inspiration and confusion

I am absolutely, completely muddled.

I’m trying to shut down the extra things in my life and nothing is going well. Yesterday, I desperately spun my wheels trying to pack a week’s worth of work in a few hours and instead making a mess of everything—deleting files, burning food, leaving the back door wide open while I went to the grocery store and sitting aimlessly at a stoplight while the light turns from red to green, then yellow and red again…why are those people honking?

Right now, I’m at the orthodontist while Stefan gets his braces removed (hurray!) and I’m determined to slow down and collect my thoughts.

How did I get so busy? Why am I so overscheduled?

OK, some answers are obvious. I’m a mother of six darling ever-needy people. But why have I added in so many other things?

Last week, before I knew my mom was so sick I decided to quit photography for a time– at least for the summer, maybe until Mary starts first grade, perhaps until she goes to college….

And I’m grateful for last week’s inspiration because today I know it’s the right decision. Don’t worry if I’ve done photos for you—I’ll still process and perfect them and give you the very best I’ve got. But I’m going to concentrate on just my family for now. Not one of my children or my cute husband has been getting the attention they need. This is my last year with all my children at home and also the last with my little girl at my side all day.

And I’m also glad for that little spiritual nudge back in January that told me to end scripture group two weeks early this year.

But I’m thoroughly and completely bewildered by our trip– the dream vacation I mentioned last week—to Europe this summer. We’ve been planning it for 8 years, saving for the last four and it’s been booked since November—every hotel and train ride and even Mary’s dresses have been planned to the last detail. The boys have been reading stacks of novels; studying European History and art and French/German/English Travel Dictionaries….

When I exchanged several hundred thousand Skymiles for flights last year I had the distinct impression to take the trip this year and not right after Ben’s high school graduation—that something would happen next year to prevent travel. And even in the planning I’ve felt guided from trivialities of the right museum pass to a free place to stay in Vienna (thanks Mara!).

And now it all seems wrong. Because with just weeks, months left of my mother’s life I simply want to be right by her side.

I know a trip to Europe is crazy in the first place and I’ve hesitated to tell anyone about it because for me it’s a sacred dream that few people understand. Our love of Europe is much of what attracted Erik and I to each other and we’ve cultivated this household of readers and musicians and artists and history lovers who’ve always regarded it as the homeland. I wanted one trip with all of my children to visit the places we’ve talked about and to eat and drink it all in.

We’re not a family who takes weekend trips to Park City or attends sporting events or even watches cable TV—we’ve been saving it all for this one grand vacation. Ben graduates next year and will go on a mission shortly after that. And when he comes home from his mission Stefan will leave. And you’d better believe that Ben will be married before Stefan comes home and Hans leaves, and then Xander and Gabriel and maybe little Mary too. So I’m looking at one short season before my family takes on new and different flavors, expands to an unfamiliar shape. That shape will be beautiful too, I know that, but I want to enjoy my little family right now.

My mom is better today. So much better. Mary and I will fly out on Monday to visit and she’s talking of driving to the beach and visiting beautiful gardens in San Diego. She says to go on our trip and not worry, but I know now how quickly things can change.

And I wish I knew what to do.

May 25, 2009
May 30, 2009



  1. Jane of Seagull Fountain

    May 27, 2009

    I think I understand how much Europe means to you. I flew, for the first time, at 19 to Germany and eurorailed for 2 months. Was unforgettable. My husband and I went to England for Spring break when he was in grad school. Europe calls to some (even the nonmusical :).

    I think if your mom says go, you should go. She understands how important it is to you. With the technology we have, you should be able to stay in touch, and share your vacation with her. Wouldn’t she like to picture you all together over there?

  2. Denise

    May 27, 2009

    Now just stop here. You already know the answer to this one. You wrote it near the beginning of the post. You felt inspired to take this trip. You should. The Holy Ghost does not inspire mistakenly. Everything will works itself out. Your mom loves you and as Jane of SF writes so well above, I know your Mom would love the thought of you all being together and happy.

    My parents took us all on a two month family vacation in the very same window that you are going in. Darla was off to college, Deb shortly behind her. They knew it was then or never. I’m not kidding when I tell you it was the pinnacle experience of my childhood. I think back on those memories all.the.time. Now, when we all live so far apart and my heart longs to be with my wonderful siblings — I AM SO PROFOUNDLY GRATEFUL FOR THAT TRIP. You will be too.

    I love your mom. She’s been so good to me. I know your family is a great joy to her. She is so proud of you. Do what you are best at: being together. And follow your own advice found in a post just a month or so back: Trust in the Lord.

    Love you…. Lots of tears in NY for you and and yours right now.

  3. Jeanelle

    May 27, 2009

    Oh my friend…I can just feel your pain/befuddlement/confusion and I wish I could take some of it away!!

    I have a very good friend who is the mother of five. They are not wealthy but are comfortable. They have taken two big trips to celebrate the HS graduations of each of their oldest children – one to Guatemala, one to Europe. I know if my friend was writing to you, she’d say to take the trip. The memories are priceless. Her home is emptying as each child grows older and she is so grateful to have had time away with her entire family intact, showing her children the world & experiencing life outside of the US.

    I know your mom means it when she says to take your trip. And like your friend said in the previous comment, you know the answer already. Trust the promptings you are feeling. It’s not wishful thinking. Dearest Michelle, it’s not selfish to go to Europe. It’s not silly. It’s important and meaningful and you all deserve to go. There are cell phones and computers and all sorts of ways to stay in touch. Your mom is not alone either…it would be different if she didn’t have your dad, your sister and everyone else who loves her nearby…go to Europe. It really is okay.

  4. Jay

    May 27, 2009

    Would staying be for you or your mom?

    You’re the only one who can decide what’s right *for you*, and if you need to stay with your mom for yourself, then that’s right. In the same way, only your mother can decide what she needs, and she’s telling you to go.

    Even if things do change while you’re gone, it may be easier for her to know you’re away on your dream vacation. Perhaps you needed to take this trip now for just this reason, to have this time with your children when you have even more reason to know how sweet and rare these moments are.

    Nothing can make this easy. Even if you go, it will not be the carefree trip you had in mind.

    Good luck – and know that we are thinking of you.

  5. Blue

    May 27, 2009

    what denise and jane SF said. think of it like a mission…sometimes things happen while the missionary is away…but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right thing to do.

    you’ve been guided this far. and i’m in awe of all that you are experiencing. i hope someday i have a similar experience in my own life. i look forward to talking to you more about it when you have time. which may be in november i realize, but no matter.

    love you michelle! ♥

  6. Jan Russell

    May 27, 2009

    Oooh, all the cancer patients I know are FIESTY – you better do what your mom says, if she’s telling you to go – then hop that plane! You’ll make her mad if you don’t!

    BTW – I don’t think it’s stange at all that you’ve planned this amazing time in Europe for your family – it will be a treasured time for all of you!

  7. Kim

    May 27, 2009

    Take the trip! Don’t miss the opportunity to do it – you’re right that the window will be closing all too soon. Go and enjoy!
    We’re off to Europe again this summer and I cannot wait! 🙂

  8. Selwyn

    May 27, 2009

    First, breathe.

    Then breathe again.

    Then take a BIIIIIIIG breath, hold it, let it out slowly, and drop your shoulders.

    D&C 6:36 “Think unto me in every thought. Doubt not, fear not.”

    Keep breathing. I’m sure Europe will make you breathless.

  9. Danielle

    May 28, 2009

    Oh Michelle that must be a terribly hard decision, but your mom would not want you to miss this very important trip I don’t think – and I agree with the other poster who said you could send her pictures and stories about the trip that would probably mean a lot to her right now. I have you guys in my prayers, I know it is hard to watch a parent taken by cancer as my husband’s father passed away from it right before I got pregnant with Emma. Hugs and much love to all of you.

  10. Tiffanie

    May 28, 2009

    Your own words speak volumes. What comes to mind for you, when you read this?

    “it’s a sacred dream that few people understand. Our love of Europe is much of what attracted Erik and I to each other and we’ve cultivated this household of readers and musicians and artists and history lovers who’ve always regarded it as the homeland. I wanted one trip with all of my children to visit the places we’ve talked about and to eat and drink it all in.”

  11. Julius

    May 28, 2009

    Hi Michelle,

    So I officially suck… I have now not posted to “our” (ahem) blog for so long that when I tried to do it today I could no longer remember my username, let alone the password. And apparently not even the email address I used. Will get all that worked out some time. In the meantime I’ve commandeered my son’s gmail account to be able to comment here. Luckily he is still too young to care.
    Anyway, I have still been lurking on your blog and wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you, and your mom. I tend to agree with the person who says that if you felt inspired to take the trip you should do it, although I don’t know much at all about inspiration in the LDS faith. If you do go — any chance you will be in Hamburg in July? That’s where the boys and I will be.

    Thinking of you,

  12. martha corinna

    May 29, 2009

    I’ve been thinking about you all week long.

    Go on the trip Michelle, you and your family will treasure it.

    I love you!

  13. Ken

    May 29, 2009

    Dear Michelle,
    Your Mother and I encourage you to go and make wonderful memories with your family. Our memories help sustain us now so we want you to have glorious memories to bless your family now and in the future. Please go without second thoughts. All is well!
    With love,
    Mom and Dad

    Now get packed!!!!

  14. Will and Joan Turley Family

    May 30, 2009

    Michelle —

    As a member mother of “six children” club, all of them about two years apart — except for the last three, I felt the need for a family vacation prior to Bill’s (our first son’s) mission. I knew Tom would leave before Bill got back, and I knew in my heart our family dynamics would never be the same again.

    I don’t know if you remember, but at the same time our trip was planned, Will lost his job and was out of work for one year. We, too, struggled with whether or not to take the trip, should we spend the money — we were scheduled to go to Hawaii. After a lot of back and forth, we decided to go for it.

    I am so glad we did because our family dynamics have truly changed, yet whenever we are together we still talk about the great time we had “in Hawaii.”

    When we came home, our struggles were still there, but for ten wonderful days we had the opportunity to just be the eight of us — having fun, laughing, taking lots of pictures!!!

    My advice obviously is for you to go! I am so grateful we did!!!

  15. jennie w.

    May 31, 2009

    Well, humpf. I was going to ask you to do some family pictures of us when we’re in town this summer. But you just have to go and put your family first. Fine.

    I was wondering what you were planning on doing about Europe. I think you’ll be torn either way. But I agree with the others to ask your mom. See how she feels about it. It’s been in the works so long, it would be a shame to let it all pass.

  16. Reluctant Nomad

    May 31, 2009

    the suckiest decision–the ‘what if.’ Torture. I’m so sorry…

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