Saturday, February 11, 2017

Fly Like an Eagle

We've experienced some pretty amazing Bald Eagle sightings up at the lake on the hill this past week. The first time we spotted two of them, circling over the lake then landing gracefully on the top of the ice. They stood there for quite a awhile seeming to rest and groom themselves amongst the other birds and ducks. They are magnificent creatures to watch-with 8 foot wingspans, white feathered heads, enormous talons, powerful beaks, and shiny, black eyes, you can't help but stop everything and get sucked into observing their awesomeness as long as they will let you. 
The second time we spotted an Eagle was near the lake again, but this time Jonah and I were driving in the car, on our way to Walmart to buy a gift for his friend's birthday party that day. We saw it soaring high above the trees, circling the area with great bursts of speed and then gliding slowly around the clouds. We pulled over to get a better look. 

Jonah loves animals. He loves talking about them, looking at pictures of them, learning more about them, and then collecting them in stuffed-animal form to snuggle. He knows a lot about large birds and can tell you all about the local fowls living near these mountains and lakes. To Jonah, a Bald Eagle sighting is something special to talk about the rest of the week.
This photo courtesy of google images

As I looked up at the Bald Eagle I admired it's freedom to fly wherever it wanted to go.  It was the end of another busy week, full of rushing kids to and from activities, cooking meals, washing endless loads of dishes, meeting deadlines, managing the cleanliness and sanitation of our house, and basically keeping on top of everything that is raising a little family of small children. It was Saturday morning and I was feeling  pretty exhausted. So when I looked up at that Bald Eagle I felt a sense of yearning for my moment of liberation--to soar above the clouds and glide freely above the trees-to break free from all the constant responsibilities. Is it possible to feel jealous of an Eagle for just a tiny moment? I suppose so.

I turned to Jonah and expressed my desire to be like that Eagle-to soar up in the sky like that flying Eagle. "I wish I could be an Eagle sometimes," I said, "I could go wherever I wanted and do whatever I wanted, and fly all over the place!"
 I will never forget his wise reaction. He immediately looked over at me and said,"Not if you have eggs to lay on and a nest to take care of and chicks to feed...... Then you can't really go anywhere!"

Once again my children teach me that my life is exactly what it needs to be! As busy as I am, and as chaotic as my mothering life seems at times,  I am fulfilling the grand and beautiful measure of my creation just as God created all of His creatures to do. There are times to soar and glide and fly freely--to be liberated from responsibilities, and there are times to be busy tending to all the little chicks in my nest. Right now my nest is full and I wouldn't have it any other way!
I sure love my wise little Jonah, one of my sweet baby chicks. He taught me a great lesson this week about living to the fullest in the moment.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trying Vegemite for the first time

My Dad sent us a tube of Vegemite from his recent trip to Australia. He was really excited for us to try it. Here's me holding it up for a photo with little J:
 My Dad insisted that if we're ever going to be vacationing in Australia or even considering living there someday, we'd have to be brave enough to try Vegemite.
(Ya don't know what Vegemite is? Check out the Wikipedia description and history to discover more about this sticky, black paste that is so popular down under.)

I decided to spread the Vegemite on a large piece of homemade bread which had been toasted and then spread with butter. This was the suggested way to sample our Vegemite, per my Dad. I then cut it into four squares, fully expecting my family to sample it along with me. 
Without saying many words, I think I will just post the photo my son took as I tried Vegemite spread for the very first time ( I had just gotten out of the shower hence the towel on my head):

Basically, I think this Vegemite should go back to the brewery dump station it originated from, taking it's bitter, malty, salty, nastiness along with it! Blech!!

Needless to say, my children refused to try it (my husband sampled some in Australia many years ago and tried to warn me....) and I ended up throwing away the other pieces of bread. 
I almost threw up, too. In fact every time I thought about Vegemite the rest of the day I felt a slight surge of vomit rise in my lungs.

Whelp, I guess I can cross that adventure off my list! (Thanks Dad! I'm glad I can say I tried it! Even though I will never ever ever ever ever NEVER try it again.)

Sorry, Australia, but have you ever heard of peanut butter?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I am Happiest when

I am happiest when I am spending time with my children. They are the purest joy in my life. It's when I get too busy and overwhelmed with other things that I find the stresses of life too great to bear and find that I'm wallowing in confusion and misery. Then I slowly reel myself back in-- back to serving, nurturing, playing, laughing, and guiding along the four little people which we created into this world, and everything makes sense again.

I don't want to move anywhere. This is our home and our foundation for teaching and growing our family. We've created a beautiful life here and God keeps showing me over and over again that this is exactly where we need to be. He especially showed up after that post I recebntly wrote about wanting to move again. Haha. He showed up to show me that I needed to stop and recognize all the blessings I have and stop seeing greener grasses elsewhere. I need to keep putting myself out there as far as making friends, serving others, and creating a community for us to thrive in. This is the happiest choice.

Our children are really happy here.
We have beehives buzzing and fruit trees growing and favorite places to wander and explore. We have friendly neighbors and beautiful parks and more memories to create in these mountains and creeks.
I have book club and relief society and playgroup and snowboarding and did I mention we're building a Temple here? Our very own Temple to go to whenever we want, and only 5 minutes away up the hill!! This is going to do wonderful things for our family and our little town! Our eldest loves watching the building progress and keeps excitedly mentioning that THIS is the first temple he'll get to go in, right here in Cedar! 

My boys have their individual interests fulfilled here: swim lessons and role playing games, bike riding and rock hopping, tumbling classes and cub scouts, preschool and playgroup, and all the fun in between. They don't like having a lot of friends, just a couple special ones that we've found. They don't like big events or fancy parties or crowded rooms of people, just small gatherings with the family and friends they like most. This is something I've had to adjust to as I'm an extrovert raising introverts! (I recall on my 10th birthday I invited both my entire classes from school and church to come over and celebrate!!) My boys prefer small parties with our family ONLY. I have to stop myself from making big plans and realize they have just what they want and need in all the small and simple things.

My husband has a wonderful job here. He's good at what he does and works hard to accomplish his goals. He loves our family and loves his little boys. We come first in his life and that feels good. The love and support of a good husband is one of the most powerful things in the world. I am grateful for Micah's dedication and hard work every single day of our lives.
As far as my college classes go,  I've completed 3 classes this semester and have one more to go, but only 6 weeks to complete it: "Foundations of College Mathematics." 
And believe it or not, I am actually enjoying this class! Each day I sit down and have my ten year old do it with me (because homeschool). We have a lot of fun watching the videos, learning the material, doing the homework, and finishing the little quizzes together. Funny that my ten year old is doing my college math class with me, but it's way better than doing it alone! Plus I can ask him for help when I get stuck because for some reason his little brain grasps concepts faster than my old brain. ;)

So life is good. I've also been feeling a lot better (depression wise) as I've been daily sitting in front of my mood therapy happy light, taking my Vitamin D, and keeping up on self-care. 
Getting enough sleep is so important.  I need 8-10 hours of sleep a night to feel good. Sometimes I feel like a newborn baby!

I love our book club. It was started in September 2014 by some ladies in our ward, however, they have both moved on and now I help organize it each month. We usually get our books for free in bulk from the Utah Book Buzz. It's a program that provides books to book clubs across the state through the library system. Each month we peruse the titles and pick something new, then Book Buzz sends me about 15 copies, which I distribute to whomever wants to read it.
These are the books we have read so far, since Sept 2014: (the only one I missed reading is The Traveler's Gift). I placed stars*** next to the ones I especially LOVED ***

1.The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
2. The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews***
3. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein***
4. The Rent Collector by Camron Wright
5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
6. Unbroken by Lauren HIllenbrand***
7. Dealing With Dragons #1 by Patricia C. Wrede
8. Words by Heart  by Ouida Sebestyen
9. Wonder  by R.J Palacio
10. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
11. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
12. These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner***
13. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith***
14. Let Us Eat Cake by Sharon Boorstin
15. The Goose Girl  by Shannon Hale***
16. Doing No Harm by Carla Kelly
17. The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
18. Agenda 21 by Glenn Beck
19. Star Girl  by Jerry Spinelli***
20. The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews
21. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert***
22. Immortal Nicholas by Glenn Beck
23. The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

I love to read! In fact, having a good book in my hand makes me very, very happy. People often ask me how I find time to read? I don't know! I don't watch TV, which probably helps. Also there are times when we just sit around and read as a family. I look over and my older kids are all reading, and I'm reading, and my husband is reading, and the two little ones are playing, and life feels good. 
Next on my list to read is "The Moon is Harsh Mistress" by Robert Heinlein. It's not for book club but instead my husband suggested I read it. I'm not a huge sci-fi fan, but if my husband loves it, I will at least try.  :)

Lastly, here's a picture of a cute toddler. Oh I just love him and I love being his mama!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Aloha Knows no Color!

A friend of mine who has lived in Hawaii for over 30 years was recently harassed for her skin color. It was a really traumatic experience for her and I don't blame her for feeling so bad about it for so long. 
Yes, racism still exists in the beautiful islands and it's a sad thing when you become the brunt of the hatred and shame associated with it. 
Having grown up on Oahu I know too well what it feels to be an outsider. I was one of the only white kids in my elementary school and a minority at my high school. I was pushed around in the hallways of my school and beat up by some angry girls once who didn't like me because I was hauole, yet I felt okay in the end because there were also many people who loved and accepted me for who I was, white skin and all.  
Growing up you learn a deep respect for the history and heritage of the islands. The culture there is something sacred and powerful to the island people, and something I learned to respect as an outsider to the islands. Oahu is also referred to as a melting pot of cultures, which has brought so many different people together, all trying to get along there on that tiny rock!
There is tension and racism anywhere you go in the world where cultures and customs collide. I knew that my "hauole" ways were not always tolerated, yet after living there for so long I also experienced the beauty and aloha that comes from blending and learning from each other. The experiences I had growing up in Hawaii will always be a part of who I am. 

In August 2015 we visited Oahu right after Malachi had just turned one years old. We stopped at the fruit stand near Kawela Bay and watched as this Filipino grandma loved on my baby boy with all her good soul. She picked him up in her arms, carried him around her shop, pointed out the birds and the flowers, and showed him the kind of aloha I've known to love on my beautiful islands.

(Malachi pictured above with his new friend. Aug 2015)

Growing up in Hawaii taught me that there are so many different people all over the world with a variety of  ideas, cultures, customs, beliefs, hopes, dreams, goals, skin colors, religions, languages, past experiences, future ambitions, and we must all learn to tolerate our differences to live peaceably on this earth. Empathy is a must! 
We must keep moving forward and keep spreading the aloha everywhere we go, despite our differences. 
Thank you my friend for continuing to share the spirit of aloha through your love, kindness, and generosity towards others. You are the epitome of aloha and I am grateful for your example to others, even when others are not so kind to you! xoxoxoxox

December 2016 Calendar-and that's a wrap!

December 1-Family Movie Night at Jonah's school. They played the film "Finding Dori." The gymnasium was packed full of kids in pajamas on blankets eating loads of popcorn. Jonah had a blast! I really enjoyed the movie, too, but couldn't see or hear it very well as I was also wrangling little Malachi the whole time plus refilling on popcorn and water for Jonah. I went to walmart and bought a copy so we could watch it again later. "We see the undertow and we say, Heck No!"

December 3: Stake Conference Weekend:

We left our eldest son  home to babysit for the first time so Micah and I could attend the Stake Conference evening session. We were gone a whole two hours away from home. I was nervous at first and didn’t want to do it but felt like we should give it a shot. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a date plus we always enjoy the evening session of SC. So, off we went! We ordered pizza, got out the Finding Dori movie for them to watch that I originally was going to wrap up and put under the tree, and left our big mature Zadok to babysit his three little brothers-8,6, and 2 years old. We knew there was no way he’d change a poopy diaper so we just hoped Malachi would not poop while we were gone.
Well, it went great and Zadok did a wonderful job! When we got home there was a plastic soccer ball taped to the living room ceiling  as a disco ball, a Weird Al song blasting, and 4 little boys dancing around the living room. This might be one of my favorite memories ever.
Oh and Micah and I had a wonderful time listening to Elder Blake Roney speak great things!

December 6-Took Z, O, and M to a Christmas concert at the local high school. It was free and so I thought any chance to listen to Christmas music and expose my children to the arts is a good thing, right? We stayed for about 30 minutes before Malachi started talking too loud and disturbing the peace then we left and got cream-filled Churros at Taco Time. I don't remember what was so funny, but I remember laughing a lot that night. My boys are so fun.

December 7-Took the whole family to Christmas at the Homestead, which was a really delightful evening of visiting the Homestead Museum of Iron County. It was really cold as we walked around outside, but they warmed us up with hot chocolate, candy cane popcorn, and lovely Christmas lights. We visited with Santa Claus in the old farmhouse, walked inside the old sheep-sheering barn, tasted caramel apples and cornbread in the old school house, sat in the old stage-coaches in the museum area, made bead ornaments, listened to a violin chorus, and watched the miniature trains go around the miniature tracks over and over and over again (that was for Malachi).

December 8-Relief Society Christmas tradition night.

December 12- I did it! I finally did it! I hired a cleaning service to come to our home twice and month and help me clean! Today was our first day and it was pure heavenly awesomeness. They scrubbed the bathrooms, the kitchen, and especially those hard-to-reach places that I just don't have time for. I feel a huge burden lifted from my life! I feel like taking care of this house and these four boys is not such a daunting task now that I have a little more help. My wise, wise, mama friends encouraged me to do this. They said that monthly budgeting for help is as essential as budgeting for food. I couldn't agree more! *Sparkly bathrooms!

December 13-Micah and Zadok drive to California for Micah's sister's wedding. Fun road-trip with just the two of them!

December 14- Micah's older sister got married today. It was a small ceremony at a park in Glendale followed by a burrito bar and family time. We're so happy for her and her husband. They are a wonderful couple that are perfect for each other.
December 14-Orthodontic appointment. Doc says my teeth are looking super straight and moving super fast! They put on my second to last wires and are preparing for my braces removal in the next 4-5 months. Hallelujah! So excited! Excited to get this metal stuff off my teeth and excited to see my new smile! p.s. My new tooth they pulled down is awfully pointy! I kinda like it but also wonder if I should get it filed down to match the other side. Got red, green, and white rubber bands for Christmas.
December 14-Ward Christmas Party at the church. I made ten pounds of mashed potatoes that didn't get eaten because there was so much food!

December 15- Micah and Z stopped at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada on their way back from CA. They hiked around and saw some wild big horn sheep! Z was fascinated by the sheep and wanted to follow and observe them for a long time. They had a great time hiking around and climbing on the colorful rocks. Micah wants to take our family back to camp there sometime.

December 17-Brought dinner to a family in the ward who's mama is recovering from a brain tumor operation. I made Shepard's pie, which requires lots of mashed potatoes. Luckily, I had some extra.

December 18-First time making Gingerbread houses at home with our family. I kind of half-ass-hot-glued some graham crackers together then laid out tons of frosting, candy, and sprinkles. The boys had a blast making them. They got eaten within a day. Pictures below.

December 22-Christmas Break begins! Micah and Jonah won't have school and we'll have lotsa family time!
Took my sweet, little Odin to the haircut store to get a tiny trim. The awful hairdresser chopped three inches off his locks and gave him layers! And then tried to fix it and gave him a girly-looking bob! It was such a sad day to see his beautifukl hair get butchered like that, especially as he is trying to grow it out really long. Odin was really upset about it all day, but was also a really good sport. I, of course, felt really bad for taking him in. His dad fixed it the best he could and Odin's been wearing hats all month and hoping it will grow back quickly!

December 24-Christmas Eve. Took Jonah on a special mommy-son date to see the movie Moana. We loved it! Made me homesick, but we loved it! Jonah especially loved that stupid chicken that kept eating rocks.
Christmas Eve evening, we lit candles and Micah read us the story of Christ's birth from the Bible. We sang Christmas hymns and felt the spirit of this beautiful holiday celebrating our Saviour.
Micah and I stayed up wrapping presents, filling stockings, and me making cinnamon rolls for the morning.

December 25- Christmas Day. Oh how I love Christmas morning! The boys woke up to stockings filled with toys and goodies and presents wrapped under the tree. We opened our presents and could feel the light and love of this special day! I felt like Micah and I did really good picking out gifts for our children. It was fun to plan ahead and pick out things we knew they would love. Z and O spent the entire morning sticking labels on everything with their new, electronic label makers. We went for a walk later in the day and they happily used their new walkie talkies. Jonah started making Perler bead art right away, and we couldn't peel Mally away from his new train set all day.
We attended Church for one hour from 11-12. The Bishop told us that Christmas won't fall on a Sunday for another 8 years. I looked over at my Z boy who will be 18 the next time we sit in church together on Christmas day. Oh my heart! I savored that moment of sitting next to my sons and husband on this beautiful Christmas day in the church we love so much.
Then Malachi got really tied so I took him to the nursing lounge to rock where we both fell asleep in the rocking chair and didn't wake up til the closing prayer. Merry Christmas!

December 26-Micah and Z went shooting guns at the range.

December 27-Micah and Malachi start getting sick today with terrible colds which end up lasting the entire rest of the winter break. Poor husband and baby M. I got sick, too, with a semi-bad cold that lasted a week. Micah was so sick one day that all he could do was lay there in bed doing absolutely nothing. Not bored and not moving, just sick, sick, sick.
Miraculously Z,O, and J stayed well and continued having all the hyper energy they needed.

December 28-I met with the new Cub Master and officially passed the buck to the new guy. I was Cub Master for 2 years! It was a lot of fun and I seriously thought I would do it until all my boys went through the Cub Scouting program, but alas, God had other plans for me. We definitely had some good times! My favorite moment ever was watching my shy, cautious, anxious 9 year old Z do a magic show in front of a room full of people. It was a proud moment for this mama!

December 30-Sick of being sick, Micah and I took the boys down to St. George to climb on the rocks and play in the warmer weather. Pioneer Park has always been one of our favorite family play zones, overlooking the city of St. George.

December 31- Goodbye 2016! It was a great year filled with many adventures and growth!
Malachi and I were the only ones up at midnight to ring in the new year because of his funky nap schedule as of lately. Some days he skips naps and then crashes at 7pm and then wakes back up at 10pm ready to party right when everyone is going to sleep. Therefore I stay up late with him where we watch movies and sleep in the upstairs bed in the TV room where I get exhausted waiting for him to get tired. Good times.
Happy New Year one and all!! I sure hope 2017 is filled with lots of good things!

Up late making service coupons for his brother on Christmas eve

One of my favorite gifts Christmas morning was this popscicle creation Jonah made for his dad.


Valley of Fire State Park:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Those darn moving thoughts are back....

The topic of moving has come up again. Moving is a stressful  subject for both Micah and I so these thoughts are to be considered lightly. 
The last time we moved (back from Hawaii) it was such a HUGE ordeal that I never wanted to move again. Ever. I remember telling Micah he'd have to scrape my dead body off the kitchen floor before we ever moved houses again. Yet here I am, 3 years and 4 months later, feeling that itch to move again. It doesn't seem sensible after all the time we've spent planting roots here, but the more I think about it, our roots still don't run very deep. 

Sure we've chopped down the old pine trees in the front yard and Micah has planted long-term fruit bearing trees for us to enjoy in the years to come. And sure we've planted raspberries all along the front lawn and the asparagus crop will be ready to harvest in another year. Providing long-term food sources has been a big priority to my husband as we've made a point to settle down here. 

Plus we've made a few adjustments to the house to make it feel more like home to us. I've given myself the liberty to paint the upstairs bedrooms in all the boldest, brightest colors possible, making my home feel more! I really don't see any potential buyers loving my periwinkle and squash colored walls like I do. Or my yellow door.
However, as I take this all in--our home, our trees, our garden, our painted walls- there's still some pieces missing here for me in beautiful Southern Utah. Our roots don't seem to want to hold on as tight as I'd like to think because however breathtaking and beautiful and wonderful Southern Utah can be, It's been difficult to feel like I belong here as a person. 

I've talked this subject  over with Micah again and again and we both feel the same way and have come to the same conclusion:  There's nowhere perfect in the world to live and you have to make compromises anywhere you go. i.e. The Big island was awesome but we couldn't afford to live on Oahu, which is the ideal Hawaii living experience for me (us). If we lived there long-term and bought a home we also couldn't afford to ever leave, which would forfeit any plans to travel and show our children the world. So, we moved back to Cedar City where real estate was cheap and there were so many awesome wilderness opportunities. Life has been good to us here. Micah has a great job and our children love the outdoors.

But, here's the things I don't like, and the things that don't work for me, and the compromises we've had to make: 

*There's no homeschool community here that we can be a part of. The homeschooling community that does partially exist here is not the right fit for us. The people are nice but it ends there. No offense to the nice people, we just have different ideals, and different perceptions on what we want out of homeschooling. So basically homeschooling my kids here has been an isolating experience. I see how co-ops are done in other places and I know it can be something amazing and beneficial to homeschooling families, but It's just not happening here. The compromise has been homeschooling my kids anyways, sending them to public schools at times, and enjoying the awesome experiences in the natural surroundings we have. I also see a special bond between my boys that we have formed in our family from years of just being with us. They are each other's best friends and companions.

*The Mormon Culture here is wacky. In Mormon culture (not religion) which dominates the  Utah population, many people here confuse church culture with the true gospel of Christ. Sadly, I see so many people trying so hard to get away from the culture of the church that they incidentally move farther and farther away from the blessings of the gospel.

The true gospel is the glorious plan of God that allows us to follow the Savior and return to live with our Heavenly father. Our ultimate goal is to have eternal life in the presence of God! We can have this by living the true gospel! Having an established and organized church on earth is God's way of orchestrating all of it into one magnificent structure of purpose and goodness.
However, with any organized religion also comes cultural customs and traditions that get passed down and passed on without thought. Latter-Day-Saints already have a very distinct set of commandments and instructions on how to live the gospel and reach eternal life so by adding unnecessary rules and customs constructed through cultural traditions, we are taking away from the real purposes of the gospel. (The church is not a social club.)
Many of these wacky traditions have stuck here in Utah and they are constantly confused with living righteously. I often don't feel like we fit in here because we don't subscribe to the cultural norms, yet we still live and believe our religion. It frustrates me to no end when someone is surprised to find out I'm LDS right here in my little community (because it has happened several times.) Or when I meet a new friend and I can tell they want to share the gospel with me until I break it to them that I've been a devout LDS for 15 years, I just don't "look" like a Utah Mormon. grrrrrr.
The compromise is that there are a lot of good, well-meaning Christians all around us and people are nice here. We have good neighbors and can feel the safety and security of living in a sheltered area where crime is low and all your neighbors bring you cookies at Christmas.

*Next, it's been really hard to make friends.

This is such a beautiful and unique little community that many people come here to go to college and then leave. There's an 80% turnover rate in our ward alone for college students that graduate and move on every couple years. On the flip side there are families that have been here for generations that never leave. Most of the established families we know have generations of family surrounding them...aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, moms and dads-they're all still living here in Cedar City or surrounding areas.
So for us, as transplants with no family here, and who arent' from here, and who aren't school students, but want to feel established here, it's hard to get our foot in the door to find like-minded people who want to hang out.
Most of the good friends I've made have graduated and have moved or are moving soon, and the established families don't have a lot of extra room for us. I don't blame them! If I had lots of family here it would be harder for me to spend a lot of time and energy reaching out to lonely transplants when I could just call up my sister or my aunt to hang out. I look around us, especially during the holidays, and see people's homes filled with cousins and grandmas and moms and nieces and nephews and I get it!-- but it's still hard. It's hard to realize that we live in a place where we have a million kind acquaintances, but few real friends.
The compromise is to keep enjoying the wonderful folks we've gotten to know and serve through our ward, and of course to keep trying---to keep reaching out to meet new friends who may need a friend. Also to enjoy the closeness that our little family feels when again and again we are doing things with just us to celebrate the holidays and the swiftly moving years of their childhoods. Our kids are great friends!

*I don't like the cold. I really don't. The snow is beautiful for about a week and then I'm done. Plus winter-time exacerbates my feelings of isolation and sadness. The compromise is (my compromise) is that my children love it (and my husband, too.) Their little faces get so excited when it snows! They can spend hours out there playing and sledding and discovering cool shapes and textures in the ice and snow. Their love for snow is contagious! Another compromise is that I get to snowboard a couple times a year. It's fun and helps me recharge my busy mom batteries. I can't say I love snowboarding, but it's a fun distraction from the cold. Plus I'm naturally pretty good at it so it boosts my feelings of awesomeness. j/k

So these are just a few thoughts about moving I've been having lately. Like I said, these thoughts are to be taken lightly because there are so many wonderful things we do love about Southern Utah. And moving is a stressful huge ordeal that I'd like to avoid. I also want to do what's best for our growing children. There's only 8 more years til Z-boy is 18 and going on his mission. I feel like we need to take the next 8 years of special family time into careful consideration. Time is precious. Families are precious and need to be protected.

Is moving the best option? Is the grass sometimes greener somewhere else when really we just need to keep blooming here? Another thought is that I always seem to want to move every Winter because I loathe winter. These thoughts may flee as soon as spring-time comes around.

There's also the question of where would we move to?

We've thought in the past about moving to the Northwest to be closer to my family up in Seattle and Oregon. We also really like the culture and natural beauty up there, but we've also considered the impact the overcast and rainy skies would have on my depression. There are much fewer sunny days even compared to Cedar City, so that can't be good long-term. Plus, there's the possibility that we could move there and then my mom, sister, and two brothers could all move away. haha. I don't want to put all our eggs in one basket, so to speak, although I think it would be fun to have family to be around for once.
Another option is sunny San Diego. There are a few neighborhoods we've looked into that have neutral climates, sunny skies, awesome gardening opportunities, mountains with snow within an hour's drive, and an ocean nearby, which would be so wonderful to be near the sea again!
Then there's Australia. Oh Australia! Micah and I both have an obsession, although he's actually been there to visit and knows he loves it there and I have only seen pictures and heard the stories. Moving out of the country would be so hard for me, yet the allure of Australia keeps coming back. Micah has wanted to move there for years. I'm not sure if I could do it.

Darn moving thoughts! Time for thinking, praying, and considering all options.

To be continued.....

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Depression, pull up a chair!

I've been struggling with depression really bad the last few months. It comes in waves, but when it hits it's worse than the normal waves that I've grown accustomed to over the years. These ones have been harsh, severe, completely overwhelming, and sometimes debilitating. I have been attributing it to going back to college, what with the extra stress that accompanies deadlines and extra responsibilities, especially when I haven't been used to this routine. I struggled with depression when I was going to college 12 years ago so I figured I must've hit a negative trigger when I started up again. Like resetting my memory button to remind myself, "Oh yeah, college was stressful and you were depressed so let's welcome back all those same feelings again!"  Boo.

I went and spoke with a therapist recently about all my woes and worries and got a lot off my chest. It felt good! After our second session, however, I felt like he broke up with me. I felt like he was telling me I was doing just fine and all I need to do is keep reminding myself of this truth: I am fine. I am fine. I am fine! I struggle from time to time but I am fine! 

I walked away feeling satisfied but also a little dejected that he thought I was better off than I felt inside. Overall,  It's probably better that I stopped going because it costs big money, but I wanted to be the one to decide when I was done and I felt like he decided for me.

Anyways, back to my depression.

The first time I remember feeling deeply, severely depressed was in high school when my parent's got divorced. I've scoured my journals along with the deep memories of my past I can't recall feeling depressed or anxious until the years following this traumatic event. 
This is where I have come to accept the reality of my depression without feeling guilt or blame. I no longer want to feel guilty for my personal struggles and frustrations with depression. They do not make me a weak or incompetent person. Nor do I want to continuously blame the cause of their existence. Many psychologists believe that certain people are more prone to pessimism, negative thoughts, and depression but these tendencies aren't prevalent until a catalyst brings them into play. I'm pretty sure that this catalyst for me was my parent's divorce. 

In recent readings for my Health and Wellness class it says that there are no simple answers to why people become depressed yet there are some possible factors to how depression develops. 

Heredity is one possible answer. Depressive disorders like Persistent Depression Disorder  can be passed down through simple genetics. 
Another factor is Background and Personality."People who have certain psychological backgrounds or personality characteristics appear to be more vulnerable to depression. Many specialists believe that some depressive disorders can be traced to a troubled childhood or  low self-esteem. Also people who consistently view themselves and the world with pessimism, or who become easily overwhelmed by stress tend to be more prone to depression." 
Then there are biochemical factors: "Some types of depression may result from abnormal chemical activity within the brain. These chemicals play a role in the transmission of electrical impulses from one nerve cell (neuron) to another. These chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, set in motion the complex interactions that control moods, feelings, and behaviors."
Then there's physical illnessPeople who have chronic medical illnesses are at high risk of psychiatric illness, especially depression. 
Last there's the factor of Environment—"Environment can also contribute to the onset of a depression. Research has shown that stressful life events, especially those involving a loss or threatened loss, often precede episodes of depressive illness. Examples include the death of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of a job, a move to a new home, physical illness, the breakup of an important relationship, or financial problems." (AAP 1999)

Sometimes I get really down on myself because I don't understand why I have to deal with anxiety and depressive thoughts. In general I've always considered myself a really positive and upbeat individual. I remember being a really happy child with a busy, active, bright, and beautiful life. I remember loving everything and always looking forward to whatever adventures came my way. I felt comfort and security in the warm cocoon of my family. I often recall feeling so happy I could burst!

That's why it's hard for me when I start to feel so negative in my mind. It's hard for me when these sad, angry, resentful, or depressing feelings creep into my mind because that's not the way I want to be and I don't really think I am that person, yet looking back on the past 20 years or so I've been that person more often than I've wanted. 
I was taught to always look on the bright side of life. I often remember my Grandma Lois saying,
"I am happy when it snows, I am happy when it rains, and I am happy when the sun comes out! It's good to be happy in whatever situation you're in." 
This is always how I wanted my thoughts to be, too, yet it so often isn't. For me,  the snow and cold make me feel trapped and melancholy. My depression gets worse in the winter. I love summertime but it's really sad when it ends.... Summertime is the only season where I feel consistently okay.
I don't think it's realistic to feel happy ALL the time, but it seems that so often my happiness is dependent on everything going just the way I need it to, all around me. Loss of control is synonymous with loss of my happiness. When too much stress or out-of-control-feelings come into my life I get on a downward spiral where I just can't cope and everyone and everything around me seems hopeless and miserable, too. Then there's the crying for no reason. This mostly happens in the winter when I'm feeling suffocated in the cold weather.

 So what if my parent's divorce was the catalyst that brought my struggles with depression into play? Does this mean I wouldn't be dealing with this crap if my life path turned out differently? Does this mean that my negative mind wouldn't be triggered with despair when stress becomes too unmanageable in my life? Would I be freed from remembering over and over of the trauma I experienced during those years in high school or would it be something else?

I don't know. I don't have all the answers. Perhaps something else would've triggered it along the way. Life is full of ups and downs. 
Or maybe It's hereditary. Are there family members who struggle like I do? Nobody really wants to talk about it. 
Or maybe it's biochemical. I experienced depression in my pregnancies and post-partum depression which I attributed to the changes in my hormones and abnormal brain activity. I've been on anti-depressant medication since Jonah was 2, to take the sharp edge off of my downer feelings and to stop crying everyday. I've wanted to get off it and sometimes I do, but then I go back to it again.
 Or maybe it's my personality. Perhaps I'm just prone to sad feelings because that's who I am. I've always had a tender heart full of empathy and love towards others. My emotions get the best of me at times. I cry easily. Perhaps these things go hand in hand with feeling depressed. 

So whatever the source of my ongoing struggles with depression, it doesn't really matter anymore because it dawned on me today in a very real and powerful awakening of sorts (and that's why I'm writing this all down) that my struggle with depression isn't going to go away. It's part of me now. My own personal disease. I suppose I've been focusing so much on trying to get rid of it forever that I've been running myself exhausted into the ground. 

Today I am pulling up a chair for depression and facing the fact that it's here to stay.

Sure I've got my long list of healthy coping strategies and my positive thinking exercises and the occasional check-ins with a therapist and the self-help books I read, and some medication that takes the edge off and all those things are helpful and wonderful and help me to get past the hard parts....
But this is where I've realized why this has continued to be such a struggle for me--because it's never going to go away and I need to stop fighting it and just accept it.
On occasion it's going to leave then it's going to come back then it's going to come in waves then it's going to come in storms and sometimes it's going to wipe me out completely but then it's going to be gentle and calm and allow me the peace and happiness I need and then it's going to come back again. Daily. Monthly. Weekly. I don't know.
I am fine. I am fine. I am fine! 

Although this news feels like it could be drowning me, it's actually very liberating. Perhaps it is like a person who has injured their leg and finally realizing they're never going to walk normal again no matter how much physical therapy they go to! The end of the struggle could feel rather cathartic, although depressing at the same time.

No matter how hard they try to walk the same walk, it's just not going to happen because life is different now. This is the new normal and now it's time to accept it and learn to walk differently. No matter how much I want my depression to go away for good I'm just going to have to continue to walk differently with the legs that I have. 

What hit me last night was that there are certain things I cannot do because of my depression even though I want to believe I can. I'll try over and over again and convince myself it'll be okay until I find myself suffering the brutal consequences. And then there's certain things I have to do to take care of myself that I can't ignore even when I want to. 

I guess just like any illness, there's prescribed medications except it's not very cut and dry--I've had to figure out for myself through years and years of trial and error what works for me and what doesn't. For instance if I go even one week without some form of high-impact physical exercise I dip into a deep hole of hopelessness and misery. I have to exercise. Working out is one of my medicines, my coping mechanisms, my healthy strategies for staying sane. I also have to eat a consistent healthy diet, have alone time for myself, get outside in nature, talk with a close friend, read my scriptures and pray with my Father in Heaven, get enough Vitamin D and sunshine, cut back on responsibilities, have a clean and tidy house (clutter makes my brain feel cluttered), and spend relaxing time alone with my husband. 

It's really hard to get these needs met as a mother of 4 little boys who is busy all the time! Many of these needs get ignored for my children's needs, which is the natural by-product of being a mama because spending time with my wonderful children also brings me joy, but depression seeps in when I don't take care of myself along the way. I guess that's where I left off with the therapist: we both acknowledged that I know what to do to take care of myself-I just have to keep doing it.

I have faith that God has a plan for me even when I feel like I'm drowning. I know He's there and I know He's blessing my life all along the way. I made a list the other night of all the things I am worrying about and it ended up being two pages long, then I asked Christ to please take these burdens from me. Please take all my worries and make them better and make me feel better.... 

Then I waited for all my worries to go away-to magically disappear into Christ's hands. I know of the miracles of Christ. I have felt His miraculous hand in my life over and over again so I waited......and guess what? My problems didn't disappear of course, but instead I received clarity like I'd never had before about my depression. I awakened to a realization that my  depression is something that isn't going to go away and my worries won't magically go away, but He will guide me and walk beside me and help lift my worries from me as I continue to have faith in His plan for my life. Especially as I continue to accept who I am and accept  the trials I've been though that have shaped my life into what it is today. 
I have had to learn to walk differently than I ever imagined, but I am walking with Christ so I know I'll be fine. He takes my burdens from me in just the ways that I need.

My dear friend Wendy sent this painting to me by Korean artist YoungSung Kim a couple weeks ago. It is hanging in our living room and I love it so much. It is Christ reaching down into the water to lift Peter up when he started sinking into the lake. Peter tried to walk on the water towards the Lord but got afraid and cried out, "Lord Save Me!" as he started to sink. Christ stretched out His hand and lifted him up immediately. I like to imagine Christ is holding his hand down to me, ready to catch me at any moment. I love this so much and am so grateful she sent it to me. I love the colors, I love His smile, and I love that she thought of ME when she found it. Thank you, Wendy, for sending me this gift at such a perfect time. I can feel Christ lifting me up and I can feel His love through friends like you.