Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I promise, I do have lots and lots of good news and fun things to catch up on, but I feel the need to write about something big and sad right now. I got online to check my e-mail and I had every intention of following that up with some good happy blogging, but then I read about the death of a woman I really look up to--and I didn't know how to finish writing about Girl's Camp and the other events in our life recently. It just didn't seem right. At least not right now, not today. So today you can skip this post if you want, because it is a little sad. But it also a happy post, because I wanted to write about some of the ways that this woman changed me. In writing my condolences to her oldest daughter, I was reminded of all the ways that her mom helped me out in a pivotal point in my life, so I wrote her some of those things, and decided to share them here in detail, where I could look back on them later. ---

Candy is a mother and grandmother. Her home was not too far from the house that I grew up in and her family was one of the first that I got to know when I first joined the LDS church. Candy has that kind of personality where she always greeted people with a smile. And yes, I am writing about her personality in the present tense, because you know, I am sure that she is still the same person in heaven that she was here.

Initially I only got to know Candy as a peripheral figure in my life for the first couple of years after I met her. She was this nice mom to children that were around my age, and she was always friendly. She was always kind and sweet at church, but that was the extent of our interactions. That all changed when I first got home from my mission. And that is when she changed me.

See, when I got home from my mission, it was only 9 months into what is ordinarily an 18 month commitment for LDS girls who choose to serve full-time missions. My Mission President and a visiting Area Seventy (another church leader) prayed about me and my situation and decided that my mission was complete. Those are the words that they used when I was sent home-- I had an ill father, and other family things going on. I think that the decision was made to give me more time with the people that I loved back home, but when I very first got home, I was confused and hurt and sad and to be truthful, I felt like a failure. I thought it was somehow my fault that I was being sent home. I didn't understand why I wasn't given the option to choose to stick it out in the mission field.

Well, when missionaries go home, it is usually to a family that has been looking forward to their return, but in my case my mother was visiting Poland where she was helping out her ailing parents as well as my father, from whom she'd been divorced for some time. My mom is a huge example to me in a lot of ways as well. But because she was in Poland when I went home, and because my father was in Poland, and because my sister was already living in Oregon by that time, I flew home not knowing who would pick me up from the airport, and not knowing where I'd be staying (I didn't have a key to my house). As it turned out, the Bishop of my home ward and a member of the Stake Presidency (President Hanis) came to get me, and this member of the Stake Presidency just so happened to be Candy's husband. And as we drove back to Houston, just like that, I was invited to stay with the Hanis family. They didn't even ask how long I'd be there.

It was at the Hanis home that I got to learn how to live life as a normal non-missionary young woman all over again. I can't be sure, but I think it was Candy's idea from the beginning. She had a room set aside for me when I got there. She showed me around, and just like that, I was part of the family for my stay. She is the person who most helped me find my place again after coming home.

She took me shopping a couple of days after getting home and she bought me cute post-mission clothes. I had a few P-day outfits from the mission, but she was insistent that I get a few cute things. When I tried to pay her back later, she refused, saying that she would never ask a daughter to pay her back. She also never let me have the chance to feel ugly while I was with her. I had gained enough weight on my mission that it was noticeable, and I let one of my companions talk me into cutting my hair. This companion had not studied at a hair school, and it was obvious. So there I was, chubby and with a triangle head but Candy only ever told me that I was pretty, that the boys back at BYU would chase after me, that I would be a catch.

Candy was just so upbeat and happy and full of energy that I couldn't help but get swept up into it. She also threw me into daily family life and included me in her planning and ideas. There were chores to do and crafts to learn. I got to help with dinners and desserts. I was a part of Easter egg dying and family nights. She took me on a family field-trip to Brazos Bend State Park. She was the one that taught me how to crochet. She was so patient and positive while I stumbled with my crochet hook at first, and when I started getting it, she praised me and told me how quickly I was picking up on it. She had me crochet the edge of a baby blanket that I thought was going to one of her friends as a gift, but then told me to keep it for my own little ones that would come some day. To this day I think of her every time I begin a new crochet project. I think of her patience and kindness, of her upbeat perseverance, and her happy company while crocheting side by side.

Here is a photo from our outing at Brazos Bend State Park. I am surrounded by some of her family. Sadly, Candy is not in the photo. I can't find one of her right at this moment. . . but just look at me and how awkward I was. Candy deserves all kinds of awards for taking in such an awkward duckling and telling her she was a swan. And the clothes that I'm wearing in this shot? All bought by Candy.

Scan of an old 35mm photo from 2003.

I loved that she gave me jobs to do and crafts to work on.  She took away time that I could have been worrying or fretting and helped me fill my days with productive things when I didn't know what I was doing with myself.

When I opened up to her and told her of what my Mission President said about his reasoning for sending me home, she said simply that she agreed with him. "You were obviously on a faster track is all." She said it with a matter-of-fact tone that left no room for argument or doubt. I was home because the Lord wanted me home, that was all. It took me a while to fully integrate that belief, but whenever I doubted myself, I would think of her. This extended to years after getting home from my mission. When I was met by a person who looked down on me for not having served an eighteen month mission, I would think of her and how she never judged me. Instead, she focused only on the good she could see in me. And trust me when I say that I needed the strength I got from her when I went back to Provo.

When I got back into the swing of things in Provo, I thought back to my time with Candy often. She was right about a lot of things-- I did assimilate pretty quickly, I lost my mission weight soon after getting home, and I did have boys chasing me sooner than I wanted. And even though the timetable wasn't what she had predicted, Candy was right in saying that someday I would meet and marry and fantastic person. She also told me that one day I would make a great mom. We have yet to see that happen, but I hope that when that day comes, I can take what I learned from her and from other family and friends and make that prediction come true as well.

In the LDS faith we believe in proxy work. I believe that Candy was put in my life or vice versa, so that I could learn from her. She was my proxy mom when my own mom was busy taking care of her ex-husband, her mom, and her dad half-way across the world. Candy stepped in and taught me so many things about myself and about the person that I wanted to be. In some ways, I think she was able to teach me more quickly than family could just because she wasn't a relative, she didn't have any obligation toward me, and still chose to take me in wholeheartedly.

In writing this post I am reminded of the girl that I was when I met Candy, of how far I've come, and how far I have yet to go. I am so glad that I got to know her and for all the things that she said and did to help me out. Beyond my deep gratitude for Candy specifically, I am grateful for all of my other friends and family. I learn things from each and every one of you, even if I don't see you all the time and even if I am bad at sharing it.

If you made it this far, you have some of Candy's traits-- namely perseverance and patience. I'm sure you also have a bunch of other awesome traits, because you are one of my friends or a family member, and I only associate with people better than I am. That's just how it goes. So thanks for being someone I look up to, too.


  1. that was a beautiful post Janel. Candi sounds like an amazing person and just what you needed at that time in your life. i hope you're doing ok. we need to hang out sometime soon. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing Janel. I recently lost a friend who was like a mom to me in some ways. My heart goes out to you. It's great to celebrate their lives. Man I miss you friend.

  3. sorry for your loss janel. candi sounds like she was there for you at a time you needed her. thanks for sharing. :)

  4. Thank you very much. I appreciate the support.

    Chrissy, we for sure need to hang out. I feel so lame for not getting together with you more. We do need to hang out. I think that would be great especially now.

    Suzanne, I hope you are doing ok, too. I miss you bunches.

    Ashlie, thanks. She was (and I'm sure still is) amazing. She helped so many people out.