and analyses could be applied to my work, and the first chapter of my dissertation was a direct result of inspiration from Dr. Nandini Robin's dissertation seminar. 2) I got a big grant. I have had few more exhilarating moments in my academic life than when I found out I was awarded a National Pacific Research Board grant-in-aid of research after applying for 4 consecutive years. 3) I started to teach courses as an adjunct instructor. Teaching allowed me to review concepts in Biology that had faded since I learned them. I also felt more connected to Biology and really enjoyed helping students learn. I also learned how much I had learned, and that I had something to offer other people.

Dr. Wooten was right. It continued to be hard. The research I was trying to do had never really been done before. I messed up a lot. A lot of things didn't work. I had to redo a lot of things. I lost precious data that would have added to my analyses. I didn't have enough samples to do all the things I wanted, and when I asked for more I was turned down. I had writers block. I felt discouraged many times. I doubted that I would ever get it right, or that I would ever find anything significant. But, I could only control what was in front of me, and I decided just to do the best with what I had. Progress was slow but continually headed in the right direction.

My final frustrations

In the spring of 2015 I took a position to teach at Pacific University in Oregon starting in the fall of that year. I wanted to finish my Phd before I started teaching because I knew it would be harder to finish with a job. To help me focus, my angel of a wife took our kids and stayed at her parents house for a month. I was committed to getting a lot done while they were out of town. I would sometimes be in the lab till 12AM working on samples. I started writing the first chapter of my dissertation and by the time we moved to Oregon, I had most of it written. After going back and forth editing my dissertation, I submitted my first draft to my committee in September of 2014. I didn't get feedback from all of my committee members from all of my chapters until August of 2015. That was a full year of weekly reminder e-mails, nail-biting, and dancing around how busy my committee members were. I know that my committee members were/are busy people, but sitting on a dissertation, waiting, feeling helpless, made me think that my dissertation was never going to end. It also made me doubt the work that I did. Maybe they were taking so long because it was horrible work? so when I finally scheduled a defense date, I was still skeptical that I would be awarded my degree.

The defense

I was fortunate to have faculty at Pacific that let me do a practice run of my defense as a department seminar. They gave me some good feedback and I made a few changes. The week of my defense I was so busy running around trying to get ahead so that all my responsibilities were taken care of while I was gone, that I had little time to review my presentation and what I had written. The only time I was able to really practice was on the plane ride to Auburn. The night before I tried to sleep, but I couldn't recall some of the analyses I had performed and I was worried I would be asked about them, so I was up till 2 AM refiguring out what I had done. The day of the dissertation I was so tired. I also had to run around getting all the paperwork done, and again did not have time to practice my presentation. I got all the necessary documents turned in as I sprinted across campus and arrived at my seminar with only 15 minutes to prepare. I was sweaty as I arrived at the classroom to my seminar. Luckily all this running around didn't afford me the ability to be nervous, and so I just got up there and talked...Somehow it went really well. I was prepared for the questions that were asked and my friend, who showed up to watch who didn't have a biology background, said he understood 90% of what I said. So I felt a little relieved after getting some positive feedback.

There was a 2 hour break between my presentation and my defense. So I was able to gather my wits a bit, but I was still skeptical that I was going to pass. I was mentally prepared for the worst. And I was so tired. I was operating on very little sleep, was under a lot of stress, and had just been running all over campus in my dress shoes, long-sleeve shirt, and tie. My committee members asked me questions for 2 hours. I was surprised that all the questions were very positive and progressive. They asked my opinion on some relevant issues, for clarification, and some possible applications of my research. But at no point did I feel over my head. Finally they excused me from the room, and I wandered in the hall for 15 minutes.

Again, I was so tired I wasn't nervous. I just wanted it to be over, one way or the other. I had given it my best, my all, really, and that was good enough for me, so I was prepared for whatever they had decided. Just as I had gotten myself a chair to sit outside the door, Dr. Best came out, scanned the hallway and held out his hand. "Congratulations, you passed". I shook his hand and also tried to give him a hug which turned into an awkward side grab, but I just couldn't believe it. I walked into the room, shook hands, and breathed a large sigh of relief. I started to express my thankfulness to my committee and then I realized if I continued I was going to turn into a crying, blubbering idiot, so I cut it short and just said a big "thank you". They only had some minor revisions for me to do, and then the rest was paperwork, but it was over. The pressure was gone, but I was still too tired to emotionally celebrate.

As I walked away that evening I started to reflect back on my education. I realized that every step of the way I was guided by a force greater than myself. I had some sense of accomplishment, but really I was shaped, prodded, encouraged, helped, hugged, and coerced into this PhD. The points in my life I listed here were the big events that were significant to my progress, but there were countless many who helped in so many ways. My family, my children, my wife, my church, my friends, gave me more emotional support and praise then I ever deserve. I feel so honored, humbled, privileged, and loved to have finished my PhD. I, more than ever, want to give back. I want to be in the significant moments that shape others. I want to inspire and serve through my teaching and research to honor those that have helped me.

I believe in God. I know that you can look at all these events in my life and say that they are just coincidences of fortunate randomness. I can see why and how people are atheist and I myself have debated whether I am just a compilation of chemical reactions or the spiritual offspring of deity. But it's the feeling surrounding these events, the reflection of God's touch, that keep pulling me back to my belief. I believe in God, and He is with me (and my PhD).

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Birth of Our Beautiful Baby Boy

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but have been putting it off. It is always hard for me to write about meaningful experiences let alone put them out into the world. But this has been weighing on me and have felt that it is important for me to write, even if just for myself. I had a hard time sleeping last night thinking about it, and I really need sleep these days.

First of all, I want to start by saying that I believe every woman is entitled to have their own birth experience without the judgment of others. A lot of attention seems to be placed on labor and birth which, yes is a hugely courageous, difficult, and amazing experience, but even more courageous is the decision to parent a human soul for the rest of eternity, which in my opinion is the hardest, most important job there will ever be. If you would like to debate me on this you first have to spend a week with me and my 5 children. You will experience equal parts horror and unexplainable joy. But, whether you have a pain free birth, a drug-free birth, have a C-section, are induced, adopt, or are a parent in other ways to the children around you, every woman has the right to feel proud of their birth/parenting experience. I know many women feel guilty or disappointed or less worthy because their birth plan didn’t turn out the way they wanted. I’ve realized over the years that, yes we should be educated in our decisions, of course we should go in knowing all we can to have a safe delivery, but in the end, it isn’t our plan, it’s God's.  I remember having a very specific birth plan with my first child and it turned out nothing like I thought. I had wanted to try to do a drug-free labor and did 8 hours of labor through the night before getting an epidural. I remember someone telling me after “You almost made it, you were so close” like what I had done was less than. I thought later, “that’s not right, I did make it!!!!” That’s when I took on the cause that every woman should feel amazing about whatever experience they have, because it is their's and it is personal and special. We should be lifting and supporting each other in this magnificent effort to bear and rear Heavenly Father’s children. My Mom felt strongly that she needed to have all of her children without epidurals. Because of her experience I have tried to stay close to the spirit and be very prayerful when making decisions about labor and birth, but I personally had felt peaceful about getting an epidural. I have had all kinds of births with different labors and situations and each time the veil of heaven was thin and the spirit so strong and each one I can remember clearly as the most important moments of my life, the first time I met the heavenly souls that I would be with forever. So as I tell this story I do it in the spirit of revealing the tender mercies of the Lord in my life and how I felt the Lord’s hand guide me as I went through this specific labor and birth experience.

I moved across country from Auburn, Alabama to Forest Grove, Oregon on August 15th and my baby boy was due to arrive Friday August 29th. My Mom usually comes a day or two after the baby is born, so she planned to arrive September 2nd to help me with the new little one. On the 31st I had a false labor that lasted a few hours then petered out. Sam and I hadn’t even had a chance to get our hospital bags together so while my false labor was going on we were packing. My mom came and still no baby. She was scheduled to be here a week and so I was hoping it was coming sooner rather than later. I had inductions with other births and felt fine about it, but for some reason with this birth I felt that wasn’t the right decision so we were waiting it out. I had another false labor, but nothing came of it.  So instead of helping with a new baby my Mom was helping me get my house more settled and moved in and helping as the kids started school that week. Her help that week saved my life and even though I had been hoping to have the baby sooner, looking back, those were some of the most precious moments I got to spend with my Mom and my children as they started school in a new town.
 On Wednesday I had a doctor’s appointment and he talked about scheduling an induction for Friday morning at 6am. Even though I had felt like I shouldn’t be induced, for some reason I felt very peaceful about scheduling the induction. I was confused about these conflicting feelings but figured I could always cancel if I wanted to, so I scheduled the induction. As I prayed about this confusion the thought came to my mind “It won’t matter either way.” So I prepared to go in on Friday morning. It was really great to have a few days with my mom to spend some fun time with her preparing for baby. So Friday Morning I had a couple random contractions around 4:20 am, but nothing consistent. I had been having contractions all week so I wasn’t thinking anything of it. At 5 am when Sam and I got up to go I was feeling great and ready to go when I realized I had a missed call from the Hospital. When I called back they said they were going to postpone due to being short staffed, but when I didn’t answer they just figured it out and were ready for us. My Mom got up to send us off and stayed to take care of my 4 children. During the 40 minute ride to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Portland my contractions went from very minor and 20 minutes apart to 3 minutes apart and painful. I was still in denial because they weren’t completely consistent and I had already had 2 false labors.

When we got to the nurses desk I was breathing through the contractions. They all looked very confused since I was supposed to be their induction that morning.  When I got in to the room it was 6:30 they checked me and I was at 6 cm. They said we still had some time and since  I like to wait a little bit to get the epidural so I can walk around and labor on my own for a while, we weren’t in a huge rush  but she started to get things ready. I was still feeling ok and could handle the pain. My shortest labor had been 5 hours so I thought we had plenty of time. That’s when things started getting very painful very fast. I called for the epidural and they said it would take about 20 minutes to get there. With the amount of pain I was in 20 minutes seemed like an eternity. I had no idea how horrific these contractions could be and I felt like I went from slightly painful contractions to unbearable in ten minutes. They couldn’t get the IV to stay in because I was clinging onto Sam for my life and also sweating the tape off. By 7 o’clock (I had been in the hospital room for 30 minutes at this point) the contractions were coming back to back and I couldn’t even switch positions, I was in so much pain.  It’s crazy how pain turns you into a different person, I was screaming and crying. I remember yelling, “I didn’t know it was like this, I didn’t know.” I also at one point asked the Doctor to knock me out. The screaming was so bad that my throat was raw and hurting for the next day.

The doctor had come in for his morning rounds and the look on his face was total shock. He thought he was coming into a peaceful induction and instead it was screaming chaos with nurses everywhere. Come to find out later he also thought I was a first time mom for some reason and that this labor would most likely take a long time. So at this point they told me there was no way we had time for an epidural and even something to take the edge off was out of the question. The doctor had barely gotten in the room and the nurses had to tell him he needed to stay because this baby was coming.  I felt this urge to push that I had never felt before and told them so. The doctors and nurses rushed to get ready and in 2 pushes with my amazing partner and love by my side, our sweet little West was in my arms at 7:24 am. He stayed on me for the next hour and I kept saying to him “I’ve got you, I’ve got you.” And just like that, I was healed. All I could feel was peace and intense love for this new human in my arms. In that moment it feels like a window from heaven is opened and pure love is placed in your arms. 

My labor was about 2 hours long from start to finish and I was in the hospital less than an hour when my sweet angel West was born. I feel like the Lord showed me so many tender mercies during this experience. Had I not scheduled the induction for that exact time there is no way we would have made it to the hospital on time, especially since I was planning to labor at home for a couple hours and wasn’t really thinking I was in labor when I was. Had my mom not been there, we were planning on dropping off the kids with my cousin who lived a half hour away and there is no way we would have time to do that. I felt the Lord completely orchestrated her visit so we could have the best possible experience and that our other children felt very secure when transitioning to a new school. She was quite literally a Godsend. I felt the Lord guide me to schedule the induction so I could be in that safe environment when West was born instead of on the side of the road. Now the mixed signals I was getting from the Spirit seem so clear, that I wasn’t going to need to be induced, but needed to schedule the induction because my labor was going to be so fast. Even the fact that I didn’t pick up when the hospital called so they could figure out how to get the nurses they needed for me was a blessing.

Later that day as my sweet baby was having precious skin on skin time with his Dad I was reading my scriptures and writing in my journal. I was so overwhelmed with the miracles I had seen that day, but also feeling anxious that now I had this soul that was depending on me to make it through this world. I opened to this scripture. “Fear … not; … I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; … I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
I know this even more after this experience and am so grateful.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sammy's Accident

I’ve been feeling for a while that I needed to write this story. I am awake at 3 am and can’t stop thinking about it. If there is anything I have learned from this experience it’s that I need to follow promptings that come from the Holy Spirit. Because it was a traumatic and sacred experience for me, I’ve been avoiding writing it down, not wanting to relive it.  I think it is always hard to share experiences like this, not wanting to say the wrong thing, but it is my experience and it’s true.

My family was together in Santa Barbara for my sister Annie’s wedding in May. Sam and I had flown out from Alabama with our four children, Sammy(8), Luke(7), Henry(4), and Vivienne(1). The boys in my family had planned a boating day trip a couple days after the wedding. It had been planned way in advance with family friends helping to make the whole thing happen. The night before this trip was to happen I woke up in a panic. I looked at Sam and said “You can’t go!” and he said something to the effect of “I don’t feel good about it either.” I went to sleep with a bad feeling in my gut. In the morning I questioned my feelings. I was so exhausted from planning and executing a wedding as well as traveling with 4 young kids across the country. I didn’t want to seem selfish like I didn’t want Sam to go on this trip because I just didn’t want to have to watch the kids by myself when I was feeling so run down.  Up until the seconds before the boys left Sam and I were still going back and forth, which seems strange now since we both felt so bad about it. Why didn’t we just listen? Well, all the boys in my family were going, my 5 brothers, 2 brothers in law, and my Dad. We just felt bad that he would be the only one not there and as they were calling for people to get in the car I remember the moment Sam and I looked at each other wondering what to do. I ended up being spiritually lazy and said “Just go.” I felt that it was easier for him to just go then have to explain or have people think I was being selfish, which in hind sight seems crazy.

So the boys left. None of us girls knew just how spent we all were. We took turns napping from sheer exhaustion and managing the kids and trying to clean up the wedding. We all felt like Zombies so we said let’s get out of here and go to the Zoo, do something fun. As we were preparing to go I knew some of the kids were in the front yard waiting for us to get in the car. I was grabbing my things when I heard a faint cry. It barely registered, since most of my day is filled with being a referee of little boy fights, I didn’t think much of it and then I saw little Henry running up the stairs of the front door calling for me. The next thing I saw will forever be etched in my mind. My little Sammy crushed under a huge pillar with blood everywhere. I screamed and started running. Later my Mom said when she heard that scream it was the most heart wrenching thing that she had ever heard and she knew that there was something horrible on the other end of it.

In my parents’ yard there were two huge stone pillars. I’m not sure how much they weighed, maybe 300 pounds. They seemed stable, but I guess the ground they were on was slightly unstable and the pillars weren't meant for an 8 year old to be playing on them. Sammy said later that he could have easily gotten out of the way when it started falling toward him, but he thought he could prop it back up. The pillar was way too heavy for his little body and crushed him.

When I got to him he was crying which was good, it meant he was still conscious. There was blood all around him which sent me into a panic. Even though I knew how heavy these things were I remember thinking “There is no way I am not lifting this thing off my little boy right now.” I used all my strength to pick the pillar up enough that it was hovering just above him, at this point Cubbie had reached us. She had been holding Viv, put her down to help me with the pillar. We together managed to lift the whole thing off of him. When we lifted it there was so much blood I was terrified. My mom and my sisters came rushing out to help. Someone got me a rag. He had a gaping wound on the back of his head and even though I guess you aren't supposed to move someone who might have had a neck injury, I picked him up crying, trying hold the wound and comfort him. Cubbie called the ambulance and they were out a few minutes later. As they strapped Sammy to the board, he was so scared, I held his hand and felt a strange calmness just wanting to be there for him and love him. The very big, strong paramedics surveyed the scene. I found out later that they had questioned my Mom how I could have lifted it off of Sammy, they could barely lift it themselves. I drove in the front seat of the Ambulance, they wouldn't let me in the back with him, which I thought was horrible. It was the longest ride of my life. Sammy was beside himself. I kept promising him from the front seat that he could play Wii as much as he wanted if he would try and take deep breaths and stay calm. That definitely helped him.

When we got to the hospital it was rush, rush, rush. I was asked a lot questions about what happened. Sammy was in hysterics, having a hard time calming down. They eventually took the neck brace off which helped relax him. The doctor stapled the wound in the back of his head and took him to get a CT scan. Then we waited. Sammy was conscious the whole time, but was acting off. Having crying fits every few minutes. I think we were both in shock. We would be sitting there talking or I would be singing to him and then we would take turns just crying from the trauma. This would continue for me for the next several weeks.

The CT scan came out miraculously clear. All we keep hearing was “this is one lucky boy.” He came away from the accident with a concussion, stitches, and body full of scrapes and bruises, but no permanent injury.
The way the pillar was shaped there was a slight curve inward at one point, that is where Sammy’s head was. If it had landed in any other spot it could have gone very different. I feel lucky. Maybe that’s not the right word, but that’s how I feel, very lucky and grateful that it wasn't Sammy’s time to leave the earth.
I couldn't reach Sam during any of this and by the time I did we were already home from the hospital. Sammy stayed in bed the rest on the day, just completely overcome with shock and exhaustion. When I could get a hold of Sam I could barely get the words out. It was too much.

Now, I don’t know if Sam and I had listened to the promptings we had felt for him to stay home, if this would have happened or not. What I do know is Sam wasn't supposed to go that day, even if just to be there with us when we needed to be together. I've felt very strongly about sharing this experience even though I am reluctant to. Take what you want from it, but the lesson I learned from it is LISTEN. Forget anything else and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Will will always be what is right.

I truly believe angels were watching over us that day. I know we all have experiences like these where we feel heaven a little closer. Where our views are changed about what we want our life to mean and what we want to fill that life with. This was mine.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sill talk by Viv

Viv entertains us. Her face is almost better from her fall, she still has a black eye (black cheek). Excuse the potty talk.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"What are you grinning at you ghost?"

Sammy and Luke played their first season of baseball this year. They got to be on the same team! I loved seeing their improvement over the season and their personalities come out as they play. Sammy is way laid back about it and doesn't really get competitive. He hits the ball almost every time, but doesn't care much about form or hitting it hard. Sometimes in the outfield he'll just sit down, it's hilarious. Luke is all about getting the right form and swinging with everything he's got, even though he might not hit the ball as often. He also sprints as fast as he can from the outfield.  I think they are so precious, it's the cutest thing ever to watch them play.

Sammy hitting

Luke hitting (you can stop watching after 30 seconds)

Luke running from the outfield

Sammy hitting

Sammy running home

Luke playing catcher

Friday, April 5, 2013

WOOKEY!!!! Happy Birthday LUKE!!!!

It is my Sweet Lukey's 7th Birthday today. I wanted to re-post this video of him. This is the essence of Luke.

Luke, I love your body. People have always commented on your body and how it never stops moving, even when you are cuddling there is some part of your body that is rocking out. You are a freak in every amazing sense of the word.

Luke, I love how you are always keeping beat for no reason. You'll do strange beat boxing without knowing it, it makes me smile.

Luke, I love that you like to work hard and take pride in what you do. You enjoy finishing your homework and chores without procrastinating. I remember when you were just a toddler and were assigned to be the littlest angel in the Nativity Play. You had to stand on a high tower and were the final moment of the show. You held your trumpet up and  never broke character, never looked down. The whole audience was stunned to see such a small person so still, especially you who is rarely not moving. It is one of my favorite Luke memories.

Luke, I love the way your brain works. You can't just do something half way, if you do something you will spend hours on it until you master it.

Luke, I love when you swing a baseball bat you swing with all your might every time and even though you are the littlest and youngest on your team you were the only one brave enough to be catcher and because of that you got the game ball! Your coach said the other day, "The Hirt boys are puttin' the hurt on."

Luke, I love how you try to make everyone around you happy. You are so attentive to Vivi, trying to make her laugh and making sure she is safe, such a sweet older brother. 

Luke, I love every single thing that is uniquely you.

I love you BEYOND!




I like Luke because he is a machine. His body moves in an unnatural and perplexing way that defies human physics. His ability to focus on things that he is interested in are unparalleled. He shares his last piece of gum, he forgives easily and apologizes even faster. I love Luke. I cannot believe he is 7.

I love seeing you play baseball. You are the smallest guy on the team but you try are hard and are very resilient. Yesterday you hurt your hand playing catcher and we thought for sure you would never want to play again, but when I asked you today about it you said "I love being catcher". That is just like you to forget the bad that happened in the past and move on with optimism. You are an inspiration to me and I LOVE YOU.



Thursday, April 4, 2013

Videos of littles

Viv's favorite past time.

Color Me Rad run with Auntie Eva!