Logic, Love, & Learning through Trials (particularly open heart surgery for our little Lily)

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8 Weeks ago (July 2nd) Michelle took Lily in for a 4 month routine baby checkup. Our amazing pediatrician heard a very slight heart murmur and told Michelle that she just needed to take Lily in for a precautionary appointment with the cardiologist. So on July 13th an appointment was made with the cardiologist and they listened to Lily and said they suspected ASD (Atrial Septal Defect- basically a small hole between the top two chambers of the heart). That was sad news but we didn’t know what it really meant but we were told that we needed to schedule an Echo (Echocardiogram) for the next day. After shifting around some schedules Michelle and I took Lily in for the Echo. They simply explain that they are going sedate your 4 month old and that you can see her in an hour, and she’ll be lethargic for a while. After the Echo the cardiologist fellow discussed with us the results and drew a nice picture and explained that it wasn’t ASD, but that it was AVSD (Atrioventricular Septal Defect- whole in the middle of the heart between all four quadrants) and that she would need open heart surgery within in the next month or two. That was kind of depressing, although logically I just thought, “Worrying doesn’t really help, so let’s just see how it goes.” I don’t know if that is healthy or not, but it worked for me. In this case I thought, “What will be, will be. There isn’t anything I can do about this.” The doctor said treat her like a normal child and that she probably will lead a normal life but won’t be an Olympic athlete or anything. She also said that “we had pretty good doctors at Primary Children’s, not the best, but pretty good.” At the time, I thought that was a funny way to not be too comforting. I don’t know what I think about it now.

We went home and explained to Liam and Emma that Lily had a hole in her heart and that she was going to be at the hospital. Liam immediately and surprisingly broke down in tears. And through his sniffles and genuine and loving tears he cried, “but if Lily goes to the hospital, who is going to be here to make me happy. Whenever I am sad, Lily makes me happy.” Emma who has said the same prayer for the last year broke from her rote prayer and asked Heavenly Father to make sure that “Lily would be safe in the arms of Jesus.” We didn’t know what to think about that.

2 weeks after that Echo they called and scheduled the surgery for September 14th.  At a weight check on July 30th, she wasn’t gaining weight and she seemed to be breathing faster, so the cardiologist doctor prescribed a water pill and asked for a checkup in a week. When Lily went in to the Cardiologist after she was using the water pill for a week, they decided that because the medication wasn’t working too well they decided to move up the surgery to as soon as possible.

We got a call a week later and said that it would be on August 25th. She went in for a 3D Echo on the 18th (which was difficult to schedule and was done the last possible day for the 25th to work out). Anyway, it got done and they said that nothing has changed and that she’ll go in for surgery on the 25th.

If all goes well, Lily will go in for a PreOp on Monday the 24th and then she’ll go through a 6 hourish surgery on Tuesday and then she’ll be in the ICU for 24-48 hours and then in the recovery room for 3-5ish days, then she will come back home.

I’ve learned a lot through this experience. People care- They show they care when you are going through a difficult time. Happiness comes from relationships- Our relationship with God, our relationship with family and our relationships with friends. The scriptures bring comfort and peace, as do the words of apostles.

I’ve taken comfort in these words of Elder Scott; “The Fall made possible in our lives feelings of both happiness and sadness. We are able to understand peace because we feel turmoil. Our Father in Heaven knew this would happen to us. It is all part of His perfect plan of happiness. He prepared a way through the life of His perfectly obedient Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, for His atonement to overcome every difficulty that we may experience in mortality.” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/make-the-exercise-of-faith-your-first-priority?lang=eng)

I don’t know a lot of things. My children and wife and family and coworkers remind me of that on a daily basis, but I do know that God lives and all we go through is “part of His perfect plan of happiness.” I believe that plan is an individual plan for me and for each person and the Lord knows what each of us needs to be happy and he fits us with tailor made experiences to help us become what he wants us to become. We’re anxious, and sad, and worried, and our hearts break that our daughter’s heart is broken. My mom would say it is okay to be sad and I thought today that you can’t block sadness without erring with indifference, and so sadness is okay. But despite the hurt hearts we are happy and hopeful and grateful and appreciate all the prayers and kindness and faith.

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My 2012 Year in Review

I have a tradition at the end of the year to review my journal and write down the highlights or interesting things that we’ve done. I did that this year as well and I was grateful for my resolution to write in my journal.

Life Events
Started Liam on a strict sleep schedule January 1st that changed our lives
Main pipe broke in our downstairs, luckily avoided a flood by being home
Liam started crawling
We considered moving from this house and actively started looking but ultimately decided to stay
Liam turned one
Went Deep sea fishing in Florida and finally caught something
Found out Michelle was pregnant with a girl
Liam took his first steps after 12 months and 59 days of life
Tore up and redid front yard and put in a sprinkler system
2 years of marriage
Finished Old Testament
Emma was born
Liam started singing with us as we sang him to sleep
Emma Smiled
Christmas with family and friends

Random
Started 2012 Healthy Lifestyle
Threw lots of junk away for a 17 day challenge
Scored 8 points in a church basketball game- first play of game I stole the ball and then air balled the layup
Wasted countless hours reading about the presidential election and Mitt Romney
Started swimming regularly
Watched the Super Bowl
Memorized the Living Christ
Personally installed a new mailbox
Saw the solar eclipse
Took Liam on his first golf outing
Began our study for the GMAT and I haven’t felt that stupid since….well forever
July 4 10K with Daija and Liam
Michelle to a timeshare presentation and then to cafe rio
Epic relay
Pitched our roof and got a new door and central air
Liam started to be able to learn any word in sign language
We were on the radio on the “Nightside Project” randomly at Costa Vida
Got a bike trailer for $35 at a garage sale
Michelle went to girls camp for a week and I kept Liam alive, and he kept me exhausted.

Fun
Went Ice Climbing in Ouray- I sucked and then didn’t
Got our first non-family babysitters and went on a date to Sapa
Built a Lego Skyscraper
Jazz game 5th row
Won closest to the hole at the golf tournament
Rock climbed Owl rock in Moab
Moab Skinny Tire 40 mile bike ride
Aquarium (10+ times) and I’m starting to learn and remember the details of each animal
Went to the Zoo (8+ times ) with Liam and Michelle
Took Liam on a walk at 6:30 am. We went barefoot and ran through the sprinklers at the park. It was super fun.
Jumped in puddles today with Liam. It was a blast.

Travel
Ate at the Shake Shack in New York
Visited the Zoo in Central Park
Ate at some amazing Afghan restaurant (NYC)
Watched Sword dancing performance and story time in Belvedere cast;e- (NYC)
Visited Palm Springs with my family
Hiked Crack Canyon and goblin valley with my dad and the scouts
Road Trip down to Lake Powell
Got sandblasted in Antelope canyon
Drove to San Diego and stayed in a beach house with some friends
Ate a Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia
Enjoyed the Philadelphia children’s museum
Visited the Constitution Center
Drove to Annapolis to visit Ashkii and Brooke.
Went to the Olympic Park in Park City

Movies/TV Shows Watched Watched
Mission Impossible 4 Ghost Protocol- my parents baby sat
Captain America
Moneyball
Chronicle
Man on a wire
The Man who knew too little
Pushing Daisies
The Hunger GAmes
The Net
saw the avengers
24
the amazing spiderman
Bourne legacy
Vantage Point
Alias Season 1

Books Listened to or Read
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
How will you measure your life by Clayton M. Christensen
Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey
Lynchpin by Seth Godin
Tribes by Seth Godin
Poke the Box by Seth Godin
CEO Communications Skills
The Power of Winning

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Happiness: Letting the Lord Guide Us


Dear Son,

The other day we went for a walk. You were riding your tricycle and I was pushing it from behind with a bar that lets me push and steer while standing up and walking behind you. After a while you jumped off and decided that you wanted to do the pushing and steering. I let you push the trike while I would just hold the top of the handle above your head and steer to make sure we stayed on the sidewalk. Eventually, you looked up and realized that I was guiding and steering and you emphatically said “No”, you wanted to do it all yourself. I agreed, and it only took about 5 seconds before you veered off the sidewalk and hit a tree and got stuck. I helped you get back on the sidewalk and let you continue to push. I still wanted to respect your desire for independence by not steering the whole time, but I didn’t want you to veer off into the road or waste all our time getting you out of the bushes or trees. So I decided to intervene and steer only as you were starting to veer off the sidewalk. With my little intermittent corrections of course you didn’t know that I was guiding you the whole time safely back to our home.

So here is my best attempt to teach you what you taught me:
– If we are wise, we will let God lead us and if we do we will be protected.
– He sees what we can’t see (the rocks, trees, divots, oncoming traffic) and we need Him.
– We will get stuck when we fail to let him guide us.
– He is strong and has power to get us “unstuck” and out of the messes we get into. He has the power to deliver us and get us back on track, we just have to let him.
– He loves us and wants us to be happy and to make it home to him safely. He’ll always want to guide us, even if we look up and say “NO”. But we say “NO” to God to our own detriment and peril.
– The Lord will let us do things on our own, because he loves and respects our agency. He’ll even let us go get in trouble. And if we let him, he’ll get us out of trouble and back onto the pathway of peace.
– As we grow, we get more freedom and ability to direct our lives.
– It is a lot easier to guide someone when they are still on the path and need only a little correction, than when they are off the path which then requires so much more effort and energy to correct.

I know that the Lord can and does guide His children, even if we aren’t always aware of it. As you grow up let Him guide you and don’t look up and say “NO”. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:6

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A thought about our giving God

Liam woke up and I brought him into the kitchen to share my orange juice. I filled my cup half full and gave it to him and he eagerly took it and started drinking it. I asked for my cup back and he emphatically said “NO!” I laughed, and pleaded for it again and again because I was just going to drink a little and then refill the cup. He finally gave it back and I drank a little and then filled it full and gave it back to him.

I thought how much we are like that with God. He gives and we receive. He asks for a little back and foolishly we say “No!, Not right now!, Why?, Were you asking for something?, I don’t understand!, Huh?, I don’t want to!, It’s mine!,  I earned it!” and so on. If we only can open our eyes to see, our hearts to understand, and realize that God is literally a perfect father willing to give abundantly and only asks for the cup back so that he can refill it again and again for he “giveth to all men liberally“.

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Happiness: “Steadying Hands”

Recently, I have been on quite a few hikes with my son Liam who is already 18 months old. He now has an opinion of his own- I do wonder if that is because he is a Linton or if it is a 2 year old thing.

Anyway, this Saturday we decided to go up the mountains for a hike. I put Liam in a backpack to carry him and we started up the steep trail. About 5 minutes in to our hike, he somehow communicated that he wanted down so that he could walk on his own. I let him down and let him attempt to climb up the steep dirt trail, knowing full well he wouldn’t be able to do it on his own. He began all smiley and determined, but after 3 steps, his feet slipped out from under him and he belly flopped right onto the ground, and since it was loose and soft dirt, there was a small cloud of dust. I just watched to see if he would cry, get up, or ask for help. He got up and walked 4 more steps, and then biffed it again. He got up a little slower, and this time as a concerned father I went and asked him if he wanted help. He used one of only 10 words that he knows (or that we understand) and emphatically and clearly said “No” and shook his head. I smiled and said “fine” and started wondering what Michelle would think of this whole exchange and the fact that each time Liam fell, another layer of dirt covered him from shoes to shirt to face, he was definitely eating some dirt each time he fell. The dirt was eventually so caked on his face that he looked as if he was just beaten up by a mob of 3 year olds. To my amazement he didn’t cry. he continued this cycle 3 more times and each time he got up a little slower and with less determination, but still refused the help each time I offered. I kept encouraging him and telling him to get up and keep following me. We moved 15 feet in what seemed like 15 minutes, but I was learning a lot. But then he fell again and as he was getting up, he slipped once more and as I offered my help this time, he accepted and waved me over to help him. I of course ran to help, I reached down grabbed his hand, pulled him up. He barely held on to my hand and it was just used to steady him and guide him ever so slightly. We moved a lot faster (like 50 ft. every 5 minutes) and as we came to big rocks embedded in the trail, instead of going around them or stopping, he held my hand a little tighter and he powered over them. We made it another 50 ft. and then he let go as the terrain got a little easier but each time it got more difficult the whole process repeated itself. This describes our whole hike, until he got worn out and he asked me to pick him up and I carried my little boy covered with layers of dirt to the car and then home to mom.

I started thinking how we in our lives are like Liam hiking up a difficult path (too difficult to go it alone), and if we are going to make it up the mountain and get over the big rocks, and get up each time we fall, and not slip on the loose sand, we need to know that a “steadying hand’ is there for us to hold on to. Those “steadying hands” guide us in the right direction, help us over obstacles, give us confidence to do things beyond our own ability, and comfort us after we stumble, offering us encouragement and hope after failure and falls. I thought of the “steadying hands” in my life and how each has impacted me and made it possible for me to move up the path and enjoy the journey. I thought of my parents, good friends, the living prophets, the scriptures (specifically The Book of Mormon and New Testament), and Jesus Christ himself. “Steadying hands” are always there, reaching out, watching us fall and helping us up. Sometimes we don’t want their help and we refuse it, but they never are too far away, they are watching and waiting to run to help us, just as I was with Liam as he ventured up the difficult path.

Liam Hiking Video

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Small and Simple Moments of Happiness

Some moments just make an inexplicable impression. Those moments usually come when I am with friends or family or when I am quiet and alone and reading or thinking. I had one of those moments last Saturday when Michelle and Liam and I went on a hike up the canyon. We let Liam hike as much of it as he could. We made it about 800 yards up the 6 mile trail. We turned around and came back to the river 50 yards from the parking spot that we had left 1 hour earlier. We threw rocks in the river and talked and just enjoyed being together and watching Liam laugh as the rocks disappeared into the water making a splash. It is true we didn’t make it to the lake, but luckily, we didn’t miss the river- and sometimes we all just walk right on past the river.
So I have to admit I get a really happy feeling when Liam picks up a ball or a racquet (whether ping pong, racquetball, or tennis). Is it just a dad thing? I mean, he’s no Eli Manning or Roger Federer, yet. Okay, maybe he can’t even hold up the racquet off the ground or throw the ball past the end of his toes. None of that really makes any difference. I am still super excited to see it, maybe to the point that I leave the racquets and the balls around the house just so I can see him randomly pick them up without any coercion from dad. I’ve been throwing balls to him (at him) for almost a year now, and I haven’t seen him catch one yet. The other day, in another room out of my sight Michelle randomly threw a plastic golf ball to him, I heard a screech of joy and congratulations, and then mom and son walked into the room both with big smiles. “Liam caught the ball, I threw it, he moved his hand to where the ball was going and he actually caught the ball, our son is amazing.”  For the next 2 hours I threw that same ball to him and he never caught it or even moved his hand to catch it. Did I say hours? I meant minutes. Time is different with children. Maybe that is why time isn’t measured unto God, because he has a LOT of children.
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Happiness: FHE- Family Hunting Endeavors

For a couple weeks in August my whole family got together. It was super fun. One of the highlights was catching a snake in my mom’s fish pond. I am sure every family has their unique way of accomplishing a task, and it is fun to see how children are so much like their parents in their approaches to challenges, conflict and communication. I am not saying there was necessarily conflict and communication differences during the snake hunt, I’m just saying it was super fun. The other highlight was my nephew’s lesson on how prophets prepare us for challenges. He talked about how Michael Phelps’ coach prepared Michael for unforeseen and difficult challenges (stepping on his goggles before practice swims, changing the times of practice, having him skip meals, and encouraging and helping in every way he could) so that he would be prepared for the Olympics. He then related how we have spiritual coaches (parents, teachers, prophets, etc.) who prepare us for challenges and help us. “Prophets are like the newspaper from heaven,” he taught me. I loved the lesson and was touched to see how well he has been taught and understands the gospel. What better gift can you give your children than a knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ and his gospel and his plan of happiness? What better preparation to confront the challenges that will come?
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(F)unhappiness: GMAT (Gray Matter Atrophying Today)

A few months ago we decided to use our spare time to study for the GMAT for fun- as opposed to being like the rest of the world who watch awesome TV shows. We ordered our study books and took the practice tests. I got whomped by my wife. Not that it’s a competition. I mean, not everything is a competition.  But if it was a competition, I would have felt whomped. I felt like Nigeria against the USA basketball team in the 2012 Olympics. Was it or wasn’t it a competition? Although I am not as humble as the Nigerian player that went and asked Kobe Bryant to autograph his shoe after losing the game 156-73, I have gone as far as asking for Michelle’s help when I don’t understand the concept from the book explanations, but no autographs, yet. I have limited the studying per day to 1/2 hour because to me it is mentally and emotionally draining. I am glad the GMAT was not a prerequisite of marriage. If it was up to Michelle we would study 1-2 hours/day. I’d rather watch Sesame Street or Mister Rogers.
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2012 Epic Relay

I feel a deep desire to blog and post updates on Facebook about my life and family. After several months of not blogging and expressing to my wife my deep desire to be a consistent and regular blogger, she turned to me and said- “You’re busy living life and too busy to write about it. That is not a bad thing.” I heard, “Mike, you’re good at living life and not so good at being motivated or consistently writing about it- so why do you do it anyway??” That is a good question, and one I can’t really answer. I guess I’ll just start writing.
Anyway, my friend deleted their Facebook account because they were addicted to it, so maybe this post is for them, or maybe it is just so I can get rid of the feeling that I need to tell the world what has been going on in my life despite the fact that the world doesn’t read this. So here I go. You may get this post in segments.

Last weekend I ran the Epic relay. I couldn’t find the motivation to train regularly for it and my training consisted of a 1/2 marathon in March, a total of 4.5 miles in June ( a 3 mile run and then 1.5 mile run) and then a 10K on the 4th of July. In other words, I ran more in two days (16ish miles), than I had in the last 3 months. I used to think that doing and being able to do that was cool, that the event or the test or the vacation/destination was the only fun part and was all that mattered, and that the processes of planning, preparing, training, studying, working, and waiting, and struggling- were annoying tasks that should be skipped or shortcutted, avoided, and ignored if possible. I have learned and am still learning what my professor told me one day after class, “Michael, make sure the means justify the end.” I am seeking to find fun in the preparatory process, but it is something I struggle with. All my teammates in the Epic relay were great examples of preparing and enjoying the preparatory processes, and I am grateful for the good examples I have. 

Some highlights from that run. I ran 3 miles in an amazing lightning storm. Upon finishing, the whole race was suspended until the “dangerous” lightning storm had passed. I was no dummy though- I ran next to a girl that was 6 inches taller than me. My 8 mile morning run was right along the beautiful Snake River and a very enjoyable run. I know a run is super good when I take out my headphones just to enjoy the sound and sites of nature. The most amazing part of the run was just watching my teammates take care of each other. Even though all were sore and tired, they stopped and supported and cheered on the runner with all they had.


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Happiness: When mom comes home

Every morning I sneak into Liam’s room and find him standing at his crib, sucking his thumb, and then he breaks out his morning smile and I scoop him up. We then sneak out of his room and he presses his index finger to his mouth and says “Sssshhhhhhh, SShhhhh.”  On normal days we sneak up on mom and give her a hug and the smiles are big, but this  week mom is gone and so are the big morning smiles. Often as the day starts, so the day goes.

Michelle is at girls camp this whole week and I’m doing the “Mr. Mom”, no, actually I’m not doing the mom thing- only moms can do that!

I thought I was doing a great job Monday morning, but then Liam face planted on the cement and started bleeding- I checked his teeth to make sure they were still there and I monitored every movement to see any evidence of brain damage, but after I settled down all he had was a fat lip and a tiny scrape on the forehead. Often as Monday goes, so goes the week.

What better cure to a little injury than some mini ravioli prepared by Chef Boyardee. Not so. Only one of us thought it was prepared to perfection. Things just went uphill from there- I learned that Liam can climb a ladder, diapers need to be changed so that they don’t overflow, a clean house is an illusion, even thinking about preparing a meal is exhausting, Liam can watch the Olympics for 3 minutes before getting restless, if you leave the fridge open for 3 hours while going to the park everything ends up with condensation on it, it is hard to remember to put the milk away, there are never enough diaper wipes, people are generous (after forgetting a stroller, sunscreen, water and food for our zoo adventure- people came through and shared everything we needed), if your kids are really hungry they’ll bring you a spoon hoping you’ll get the message, and most of all we really really miss and need mom  to come home.

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