Magic part 2: Sufficient for our needs

Back a few posts I talked about how my car was making me more spiritual.  Well, I know you’ve been dying to know how things progressed. ūüôā

Months ago we listed the Subaru for sale and had a family who really wanted it. Unfortunately, the bank wouldn’t finance them for quite as much as we had expected to get. Believing I could get more, we passed on their offer. We then took the listing off because of a road trip, then life, and distractions… So when we posted it again and I was being hassled by scammers and low-ball offers, I kept having this nagging feeling that I should contact that family and, if they were still interested, accept their previous offer. After pushing it off for a while, I finally contacted them. YES! They still wanted it! But then the bank lowered what they’d finance AGAIN.

Since the original offer, I often regretted not selling it to them. I felt greedy and unsettled about the whole thing. And I knew I was losing money by the day, sitting on the car. So this time, I accepted the lower offer… several thousand less than we had originally agreed to. And I felt relief. I loved selling to this family. They were kind, enthusiastic, wonderful people who were thrilled to get the car and even apologetic about how things went with the bank. And for their sake I was happy they got such a good deal.

As I sat at the bank signing papers with them, I thought about “magic” (grace). I had been praying so hard for it, and the answer I’d received was “Look for ways to help others”. It was a gratifying experience to feel like the sale of the car was blessing both families, (even though our financial loss made me cringe).

But of course, the Lord was enjoying this automobile related spirituality and had more lessons in store for me.

RJ and I had set our sights high on a luxurious minivan. With much less cash in hand than expected, we were in a quandary. Do we take out a loan to get all that we wanted? I mean, we were accustomed to 4-wheel drive, programmable, heated leather seats and all of the techy wonders of our last car… why would we go down in safety and comfort? Or do we “live within our means” and settle on a more economical van?

Everything we *needed* was within our budget. Everything we *wanted* required a loan. It came to mind that just a few short years ago, my wants were far, far, far less extravagant than they are now. Less than 5 years ago I happily lived in an old run-down house that is literally 1/4th the size of my current house and had no AC, no dishwasher, no garage, even no internet/cable. (But it did have a condemned meth lab next door. So there was that little perk.) Yet back then, I felt like I was living high on the hog because my mission and travels were in places without clean running water (and therefore questionable sanitation situations), intermittent electricity, and other “basic necessities”. It irked me that I was irked about the darn seats in a reliable car. I kept thinking about the old saying “There, there, little luxury, don‚Äôt you cry. You‚Äôll be a necessity by and by.‚ÄĚ

We determined that the joy of living within our means is far more satisfying than luxuries at the cost of debt. And although we dug deeper into savings than I like, we found a van we are delighted with.

It scares me how quickly I become accustomed to “things” and how the things I want can blind me to the blessings I currently have. I have sufficient for my needs. And in the wise words of Henry David Thoreau, “I make myself rich by making my wants few.” 

The less I want, the more easy I am to satisfy.

The less I want, the more grateful I am about what I have.

The less I want, the more generous I feel towards others.

The less I want, the less I have to maintain.

The less I want, the more attention I have for things other than “things”.

Ultimately, the less I want the more I see God’s hand in my life.

Perhaps with a little stripping of materialism, I can become more like my children who delight in the simplest of pleasures – a windy day, chocolate milk, a soft blanket, a good book. Once again, bless those wiggly little rascals for showing me the way.

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What they don’t tell you.

I know, I know. “Babies don’t keep.” “They grow up before you know it.” “The days are long, but the years are short.” Blah. Blah. Blah. These are the things people always tell you about motherhood. But there is a lot of stuff¬†no one told me.


The Good:

You will become ambidextrous and you will be able to do surprising tasks with only one hand (even your non-dominant hand).

You can carry 50 lbs of anything, up and down stairs and hills, for extended periods of time without getting tired or sore.

You will come to love humanity more as you see examples of kindness towards children.

You will cherish routine. Oh, sweet routine… you manage expectations, you are the only way things get done, you are a sanity saver and battle reducer!

You will get to the point where you don’t care what anyone thinks about you. Mostly.

Your body will adapt to your hectic life in bizarre ways ¬†(i.e. You don’t pee during the day, but you will pee 7 times between babies’ bedtime and yours.)

You will rarely taste your food because of how mindlessly you eat it. This is in the ‘good’ list because you’re eating the children’s leftovers. You don’t really want to taste or look at that too closely.

No one judges you for always having snacks on hand. In fact, they appreciate it. Everyone loves fruit snacks.

You will find immense pleasure in things that you never before paid attention to.

Every day there will be an epiphany, some large some small, where the secrets of the universe are unfolded to you through a very tiny person.

Don’t like a particular challenge you’re facing? Wait a month or two and you’ll trade it for a new one!

It’s surprisingly easy to create a magical childhood.


The Bad:

You will fixate – ABSOLUTELY OBSESS – over absolute nonsense. And you know better, but you’ll still do it.

You will resent humanity more as you see kids who are trained to be unfriendly and cartoons that are horrible examples for kids.

You will hate routine. Oh, cursed routine! You are endless and you are not the boss of me! Just kidding. You totally are.

Sleep deprivation doesn’t make you tired. It makes you angry and mean. And speaking of mean…

You may not have ever had a temper before. But you have one now. And it’s a beast. Watch out. It’s terrifying.

You’ll spend more hours of the day trying to convince tiny people to perform basic life functions like eating, sleeping, pooping and wearing clothes than doing anything else.

Love something about this particular phase? Don’t get used to it, it’ll change in a month or two!

It’s surprisingly hard to keep focused on the important stuff.


The Reality:

It’s perfectly normal to want to smack your child 20% of the time, cover them with kisses 20% of the time, and basically just survive the rest. But these percentages are not for daily measurement. More like weekly or monthly averages.

Parenthood is a long succession of transitions. Everything changes completely every year – From sleep schedules, cribs to beds, liquid to solid diets, temperament, talents, everything.

You will love so much it hurts.


 

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Magic

In a previous life, I was some sort of wizard. I could conjure up very specific ideas and POOF they were reality. Of course, my magic had its limits. I couldn’t make anyone fall in love with me, or instantaneously cause world peace. It mostly materialized in temporal forms like finding a shelf that fit to-the-inch in a spot I needed, or being able to sell my car for more than I had paid for it. But it also appeared in the form of timing. I was (seemingly) always in the right place at the right time. Things just… worked out!

When RJ and I got married, he was so amazed by my “magic” and regularly said he just hoped to “ride my coattails” and receive the benefits of being attached to my magic. Sometimes it was ridiculous, like saying “I’ve got a hankering for hummus.” and that day finding it on sale for the absurd price of $.39.  But sometimes it was profound like needing a specific expert for a work project and having them literally walk into my office without any previous connection.

After a challenging change at work and simultaneously experiencing miscarriages and other health problems, I went through some fairly dark times. And my magic, well, disappeared. Since then, RJ has blamed himself saying that he somehow dragged me down. Oh, contraire! The truth is he has replaced much of my “magic” with his innate goodness.

At the time, I remember feeling like many of these incredible “coincidences” were God’s way of making up for the physical absence of family in my life. They were helpful, everyday “life” details. I felt like He was parenting me and nurturing me and just helping me along. So the fact that much of that went away when RJ was there to watch out for me kind of makes sense. But MAN, it was awesome to have magic. God’s hand in my life was unmistakeable. So RJ and I have been scheming how we can get access to it again.

Reflecting, I realize a few things. I *needed* magic. I was alone, in over my head with life (work, callings, house projects, etc.), with little life experience and no one physically present to watch out for me. But also, I *deserved* magic (or in other words GRACE). My life back then was completely focused on others, on serving, on improving the world, on GOD. Honestly, I was a better person back then. My thoughts towards others were far more charitable. My first reaction was always to do for others, without thought for myself. The way I used my time was much more intentional and consecrated. I always, always, always, saw the goodness of God in my day. I knew there were some things I couldn’t ask of God, but ultimately, I knew I was worthy of miracles.

Taking inventory now, I realize that God has given me RJ. What more help/magic can I really ask for? But also, I realize how much less worthy I am. I waste a lot of time (ahem, Netflix) that could be used for higher purposes. I am far less grateful and far more critical of others. My first response now is often self-preservation (laziness) rather than how I can reach out to others. My gratitude is often a guilt-laden exercise when I realize I’ve been complaining a lot. Now I’m not saying I’m a terrible person. I think I’m still a pretty good mom, a decent friend, an average wife, and a contributing member of humanity. I’m just not as Christlike as I once was. And therefore less worthy of miracles.


I’ve been praying on this a lot, mainly because we want to sell my Subaru to buy a minivan and thats proving to be a challenge (note to self: never again buy a manufacture buyback title). So yeah, for a totally self-serving purpose. You’d never expect a car to cause so much soul-searching! But interesting promptings have come. When I asked what I needed to do to get back some magic, the Spirit told me “Look for ways to help others”. I’ve felt compelled to reach out to a few people in the neighborhood. I’ve felt prompted to stop giving RJ my “leftovers” (whatever emotional reserve I have left when he gets home from work… usually no patience with the kids and lots of complaints) and start giving him the BEST of me. And I’ve felt inspired to retrain myself so that gratitude is once again my natural attitude.

Yesterday during a lesson, this handout was given to help us take inventory of ourselves, both to say “Hey, I’m doing okay in some things!” and to recognize areas where we could improve. I think it is another tool God is sending to help me along.


Even if I don’t get back my “magic” to sell the car or achieve my other material desires, it’s nice to be more satisfied with what I have, and to recognize my state of abundance. It’s refreshing to see my life through a sense of gratefulness. And it’s encouraging to know that GRACE is accessible as I shed off my selfishness.

 

35

I’ve never been overly concerned with aging. I’ve never actually “felt my age”. I’ve always felt more comfortable with the elderly than with my own peers. It’s not that I have an “old soul” as much as I have a geriatric personality. I really do believe that until I’m officially a senior citizen, I won’t feel like my physical age matches my real age.

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Last year I mistakenly believed I had turned 35 and that’s what I told people when asked. About 3 months ago RJ informed me that I was 34. Oops! Well two days ago I officially turned 35 and he asked if I felt older. “Nope! I’ve already been 35 for a year, so I feel young for my age!”

Being in the mid-thirties is pretty great. You have some aches and pains but you also have some youth. You’ve shaken off many insecurities of your twenties and become more comfortable with who you are. You have a broader perspective on life and the world but you begin to realize just how little you actually know.

And that’s what’s most on my mind right now. It’s a wonder how much I can accomplish with what little I know. I mean, I’ve had an Apple computer for over a decade and I still have no idea how to use its basic functions. I got this notification saying I needed more space and I could pay a dollar a month for iCloud storage to solve my problem. I have no idea what that means but I’ve been paying a dollar a month for a year or so. Now, for the past month, I get notifications on my phone and computer every time that I open them that iCloud storage is full. I didn’t know what it was in the first place. I just paid a dollar a month to get notifications to go away. What now? See, I really do belong in the Baby Boomer generation more than with the Millennials. Technology has never interested me enough to figure it out.

Every day I get ‘notifications’ from my kids that I have no idea how to approach but there are no dollar-a-month ways to get them to go away. How to address bullying, the difference between telling an adult something important and tattling, how to stop snatching and address greediness, how to teach modesty without destroying uninhibited self-love and confidence… Seriously, I’m flying completely blind here. Completely. Blind. Sometimes I’ll try different methods of discipline (1-2-3-timeout, or whatever cockamayme thing I’ve been reading about) and we’ll get fairly used to it then BAM! One day I completely forget how to Mom. Techniques and methods I’ve been using regularly slip my mind and I feel like I’m meeting whatever challenge for the very first time, and with zero preparation.

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I’m a perpetual novice in life. Sometimes that’s exciting because I get to research and study things out and pray for help. But a lot of time it’s very daunting becuase I simply feel inept. When I’ve got my spiritual footings through daily study and prayer, I feel more ¬†humble than inept and I trust that God will lead me along. He’ll send mentors when I can’t learn by myself, and GRACE will fill the gaps when I’ve done my best and its still inadequate. ¬†But sometimes even when I’m going through the motions of doing things right, something in my brain/spirit isn’t firing quite right and that faith-filled confidence wanes.

I feel abundantly blessed. I have great family support, I have access to so much experience, and knowledge. Our needs are more than met. I need to trust that I’m doing better than I realize. I need to be okay with not knowing everything. I need to stick to the basics and keep my eyes open for divine answers to come.

And maybe, I just need a good hug and a long nap.

Like Mother Like Daughter

On July 13, 1995, my thirteenth birthday, I sat in the very back of a 1155566 passenger van on my way to YW camp. I remember seeing the leaders looking back at me with concerned faces and whispering in hushed tones. Then we made an unexpected stop at a gas station and I was told my mom, who had been in the hospital, was waiting for me to call so she could wish me a happy birthday. (She had been in and out of the hospital since the previous year, and now I realize I was never actually taken to see her in the hospital. Ever. Weird.)

I know from my eternally youthful face with zero wrinkles or sun damage you’ll be surprised by this, but if you look at my crypt keeper wrinkled hands you’ll see that I’m actually from “the good ol’ days”. When I was 13, very few people had cell phones. And pay phones were still in common use. Thinking about it now, I’m confused. How did they know I was supposed to call my mom? Did someone communicate telepathically with my leaders after we left the church but before we stopped at the gas station? In retrospect, it’s all a bit peculiar. But then again, its ALL a bit peculiar.

Anyhow, someone put in a quarter and dialed a number, got mom on the line and handed me the phone. Her voice was almost unrecognizable. Strained, weak, and feigning enthusiasm. The only part of the conversation I remember is the word “Terminal”. I didn’t cry. It didn’t ruin camp. It didn’t even ruin my birthday.

Months before, prior to mom even showing symptoms of cancer, we had been prepared. I was in my room laying on the floor writing poetry by candlelight. You know, like any normal twelve year old girl. Words were flying onto the page without effort. I finished a poem and felt that rush of satisfaction. But then I read it, as if for the first time. I began to cry. I went looking for mom and found her in the room next to me, also sitting on the floor, encircled by family history papers. I showed her the poem. She cried. She hugged me and said “please read this at my funeral.” Although we didn’t “know” then, we knew. And that experience, while surrounded by generations of ancestors as she worked on binding our family together through temple sealings, gave me peace and the assurance of eternal families.

When mom actually died, I didn’t cry. A neighbor rebuked me harshly that day because I was out and about, not mourning or looking grieved. As an adult I reflected on that period¬†and wondered if I was really that self-absorbed that her death didn’t shatter me.¬†But more than grief, I was enveloped in peace. She had promised she would be there for all of my big life moments. And I believed her. She visited me in dreams and sometimes in profound waking moments of¬†intense sensory awareness of her presence. I knew our family was bound through temple covenants. Really knew. I believe Heavenly Father made her death “easy” on me because my strength would be tested so vigorously by my father’s quick remarriage, and the trauma I would then be dealt.

This is all just background. Heavy background. Shake it off.

Georgia and I are cut from the same cloth. I truly *know* that girl on such a core level. This has been from day one of her life. But it gets even more real as she grows and I see our similarities. Lately, the thought has been percolating, that my relationship with Georgia can help me better relate to and remember my own mom.

When I was two or three years old, my mom would pile laundry onto her waterbed. I would sit in the corner of the bed, swishing the water under me while she folded. I would wrap myself up in a blanket and say “Mom! Open your present!” Over and over again, although sensing that I was trying her patience, she would acquiesce and unwrap her gift. Inside she would find, every time, a puppy with panting tongue and wagging tail, hoping to be petted and played with. And as soon as she would lose interest I would wrap up in the blanket and try again.¬†Several times a week, Georgia does this with me, except she’s a kitty cat and waterbeds aren’t even a thing anymore. Although it gets old, doing this time after time, I remember that longing feeling of wanting my mom’s attention and wanting her to be so thrilled by her new pet. So I try to give that to Georgia until I can distract her with another activity.

As a child I had a terrible time falling asleep. I would stare¬†into the shadows for hours, bored out of my mind, sometimes frightened, just wishing I could sleep. When mom finished tucking me in and stepped towards the door, my heart would lurch. I would beg for another hug and then refuse to let go. I felt like I was being abandoned alone in the dark. If I heard her anywhere in the house I would call out for her. I just wanted her there, wanted affection and felt utterly desperate. Now I understand. She’d had long days and she wanted me to just go to sleep. Sure she loved me but she had a lot to do. But now, when Georgia stretches out tuck-in time and then cries desperately for us… I go in. I can hear myself as a child in her voice. I remember feeling this unquenchable need for affection and never getting my fill. I know Georgia knows that feeling and I know even my best efforts may still leave her wanting. But so help me. I’m trying. When I hear that cry, I’m there. And I stay until she gives me permission to leave. My mom probably didn’t have that luxury. But I do. So I’ll take it.

These and other experiences cause me to see myself, as if through my mother’s eyes. As I look at Georgia I see how much I was loved and cherished. In spite of living more than 20 years without her, I am beginning to understand mom’s love for me. I feel her urging me to take the time with my kids and, above all, make sure they know they are loved. I pray that my kids’ memories will be of annoyance that I showed them too much affection, rather than that hollow longing for more. I may not spoil them with material things, but so help me, I can spoil them with love. Or at least I can try.

 

 

Nowhere Else I’d Rather Be

Each week of my mission in Guatemala, I ended my letter to the mission president with the same statement. “There is nowhere else I’d rather be.” There were good weeks, bad weeks, exhilarating weeks, exhausting weeks, but I truly meant it each time I wrote it.

When I finished my mission and began my career and single life, I jumped into it with the same zeal I had in Guatemala. Or at least I tried. Although the desire of my heart was to be a wife and mother, I knew there was great purpose in my life, regardless of when/if a family happened.

As the years passed, I was given extraordinary experiences. I fed my adrenaline-junky addiction with things like rock climbing, sky diving, xc skiing, and cycling. I fed my gypsy spirit with travel from the tiniest ghost towns of the west, to the pyramids of Giza, and many places in between. I fed my soul with profound spiritual experiences in temples, in service, in study and in worship. And I fed my heart a steady diet of wonderful friends, mentors and family relationships.

I would not trade a day my mission, or life before I married RJ.

But last week a friend reminded me of how hard that time actually was, and that in the midst of it, I wasn’t satisfied. RJ was out of state, so the girls and I road-tripped to visit Dave and Elisa Martin, who had moved to Idaho last year (thereby breaking the heart of Georgia, as they took Camden and Breck with them). Dave and I were good buddies back in our wild single days and went on many adventures together. Last week he reminded me of something I said after a memorable Christmas Eve we spent backpacking in deep, pristine winter wilderness under sparkling skies. “Yeah… but I’d rather be changing diapers.”

Now, a flood of memories are coming back.

In my annual reviews with my boss/mentor Bill Reynolds, he would ask what my dream job was, and what I was doing to qualify myself for it. Each year I would say “Being a wife and mother… But if not, I am on exactly the professional path that I want.”

When I was experiencing something significant like Tikal Temple IV or the Treasury in Petra Jordan, an orphanage in Mexico,  the cherry blossoms in DC, a week in a sailboat, or the tippety top of Twin Peaks, I would be filled with both immense gratitude that I was there, and equal sadness that I was not there with my husband. In every case, I was with amazing people. Yet my heart ached because I felt so alone.

During a chat with the stake presidency I served under, President Smith asked why I was involved with other humanitarian organizations when my job didn’t require it. “I’m making the most of plan B!” My reply sparked a lengthy discussion (and thereafter a speaking assignment) about the importance of finding joy in plan B, while not letting go of plan A.

Although family life was my plan A, I have to admit my interest in it was theoretical – based on my faith that being a mother is my eternal role. I wasn’t feeling the biological pull to procreate. When I babysat, I was thrilled when the parents returned. And frankly, I had minimal knowledge about what parenting or marriage really was. I just knew that was God’s plan. I longed for the companionship of a loving husband, but kids… not really. When RJ and I miraculously came (back) together and married, I wasn’t in a rush to get pregnant. Then something primal changed in my body. My brain re-wired. And all I wanted was babies. BAAAAAYYYBEEEEEEEZZZ!

And now, after all of these years, I’m a MOTHER. Like, a legitimate stretchy pants and messy bun, diaper changing, sandwich making m-o-m.


Now, there are moments where I honestly think my rage is going to spill over in terrifying ways. There are afternoons where my patience is so far gone that I have to literally run and hide to get 2 minutes alone to pray for strength. There are times I would looooooove a fast-forward button.

BUT. Once again I can honestly say “There is nowhere else I’d rather be.”

All of those past my stage of motherhood say how fast it goes by and how I’ll miss it. For myself, I think it’ll be like Guatemala. For every bit that I loved my mission and wouldn’t trade a day of it, I have to say… I don’t want to go back. Because as good and profound as it was, it was also that hard. And the present and the future have equal opportunities for experience and JOY. Every stage has its glories and its terrors. The trick will be, like it has always been, to focus on the magic happening right in front of my eyes, and trust in grace to carry me through the trials.


So for now, I’ll grit through the pregnancy symptoms, the endless task of picking up, the whining (not mine, the kids, silly!), the exhaustion of being so needed, the constant awareness of my failures, and the “MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!”. And for now, I’ll also hold on to the softness of round cheeks, the feathery tickles of strawberry blond bedhead, the bursts of giggles when daddy comes home, the sweetness of mispronounced words, the dangling toes on an oversized toilet, the opportunity to spend time examining and enjoying tidbits of nature,  and the sheer pleasure it is to witness the magic of childhood.

Rainbows and Stormclouds

Tucked up against my shoulder is this bouncy little fairy with a sing-song voice and the gentlest lisp.¬†She has¬†feathery wisps of hair that always tickle my nose, a fringe of eyelashes that eclipse sparkling green eyes full of sweetness and mischief, and the roundest and rosiest cheeks. Georgia is¬†like a fluffy pink cloud that glows brightly at sunset. But technically, she’s a rainbow.¬†(A baby born after a miscarriage or infertility.)¬†After 2 rough miscarriages and months of trying, I was thrilled to puke through the entire pregnancy, because I had hope of cuddling that pink cloud at the end of it. (Turns out she wasn’t very cuddly. Oh well. She’s trying to be now, but those boney elbows and knees kind of ruin it. Whatever.)

Softly breathing on the other side of the wall, with legs tucked under a wide belly, ocean blue eyes are resting above the softest ivory cheeks, recharging the energy of my determined little delight. Millie has the¬†silkiest skin which begs for caresses and a tiny neck that requires dozens of unwanted kisses a day. Her appearance and her personality are mysteriously captivating. She is simultaneously graceful and intimidating, like the quickly shifting wind and clouds before a heavy storm. She is both deafeningly¬†loud and contently¬†quiet. At first glance she is easy to look at but her piercing eyes and golden strawberry¬†halo soon make it hard¬†to look away. Millie’s conception was planned and quick, and her pregnancy wondrously easy compared to Georgia.¬†(Minus the whole cross-country move while pregnant.) But the ¬†recovery from her birth was traumatic and her first months of life were surprisingly demanding, considering her peace-loving¬†temperament.

These two blessings were brought about through great pains, great faith, great sacrifice and great joy.

When Millie was 9 months old, she once again expressed her independence by weaning. At that same time, it was discovered that I had a growth on my cervix. In the two weeks before tests came back, I had come to terms with many potential outcomes – one of which was that I would not be able to have more children. It was determined to be “pre-cancerous” and my doctor suggested that if we wanted another child, we go ahead and try now, but that the growth may challenge conception and/or pregnancy. Removal of it at that time would likely inhibit a healthy pregnancy.¬†In truth, I became gratefully happy for my two girls and wasn’t sure about pushing for a third.

But we tried anyway. Nothing happened. I felt conflicted because I was happy with my two, but felt aggressively compelled to have a third. One day, as I sat through a two-day 18 hour church training, which I was required to attend, but had almost zero relevance to my responsibilities, I had a powerful experience. President Beech was making closing remarks. I happened to be sitting exactly in front of the pulpit on the first row (a place I would never be by choice). Suddenly, words came into my mind and immediately those words were repeated by President Beech, who, as I remember it, was looking right at me. The Holy Ghost, and then President Beech said “The righteous desires of your heart will be fulfilled. All of them.” I knew in that moment that I would have a third child.

When again that month I didn’t conceive, I wondered if the selfish desires of my heart (the ones that say a third child would be a lot of work and we should just stick with two) were instead being fulfilled. Several months later and still nothing. Frankly, I was enjoying the “trying” part but I was done hoping for another child.

Then, of course, I found myself inexplicably exhausted. Food suddenly lost all of its pleasure. And then, the real tell-tale marker of my pregnancies arrived – belching like a drunken sailor. We waited and waited, my anxiety putting me on a terrifying roller coaster, and finally RJ coerced me into taking a pregnancy test. Just like the previous 4 pregnancies, and a few other “late” months, I peed on the stick and left the room for RJ to hover over and break the news to me. After several eternities he came slowly up the stairs. Obviously I wasn’t pregnant. But then he JUMPED into the room, dancing, crying and cheering. His enthusiasm was beautiful. He had taken so long because he had been giving a prayer of gratitude.

I, however, didn’t mirror his enthusiasm. We can blame it on the hormones or the fatigue, but even a week later I was still feeling blue. My depressed state over the wonderful news was causing me guilt. We had fasted and prayed for this for months and when it finally happened, all I could think about was how much work another child would be and how terrible pregnancy is.

God is good. He put me in the heart of my inspired friend Marcie. She texted a few things and I knew I had to talk to her. When I called Marcie, within 2 minutes she had me broken open and then shared with me her own experience of being blue over a wanted pregnancy. Her heart warmed mine. I saw how that was a world away from her current experience and how her Andrew was a joyful blessing to her. POOF! My dark bubble burst. Slowly, hope came, followed by joy and even enthusiasm.

But experience has taught me not to celebrate until after the first ultrasound.

The heartbeat took exactly 3,578,906 minutes to find. My mind went black. But then, there it was! But I didn’t feel relief? The doctor said “Sorry, I was distracted by these…” He had been looking at the subchorionic hematomas within my uterus. They may cause no problems at all, they often dont. But they also may cause a million problems, including preterm or stillborn births. BUT… I’m choosing optimism. I’m choosing hope. I’m choosing to believe that in addition to my rainbow/sunset cloud, and my stormcloud, my heart and family will welcome another atmospheric delight – be it a gale force wind or a spring shower, I’ll take it.

 

Roller Coasters

Confession: I totally failed at March. I know, I know. My whole, “treat yo self month” was going to¬†change the way the earth rotates¬†on it’s axis.¬†I was supposed to counteract the pre-spring¬†grumps¬†with little daily delights and I would magically like March and be a bearable human being. Well, I gave up. I gave in. I succumbed to the cold, dark, grimy mucky month of March. I didn’t ‘treat’ anybody. And it carried into April. And it was bad. Like, really bad. Like, the worst ever. Like, if you saw me on the street you would cross it, pull your hat down and shuffle FAST.

And on that note… I have some great news! I’M PREGNANT!

So lets back up, shall we? Here’s a super condensed background.

  • After 2 miscarriages and struggling to conceive again, I realized (in retrospect) I went through some postpartum depression before Georgia was conceived. In spite of being¬†wildly¬†sick (and anxiety) throughout the pregnancy, that child was/is a rainbow baby in every way.
  • Millie was conceived the first month of trying. Glory be! Goodbye¬†fears and anxieties!¬†Aside from a minor cross-country move, this pregnancy was healthier and¬†comparatively easier. I even willed her to be born on her due date in a less dramatic entrance than Georgia made.¬†But then I was bull-dozed by nerve damage from the birth. ¬†Still,¬†with a miraculous healing, I was again able to enjoy¬†that precious little wonder-baby.
  • I felt prompted to do Natural Family Planning (NFP), which, in my mind, was because perhaps the Lord wanted us to have another (final) baby sooner than later. But then Millie self-weaned at 9 months, at the same time I found a growth on my cervix. Obviously NFP and was God helping me find the cancer and early weaning was so I could get treatment. Before tests came back I had come to terms with¬†fighting the fight, and also with being done having children. But then it wasn’t cancer. But¬†doc¬†was saying things like “precancerous” and “IF you can get pregnant with this growth…” and “IF you can keep a pregnancy with this…” So we tried for a few months. Nothing. I had a procedure, nothing. I was slowly going to that crazy place that women go when their biological clock starts ticking so loudly that it drowns out everything else. I decided two kids was plenty for me. I had a profound spiritual experience saying I had a third kid coming. STILL wasn’t getting pregnant. Doc suggests infertility treatments. Prayers. Fasting. Hoping. Wondering. etc.¬†etc. etc.
  • March hits. Damn March. I’m nauseous, tired, belching like a sailor, and food has lost all its joy. RJ forces his “delightful”¬†wife to take a pregnancy test. It’s positive. He’s elated. I’m not. Depression hits hard. I WAITED for this, I yearned for this, I prayed and fasted for this. And now¬†it’s happening¬†and I’m not happy??!! Guilt takes me further down. We aren’t telling anyone, but I don’t want to talk to anyone anyway. Life is terrible. Wo is me. I’m cursed.
  • RJ suggests maybe I need a little support. The inspired Marcie texts me a few times saying I’m on her mind. I know why. I open up to her. She shares her prenatal depression story with me. Her empathy puts wind in my sails. As we slowly begin to tell family, the darkness starts to lift.
  • First appointment ultrasound shows a healthy baby, but also a uterus full of sub-chorionic¬†hematomas. Somehow, knowing there are complications, it makes me fight more for this baby and want it more and more, and my enthusiasm builds!
  • I have to cancel plans to attend wedding events back east for my beloved Emilia¬†Bedilia. SO. MANY. TEARS.

The past 3 months have been an emotional rollercoaster… No¬†no¬†no. *I* have been an emotional rollercoaster and my dear husband and children have been good sports to stay on the ride.

I am becoming joyously happy. Almost as happy as I am sick and exhausted! And now that I can see past the darkness, I just have to say… mental health is important. I don’t have any sage wisdom gleaned. I just gotta say TAKE CARE OF YOUR FREAKING BRAIN, PEOPLE!

I am SO GLAD to be going through things like this in a day and age where mental health is valued by society. Although I am yet to benefit from medicine or therapy for myself, THANK HEAVENS THEY ARE AVAILABLE!  I think about dear friends and family who have gone through the darkness and those who have been helped by meds/therapy and I just want to say ALLELUJAH!!!

This is not to minimize the importance of reaching out to God. God can heal, support and strengthen anyone with mental illness. And in this case, I think that’s where credit is due. ¬†Just saying, take care of your brains and let God take care of you. That’s all.

She will find what is lost

Treat Yo Self: Eating Oranges in the Shower

The interwebs are strange. One minute you’re checking your bank balance and the next you’re watching videos of a family of bears swimming in someone’s backyard. No one knows how they fall into a click-hole, but they’re sure hard to get out of.

In a recent fall, I read about the Shower Orange Movement, where believers tout the virtues of peeling and consuming an orange while showering. I chuckled. I shared the article with a friend. And then, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. Would the combination of citrus and steam bring me to a new state of nirvana? Would the joy of having sticky juice instantly washed away while crescents of sweetness filled my mouth be a sensory explosion?  I pledged to try it for myself. Was this, as promised, “the self-care you didn’t know you needed”?

After a particularly unmotivated jaunt, I needed perking up. Before stepping into the shower, I ran downstairs and grabbed an orange, smiling at my choice in a spouse, who had so carefully chosen large, thick skinned oranges – the kind that peel easily and are exceptionally juicy. Mmmm. Good husband. Good orange. As the steam began to fog the glass door, I shed the peel and dropped it at the drain. This was fun. The segment was so large it took a few bites to consume. I realized my OCD was NOT enjoying the peel on the ground, in spite of its invigorating aroma. Although against the rules of the movement, I scooped it up, jumped out of the shower and dripped over to the trash. Back in the shower I took in a deep breath and savored the coldness of zippy citrus in my mouth as warmth washed over my head and body. Life changing? No. But indeed, I was converted. This sensory experience caused me to be fully present in the moment and mindfully happy.


In my elevated mood I made a resolution. I typically resent March and it’s fickle weather patterns and contradictory moments of simultaneous sunshine and bitter cold, new green growth and crusty snow.  But I will not let March get me this time. On March 3rd I dubbed it the month of Treat Yo Self <—watch that!!!. Each day of this month I will find a small way to be personally delighted. Here are my rules:

  1. Activities must not affect the family budget.
  2. Activities must not infringe on anyone else’s delight/energy
  3. Activities may come from a pre-made list but should be chosen in the moment, particularly at a time of day when I’m feeling Marchy.

This exercise is somewhat reminiscent of why I started blogging years ago. It was an intentional foray into joy inspired by the book The Happiness Project.

This is how it’s gone so far:

March 3: see above

March 4: I’ve been wanting to paint my front and deck doors. I know its effort, but I knew it would make me happy. And it did.

March 5: Every so often I get a hankering for a fizzy, splishy splashy drink. Just my luck, RJ had conveniently picked up some Sprite last week (see, best spouse) and we have a small collection of soda syrups. BAM! Italian soda in hand, instant smile.

March 6: RJ was working late, the girls were whining and my patience had expired. Also, COLD. The idea of lighting a fire is often too much effort, but not for TREAT YO SELF month! Fire lit, girls fascinated,  mom warmed, RJ came home and fed the fire, we had FHE and spent the whole evening at the mantle.


March 7, Today: Well, I had a shower orange. Joyful. I had a fizzy drink during nap time, lovely… I know, doubled up but repeated. Doesn’t feel complete. But spending a few minutes writing is pleasure for me. So as soon as I hit publish… CHECK!

So YOU! Do it! TREAT YO SELF!!!!! And report here what you’ve done!!!

Bliss is not the norm

Nine out of ten days, Georgia does not nap. But I waaaaaaaant her to nap. Somehow, in my brain, I’ve determined that napping is the norm so I’m a bit disappointed nearly every day because it doesn’t happen.

For one week during the darkest winter days, both of my girls slept until 8am. It was marvelous. Now, I’m a bit disappointed that they wake up close to 7.

I really like a clean house. I work hard to maintain order around here. Yet every single day, I’m swimming through the debris of childhood.

I once made a dijon chicken recipe that was delicious. I’ve made it 4 times since and it wasn’t very good. But I keep trying because the first time was soooo good.

Whether it’s fast internet, well-behaved children, smooth traffic, family relationships, or anything else, I tend to fall into the same trap. I mistake the IDEAL for the NORM. I’m then in a state of constant disappointment because the ideal is elusive and rare.

A good portion of discontent could be eliminated if I could simply embrace mediocrity. I know that sounds terrible. I just mean to say that life is rarely ideal. If we wait for ideal circumstances to be happy, we’ll never, ever, ever be happy. This is NOT to say we shouldn’t strive for the ideal. Just that our happiness shouldn’t depend on attaining/maintaining the ideal. I’ve been pondering on this for some time when I stumbled across a quote from my favorite man, President Hinckley, that sums it up perfectly.

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