We've had a rough go of it lately.
On Father's Day, Jason got called to be second counselor in our ward's bishopric (the group presiding over our local congregation. The LDS church has an unpaid clergy so responsibilities get shared around.) While some might consider this cause for condolence, I'm excited for his new opportunity to learn and grow. However, I was secretly hoping for a few extra blessings from above for his willingness to serve.
Apparently God had something else in mind.
That same Sunday, Eli woke up with a stomach ache. While the rest of us celebrated fatherhood, our poor guy vomited, slept, and ran to the bathroom with extreme diarrhea. Fortunately, on Monday he felt much better. It was a busy day as we sent both Brooklyn and Talia off to week-long excurisions at Brighton Beehive Camp and Camp Cloud Rim respectively. With the end of the fiscal year approaching, it was an even busier day for Jason, who worked until 3:30 am trying to wrap up ASSIST's budget for an upcoming board meeting.
As for myself, I was uncharacteristically alert when Jason made his weary way home. I'd woken up about fifteen minutes earlier with an awful stomach ache of my own. I groaned my way through the next few hours from the couch downstairs, lamenting the fact that we don't have a bathroom on the main floor. When dawn finally broke and I checked my phone, there was a message from Talia's Girl Scout camp letting us know that she'd also been sick in the night. Talia endured the next morning at camp from their sick room until lunch when her fever came back and her mac and cheese didn't settle. Despite how much she'd wanted to be at camp, our sick gal was ready to come home.
Of course, with Jason's board meeting and busy schedule, I knew he couldn't get away. Despite feeling completely wretched, I pulled my act together long enough to make the three hour round trip to pick her up. (Fortunately my system was completely empty by this point so there wasn't anything left to lose.) I do feel like I was blessed with extra stamina to handle the curvy mountain roads all the way to the top of Big Cottonwood canyon. However, by the time I got home I just collapsed on the couch--achy, exhausted, and longing for someone to take care of me.
Jason made it back from his challenging but successful board meeting at about 6:30 pm. As you can imagine, the house was in shambles, but he did his best to meet the kids' basic needs (like dinner) before running out the door again at seven for his first night of bishopric visits.
Here's where I fell apart. Intellectually, I knew that my husband was doing his very best and wished he could be home. I knew that he was stretched incredibly thin trying to fill many challenging roles while operating on almost zero sleep. I knew that the struggles faced by those he was visiting were much greater than my own. And yet...
I was selfish. In that moment, I didn't want to share. Instead of Jason the executive director, Brother Wheeler the counselor, or even Daddy Jason, all I wanted was Jason, my husband. Even though I knew that nothing but time can cure a 24 hour stomach bug, I wanted him to stroke my hair, bring me an otter pop, and sigh sympathetically when I moaned in pain.
So when Jason got home, I behaved totally immaturely. I was sulky, pouty, and still quite sick. I regretted my miserable behavior as soon as I realized that we needed to sleep in different beds to keep the germs apart. What I really wanted was a snuggle to connect and apologize but that couldn't happen. Unfortunately, there was no chance to put things right the next day. Jason had a busy morning at work, then took a 1:00 pm flight to Texas for a conference. Concerned that I might still be contagious, we parted without a kiss.
On the home front, things remained fairly calm for a while. Talia and I both felt better, Annika seemed fine, and there was no call from Brighton about Brooklyn. Things seemed under control until our minivan broke down at midnight. I'd just picked Uncle Ben up from the airport and was taking him to a hotel in South Jordan where he and Christy were spending the night following their European adventures. It was meant as a favor to give Christy a few extra hours sleep after they took such great care of Brooklyn there. The best laid plans of mice and men...
Steering the car as it shuddered to a stop was terrifying. I was stranded far from home in the wee hours of the morning in front of a strange 7-11. My babies were alone (I'd left them sleeping with Talia in charge), and I had no way to call for help since I'd given my phone to Talia to use in case of emergency. Ben had a phone, but with its European SIMS card, it could only be used to facetime family.
In desperation, we roused Christy to come and rescue us. Despite the jet lag, she arrived with a huge smile and shuttled me all the way back to the Avenues from 6200 South. Meanwhile, we woke up Jason as well so he could call for roadside assistance. As soon as I got home, Jason called to let me know that AAA had a tow truck on the way but I needed to meet it in person. Leaving a note on the counter for my snoring kids, I immediately turned around and drove our old van back, arriving just twenty seconds ahead of the tow truck. Before long, I was on my way back home again, finally crashing into bed at 2:30 am.
Looking back, I know it could have been much worse. I am grateful Ben was with me instead of breaking down all alone, without a phone or a way of letting him know what had happened. I'm thankful AAA was willing to renew our membership that had expired at the beginning of the month. Since our free towing radius is only five miles, it was fortunate that our mini-van broke down on our way to South Jordan because it was closer to CarMax, where our vehicle is under warranty. I'm thankful that I missed my exit onto I-15 and was traveling on the slower, back roads. I'm especially grateful my kids were sleeping safe at home.
Most of all, I'm grateful to Jason and Christy for coming to the rescue. I'm ashamed to say that at times I've been crabby with Jason for being so good-natured and chipper in a crisis. Doesn't he know the world has come to an end? Well, I was wrong. I am so sorry. I finally figured out where his smiles came from when Christy showed up at 1:00 am in the morning with a genuinely positive attitude, despite the fact that she had every reason to be grouchy. I was so humbled. I learned so much in that moment--all about love, happiness, and choices. I want to change. It's not that these amazing Wheeler siblings don't recognize the gravity of a situation. They simply choose not to let external circumstances change the wonderful, joyful people they are. I want to be like them. Instead of falling apart when the fire gets hot, I want to react to stress with similar poise and grace. I want my children to grow up knowing that they can handle hard things, not just because their father could, but because their mother did as well.
Yes, the going has been rough lately. I'm sure it will be rough in the future as well. But instead of beating me down, I want the stress to refine me. I want to laugh more and smile more--no matter how the tempests may rage. As so eloquently stated in something I recently read, I long to "let the blows of God mold me. For when I am in His hands, I am my best self."
Love you, Peanut Butter. Thanks for sticking to your Jelly.