Wednesday, November 08, 2017

I Have Bad Days (and I'm a Mom!) or Yes, I Chose This. So?

A friend recently told of how some less-than-supportive family were upset that she had bad days. See, this friend has chosen, along with her husband, to have a large family. Compared to the rest of her family, this is strange, and so they don't quite understand it. They said that because she chose to have a large family, all of her chaos, stress, and bad days are completely her own fault. If she didn't want to have so much stress, than she shouldn't have had so many kids. In their minds, she brought it on herself. Their conclusion was that she didn't deserve their support, and she certainly didn't have permission to be upset about her life in any way, shape, or form.

Okay, so I can kind of understand what they are saying. True, being a mother means choosing a kind of busy stress that isn't easily controlled. Choosing to mother many means a lot of chaos. But does this mean mothers of many are never allowed a bad day? And even more --does this mean we are never allowed to express the difficult aspects of it?

Are we really supposed to only share the good parts?

I find this ironic because we are so quick to condemn "fake people." What are fake people, anyway, but those who paint their lives as something not whole, not complete? I like to see things in a positive way --I really like optimism --but at the same time, I like honesty. Truth is more powerful than lies, and if a mother isn't allowed to be honest about the hard, frustrating, grueling, exhausting, nitty-gritty parts of motherhood, then I'm not sure anyone would see the truth of what makes motherhood so incredibly amazing.

Another mutual friend made a wonderful point. She said that no matter what job a person chooses, there will be parts that people don't like. In fact, there will be hard parts and sometimes very unpleasant parts. She said this:
Brain surgeons have to file long, detailed medical reports and decide if cases are operable and sometimes lose patients during surgery. When they talk about such things in less than glowing terms we don't say, "Shut up. You brought this on yourself. You CHOSE to be a brain surgeon, you idiot. What were you thinking? Why didn't you choose something easier?" The same is true of every job. Including motherhood.
I mean, think about any other job out there. Dentist, lawyer, soldier, masseuse, teacher, musician, actor, writer, CEO, banker, etc. etc. etc.  Why is it that motherhood is put into the "you chose this, you idiot!" bucket, while other jobs are not? Everyone is going to have a bad day, and when it happens, that doesn't mean they shouldn't have chosen their career or family size. It just means they are human.

We all have bad days every once in a while. We should be allowed to admit it.

And, by the way, dear reader, it's those bad days that make the good ones so awesome. Without the comparison of bad, it's really hard to appreciate the good. All of the chaos and exhaustion create an environment where joy can be found. Learning to find happiness when we are teetering on that last thread is kind of amazing. It's definitely refined me and made me a better person!

So, perhaps it would behoove us to check our "you chose this" comments at our throats before they come out of our mouths. Instead, we could find ways to lift and help one another. Maybe we could take the time to learn something about the situation and make an attempt to understand a life decision we haven't experienced.  At the very least, just nod and move on! I mean, pity is okay, but charity is better. Let's not justify enmity because of our discomfort; let's look for ways we can lend help and have empathy.

P.S. This can apply to many, many things and spoiler: charity (the pure love of Christ) is pretty much always the answer. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Keeping This Musician Humble

I've had some interesting experiences these last few weeks, and I'm left seeing how humility, courage, and hard work can bring about really great experiences. But even more, the people who encourage and cheer me on make it worth every sacrifice, humiliation, and mistake. Well, almost every mistake... (insert winky face, here).

Let me try to extract the details from my very muddled brain.

Back in August, my piano studio filled up pretty quickly. Right now I have 18 students (16 consistent), and I have really enjoyed teaching again. Also in August, I started a term as the Manhattan Area Music Teachers Association (MAMTA) secretary. (Basically, this means I take the minutes at our monthly meetings and make sure everyone has access to them.) I'm in charge of the Honors Recital in June, and I've been very involved in all of our events (District Auditions, State Auditions, Ensemble Concert, Duet Competition, Members Recital, Piano Fair, Music Progressions, etc.). I love this! I really like the teachers I am able to associate with, and it's great that my students can prepare for some really great events.

Well, a few weeks ago, one of my colleagues (also a dear friend in my ward) asked if I would take over the Piano 1 class at K-State for the next term (it's a non-major beginning piano course that includes students and community members). Long story short, I said I would, and so I have a piano class twice a week on campus! I just started teaching last week (my friend came to help me get started) and next week I'm on my own.

It's only a little bit scary.

Then, last week, my husband and I went to our community theater's production of Mary Poppins because one of my piano students (and her awesome father) were performing in it. It was great! They have a really good theater, here. Live orchestra, great dancing, and fantastic singing and acting. Turns out, several friends were involved in the production, including both of the pianists in the orchestra!

On Tuesday of this past week, one of those pianists asked if I would substitute for her in the orchestra for tonight (Saturday). I said, "yes," not really knowing what I was in for!

Oh, dear reader, it was so much fun, but it was so very, very difficult! I missed so many cues and parts --I got lost a lot. I was able to do some of it well, and I did a great job with finding the last note on most pieces! Ha! But wow, it was very humbling. I didn't have much time to practice, and as a pianist, I'm honestly not used to so many measures of rest! When I accompany a choir or soloist, I don't have measures of rest, and if I do, I can see exactly what the singers are singing, so I never get lost. But wow --I sure got lost, tonight!

So, that was the humility (humiliating?) portion of my thoughts, tonight. I'm not as confident, skilled, or as great as I want to be. Honestly, not really even close!

But I do practice, and I work hard.

I've worked hard to build my studio and take the opportunities to use my music as it comes (like the class, like the orchestra), and I am practicing a lot more. There's so much more I need to work on, but I'm doing more than I have in a very long time.

Also, I feel like I have more courage. I don't feel like I am nearly as good as the other teachers in MAMTA, but I realize that I'm not horrible, either. It's hard for me to put myself out there and claim that I can do some of the things that they do! They have degrees I do not have and experiences that I do not share (yet!).

And this brings me to the biggest revelation of the past few weeks: Manhattan, KS has a monopoly on some of the kindest people I have ever met. My MAMTA colleagues treat me like an equal and they just believe I'm a great pianist. They don't care if I'm better or worse than they are --we're all equals. Even the K-State professors! They are generous and kind with all of us. There is no elitism (that I can feel) among us.

My friend who asked me to take her class --she has absolutely all the confidence in the world that I can teach it! Not only that, but she and I do an exchange with our children (I teach some of hers and she teaches some of mine), and knowing that she trusts me to teach her kids the piano... gosh, that kind of trust is very telling, you know?

The orchestra at the play tonight --I felt the same encouragement and kindness from all of them, too! They cheered me on, helped me find the right measures, helped me find my cues, and the director was so kind to me. They could have all been disappointed in my performance (and they could have been --I know I was!), but they told me that I did just fine. They knew I was coming in cold without orchestra rehearsals! They offered me food, they offered me beer (LOL), and they were all just so very, very kind. The other pianist --who happens to be a MAMTA colleague --took 2 hours out of her day, today, to go over as much of the score with me as possible, and just made me feel so good about myself, too.

And the thing is, I know I didn't do as well as I could have, but I didn't feel anyone was patronizing me, either. They were simply kind!

Then there's my handsome husband. Dear reader, he is my biggest cheerleader! When he found out I was asked to teach the class, he was so thrilled! When he saw me put on our shared calendar (on my phone --he can see what I put on it and vice versa immediately via notification) that I was going to accompany Mary Poppins, he texted me right away to congratulate me (like, seriously, super excited) before I had a chance to tell him about it! Tonight, during intermission, when I texted to tell him how badly I was doing, he told me that he was positive I didn't do as badly as I thought I did.

And that's why I think I can keep doing this. This = make music my career, again. Keep improving. Continue preparing for more schooling. I have support around me and people that believe in me, and this feels like such a gift, because there are so many times when I feel like I can't believe in myself.

Do you remember the scripture found in Ether 12:27? It says:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
I honestly believe that my humility (and various humiliations) as a musician helps me become a better musician. Each mistake teaches me something, but even more, I think every moment of frustratingly humiliating reflection means I will be kinder to others in the same situation.

I'm starting to realize that most of our experiences are meant to be taken and used to help other people. But that's going to have to wait for another blog post!

How have humiliating experiences made you stronger? How does having your own support system make hard things easier for you? Have you ever had to have courage in the face of something that inevitably keeps you consistently humble? 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Well, If I Had Known...

I read an article recently about a mother who was shamed over social media. The summary is that she was photographed, without her knowledge, in an airport, while her baby rested on a blanket on the floor, and she (the mother) was looking at her phone. What people didn't realize is that she had been in the airport for 20 hours during a Delta computer shut-down, and was letting her baby stretch while she texted family members. Honestly, I don't care what she was doing --she could have been reading or playing games --she didn't do anything wrong. But assumptions were made. Once the real story got out, the people shaming her were put in their place, but it got me thinking about something...

And maybe I've written about this before (I honestly can't remember), but I can imagine people, after hearing the truth behind the photo, falling all over themselves, apologizing, and saying, "well, gosh, if I had known that was what was going on, then I never would have said such awful things about her, judged her parenting without knowing her, or passed it on to every one I know so they could also be appalled by her awfulness..."

How often is this the case?

We see something, hear something, and with the information we have, we take what we are seeing and hearing at face value. Because that is logic, is it not? Without further explanation, we assume what we can see before us. This just makes sense.

But human interaction and even human reality is so much different. We really can't assume much of anything! Even expectations can fall flat if we're not careful, because so much of what we see and hear could be in direct opposition to the truth of the situation. This is why it is so important to stop and make sure that the source is accurate, we know all sides of the story, and we throw in a great big dose of compassion. Maybe two doses.

This morning, I was talking with some mothers at our ward (church) playgroup. We were discussing "secret shoppers" and "secret critics" in restaurants. One of them said she had been a "victim" of a secret diner when she was working in a restaurant as a server. She had a very large table to take care of, as well as a small table. Unbeknownst to her, the small table included the secret critic, and they ended up complaining about her because she had spent so much time with the large table. Given that the large table would naturally take up her time, it made sense. But to the secret diner, they just thought she was neglectful.

I said, "Now wait a minute. Nobody can judge somebody based on one experience, though! Even servers have bad days. We all have bad days. If I was judged by my ability to be a mother on just one of my worst days, they would steal my house and take all the kids! Because you can't judge an overall situation with just one look."

We need to know the whole story. And we need to give each other the benefit of the doubt and a little bit of a break, eh? We all have bad days. We all have bad moments.

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I have been guilty of snap-judgments. And even if I don't say anything rude to anyone, complain, or stress out about it, I'm still harboring negative feelings. This can truly affect opinion of someone, and that negative energy can taint a relationship. The way we think about others influences how we treat them. We can't love people if we are harboring negative resentment towards a very small piece of a very complex story --indeed, a complex person. All of our lives are intertwined with many experiences that shape who we are and how we act, and this means we are not one-dimensional. And because we are not one-dimensional, we can't see each other in this way.

It gets funny, though, when we backpedal quickly after learning the truth about something or someone. "Well, if I had known, I wouldn't have said that."
"Well, if I had known, I wouldn't have reacted so badly."
"Well, you should have told me, and then I wouldn't have to be apologizing right now."
"Well, if I had known, then I wouldn't have had the opportunity to blame you for my own reaction."

Seriously, it's kind of funny. Because saying, "well, if I had known" just means we aren't willing to take responsibility for our feelings and reactions, and we're embarrassed, humiliated, and sometimes horrified to be wrong. It also tries to water-down the needed apology, in an effort to explain why we lacked basic charity.

Now, don't get me wrong here! I know, from very personal, painful experience that saying "well, if I had known" is sometimes used along with a very painfully humble apology for words or actions I sincerely regret. I know it's not always used in a defensive way. Trust me, dear reader --I know this. I'm sure we've all muttered these words as we try to explain to ourselves (not just others) why we acted the way we did...

Here are some examples from my own life:

*My sister once refused to come help me with something without giving me a reason. I was desperate for help at the time and so hurt that she wouldn't come. I later found out she was very sick, early pregnant, but being the very private person she is, she didn't want to tell me, yet.

*A friend of mine was really late picking me up for something important, and I got frustrated. When she arrived, I found out she was having car trouble.

*One time, I had been gone all day and when I got back, the house was a disaster. It seemed that nothing had been cleaned, and my husband had been in charge. I was tired and frustrated! I was really upset and made assumptions. Then, I noticed (before I found my husband, thank goodness) that the yard had been worked on for hours and hours. It looked great! He had spent a long time getting the yard nice and getting the kids to finish their chores. Only the kitchen was left --but that was the part I had seen upon entering the house.

I've got a long way to go to stop making negative assumptions about people and situations before knowing the whole story. Maybe you struggle with this, too? Here are some ideas that might help us all:

*Assume that the driver going too slow or too fast has a really good reason for doing so (wedding cake in the back? Needing to get to the hospital?).
*Wait patiently for answers to come before making harmful decisions (I'll wait for a phone call... I'll wait for the person to explain...).
*Ask questions for clarification --don't try to read minds. ("What did you mean when you said 'this'?")
* Remember that we all have bad days. We're allowed to! If you see something happening that seems out of character or perhaps the situation just doesn't feel quite right, follow those promptings and see what you can do to help that person.

Let's change, "Well, if I had known" to "I'm here to help!" And, dear reader, the truth is that we really don't need to know the entire story to offer love. We don't need to know everything of a situation to choose patience. We really don't. We can choose love, even when it doesn't make sense. I honestly believe that is one of the reasons we exist --to learn to choose love, even when it's the hardest choice in the world to make.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Apple Cider Debacle

Last night, in the middle of one of my piano lessons, my oldest son comes in carrying a gallon of Apple Cider.

"Mom, what's this for?"

"Oh, I bought that last week."
(I had put it in the garage fridge so the kids wouldn't find it and gulp it down in one sitting.)

"Can I...??"

"Yes, that's fine, I bought it for you guys..."

And he nodded is head, left, and I went back to teaching.

This morning, son number two exclaims, "Hey, mom! Where did the apple cider come from?!"

"Oh, that's for us, I bought it last week."

"Can I have some?"

"That's fine. Make sure you get some for your sister! But just a little bit. It'll go right through you and if you drink too much you'll all have diarrhea!" (Don't ask me how I know this.)

Later, husband, ready for work, comes into the kitchen, sees the apple cider, comes into the dining room where I was eating breakfast and says, "Why are they drinking the apple cider?"

"Oh, I bought it last week..."

"(Oldest son) was using that tonight for Scouts."


"He's in charge of bringing a drink for the activity tonight and he said that you said he could have the apple cider!"

"He never asked me that! He just asked if he could have some!"

"Well, he's expecting to use that, now, so, you might have to get more."


Murmur murmur murmur murmur

I decide that he can just take whatever is left over --the kids didn't drink very much.

Later, (maybe 30 minutes later?) baby girl and my two nieces were sitting at the kitchen island, drinking water and eating muffins. (My brother's family stayed the night last night as they pass through on their way back East.)

All of a sudden, I hear a thud/crash. I ask, "is everything okay? That wasn't anyone's head, was it?"

My niece replies, "It's all okay."

Then she comes to me and shows me a kitchen towel and asks, "can I use this?" I figure someone spilled their water, so I say, "Yes, that's fine."

Then I go into the kitchen.

There is apple cider all over the floor. Everywhere. And the plastic gallon jug is sitting on the ground while my niece attempts to mop up the mess.


I pick up the jug and there's a crack in the bottom! Cider is spilling everywhere! I put it over the sink and reach across to open a drawer and grab out a plastic pitcher. I pour the cider into the pitcher (while losing a bunch of it into the sink) and then set it down. I turn to assess the damage. I turn back to the pitcher.

The pitcher has a crack in it, too!! Now there's cider all over the counter! UGH!

I grab another pitcher and fill it. Then spend only 10 minutes (maybe less) wiping up all the mess. I mop the floor. I make sure my brother understands that his daughter was awesome for trying to clean it up and she did the best she could (it really was sweet).

And that's it.

There's no moral to this story. I'm just really annoyed at apple cider, today.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mental Ruminations Upon Experience, Mothering Stages (Sort of), Agency, Time, and Earning Wisdom

I used to write about everything that came to my mind, the detailed minutia of my every-day life as a stay-at-home-mother. For years, I did this. At first, I think it was an outlet for my situation --a virtual picket-fence, if you will. I was one of the first in a wave of mommy bloggers that swept the nation in the mid-to-late 2000's, and if I'm honest with myself (and you, dear reader), I think the writing helped save me. Mentally, I mean. I had an instant community of people that loved me (and several that did, in fact, hate me), and I ended up finding some of my greatest friends through that endeavor. 

I was a mom with 3 small children, prayerfully hoping for more. At the peak of my blogging-ness, I was a busy mom of 5, trying to eradicate depression by being over-busy, and learned (quite tragically --well, tragically is an exaggeration, but it felt really epic to me!) that over-busy fed my depression, most fervently. 

It's been a few years, now, when I'm at my healthiest emotionally and mentally, that I find I don't need to blog nearly as much. Blogging communities are almost void, anyway (at least single blogs. Community blogs, themselves, are still going strong). Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all but destroyed blogging. (Who wants to read an essay when 15 words will do the trick? Especially my long essays?!) Blogs just aren't as popular, anymore. 

It seem appropriate, since I simply don't write as much as I used to, anyway. I thought this was simply due to my lack of interest, but the truth is this: 
1. I don't really have a lot of time
2. I don't really have much to gain from it, anymore

My life is busy, again. I don't feel it is over-busy (I could be wrong, of course), but it is busy. The truth is, I feel busier now, with teenagers down to toddler, than I ever did with 4 kids under the age of 6. And yet, I feel I can handle it better. Perhaps it's just the nature of growing up, too --I mean, honestly, let's be real, 4 kids under 6 yrs old is brutal. BRU. TAL. I don't think I'd ever want to go back... but I think the main reason it was so dang hard was because I was just new to it. Having gained some mothering perspective and experience, I guarantee if I was to go back, I'd do it a bit differently, and probably a whole lot better! Which is kind of only half-true, because if I hadn't gone through that experience, I wouldn't have the knowledge I have now... Right? Isn't that how wisdom is earned? Through the experience of not having it? 

Anyway, time. I am up by 5:30AM and I usually don't fall asleep until after 10:30PM. Not bad, eh? I'm actually getting more sleep now than I did for the past 16 years, dear reader. This is because I don't have a baby and I am not pregnant! It really makes a big difference (I've written about this before? Oh, well, it's still true). But my days are packed. 

From 5:30AM to 8AM I am in getting-kids-ready-for school mode. Then baby girl and I have the day until 3PM, that is also filled with all tiny details it takes to run a household. From 3PM until 10:30PM, I'm running and running. Teaching piano lessons, running kids to lessons, practices, after-school activity pick-ups, dinner, evening activities, homework, and put-them-all-to-bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. Brandon is an imperative part of this equation, of course (he does football pick-up and cooks on my long teaching days and runs errands as needed), and my older kids are really great about being flexible. It all works. 

The biggest difference, though, between this busy and my used-to-be-busy (when I imploded all those years ago) is that I am capable of making choices. 

I am motivated. 
I make choices. 
I own them, too. I don't resent our schedule, or my life. I don't complain (much?) like I used to.

I'm living a very deliberate life, I think, one that I've wanted for a long time. But I think that for so long, I felt that I had to do it on my own and I had to do it perfectly, or else I was a big fat failure --as a mom, as a wife, and as a Christian. It took me years of therapy, books, mentors, and slow learning to realize that I am not supposed to be perfect. I'm not supposed to do it on my own! I've written about this before, but I came to realize that I was practicing the worst kind of pride --the pride that said I don't need Jesus Christ. 

Oh, I professed I needed Him. I claimed it all the time. I believed in Him, I trusted my religion, I prayed, read, I was very active in the church... but I never really trusted Christ. I didn't really believe Him or His gospel. I was believing Satan's lies that I needed to do everything all alone. Remember (I've said this so often), Satan doesn't care how he gets us away from the Atonement of Jesus Christ --he just cares that he gets us away from it. And I had let him. 

How arrogant can one be to assume they didn't need Christ? 

Thankfully, when I finally recognized this, I was able to change course rather quickly. I came to see my mistakes as blessings. I came to realize, like this song teaches, that every trial, every sin, every mistake brings me to my Savior (if I let it) and that is the goal. I could use my mistakes to feel shame, or I could use them to ask for help, lean on Christ, and try again. 

I tell my piano students that my studio is a safe place --I expect them to make mistakes! In fact, I want them to make mistakes. It is through the mistakes that we learn! If my students never made a mistake, then what in the world are they doing needing me? My place is to guide and teach them, but if they're already a perfect piano player, then they don't need me, do they? 

It's the same with Jesus (not that I'm comparing myself to Him! It's just a good metaphor.)

Anyway... where was I? Oh, the over-busy stuff. Yes, I'm deliberate in my choices now, dear reader. I've learned, through all my mistakes, and through all the same things that brought me to a better understanding of my Savior, that agency is probably the biggest mis-used gift we have as humans. 

Being able to make choices, whether they are big (should we move to Kansas?) or small (should I have toast or eggs?) is a gift from God. Agency is everything. The ability to make choices is something we fought for before we ever came here! Knowing this, I now see choices as a great sense of power. How could I not? Choices are power! Having the ability to choose makes me powerful! I can't choose all the consequences for my choices, but when I use my energy to make the best choices, the consequences tend to be pretty great. 

Practicing making deliberate choices has been hard for me, though. Depression made it hard. But overcoming depression? Making choices was a part of the remedy. Practicing motivation. Practicing choosing. Practicing aligning choices with goals. It takes hard work! But it is so powerful when it begins working for you, rather than against you. 

Every once in a while, I totally mess up. I choose to engage in a debate with someone who is willfully misunderstanding me, or I choose to use mean words instead of an improved argument. I choose to eat the cookies, even though I know I really want the apple. I choose to waste time on social media instead of folding the laundry. I choose to say mean things to my husband instead of thanking him for his help. Sometimes, I choose to say awful things to myself, even though I would never speak that way to someone I loved. 

But a lot of the time, I'm able to make good choices, like reading my scriptures, attending Institute, exercising, eating healthy, growing my piano studio, helping a friend, fulfilling my church calling, helping my kids, baking good food, and telling myself that I am awesome (it's true! I am! So are you!). Most of the time, I really do make the best choices. Small choices. Small, important choices that eventually add up to a very beautiful life!

When I fail, though, I know it's not final. I used to think it would be. But now I know it's not, because I have failed a lot. Like... a lot. And I'm still here. And I'm still learning! 

I sometimes think back to when blogging was my life and I used it to connect. I think I was just desperate to find others who found mothering to be as hard as I did and I needed a way to be me outside of mothering, too. I find it ironic that now that I'm deep into the nitty-gritty of all stages of motherhood, I don't find the need to connect outside of my family nearly as much, anymore. Is this because I've finally found my place? I think so.

I know what I need to be happy. I need my music, a semblance of order, my herbal tea, my books, fun, the word of God, friends, and my husband. I need my kids, I need to write, and I need to look at beautiful things. I need days off. I need, every once in a while, to thrive in chaos. And then other times, I need a perfectly clean house. 

With all the time that I don't have, I'm amazed --absolutely amazed --at what can be done in the midst of it all. When I am able to put God first, allow Him to help me, make deliberate choices, and be okay with the consequences, time just... becomes... possible. Don't get me wrong --I still get stressed out from time to time, and I certainly get impatient with people and situations. But I don't feel this overwhelming patterns of drowning. I'm not panicking. I'm... at peace. That's it, really! I'm at peace. I have hope (something depression takes from me) and I have peace that things will be just fine (something anxiety took from me) --notice the difference? I still struggle with the hopelessness far more than the fear... 

Last thoughts: When I see new mothers, the ones with the younger kids, the ones with a lot of little kids, I'm reminded of who I was at that age. I realize that I can't really do very much for them, either. I can be a friend and offer advice; I can listen. But they're going to have to experience life, like I did. They're going to have to navigate the trenches of motherhood and find their identity. Like I did. These women, if they stay close to God, keep an eternal perspective, keep faith in their family, and work hard, will get through it (like I did!). And they will all be the wiser for it. 

I can't give them what experience will give them. So, mostly, I just watch, nod my head, smile, and hope that they don't feel too lost. I hope they know that no matter how much advice I give them, it's no substitute for their own journey. 

Anyway, I'm not sure what the point is of this incredibly long blog post. I'm kind of just rambling about my life. I should probably stop, now! But thanks for reading (if you even got this far! Ha!). 

Look! A meme! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Health Program I'm Using

Several weeks ago, I shared the following on Instagram and Facebook:

"I may jinx myself by sharing this publicly, but I've been consistently exercising 15-90 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week, for the last 4 1/2 weeks. By choice. And loving it. I've lost 2 pounds and 7 inches. It's slow-going, but that's the point! I want this to last. I want these habits I'm learning to become just that-- habits. I'm not ready to share the health program I'm using, but it's the best program I've ever seen, hands down. There's nothing else like it, really! (It's not an MLM, it's not a product, it's not a diet, it's not at a gym...) I might have to write a blog post about it in the future. The reason I don't feel the need to share quite yet is because it's a year-long commitment. There's no rush. I'm feeling patient. And I'm feeling really good about not feeling the pressure to make it public. I've never felt like this before-- I usually over share! But for now, I'm going to keep it to myself. For at least a few more days. 😜 If you can't wait that long, I guess you can PM me. 😊 Photos: I don't watch videos. I do Pinterest finds! And walk the killer hills with my stroller buddy."  
And now, here is the blog post I wrote about it!

Glossing over everything (i.e. the short story):

I have started using a program called Precision Nutrition. I have a personal coach (who happens to also be a real-life friend). It's a year-long commitment. It's all based on behavior change, psychological change, being okay making mistakes, creating habits, and making those small changes bit by bit. It's based on science. It's based on logic. It's not an MLM. It's private. It's daily. It is self-compassionate. It works.

Not glossing over everything (i.e. the long story):

I have had a love/hate relationship with my body for a long time. I think most women do. Having kids meant my weight has fluctuated up and down and in and out... this is also common. I've been on diets before. In fact, I have done the following:
*Weight Watchers
*Green Smoothie diet/Veganism/clean eating (I was a "nutritarian leaning towards raw veganism")
*Intermittent fasting (just skipping meals)
*Absolutely nothing

I've also just given up a number of times. WW was too hard to maintain because I kept having babies. Nursing made me voraciously hungry! Veganism wasn't for me. Green Smoothies got ridiculously expensive. Depression also played a huge (pun intended) role, too. In fact, I would say that Depression was the biggest factor in how I viewed my body and, thereby, myself.

If you know about my journey, you will know that I have worked really, really hard to love my body the way it is.

And I do.

Let me repeat that: I love my body! Just how it is! I do! I do love my body. I honor it for what it has done for me. I have written extensively over the years about coming to love every little part of me. You can read some of it here and here.

Part of loving my body, though, is this innate desire to take care of it. But I was so emotionally and mentally unhealthy (for so many years) that I wasn't able to really do that. I would try --and usually fail. I was frustrated because the idea that all I have to do is eat sensibly and exercise daily felt too hard and too stupid and... too easy. But honestly, my brain and heart couldn't muster up enough longevity or commitment to help my body reach its potential. Gratefully, though, I got help for my brain, and for my heart, and it's been so much better this past year.

Once I reached some good emotional and mental health, I knew it was time to start focusing on the physical aspect. It also helped that I understand how interconnected everything is --physical, spiritual, mental, emotional... each one affects the other! So, I decided to start searching for something that would truly help me for life. Not for a quick fix. Not so I could drop 50 pounds in a few months. Just something that would help me change my habits and the way I look at physical health.

I truly wanted something that would allow for my nutritional knowledge and experience over the years --something that wouldn't make me overhaul every single thing I eat --and something that would make sense. Something moderate. Something logical! Something that would work long-term. Something that wouldn't set me up for massive failure.

I couldn't find anything that fit this idea.

I saw lots of MLM products, I saw several get-thin-quick ideas, and I knew WW was still an option. I prayed for several months this summer, asking God to help me find something that would work. I got really frustrated because I was starting to lose the love I had for my body while I searched for help. I also gained more weight. I was quite afraid I would delve back into all the old habits and not get out this time.

Then one day, I gave up looking and decided I just had to do something! I looked up the WW information for my area, but I felt so wrong about going to a meeting. So, I ended up not going to the meeting. (Btw, if WW is your thing and works for you? Awesome! Keep doing it! I don't want to make it sound like it's a horrible program --it's not. I just needed something different this time.)

The next day or so, I was online, and I had remembered that a local friend was a health and nutrition expert. I had seen a few things she had posted on her Facebook page and I thought that it might be a good idea to see what she does for herself (or at least recommended). Lo and behold, there on her page was a link to Precision Nutrition, where she had recently become a certified coach. I clicked the link, learned as much as I could about the program, downloaded the quick-start guide, and then messaged her. I had found what I was looking for! I asked her about the program and the next day, I signed up.

That was about 7 (?) weeks ago.

It has been absolutely transforming. It's been vulnerable, personal, private, and thrilling. It has been oh-so-slow. And oh-so-great!

And very, very quiet.

Everything I do is online, everything is personal, everything is quietly for me.

The whole premise of this program is for long-term change. In fact, up until week 7 (that would be this week) they didn't say a thing about what to eat! The first 6 weeks was about learning to do small daily habits that build up to lasting change.
And they don't have a diet. For example, they aren't vegan, or vegetarian, or paleo, or south beach, or green smoothies, or raw, or whatever --they teach nutrition with every diet. So, if you are vegan, this program will work for you. If you are paleo, this program will work for you.

Friends, I've only lost 2 pounds and 7 inches. For 5 weeks (because I weigh and measure myself every 2 weeks, and the next weigh-in is this weekend, so I could have lost more --who knows?) that's all I lost. But I don't care. Because I am changing!

I exercise 5-6 days a week and I love it. I learned:
*What I like to do as exercise
*That I can do it when I want to --I don't have to have a strict schedule
*That I love to sweat
*That I feel so much better!

I've learned about portions and eating less without changing what I eat. (Yet!)

I'm reading my scriptures every single day (that was a habit I chose at the beginning, which might sound odd, but I knew it would also make a huge difference in my life and it has).

I'm focused on long-term health and not obsessed with short-term numbers.

But let's talk numbers, anyway. For whatever reason, it helps me to see progress in a tangible way...

I am nearly 5' 10". At my smallest (as an adult), I was 168 lbs. I was 27 years old. That was after WW. And four children!

I thought, 9 months earlier, that 215 pounds was enormous.

I didn't realize, at that point, that it wasn't so bad! It's like how you look at your high school/college photos and you want to smack yourself upside the head because you listen to the stupid people and satan and those voices telling you that you are ugly and fat, when the truth is, you're neither! In any way!

[And you know what --I want to point out something. Ugly and Fat are not synonymous, anyway! Fat just means fat. Ugly is something entirely different, and dear reader, I have never been ugly in my life. Ever. And neither have you. So stop thinking you are, you gorgeous person, you!]

At my biggest, I was 255 lbs. I was 35 years old. That was around the time I got pregnant with my seventh child. I was miserable, but this was at the peak of Depression. Getting pregnant was a miracle from God and baby girl was a healing catalyst for me in so many ways.

After her birth, I weighed 218 lbs.

By the time we moved to Kansas, I was 230 lbs.

In June, I was 240 lbs.

I slowly lost a little bit before I started Precision Nutrition.

As of right now, I'm 228 lbs. And 38 years old. I'm hoping, by the time I'm 40, that the number will be much lower. Along with all my inches! I want to be strong, again.

(No full body shot because I don't have a recent one! I got my hair cut, today, though. :) ) 

The only reason I'm recording this is so that I can look back at it and remember. No, the numbers are not important. How I feel inside is what matters the most! But I like to see the numbers to track progress, too. I'm recording measurements, as well! I'll have to share those numbers in a few months when I can see significant progress. 7 inches overall may not seem like much, but man, I can feel a difference!

Oh, and btw, my ultimate goal is to weigh anywhere between 175 and 185. Even 190 would be fine by me! And I don't know how long that will take --I don't really care. It could take 2 years. Big deal. It could take 5 years! So, what?

The biggest reason I'm doing this is so that I will take care of myself and love myself in a way that honors God's gift (my body) and gives me the energy to take care of my family.

Anyway, so there you go! This is what I'm doing. And it's awesome.

Friday, August 25, 2017

My Split Personality

Is there anybody who is almost split on the Myers-Briggs personality results?

I'm an ENFJ. The results have been pretty consistent. This stands for

--but I was pretty close to being an INFJ. In fact, it was almost split right down the middle. I've repeated the test several times and the results are always the same. It probably wouldn't take much to push it right into INFJ, which stands for

I've known this for a very long time, though. I'm an extroverted introvert (discovering this was pretty awesome). So, most things for an ENFJ match, and most things for an INFJ match. It's unsettling, though, because one of the hallmarks of an INFJ is not wanting to be misunderstood, and because I identify as an ENFJ, I now always feel misunderstood even more.

So, who am I, personality-wise?

I'm an empath and can absorb the feelings of others. I have to be careful when reading books and watching movies/shows, because they can influence how I interact with others in my own life --I can find myself mirroring feelings that are not my own. This also means I can sense the intentions in others. I am usually able to sense bad intentions very quickly.

I'm a counselor to all. Perfect strangers will often find themselves divulging their stories or deepest secrets to me, just because they feel safe with me. For whatever reason, they are drawn to me and can feel my empathy. Brandon noticed this while we were traveling several months ago --from checking into the hotel to waiters to the random guy near us at the U2 concert --people speak to me and feel comfortable talking to me.

I need time with people just as much as I need time alone.

I don't mind public speaking. I enjoy performing and speaking publicly. But only if I'm prepared!

Preparation is important to me. I like to make plans, but I find I'm actually okay with plans changing as needed. I can't tell if this is just flexibility that has happened over time because I'm maturing, or because I've always been flexible.

I am very, very honest. I abhor hypocrisy (even though we are all hypocrites) and even while telling stories, I will make sure they are correct. I check sources. I won't claim someone said something unless I know for sure. I see lying as one of the worst personality traits. I won't do it. And when I mess up and lie, I will feel shame for a very long time.

I seek truth. I recognize truth when I see it, too. I can feel it. And it's not that I believe it --somehow, I know it. And I can't explain it very well.

I don't put up with insincerity. I won't be sold something until I've decided it feels right.

I am constantly trying to improve myself and how I interact with the world around me. Always. It's always on my mind. How do I improve emotionally? Mentally? Spiritually? Physically?

I'm a Judgy Judger McJudgerson. I believe in propriety, respect, punctuality, and responsibility. Using truth as a measuring stick, I expect a lot in others. I get frustrated when people don't act the way they know how to act (meaning they can't claim ignorance). This can be bad on my part (and it's been something I've been working on for a long time --choosing charity over judging).

I like harmony. I want everyone to get along. I try to smooth things over... but I'm not what one would call a peace-maker. I just don't want to embarrass anyone if I can help it.

I am very hard on myself. Probably my worst critic. There is nothing anybody has said about me that I haven't already said to myself. I feel shame and guilt immensely, and it is something I have worked constantly to heal. If relationships are working, I assume it's my fault. Even when I know I am not the cause of something, I will still feel guilt because I don't know how to fix the situation.

I will help other people until it begins to hurt me. I hang onto friendship long after they are over. I seek to connect with others on a deep level and still mourn the loss of friendships that ended years ago.

If I'm angry with you, and I'm not screaming at you, I'm probably ignoring you.

I will share all of my life with you unless you betray me. In fact, I'm probably the most loyal friend you will ever have until that happens. Once you lose my trust, I'm a lot like Mr. Darcy --my trust is very, very, very hard to earn back. Betrayal is probably the worst mistake a person can make in a relationship with me. I will continue to love you, I will be kind to you, but I won't trust you, and that means my deepest levels of connection will be closed off. I can still think about some past relationships where I was betrayed pretty heavily, and I still don't trust those people, even though I love them.

In the same breath, I seek for reconciliation. I like giving people chances. But sometimes, I give too many chances. And that's why I have to draw boundaries.

I'm a moderate. I don't believe in extremes. I need more than logic to be sold on something, but I need something more than feelings to be sold on something. This goes along with my truth-seeking. It's not just enough that it makes sense --it has to make sense emotionally to me, as well.

I loathe being misunderstood, but because people can't read me the way I can read them, I feel misunderstood constantly.

I like myself, though. 

I like that I am unique and that my personality is hard to decipher. I enjoy being an enigma... until I don't. Ha! I'm seriously that walking contradiction, but honestly, I think it's in the best of ways. 

What is your Myers-Briggs Personality? For those who aren't sure or don't know, here's a link where you can take the test.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

This Side of Bearing Children

As you know, I have 7 children. Adding it up, I've been pregnant for over 5 years and then I nursed for just over 7 years. This means that out of our 18 1/2 year marriage, I've been pregnant/nursing for almost 13 years of it. This is a lot of hormonal change, dear reader. A lot of change. Back and forth, over and under, upward and get the idea.

It's a good change, in my opinion. It's the kind of change that refines a woman --if she lets it. I'm not just talking about physical changes (holy cow, those are unavoidable if you're gonna give birth), but the emotional, mental, spiritual, philosophical, geographical, etc. changes. All the changes! So much change! And they truly create a new person. I'm not the same person I was 17 years ago (when I conceived our first born). I'm just not. And you know what?

Thank goodness!

I don't want to be who I was before children (heck, I don't want to be who I was before marriage. Or college...). I'm glad I am who I am and I'm grateful for the forced change I had to face by becoming a mother. I've earned the growth.

But it's come with great, great sacrifice.

To make this a lot shorter, I'll just get to my point: I'm finished having children. This means my body is really, truly regulating for the very first time in 17 years. My hormones are settling, my cycle is regulating, my brain is rewiring. Essentially, my body is healing itself from bearing and nursing my kids.

And so is my brain.

My depression and anxiety? I believe, absolutely, that a lot of my mental health was influenced and affected by my great sacrifice. How could it not be? How could those kinds of changes not wreak some type of havoc on my mind and body? I mean, as women, we are used to a cyclical change every month, and it does a number on us, that's for sure! It affects us in every way, and we go through it over and over again.

I was explaining this to my psychiatrist several months ago. I was telling him about how my PMS has always been hard, but lately, it's not so bad because I finally decided to acknowledge it. I decided to track my cycle and then when PMS feelings hit, I would say to myself, "Oh, hey! It's PMS week! That makes sense! I'm not crazy, or hateful --I'm just hormonally out of balance right now." He was interested in learning about how a woman's menstrual cycle could affect her mental health. He said he was dealing with a woman who had PMDD (like, crazy psychotic PMS) and it was fascinating to him to see a normal, healthy woman become, essentially, bi-polar while dealing with her menstrual cycle every month. And although I couldn't exactly relate to her situation (extremes are always needing consideration and care), I essentially told him this:

Women have been having periods for all of time. They just exist. Our bodies prep for pregnancy, and then when there is no fertilized egg, the preparation leaks out of us. Then it starts all over again. That's it. It's quite simple, really. But our society --for thousands of years --have tried to shame women for having a cycle. They tell us to hide it. They shame us for talking about it. And then now, in our society, where these things are practical and talked about more, we simply make fun of it. We mock it, and then we hate it. We are taught --from our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers --to hate the very thing that made it possible for us to exist.

So, basically, when it comes to menstruation we are told to:
1. Hide it
2. Make fun of it
3. Hate it

And so we repress what it represents and we give the negative aspects a lot of power.

I told my psychiatrist that when I just owned the fact that I'm a woman and I menstruate, I suddenly had a lot of power to control how I felt about it all. By simply acknowledging that menstruation is what it is --that it simply exists, that PMS is real, and that there are valid reasons for my fluctuating emotions and reactions -- it started to lose its power over me. And so I think, as women, if we could stop passing along this toxic idea that we are somehow flawed for having menstrual cycles, if we could convince the men in our lives to recognize that it's literally the power to create within us it what it is, well, then, maybe we could stop being so afraid of our monthly mood swings and how they affect our emotions and decisions.

My psychiatrist found all of this fascinating, and I was sad that a mental health professional didn't already understand this. But how could he? If women refuse to see it this way, why in the world would a man?

Okay, so back to my point --changes in my body chemistry are going to affect the way I think and interact with my world. And so, it has not come as a big surprise that now being removed from childbearing, I'm beginning to realize how much of my depression was a result of constant fluctuating physical and emotional changes.

And it's not just the depression. It's the energy. The motivation. The ability to string together a coherent thought! Removed from baby years means I get more sleep (sleep is probably the number one issue facing mothers). I also have more time for myself because my kids are older.

So, energy + motivation + mood regulation + mental clarity + more time for self-care + sleep = Hey, wow! I feel like me! I can do stuff! I can do hard things! I can make goals! And actually keep them! 

I'm sure women who've already been through this are nodding their heads and kind of laughing at my discovery. But this is new for me, you know? I'm starting to see that life outside the child-bearing years (obviously, I will be in the raising-children years for a very long time) is kind of nice. I am loving it, honestly.

Pregnant with my 6th

Pregnant with my 5th

I will always miss being pregnant. Not the hard parts, but feeling the child inside of me, moving, feeling such a close connection to God through creation... I will always miss giving birth. Not the agony of labor, but the rush of delivery, of seeing my baby for the very first time. I will always miss newborns. Not the fatigue or crying, but the tiny bodies, the sweet smell of their heads, the way they tuck right up into my neck, and sleep on my chest. I will always miss nursing. Not the constant need or pain (luckily, only my first and last were really difficult to nurse at first), but the bonding, the connection, the truth that I was nourishing my child so easily... I will miss those times and years. I will remember them fondly and with great joy.

My firstborn

My lastborn

But I'm also content to be finished, and if I'm being completely honest, I'm relieved. I'm grateful my sacrifice was accepted by God and that our family is complete. I am so happy to be finished with that part of my life.

And this is the part where I don't want people to misunderstand. 

I do not regret having my children for one millisecond. I wouldn't change a thing! I would take the mental health challenges, the fatigue, the pain, the frustration, the despair, the anger, the mood swings, the crazy, crazy, crazy times all over again in a heartbeat. Not only because I'm happy to have been even partially responsible for bringing such incredible souls to this Earth, not only because I've only become who I am because of those experiences --but because for every awful moment, there were twice as many glorious ones.

What I have discovered is that there is so much joy and beauty in every stage of our lives. I was afraid to embrace this new stage --I knew I couldn't be having babies forever, but I wasn't sure who I would be if I wasn't constantly in "creating life" mode, you know? I was scared I wouldn't be the kind of mother I wanted to be. I was afraid of having to own up to other responsibilities because having babies was kind of an excuse of sorts --I had a reason to be moody or tired.

But wow! What an amazing lie those fears turned out to be! This side of having babies is wonderful, dear reader! I'm constantly amazed by the goodness of God and how well He leads our lives, if we let Him. He knows us best, and this experience of shifting from child-bearing to just-raising has shown me that faith is so much better than fear.

I had the faith to have the kids --I now need the faith to raise them. 

To all new mothers, mothers still having children, mothers who aren't sure whether or not to have more children --it's worth the sacrifice. I promise you, it's worth it.

It's hard, I know! The sleepless nights are brutal. You are, as I've said before many times, in the trenches. You're fighting a war against the world and against Satan as you co-create with your husband and God. You are defending your little ones against evil and against those who would harm their minds and spirits. You are doing the greatest work of all time!

Take courage. Time passes --it always passes. And when you get to the other side of child-bearing, and when you find yourself feeling a little more settled, and when you have some time to focus a little more on yourself (just a little, because let's be real, selfish motherhood is not good motherhood --now self-care? Whole different story!) --you will find that all your efforts, tears, fatigue, faith, and hope were worth it.

So, give yourself a hug, pat yourself on the back, and keep going. You are amazing!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Summer 2017 Update!

Time for another update! Here are the major highlights from our summer. Brace yourself for a lot of photos... 

The summer flew by at sonic speed, and here we are, back in school, already feeling jet-lagged by the routine. Our wonderful summer adventures included:

*Small family reunion in Lehi, Utah and Spanish Fork, Utah with my dad's family over July 1st weekend (Canada Day!)

*Large family reunion in Bear Lake, Utah (my mom's family)

*Large annual family camping trip (also a reunion) in Duck Creek, Utah (near Brian Head, up the mountain from Cedar City) --this was Brandon's mom's family...

*Seeing my BFF in person for the first time in 5 years! She lives far, far away in the Pacific Northwest...

#1 and #2 went to Girl's Camp:

We smelled the corpse flower on campus at KState --they've been waiting since 2002 for it to bloom! It was only open for just over 24 hours...

Brandon and I went to Nashville in June (he had a conference) and we had a great time. The highlight was The Bluebird Cafe! I found an old bookstore and we then drove to Louisville to attend the U2 concert!!! 

Piano recital for my students! And my kids (whom I don't actually teach, but I made them perform):

We got a canoe!

#1 got a job, her driver's license, and went to Peru with her Spanish class from school! 

#5 was Baptized! We got to have a lot of family visit for the occasion...

#1 and #2 are now both in high school (Junior and Freshman).

#3 turned 13, is in 8th grade, and he's playing football again, this year and got 12 stitches after hitting heads with another kid at the swimming pool...

#4, #5, and #6 are all in Elementary School together (5th, 3rd, and Kindergarten) and it is wonderful that they get to go to school together.

#7 is my at-home buddy!

Walter and Luthor (Louie) are finally BFF's.

Brandon is teaching another course this semester at KState (Business Strategy), while also still being the best Young Men's President of all time at Church, and working his full time job at LiveWatch. He also built some cool things in the last 6 months (our bed and some chairs).

My piano studio is off and running! Currently, I have 16 students, but I'm willing to take a few more. I know that sounds crazy, but I'm really, really happy about this. Not just for the extra income (that's definitely a plus), but because I am heavily involved in MAMTA, and I'm preparing to get my Master's in Music in the next few years. Also --I really love teaching! I just wish I had more time to practice, myself. That will have to change in the near future. Right now, I only grab 20 minutes here and there each day...

My parents are leaving on a mission next week!! They're going to the Salt Lake City Family History Library for 18 months. So, not far from where they currently live, but still, I'm really excited for them!

My dear, dear friend gave me her old jogging stroller that is in top condition (like, amazing condition!) and so #7 and I have gone walking (usually with my friend) a lot this last week. This is news because now I don't have any more excuses for outdoor walking exercise (not that I often avoid it --walking is my favorite!). Normally, I would walk in my local wilderness park, but with #7, I can't really do it the same. And that's okay, because I'll go when I can, and we have great walking sidewalks in our neighborhood...

My days look like this:
Up by 5:30AM to see the girls off to early morning seminary. Family scriptures (sans girls --hey, they're reading scriptures at seminary!) are at 6:30AM --all kids are gone for school by 8:10AM. Then, baby girl and I get to clean things, run errands, and on some days I have Institute (I'm taking an adult class and we're almost finished studying the book of Revelation. It is amazing!).

By 3PM, kids are starting to come home, and M,T,TH,F, I teach piano lessons after all my kids get home (I consciously made sure that my lessons don't interfere with the kids-coming-home-from-school crossroads and because of Mutual/Scouts, I don't teach Wednesdays). With Brandon's help, we're able to make sure everyone goes where they need to go (work, practice, lessons, dinner). By the time we get everyone settled in bed and the lights go out, it's usually after 10PM.

I have found time to:
*read my scriptures for 5 minutes every day
*exercise at least 5 days a week
*practice the piano
*do the dishes every night
*help the kids do their homework/practicing
*help the younger kids pack their lunches each day

And it's a friggin' miracle, folks. (Yes, I used the word, "friggin'." Sorry, mom!)

Because if you have known me for a long time, you will know that only a few short years ago (heck, the entire last decade!), I wasn't capable of doing these things consistently, or if I did, it was with a great big dose of whine.

I talked about it in my last post, but I'm so grateful for the progress I'm making!

TRUTH: It's not just my Depression. It's also that I'm on the other side of having babies. I'm going to write another post about this. At length. Aren't you so lucky?

And that's all!