Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015--Our Year in Review

Let's play "Choose your Own Adventure Blog Post." You pick the adjective.

This year for the Ralphs was

extremely happy
very expensive
overall amazing
adventurous
the hardest year of their lives
blissful
educational

Pick any one of those, and you'll be writing an accurate blog post. The nice thing about getting married on December 30 is that your years of being married and your calendar year sync up nearly perfectly.  Our first year together, 2015, was anything but monotonous. We've made so many decisions, and I know that when we got married last December, neither of us could have imagined all we'd do, where we'd go, and what we'd experience this year.

January 1st found us on our honeymoon in beautiful Rocky Point, Mexico. We rode ATV's, ate delicious food, walked the beach, fed seagulls, and enjoyed the warmish weather while our home in Provo, UT was being blizzard-ed.


We made our way back to BYU where Carson had one more semester of classes to complete. We moved into our first apartment at Union Square, and made wonderful friends there. I was called to be in the RS presidency, and Carson was called to help with Elders Quorum activities. We loved that ward.

February brought my birthday, which Carson outdid himself for and threw me a surprise party. Later that month my car completely died beyond hope of repair, making us a one-car family forever more. I continued working for a nutrition education program called Food $ense, which I loved. I taught classes throughout Utah County about how to eat and cook healthfully on a low budget. Carson also got the idea to take the GRE on a whim, only having two weeks to study. He did well though! We went ice fishing one weekend with Carson's uncle, and Carson caught a fish.

March included our one-year anniversary of our first date. It also brought very long work weeks for me, since I picked up a second part-time job at the health department. We were also very stressed about finalizing our summer plans. Carson had to do an internship to graduate, and had to decide where to go by March 21.  We had both talked about doing it internationally since before we were married. We looked everywhere for opportunities that wouldn't cost us an arm and a leg. We skyped with people in Paraguay and India, and looked into lots of options that just didn't seem to work. We just wanted to help people, fulfill Carson's internship requirements, and not pay more money than we had. We finally chose to go to India with Rising Star Outreach, and went out to Indian food to celebrate!

April General Conference had us reminiscing about the year prior, which is when Carson first met my parents. A little story from my journal on April 12, "Carson and I went to Costco a few days ago, and I had picked him up so I was driving. I got out of the car and locked it before turning off the car and taking the keys with me! So it was locked with the keys inside and running! I felt so stupid and was freaking out. Carson was calm, as always. I thought to go into Costco and see what they could do, but on my way in, I saw a policeman sitting in his car. I explained my thoughtless actions and he said he'd be right  over. He had it unlocked within 4 minutes and for free. God sure is prepared for our stupid mistakes." Pretty much sums up our year right there---the hand of God always there.

We both walked at BYU commencement in April--I had graduated in December and Carson would be graduating in August, but were able to walk together at graduation in April. It was amazing to "graduate" hand in hand with the love of my life, and shake hands of our public health professors we knew so well and love.
 

May meant no more classes for Carson and the end of his time teaching at the MTC. We made a surprise trip to Idaho to surprise his mom for Mother's Day (she thought she wouldn't be seeing us again until after our summer in India--and let's face it, everyone was wondering if  we'd come back alive). On May 14 we packed up our entire apartment and moved it in several trips to Carson's grandparent's basement in Salt Lake City, where our belongings would stay while we were in India. We then drove to Arizona where we got to visit one of Carson's convert families from his mission who were getting sealed in the temple! We flew from the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport on May 18, India bound!

We arrived safely to the small village outside of Chennai, India where the Rising Star campus is. We were so excited but also nervous. After our first meal, I wrote, "I can see I'll be eating a lot of white rice." We were forever grateful for the air conditioning in our bedroom, the only relief from the unrelenting humid heat. We went to several leprosy colonies those first few weeks before volunteers arrived. I was SO grateful we were there--treating some of the poorest of the poor, DOING something about poverty instead of just talking about how sad it is. We learned so much from the kind, grateful, sweet people in those leprosy colonies. It was an amazing time.

The other volunteer coordinators we would be working with began to arrive and we loved getting to know them. The end of May also brought a positive pregnancy test in hands trembling with excitement. We were so happy (and nervous!). For several weeks, Carson and I kept the best secret we've ever had.

June 1st meant Carson's 24th birthday!  Our first session of volunteers arrived, 40 all at once! We loved getting to know the students at Rising Star and becoming great friends. I led a little singing group each Sunday afternoon and I hope I will always remember those times in that hot, stuffy classroom, gathered around the piano, enjoying the relief of music with such precious spirits. Dear Dr. Susan (the main doctor and also managing director of the entire Indian side of RSO) took me to a hospital in Chennai where I saw our baby for the first time via ultrasound and heard that incredible heart beat. I cried with joy. That little hospital room in faraway India all of sudden became holy ground to me. It seemed too good to be true that that little life was ours!

June 30th was our six-month anniversary, and Carson was either throwing up or sleeping that whole day and night. I was very worried about him. However, somehow between rushed trips to the toilet, he managed to make a paper heart with a sweet love letter and tape it to a chocolate bar he sneakily bought. I was continuously amazed at his strength and resilience in India. The rough circumstances made me able to see just how strong he really is. He fasted often while where there, but it would be hard for me to know because of how cheerfully and energetically he interacted with volunteers and kids.


July brought a new session of volunteers, all of whom were youth and their chaperones! It was an awesome session and we loved getting to know the youth and seeing them work so hard out of their comfort zones. I continued to spend my days leading volunteers in tutoring and educational activities with students at the RSO school, and Carson was the main officer over all the volunteers' activities. We continued eating lots of rice and vegetable curries (delicious, albeit un-varied) day after day. Our daily routines were interrupted only by weekend trips to the ocean and to church in Chennai. Near the end of July, political issues began to arise. When one of our fellow volunteer coordinators nearly got arrested, but made it on an airplane by the skin of his teeth, we had many talks in our tiny hotel room trying to figure out the best plan for the next session of volunteers that was scheduled to arrive, and how to get home ourselves, since our flights weren't until the end of August. We didn't want to leave our friends in India. It was a rough time of decision-making.


August found us on a lake in Washington state. Yes, back in the U.S. On a houseboat. You'd think I was writing a movie script, right? But this was our life this year. One expensive, expensive flight change was made to get out of India three weeks earlier. First to London, where our flight got delayed a day, then straight to Seattle, Washington, where we met Carson's family at a big family reunion on a house boat. We surprised nearly everyone there. After all, we were supposed to be in India for three more weeks. It felt good to be back in the land of normal toilets, food besides rice and curry, and surrounded by family and familiarity, having fun on a lake. I had a little baby bump in my swimming suit and everyone was so excited we were having a baby. I love Carson's family, and we both were happy we could make the reunion we had planned on missing, even though we were simultaneously sad to leave the children in India we had come to love.

In August we found the perfect basement apartment in Mesa to live in (we decided to move to Mesa at some point during our time in India) with a lot of help and divine intervention, since we were practically homeless. My dad helped us pack a small U-haul of our things in Salt Lake City and bring them to AZ. Carson started a job that a friend of ours helped him find, and I began looking fervently for a job and praying so hard to find one. I felt like I couldn't commit to a job, since I'd be leaving in January to have our baby, so I was looking for something temporary. After what seemed like months but was really one week,  I found a job as a nanny just down the street from us. It's been perfect, and God really put that one in my lap, too. Our neighbors are pretty much the best part of living in Mesa.

September came, and we enjoyed our new proximity to my family and went camping and hiking in Sedona with them and Carson's brothers who came to visit for Labor Day. 

Two days later, I was watching the boys I nanny while their parents were out of town for a week, when I started to have symptoms of labor. I was 19 weeks pregnant and didn't really know what those symptoms meant. I talked to a nurse on the phone at my doctor's office who said it was probably nothing, since I was only at 19 weeks after all. The next morning I got a hold of my doctor who said he'd see me immediately. I sent the boys to their neighbor's house and asked Carson to not go to work, but drive me to the doctor's across town. After an exam, he sent me straight back into our car and to a hospital that handles high-risk pregnancies. I knew everything would be ok. Babies are born healthy and fine all the time, and with the miracles of modern medicine, I just knew they could make it all better. I had had an ultra sound the previous week (found out it was a boy, just like we thought!) and was told everything looked very healthy and normal. We had just announced it to the world that we were expecting and nothing was going to get us excited parents-to-be down.

Three nights in the hospital later, after a failed surgery to stitch me closed and keep our baby in, our baby was born and lived only minutes. He was perfect, all 8 inches and 10 ounces of him. I'd never experienced such heart-wrenching sorrow. We'll never be the same. 


October. October. What to say? All I have in my journal is tear-stained entries of all my feelings, and this scripture: "And now my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us such great knowledge concerning [life after death, eternal families, the purpose of life], let us remember Him and...not hang down our heads.  Therefore, cheer up your hearts....reconcile yourselves to the will of God...by the power of the atonement." 2 Nephi 10:20-25

And that's what we've been trying to do ever since. Accept the will of God, remember Him, be grateful, and use the atonement to carry on.

November, already? We visited Carson's family before sending off his brother, Bryan, on a mission to Colombia. I finally found a second part-time job that fit with my schedule as a nanny, at a non-profit called Feed My Starving Children. We went to Salt Lake for Thanksgiving and enjoyed seeing Carson's family. We also spent a few days with my family on our way back. Carson finished applying to graduate schools (he's going for a Masters of Hospital Administration, MHA) and began to hear back. He had a Skype interview with Cornell and was notified of his acceptance only days later, he flew to University of Utah and had an interview, and was accepted with a generous scholarship. He turned down a few other interviews, but will be having an interview at the University of Alabama in February.

December meant a whole year of being married to my amazing husband. He's been one of my only true comforts, a spiritual strength to lean on, an example I admire, a hard-worker and a positive attitude when I couldn't offer one. As Christmas approached, I began to feel like there was little to look forward to. Hardly any of my family would be together, I had to work the day before and the day after Christmas, presents aren't important to me, and most of all, Christmas this year was going to mean I'd be 8 months pregnant. But then I really began to think about what Christmas is. It's the celebration of the greatest gift I could ever ask for. The Gift that fills the void of other things I lack, the Gift that allows us to be with our baby Luke again, the Gift that has filled me with His love so much lately. Because of Him, all things that seem unfair will one day be made right. Why was I thinking about things that I wished for, when I have already been given the greatest gift of all? He is reason enough to be happy, even if nothing else seems to be going as hoped. I truly felt joy this Christmas. I felt full.







4 comments:

  1. I love you, Faith. I read the whole thing. Thanks for writing a year in review. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your posts touch my heart every time. You and Carson are making a beautiful family!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your quality, gift, whatever you want to call it,to be so positive is uplifting to me. Your experience with Luke was so reminiscent of my experience with my first born Gregory. Loved reading your year in review. Thanks for sharing it.

    ReplyDelete

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