Monday, February 08, 2016

Just Writing Out the Stress So I Won't Forget I Can Do Hard Things

Glimpse into what my life has been like for the last few weeks. Months? Anyway:

Monday morning at 3:45AM, husband leaves for airport. Depending upon the week, I will drive him, he will drive himself, or he'll have an uber pick him up. Just depends on our schedule and my exhaustion. Airport is only about 30 minutes away, so it's not too bad.
At 5:40AM, I get up, wake up the 12 (almost 13!) year old to go sleep on my bed so she's near the baby, grab some shoes and a coat and head out the door with our oldest. It takes about 10 minutes to drive her to seminary (not bad), and then 10 minutes back (of course). When I get back, #2 takes a shower and I usually nurse #7.
6:30AM, I wake up the kids for scriptures and prayers
All kids are gone by 8:10AM. Unless it's cello lesson day, and I drive the boys a bit later to school.
Then, depending on what's going on, I have the following daily: dishes, laundry, cat throw-up (okay, not every day, but he is getting older), errands, purging, cleaning, diapers, practicing the piano, nursings, tantrums, and food prep/cleanup. I also have commitments like doctor or dental appointments, visiting teaching, playgroup, service (watching kids or delivering things), and grocery shopping. And way too much time online. Because I get overwhelmed, shut down, procrastinate, and... anyway...
Kids start coming home at 2:45PM. From then until bedtime (between 8:30 and 9:30PM) it is homework, chores, dinner, last-minute errands, and chaos. Once everyone is in bed, I go to bed because who has time or the energy to stay up watching TV?!

Mondays, we have FHE in the evening. Tuesdays, we all drive to the church for mutual/scouts (we leave at 6:20PM and get home at 9:20ish PM). Wednesdays and Thursdays are great because we usually don't have evening commitments and so the kids can do chores and homework.
On Friday, I go and pick up Brandon at the airport (unless he drove) at 8PM and we have a quick dinner date afterwards.
Saturdays have been insane because there's always something going on. Recently there's been a play, a youth activity, temple day, birthday parties, and me trying to utilize my husband's presence while organizing the house. Soon there will be a fundraiser and all the parties (see below).
Sundays, my husband is gone to church by 6:30AM. Unless we have early choir practice, the kids and I don't have to be there until just before church starts (which is at 10AM). After church there is usually choir practice, or ward potluck. This month we've had/will have: Youth BYC and BYD and choir practice, ward potluck, feeding the Elders, and then... nothing! Whoah! Whoo-hoo! We might have a Sunday evening completely free! Huzzah!

And in the midst of all of this, Brandon and I are trying to buy a house, I'm trying to purge and clean our current house, I'm working with movers, trying to solidify moving dates, keep the baby from danger (she's almost walking and getting into everything!), try to be a semi-okay visiting teacher (I really suck at this), keep a marriage relationship going, try not to offend everyone I know (this is getting harder because apparently I am an offensive person), not emotionally damage my children too much (sigh), and celebrate FIVE birthdays. That's right! FIVE. #4 turns 9 today! #2 turns 13 on Thursday! #7 turns 1 on the 23rd! I turn 37 on the 26th! #6 turns 4 on March 2nd! I'm also throwing three parties --one for #2, one for #4, and goodbye party for #1. And hosting my mother and sister for about a week (which is really great because they are coming to help me! Yay!).

And if that wasn't enough, I volunteered (gladly) to play a piano solo in Sacrament Meeting this coming Sunday. I will admit this doesn't scare me too much --I love that I have an excuse to sit and practice the piano for a bit. I don't get to play very often at home...

Aaaaaand I've been forgetting so many things. I've been forgetting to call people back, answer texts, be a good friend, etc. etc. etc. --I feel like I'm letting everybody down.

Oh, and my cell phone died.

Yesterday, I finally let it all get to me. I was rude, tired, angry, crazy, awful, mean, short, sarcastic, weepy, and just down, down, down. I was done. My language, my attitude, and even my body was rebelling all over the place. I was yelling, screaming, crying, muttering, and whatever else a person does when they are over everything, and my poor family had to bear the brunt of it.

But, dear reader, how could I not be so frustrated? I've been running ragged for months. Just the fact that Brandon has been gone 4-5 days every single week (except Christmas) since the beginning of September is enough to make life difficult. Add in all of the above and, well... I think I deserve a moment to murmur a bit.

But I think I'm finished with the murmuring. I don't like who I am when I give into the stress and I don't like how I treat other people. I love my friends and neighbors and ward members, I adore my husband, I treasure my children, and I love myself! I think I'm pretty great. I've been praying a lot this morning to eradicate self-pity and to be given the strength to get through this move one day at a time. Therefore and soforth and whatwith, I will do my best to stay strong, tell satan to go back to hell, and I'm going to try to enjoy (as much as possible) these last few months in Pennsylvania. I don't want people to be glad to see me go. ;)

Wish me luck.

P.S. Sometimes, I've been told that the solution to my stress is to just start saying "No" to everything, not realizing that I say "No way" to a lot of things already. I don't volunteer in my children's schools (like, at all), my kids don't take lessons or do sports outside of school, I only say "yes" to inquiries for help when I want to do it, and my house is a constant mess. If I started to say "No" to what is left, I would have a really crappy life. I chose to have these kids and marry the man I did. And we're choosing a new situation that will give us a better family life at this point! Moving to Kansas might be difficult (every move is hard), but the pros outweigh the cons by a landslide --just having my husband home for dinner every night will be enough.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Impending Move is All I Think About Right Now

Dear reader! Guess what? It was about the 20th one we walked through, but it looks like we've got a house! Huzzah!

The miracle happened thusly: On Thursday of last week, Brandon FaceTimed with me as he went through some houses with our realtor. Nothing felt right. While I was looking for an address for Brandon on realtor.com (and hoping to find anything newly listed), I saw a new house that had just been listed the night before. It looked promising and the price was shocking because it seemed it would have cost more, but it was smack dab in the middle of our pre-approved budget. I sent it to our realtor and he got Brandon an appointment for the next morning. I figured it would be too good to be true; the pictures got me excited, but you can't ever go off of pictures because either they will make the house look better than it is, or it will make the house look worse than it is. Friday morning, Brandon and our realtor again FaceTimed with me (first with another house that was pretty great and then with the new listing). Dear reader, the newly listed house was 10 times better than the photos! We honestly couldn't believe it. Granted, it didn't have everything we had dreamed of (what house that you don't build yourself does?), but it had all of the things that we felt we had to have. We decided right then and there to make an offer --we got the offer in by noon before Brandon had to fly back to Philly. The owner accepted our offer and signed the contract before 5PM!

We're doing inspections soon, but barring any unforeseen problems, it looks like we'll close mid-March. We're planning on pulling out about the last week of March, so this is very, very good. Any prayers you offer in our behalf that our house purchase will go smoothly will be very much appreciated, dear reader! Once everything is finalized, I'll tell you more about the house, and share a photo (probably after we move). Okay, okay, I'll tell you a little bit.

Although it was built in the 1970's, it feels more like it was built in the 1870's (the inside). It was really well built and is very traditional --in fact, all the dark wood (not paneling!) is pretty popular right now. And the exterior is a beautiful brick. But the greatest part of the house is that it will fit all 9 of us comfortably! And it literally has everything that was so important to me: a bigger kitchen with an island, a large laundry room with a folding counter, and a tub in the master bathroom. Extras: back deck, fireplaces, loads of closet space, and an open dining/living room area. It also reminds me of PA homes (not as boxy as Colonial homes, but the inside look and feel of them).

I'm really in love with the house, it was in our budget, and I'm grateful for this miracle! God is really mindful of us, dear reader. I have no doubt this happened the way it was supposed to. And if something horrible happens (knock on wood) and we don't get the house (more wood knocking), I'll let you know and we can all cry together.

-------------------

I've been thinking a lot about this impending move (go figure) and I have to say that I'm actually looking forward to it. Not because I won't miss Pennsylvania and the wonderful people here (trust me, I will miss it --especially the people), but because I'm really excited for what awaits us. Here are some of the things I'm looking forward to:

1. Brandon's job will be about 5-6 minutes away. This is the MOST important part!
2. Church will be 6-7 minutes away. Wha?! We've gotten so used to church being a half hour drive that I can't imagine how amazing it will be to have the church so close. Our stake center, however, is an hour away... and the temple is two hours away... so it won't be anything like Utah or something, but it's still pretty great!
3. Cost of living. Boy howdy, this will be such a great part of it. For this reason, we're able to buy a house instead of rent, and hopefully things like utilities will be less expensive. We also won't be having to drive such long distances as often (well, maybe not --I guess the temple and Costco are really far away, but church, schools, activities, etc. are much closer together), so we'll save money on gas (although what is this current awesomeness of having gas be under $2!? I feel like I'm in college again!).
4. Closer to family. Instead of being 4 days away, it's more like 1 1/2 to 2 days. My parents are already planning a family reunion in Kansas this summer!
5. Safe streets where my kids can ride bikes and we can walk. In our community here, we can't do this because there aren't even shoulders on the roads. We pretty much have to drive everywhere outside of our neighborhood.
6. I'm not a farm girl (I wasn't raised on a farm) and I'm not a ranch girl (I wasn't raised on a ranch), but I'm a small town girl who was raised near farms and ranches! And I would be lying if I didn't say that Kansas feels like home. Because it does! It's very comfortable for me.
7. The chance to purge my house again. Ha! ;)

I've decided to be merciless with the purging this time. Only the essentials are coming with us and I'm not going to be hauling junk or trash into our new home. This means a lot of recycling and donating will be happening! Maybe some selling, too. It's so freeing to just get rid of the stuff that simply clutters up our lives. I've shredded so many documents and I already have four large boxes of recycling (HUGE boxes).

Considering the fact that we are prepping for another move during birthday month (we have five birthdays in the next four weeks, and we've moved during this time of year two other times), I have a very busy calendar. Why I'm sitting here blogging is beyond me... I sometimes wish I could just say no to everything, pull my kids out of school, and just get the house finished. But we have to live in it, live our lives, fulfill our obligations, and of course, some genius promised her kids last year, when there was a baby being born, that this year, they could have friend birthday parties... how was I to know we'd be moving!? And, fortunately for them, I like to keep my promises when I can, not to mention the good closure they'll receive by having a final party/get-together with their PA friends. So, I shall do it! I shall do it, and it shall be fun! Successful! Wonderfully wonderful!

Well, dear reader, I've bored you enough. Have a lovely week!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Miniature Miracles in Manhattan (see what I did there?)

The miracle I was hoping for this past weekend didn't reveal itself in the way I thought it was supposed to. I had prayed that we would find the right house for our family while I was in Manhattan, but it was not meant to be. We walked through 12 homes, and at one point, we decided to put an offer on the best choice (although neither of us felt 100% that it was the right place) and we found out that two other buyers were already in a bidding war over it. Since we don't have time for that, we decided not to offer. Perhaps we weren't supposed to, eh?

We'll find the right place for us, I'm sure of it. Where and when? Hopefully where we need to be and hopefully very, very soon! Brandon will have to work closely with our real estate agent to find something and I'll just have to be informed with a lot of FaceTime tours of houses. ;)



So, the miracle I had hoped for did not happen. At least, I don't think it's happened...  But there were many other miracles, dear reader! Maybe not tremendous ones, but tender mercies of the Lord, nonetheless.

*I felt at peace and at home while driving around Manhattan. It is both larger than I thought it would be, and smaller than I thought it would be. It may not have a Costco, but it has a mall, super Walmart, and Target! It has a KState, a military base not too far away, a beautiful reservoir, rolling hills, lots of trees, a variety of many restaurants, walking and hiking trails, kind people, a lot of large families, many churches, two LDS wards, safe neighborhoods, beautiful sunsets, and it reminded me of Idaho, in a way. I think we'll do just fine!


*We attended both wards on Sunday. (It was just Brandon, me, and #7.) One ward started at 9AM and the other was at 1PM, and we went to just Sacrament Meeting of both. We were hoping we would feel prompted as to which ward we should live in, but both felt great! In that way, there's no pressure of location as we search for a house. And everyone was really friendly!

*The flights were probably the most noticeable miracles of all. I had the baby with me, and as we know, not everyone is super excited to be sitting next to a baby on a flight. These were short flights, but even an hour next to a child can make people upset. I had window seats for every leg (2 there, 2 home), and on the first flight, as I sat there, waiting to see who would sit down, I hoped it was going to be somebody kind. Turns out, it was a woman who lives not too far from me, who was a grandmother, who was, along with her husband, one her way to see their grandchildren! She was delighted to sit next to us. And sweet baby girl was so good for the whole flight!

The second leg I was toward the front of the plane and I was relieved when another older couple sat next to me. The wife pulled out her iPad and started showing me pictures of their grandchildren! I learned he was a Methodist Bishop (Minister? I forget the correct term, so my apologies) and is retiring in a few months. They were so kind!

On the way home, the first leg had me in the back of the plane again. Most of that flight was filled with businessman, so I was a little concerned, but lo and behold, a woman about my mother's age sat next to me and was so excited to meet baby girl. She and I ended up talking the whole flight; she is a wife of an Episcopalian Minister, and I discovered she grew up in Manhattan. Not only that, but her childhood home is for sale, she knows the owner really well, she gave me all of his contact info, we exchanged information, and then after the flight, we ended up going to the same connecting terminal, and so she bought me lunch (so kind!) and we parted as our flights were boarding. Wow! It was amazing to make a friend so easily.

The last leg home had me toward the front again, and this time it was a kind couple who kept to themselves and were more than delighted to have sweet baby girl near them. Baby and I slept a lot on that leg, and I was proud of her for being so good. Truthfully, she was an angel with the whole weekend! The only times she got really upset was when we were in the car longer than she wanted and then again when I was driving from the airport to home.


There was one other miracle, and it's only very subtle. We celebrated our anniversary together (mostly looking at houses and with some Thai take-out), and really, our marriage is one of the greatest and most important miracles. Not because we've ever been on the verge of divorce (we really haven't) and not because somehow it's a miracle he ever married me (sometimes I wonder... ;) ) but because marriage  --especially a temple marriage -- is a sacred thing. The covenants made in a temple sealing/marriage are very serious! And we take them very seriously. That's part of the miracle --with how we treat each other and how we honor our covenants. Those things, together, have a lasting effect.

I've seen too many people who don't really believe this. They see marriage as just a phase, or something you do because everyone does it, or a convenience to have a companion for a little while. Serial divorce can be a real thing, you know. I've also seen many friends quietly and even brutally abused by their husbands. One of my friends was murdered in front of her 8 children by her husband! I've seen women abandoned, emotionally manipulated, humiliated, and physically assaulted at the hands of the men who vowed to protect and provide for them, and their husbands THINK they are keeping covenants, when honestly, they're breaking Every. Single. One. (And yes, I know some women who have abandoned their families, too, but they are truly in the minority...)  

So, there's the miracle! I have an imperfect husband who loves an imperfect me; we worship together, work together, raise our children together, plan our future together, and he respects me, I respect him, and we have a mutual love and friendship that helps our relationship grow and adapt as life throws new adventures and trials our way. 17 years really isn't that long of a time, but because of all the good I've seen in 17 years, it makes me excited for the rest of our lives! Our marriage is a modern miracle and it's one I hope for everyone.


(Here's a blog post about our wedding day. If you love hearing about weddings. Like I do...! )

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Big Changes are Afoot!

I love change. Autumn is my favorite season because of the glorious changes that take place... green makes way to vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, and the leaves fall one by one as the trees anticipate cold and white. I also adore spring! Cold and white make way for flowers and rain. Change is beautiful! I like the changes from holiday to holiday, the kids starting school, the kids getting out of school, meeting new people, traveling to new places, watching children and friends grow...

But change is also very hard for my physically and psychologically. New babies, although wanted more than anything, can wreak havoc with my hormones, and I physically have to anticipate backslides in my mental health. Other big changes -- like when we moved here to Pennsylvania just over two years ago --can be very difficult. For almost the first full year after moving here, I gained nearly 40 pounds and found myself lost, confused, shy (that's not me!), and I had zero confidence. But my entire second year in PA has been very, very different! I've talked about this before, but this past year has seen a significant upswing in my overall health. I'm motivated, confident, calm, accepting, and feel like myself, again. 

The last few days before I got married, nearly 17 years ago (this Saturday!), I felt really happy. I was marrying this wonderful man, the wedding plans had gone well, everything was in place and I felt pretty calm. At least I thought I did? Well, suddenly, the day before, I broke out in a huge rash all over my neck. It was so bad that we had to try and use makeup to cover it up for the wedding. Crazy! I realized I had been keeping my stress locked away and my physical body had exhibited it somehow. It makes sense --when we don't confront or let go of our negative emotions (anger, stress, depression, frustration, worry, etc.), our body has to absorb them somehow. In this instance, it was a rash. Last week? It was insomnia. 

I've had insomnia off and on for the last month. I've never really struggled with insomnia before --usually I fall asleep quickly because I need so much of it! If I'm tired, it's because of nursing babies... Anyway, insomnia was an indication of some inward stress. I had a lot of thinking, praying, pondering, wondering, and some worrying to do... because it's kind of a big deal, dear reader. Well, not life or death big, not divorce big, not new baby big.. just... big. 

We're moving. 

Again!

By April 1st, 2016. Yes, that's in less than three months (which, funnily enough, is the longest time I've ever had to move from one place to another! UT to PA was just over 2 months. UT to CA was only 3 weeks!!).

And it's not a bad thing! It's actually very, very good. Brandon has accepted a job with a company that has been his client for some time. The position is fairly stable, cost of living is drastically reduced, and best of all --Brandon won't have to travel 5 days a week anymore! We'll be a family again.. together again. 

Oh, where are we going? It's actually kind of funny, but I'm sure you can guess. Where am I going this weekend? Where has he been for the past 5 months? Well, dear reader, we're moving to northeastern Kansas.


Can you believe it!? I can't! Never in my life did I ever imagine we would be living in Kansas. Kansas?! Just like Pennsylvania, Kansas was just never on my (or Brandon's) radar! We're from the west. We lived in Utah, we lived in California... we're from Idaho and California... We would travel up and down the I-15 from San Diego to southern Alberta, but I don't think we ever seriously thought we'd move back East. And now the Midwest? Well, why not! We've lived in the mountains, on the Pacific, on the Atlantic, so why not on the beautiful prairie? It's kind of exciting!


Our kids are having a hard time with the announcement, especially our older girls. We struggled for a long time about when and how to tell them. Moving was always easier when the kids were younger because, well, they were younger! Sure, they had friends and it wasn't always easy, but their lives weren't fully their own, yet. #1 is in high school, now, and as we all know, that is a really tough time to be moving around! But others have done it, and she can do it, and I have no doubts that she will be able to thrive in her new environment if she chooses to do so. We've been blessed with a large family and our kids have each other to lean on, and what a blessing that is! To have people who love you and understand you and will let you lean on them a bit while you mourn the loss of a life you thought you were going to lead...

I am also sad, too. It's a mixture of excitement, sadness, mourning, faith, and determination, really. I have made some of the greatest friends here in PA; our ward is wonderful and I'm truly going to miss almost everything about this place. It's hard not to feel like we're leaving our ward with some holes to fill --I know that sounds arrogant, but Brandon is in the Bishopric, our son is one of only two cub scouts, and our daughter is currently one of only two Beehives. Musical talent is strong, but piano players who can sight read and accompany on demand are few... We were needed, you know? Perhaps we're needed in Kansas, now... Anyway, I've been blessed to call Pennsylvania my home and I will always cherish our time here. I've grown here (astronomically!) and we had our sweet baby girl, here. We'll have to come back and visit! Especially when the Philadelphia Temple open house and dedication happen... 

When I join Brandon tomorrow in Kansas, we're going house-hunting. Please pray for us that we can find the right house for our family and be able to find it quickly. I would really appreciate it! 

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Miracles

Tender mercies (see also: small miracles, testaments my prayers are heard and my insignificance matters) from this morning:

1. Brandon had to fly to Kansas, and so he was gone by 4AM. This means I'm running #1 to seminary all week (no big deal, I do it often). Usually, I try to do it while all the other kids remain asleep and ignorant to us leaving, but sometimes, baby girl wakes up and I take her with us instead of making one of the other big kids wake up to watch her (they need sleep!). This morning was especially cold (10 degrees!), and so I didn't want to take her if I could help it. But she woke up right at 5:40AM... I started nursing her, and then five minutes later #1 came in to make sure I was up. I asked her to go start the van and that I'd be there as soon as I could. I said a prayer because I just didn't know what to do. Baby girl has been up a lot the last few nights and I knew she needed sleep more than she needed a quick trip in the cold in the van to seminary. But I couldn't leave her on my nice, warm bed because she's old enough now that it's unsafe (i.e. if she woke up, she'd roll/crawl, and thereby, fall) and when I try to put her in her bed (yes, still in our room) before she's ready, she will cry and wake up and fuss and we're back to square one. So I prayed. And then unlatched her and gently put her in her bed where she stirred and... went back to sleep. Immediately. Huzzah! I made sure she was safe and warm and then hurried down to drive #1 to seminary. And when I returned? All were still soundly asleep. Small? Yes. Big deal to me? Very.


2. For the past two years I have really struggled with being the kind of mother I want to be, and most of it stems from my own cruddy sense of self-despair (mental illness. Whatever). I'm also lazy. But the laziness is a by-product. Anyway, usually, I will get the kids up for scriptures and prayers, then sit on the couch and yell instructions for the rest of the time they need to get ready to go to school. If Brandon is around, I will... still sit on the couch and yell instructions. Usually he's working by then... Okay, sure, occasionally I'll get up and find a coat or make a sandwich, but for a while, they've pretty much been on their own. And I justified it, saying, "well, golly, these kids need to learn independence and how to make a lunch!" or "I'm exhausted because I've been up all night with a baby (or I'm pregnant) and up early and I'm so lucky to not have a job outside the home so whoo-hoo! I can sit here and not move my butt all the day long until absolutely necessary!" You get the idea. Well, I am happy to say that for the past two mornings (two in a ROW!), I have not sat on the couch and yelled instructions (much). I've make breakfast for the younger kids. I've helped find things for the older kids. I've made the younger kids' lunches. I've begun morning chores or sent emails, written in my journal, and read my scriptures (actually, I usually read my scriptures after the seminary run and before I wake the kids up for family scriptures, so that's not new). And today, as I watched my very insulated, warm little boys toddle off (I swear, they still look like toddlers to me) to the bus stop, I was happy and grateful. Happy I have some of my self-control back again, and grateful I have these kids to take care of...

3. This reminds me of the biggest miracle occurring in my life right now. It's the culmination of several thousand small miracles that happen all the time (and for years and years) and they have added up to a very great big miracle: a deep sense of peace. Peace and calm. It's the undercurrent to my days right now and I'm savoring every second of it! Peace is not something that has been with me very often, because I've been plagued with a lot of doubt, fear, despair, and real pain. And I'm beginning to feel the Light more and more in my life, and each time I let that light in, pieces of the old me slip away into the outlying darkness... I've been pondering why this is happening (and why now?), and I think it's for a myriad of reasons:
A. Long term psychiatric care and therapy
B. The appropriate medication dosages
C. Faithful study, prayer, church-going, covenant-cleaving, fasting, seeking-out-good-books, and knowledge-hoarding
D. Energy healing (I'm new to this and I'm a huge, huge fan)
E. A husband who keeps trying to understand and makes the effort to help
F. Good, good friends; friends who talk me down, who understand and validate, who call me out, and who love me
G. Eradicating toxic relationships and people from my life --some completely, some partially. Re-establishing boundaries and letting go of impossible friendships that only existed in my mind as well as co-dependency
H. Attending the temple and reading my Patriarchal blessing
I. Seeking a more personal relationship with my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by constant repentance
J. Learning to love my physical body the way it is; realizing the joy of eating healthy or exercising (still working on it, though) is found through genuine self-respect and has nothing to do with weight, size, or the mirror.
K. Embracing agency and realizing it's not just for external choices, but for internal ones as well
L. Attempting real charity. I say attempting because although I love people, I serve people, I volunteer, I help, etc. I cannot say I have the pure love of Christ toward all men, yet.

It's a long list, I know. And it's on-going! Although I did start doing these things one at a time, I'm now currently doing them all at once...

And some people would look at this list and think, "seriously? What is the point?" And I could tell you this: the point is for a deep, constant, undercurrent of peace, calm, safety, assurance, and hope. That no matter what challenges are thrown my way, it doesn't push me off-center, nor does it spiral my soul into despair. I'm not worried about things the way I used to be. I don't yell nearly as much, I'm not as angry, I don't have unrealistic expectations for myself and for my kids --nor for my husband (that one is huge, dear reader). That is the miracle! This peace that keeps me centered! The Light of Christ, pulsing in my core, the remembrance that I am a daughter of God and I have a job to do here on Earth, and that job includes finding Him again and again and again...

I'm not cured. My mental illness is not eradicated completely. But! For the first time in... wow, I can't even remember... I feel like myself, again. And not the self that was back "before" (before kids, before marriage, before college, before puberty, before birth??), but the self that IS. That EXISTS. I feel like ME. An unapologetic, messy, Christ-needing, happy, hopeful me! Cheryl!

Isn't that an amazing miracle? Honestly, I'm sitting here, thinking about how I'm going to go upstairs and clean bathrooms, purge closets and dressers, clean and clean and clean... and I'm not going to be angry I have to do it. I won't bemoan my inability to stay as organized as so-and-so. I'm not going to be angry with my kids for being kids. I'm not going to be upset with my little ones that will interrupt me several times. And if I am upset? If I do get angry? I'll repent and then try again. No ending of the world, no falling apart! Just me, being me, choosing to do my part and live up to my privileges and responsibilities. How cool is that?!

Ah, dear reader. God is good. I'm grateful I know who He is every day of my life.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Year of the Pause (and I taught myself to play the cello!)

Hello, beautiful new year! It's sunny here in Philadelphia (okay, okay, West Chester), and although it's cold, we still have not been blessed with any snow this winter. Isn't that crazy? And cool? Our last two winters have been pretty brutal, so I will admit the reprieve is nice.

Christmas was simple and wonderful! We spent the entire week afterward being lazy and slow; reading, playing games, eating too much sugar, watching TV (when it was working), and staying up way too late. New Year's Eve was also very boring (just quiet and at home), and I wouldn't have changed a thing. It's nice to have a few weeks where we aren't running around here and there. I feel we do that all the time --there's always something scheduled and something to do and something we're late for and something we have to schedule around --and so when we get some time to just be still, it's rejuvenating.

New stuff:
*I taught myself how to play the cello on #4's cello! He's been struggling with wanting to practice and asking me to help, and I used the excuse that I didn't know how to play a stringed instrument, until I realized I have always wanted to play a stringed instrument, so what in the world was I doing not attempting to play the cello??? So, I sat down with his little (medium) cello and taught myself. And I love it! I may have to practice daily, myself. And now I'm ahead of the little guy, so I can genuinely help him in all his cellist pursuits! In fact, seeing me play the cello and asking him questions (how do I hold the bow, again?) really gave him a boost of confidence and he played a beautiful rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" (or as #6 calls it, "ABCD") last night.

*#6 started Sunbeams which means for the first time in... gosh, 13 years? we don't have a kid in the nursery. It's so weird! We only have to wait 7 1/2 months until #7 goes into nursery...

*I backed into the mailbox with our massive van in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. I felt like an idiot and may have sworn a bit too much (according to my daughter). I also may have stood out in the rain in my bare feet in the mud trying to right the thing or at least get it ready to be fixed, and I may or may not have been doing that when Brandon came home and saw me and laughed his head off and made me come into the house. And then the day after Christmas, he fixed the mailbox. :)

*My husband gave me approximately 3 gifts for Christmas and I love them. The first is my yearly calendar for the wall in the kitchen and I actually don't have it, yet, it's in the mail... The second is a journal and it is not any particular journal, it is a Novel Journal and mine is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice! What this means is that it looks like an ordinary journal, except that the lines one writes on are the tiny, tiny words of the entire novel. Isn't that fun? And what's even better is that I'm writing again! The third gift was a large print of this painting:

She Will Find What is Lost by Brian Kershisnik 

I've been wanting it for a long time because, obviously, it speaks to me. I say obviously because first, I'm a woman. Second, I believe in angels. Third, I believe those angels are my ancestors and future progeny. Fourth, I have mental illness. Fifth, I feel deep hope whenever I look upon it. Sixth, I love art. Seventh, and finally, it's just a great painting! I was really excited to finally have a copy. I'm buying a frame for it, today!

*In my family we rotate names for Christmas. For example, this year, I had my brother's family, and my other brother had our family. They gave us a great box full of board games (love them!). But my sister decided to go ahead and break the rules by making me a gift with the help of my husband. It's something I've also wanted for a long time and the canvas print should be here next week! The roots are ancestors and the trunk is my husband/me. The branches are our children...


*Brandon travels 4-5 days a week, now. He has a long-term client in Kansas and a short-term one in Washington D.C. It's hard, but it's income! And the Kansas clients are really great to work with, so the travel isn't something he dreads. I'm going to go to Kansas with him in a few weeks so we can have a sort of getaway for our anniversary. Baby girl is coming with us, so it won't be as carefree, but it's still better than nothing! And I've never been to Kansas or Missouri before, so it'll be great to travel there just for the heck of it.

*My goal this month is to treat the house the way I treated it last January when nesting was kicked into high gear --purging and cleaning! I'm not sure if I'll have to same motivation I had when I was pregnant, but I'm sure going to fake it until I make it. It's amazing how quickly disorganization and clutter creep in when I'm not on top of it (which is, like, every day). Wish me luck!

*I've read 8 books in the last few weeks and I have 5 more on my list...

*Our family's new year goal for 2016 is thusly:


I'm gonna need to honor it most humbly!

Happy New Year, dear reader!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Book Review: "He Delivered Even Me, He Will Deliver Even You" by Misti Stevenson

I just finished reading Misti Stevenson's book, He Delivered Even Me, He Will Deliver Even You . (I had promised to review this book and have a post up by today, and even though I'm cutting it close, I made it!)

When I was asked to review this book, I was a little suspicious. My friend said it was a "book about mental illness" and I think she thought I might be interested because of my struggles. I have to admit, though, that I haven't been very excited lately to discuss mental illness, not even with my own therapist! I've been in a good place for a while, but I'm far from healed... However, I relented and they sent me the book.

I'm really grateful I relented.



This book is about the author's own struggle with OCD, depression, and anxiety. For nearly 26 years, she struggled with her mental illness and against dysfunctional belief systems. She chronicles how she came to have these mental illnesses and what she did before she was healed from them. Healed? Yes, healed! And I found the entire process similar to my own, except with one glaring fact: I am not healed. Yet. (And I have a lot of work to do!)

I'll admit that as I read her book, I was annoyed at times with her story. I was angered at some of the things she went through and even some of the choices she made. I was angry at her parents, I was even angry at her husband (who is a very good man). I was annoyed with some of the ways she writes (which has nothing to do with her story), and I found myself really irritable with the book. When I would find myself getting angry or annoyed, I reminded myself that I was writing this for a review, and I would keep reading. You may be thinking, "Ah, so this is a negative review." But you would be wrong, dear reader!

Each time I was angry or irritated or annoyed, I realized it wasn't at the author or her story, it was at me. I was annoyed with my own weaknesses. I was irritated at my mental illness. I was angry that I have not yet been healed of it. In fact, aside from the OCD, I relate to Misti Stevenson very closely. Not her upbringing, but just the result of her negative thought patterns. As she would describe different aspects of her life --watching her life pass by and not really living it --I felt keenly what she felt because I feel it, too! The patterns she fell into were also familiar --the negative thoughts, the influence of Satan, the lack of energy to fight all the time...

But I think what I loved the most about her story was the fact that throughout all of it, she stayed very close to God. She had the ability to recognize that she would not be able to fight her demons without Jesus Christ and His gospel. She saw the need for His priesthood, for covenants, for her eternal marriage, the scriptures, and especially prayer. And because she did this --because she kept the Holy Ghost close to her as much as possible --she was led to find the healing she needed.

I have been told by many people inside and outside of the LDS Church that mental illness cannot be overcome by faith, just as physical illness cannot be overcome by faith. Those attitudes have led people away from the gospel as they seek for other resources and ways to be healed. Some have told me I just need medication all of my life. Others say I just need some good therapy or a good change of diet. I've never felt comfortable with those thought processes because I know Jesus Christ can heal all things. He must be a part of it. He can heal mental illness just as easily as physical illness! The blind to see, but the mind not to feel joy? The lame to walk, the dead to rise --but not the mind to have peace? That doesn't make sense to me. So I was so grateful to find someone who embraced her faith and tightened her grip on the iron rod instead of loosening it as she struggled forward to find mental healing.

This could be a book about how that faith healed her, and in part, it is, but I think it's important to point out exactly what the author did with that faith. She found help! She didn't just find it in the scriptures; she got on her knees and then she got up and worked hard. Very hard. She saw therapists, counselors, Bishops, took medications and herbal supplements, exercised, and did energy healing. She wrote in hundreds of journals, prayed, received priesthood blessings, and sought personal revelation constantly. In essence, (spoiler alert!) she did the work as far as she was able (for decades) and the Lord did the rest.

And she gives all the credit to Him.

I believe this book has come to me in a time when I would be ready for it. I needed to read about Misti's journey and I believe it's because I'm ready for the next steps in my own. Will my path be the same as hers? Probably not. But her testimony has strengthened mine, and I hope that whatever comes next in my own battle with mental illness, I will be able to use what I've learned from her to help myself. So, thank you, Misti, for writing this book!

Misti Stevenson
From the last chapter of He Delivered Even Me, He Will Deliver Even You: 

"I know that at the end of this book I can't honestly say, "And she lived happily ever after." I sill live in the same dangerous and stressful world that we all do. I still must endure to the end. Yes, I have been delivered from my deepest abyss, yet mortal life is still mortal. I still at times expect too much of my kids, get frustrated with my husband, bemoan all the laundry I have to do, and most especially have a keen sense of all my inadequacies. My journey has not ended, yet the journey is exciting now."

and

"I will leave you with my favorite scripture. Mosiah 29:30 --"He did deliver them because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him he did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him." He delivered even me. He will deliver even you."

Friday, December 04, 2015

Book Review: "Heir to Edenbrooke: A Prequel Novelette" by Julianne Donaldson

I have been a fan of Jane Austen and the romance of the Regency era (as found in novels) for most of my life. However, I am fairly selective in the works that I read, and any time a novel claims to be a historical romance a la Jane Austen, I have high expectations. It's not just enough for the book to have historical regency accuracy or clean, tension-filled romance --the writing has to be solid. The character development needs to be believable, the plot needs to flow, I need to laugh, and there cannot be any modern social mores unrealistically inserted for the author's own personal agenda. (Longbourn, anyone?)

I remember very clearly the first time I picked up Julianne Donaldson's debut novel, Edenbrooke. I had read raving reviews (she won two Whitney Awards), but I still wasn't sold. What hooked me was how it was described on the cover:  "A Proper Romance." Ah! That is something I could support. I gladly read it, and it has, quite honestly, become one of my favorite novels!  I have read it several times, since (as well as Donaldson's other novel, Blackmoore). I was impressed because Donaldson fulfilled every one of my expectations for a regency romance.

As luck would have it, she has written a short eBook novelette that gives fans of Edenbrooke (like me!) a glimpse into the mind of Marianne's love interest (and hero), Sir Phillip. It is called Heir to Edenbrooke: A Prequel Novelette.

I was excited to read this short prequel, and Donaldson did not disappoint! As Edenbrooke is written entirely from Marianne's point of view, I found it enlightening and enjoyable to read more about Phillip from his perspective --his past, his relationship with his older brother, his feelings on inheriting, and why he was running away from Edenbrooke the night he met Marianne. I found myself going back and forth between the novel and the novelette throughout Marianne and Phillip's first conversation, and the dairy maid part was even funnier from his viewpoint! What I found lovely was that the consistency in what they said matched the consistency of their characters throughout the book. It was also just fun to go back to Edenbrooke in a new way, even for a short time.


Of course, I would highly recommend you first read Edenbrooke before reading Heir to Edenbrooke, as it gives away some plot points. Some of the most important revelations in the novel come because Marianne cannot read Phillip's mind, but even if you choose to read the novelette before the novel, I promise you will find it quite entertaining.

(My only negative reaction to the novelette was that it was entirely too short! But I guess the term "novelette" should have tipped me off...)

To order the eBook Heir to Edenbrooke (only $3.99!), go to any site eBooks are sold.
To view Julianne Donaldson's website and find where you can purchase Edenbrooke (or Blackmoore), go here.

Monday, November 30, 2015

December Starts Tomorrow and Other Obvious Truths

I'm still here. Somewhat.

Life goes on... Brandon is working in Kansas and D.C. 4 days a week, we had Thanksgiving here with friends (which was great!), the world is still in turmoil, the kids still don't do chores willingly, I'm still having good days and bad days, and Christmas is coming! The last one makes me happy.

I hate terrorists and the fact people are seriously considering Donald Trump as a viable (or even desirable) candidate. I've lost confidence in all the Republican candidates and I can't stand any of the Democratic ones.

Let's see... good news... good news...

I've signed up to be on my friend's Portland to Coast walk relay team! Remember when I did it back in 2011? I'm doing it again in 2016! I'm excited and terrified all at once because I haven't consistently exercised in two solid years. Why? The why's don't matter. All that matters is now I need to get myself going! Weight loss will finally not be the motivating factor.

In fact, weight loss is not really on my mind, anymore, and hasn't been since before I got pregnant. When I conceived #7, I weighed a whopping 252 pounds (more or less). I was a size 20. I had never been that large before and it was a direct result from my mental problems at the time. And I was very aware about my weight, and I was very aware about how I felt. However, and miraculously --a tender mercy, maybe? --I ended up losing 10 pounds before I gave birth. Isn't that crazy? People ask how I did it (as if I followed some regimen whilst incubating my daughter), and the truth is I didn't do anything. What happened was that I got sick. I felt weak and nauseated a lot, I couldn't eat much, I didn't crave sugar (much), and then I had horrendous gall stones that put me in the hospital 4 weeks before her due date. I then ate an almost strictly fat-free diet for 6 weeks so I wouldn't have another attack, and that's how I lost those 10 pounds. I don't recommend it to anyone! Ever! It was awful! Then I gave birth to a 9 pound baby... and by the time she was 6 weeks old, I weighed 220 pounds. I now weigh 214. I'm a size 16. I'm sure I'll continue to lose weight. Why? I'm not sure. I don't track what I eat, but I do eat according to how I feel. Some days I forget to eat altogether, and others I eat more than I should. I'm way more flabby than I should be, though --I need to build up my muscle and I need to do it soon. Not so I can lose weight, though, or look better, but so I can have the capacity to do the PTC relay and so my bones don't start breaking before I'm 50! I need to build muscle so I can have a better quality of life.

Irony: Even with my flabby, semi-big, bore-7-children body, I'm happier with how I look now than I ever have been in my life. I love my body, my face, my hair, and who I am!

I remember when I weighed 215 pounds back in 2007 and I thought I was morbidly obese. I worked my tail off to get down to 168 pounds and was at my peak physically (running 4 miles a day). All I thought about was how I looked compared to other people. I worried constantly I would get fat again. And I was miserable and didn't enjoy my amazing new-found health. That self-fulfilling prophecy came true and I gained all that weight and more back (also gained three more kids!), but it was good for me to experience this. I imagine I'll lose more weight eventually, but it's not the focus of my life. I'm working on other more important things -- like how to schedule in the exercise and keep the house in better order.

Other good news...

#1 has some of her art displayed at a local mall (it's the school district's temporary gallery). Isn't she amazing?:



#2 has the part of Scuttle in the middle school's play, "Little Mermaid, Jr." and she's so excited

#3 is getting pretty good grades and is building a fort outside.

#4 started cello lessons (how long ago did I write? did you know this?) and has an expander in his mouth to get him ready for braces

#5 can read books!

#6 is still adorable and lispy

#7 is crawling, pulling herself up to stand, and has 7 teeth.

Brandon shaves his mustache tomorrow! I loved him in a beard, and his long stache for "Movember" was actually kind of fun, but it'll be nice to get his face back. Although, I don't know... I totally understand the appeal of the beard, now... ;)

Christmas will be here at home with just us (so nice) and I'm close to finishing shopping and getting newsletters sent out. I'm hoping we'll get snow eventually. Not power-outage snow... maybe school cancelling snow... December is a nice time for snow and I'm glad it's been really mild this last month!

I have two book reviews coming up for the blog, dear reader. Isn't that crazy? I haven't done a review for such a long time and I'm really looking forward to it. One is about mental illness and another is a regency romance. Huzzah! Two subjects I feel quite in interest in (not to mention a tad obsessed with one).

I hope you have a glorious week, dear reader. Stay positive and remember to think of positive things. God loves you!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Moments of Choice by CSS

Moments of Choice

These moments are ones I cherish. Without irony or 
Abuse of the word;
The ones where the house smells of apple 
And is vacuumed.

All of the children are home and I am in the 
Kitchen, cooking dinner, hearing: 
Laughter from outside, 
Tutoring math problems upstairs,
Baby giggles,
Peace. 

The separation between Depression and Light
Is only found in these tiny moments of 
Choice -- 
Decision --
The power of Agency, which seem so simple and 
Yet, 
Those dark weights blur the lines until I am only capable
To wonder:

Do I care about this; do I want to? 

I can't move, I can't decide, I can't wonder, I can't decide. I can't, I can't... I can't...

But here, today, in this kitchen, with the scent of apples, the sight of roses, the laughter of children, the dishes washed, the meal cooking, 

I want it. I chose it. 

I choose it. 

And the darkness lingers, but it has no power, because the 
Power of My Agency 
Has a fire-light, and it is burning brightly! 
Taller and stronger than those weights, 
Those fingers, 
Those arms of oppression and slavery. 

Each time I add fuel (medical, inspirational, Grace, 
And oh! How Great is His Grace!), I feel the 
Heat grow. 
One blade of grass here... another blade there... 
Blades of moments gathered as harvest from the 
Spirit of my soul -- dried out from pain, dried out from 
Desperate hope.

The drying hurts, 
But the drying fuels. 

This darkness, this pain, this exhausting weight is 
Losing
Because every time it dries me out, every time it pulls away my 
Choices, it doesn't realize -- 
Just as serpents in Gardens where arrogance cannot understand (and did 
They not realize?) --
Each dried blade brings me to 

Him

And fuels the very Fire that will set me 
Free. 

~Cheryl S. Savage 
(October 15, 2015) 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Personality, Kansas, Tires, Chastity, General Conference

One thing I've noticed about my progress (all the way around) is I have learned the following: 
*It's none of my business if people don't like me. It doesn't affect me nearly as much as it used to. 
*I love my role and my choice. I'm done being told that my idea of motherhood and marriage (ideas I get from God, ironically) lacks intelligence, is self-damaging, wasteful, or (and I just don't get this) anti-woman. It boggles my mind! In fact, I spend a lot less time reading anything that would tell me otherwise. I've already read it all (the ideas are never different), anyway. 
*This has made me a better mother. I don't resent my children, I don't resent the work it takes to run my household. For years I was annoyed with what I was "having" to do in my home. Feminism told me I should cut loose and run because obviously, I wasn't fulfilled. Well, I'm glad to say that I stayed and I figured out that what my problem boiled down to was my own misunderstanding about who I am, what I'm capable of, and how I'm going to see my life in 20 years. That, and satan telling me a bunch of crap. Now, I'm incredibly fulfilled! Ask me why, sometime. 
*I'm loud, I'm messy, I make a lot of mistakes, I over-share, I'm brutally honest, I adore the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I love myself for who I am. Sure, I'm on my way to becoming a better version of me (thanks to the Atonement), but that doesn't mean my unique personality is wrong. I don't apologize for being me, anymore. Not to others, not to myself. I apologize when I've hurt someone (because I rarely mean to on purpose), I apologize when I've sinned, but I don't apologize for my personality. I don't apologize for my faith. I don't apologize for my hope.  

------------------------

Today marks the third (fourth??) week Brandon has to be out of town for work. His client is in Kansas, and so it means a much longer commute time (ha!). It hasn't been too bad, but this past weekend was rough. I picked him up at the airport on Saturday afternoon, and then I drove him to the airport on Sunday afternoon. We did manage to pack in a lot of family time (thank you, General Conference!) and a short date, though. And this client is fantastic, and he's working, so, honestly? No complaining from me! 

----------------------

Yesterday evening, I ran over a large screw (bolt? Gigantic nail?) and it's stuck in the right front tire of the Prius. Luckily, I made it home without the thing going flat or exploding on me, and this morning I'm praying it will continue to be okay until I can drive into Costco to get it fixed. I'm not very excited about waiting for the tire to get fixed with two small kids, (or moving car seats from the van to the Prius so I can take them with me) but it IS Costco, and there will be plenty to distract us from the wait. Ooh! Maybe I'll time it with free samples time... 

---------------------------

I'm also working on a 3 Part Series on Chastity for the website Mormon Women Stand. It's going pretty well --it's hard to write about something the world thinks is ridiculous. Even the most conservative and religious people find the idea outdated and unrealistic; how does one explain why it's one of the most crucial commandments of all time? And that if people actually obeyed it (and understood it), we'd not only save billions (trillions!) of dollars in health care, but it could eradicate almost every social problem we have in our country? In our world? It's taking me a long time to write it out so that the explanations are found in truth/scripture/prophetic warnings, as well as realistically  applicable to teenagers and young adults who are wading through the mud of immorality everywhere they go. 

--------------------------

General Conference weekend was, as always, superb. Our family has chosen to watch all four sessions together every single time, and it's awesome! Sure, by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, the little boys are just completely finished, but it's been so good for them to experience what General Conference is all about. I want them to see this weekend as a GOOD thing! As a chance to hear from living Prophets of God (how cool is that?!) and not as a weekend to take "time off" from Gospel Living --if anything, it's a time to renew our resolve to live the gospel more fully. So, I make it fun: Packets to color, special treats we only make during General Conference, lots of blankets and forts and usually I do our General Conference Wall (idea, here). The Wall didn't get done this year, but that's okay. We also had a rough Sunday morning at first (too much fighting), but we weren't going for perfection! It was just so wonderful to be together as a family (as much as we could), listening to God's servants teaching us how to come closer to Jesus Christ. 

I shared loads of memes on Instagram and FB (simply because I think those messages are so important to read and hear), but here are a few of my favorites: 











Which talks were your favorites? 

Happy Tuesday, dear reader! I hope you have a fabulous day. 

Monday, October 05, 2015

From the Archives: June 2006 or Learning From My Past Mistakes

I wrote the post below the line (down there... just keep reading...) on June 10, 2006 --just 6 months after I started blogging.

See the sidebar over there on the right of my first three kids? It's cliche, it's over-used, it's true: Where does the time go??

I love my children so much. They have been so brave (not their choice) while being raised by a mother who can't control her temper, whose rage may have emotionally damaged them forever... maybe? Maybe not? Maybe I'm being too selfish? Maybe they won't be damaged forever? Perhaps their ability to forgive me for my short-comings (yelling) and mental illness (depression and anxiety) means they will be better off than I give them credit for?

I know I've improved drastically since these three kiddos were small. I just wish I could have been a better, calmer, kinder mom for them when they were little. My heart aches (and aches and aches) for those years, the ones I will never get back, if only so I could take those moments and choose kindness first, before I allowed anger a place to reside. I try not to dwell there (the past cannot be rewritten), but remembering helps me to be better in the present. It helps me mother them (and their younger siblings) so much wisely, now.

Love your kids, dear reader! Choose kindness as much as you can. It really does go by so fast! If you have to choose between being right, a clean room, more time to yourself, etc. or the relationship with your child, please choose the relationship. You can still teach responsibility, hard work, repentance, and determination through kindness and calm. Consistency (kind consistency) is actually a better teacher than shouting, any day. Learn from my mistakes!

I thank God every day that my kids are so good and still love me --Heaven knows they have reasons to be disappointed in (and fearful of) me. Aren't children amazing? Their ability to forgive is something I want to emulate. Christ knew what He was talking about when He spoke about children...

Love, Kindness, Calm. Calm and Kind. Calm and Kind. Calm and Kind... (Calm is a funny word when you type it out a lot... ;) )

-----------------------

"#1, #2, #3" 

 





#1 before her dance recital --the kids got to pick their own outfits and she chose a great skirt and shirt her aunt bought her for her birthday.
#2 doing what she does best...laughing! This was on her birthday several months ago....
#3 --"Oooh! Gasp! Oooh!"
Those would be #3's favorite words in the whole world. :) This face is frequently displayed during the day as he reacts to everything as something exciting, or as new. It's not a bad idea, really....
I sure love those kids...I wish I could show it more....

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Update on My Mind Amongst Other Things

This last weekend, we went to Michigan as a family. We drove (only 8 hours without stops!), and it was actually a very uneventful and semi-easy (as much as kids cooped up in a car can be) drive. Granted, our children are now used to driving for days on end, 12 hours a day, traversing the country at untold speeds (okay, usually 70mph). But, it being Autumn, and as most of the drive was through Pennsylvania and Ohio, it was quite pleasant!

We stayed with our good friends, the Fishers, and proceeded to fill in the weekend with the BYU football team fireside (very nice), the BYU football game (amazing stadium, great experience, horrible, horrible, horrible game and agonizing loss), the General Women's Meeting (just what I needed), and a stop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, for a lovely picnic lunch. The entire trip was exactly three days.





I have a million things on my mind. I'm not sure how to sift through them all and break it down into coherent thought. There is just so much going on in the world, in my schedule, in my brain, in my relationships with other people... I need to write it out, though, so I can make sense of it all. 

First, with the whole End of the World preppers movement, the Blood Moon (of which we saw a lot of, Sunday night, before the clouds covered most of it and we decided to call it quits and head for bed), the Pope's visit to Philadelphia (which we missed, unfortunately), three apostles dying and three more being called this weekend during General Conference (I assume), the General Women's Meeting, and the laws of the land shifting to the morals of society --I have been pondering a lot on Prophets, religion, chastity, morality, and where to find truth, safety, and peace. 

Second of all, I feel a great desire to change or shift the culture of my immediate family. It stems from the realization of my responsibility to oversee it and how I can mold it when I am able to discipline myself enough to represent it without hypocrisy. Up until now, I don't think I was capable of having that discipline. It may still take a while. But the desire is deep and I feel an urgency to have it up and running before my older children are grown and gone. 

Thirdly, I've been thinking a lot about relationships. Mostly friendships and what part I may play in the creation and demise of them. It's been difficult for me, as I've gotten older, to look back at my behavior in the past and realize that I've caused pain. Pain I can never rectify, pain that might not even exist anymore, but pain none-the-less. I've also been thinking about the future and the relationship my kids will have, specifically marriage. What can I do now, to ensure that 1. they will have the confidence to find someone worthy of their love, and 2. I will be the type of mother-in-law that their spouses will love and respect? I know I can't control a lot of it, but what can I control, and how will I implement it? This goes back to the family culture thing. 

Lastly and fourthly or whatever, I have been thinking about mental illness and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I promised an update on my mind, and here it is! In list form. Of course: 

1. I've been consistently taking medication and going to therapy for over 18 months. Medication has changed here and there based on situations (pregnancy, postpartum). Therapy continues to be necessary for my ability to sort things out and have an objective point of view to show me why I may feel how I feel, where I can change my thought processes, and what I may really desire. 
2. The medication and therapy have given me more energy (although I'm not exercising like I should, yet) and more motivation to be the kind of homemaker, mother, wife, friend, and overall person that I want to be. 
3. I do not feel outside pressure to be more than who I am. What I desire comes from within myself and from a truly, humble hope to be whom God wants me to be. I'm tripping and falling all over the place as I stumble on the path to God's Will, but I'm trying. I'm learning how to heed the Holy Ghost again. I had to start over because the Depression clouded everything... but it's becoming clearer to me. 
4. I am very aware that I can slip at any time. I still have trouble, occasionally, and I need to be gentle with myself. I give myself days off when the stress or exhaustion is too much. 
5. Life is REALLY hard. It will never be perfect, and I will never be perfect (in mortality). But my faith is strong because I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and I have a testimony of the work He is doing through His church. Every happiness in my life is because of Him, the covenants I've made, and doing my best to follow His doctrine. The older I get, the deeper this testimony has become. Experience is a great teacher (the best?) and I've learned that there is NOTHING more important than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is everything. Everything. By it, every truth and goodness is illuminated, through it, every evil is exposed, and because of it, every pain, sin, and loss will be rectified.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Prodigal Blog Daughter (or something?)

Well, howdy, world. This is me not discussing how it's been nearly 6 months since I've written, and how that is just bizarre, since I've written 1-10 times a week since January of 2006.

I'd rather just jump right back into my blogging without explaining why I wasn't writing. I may discuss that at a later date. Sufficeth to say, I've been busy! Since March the following has happened (more or less):

*Brandon's job running his own consulting company took off (The CXPro).
*The school year ended.
*We took a six week trip out West. We left on June 27th and got home on August 7th. Where did we go? Ha! The question is more like, where did we not go? The highlights are thusly:

  • Traveled through Ohio, Michigan (stopped to see friends), Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin (stopped to see friends), Minnesota, South Dakota (Mt. Rushmore!), Wyoming, and Montana so we could get to Alberta! 
  • Alberta: my grandmother's funeral (my last grandparent to die. She very conveniently died three weeks before our big reunion. Knowing how much she loved reunions, we're guessing she timed it so none of us would have to choose between her funeral and the reunion --we could all just come for both) and our family reunion in Waterton. Typical awesome Alberta experience. 
  • Brandon's father got married in the Payson, UT temple. 
  • We spent a week in Utah; the girls went to girl's camp with their bestie. 
  • Spent a week in Idaho at my parent's house with my sister and her kids. 
  • Spent a week near Oakley, UT at our BFF's cabin. They have 7 kids, we have 7 kids, we've been friends since college... you see how this is. 
  • Spent a few days with my sister
  • Spent four days with Brandon's mom and step-dad camping in southern UT
  • Went home via Arizona (Grand Canyon!), New Mexico (family and Carlsbad Caverns), Texas (the Alamo and friends), Louisiana (New Orleans and friends), Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee (friends), Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and finally HOME. 
It was long, it was epic. Brandon was able to work in Utah and be with us the whole time! We saw so many friends, so much family, and we fit in an impossible (yet, now possible!) amount of fun. We stayed at KOA campsites along the way and at every state boundary we took photos of us standing in front of the state signs. Instagram was my scrapbook of the adventure! We truly had a wonderful time. Here's a quick glimpse (such a small glimpse, really) of some of the highlights (not in any kind of order!): 

  


  

August was unpacking (luckily we had a very clean house when we got home due to friends who had stayed at our house and neighbors who had watched over it. Funny story: the friends who stayed at our house live in Provo, UT. We were in the same ward together for 12 years, but the husband grew up here in PA --in the ward right next to ours. Actually, back when he was growing up, the boundaries were different and he actually grew up in the ward we are in right now. Anyway, he has family still here and so they all came out to visit --right when we would be in Utah! So we did a house swap thing. We stayed at their house for a few days and they stayed here at our house for almost 2 weeks. It was perfect! We were even able to see them briefly when they returned to Utah and that was awesome. And they had cleaned the house before they left so we arrived to perfection. Such great people!). 

August was also the month of school preparation. The kids started earlier this year (August 31) and so we had lots to do. Dentist, doctors, orthodontists, school supplies, clothes, shoes, a day at the shore (Ocean City, NJ!), and coming to grips with the fact that I now have a high schooler! 

Speaking of the high schooler, here's a run-down of the kids and what's going on in their lives right now. And a whole bunch of shameless bragging:

#1: She's 14 and a Freshman in high school! Holy Cow! She started early morning seminary (starts at 6:05AM), joined the Art club, Conspiracy Theories Club (they bust myths), DuPont kids (they raise funds to help kids at the DuPont Children's Hospital) and was just elected as Freshman Student Body Officer! Well, she's one of four (apparently their high school doesn't believe in President and VP and such; it's more communal, I guess). For the year she's taking Honors Geometry, Spanish, Art, Health, Seminar English, Seminar Biology,  and Seminar African/Asian Studies (Honors is advanced; Seminar is almost AP). She received her Patriarchal Blessing last week, and she's just a good, good person. I'm really proud of who she is becoming! 

#2: 12 years old and 7th grade! She's still in the gifted program and is also taking Geometry. She's doing Lateral Thinking and Shakespearean Theater as her modules this year. She's also hoping to add Mytopia in the Spring (a board game that she and other students invented last year and are hoping to perfect this year). She's looking forward to Drama Club and I have her learning hymns on the piano and voice lessons will start soon (just from me. Ha!). She's also started taking Spanish, and I'm hoping the girls will start conversing in Spanish soon. I may have to tell them it could be their secret language since I don't know Spanish... hmmm... She is the only Beehive at church and has taken to YW really well. She continues to read voraciously and argue her points with wit and logic! I don't think a day ever passes that I'm not amazed at how different she is from me and how much I love it. Her confidence is infectious. 

#3: I am so proud of this boy. His Misphonia makes things really difficult sometimes, and he does not like change. However, I'm happy to say that being 11 and going to middle school has --so far --been really good for him! 6th grade has made him organized. He has to keep track of all his homework and different classes, and so he's staying on top of it. We even had a miracle --he started and finished an English project almost entirely on his own! He loves school and his friends; and he's hoping to try out for the football team this next summer. For the month of August, he went running every day in the morning, and even convinced his sisters to join him a few times, even though it was initially their idea. Ha! He dotes on the baby and continues to be really helpful around the house. 


#4: 3rd grade! This kid is growing up too fast. He is becoming a very good reader and he starts cello lessons next week. He's so excited to play the cello, and I'm excited the school has a free lesson program so it's more affordable! He's anticipating the start of Mileage Club at the school again (they run during recess and every time they hit a mile, they get another foot charm for a necklace). His behavior has greatly improved. I largely think, though, that I have improved my behavior towards him, and that has helped the most. The very most. He adores the baby like #3 and begs to hold her whenever he can. One thing that has been good for him is that he is in charge of #5 when it comes to school --the bus stop, needing help, finding things, etc. --and he is being a great big brother! 

#5: 1st grade --and it's just surreal. This kid! I swear, he's just too cute for words. And although we've entered a new phase of frustration (sassy-ness and tantrums), he's improving. He's reading a bit on his own, now, and he just loves math. He loves recess the most because he can climb the monkey bars and do, as he told me, his "exercises." I imagine he might be an athlete because of how much he loves the outdoors and playing all kinds of sports. I am going to try and start teaching him piano lessons next week (wish me luck!). The only bummer is that there are no kids his age close to us. He pals around with #3 and #4 and their friends, but it doesn't always work. Breaks my heart to see him sad. 

#6: He's 3! He's potty-trained! He's home all day with me! Because he doesn't turn 4 years old until March, I've decided to keep him home with me this year. It's been nice having him to distract the baby when I need to get a few things accomplished, and his favorite things thus far are: cars, trains, Strawberry Shortcake, books, snacking, and then running around with his brothers. He adores them and tries to join in with all their fun whenever he can. One thing I adore about him is when we're driving around in the van, and I will hear him singing so sweetly and softly to the baby to help her be happy. 

#7: She's pure joy personified. I'm not joking. Not only has she been a healing influence for me, but she has been so good for the older kids, too. She'll be 7 months tomorrow and she's just about crawling. I noticed a tooth starting to make it's way up, too (yay?), and she enjoys crackers and bananas. I'm still nursing and mostly co-sleeping with her, but it's all good. I'm too tired to move her to another room where I'll actually have to stand up and walk down the hallway. I mean, who has time for that?? ;) I know this time will pass very, very, very quickly, and so I'm trying to enjoy all the present moments she gives us. I think her favorite person in the world (besides her daddy and his new beard --I'll show photos!) is #1. It's only natural, seeing how she's my go-to babysitter and looks like me a little bit. Ha! 

So, there you go. My days usually look like this: 

MOTHER ALL THE KIDS! (they take up the majority of my time)
and 
HOMEMAKE ALL THE HOUSE! (I gotta teach these kids to work, don't I?)
and
LOVE THE HUSBAND! (he's pretty awesome)
and
READ ALL THE BOOKS! (while also on social media)
and
FULFILL ALL THE CALLINGS! (I play the piano and teach Cubscouts stuff)

Life is good. It's really hard sometimes, and I still have my bad days, but I am...what do you call it? ... I'm... happy. Truly. Which reminds me! I'll update you on my mental illness next time, but here's a teaser: I'm doing really well. Like, REALLY well. (Knock on wood!)