Gratitude for the unplanned

Last night my sisters and 2 of their "friends" (read:not exactly boyfriends but not just friends either) joined us for dinner. Only just as we were finishing the prep work and about to start cooking, the power went out. A huge storm rushed in with wind and snow and knocked out all the power on our block. We called the power company only to get a message saying "we are unable to take your call at this time as we are experiencing a power outage." What? Anyway...After about 30 minutes the power returned and we were able to continue our evening as planned.

It made me realize that I am grateful for unplanned experiences in our lives. Grateful for parents who taught me to see these things as exciting opportunities to adapt and learn and find the good.

I remember a drive to and from the airport in a blizzard one night when we were kids. A few weeks prior our van's back window and been bashed out in a car wash, which I'm sure was another exciting adventure to experience, though I wasn't there when that happened. Unable to afford a new window at the time, my parents had taped plastic up instead, but this fix didn't hold up in the storm. My dad was at the airport, we couldn't be left home alone, and the van was our only option. So mom loaded us in, piled blankets on us, and off we went. We excitedly huddled under the blankets as the snow swirled through our car. We made up some story and pretended were were somewhere else, pioneers braving a storm perhaps. There was nothing miserable about it. It seemed like such an adventure!

Another time my mom spilled a gallon of milk all over the kitchen floor and thought perhaps the best cleaning course of action would be to allow our 2 large outdoor dogs inside to lick it up. Once inside, they went crazy! Running through the milk, running all over the house, back through the milk, onto the couches. I remember her laughing at the impossibility of the situation as she and my brothers tried corralling them back outside.

I recall many a road trip gone wrong, always due to car trouble of some sort. Staying in run down hotels for a day. Picnics on the side of the road. Once we were driving down to Florida and broke down in Alabama. I was too young to care about the details but my parents stayed cheerful and came up with a plan. I just remember we ended up spending the day with a nice little girl named Candle and her family as her dad helped us get back on the road. We watched TV, which we didn't do at home and I wasn't overly anxious to get to Florida once our suburban was road worthy.

And then there are the more difficult adventures.

I remember looking to my parents the day my brother Taylor died. I was 12, he was 3, there was a house fire and he inhaled too much carbon monoxide. He passed away in the hospital. This was not a fun unplanned adventure that we were about to embark on. Feeling that my prayers for a miracle had gone unanswered, I declared "I'm NEVER going to church again." just after we were given the news. My wise dad calmly said "If that's what you think Taylor would want." I knew it wasn't. Even in those first few minutes of grief, my dad was saying what I needed him to say so that I could learn how to cope. My parents cried, but they never despaired.

It hurt everyday to get along with life without little Taylor. We were out of our house for 6 months while damage from the fire was being repaired. It was a whirlwind of unwanted change, but my parents were constant. They assured us that this was part of an eternal plan. They always had words of hope and understanding, and so we all kept our chins up and worked through the grief. We gleaned faith from them and learned lessons that could not have been learned in other ways. As a mother, I can now see how difficult that would have been, that noble act of being strong for the children. I imagine there were days when my mom would put us to bed then just cry and cry. But in the morning she was brave, ready to help us learn how to smile again.

So last night when the lights went out, I first worried that I had 5 extra people to feed and no way of cooking. But when my children started to be scared, I realized with excitement that it was my turn to pass along the lesson my parents taught me in so many ways. We lit candles, gathered together, ate apples and laughed. Showing them there's nothing to be afraid of and that often the most memorable experiences are those that were never part of our plan.


  1. What a beautiful story and a most wonderful tribute to your parents. You are a gifted writer. I just recently found your blog so of course I had no idea about the tragedy of your little brother years ago. You have all been through so much. And you learned at such an early age how to endure and how to keep going, and what really matters in this life.

  2. I love the unplanned events in life! It really is what you make of them. I try hard not to get upset about little things, sometimes is works, sometimes it doesn't---but I know that when I make them fun. They turn out much better! It reminds me of one Christmas morning, we were in the middle of making breakfast and the power went out (for several hours). We ended up making breakfast on our wood burning stove, it was quite the adventure, but one of our more memorable Christmas mornings!

  3. Oh Natalie, i feel like you are becoming one of my best friends since I've been reading your blog, because you always post things I need to hear. Thank you.

    I cried while I read this one--tears really streaming down my face. At first I cried for shame that I haven't been as cheerful as your mom when my day hasn't gone the way I planned. Today I was especially hard on the kids (who are sweetly napping at the moment) for things that after reading your post I realize were no big deal or not their fault. Why do I get so frustrated when my plan doesn't fly?

    As I kept reading, my tears turned to gratitude for time left to still become the mom I hope to be and the one my little ones deserve and need. All I can say is: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I wish we'd gotten to know each other better when we were in the same ward, or that we could hang out now. :)


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