Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Jar of Soup and a Loaf of Bread

After yesterday's post asking for help and understanding, I was shocked at the flood of messages I received. Several of my friends posted loving, supportive, and compassionate comments. A few sent encouraging private messages. A few friends sent me texts offering support and advice. I truthfully didn't expect any of those responses. But oh, how they filled my heart and soul. I have amazing friends.

Reading so many messages of comfort and hope made me feel stronger than I have felt in a long while. This morning I made several phone calls and was able to arrange for a visit to a doctor and find a local therapist. I'm  fortunate that the company my husband works offers provisions for mental health services. Initially, I can get 8 sessions of therapy without paying anything out of pocket. After that, we can assess my future needs. I feel confident that with these measures, I am going to find help and solutions. I do experience depression occasionally, but they are often temporary-lasting no more than a few months at a time and I don't expect that my malaise will linger much longer with good care and help.

The most humbling and soul-filling moment also occurred today. Last night, my friend sent me a very long text sharing thoughts and offering concrete advice. This morning she asked if I wanted to spend time at her home. I wasn't up to that just yet and had to finish some other things at home. Later in the day, she sent me a text saying she was bringing dinner over and would let me know her arrival time later.

A few hours later she showed up at my back door, arms laden with grocery bags filled with food: delicious warm soup in jars, bread, salad, muffins, doughnuts, and potatoes. It was just so generous and wonderful that I could hardly believe it. We talked for a few minutes and she encouraged me in my efforts to get help.

This evening as I served this meal, I couldn't stop the tears. My kids watched me dish out soup, spread butter on bread, and spoon salad onto their plates in confusion as tears rolled down my cheeks. I couldn't even explain why I was crying to them. As I ate my friend's delicious soup, I swear I could hear a gentle voice saying, "You are loved, Tiffany. Everything is going to be OK."

And it will be. I feel like a giant load has been lifted off my shoulders. I have already taken steps to get help. I discovered that I have this amazing network of friends ready to lift me up and encourage me. My husband, parents, and sisters are all reaching out to me offering their love and support.

So thank you, friends. I certainly don't deserve you or your kindness, but I am wholeheartedly grateful for it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mothering Monday: Mom Burn-Out

If you have been reading my blog over the past summer, I think you can tell that I'm experiencing mom burn-out. The kind of burnout where I went from regularly cooking homemade meals to considering fast food as a viable option for dinner. Every.Single.Night. While I didn't serve fast food every night, I fantasized about it everyday. I used to read to my kids all the time but the other day, I searched for bedtime stories on YouTube. My patience and interactions with my children are extremely short. The worst thing is that I don't really feel much happiness when I'm doing my work as a mom or when I spend time with my children.

Let me be clear about something. I deliberately chose to be a mother. I was not coerced, manipulated, or forced into having babies. Most of my children were planned and those who weren't, were welcome surprises. I think being a mother is an extremely important calling and I willingly accepted that calling. I am proud of the work I am doing as a mother. Raising kids who are independent, hard workers, kind, compassionate, helpful, and decent people is worthwhile work.

Right now I am not feeling the joy of working on something important. I just feel cranky, tired, out-of-sorts, overwhelmed, and exhausted. I find that when faced with challenges (which is normal with kids) I don't even have the energy to cope with them. This is not good, people.

So how do I get my mojo back? How do I find happiness in the experience? How do I find more pleasure in interacting with my children? How do I stop being/feeling so darn grouchy with my family?

Seriously, I am so curious what kind of answers you have to offer.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

An Explanation on My Absence

To all my readers (the faithful few),

I apologize for my absence and missing posts. When I set out to start writing daily, I thought I would do it for a month and see how it went. I found so much enjoyment from the practice and effort that I thought I could continue indefinitely. I still hope to resume my practice of daily writing.

However, the events of the past few weeks have been overwhelming. My children started school again and the transition to the new schedule has been a difficult one. I'm still struggling to find the right sleep schedule for myself.

I am also learning some hard parenting lessons right now that are sensitive and difficult. Because they involve other people I don't feel comfortable with sharing those struggles so publicly.

My oldest son has decided that he wants to graduate this year, instead of next year. This moves up his timetable significantly and means that we have to make a multitude of decisions about his future plans very quickly, which is also contributing to my stress and work load.

A couple of days ago, we learned that my BIL's younger brother died tragically. My BIL is devastated by the loss. I have spent quite a bit of time speaking with my sister and looking for ways to help her husband and family.

I have cried more in the past few weeks than I think I have ever done. Usually writing is my therapy, but I can't even get words out when I sit down to write.

On top of this, I have felt completely overwhelmed with parenting responsibilities to the point of exhaustion. Writing doesn't feel pleasurable or happy at the moment. I am pretty sure I am experiencing a low-grade depression that is likely caused by a hormonal balance. Trying to figure that out is also not fun.

All this to say, I'm having a hard time; I don't feel like writing right now. I want to return to my blog when things feel better.

Please don't give up on me! I'll be back.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Friday Favorites: A Tale of Two Cities Links

I loved reading A Tale of Two Cities. There are some great discussions of the book I want to share.

Some strong swearing in here, but this guy clearly loves literature and knows how to pick out the best bits.

Wikipedia has an excellent overview of the novel. The analysis is a bit weak, but provides some good notes to ponder.

This 18 minute animated short gives a good summary of the book.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Scrapbook Saturday: Telling My Story

I have a passion for understanding the stories of people's lives, especially the stories of my ancestors. My great-great grandparents immigrated to New York from Ireland during, at least I think, the 1840s. As I have followed their movements through census records and directories, I have asked myself lots of questions about them. What took them to Cayuga county in New York? Why were they living with David and Sophronia Taylor? When did they move to Pennsylvania? When did their daughter die? Why did they move to Pennsylvania? Were they a happy family? What were the kids like--were they happy together?

I doubt I will ever find the answers to the majority of those questions. As far as I know, neither of them left behind a diary describing their lives. So I have to make guesses.

Sometimes the stories disappear shockingly fast--within a generation. My mother moved a lot during her childhood. I know and understand why those moves were made, but will my children or grandchildren?

Those questions haunt me and press me to record my own life and the facts and stories about my own little family. We live a rich and complicated life that deserves to be recorded and shared. I want my children to understand what drove me to leave my small hometown in Wyoming. I want my grandchildren to understand their parents adventures as kids. I want my children to understand that despite the challenges of being a mother, it was work that I found (mostly) joyful and meaningful.

Do you know that if you don't share the stories you know about your family or stories about your past, they will die with you? The only way those stories will have any lasting power if they are written down, in hard copy form--on a piece of paper, in a journal, in a letter written on paper, or in a scrapbook.

Do you know that all those pictures you take will die with you if you don't print them? They will just go away if you don't print and curate them.

What's holding you back from sharing your story? Start telling it. You have meaning and your stories are important.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Throwback Thursday: That One Time I Was Stuck in Paris

A few years ago, my husband and I while traveling got stuck in Paris. It was such a delightful adventure that I feel like sharing and revisiting here. I blogged about it on my Saudi Blog, In a Maze of Beige.

Stuck in Paris

Have you ever had an unexpected detour on a trip? If so, what happened?


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wondering Wednesday: Thoughts on a Tale of Two Cities

I'm reading A Tale of Two Cities for my book group. Here are just a few thoughts about the book:

  • I'm kind of annoyed at how Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross (and other characters) conspire to hide events and truth from Lucie, as if she weren't strong enough or capable enough to understand them and appropriately process them. 
  • I found the rather matter-of-fact description of Mr. Cruncher beating his wife to rather shocking. I know the laws at the time permitted such behavior (and I know domestic violence is still epidemic in the present day) but still, it was rather horrifying.
  • The description of the poverty and distress of the French people was pretty awful. I don't know what the rates of poverty are in present day. Considering other works of literature, it seems the grinding aspect of poverty wasn't eliminated because of the French Revolution.
  • Some of the parallels with our present day are quite striking--the mass incarceration of people for relatively minor offenses in London could very well be a description of present day in the United States. 
  • Syndey Carton's character is my favorite in the book. I found his despair about his own character very sad. Somehow he found hope in finding redemption. His final act was profound and powerful.
  • I LOVE redemption stories and this was packed full of redemption.
  • I find Dickens easier to understand and absorb while listening rather than reading it.
  • The first chapter, man.... The first sentence is one of the best I have ever read. 
  • So many funny moments...
  • Why hasn't a current film been made of this story? It is so relevant and almost modern-despite being over 150 years old. What about a setting in Syria or the middle east? 

Have you read this book? If so, what did you get out of it?


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Travel Tuesday: Peekskill Waterfront

I'm lucky to live in an area with a lot of beautiful scenery and places to enjoy. Peekskill is on the east bank of the Hudson River and has a fun park that my kids have enjoyed over the years. The city of Peekskill recently finished another section of their waterfront walkway. I've been dying to get out and try it. This morning Winter and I got ready fast and drove to the walkway right after we got the kids off to school.

It did not disappoint. First, there is a little memorial garden dedicated to those who died in the 9/11 attacks. We aren't that far north of NYC, and most of the area is considered the suburbs of NYC. Many people work in the city and commute on trains down south. There are many connections among the people here to the events that happened 15 years ago and feelings are still very tender and sad.

Winter and I walked on the trail for about a mile. The views are really pretty and soothing.

It was a lovely walk and one that I want to do again.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Mothering Monday: Back to School

My five older children started school on September 1st. Most of them were happy about the transition. I have two kids in high school, two in middle school and one in elementary school. I'm happy to see their progress.

Winter and I are having growing pains as we adjust to our new schedule. During the summer, Winter had constant playmates and spent most of her time outdoors with her siblings. Now that the kids are back in school, I have a tall list filled with things I had put off during the summer. I have fallen out of the habit and practice of playing with Winter. She would like to spend all her time playing on the iPad, but that isn't an option at home, so we are both trying to figure out how to keep her busy and entertained while I finish church and home assignments that have been piling up.

We are both having a tough time sleeping. She moved from her crib to a toddler bed. All toddlers struggle to adapt without the bars. I need to keep reminding myself to be patient.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Spiritual Sunday: Thoughts from Church Today

Lots of good things from church today that I heard and felt.

First, our Sacrament Meeting explored the question of how we come to receive answers and a testimony. My friend, who is a professor of Biology at a university, talked about the scientific method-which really appealed to me. She also referenced a book by Wendy Watson Nelson called, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, where Sister Nelson challenges readers to go to the scriptures with our questions.

My friend's talk made me consider the questions I have in my life, whether they are about spiritual matters or not, and how they weigh on my heart and mind.

In Sunday School we talked about how to avoid being susceptible to flattery and deception. It occurred to me that prayer and constant scripture study provide a tuning fork of sorts to efficiently help you find the truth. It can be so easy to be overwhelmed by untruth and deceit. It takes a lot of wisdom and work to discern truth.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Scrapbook Saturday: Just a Peek

This is a page for my "The First Four Years" album. This picture sparked a memory of how Walter and I used to play with this puzzle set all the time. I taught him his letters and numbers with the set. Sadly, I haven't spent equivalent time with the rest of my children playing games and working on literacy. Some were really resistant and then I got tired and lowered my standards.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Friday Favorites: A Smorgasbord of Thought

During Christmas Eve, Swedes serve a smorgasbord of select treats that follow a certain pattern, down to the types of food served and to the timing of the service. With that in mind, although it is much too early in the season to refer to a smorgasbord, here are a few favorites I have come across.

When God's Lovc Is So Big It Makes You Feel Uncomfortable, a  thoughtful piece about the atonement, forgiveness, and Brock Turner made me think deeply.  This particular passage is well-worth printing and referring to anytime grave injustices are done--which happens all the time.

But another way of interpreting this is that God loves EVERYBODY, including sinners like Brock Turner. That God is crying with Brock’s family and friends as they watch how his choices have forever altered his life and the life of his victim. That God is supporting Brock as he suffers through the consequences of his sin just as much as God is working on healing the terrible, awful, almost irreparable wounds Brock inflicted behind that dumpster. It could mean that God would want us to pray for the survivor of the assault AS WELL AS the assaulter.
I wrote the following comment on the blog piece:

I just wrote a big blog post about rape and sexual assault on my blog so I have been thinking about this topic a lot.
But I have also been thinking about the atonement. For a long time, I thought the atonement was all about the sinner. That seems to be how it is referenced constantly by our church leaders and everyone I know.
I thought about the atonement in this narrow, tightly defined way until a dear friend, after sharing her story of being physically and emotionally abused by her mother, found healing and peace through the atonement. She is one of the most emotionally stable and whole people I know.
That rocked my world. So yes, I believe God’s love is way bigger than we can imagine. I think most of us aren’t actually accessing the atonement for healing from the wounds which were inflicted upon us by others. I think sometimes we are so paralyzed by our pain, grief, and suffering as we grapple with the afer-effects of abuse, addiction, etc., that we don’t even know that healing is there or how to begin. 
I think the only way the Atonement can work to allow a sinner to be forgiven is that God has to offer the victim a way to be healed and become whole again. I think that’s the atonement. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’m not. 

I was so impressed by this article where the magazine cover of a popular teens' magazine is totally and appropriately revamped. This  is the kind of magazine I want my daughters to read.

And, I've written too much tonight! What's the best thing you have read or listened to this week?


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Storm Will End

Sometimes you get thrown into a storm that you didn't anticipate and it is shocking, paralyzing, terrifying, frustrating, scary, and also infuriating. I'm in the middle of storm that likely feels bigger than it is in reality. Today as I've been trying to process what happened, rethinking my own actions and mistakes, I am reminded that storms do blow over and end. In that spirit, here are a few storms I've faced that have blown over:

  • When I was diagnosed with lupus, I imagined the pain and challenge of the disease would haunt me forever. I still deal with lupus, but I am not riding out the lupus storm all the time anymore.
  • Losing a much-wanted baby through miscarriage was unbelievably painful but I don't carry a heavy load of grief anymore.
  • My five older kids did learn to potty train. None of them wear diapers anymore. There was a time I wasn't sure that would happen.
  • We almost got sued by a very angry landlord a few years ago. It was a heck of a storm and we were battered and bruised, but we recovered financially, emotionally, and physically.
  • I have watched people make big mistakes that they were able to recover from and are living happy lives now.
  • Labor doesn't go on forever, thank goodness. The contractions do end and a beautiful baby comes out to hold and love.
  • Children don't stay in the toddler phase forever, although they do revisit it from time to time.
  • My husband and I have weathered marital arguments more times than I care to count, but we keep surviving them. 
  • Hurricanes, Super Storms, and big winter storms eventually come to an end. Sometimes the aftermath must be dealt with for years to come, but they do end.

What have you learned from riding out big storms in your life? How do you keep yourself going during those tough moments?


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wondering Wednesday: Personal Thoughts about Rape and the Objectification of Women

This topic has been weighing heavily on my mind for several days because I have come across several disturbing articles in the aftermath of the release of the rapist, Brock Turner. The articles and comments I have read shouldn't shock me, but they do because things haven't changed much in my lifetime. If anything, I feel like the acceptance of rape is increasing, which rather alarms me. This is not a comfortable piece to write and I acknowledge that it will likely make many of my readers feel uncomfortable because its a hard topic to discuss. I ask that you read carefully and consider my perspective.

Fortunately, I have never been raped, but the fear of rape has stayed with me since I became a young woman and learned what rape was. I have friends and family members who have either been sexually abused or raped. Of these women, not one of them was ever assaulted by a stranger. All of them were abused or raped by someone they knew and trusted: a parent, a grandparent, an uncle, a cousin, a brother, a friend, a boyfriend, or a trusted family friend. It's ugly but these things really do happen. I don't know of anyone who was every able to bring their rapist or molester to trial. Not one.  Most of them couldn't even bear to report because authorities or leaders weren't so helpful or respectful of what they had experienced. Trials are notoriously horrific for victims of sexual assault because their characters are often torn to shred by lawyers in public. Now, if you are reading this and you don't know anyone who has ever experienced this, then the people close to you aren't telling you for a reason--they may be so ashamed of what happened to them, they may wrongfully blame themselves, or you may have done something that signaled that you can't be trusted with such painful and scary information.

I hit puberty rather late in my teens--around the time I was 14 1/2. During Junior High, I endured comments, jeers, and even some attempts at groping from my male peers. This was normal for my school and very little was done to stop it by teachers or parents. In fact, if a girl complained, it was very unlikely anything would happen to her perpetrator. When I finally hit puberty, I grew rapidly and was very curvy, which brought new attention to my body. Attention I was extremely uncomfortable with. I also knew that no one was going to protect me and I had to protect myself. I'm very small and so I developed the biggest, gruffest, boldest, meanest personality I could manage. Learning about feminism helped me articulate the inequities and injustices I saw and experienced as a female, but also gave me courage to speak up about things that were happening right then. It worked and I basically scared a lot of boys away-something that I don't regret at all.

I have been thinking about my teenage experiences with a view toward what my daughter, who has just begun middle school,  and what she will potentially experience. She is sweet, innocent, and very much a child. I'm very nervous about the challenges ahead for her. How do I help her protect herself? How do I teach her to trust her intuition? How do I allow her to experience the joys of crushes and falling in love, but teach her to be wary of situations that feel wrong-even with boys she might like? I'm only in charge of one side of the equation here and it is really tough.

On the other hand, I have three teenage sons and we have these conversations often. I talk to them about how they talk to and about girls. I shared my experiences in junior high and the fear I felt about the way boys and men reacted to my body. They were very understanding and hopefully, they have listened to my advice and counsel. I would be so ashamed if one of my sons acted badly or inappropriately to any girl or woman.

As a woman with daughters, I want people to understand something really important about me. I'm not an object to be lusted after, leered at, or used. I have a body that is a vessel for my thoughts, feelings, experiences, intellect, and work. I have a body that is full of the power to create. I'm a person of value. I want my daughters to be viewed as people of worth because they are human, worthy, and valuable.

I want good men to:
1) listen with compassion when women talk about rape and assault,
2) openly condemn men who rape, assault, harrass, or abuse women (or children),
3) encourage justice and appropriate punishment for rapists,
4) stand up for women and be a protector,
5) treat women with respect and consideration,
6) work on not objectifying women or their bodies,
7) respond to young men and teenage boys and talk to them about appropriate ways to talk to and about girls.

What are you thoughts about this? 


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Travel Tuesday: The Beach Days of Summer

I grew up in the high plains and mountains of Wyoming where the cold desert landscape with its stark lines and shades of brown were beautiful to me. They still are and nothing makes me catch my breath, quite like a high, rugged, snow-capped mountain. As much as I enjoy the mountains, I'm not really a mountain girl. I don't love hiking nor do I find joy in camping. I have always preferred water.

My dad bought a boat when I was a little girl and some of my happiest memories were spent in that boat at Buffalo Bill Reservoir or at Yellowtail. The boat was quite large with a small cabin including a kitchen, table, tiny bathroom, and a bed. My sisters and I used to lay on the bed watching the water as we sailed in the water. Sometimes we would sit out top on the deck with our older sisters and pretend to tan. (Incidentally, we never used sunscreen back in those days. We often applied tanning lotion to help tan.)

My mom made my sisters and I take swimming lessons each summer. I have never been very strong, but despite that, I loved swimming. We would also visit the thermal water swimming pools in Thermopolis. I loved the feeling of weightlessness and feeling totally and completely relaxed.

While living in Sweden, we usually stayed in Sweden during the summer (unlike most expats who tend to go to their home country in the summer) because we didn't really have the money to travel. As a mother to three little boys who were BUSY, I was desperate for activities that would keep them occupied, out of trouble, and help them feel tired at night. The last reason was perhaps the most important because the sun sets rather late in the northern countries, the boys were resistant to normal and necessary early bedtimes. Faced with these challenges, I realized that hundreds of miles of beaches surrounded us within an hour of driving time. So we started to explore the different beaches and the ocean during the summer.

I soon discovered that sitting on the beach, playing with my little boys, or wading in the water with them was quite possibly the only time I actually relaxed while parenting. The relief and happiness was so strong that I tried to go as often as possible. Since then, I have considered going to the water-be it lake or ocean, and a beach to be an essential component of a successful and happy summer.

This summer was no exception. We spent a lot of time at a local lake, swimming, playing in the sand, and trying to catch fish. These lake expeditions were a great way to hang out with friends. I would send out a mass email to a bunch of friends giving them a time and date we were meeting at the lake. Because it only cost $7 per car to park, it was a reasonable fee.

The last day before school, Brent came with us and we went to a beach in Stamford, Connecticut. The ocean really is special. I really need to make more visits happen to the ocean next year.

I'm so glad I live near lakes and the ocean so I can visit often. Spending time on the sand and in the water really bring me a lot of peace and joy.

What is an essential summertime activity for you and your family and why? What makes you feel relaxed whiled parenting or are you super uptight like me?