2014 A year to remember

2014 was a year that would change my life forever and while it wasn’t my favorite in all the years I have experienced so far in my life it had some of the biggest and best moments of my life so far.

I desperately wanted Joseph there for the birth of our baby so we filled for a visitors visa hoping he could come for a visit right at the time the baby would be born. US Immigration stated that one could file for a visitors visa even when there was a pending immigration visa, but that it would be up to use to prove adequately that he would return. We gathered pages and pages of documents, everything we could find showing that he had every intention of returning back to Uganda after his visit to wait for his visa, and really it would have been ridiculous not too since by not returning it could make him ineligible for the immigration visa which would not be issued unless he appeared at the embassy in Nairobi. However, when he went for his interview he was denied without the embassy official even looking at his thick envelope of evidence.

I was so mad. They simply told him that there was nothing that would be adequate proof that he would return. It seemed so wrong and cruel to me to state that we could apply (and pay the $175 non refundable fee) if we could prove he would return, only to then turn around and tell us that there was nothing they would consider sufficient evidence that he would return. The injustice of it burned.

It was around the middle of February I believe when I was sitting at work in a marketing meeting and I started to feel extremely light headed, hot, and nauseous. Afraid I was going to be sick I tried to leave the room but only made it as far as the doorway before everything went black and I felt my legs give way beneath me. When I woke up I was lying on the floor and I heard someone shout for someone to call 911. I begged them not to and assured them I was ok.

But in the days and weeks that followed this episode repeated itself several times and I found I was having a very hard time carrying this baby and getting enough blood to my head. I decided that maybe this could work in our favor and I called US Immigration to explain the situation and to ask if there was any way to hurry along Joseph’s process.

The man I talked to was extremely helpful and he filed a petition to expedite based on medical emergency. It was all done over the phone in a matter of minutes and about a week later I received a phone call. The man told me that Joseph’s visa application had been denied. I was stunned. How could they deny my husband the right to enter the country and what would that mean for me and our baby?

I started to cry and the man quickly tried to console me. Its not a permanent decision he told me, You simply don’t have the proper seal on your marriage certificate. You need to get your husband to go back to the government and get them to put the seal on and then reapply. My head was spinning and I couldn’t hardly breathe. Start the process all over reapply meant after 7 months of waiting and over $1000 in fees we were being told we had to start over. I started to blubber like a baby. I grabbed the envelope with our documents off the dresser and looked for the seal. It was there however slightly off center at the top of the page. It’s there Im looking right at it I told the man. You can’t deny him. Our baby will be here in a couple of weeks, you can’t do this to us right now I begged.

There was silence on the line and then he spoke. If you send me an email with a scanned copy of your certificate right now while I am on the phone and I can see the seal I will approve the visa, he told me. Quickly I scanned the document and waited for him to receive it.

“Its there I see it” he told me. I began to breathe a sigh of relief. “In the next few days you will receive a letter telling you that his application was denied. You can ignore that letter and and shortly after that you should receive another telling you it has been approved. He told me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A minute before my whole world had come crashing down and I didn’t know if I would ever see my husband again and now he was telling me that we were done. That his visa had been approved and he could come home!

It wasn’t quite as simple as that. He still had to travel to Nairobi, have his medical exam, his interview and vaccinations and receive the actual visa. But the hardest part was done.

I began to hope he might make it in time for the babies birth. But it wasn’t meant to be. On May 9th just before he was scheduled to travel to Nairobi our baby boy was born with his father watching over skype. That day was one of the best of my whole life. It was the day I first became a mother and I will never be the same. Every dream, every hope I had ever had about having a baby was surpassed when he entered this world. His birth story is here.

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/birth-of-baby-preston/

it would end up taking another 10 weeks before he would actually receive the visa and fly home to meet his son for the very first time. That day was another best day of my life kind of days. I wrote about it here.

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/families-can-be-together-forever/

He arrived ironically on July 17th, further endearing the number 17 to us and establishing its significance in our family. a couple weeks later on the 27th of July we celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary with a delayed wedding celebration with all my family and friends. 10635706_10154585285035344_1044551109458445231_n

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The months that followed would be full of change and adjustment as Joseph adjusted to life in a new and very different country, a new culture, a new wife and a new role as father. I adjusted to a new husband, a new way of life and my new role as a stay at home mom. It was a lot and I wont lie and say that it was fun or easy. There were moments I wondered if we had made a gigantic mistake. But with time we worked through some of those things.

Joseph got a drivers license, a job, and enrolled in school. I settled into raising our baby and keeping house, only to discover when he was just 4 months old that I was pregnant once again. We weren’t really surprised as I had felt the spirit of a girl present through out the first pregnancy and wrongly assumed it was a girl. Joseph had heard a little girls voice saying she was coming soon and so when Preston had been born and truly was a boy we knew that a little girl wasn’t far behind.

As morning sickness settled in with a vengeance I wished that I had a little more time. I felt guilty that my son was being robbed of his position as the only chi`ld too soon. As I kneeled in front of the toilet day after day losing what little food I had managed to get down he sat on the living room floor screaming in fear not knowing what was going on. It was a hard time for our little growing family.

One Step Closer

2013 began with a completely clean slate for me. No plans, no future, no nothing. While it felt barren and cold it was also a perfect time for new beginnings and facing the unknown. I had put my things in storage and sublet my apartment. I was traveling every week as a nanny and crashing with friends and family on the weekends. I was preparing to do an internship over the summer and while I didn’t have one lined up yet I knew exactly what I wanted. It had to be a paid internship, I wanted it in a big city, out of state but still within the country. I was leaning toward Washington DC.

One day while sitting on the couch at my mom’s simultaneously browsing facebook and visiting with my sister I saw an ad for an internship. I clicked on it and read a bit about it and in that moment I saw my future. I knew this was what came next. It was for a nonprofit organization in Uganda ( I didn’t even know at the time for sure what continent Uganda was on), It was not paid and not in a big city. It was in a small town called Lugazi. I would be working with a group of single mom’s writing their stories, taking pictures and videos of them with their children and writing blog posts about life in the area. It sounded like a dream come true and a perfect escape from the plateau I found myself on.

I saw myself having grand adventures and forgetting all about men, dating, marriage and my seemingly hopeless situation. It would also delay the inevitable move to the mid singles ward. It was perfect. I applied, was accepted, packed my bags and by the first week of May I found myself on a plane headed for Africa. I felt more confident than ever that this was the Lord’s plan for my life at this time. I wondered what I would do or experience there that would be important enough for him to give me such clear direction but I was excited to find out.

Uganda was exotic, exciting and everything I had hoped it would be. My first Sunday there I attended church at the new branch that had just been organized in Lugazi. It was their first meeting in their new chapel. It was small and I felt how much I was needed there. The following Saturday the counselor to the branch president called to ask if I would gather a bunch of the primary children from their homes and take them into JInja to a stake primary program. We would travel by bus about an hour and a half and I would need to teach them to sing a primary song on the way as most of them were so new to the church that they had yet to learn one and each branch was supposed to present something, It was a tall order and came after a difficult night. I wanted to refuse but I said yes and went.

When I was there sitting up front playing the piano for a group of children I saw a man sitting at the very back. His bright smile and the light shining from his eyes caught my attention and I wondered what kind of life he had lived and if he had been happy. I wished that I could know more about him. After the meeting he approached me and introduced himself as Joseph Ssempala. He asked my name and if I was named after Vilate Kimball. We had a short conversation and in the days that followed he called to invite me to go on a date. I went, excited to hear more about him and his life but not thinking that anymore would come of it.

That date was unlike any I had been on. I left it feeling that my life would never be the same. I saw him again and again until I knew that I could never stop seeing him. I wrote a number of blog posts about it. Here are some of my favorites.

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/my-whirlwind-romance-part-ii-i-think-i-like-him/

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/my-whirlwind-romance-part-iii-the-mazungu-white-person/

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/my-whirlwind-romance-part-iv-are-you-gonna-kiss-me-or-not/

We were married that summer and I canceled my plane ticket home. A week or so before the wedding I realized that I should probably give him a heads up about a diagnosis I had received a couple of years earlier of endometriosis. The doctor told me that it usually causes infertility and that if I was able to get pregnant it would probably take some time and effort. I didn’t think it would change his feelings for me or his desire to get married but I thought he should know before taking that step.

I told him and he looked confused. Well thats simple he told me. Either Heavenly Father has children in store for us or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t than he never did and diagnosis or not it wouldn’t make a difference so the way I see it. It makes no difference at all.

The Sunday after we were married I was sitting in RS when I thought I felt the tiniest of shocks as though someone had touched me and released a bit of static electricity and at that moment the thought popped into my mind. “There, now you are pregnant.” Honestly I hadn’t hardly even had time to realize that pregnancy was now an option and I thought surely that s not possible. I thought I would give Joseph a little shock. The next morning as we were lying in bed I said, “What would you say if I told you I think I might be pregnant.”

“I already know” was his response. On Sunday as I was seated in Priesthood meeting a heard a little girls voice say “Daddy Im coming soon.” Then when I woke up this morning and looked at you still sleeping you just looked different and I knew.

Even though we both felt like we knew we had to wait until I had missed a period to take a test. Joseph took me to a clinic as he didn’t know where to buy a home test. The clinic was dingy and dirty and a rude man handed me a dirty cup and told me to go to the outhouse and fill it. As I entered the outhouse huge black cockroaches scurried around oblivious to my presence,  there was no light and I couldn’t bear the thought of closing myself in in the dark with all those roaches so I left the door open a crack and trying to balance carefully over the hole in the ground and still make it in the cup while holding the door partially ajar took some skill but I made it happen. I had nothing to wash with and was embarrassed to hand the man back the cup when not all of it had made it inside. He didn’t even notice and took the cup in his bare hands without even blinking. We waited 10 or 15 min and when he still hadn’t come back we went looking for him and found him in an office seated at a desk. We are just wondering about the results of the test we asked.

“There’s nothing there.” he told us.

What do you mean? I asked

“You are not pregnant, there is nothing in there. ” was his rude reply.

We waited a few more days and in the meantime Joseph found a home test. He brought it to me early one morning and sure enough this time it was positive. Here is our announcement. It brings back all those feelings of awe and joy just reading it again.

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/the-funny-thing-about-mathmatics/

It took a lot of courage to move forward so quickly with the marriage and to be open to having a baby so quickly, With every step I told myself don’t try to figure it all out. Just take one step. I am so happy that we did. I had waited too long to continue waiting once I had found what I was looking for. Joseph and I have always said if there was a sound track for this time in our lives it would be this.

The End? Or the Beginning?

If you are new to A Cow in the Ocean thanks for stopping by and I hope you will stick around. Follow us here or on facebook. If you are an old reader happening back and wondering what inspired a post after such a long silence well I’m getting to that. And I hope you too will stick around to see whats coming. I think its going to be exciting! Since its been so long since I wrote regularly and so much has changed I thought perhaps it was time to consider a new name, But in the end we have been A Cow in the Ocean for so long it just didn’t feel right. So over the next week as we start the new year I will be doing one post each day telling the story of this cow in the ocean and getting you all caught up and ready for the new journey we are embarking on.

There is an old story about two catholics and a protestant living side by side. The protestant holds a bbq every Friday and the Catholics struggle with the smell of cooking steaks while they dine on fish. Finally they convert the protestant and the priest sprinkles him with holy water stating you were born a Protestant, you were raised a protestant, now your a catholic. But when Friday rolls around and the sweet aroma of cooking steaks reaches the two catholics They race out to remind their friend of his obligation to only eat fish only to find him sprinkling the steak with salt and repeating you were born a cow you were raised a cow, now you’re a fish. Very often in my first few years as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints I felt this way. I felt as though all the dunking in the world couldn’t make me a “Mormon.” Growing up “FLDS” I was taught strict rules about the interactions of men and women and that dating, developing feelings for a member of the opposite sex would only frustrate the process of finding the spouse that God had in store for me. A process that would be arranged largely by parents. As I sat in my singles ward pretending that I fit in, pretending that I knew what I was doing and that the idea of being asked out on a date wasn’t absolutely terrifying, pretending that I had gills and fins and a sleek slim tiny body like the rest of the fish in the ocean I still felt like a cow. I made fish faces and swam with the school pretending that my hooves and utter and hair covered back belonged. But no matter how you looked at it I was still in fact a cow.

As the years went by and through many of my blog posts I shared with you some of my awkward, funny, and terrifying moments of dating and life in happy valley singlehood. Here are a couple of my favorites.

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/its-not-me-its-you/

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/creeper-101/

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/where-are-the-sean-connerys-and-harrison-fords-of-the-world/

In my Facebook newsfeed this morning a picture showed up. I hadn’t seen it in a long time. It brought back a rush of difficult memories. This photo was taken at my best friends wedding. We had been room mates for six years and this moment was just the beginning of the complete unraveling of my world.

A relationship I had held out a lot of hope for had just ended for good and the hole that it left in my heart would forever leave a scar. At the same time my friends relationship progressed to marriage and my little band of room mates forever disbanded retreated to different cities and plans for the future. I seemed to be the only one left behind, with no plans, no friends and no sense of direction. I had just turned 31 and my time in the singles ward had expired. I was officially a marriage failure, a menace to society and unwanted. My desire for a family remained so strong I often felt strangled by it. The loneliness felt like a huge shadow threatening to engulf me and swallow me whole. I picture myself standing ragged and starving in front of a vending machine full of snacks putting in my dollar and pressing the button to no avail. Over and over again I put in a dollar, press the buttons and wait but nothing comes for me and dejectedly I walk away until the next time that the hope of a family becomes so strong that I try once again and the taunting machine full of forbidden sweets laughs at my hopeless persistence.

At some point just a few months before this I had a dream that gave me just enough hope to hold on to. It wasn’t the dream itself as much as it was the feeling it left me with. In the dream I was sitting on my bed pouring out my heart to Heavenly Father about how much I wanted a family. Suddenly the door opened and in walked a strapping young man, He was tall and strong and so handsome. He looked at me with the greatest love in his eyes I had ever seen. I felt safe and protected and honored and loved. He wrapped me in his strong arms and promised me that he and his brothers and sisters where coming to me, that I needed to be patient just a moment longer and to not give up hope. I had always thought about having infants or small toddlers, never a strapping, tall young man. But the love that I felt for him and from him could have never been described except as a mothers love. I knew in that moment I would willingly without hesitation give my life for him. He comforted me then he left.

As he did, a girl entered the room. She had so much spunk and fire that I could feel it in per presence. Her dark bouncy girls and bright eyes sparkled with a love of adventure and enthusiasm for life. She shared some of her hopes and dreams with me enough for me to feel pride in this powerful spirit daughter of mine. She was everything I had ever hoped for her to be.

Next to her stood a quiet, peaceful little boy. Tow headed and quiet he simply filled the room with his love and presence. I knew of his love for animals, for the down trodden, for the forgotten. I knew he had a heart that would talk for long hours with his sister and I about his hopes and dreams for his future but for now his intelligent, open heart and mind were absorbing likes sponges everything around him. I begged them not to leave me but when the time came they left me with promises that they were never far away and that it wouldn’t be long now. Waking to loneliness was exquisite pain after the heart full to bursting that I had experienced. I found myself counting the short years from 31 to 40 and thinking that my window for having three children was closing fast.

This was me six years ago. Between jobs, between wards, between roommates, at the end of a relationship, finishing my last year of school with no clue where I was headed. Oh how my heart ached. This was the same month that I wrote this post.

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/its-only-the-beginning/

I wrote it in hopes that writing it would help me feel it but It seemed like the end of everything.

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The Worth of A Man

A friend of mine recently posted this interesting question or rather essay full of questions on Facebook. Having had many of the same questions myself in recent years and having so much to say on the topic I decided to answer her in a blog post. First here is her question:

I have a genuine and soul-searching question…. I’d love your insights, men. I need help appreciating you more..

I just read an interesting article about the rising trend of single motherhood. Among women under 30, the majority of babies born are now born out of wedlock. One of the reasons cited was interesting and bothersome to me… “Men are not as valuable as they used to be.”

.Over the last 30 years, men’s wages have dropped by 8%, while women’s wages have increased by 8%. The stigma of being a single mom has mostly disappeared, and with adoption / technology of artificial insemination, you can totally have kids without a partner.

.Here’s where it hits home and hurts me… If I’m being honest with myself, I’m increasingly discouraged and disenchanted with men. There is a reverence for self that I find often in women but rarely in men. And the last 7 years of seriously dating, pouring my heart and soul into awesome relationships where the guy just walks away anyways… It’s left me feeling like I can’t rely on men for much, and don’t NEED to rely on them for anything.

.I still harbor a strong desire for dedicated male companionship. But even if it exists, I feel like it’s so rare, that low likelihood of finding the belonging place I’m looking for, combined with a high likelihood of being betrayed or abandoned makes it not worth it to look anymore. It’s awfully tempting to joint-adopt with a best friend and share the efforts of child-rearing with someone I feel I can rely on. I’d prefer being the breadwinner anyways.

Our society is cruel to men… Exceedingly cruel. My roommate pointed out that men seem to be hurt enough by the man-hate that it makes them want to disengage. I see this pain too.

SO, help me understand.

What beauty should we be seeing? What unique gifts and contributions do men offer in a relationship, that makes it worth fighting for you?

.What would rejuvenate your courage, make you feel like a knight in shining armor again? What would inspire you to literally rush into battle, willing to give your life to protect a women, as eons of men used to do? What IS the modern equivalent? What makes you feel proud of yourself on that level?

What do you need, and how can we help?

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This is Joseph and Vilate responding together. Your topic brought up some great questions. For me having been in the same boat as you until I was into my 30’s I relate. Now, having been married for a few years I also have a new perspective on this. And Joseph has the experience you were requesting from a man’s perspective. So here is what we have to say.

First and foremost, marriage, although it can be incredibly difficult, requires self-sacrifice and even a good deal of risk, also has just as much potential for incredible joy, success and enumerable wonderful things. It is GOD”S plan. The way that HE decided was best. He knew that men would be challenging, he knew about video games and pornography and he still felt that this is THE BEST way.Yes, you can have children without having a man involved. However, there is great value in KNOWING and LOVING the father of your children. First, you know his character, his genes, his likes and dislikes. When you have a child with someone you look at them and you see a reflection of your partner in them and it brings so much happiness that it is beyond description. As I am writing this Joseph is dancing with our baby daughter to keep her happy while I write and unless you know and love them both like I do you wouldn’t know how perfect this moment is and how it makes up for the difficult parts of marriage and family. Men’s way of communicating is different from women and children need both. I see the way that Preston reacts to Joseph and it’s very different from the way he interacts with me. And its clear to me that he needs Joseph. Even in the first few months when Joseph wasn’t here I could see the change in him when Joseph arrived. It’s hard to explain these things to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Do you love your dad? You probably love your mom too. But could you imagine only having your mom? I couldn’t imagine my life without my dad. And because of that I would never NEVER consider having a child and making them grow up without a father.

Besides children needing them, they need us? When God said it is not good for man to be alone he meant it. Just look at any 30+ single man. It’s not good. They need us. And even if we don”t biologically or financially need them We still need them.

This is from Joseph answering this question:What would rejuvenate your courage, make you feel like a knight in shining armor again? What would inspire you to literally rush into battle, willing to give your life to protect a women, as eons of men used to do? What IS the modern equivalent? What makes you feel proud of yourself on that level? (I want you to know that he got teary trying to answer this question and he gave me the answer in less than a second.)

It’s love.

We heard a man bear his testimony about almost dying today and how the only thing on his mind was his wife and daughters and how much he loved them, and how much they loved him. When you feel the love that comes from the person next to you, you just feel empowered to bursting. It’s just like when I come home from work and Preston runs to me and calls me daddy, in that moment I would die, I would do anything for that person. It’s the same with my wife, when I feel that love and see that face I would do anything. When I watched you give birth, seeing everything you went through, I would have done anything to help and just feeling the love filled me up. There just isn’t any words to describe it.

So, (this is Vilate again) I’m sorry this has been long I’m sorry it hasn’t been more specific. ( If you haven’t read it already read the proper care and feeding of husbands by Dr.Laura) From having been in your shoes I understand that you want concrete, usable answers. I know that these answers aren’t that. But I think there is no easy answer. and I would just say one more thing. Marriage is hard, just like raising kids is hard. They are both much harder than I had ever imagined. But they are also FAR more wonderful than I ever imagined.

I think Joseph is right. Whenever things in my marriage have been difficult and I have prayed for answers on how to deal with him I always get one answer regardless of the problem. Love Him.

So, If I could go back and tell myself a few things on this topic I would say this. Don’t marry just to marry, don’t feel as if your life only holds meaning in marrying and having children, don’t waste a moment of your singlehood, don’t devalue yourself by allowing a guy to string you a long and play games with your heart, don’t settle for less when it comes to the kind of man that you want and deserve. If you are a strong powerful, hardworking, righteous woman, wait for a man who is your equal and then when you find him hold nothing back and move forward with faith. And if you don’t find him spend your life finding and living your mission because YOU have one and it is important.

So, lastly, has the value of men declined? No, do we not see/expect as much from them? Do they as a result not see/expect as much of themselves? Are women partially responsible for creating the selfish, video gaming, pornography watching, unambitious guys that we see today? Can we be a huge part of the answer to bringing back that knight in shining armor that my friend spoke of? I would say yes and if that is the case than I still believe that Joseph was right and the answer is LOVE. We need to love them enough to expect more of our men, love them enough to see their undeniable worth and rejoice in it when we find it. I believe our men will rise to the occasion.

The most important men in my life.

The most important men in my life.

Life is What You Make It.

My Mother always tried her best to bring my flighty, romantic little brain solidly back to earth. She was always reminding me that life isn’t one of my romance novels. I fought her hard on that one. I never wanted to give in a believe that those magical moments, the romance, the adventure weren’t real. I felt somehow that if I gave in and believed her it would suck all of it out of my future. And I wanted it oh so badly. I wanted to fall hopelessly and madly in love. I wanted to have crazy adventures and travel the world. I wanted to have those picture perfect moments, I wanted the little women sweetness of sisterhood moments and the Last of the Mohican’s “I will find you” kiss. I wanted it all.

the-last-of-the-mohicans-1992_1435_2

The other day talking to one of my dearest friends I said something that hurt my heart just a little. I said that we read books to escape the mundane reality of life. Turns out my Mother didn’t need to try to convince me of the hopelessness of my romanticism. Life would do it well enough on its own.

Or at least it would try.

But you see. During those teenage years filled with longing I learned something. Something that I had forgotten, and only just now remembered. Life is what you make it. Movies and books are full of wonderful exotic and romantic moments but so is life! The only difference is that books skip all the boring moments in between and in real life you see them all. But I firmly believe that if you don’t allow the mundane moments to cloud your vision and alter your perspective you will see, feel and experience in all its wonderful fullness the fantastical moments of your very own story.

I used to imagine my life through the eyes of a book. I used to read it in my mind how it might read if it were a story and I found that it really wasn’t far off. I could see many many moments of my life depicted in a novel I just had to imagine it it. I remember one time frantically gathering my music at the last-minute for a Christmas recital. The family was all trying to get ready in time, there was yelling going on to remember this or that and to please not sit on the lemon bars. It was a mundane moment that with the right perspective seemed story book worthy. And it made it so much more fun to experience it when I saw it for what it was. A future memory.

Tonight I sat watching a romantic movie and thinking about how that part of my life is now over and I am an old married woman. But you know what I got my story! I rode on a motorcycle, the wind in my hair and the sun setting at my back and fell in love with the man of my dreams in a foreign exotic country. I’ve experienced utter exhilaration as I ran into my husbands arms after more than nine months a part. I’ve held a new-born baby in my arms knowing that this little soul straight from heaven was created from the love that we share. I’ve had my heart-broken (as everyone should) and I’ve found healing, happiness, hope, and love.

And now the mundane sets in again. I have diapers and dishes and laundry up to my eyeballs. I have late nights and crying babies and teething and hormones. But I truly believe that if I can remember the secret I learned as a teenager I can make even the mundane magical and I won’t miss those sweet moments when life could just slip by without my noticing. I will turn that movie off and LIVE each of those mundane moments vividly and with full consciousness of the fact that EVERY moment is part of my story and I can make it what I will!

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Missing Uganda

Today some good friends of ours will be leaving Uganda after serving 18 months as senior missionaries. This couple was so much help to Joseph and I and felt almost like parents to me. I am so excited to see them. Sister Casperson posted this goodbye to Uganda and the people there on her facebook.

Packing suitcases for our flight on Thursday night. Hard to believe that our mission is already coming to an end. We will miss Uganda and the lovely people we’ve met here. But, we’re looking forward to seeing our two grand babies we’ve never met and our children and grandchildren who have always been on our minds. Thank you for the support of all who have written, texted, skyped, and talked with us. Thank you to the Ugandan members who have loved us so much for the little we’ve done. We have gained much from them, and hope that as we go home, they will remember us from time-to-time and keep faithful to the gospel. We will be cheering right along with you when it is announced that Jinja District is Jinja Stake. Good luck to those of you getting married soon. We are sad we will miss those weddings, but so very, very happy that you’ve found your eternal companions! Remember to FB photos! Trust our Heavenly Father, believe Him, do what He asks you to do, and we will meet again as the Lord brings us into His fold to help accomplish His work until the end.

As I read this a realized how they must be feeling right now I remembered my own bitter sweet homecoming from that country. I was so excited to get home and see my family and eat familiar food and hopefully start feeling better. Yet I was so sad to leave my husband of two short months and all the sweet, wonderful people I had met while I was there.

Life in Uganda wasn’t easy for me but in so many ways it was so wonderful! Here are a few pictures from my last few days there that my husband rescued from a broken memory card.

Most women in Uganda just cook and wash dishes in pots on the floor. I wasnt cut  out for that so with Joseph’s help I tmy own little kitchen.IMG_1640Joseph found this little water jug and put a spout on it for me. IMG_1641The counter top was a piece of plywood that we covered with laminate flooring and nailed to the top of a broken cabinet that Joseph had planned to throw out. I sewed some curtains and strung them up on string.IMG_1643IMG_1642

A cutting board and a few jars from sister Casperson and a basket I found in the market completed my counter top. I pounded a few nails into the side of the cabinet to hang hot pads and towels on and Joseph found us a little fridge. Our little kitchen was complete and served us well!.

IMG_1644A veiw from the other side of the room shows the rest of our living area. Our first little home will always bring such sweet memories!

IMG_1645Our bed, with a broken fan that Joseph had. By cutting a small whole in the sheet that surved as a curtain and stringing some string through the bars on the windows I was able to tie our fan up in such a way that we had cool air blowing on us all night long. You cant see the mosquito net that hung above our bed but I loved the feeling of pulling it all around us at night and sleeping in its peaceful cocoon. IMG_1646 Our closet. This picture was taken the day I left so my clothes were already packed.

IMG_1630IMG_1628Sister Amina and Sister Dunba cam to help me pack the day before I left. We had so much fun that day. I miss these women.

IMG_1665This is the home Joseph grew up in. IMG_1655Juju (Grandma) Joseph’s mother, and us just before leaving to the airport.

Josephs brother Sekimuli and his wife.IMG_1668IMG_1651IMG_1618IMG_1649Joseph with his uncle, his mothet and some nieces and nephew. Jospeh with his sisters Tinah and AsherIMG_1604IMG_1597

The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn

My sister came to me the other day and told me she had a song that I would love. She warned me that it would make me cry. I shrugged it off. Not much makes me cry these days. I’ve kind of found a way to turn my emotions off…at least for the most part. Her song caught me off guard. I was crying within seconds. Almost every word of that song could have been written directly from the sentiments of my heart. I found myself wanting to turn it off so that the tears would stop and at the same time I wanted to listen to it over and over again; amazed at how perfectly it described what I have felt over the last few months. The song is called Can I Do This On My Own.

Deciding to leave Joseph in Uganda was one of the most difficult decisions. I agonized over it for weeks. I knew I was pregnant, I knew I wasn’t getting what I needed there. I knew that if I didn’t give my baby every chance at making it I would hate myself forever if something went wrong. And yet I thought about that day in Rwanda when Joseph refused to leave my side. When he promised me that somehow we would figure things out and get us both home together. How could I leave him now?
We had just been sealed for time and all eternity and the first thing I was about to do was leave; not knowing when I would see him again. Joseph promised me it would be a short separation. I will be home by Christmas he told me. I feel confident we can get through this in three months. The Lord will help us.
I will never forget standing in the doorway of the airport trying to figure out how to walk away. Turns out there is only one way to do it. You just have to make your feet move and take one step at a time. Time was slipping away and I knew I had to leave. I tried not to look back knowing it would only make it harder. I took my bags and struggled to get them onto the conveyor belt. The woman at the counter told me to open it so that they could search it. I opened it and lying on the very top was a framed picture of Joseph and I on our wedding day. Was that man your husband the woman asked when she saw the picture. I nodded that he was, closed my bag, took a deep breathe and headed for the stairs that would lead me to the area where we would board the plane. I had no idea then that Joseph was still watching. Standing outside behind the big windows he stood there tears streaming down his cheeks as he watched until he couldn’t see me any more.
I didn’t cry. Not then and not until I was seated on the plane. Joseph had slipped me two envelops as I had left. They both contained letters to me. Once I was settled on the plane I read the first one. The second I would save until I arrived and had to go to bed alone at my parents house the next night. I knew I would need it then.
I arrived in Salt Lake on October 3. When I finally reached the pick up area of the Salt Lake airport I was exhausted. I didn’t see me sister who had agreed to pick me up. After a few minutes though I randomly ran in to someone that I knew. She recognized me. And as she said hello I burst into tears. She asked if something was wrong and if I needed help. I was crying to hard for her to understand. “I left Joseph in Africa!” It was all I could say.
Three months went by. Christmas came and went without even the slightest hope that Joseph would make it home. I hang on to hope that he would make if for the birth of our baby in late April. I felt that I really couldn’t get through that without him. The weeks slipped by one after the other. And one day I had to acknowledge that he wasn’t going to make it. It was a horrible moment trying to imagine going through the pain of childbirth and experiencing the joy that follows as that beautiful, perfect child is placed in your arms; and all of it without the one person that I wanted most to share it with. It was almost worse imagining the first weeks and possibly months of our child life going by without his father being there to see him. The thought of it was too hard to swallow. So I didn’t. I just took it a day at a time and somehow the day came for our baby to be born and we got through it. 10527720_10152185296310658_1792769584445851377_nHis first month passed and then his second and we got through it. Now what? Well they say the darkest hour is just before dawn. I think its true.
Because on Thursday July 17th I will be at the Salt Lake airport once again; standing in the pick up area. I will probably be crying again. But it will be different this time. I will be crying tears of joy…because my Joseph is FINALLY coming home!!!

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My Year of Miracles: A review of my tenth year as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

10 years! I remember it like it was yesterday; the day I got baptised into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I felt so lost and out-of-place I wondered if I would make it through the week. I felt strongly that I had made the right decision…but boy was it going to mean big changes for me; many of which there was no way to be prepared for.

Since that day each year on the anniversary of that day I spend some time alone, thinking, pondering and reviewing my choice, my commitment, and the consequences of that choice, be they good or bad. Every year I look back filled with gratitude, sometimes sadness, but always in awe of what has transpired since that time and most especially in the most recent year.

This year more than any other year I see so clearly how that choice I made ten years ago continues to grow in its impact in my life. Almost every single decision I made this year…and I made some big ones, was in a large way influenced by my decision to join this church.

So here is a year in review:

May 2013

I arrived in Uganda just 1 day before my 9th anniversary as a member of the LDS church. That first week was hard. Really hard. It took some getting used to, it was fun, it was an adventure, it was eye-opening to see a way of life so different from my own. That month I learned to live without so many things. I ate strange foods and even insects (check out the video!)

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This was my bed.

I went way to long without showers because of a lack of water, met so many new friends, learned to sleep in spite of the lizards crawling on the walls, and the mice and rats fighting over food remnants in our kitchen. I used pit latrines, carried water in a jerry can, was smothered in love and dirty hand prints by dozens of children who all wanted to hold my hand and have a piece of my attention. I felt completely overwhelmed by all of it. Especially the stifling heat. Oh and I didn’t know it then but I met someone who would change my life forever. It was a good month!

After adding a few of my things and scrubbing vigorously!

After adding a few of my things and scrubbing vigorously!

June 2013

I agreed to go on a date with Joseph Ssempala. That date colored the rest of my month. I saw him or talked to him every day after that. When he told me he loved me after just a few weeks I responded by teaching him a new phraze…”take a chill pill.” fortunately he isn’t one to give up easily and while he did give me the little space that I needed, he continued to make me feel like the most amazing woman alive. He showed me so many things and we had some amazing adventures that month. I realized I was falling in love in a strange country with a strange and wonderful man who took my breath away. It was a great month!!

Joseph and I on our first date.

Joseph and I on our first date.

July 2013

After traveling to Rwanda and having some crazy adventures there. I accepted a proposal of marriage from the man of my dreams and after only dating just two days shy of a month. Joseph and I began planning our wedding. At first we planned for the wedding to take place in October. But it wasn’t long before we realized that, that plan wasn’t going to work and we moved the date up to the 27th of July. It gave us two crazy weeks to plan for the day I had waited my whole life for. It was nothing like I had imagined but all the important elements where there with the exception of the attendance of family and friends. I was head over heels in love with the man I was marrying, I wore a beautiful white dress, and the end result was that I found myself a married woman and so blissfully content that nothing else mattered. What can I say, it was a phenomenal month!!!DSCF1436

August 2013

As July turned to August I learned many new skills. Like how to shower outside with a bucket of cold water, how to cook on a charcoal stove, and how to have an argument and still stay friends with your new husband. I planted a garden, created a home, met some wonderful new neighbors and took a pregnancy test that turned out to be positive! What more can I say…My joy was complete and it was the month of my dreams.

September 2013

September came with its own challenges and joys. I learned that morning sickness is NOTHING like being car sick but just in the mornings like I used to think it would be. I ate less and threw up more than I would have dreamed was possible. I spent most of my day resting and trying to help my body create another human being! I started teaching piano lessons, getting more involved at church, and just tried to survive being really sick. I also got to travel to South Africa where my new husband and I went through a very special ceremony where we were sealed together for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. One of the most sacred and special moments of my life was when this man who I love so much took my hand and led me through this process that would bind us together for eternity. Eternity wouldn’t be long enough for me. It was a legion…wait for it….dary month!  (a little How I Met Your Mother reference for those of you that love Neil Patrick Harris).

October 2013

With the blush of spring and the warmth of summer past, October saw me traveling home alone. I needed to eat and rest and get strong for the baby growing inside me. I needed my family and I needed to be back in America. I would come, work on getting Joseph a visa, finish up my last two semesters of school and prepare for our coming baby. It was a long and lonely month.

November 2013

I turned 32 this month and being married took the sting out of being another year older, the day passed and aside from having a wonderful Skype session with my husband I hardly noticed. I prayed for a mild winter, worked and waited and waited some more. I found an apartment for us to start our lives together in and my mother graciously helped me to furnish and make our little two bedroom apartment feel like a home.

December 2013

Began to realize that Joseph wouldn’t be coming as soon as we had imagined and tried to adjust to a new kind of loneliness. With Morning sickness easing up significantly and the second trimester under way I felt like a new woman and I couldn’t believe my growing body. We had an ultra sound and discovered that our baby was a boy. We agreed to name him Preston Joseph.

January 2014

Started my final semester of school!! A degree 8 years in the making finally looking like it was coming to an end. Began a new job at Cedar Fort planning events. Life began to settle into a routine.

February 2014

As I moved into the third trimester, things began to get a bit more difficult. Preston became heavier, my belly got tighter and I felt sure my skin was going to pop! The miracle that takes place in a pregnant woman’s body on a daily basis never ceases to amaze me! Our baby was moving and growing and I was experiencing sweet moments that I had only ever dreamed about. I never dreamed that I would feel them alone, and experience my first pregnancy in such a way but I learned some good lessons about love, communication, patience and not taking things for granted. I learned about disappointment as Joseph’s application for a visitors visa was denied and we continued to wait for his immigrant visa.

March 2014

After passing out at work, and showing significant signs of impending labor I went on bedrest to keep from having our baby prematurely. This month I learned about accepting help even when you want to do things yourself, about exchanging independence for kindness, about learning to let go of expectations and about trust as I had to realize that this baby was going to be born without Joseph being here. My entire pregnancy was going to come and go without Joseph getting to be a part of any of it. On the other hand my exhausted body was grateful for the rest and the time spent with family. It was a very long month.

And Finally April 2014

And now we have come full circle. With my baby 13 days over due I find myself sitting down to write this review of what might possibly be the most eventful year of my life so far. April was long and exhausting, Big changes in our family. Joseph still unsure of when he will be able to join me and the anticipation of the nearness of a new life have left me a bit of an emotional basket case. I cry almost daily for no good reason. I sit, I stand, I walk, and I lay down in an effort to find a position where something doesn’t hurt. Then I give up until 5 minutes later when I will try it all again.

I am eternally grateful for the child growing within me, for the husband that I trust, love, and adore with every part of my being, for a family who has carried me through this incredibly difficult time. But more than anything else I am grateful that I followed my heart, the direction that I felt from the spirit that day ten years ago. I am so grateful that because of what I know and love about the gospel of Jesus Christ, this year and everything I have experienced in it has been worth it. It has been so wonderful, hard and overwhelming. But I have grown and never once have I doubted that my Father has a plan for our little family, that he brought us together and he can keep us together if we draw close to him. I haven’t doubted that he loves us, that i am exactly where he wants me to be and that I can approach him in peace knowing that in spite of my imperfections he is proud of me and so willing to help me. I love my Lord, I love his church, I love my husband, my baby my family and my life. Every year so far has seen blessings and adventures. But this year, this year that marks a full decade in the church…This year was big…

this year was beyond description!!!

 

 

Life and Love in Uganda

After Joseph and I were married we moved into his apartment. There is really no way to describe those first few days of marriage. The strangeness of someones else’s home suddenly becoming your own. Joseph made room on his shelves for my clothes even though we were only going to be there a few days. Sunday, the day after the wedding was spent mostly on church activities and visiting with his family. Monday morning we woke up in our little apartment, crawled out of bed and sat in our pj’s eating left over wedding cake and opening gifts from our reception.

Joseph left for work and I pulled out some tubs and started doing some much needed laundry. I could see the women in the houses next to ours watching me in my clumsy efforts to fill the jerry can repeatedly to fill the tubs. I started scrubbing the clothes and it wasn’t long before two girls from across the street came over and begged to help me.

With their help it wasn’t long before I had two full lines filled with our dripping wet but clean clothes. The girls didn’t stop there they used the cleanest of the remaining water to wash the floors in our house and finally to clean our porch. They were so friendly and we laughed and talked as we worked together. I gave them some treats from the box of things that I still had left from what I had brought with me from Utah and we visited, looked at pictures and talked until their mothers called for them from across the street.

The following morning Joseph woke me early to tell me he was leaving to go get a truck to help us move our things to our new apartment. Joseph’s apartment was not within a gated compound and he felt that it was safer for me to be inside a gate. He left and I started packing our things. I opened a drawer in a large cabinet that Joseph had and was met by three LARGE scurrying roaches. I screamed bloody murder and ran from the house almost tripping over my feet in my hurry to get away from them.

My neighbors say on their porches laughing. I could see that they were thinking, “crazy mazungu” but they didn’t say it. I had gotten to know the two families that shared a porch with Joseph and I during the time that we were dating. They were very kind and had known Joseph since he was a boy. About the time I bolted out the front door I was greeted by the missionaries looking for my husband. They took care of the roaches for me and when Joseph arrived with the truck they helped us load everything up and take it to our new apartment.

The next few days felt a little like living in one of my favorite pioneer era novels. I cleaned walls and floors, Joseph had an old cabinet whose glass top had broken that he was about the throw out. I had convinced him to keep it and I used a piece of plywood covered in laminate and nailed to the top as a counter top. I purchased a couple of basin’s from the market and asked Joseph to get the largest water jug he could find and put a spout on the bottom of it for me. He did and after propping it up on some bricks it fit perfectly over the basin and created a make shift sink. By leaving a couple of nails sticking out the sides of the cabinet I had hooks to hang hot pads, rags, and towels on.

I had found some sheets that we weren’t using and a little sewing kit with needles and thread that Joseph had and sewed some curtains using string and nails to string them up to serve as cupboard doors for our shelves. It would make a perfect cabinet to store our food. Sister Casperson, one of the Senior missionary couples had given me a cutting board, and several empty cookie containers that worked perfectly as canisters to store flour, beans, rice, and other food. I went shopping and filled our shelves so that I would be able to cook us dinner. I was pretty proud of my little kitchen!

Figuring out how to cook on the charcoal stove was a little harder. After several failed attempts at starting the coals on fire I went to knock on the neighbors door to ask for help. Her name was Josephine and she was very kind. She came and showed me how to melt a plastic bag and use the dripping plastic to start a fire, she showed me how to fan the coals until they began to turn white and then red. Finally the coals were hot enough and the smoke had stopped enough to put a pan of rice on to cook.

Charcoal StoveThe rice cooked surprisingly fast and when it was done I was at a loss as to how to turn the coals off. So I decided to boil some water, and when that still didn’t use up all the coals I decided to try my hand at making a cake. I had some fresh pineapple and I decided to make a pineapple cake. It was an old muffin recipe actually that my family had used a lot when I was growing up. I just poured it all into the one pan since I didn’t have a muffin tin and decided to call it cake. I filled the pan with the sweet pineapple filled batter and set the pan inside another pan as I had seen other women do. I put a lid on it and covered the lid with hot coals. I was surprised about twenty minutes later to see the golden brown top of the cake and smell the sweet goodness inside and know that i had baked my first cake over charcoal.

While it was cooking I chopped some vegetables that I had purchased at the market and made a makeshift african version of hawaiian haystacks. I think Joseph was surprised to come home and see that his wife actually did know how to cook something for his dinner. We piled our plate high and each took a fork and dug in. I don’t know why we did it that way that night but we somehow started a tradition of eating our dinner together off the same plate. After that day, Each night when I would cook we just filled one plate and always ate together. It was a time I will never forget!

 

 

My Husband

You know when people post those sappy I have the best husband in the world comments on Facebook? yeah this is going to be one of those. So if that’s not really your thing feel free to pass this one by. Last night my husband said some pretty sweet things to me and I wanted to save it somewhere. Since I haven’t really kept a journal anywhere since I started this blog I decided that I want to save that here, share it with any who care to read and also, I know that there are a number of people who have questioned why after only knowing him such a short time I was willing to change my life so dramatically and marry Joseph. This should answer that question.

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Last night as Joseph and I were skyping he saw a picture of one of my friends on Facebook. “You are prettier than she is” he admitted to me. I laughed, “well since I am your wife I’m sure glad you think so I told him”

“No,” he sounded a little defensive, “I’m not saying that because I’m your husband, I’m saying it because it’s true”

“Well, I’m not sure her husband would agree” I answered.

Then I fished a bit for further compliments…because well, I guess I’m just like that.

“So what if you met a girl who is prettier than I am?” I asked him

Of course the correct answer to this is “No one is prettier than you are!” and I would know that it was only half-true, and that he was only saying that because it was in fact the right answer.

But true to the Joseph that I know he didn’t give the right answer, he gave one much better. “well if she was prettier than you I would have to ask myself what she has to offer,” he said.

My feelings started to get hurt…

“I would ask myself, would she be as patient as you have been? Would she be as willing to be a mother? Would she be as supportive of me in my work, my callings, and my dreams? Would she be as good at planning and at conversation as you are? Would she love me and sacrifice for me the way you have. Would she love the Lord as purely as you do? and the answer would always be No.”

I started to interrupt but he stopped me.

“I was promised that I would receive a handmaid of the Lord, and that’s what I got a “hand-made” of the Lord, A girl who was molded and carefully prepared to be perfect for me.”

I wanted to cry. Once again he had given me the perfect answer to a dumb question.

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Communication is sometimes difficult. Cultural and language differences do play a part. Like the time I showed him an adorable little shirt that my sister bought for baby Preston. It said “Chicks dig Chubby Dudes” He didn’t even crack a smile. Don’t you think its cute? I asked,

“well, he responded it is cute. But I want our son to feel proud of himself.”

Or the time that my dad threatened to take me back and keep me as his daughter if Joseph didn’t hurry and come and Joseph thought he was serious.

Sometimes those things are funny, and sometimes through the misunderstanding we hurt each other.

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Joseph and I don’t have a perfect marriage. Before I got married I knew that married couples argued but I couldn’t imagine what there would ever be that I would argue with my husband over. I looked forward to finding out. And boy did I find out! I was surprised at how easy it is to get your feelings hurt when you love someone like you love a husband. I was surprised at how angry I would get over somewhat little things, how sometimes, I would be angry at him just because he wouldn’t get angry back!

It was hard for him to adjust to married life, to not being able to just do what he wanted when he wanted. There were times when I cooked dinner and waited in our empty house alone for hours while the dinner got cold and he didn’t show up. It was hard for me to adjust to someone else having an opinion that mattered, especially when that opinion differed from mine. Marriage is NOT easy.

There were even times when I wondered why I had gotten myself into this.

But I always remembered the answer to that question. It was because I KNEW that Joseph was a good man, who loved the Lord, who was always willing to change, who knew how to say I’m sorry, who was honest with me even when I wasn’t going to like it. I knew I could count on him to lead our family, I knew his devotion to me, to the gospel, and to our marriage was unshakable, I knew that he had similar ideals and standards that I did. I also knew that his dreams, his plans, and his path in life paralleled mine and that we would be better walking that path together than apart.

When I knew that Joseph loved me, I felt that if we married I would be marrying up. I would be marrying someone where I would be getting the better part of the deal. And the best part was that I knew he knew the worst things about me and that in spite of them he felt the same of me. I knew he felt that he was the one actually getting the better part of the bargain.

and so, when he showed he was ready to move forward, by asking me to marry him

and when I felt peace and contentment, trust and respect at the thought of a life with him.

I said yes.

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