Thursday, July 21, 2016

Gratitude and Guilt

Everyone knows that gratitude is good.  Especially when you are an incredibly privileged person, and I'm not talking like filthy rich or social royalty.  I mean when you are white, when you live in the US, when you have food in your fridge, a roof over your head, nobody shoots at you on a daily basis, bombs aren't going off in your neighborhood, your daughters can go to school, your sons aren't forced into becoming child soldiers.  You know, basics. 

I've been looking up articles about this very thing.  The real sciencey ones are about how narcissism and entitlement prevent people from feeling or expressing gratitude.  The millennials talk about the feeling of indebtedness that comes with accepting favors, gifts, and "blessings" from others.  None of that really applies to me.  Those aren't my gratitude struggles.  When I was younger, I struggled with contentment and that still raises its ugly head from time to time.  Gratitude should be the healer of discontentment though, right?

The mom blogs focus on how when we stop to feel grateful that our kids are healthy, we start feeling guilty for yelling at them.  That one is a little closer to home.  Yes, I purposely combat discontentment with self-inflicted guilt.  So what your skylight leaks and there's a hole in the garage ceiling where your bestie fell through the attic?  You have a house that's warm and safe, you ungrateful twit!  See, that's hardly productive.  This naturally progresses into marring my attempts at real gratitude. Contentment and gratitude aren't the same thing.  Think of contentment as a decision and gratitude as an emotion.  I combat thoughts of not being good enough, not doing enough, not working hard enough or efficiently enough to accomplish everything that I want.  That is my discontentment and it isn't material or monetary. It's relentless ambition being opposed by physiological hurdles beyond my actual control. That's something I gotta see my therapist about, and I do! 

What am I even getting at here.  Okay, so the purpose of finding real gratitude is not to talk yourself out of being ambitious, but to honor and appreciate and even acknowledge the things that are right and good in your life and your world.  Unfortunately, I conflate the two on a regular basis.  I find myself using guilt to convince myself to be content with what I have.  Then I turn around and try to be grateful for what I have and then start to feel guilty that I have those things at all.    Why doesn't my child have cancer?  Why can I afford this organic milk when so many others can't afford a pound of rice? Good grief, my mind is mad house prison! 

I have to change my mind about what gratitude is and what value that state of mind holds for me and my family.  Gratitude born of guilt will never build true empathy for suffering.  Gratitude forced by comparison will never breed compassion.  It paralyzes the kind and hardens the hearts of the privileged.  True thankfulness is fleeting, momentary, unannounced, and beautiful.  All the crap about your gratitude journal and meditating on your blessings is complete bullshit (unless of course it works for you and then I'm super happy for you and keep doing it).  You aren't "blessed" because you're thankful for your blessings and you won't get less blessed because you become entitled.  The world isn't fair and equal, it doesn't work that way.  Also, if you go around telling people how blessed you are, they will hate your face.  What you and I are is lucky and that's about it. 

The practice of gratitude is being present.  How many times a day can you say that you are present, physically, emotionally, and mentally?  When are you not running through the list of everything else you have to do or clicking through your mental notes of what you're supposed to be thankful for when you are really mad or anxious or discontent?  That's why those moments are fleeting.  I've found gratitude to be a spiritual experience for me and I hope so much that some of you feel it too.  Some are quiet moments and some are crazy ones, where something just hits me straight on in the chest with an overwhelming soul crushing realization.  It sits on me and yells, "This is my life, these are my people, I'm here by some cosmic force, and look at them, they are beautiful!"  Sometimes I get chills, sometimes I get all choked up and teary eyed, and sometimes I freeze in hopes of letting the moment linger.  When I find those moments fewer and further between, I know that something is closed.  I'm letting my stress, my guilt, my discontentment, my lack of presence or something get lodged into all the nooks and crannies so there's no room for gob smack moments of debilitating gratitude.  One happened the other day at the neighborhood pool.  The way the sun was going down and the color of my baby girl's strawberry blond hair and Freddie's swimsuit on backwards and my husband's stupid waterproof earphones so he can ignore whining children on land or by sea, the families there of all different races and ethnicities.  My heart almost kabloomed, which is dangerous while swimming.  I can't live like that all the time.  My vascular system wouldn't be able to handle the stress.  You can't guilt that, because it's real and messy and temporary.  You can't bottle it up and put it in a journal because you don't even know exactly what triggered it or what the heck you were even grateful for in that moment. 

Please look for those moments.  I can do nothing to affect my gratitude besides being fully present as often as possible. Work on your discontentment, work on your guilt by giving back and engaging in your community, donate to organizations that do great things, volunteer, vote well, read and increase your knowledge.  Those things require work.  Gratitude requires letting go. 

Monday, June 8, 2015


I swear that my life is happy one, filled with funny stories, inside jokes, sunshine, and gratitude.  I'm just so emo that I only feel like writing when I'm overwhelmed.  Sadness makes me overwhelmed. 

So, we had another miscarriage.  Like a traumatic insane situation that has left Jason and me in shock and dismay.  See, we had no luck with six months of trying after our last miscarriage.  My cycles never went back to normal.  My doctor recommended an HSG test, which is done by a radiologist by flushing dye through the uterus and fallopian tubes to check for scar tissue and blocked tubes.  It was not a fun test.  Then I was informed that I had significant scar tissue left from my two D&Cs and that my left fallopian tube was completely blocked.

I sat around sad about that for a week waiting to see my doctor and talk about it.  My radiologist sucked btw.  It seems they never talk to patients and let ultrasound techs click their tongues and make random comments then force patients to sit around in worry and dread while they wait to see their doctor.  My radiologist performed this test and didn't bother to read my chart beforehand, because he said, "Eew, it looks like there's just a bunch of scar tissue up at the top of your uterus, I don't know what that's from."  Then he wrung his hands and I told him I'd had two D&Cs.  "Oh, yep, that's probably what it's from!"  Then he flitted from the room like an evil little gnome. 

My doctor recommended a hysteroscopy with a fertility specialist to attempt removing the scar tissue, which may unblock the tube.  That was a Monday.  Tuesday afternoon, one week after the diagnostic test, I started bleeding.  I was talking to a co-worker and suddenly felt like I'd peed myself.  I ran to the bathroom to discover quite a bit of blood and decided to go on home because this was odd.  I left a message for my doctor and assumed that it was some complication of the test.  I sat at home waiting for a call back and took a nap.  When I woke up, I stood and gushed again, filling a pad, and I just decided to go to the ER.  It was just a matter of fact type of decision.  My doctor never called me, but I did get ahold of her nurse once I was in the ER and she affirmed my decision to go.  Jason met me there and I had a pelvic exam, blood test, urine test, etc.  Everyone kept asking me if I was pregnant, and I kept telling them no and trying to explain that this must have been caused by the HSG test.  Not many people, including the ER doc even knew that that was. 

Nope, the doctor pulled back the curtain and said, "Now, I know you said you aren't pregnant, but your urine test is showing positive for pregnancy."  I clapped my hand over my mouth and the tears just forced themselves out between muffled sobs.  What on earth?  How?  She gave us some time and I pulled out my phone searching my fertility app for all the dots and triangles that track every stupid spot, period, cramp, intercourse, negative pregnancy test, and cycle days.  There was only one possibility.  I was pregnant on the day of the dye test and I didn't know it.  They purposely schedule it right after your period ends.  I had a normal period and on day 8 of my cycle, I checked "No" on the little questionnaire that asked, "Are you or is there a possibility that you may be pregnant?"

Guilt and horror racked me.  Jason is a saint and held in his anger as best he could so that he could hold me and assure me that this wasn't my fault.  What kind of sick and twisted irony is it that I would go in for a test to find out why I can't get pregnant and end up endangering and possibly causing a miscarriage of a pregnancy I wasn't even aware of?  The absolute worst part, which I know sounds strange, was that an ultrasound showed a gestational sack and a yolk sack.  The bleeding stopped and I was sent home with the words "Threatened Miscarriage" printed in bold on fresh white hospital paper.  The ER doctor even smiled and gave me a thumbs up as if everything was going to be A-OK.  Even their billing person came to collect my deductible and encouraged me to be hopeful.  I don't do hopeful.  I can be hopeful for other people, but my realism is strong when it comes to gushing blood, radioactive dye, and barely four week embryos.  It still seeped in though, like a little infection spreading and multiplying to the point of a spark and little nagging thoughts of "when would I be due?"  Damn that spirit, but thank goodness it isn't completely dead.

We did more blood tests, another ultrasound with no heartbeat, no contact with my doctor, confusion, research, reading, crying, praying, raging, eating, and just trying to understand.

Exactly one week later (Tuesdays were becoming real winners at our house), I started bleeding again, at work.  It was so heavy that I bled through my pants and had to get a co-worker to help me to the bathroom.  Someone had to find me scrub pants, but I couldn't get off of the toilet.  My sweet Rachel drove to get me since Jason was in parent teacher conferences.  The clots were getting crazy.  I felt afraid.  My doctor got on the phone with me after I told one of the nurses that I was passing cheeseburger size clots.  Note to self: code word is cheeseburger sized.  She advised me to come to the ER if I couldn't get off the toilet and home.  There was no way.  I waddled out of the bathroom with a full sized towel rolled up between my legs and scrub pants on and could barely get myself into the van.  I wasn't in pain, just out of control and afraid.  Rachel drove me to the ER and I left the bathroom at work in quite a bit of disarray.  I need to write a thank you note to the sweet nurse who ended up having to take care of it.  It was a male nurse.  Poor guy. 

It got really scary.  I lost track of time.  Maybe it was two hours after I got there, but I lost myself.  Jason was on his way to meet us and I was on the phone with him.  I remember feeling sick and asking Rachel for something to puke in.  She left the room either to get someone or something to puke in, not sure which.  I drifted off and was in a complete daydream daze staring at the wall.  I was numb and nauseous and dizzy.  Then I saw her in front of me, snapping, but she just looked like a pretty blur.  Eventually, it occurred to me that I needed to respond.  When I did respond, I just begged her to find someone to help me.  I was terrified.  Three people rushed in and put two IVs in at once and flushed fluids through me to raise my blood pressure.  I think it was 45/50?  Scary.  The room was spinning and I was helpless.  I came back around with the fluids but then the air was just thick with panic.  My doctor was on her way, Jason got there and I guess Rachel filled him in.  Unfortunately, it happened one more time with him in the room.  He was so scared.  I needed another emergency D&C.  They wheeled me off with Jason at my side and I was so delirious and still feeling nauseous and like I could lose consciousness at any moment.  At least I could recognize that the anesthesiologist was really cute and I remember trying to glance at his left ring finger, for Rachel people, for Rachel!  Turns out that I lost four units of blood and my doctor was able to confirm "cheeseburger" sized clots.  I spent the night in some random room of the hospital on like an orthopedic surgery wing.  Seriously, when are hospitals going to have a women's unit specific to uteruses without babies in them?  If I have a friggin hysterectomy someday and end up in oncology, I am going to be upset. 

It's months past now.  I already posted on facebook, but the long and short of it is that I can't have anymore children biologically.  There's too much scar tissue and even a specialist says there's little to no chance of correcting it, even with multiple surgeries.  Forgive me if I don't line up for more uterine surgery.  We can't even really make a decision at this point because the hurt and shock are too fresh.  Our options are few anyway.  I'm 99% not going to try and get pregnant ever again.  Both of my fallopian tubes are blocked, but by the slim chance that I could conceive, we have to be so careful.  If I were to get pregnant with this scar tissue still in place, it could be another life threatening miscarriage hemorrhaging situation.  I am not willing to put my body, my husband, my friends or family through that kind of trauma again.  Decisions look like whether we are going to get Jason snipped, whether we will adopt, whether I will try this natural hippie fertility method of reducing scar tissue and then have another dye test in six months to see if it worked, you know, basics.  So, we are just sitting.  Making no decisions because we aren't trustworthy just yet of making good ones that aren't driven by grief, anger, fear or desperation. 

This was a really uplifting post.  It needed to happen though.  I'm not even going to put together a rally paragraph for you.  I've been typing and saving and waiting for months now, and it was time to post.  It's all to get you ready for my next post.  It's about how to start a conversation with someone when they need a wellness intervention.  Get ready! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014


It's time.  I wasn't really sure if I was going to make this a public announcement or just keep it between close friends and family.  Today I decided to write about it, because I really need my free therapy blogging tool right now.  Today has turned into months of just a little at a time and writing when I get a minute or just feel extra down.

We found out we were pregnant at the beginning of November, the Tuesday before our 10th anniversary.  The next week was sort of surreal.  You know, it just takes awhile to really believe you are pregnant.  Then I started spotting, not much, just a little.  No cramping.  My midwife advised to just take it easy, no running, maybe just a walk, don't push myself.  I kept spotting for almost two weeks.  I called the OB so I could go ahead and do my first visit and do blood work and all that stuff and mentioned the spotting.  They said to come in at nine weeks to do an ultrasound just to make sure everything was ok, but no panic.  This was all a little difficult to deal with, being a bit of a control freak.  Then, the night before Thanksgiving I laid in bed and prayed for God to please take my worry away.  I prayed for faith and peace and told God that I knew He was in control and prayed to please help me stop worrying because I wanted to enjoy this pregnancy and my blessings.  The next morning I stopped spotting!  No more spots.  I have not quite found a comfortable way to interpret how that prayer was answered but I have found gratitude for a Thanksgiving with my family that was full of hope and excitement about next year rather than full of worry and fear. 

In the next week or so I found out that a couple I adore was expecting, only two weeks behind me!  I had to tell them that we were pregnant too.  So exciting!  I went in for that nine week ultrasound witha  heavy heart though and I remember praying in the bathroom as I changed into the gown.  Then it happened.  December 13th we found no heartbeat and I only measured at about six weeks. I cried on the table and even in my sadness felt so badly for the ultrasound tech who was powerless to help or even explain anything. We were sent straight to my doctor's office. Here's an excerpt of that experience that I wrote on my phone through tears trying not to look up too often and scare the other patients.

As I sit here listening to the 19 year old high school couple raving about their baby due in June, I wonder why my baby didn't grow. Why did my baby that I wanted and prayed for and tried for stop developing at 6 weeks? The proud 39 year old grandma won't stop talking about their ultrasound. The children are giggling and cuddling and my husband recognizes one since he's a high school teacher after all.

Why does my doctor make me sit here listening to them while I wait to schedule my D&C? I'm selfish, I know. This just seems like purgatory. 

Thank you, Jesus, I'm in a private room that is much more fitting for the mood. It's sterile and cold with scratchy paper, fluorescent lights, and the smell of hand sanitizer. There are still hints of the joy I should have, but they are fewer and harder to find.

Maybe the plea to the nurses helped. "I have thirty minutes to get to my master's thesis defense." 
[loud gasp] "Oh, let me check!" 
I was back within minutes. 

Let me just say that even in the midst of that bitterness and frustration, I still felt glad for those kids that they have support from at least one mom and that their baby was being celebrated. How many teen pregnancies are mourned instead? 

We had to wait two weeks after that to confirm the miscarriage. I did defend my master's project and that day was so strange. I kept getting congrats Facebook messages after Jason posted about my project, all while on the phone with the few folks who knew we were pregnant, crying. We had to make it through Christmas with family and our kiddos during the two week waiting period. No more spotting, no pain, tiny bits of hope that maybe some crazy crazy miraculous thing could happen and there would be a heartbeat. Two weeks of no running, just in case. Eating, crying, praying, denying, accepting, repeat. 

Then it was the day before my birthday when we confirmed. Most of my tears had been spent by then, so I mostly just felt empty. So strange to compare the feelings walking into the same clinic, getting into the gown, hopping onto the table, and searching the fuzzy screen. I went out to celebrate my birthday with friends and family the next night. Only a few knew, and I had three delicious dark beers. 

It was another week before I had the actual D&C. I lived in terror of miscarrying on my own while also wishing I would so I could avoid the surgery and further damage to my uterus (I had a rough D&C after Charlie was born due to a detached piece of placenta). The surgery went "well" according to my doctor. My recovery was pretty quick. My staff and my boss at work were precious and understanding. Almost no female friend of mine has not experienced this loss. It is pretty ridiculous really. 

I don't know why I didn't talk about it. We asked for prayers privately through the prayer list at church. We cried together. Maybe a part of me didn't want to hear through the dozens of others who have miscarried. I think that a selfish, terrible, shallow part of me wanted to just own this loss and make it mine, nobody else's, unlike any other, mine, worse, more terrible, so sad, and just mine. Another piece of me felt like I didn't want the attention because I know women who have held a stillborn baby in their arms and buried them. I know families who have lost children that were whole, alive, with personalities and little beating hearts. My baby's heart may never have beaten, not even once. Another part of me (so many parts!) felt selfish considering the three beautiful babies I have while I know women begging God for one. 

The best thing that came out of anyone's mouth besides of course, "I love you," "that fucking sucks friend, I'm so so sorry," and "what do you need?" ....I have no idea how to punctuate this sentence from here... was a friend at work saying,  "I know this sounds terribly stupid, and I don't mean it like this, it's just just have such a passion for mamas and birth and pregnancy and I just can't imagine how much more fully you will be able to identify with women in all stages of that journey now." 

That was a truth I could use and take hope in and see value in. It made me cry still, but a merciful cry of acknowledging my refinement through difficult experiences. 

I am writing all this and thinking of a way to close. I'm thinking of some justification of why to post it now. In some ways I want to justify the 10lbs I put back on, I want to justify my surly holiday demeanor, my overwhelmed and bitter attitude towards all my mommy duties, my crazy. In some ways I don't want to hit publish. Most folks know we want another kid, but few knew we were really serious and almost did. That opens up the vulnerability. Yes, we know we are nuts, yes we have a small house, we don't make a ton of money, we are in debt, our van has duct tape on it, we need help from family and friends ALL the time, our car has no hubcaps or air conditioner, our children are crazy and needy and wild, and I'm usually a hot bedraggled mess. My argument to that is this, our family is just not complete. God pulls on my heart constantly that somehow some way, our family will grow. Five is not our number, that's probably why we are so off kilter all the time! 

The biggest reason I want to tell the folks who care to read it is that someday we will be expecting a child again, and that's not the first time I want to mention my miscarriage to the grand public. Our loss is important, our loss was bearable somehow, and it was an Allen child that deserves to be loved and honored and mentioned and have his/her own little day in the sun of community acknowledgement. We really figured it would be another girl and secretly, very hush hush quietly we thought about the name Delia June. Delia after Jason's aunt, and June so she would be the most Southern creature alive! A friend from work had a baby girl a few months ago and named her Delia. My heart leapt and sunk all together. Maybe we will save that secret quiet name for another baby Allen girl someday, but if we don't get the chance, it's how I will remember this little one in my imagination. The interesting thing about miscarriage is that it's the loss of all you imagined and hoped for your child. I joked that for a mama, I had already imagined through college, a wedding, grandchildren even! My imagined loss is not different than anyone else's. All loss is unique, complicated, and singular to the one in grief. When we lose someone, we mourn the future we lost with them. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

My Tips for Feeding the Family

I have no clue how most families eat. Seriously, with the cost of food, the stretch factor on our time, picky kids, picky spouses, and just plain mental capacity reached before 2pm each day, I can't imagine that everyone feels like they are succeeding. I don't succeed every day, but I have a system that works for us most of the time. I spend more than ever before on groceries, but it still isn't as much as many families who have shared their grocery budgets with me. We have been buying local too! So, here are my "rules" and tips for feeding myself and these people that live with me. I'll share some sample menus with you another day.

Rules and Tips

1) Always Menu Plan

You can search sale ads first, check out your options for ordering from the Arkansas Local Food Network, flip through your Pinterest boards, whatever you want. Just make a menu for the week, because for someone as fragmented as me, just buying staples and then throwing something together on a whim requires WAY too much mental energy. That can happen at the end of the week when you are scraping through the last of the budget!

Menu Planning Tips
• Eat less meat! It's expensive, not great for your health or the environment, and did I mention that it's expensive? Save meat for 1-2x a week and use your money saved to buy organic high quality meats and maybe even from a local farmer!

• Go simple but stay excited. Choose a few stand by meals that are satisfying but simple to prepare with just a few ingredients. Then choose one or two adventurous meals that you could save for the weekend when you have more time. If you get too boring though, it will be more tempting to go out. 

• Be realistic. If your family currently eats out three times a week, don't plan for every meal in. You will have groceries that go bad then feel like you failed. 

• Choose meals that make plenty or can be turned into other meals. Leftovers make great grown up lunches. Chili can become chili cheese burritos or chili dogs or chili Mac (for the kids please!) 

• Have fun! Get excited about eating good, healthy food, watch a documentary or a foodie show first, just to keep yourself motivated. Eat to live!

2) Always Make a List
         • Decide on at least a loose budget if you have that luxury. I think I'll do another post on meal planning on a tight budget. I used to cut all the corners on groceries because it felt like the only financial area I could control. That was a mistake for my family and I hope that mentality in the US will change. Food should be affordable, but not at the cost of nutrition and health. Food should not just be a commodity. 

List Tips
• Choose a day and time to make your list and menu plan each week. Build it into your schedule so it doesn't seem like such a chore. 

• Write your list aisle by aisle to help save time at the store. I divide mine into produce, bread, natural foods, meat, pantry, frozen, dairy, and household extras.

• Keep your list posted along with your meal plan on the fridge or somewhere that you will see it. You can add to it or scratch stuff off if you need to. 

• ALWAYS take your meal list and grocery list to the store. That way if something is on sale, you can easily see which meal would be easiest to exchange. Also, the meal list will spark your memory if there is something missing from your grocery list. 

• Oh yeah, and follow it! There is bound to be something you add or decide you don't need, but you made it before the chaos of the store and with a plan in mind. It is doing the thinking for you!

3) Peanut Butter and Jelly: There is something in every family that will satisfy everyone in case you are tired, your adventurous meal took a dark turn (oh let me tell you some stories about recipes gone rogue), or your meals didn't stretch as far as you thought...OR that your toddler will eat when they refuse to even try the vegetable minestrone with kale! That something, at my house, is peanut butter and jelly and we will always have those supplies in our house. Find yours and prepare accordingly!

4) Set a Food Goal for Your Family: What do you want to accomplish with what you are eating? Do you want to manage weight, lose weight, gain weight, provide balanced nutrients and vitamin content, eat vegan or vegetarian, clean eating, whole foods only? What's your shtick? I'm not talking about fad diets, but rather the lifestyle choice you are making with your food. This goal will guide your meal plans and grocery shopping. Without a goal, the choices are beyond endless and convenience wins. I have lots of goals and try to manage them together, which is challenging so just start with one!

4) Have Mercy (cue Uncle Jessie)
When you go to Little Ceasars instead of making spinach salad and quinoa croquettes (or in my case, in ADDITION to making that because they turned into rubbery death discs), just enjoy it and don't be too hard on yourself. Find some good crock pot meals for soccer night, OR go through the Sonic Drive Thru and make the kids eat in the van and wipe off your popcorn chicken crumbs when you get to the field. I've heard the advice to look at your eating habits for a three day span and make adjustments from there. Do the best you can when you can and give yourself credit when you just can't. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Perspective from a Working Mom

I have seen a lot of posts on FB and blogs lately regarding the plight of the stay at home mom.  Most are kind hearted and calling for help, understanding, and value for the mom staying at home taking care of her children every day.  One blog post even nudged at the idea that homemaker women have a harder time because our society devalues family, children, and the ministry of motherhood.  This issue had not occurred to me, the thought that stay at home moms may be carrying around a chip on their shoulder because they are told that the job they do every day is not valuable, not important, and anyone could do it.  That’s because I envy stay at home moms. Yep, used the wordy derd “ENVY.” 

I’m one of those women forced to work outside the home due to the financial needs of my family.  I’m good at my job, successful in my career, and I love having adult relationships with my work friends.  I’m not bitter or mad, sometimes very sad, but able to appreciate and be as content as possible with my situation.  I do not, however, fall into the category of women who need and want to work.  Women who know they are not the personality type to stay at home and find themselves to be better mothers and wives when they work outside the home.  I do not get energy and satisfaction from my work life that helps fulfill me in ways that my home and children cannot.  This is a perfectly understandable and right way to be a good mom.  It just doesn’t fit my situation. 

Lately, these many posts I’ve seen related to stay at home moms and their difficult situations have offended me a bit.  I have never seen a post from a working mother related to how hard it is on her.  I’ve never read a blog article representing my specific situation.  I’ve never read a post from a stay at home mom with empathy and compassion for her fellow mothers working outside the home.  I have seen articles on how we should all support one another and how each role is equally valuable and there is no one right way to be a good, Christian mother and wife.  Those are encouraging.  They are few and far between though.

So, I needed to blog a minute about this issue.  I said earlier that I envy stay at home moms.  Let me clarify that I do not have an idealized version of what it is like.  I was able to work from home for a year when I had two small children at home.  I worked 30 hours a week from my computer with a very tight deadline each day and cared for my home and children.  It was a sacrifice so that I could be more than just a nights and weekends mom, but it was not a perfect solution.  I did not consider myself a stay at home mom because while I had all of the expectations of one, I did not have all the capabilities considering my work schedule.  I had to trade being either a good employee or a good mom on a daily basis.  I got all the poop and puke, sibling fights, social isolation, meal time messes, grocery store trips, laundry and dishes, diapers and snot that any other mommy gets while also fighting a deadline and squeezing every possible working hour I could into nap time and after bed and the dreaded Saturdays.  When given the opportunity for a promotion and considerable raise, I prayed and sought Godly advice and decided I would be a better mom on nights and weekends than I was M-F while working.  I decided to give my babies back to daycare and head back to work full time.  It was terrible.   I was pregnant with my third baby and facing the horror of leaving another tiny helpless infant in the hands of a stranger.

Honestly, the offended part of me wants to scream.  How could any woman who has never experienced this kind of pain ever find it in herself to ask others to feel sorry for her? (Please keep in mind this is a gut reaction and not where this rant ends!)  If you’ve never sat at your desk with the door closed praying nobody walks in while you are wearing your hands free pumping bra hooked up to the moo cow double electric pump while trying to answer emails and not pick up your phone since the noise is incredible only to get 2 ounces of liquid gold all the while just wishing you could pick up your baby and let her nurse but she’s getting bottle fed half formula and half precious breast milk by a kind hearted stranger or probably a pillow they propped up in her crib because she’s one of 10 babies in the classroom……um, I got off track.  If that has never happened to you because you are blessed with the opportunity to raise your children full time, then I want to scream and tell you to be grateful.  I know there are stories on the other side of this and envy runs both ways.  I blow dried my hair today and put on a nice wool blazer from Loft and wore some jewelry and I will not get pooped or snotted on for 8 hours!  Woohoo!  I am a rare bird though, who would rather wipe snot then toil my day away at a job that has no eternal purpose. 

My two year old still cries when I leave her each morning at daycare.  I have to walk down the long hallway listening to her scream that she wants her mama.  My older two have started school so I’ve already missed the remaining time that they were mine.  Sometimes they beg to stay home with me.  Sometimes we do!  I still pray to God that I would have the opportunity to stay at home with them, but He doesn’t see fit to answer that prayer.  Even though we have two incomes, I still can’t afford to hire anybody to help around the house.  Talk about needing help, when exactly would you expect that a full time working mom has time to do dishes or laundry or go grocery shopping or cook or vacuum?  Seriously, I don’t understand the seeming lack of alternative perspective. 

We are all trying our best.  I also understand that stay at home moms aren’t crying out for a job outside the home, they are crying out for support and appreciation of what they are going through.  Amen to that.  You are appreciated by this lady.  I also know that it’s not about me, it’s about the individual and their needs and their place at the time.  So, I’m over the offended part and I’ve moved into more of the action phase.  My action is to offer perspective, not comparison, but perspective.  In fact, I live in a social realm where at least half the folks I am very close with would actually devalue my role as a working mom.  Talk about feeling unappreciated.  I’m not filling my eternal destiny and obeying God’s commandments because I don’t stay home and take care of my husband and children.  My house is filthy most days and I cuss sometimes.  The other taboo thing that happens in my house is that I have a partner.  He’s my husband and he is the head of our household and I love and honor and respect him.  He does dishes.  He does laundry.  He bathes babies.  He changes diapers.  He cleans poop and puke and snot.  He keeps kids while I shop and go to the store and go for a jog and garden and attend church meetings and go out with friends AND all summer long while I am still at work and he’s on summer break.  He is a parent, not a figure head.  He does not get to come home and put his feet up, nor does he deserve to simply because he’s a man and he worked all day for his family.  So did I, so did you, stay at home mamas! 

I’m sure most modern women don’t live in such a patriarchal fairy tale, but sweet gracious do I see some delusional ideas out there about the role of a man in the home.  No working mom on earth has ever been given that role just because she brings home the bacon.  I’m not saying to go burn the recliner, ladies, but I am encouraging a partnership that requires 100% participation from both parents.  Your man may be a terrible cook, but he can learn and he can certainly find other ways to help.  It upsets me when men are allowed to feel like they did their wife a favor when they changed a diaper or loaded the dishwasher.  Same thing when women think they did a great service to their husband by taking out the trash.  There’s always something else to be done and unless you are a puritan pilgrim, there are not gender assignments on household chores.  I don’t have the physical strength or infallible gag reflex to unscrew the u-pipe from the sink to remove butter knives and toothpaste lids from the drain and my husband is physically incapable of putting our daughters’ hair in ponytails.  That’s ok, we’ll trade.  It took three children to break ourselves of these terrible habits.  We’ve been in our house for almost six years and I haven’t mowed the lawn one time.  I’m not going to expect a parade if I ever do though.  Basically, I’m saying that being a stay at home mom or ANY MOM would probably be easier on women if the family structure was based on a true partnership and help-mate mentality.  It kinda makes me want to gag that it’s 2013 and I would still have to beg women to stand up for themselves even in their own homes.  I could not be a good mother and would never have had more than one child if I were in this domestic business on my own.  Wait, let me rephrase to be more shocking and terrible, I would rather be a single parent than stuck being a mother and caretaker for all of my kids plus my husband.  I am grateful beyond words for my husband, but not because he “babysits” or helps me with my chores.  I am grateful because he is my partner, friend, spiritual confidant and guide, and co-parent. 
It's still hard though.  Even though I do have a partner, it is still so hard.  We compete over who is more exhausted.  He got a second job doing online tutoring to help make ends meet.  We miss our kids.  Time is flying.  I am trying to focus on gratitude though and I don't want anyone to ever feel sorry for me.  I have more than half the world will ever see.  My children are already blessed beyond measure because they were born in this country.  If I fail at everything else, I gave them that.  I will not squander my blessings with comparison, worry, self-criticism, or envy.  I will empower women, equip my children with gratitude and tenacity, and thank God for a spirit of fire despite a pressing societal demand to douse it with feminitity defined by meekness.  That proverbs 31 woman is a bad ass and so am I. 
Ok, whew, that got intense.  So, I just needed to get some of this out because I don’t like being frustrated just because there’s a lack of perspective.  I don’t like feeling as if my story is unheard when I’m perfectly capable of telling it.  I do like writing.  I do like my freedom to have opinions.  I do like being a mom.  I hope that I’m not just labeled a crazy misguided liberal.  I’m not…well, I’m crazy and pretty liberal, but not misguided.  I’m a feminist who would love to be a stay at home mommy.  I’m a feminist who thinks we should be teaching our kids to knit, sew, and garden.  I’m a Christian who thinks women are abused and marginalized in the evangelical Church.   I have a crazy liberal best friend who comes and loves on my kids every week and tells me I’m a good mom and although she never wants children of her own (for now anyway), she encourages me in motherhood, Godliness, and helps in real physical ways that are invaluable.  My daughter will be President someday and my son says his favorite color is pink.  I’m a nights and weekends and two weeks of vacation a year mom.   I get to spend 3.5 hours per week day in the presence of my children.  That’s it.  PERSPECTIVE!!  I get to spend those 3.5 hours in a nice home and put dinner on the table and drive a mini-van with duct tape on the bumper.  I’m blessed and so are you.  The chips on our shoulders are ours alone to remove.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I had to share the hilarity of my children.  Last night was our Women's Bible Study and Kid's Club at church.  I go in the gym to pick up the kids and one of the little boys runs up to me and says, "Hey, she [pointing at Addie] said you were gonna have a baby."

I laugh and said, "No, I'm not having a baby."
Then our children and family minister steps up and asks, "Do you have anything you would like to share?"
Turns out that Miss Liz asked the kids to share a blessing each before dinner.  When they got to Addie, she said, "My mommy is going to have another baby soon."

Well, everyone's face turned and they all just assumed she'd let the cat out of the bag.  I had lots of inquiring minds but I assured them all that I am not pregnant.  This elicited lots of laughter, some relief, and a few inappropriate comments along the lines of, "Oh good, I was thinking, 'Are y'all crazy?!"  I was quick to clarify that we do want a fourth baby someday but that we are not currently pregnant.

On the way home I asked Addie why she told everyone that I was having a baby.  She replied, "Because I want you to."

Here's how the rest of the conversation went:

Me: Well, baby girl, I know we would like to have another baby in our family, but Mommy is not pregnant right now.  I'm not growing a baby in my tummy so we don't need to tell people that because it might make them sad. 

Addie: But I want you to!

Me: I know, but I'm not having another baby right now.

Addie: Why not?  I told them you were having one soon, not right now.

Me: I'm just not, it takes a long time for babies to grow, so I'm not having a baby soon either.

Addie: [Bursts into sad sad tears and sobbing] I waaant you to right now!!!!!

Freddie: Mama, why don't you just go home and get married right now so you can have a baby.  I want you to have a baby tomorrow.  I want a Pokemon baby.

Me: It doesn't work that way Freddie.  Only God can decide when I am able to have another baby.

Freddie: Why don't you ask Him for one?

Me: I have and I will keep praying for that.

Addie: Just roll your window down and ask Him right now!

Me: [laughing a lot] I can pray without rolling my window down, ya goof.

Addie: I want a girl baby.

Me: God gets to decide if we have a girl or a boy, not us.  We will be grateful no matter what we have.

Freddie: Or we'll be grateful if we have two babies.

Me: [doubtfully] Um, yes, we'll be double grateful.

Freddie: Oh, Mama, you can get double pregnant.  Tomorrow you need to kiss two boys.

Me: [laughing more, near peeing my pants]  It doesn't work that way Freddie, stop worrying about it.  Mama will tell you both if we are going to have another baby.

Freddie: You can kiss Daddy and Rimshot, he's a boy.

Me: [thinking he may need a better anatomy lesson than I was willing to give a 7 year old]  No, humans can't have dog babies.  It doesn't work like that.  I'll explain more when you are older.

Addie: We never had a boy baby.

Me: What did you all have for dinner at Kid's Club??????

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I'm gonna write that down

Today at lunch, Addie asked Jason what he made in Sunday school.  He replied, "Conversation."  Addie said, "Oh, that's good, conversation.  You made some friends." 
I told her that he also ate some cake.  She wanted to know what kind.
Jason replied, "Chocolate ice cream cake with chocolate chips."
Addie said, "Ooooh, that sounds delicious.  I'm gonna write that down."

She is hilarious.  So, I'm gonna write some stuff down too.  First off, today is September 1 and I ate a CHEESE quesadilla for lunch.  I had a whole wheat tortilla with white queso quesadilla cheese sprinkled with a little cumin and some homemade fresh salsa made from my garden tomatoes to dip it in.  Now I feel queasy.  I'm also nursing a sore throat and overall yuck feelings today, but I will try and blame the dairy for as much as possible.

August happened.  Vegan eating for a month happened.  Lots of new foods, recipes, ideas, etc. happened.  Four pounds lost and reaching my 60lb mark happened. Now it's time for something new or something old.  A friend asked me for an informative post on why vegan.  I mentioned watching Forks over Knives and a slew of other documentaries, but if we just need an abbreviated version I'll deliver.  So, the stuff that causes exponential cancer growth us omnivores is animal protein.  Animal protein isn't only found in meat, it's found in milk, cheese, and yogurt too.  I wish we could take butter out of the equation.  It's not protein, just fat, surely that's ok!  Also, I can't turn away from the incredible environmental toll of the livestock industry.  It is destroying our earth.  The human population continues to place crazy demands on high yield from the meat industry, causing soil erosion, water polution, severe animal cruelty, greenhouse gas emissions, genetic manipulation, and the eradication of viable farm land.  So, organic is good, right?  Free range chickens and eggs, grass fed organic beef, and all that jazz.  Well, maybe.  Maybe is as good as I can get because, first, I can't actually afford to feed a family of five all free range organic grass fed animals and their by products.  Second, it's not all it's cracked up to be either.  Free range chickens only require a few feet of space to meet the standard while they still get placed on an assembly line and male chicks are shredded up while they're still alive to make our dog food and hot dog fillers vs. a traditional chicken "manufacturer" who hoards hundreds of chickens into a few square feet and they grow into their cages and are pumped full of so many hormones to make their breasts grow that they can't even walk.  Hormone and antibiotic free organic dairy cows are euthanized if they have a basic udder infection because farmers can't use antibiotics to heal them or they won't get a stamp on their milk cartons.  Things like this upset me. 

I'm not asking or expecting it to upset everyone.  We all get through daily life with selective ignorance and denial on one thing or another.  I have no idea what small indonesian child probably suffered to make my cheap target sandals.  There is no way I could go through all the possible scenarios of how a cow is treated before it becomes a rawhide chew for my dog.  I've only started looking at how all the chemicals in my house are probably killing us.  Food has just been something that I take such an active roll in on a daily basis, that it seemed a good place to start being socially, economically, and environmentally conscious.  We all have our issues we are passionate about.  I'm not certain this will become "MY THING" since my thing is already all wrapped up in natural birth!  It's all strung together for me though.  Making small steps toward a more conscious way of living is how we'll survive another thousand years on this earth without it becoming a real live zombiepocalypse nuclear holocaust hunger games situation. 

K, there's my soap box.  I ate cheese today.  Just plain old cheese with no fancy labels and it tasted good.  I won't be eating it at every meal and I don't know when I'll feel like eating a piece of meat again.  I'm only going to do the best I can to reduce my consumption and educate my family so that they can do the same.  Maybe a year from now I will have more resolve and higher standards and expectations for myself.  I honestly hope so, but I've made dozens of small changes and an entire eating, lifestyle, shopping, environmental consideration, fitness, and outlook change because of these.  That's good enough for me for right now.  Individual choice is key and I'm proud of any small step I make or you all make in the right direction.