This is Your “Hard” (Lessons in Grieving)

“You just need to get over it.”

“Stop wallowing.”

“Snap out it.”

“It could always be worse.”

A few weeks ago, I was talking with someone who was experiencing some significant struggles in their life, and they told me that someone close to them told them they just needed to “get over it”.

That ranks in my personal top 5 of worst advice to give someone. It’s not helpful, it’s not compassionate, and it does not portray understanding. Someone who really cares about you will allow you to grieve. They won’t force you to move quicker than is right for you. They probably mean well, they just want to see you happy again, but it’s simply not what you need.

Yes, it absolutely could be worse. It’s important to remember that things can almost always get worse. There will always be someone who has it tougher than you do. However, that understanding doesn’t magically vanish all of your complex negative emotions. You’re here now. You are experiencing something devastating, sad, and crappy. And it flat out sucks.

You’re allowed to be sad. You’re allowed to grieve your loss. And you’re allowed to be disappointed when life doesn’t go the way you expected. When life doesn’t seem to take into account how much work you have put into something. How the timing isn’t right. How you just weren’t ready.

Remember, we’re all living our own lives. Our own individual stories. This is yours, and only you determine what is hard for you. It won’t be the same as what is hard for your spouse, your sister, your mom, or your neighbor. There is no such thing as normal. “Normal” looks different for everyone. You know yourself, trust your gut and loved ones to tell you the difference between grieving and depression. (And don’t feel bad about only doing the basics for a while).

You can grieve, and you can be sad. You can allow yourself to experience that emotion. It doesn’t diminish your worth, your strength, or who you are as a person.

After you finish grieving, dry your puffy eyes. Throw the tissues away. Pick up, move on, and you put it behind you and learn from your experience. But do it when YOU ARE READY. Don’t let anyone but you dictate the “appropriate amount of time” for your respective set back, tragedy, or hardship.

Are You New Here?

“Are you new? I don’t know you.”

There I was, sitting waiting for the last hour of church to start, and I look up to see a woman that I knew by name. Two of her kids were in the Sunday school class that I taught every Sunday. I had spoken to her at least 3 separate times. I did my best to keep my reply polite, even though I was hurt. “I moved in about 2 years ago”.

It would have been much less hurtful if it had been the first time it had happened.

I left early shortly after that interaction because I felt discouraged, hurt, and alone. I wasn’t able to focus on what was being taught anyway. On my way down the hall out of the building I ran into someone, who greeted me…by the wrong name.

I felt alone, unnoticed, and unimportant.

I love people. Both of my degrees are in social work for goodness sake. But as an introvert, people wear me out. Interactions like that leave me puzzled, and my brain reeling on what I had done wrong, why people hadn’t remembered me, if I hadn’t done enough to make myself known, and what on earth was going on.

It’s been at least 2 years since anyone has mistaken me for new at church. However, it happened to my husband this past Sunday. How long have we lived in our current home and attended with this particular congregation, you might ask? Oh we just barely moved in…just a little over 4 years ago. He’s much tougher than I am, but it still rubbed him the wrong way.

Look, I get that we can’t avoid offending everyone all the time. And we shouldn’t try. That’s impossible, and unnecessary. And I’m not in the business of telling people what they shouldn’t say. It’s also important to note that our main purpose in attending church isn’t to socialize. The people we attend with isn’t what church is about. But when someone is already feeling unnoticed and alone, it can really drag them down to feel like no one has even taken note of their existence. It might even discourage them enough to stay home next Sunday.

So what am I proposing? Please still reach out to people that you don’t recognize. Just avoid the dreaded “are you new?” question.

Some alternatives when you see an unfamiliar face at church:

“I don’t think I’ve met you yet”

“I’m still pretty new, and working on getting to know everyone’s name, what’s yours?”

“I’ve forgotten your name, remind me?”

“How long have you lived in this area?”

There are endless possibilities, but you get the idea.

The bottom line is: You don’t know what someone is going through. You don’t know if they have lived in the area for a long time, but haven’t been consistent in their church attendance due to some life complication. Some examples could be health problems, family issues, or work schedules. It’s even possible that their faith has been shaken and that has kept them from attending. They might be self-conscious about their lack of attendance, so there is no need to call them out on it. The overall message we should be communicating to others is love and acceptance.

To the Mom with Young Kids at Church: It’s Worth it

I see you. Carrying a baby in one arm, and a heavy diaper bag in the other. Maybe a toddler running around too, pulling on your skirt. It took a lot of work to get here, but you still have a tough few hours ahead of you.

You get everyone dressed, put socks on everyone (bonus points if they match), and somehow find shoes for everybody. Maybe one last minute diaper change. You put shoes back on at least one kid who managed to pull them off in the 5 minutes it took you to get the diaper bag put together.

It doesn’t feel worth it to go to church. You feel like you are a distraction, like your kids are annoying everyone and taking away from what is being taught. And if your tights or skirt get out of place, good luck having a free hand to adjust your clothes or even have the opportunity to sneak off to the bathroom to fix them.

You used to leave church feeling fulfilled, happy, and ready for a nap but in a nice and peaceful way.

Now you leave church absolutely exhausted and drained, and also ready for a nap, but more like a samurai does after fighting for 3 straight days with no rest. (Which is pretty comparable to wrangling children at church. Except it’s harder because you are keeping them alive. And quiet).

Know that I see you. I know what you are going through.

Lately Sundays have been SO INCREDIBLY EXHAUSTING for me. My hubby is a nurse, and so he is gone every other Sunday. So every other Sunday it’s just me and my cute little chunk monster. He is currently 15 months old. Super mobile, super loud, and seems to know exactly what he shouldn’t be doing at church and does exactly that. There’s a beautiful lace table cloth? Let’s pull on it! There’s a dangerous metal music stand? Let’s go play with it! He wants to do everything except for what we are there to do, which is sit and listen.

I can’t fault him for that, he’s just a toddler after all, but the point is that trying to go to church feels pointless. So why on earth do we even bother going?

We go because it’s important. It is essential.

It is important, even if you only soak in one or two insights to take home with you in between taking a screaming kid into the hall. That one insight might be what you need to make it through the week. We want our kids to know that church is important. That it doesn’t become any less important because it’s inconvenient.

We want them to learn about Christ, to learn primary songs that they can have ready when evils of the world try to infiltrate their minds.

We want them to gain positive role models, and to be involved in wholesome activities.

There will always be a reason not to go, but there will always be even more reasons to go. So to you, the mom with young kids at church, know that I see you and I admire what you are doing for your children. I understand that it’s hard, and we can do this.

If I Could Have Just One Day to Myself…

How many times as parents do we think: “If I could have just one day to myself….that’s all that I need”.

As you know if you follow the blog, we had a very hectic summer. Right after we got back into town from Orlando, which was right after traveling home from California, I had to head over to Boise for another work conference. It was informative, and interesting, and I got a full nights sleep for 3 nights in a row. That’s like a parents dream come true, right? Wrong!

I hated it. I missed my baby. I would wake up to the sound of a baby crying, only to realize that I was imagining it. I was able to walk around downtown Boise all by myself on a whim, no diaper bag. I only had to get myself dressed, no one else.

I felt like getting a bagel for breakfast, and I was able to just walk down the road and get it with no preparation. My clothes stayed clean all day, no sticky baby fingers (or worse!) caused me to have to change outfits before the day was up.

I went out to eat with out having to share with the baby, or keep him entertained at the restaurant, or having to scoot all of the contents of the table away from him,  or having to ask for a high chair. But I missed his sweet cuddles. I missed the loving look he gives me with those beautiful big brown eyes. I missed his little giggle.

Now when I get overwhelmed those thoughts still come, that I need one day to myself, I remember those three lonely days. It doesn’t stop me from wanting time to myself, but it can pull me out of feeling sorry for myself at least.

So as parents, what the heck do we even want?

Who knows! We love our families more than anything else, and sometimes being a parent makes absolutely no sense. Soak in every moment, every sticky finger, every cuddle. It won’t last forever, but neither will those moments when you are absolutely overwhelmed.

All You Have to do is Survive

Life is full of joy, tragedy, and everything in between. We’ve all had so many different experiences in the course of our lives, and we somehow survive through all of them. It’s interesting to me what rises to the surface in our mind sometimes, and a very old memory decided to make an appearance recently for me. (The picture featured below is the work of my very talented friend Davina).

The Memory…

My senior year of high school, one of our classmates took her own life. I am not going to pretend that she was my best friend, (we had only spoken a few times), but I did have one class with her and the day we found out what had happened was an experience that really impacted my life. Because of this experience I realized how fragile life was, and how someone could be going through something really dark even when they look fine on the outside. I remember texting both of my parents the day we found out and telling them that I loved them, and it was an introspective day for me in many ways.

My English teacher that year, Ms. Scully, before class took a few minutes to talk to us about the events of the day. She told us, “All you have to do is survive”. Ms. Scully repeated that statement several times, and told us that we didn’t have to make straight A’s, or do anything spectacular, but as long as we made it through, and stayed alive, it would all be ok. She talked to us about how much we had ahead of us in our lives, and how much there was to live for.

The Take-Away…

Maybe it’s funny that this off topic English lesson is what stuck with me most from that entire year. But she had a good point. It really is ok to go through the motions, and do the basics for a while when we get on our feet again. There is no need to take on more than you can handle and cause yourself more stress. When you’re ready to step up again, you can. Do it at your own pace, it will be ok. All you have to do is survive. Everything else is optional, and icing on the cake.

Life is a Roller Coaster…

You may have noticed the blog and my social media channels have been quiet. I’m still here, don’t worry! Life simply hasn’t slowed down for me. These recent experiences have triggered dozens of thoughts on what to write, but I have had little to no energy or time to write them down.

My grandfather passed away, and I traveled home to California for his funeral services. I am currently very far away from home in Orlando for work. My sweet little boy also turned one, and has become increasingly mobile and curious about the world around him. I know there’s more but my tired brain just can’t retrieve that information right now.

Today my husband and I had the opportunity to visit one of Orlando’s many theme parks after I was out of my conference for the day. On one of the rides there was a little boy behind us. He was about 9 years old. As ride started, he yelled “I’m not ready! I’m not ready!” He would yell that every time we approached an incline, or anything remotely scary. For the really intense parts, he would add “I’m gonna die!” It was absolutely hysterical, and internally I was torn between giggling and telling him we were all going to be just fine.

With how crazy life has been for me, I started thinking more about that cute little boys panicked statements. How often are we not ready for something to happen, but life moves along anyway no matter what? (Let’s get real for a second, are we ever truly ready for big life changes?).

I wasn’t ready to be a wife, and I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I sure wasn’t ready to lose my grandfather last week. But all of these big life changes happened anyway. Life keeps moving. Yelling and screaming that we aren’t ready doesn’t do anything to stop it. All we can do is throw our hands in the air and enjoy it. And you know what? It’s perfectly acceptable to scream if you need to.

As we learned on the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: “Sometimes you just wanna scream your head off, and a rollercoaster’s the only place no-one looks at you weird.” Wise words for all of us.

Lessons in Positivity From a Diehard Pessimist

Anyone who knew me in high school or earlier, would definitely conclude that I am a pessimist. Those who know me now would probably not have a strong opinion, as I am not as vocal about my negative views these days as a used to be.

I always jump to the worst conclusions. Always. My attitude is that if I expect the worst, I won’t be disappointed.

It’s easier to be a pessimist, and to have low expectations. I’m not disappointed this way.

But just because something is easier and more comfortable does that make it what is best overall?

This attitude is comparable to never falling in love so that you don’t get hurt. Or never driving anywhere in fear of getting in a car accident. Or never having children so you won’t see them in pain. You won’t get hurt, but life is going to be incredibly boring and lonely. It is part of life to take risks, and part of life to get hurt sometimes.

Vulnerability

Relating to this subject, I really love this book by Brene Brown, called Daring Greatly. In one of my classes in my final semester of grad school, we discussed the content of this book at length. Vulnerability and its importance are one of the main themes of the book. If you want an engaging book that really makes you think, and also causes you to reevaluate the way you view the world I highly recommend it. Buy it  on Amazon using the link below. (Disclosure: This is an affiliate link, so if you purchase something I receive a small commission at no cost to you. I only recommend products that I use and love. Thanks for supporting my blogging!)

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

 

Vulnerability is an uncomfortable subject. It’s what opens us up to hurt, to pain, and maybe even to ridicule. But it is also what provides us with the most amazing things that life has to offer. The most incredible experiences ever that are more than worth the risk.

When it comes down to it, pessimism (for me at least) is a way of protecting my vulnerability. No one, (including myself), can tell me that I failed if my expectations were low. While expecting the worst might stop me from being disappointed when things don’t turn out right, it causes me to live my life in a gloom and doom manner. Which isn’t great.

Lessons in Parenting

When I look at my son, there are just a few things that make him unhappy. He doesn’t like his choices to be limited. I won’t let him chew on my phone, or fall face first into an empty bathtub, or any number of things that are dangerous or destructive. This makes him mad because he doesn’t get to do what he wants. If he gets hungry, needs to be changed, or if he is bored he also gets upset. But that is seriously it. He doesn’t think about how he could possibly be hungry in the future, or that mom might thwart his future attempts to explore. He lives in the moment, and doesn’t worry about unnecessary things in the future. Worrying about the future is one of my most frequent pastimes.

It is obviously not possible for me to be as in the moment and carefree as my son is. I have bills to pay, a job, and a family to care for. But I can learn many valuable lesson from him, one of which is to not worry so much about the future. That bright ray of sunshine deserves a mom who sees the world through optimistic eyes. I need to strive to not always assume the worst. This way I can allow him to live his life a little more independently in the future (When the adventures he wants to take are a little more well thought out than trying to fall face first into a bathtub of course).

Have you caught yourself being a pessimist and found the motivation or technique to change? Let me know in the comments below!

 

For the Days When You Have Nothing Left

I’ve had those days. Days where you are too tired to get out of bed, where you hear the baby crying and you pray they will go back to sleep. When they keep crying and all you can do is drag yourself out of bed, pick them up, and lay back down. When you have nothing left to give, but you keep giving.


When people you love are doing all that they can to help you, and you can’t help but feel angry at them for no reason.

When it seems impossible to go to work, but you do it anyway.

 

Then when you get home and you just want to lay down, cry and sleep but people need you. You tell yourself that you can’t possibly do anything else, and you take care of the baby for 6 more hours and then you finally get to collapse into an exhausted pile in your bed.

 

And then in the morning you do it all over again.

 

I want you to know that it gets better.

 

Take care of yourself, and it will pass.

 

Take care of your body, and it will take care of you. Eat well, do what you can to get adequate sleep, and ask for help when you need it. Learn what is normal for you, and what is very much not normal, your body and your mind screaming for help. Unfortunately I have become far too familiar with the not-normal, the depressed, the angry, and the exhausted.

 

I’ve been absent from the blog this week because I have finally come out of my exhaustion funk. I have been busy, but not on here. I am cleaning the house regularly again, and I took advantage of my new found energy and overhauled the entire house. It was like nesting without an impending baby.

 

And it feels AMAZING.

I am determined to keep my house in order.

I am determined to do my best work at my job.

I am determined to recommit myself to my religion.

I am determined to lose the baby weight, the marriage weight, the grad school weight, and the antidepressant weight. I am embarrassed to admit to the world that this totals up to almost 40 pounds.

I want to be healthy for my son, my husband, and myself. I want to be happy when I look in the mirror, and to feel confident again.

I am also incredibly proud to say that I am in the process of scaling myself off of my antidepressants. I am not ashamed of taking them, but I am happy to say that I am to a point that I no longer need to rely on medications to be me again (If you missed my article about my experience with postpartum depression, you can read it here).

 

 

I’m not perfect. All of my struggles aren’t suddenly gone.  But I’ve reached a turning point in my life. And I’m proud to say that it is a rare day that I find myself running on empty, with nothing left.
As corny as it sounds, I am going to be the best version of myself that I can be. And I am so excited.

 

*Update* A few days in, I realized (and readers expressed concern about this as well) that this was far too many goals to work on all at once. I am currently focusing on two of these and will work on the others at a later date! I got a little over zealous!

Why I Refuse to Apologize for My Loud Baby at Church

I don’t think there are many things cuter than a baby who has recently figured out that they can make sounds. In church however…it can feel mortifying. And I’m not talking about a melt down, I’m talking about happy screeches and shrieks.

My hubby works every other weekend (a crazy nurse’s schedule) and so every other Sunday I am left to wrangle our little munchkin on my own. For us Latter-day Saints (or Mormons, as you may know us) church is 3 hours long! You heard me right, 3 HOURS. We have Sacrament Meeting, Sunday school, and then for the last hour we meet in many different groups that I won’t get into right now. So for that long stretch, I am trying to keep my little cutie happy, and quiet. (hahahaha yeah right. Almost made it through that paragraph with out laughing, but I just couldn’t do it).

I took to a Facebook group of moms that contains many latter-day saints such as myself. I asked them what to do about my loud baby. My thinking was that maybe they had some hidden techniques or secrets that I hadn’t thought of yet.  They responded , and I was humbled by their answers, which I have listed below.

“Let babies be babies. 🙂  I don’t mind hearing all the babies and little kids making noises at church.  It’s adorable!”-Rebecca

“Eh they are just getting cute and adorable! Only thing that keeps my baby quiet (for a little bit) are rice puffs, Graham crackers, Cheerios…those kinds of things. But… it only lasts so long. Afterwards he gets full and wants to play and be loud!”-Cailey

And my personal favorite….

“Try not to sit close to the grouchy older people? Ha ha” –Whitney

I also asked my mom and mother-in-law for advice as well, and their answers were very similar to the ladies in my mom group:

Kierstin: “Embrace it!”

Mom: “Own it! Like, my baby is so happy! And: My life is so great! All true statements. Not recommended: Mom joining in on the sing song noises.” (My mom is so funny. Not something I would have ever said as a teenager, but it sure is true!)

After all of this, I realized something. It really is ok. IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD IF HE MAKES NOISES AT CHURCH. I was being selfish, and making it all about me. Like many others, I worried people were going to judge me if my baby was loud, or that we would be distracting to other people. I need to relax, and be ok with him making sounds. Right now, this is how he is communicating with everyone around him, including me! I shouldn’t do anything to stop him from finding his voice, or stop him from talking. He is way too young to understand that it is ok to talk other places, but not there.

It might be a little embarrassing, but most reasonable people won’t be upset if a baby is cooing or squealing happily. So I won’t apologize for my loud baby. (Still working on this, but I am trying not to apologize). More accurately, I am working on not apologizing.

So chat on little buddy. You are amazing. Thanks for helping me grow as a person everyday. I’m incredibly blessed to be your mama.

Daily Miracles (Admidst the Monotony of Parenthood)

The daily monotony of parenthood can be painful, and boring. It can seem like an endless stream of diapers, feedings, and spit up episodes (and subsequent outfit changes as a result). But let’s stop and think about what is happening right now. It might not seem like it, but you witnessing daily miracles. And what is that?

YOU MADE A HUMAN.

There is a little piece of you, and a little piece of your spouse put together, months of growing, and thousands of miracles, and grown into an amazing being! A living, breathing, (adorable!) little person.

Every day they explore the world, and experience new things. Every day is an adventure. Everyday, they get a little bigger, get a little better at using their hands, a little steadier at standing or walking.

The other day, my little guy figured out that he had a tongue. He figured out that there was this thing in his mouth that he can move around, make sounds with, and blow raspberries with! He also figured out how to army crawl around the house (Which means I need to up my child proofing game…)

So when they grab everything in sight and shove it in their mouth? They are exploring the world around them with boundless curiosity. Everything is brand new to them.

When they scream when you leave the room? The world is a scary place with out you (even just in your living room), and they are still figuring out that when they can’t see you, you didn’t disappear and you are coming back.

When they bite your finger so hard they leave tiny teeth marks? They are figuring out how to use those brand new (razor sharp!) teeth!

When they head butt you so hard you see stars? They are figuring out neck control, and how to move that cute head around!

When they grab your face with their slobbery hands? (Or maybe shove their fingers up your nose…) They are figuring out that you have a face, just like them! How exciting is that?? There are a million more, but you get the idea.

With this perspective, everything isn’t suddenly magical unicorn ice cream with sparkly sprinkles. However, it can make it easier to be more patient. You are blessed to be able to be a part of this daily miracle, so do your best to enjoy it :).