Friday, November 20, 2015

Mom Works Out: Karve Studios

Recently, my friend Melanie McKinnon, who blogs at Melanie Meditates, invited me to a bloggers' event at Karve Studio Gilbert. Karve is a barre (pronounced: bar) fitness studio on Higley and Guadalupe Roads in Gilbert, and Melanie is an instructor there.

Photo by Mark Yori

You're probably thinking, What the heck is "barre?" Barre fitness is a new form of exercise similar to Pilates. It is called "barre" because it utilizes a ballet bar for much of the leg work. It also incorporates the use of bands and inflated balls, too.

Photos by Mark Yori

Prior to the event, my only previous experience with barre-style exercise was a few YouTube videos that were difficult to follow and perform correctly because I don't have a barre installed in my home. Ha. Plus, I don't have a live-in barre instructor to help me with my posture and form. If you really want to get the full benefits of barre fitness, you'll want to head to a studio for sure.

The Karve class is so great. It incorporates upbeat, current music to keep the workout fun. The instructors are so dynamic and energetic, I felt totally motivated to go the extra mile on every move. The workout itself is challenging and effective, but not impossible. I REALLY felt the burn on some of those moves! It was intense, but I fully enjoyed it.

Photos by Mark Yori

Pointe Studio also sponsored the event and provided us all with adorable pointe socks, specifically designed for barre classes. They are super-comfy and have non-slip grippies on the bottom.

Photo by Mark Yori
I'm always looking for do-able, fun and low-impact workouts, and Karve Studio Gilbert definitely provides that type of fitness experience. Check it out!

Friday, November 13, 2015

On proving the Lord.

A few weeks ago, I was paying my church tithes and offerings when I remembered I had $10 extra in my bank account from selling an item online. Since I obviously didn't need it (or I wouldn't have forgotten about it), I decided to add it to my normal fast offering contribution.

For those who don't know, the LDS Church requires its members to donate 10 percent of their income (tithing) to fund the operational and material costs of the church. It also requires members to donate a personally-decided amount to the fast offering fund, which is used to help the needy. This amount can be whatever you would like, but our leaders counsel us to be generous.

As I chose to part with this extra $10 -- not a significant amount, but cash nonetheless -- this scripture in Malachi chapter 3 came to my mind:

"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

In a somewhat childish move, I then decided to "prove" the Lord. I distinctly prayed He would show me the blessings as promised. I submitted the extra amount along with my regular donation and went on my merry way. Would I be blessed in an obvious fashion? I was now on the look-out for financial blessings.

Turns out, God can be pretty quick to respond in situations like this. Two days later, I checked the mail. One letter was a reimbursement check from Dillon's company for over $50. It had been months since the reimbursement request was issued and Dillon had forgotten about it. He wasn't even sure if it would be approved.

I then recalled my little test and realized this was it! Fifty dollars! A 500 percent increase on my fast offering, I thought. But it didn't stop there.

There was another letter from our cable company. It stated they had noticed a discrepancy in our bills and investigated it to find they had overcharged us. They credited the overage amount to our account and apologized for the mistake. It was a little more than $10.

Whoa, sixty dollars! I thought. The Lord took my meager amount and increased it by 600 percent. I truly had been blessed. I rejoiced in gratitude. I told the story to my family. It was a confirmation of testimony for me. The Lord had proven Himself to me as I acted in faith.

Fast forward to today. I was looking through my bank account when I noticed my auto insurance hadn't yet been withdrawn for the month, and it was a few days past the normal withdrawal date. I called my insurance company, thinking I must have made some kind of error and needed to fix it. After holding for several minutes, the representative returned to tell me they had adjusted my account during the year at some point, and that amount had already been paid. I would not have to pay for November's car insurance.

That's $108 ... bringing the grand blessing total to $168.

 A 1,680-percent increase on my original "investment" to the Lord. Now, that's a serious ROI if I ever did see one.

Some may chalk it all up to good luck or even stupidity on my part. Shouldn't I have known I was overpaying on my cable and insurance bills? Shouldn't Dillon have remembered that reimbursement check? Yes, we should have. But we didn't.

And actually, if I'm being honest, happy little blessings like this show up in my life quite often. But that day, I specifically asked God to prove Himself, and He did. He proved that He has been blessing me all along by calling these little incidents to my attention. Incidents I may have overlooked before. In fact, I might have even been bothered by them, wishing the extra cash had been more, ungrateful for the unexpected blessing I received.

My prayer that day changed my whole perspective. It was an act of faith and obedience. It altered my mindset from ungrateful demanding to one of hopeful expectancy. When the blessings arrived, they were met with gratitude and humility.

I share this experience not to brag or propose any expected financial gain for paying an honest tithe and a generous fast offering, but to acknowledge that the Lord is mindful of me. He heard my prayer and answered me, and He will do the same for you. He loves me and you and stands ready to bless us when we test Him. Are we as eager to obey as He is to reward us?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Where I've been lately.

Short answer:

On Snapchat.

(Did I really just tell the world I have a Snapchat? Crap.)

Here's the thing about Snapchat: I can basically talk about whatever I want and after 24 hours, it vanishes forever. And people can't leave me comments or tell me they think I'm an idiot. They just have to watch and endure. Or tap through. Whatever floats their boat.

Blogging, on the other hand, takes far more mental stamina and I have to worry about feedback, which stresses me out.

Plus, Snapchat is just so darned fun!

Things I have discussed on Snapchat as of late:

--Burning my finger on my flat iron

--Carson coming home from school with a profusely bloody head

--Going to the dentist and getting my gums lasered

--The sinkhole in my front yard

--Clara's intense toddler cuteness

--Birds devouring the seed for my winter lawn

--People whose celebrity crush is Britney Spears

And a bunch o' other silly things. It's like my Random Thoughts posts of yore, but in living color!

So, if you've missed me because I'm something of a blogging slacker and you want to hear my strange voice/see me without makeup/laugh at my expense, come and find me on Snapchat and let the good times roll.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The face of breast cancer.

As you may or may not know, October 13 is No Bra Day. In other words, social media has given all ladies permission to skip "boob jail" for the day.

Do you know why? It's actually supposed to be a cheeky way to raise awareness of breast cancer.

Enough with the gimmicks, I say.

Here is a real woman you can be aware of. She is my mom, and she has fourth stage breast cancer with metastases in her bones.

My mom's cancer is estrogen receptor-positive (ER+), which mean the hormone estrogen makes it grow and spread. As long as she is living, she will take aromatase inhibitors, which prevent her cells from absorbing the estrogen that feeds her cancer. She also needs medication to prevent her bones from breaking due to this lack of estrogen.

My mom has not lost her hair, she isn't undergoing chemotherapy, she will not have a mastectomy and she will not have radiation therapy, either. Her type of cancer cannot be cured with those types of treatment. In fact, it can never be cured.

My mom does not look like your typical breast cancer patient, but she has breast cancer.

Every year since she was 40, my mom has gone in for a routine mammogram. Her cancer was not caught by these tests. By the time it was detected, it had already spread to her bones.

Her grandmother died of breast cancer and her mother also died from it in 2010. Although this makes it seem genetic, my mom does not have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

The medications my mom takes regularly make her feel absolutely rotten. They have terrible side effects. They make her joints burn and they cause her to feel exhausted and sick every day, as if she has the flu.

For the rest of her life, she will have to get regular blood work and scans to determine if the cancer is progressing. When her medications stop working, she will have to try new and different ones.

My mom is 54 years young. Her illness is terminal.

Having breast cancer doesn't always mean surgery, chemo, radiation, hair loss, reconstructive surgery and recovery. It's not always found in the shower or on a mammogram. It doesn't always start as a lump. And it's not always curable.

Social media gimmicks, like confusing Facebook statuses and silly campaigns like No Bra Day, trivialize a very devastating illness -- one which is likely affecting a woman whom you admire and love, too. In fact, a female born today has a 1 in 8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during her lifetime.

Instead of being a "slacktivist," you can skip these activities and create actual awareness by posting about a real person who has breast cancer. You can tell your friends on social media to check their breasts for lumps and get screened regularly. You can talk about the stats on Twitter and Facebook.

Breast cancer is no joke. It's not cute and it's not sexy, especially when the woman who gave you life has it. Please, take it seriously.

More information about breast cancer: Breast Cancer Research Foundation
For a list of reputable breast cancer foundations and charities, go HERE.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Casting stones.

Gilbert resident Cherish Peterson is making national news for accidentally leaving her infant in a shopping cart outside a grocery store and driving away. She returned 40 minutes later, immediately turning around once she'd realized her mistake. In the meantime, the baby was found by an off-duty officer and taken to a nearby hair salon. He was examined and found to be perfectly fine. Reports say through the entire ordeal, the baby never even cried.

You can watch the news story and read the transcript here.

This is a mistake in the vein of many others which parents of all types frequently make. As a parent or child care provider, have you ever accidentally forgotten to buckle a child into their car seat and drove around like that? Have you ever lost your child in a store or forgotten to pick them up from school? Has your baby ever rolled off a bed, couch or changing table on your watch? Have you ever left a baby or toddler in the bathtub for "just a second" to retrieve your phone or quickly aid another child? Has your child ever escaped from the house and run into the street?

Each of these common scenarios -- and yes, they happen OFTEN -- could end very badly, sometimes even in death. But most of the time, we don't think to involve law enforcement when our friend or sister's child takes a nasty spill off of a changing table. Instead, we are the first to offer words of consolation and comfort, saying, "It happens to the best of us."

"Don't beat yourself up about it."

"You learned your lesson and I bet you'll never let that happen again."

Not the case for Cherish Peterson. She's taking a LOT of vitriol for her mistake, most of it public scrutiny from people who don't know her at all. And although reports initially said she wouldn't be charged with any crimes, she is now facing a misdemeanor for child endangerment.

Don't get me wrong -- leaving your baby behind in a parking lot is a terrible misdeed. I'm not trying to excuse this mother's grave error. But it is no worse than the many misjudgments parents make on a daily basis, some even intentionally! Is this particular situation only important because the mother got caught?

I'm particularly incensed that Cherish Peterson is being charged with a crime. It's not difficult to see she already feels deeply sorry for what she did. Just watch the video. She is completely distraught over it. And Cherish clearly loves her children; she knows she made an awful mistake, she feels horribly, she's being crucified in the public square -- regardless of a criminal charge, she is never, ever going to forget another child anywhere, ever again.

If, after watching her emotional apology and reading the reports, you still feel Cherish Peterson is a bad mother deserving of a criminal conviction, put yourself in her shoes. If you did the same thing, how would you feel? I can only imagine myself in this situation. I have left my purse in the shopping cart a few times and as I drove back to the store to find it, I was in a complete panic. Over a purse. If it were my own baby ... I'd be livid with myself. I would cry myself senseless and probably wouldn't leave the house. I would probably never forgive myself. 

But would I call the cops on myself and demand to be charged with a misdemeanor? No. And, be honest -- neither would you.

Would Cherish Peterson be prosecuted if her story hadn't gone viral, if bystanders hadn't blasted pictures of the infant all over the Internet, if the judge and jury that is social media hadn't shamed her so mercilessly? I don't know. Makes me wonder.

If you dare to throw stones at Cherish Peterson, you better NEVER make a mistake like she did. All those things we talked about before -- children darting into streets, babies not buckled into their car seats, babies rolling off furniture, parents leaving their children unattended in the bathtub -- you better be SO vigilant. You better never take your eyes or hands off your kid because if you do, something bad will eventually happen. And when it does, you better pray no one ever witnesses your indiscretion, lest you end up the target of scorn for all of social media and a convicted criminal to boot.

"[S]he who is without sin, let [her] cast the first stone." We all know that statement means no one is perfect. So, let's have some mercy on this poor mother. Her whole life has been forever damaged -- not only because she made a mistake, but also because others couldn't resist hurling their rocks in her direction.

Cherish, if you're reading this ... I'm crying with you. You're a good mom who made a terrible mistake. But, you've learned your lesson. I bet it will never happen again. Don't beat yourself up about it. It happens to the best of us.

Go, and sin no more.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

D-MER: The dark side of breastfeeding.

This is something I've wanted to write about for a long time, but couldn't bring myself to do it. The emotions associated were too fresh until recently.

But I'm ready to talk now. I have realized my story could help many mothers to keep breastfeeding, even when it's really difficult.

In April 2014, I had my third baby, Clara. After briefly breastfeeding my first child and nursing my second baby for nearly a full year before he weaned, I figured I knew all there was to know about breastfeeding. I thought the beginning might be rough since four years had passed since my last baby, but I believed once I crossed the hurdle of the first few weeks, it would be easy again. Just like riding a bike.

Then came the gloom and doom.

It happened every time Clara latched on, right before my milk let down. You know that feeling you get in your stomach when someone shares tragic news, or when you're really homesick? That gut-wrenching feeling would sneak up on me each time I began to nurse.

This sadness would quickly swell into ultimate sorrow. My heart would race and my breathing would become sharp and fast. Then, I would involuntarily cry; tears would stream down my face, completely beyond my control. Horrific thoughts entered my mind. Often, I wished I could die.

This intense feeling would last about a full minute, sometimes longer, and then gradually subside until I was done feeding my daughter. It didn't matter if I was on my phone, talking to people, watching television or distracted in any way -- it still happened every time I nursed.

At first, I chalked it up to the post-partum blues most moms get right after they give birth. But three months in, it hadn't abated. In fact, it seemed to be getting worse, and I anticipated each feeding with dread. During the rest of the day, I felt pretty normal -- a little tired, sure, but certainly not depressed. But man, when it came time to breastfeed, that awful, grievous feeling would take over. It felt like an evil force was plunging me deep into the darkest abyss of sadness without any hope for escaping.

One day, I was pondering on this strange occurrence when I recalled a thread I had seen on a parenting forum years before. It discussed a condition called D-MER. I'd only skimmed the thread, vaguely remembering something about discomfort associated with breastfeeding. I shamefully remembered how at the time, I thought the woman discussing it was crazy. But now, I know she was not. At the soonest opportunity, I got to my computer and Googled this phrase:

"feeling intense sadness while breastfeeding"

All my questions were answered here.

I found out that D-MER is short for dysphoric milk ejection reflex. I learned it is "a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes."

The site explains there are two hormones that regulate milk release. Prolactin is the hormone that signals for milk release or ejection in nursing women. To keep the breast milk from coming out all the time, dopamine (the "happy hormone") regulates the mother's prolactin levels. So, in order for the prolactin to do its job when your baby is hungry, the dopamine must decrease rapidly. In some women, this sudden decrease in dopamine causes the dysphoria associated with D-MER. It can manifest as sadness or homesickness (like I had), anxiety and even anger. As the dopamine levels rise again, those negative feelings dissipate.

Now, it's important to know that D-MER has nothing to do with pain or nausea when nursing. Those are different conditions. It is not psychological, either, like postpartum depression or psychosis. It is simply a hormonal response.

After reading about D-MER, I was relieved to know that what I had was explainable and somewhat normal. But, knowing about it didn't make the feeling go away -- it still came and went, every time. The site did say as my baby got older, the dysphoria would lessen and that most D-MER cases go away by six months postpartum. I clung to that hope and began to notice when it lessened, vanishing completely around Clara's six-month mark. What a relief when I could finally nurse without feeling that awful sadness!

Here's something kind of crazy, though. Despite delivering three babies, D-MER was something I had never personally been told about. Not by obstetricians, pediatricians, midwives, nurses or even lactation consultants. It was not in any of the literature I brought home from three different hospitals or obstetric practices. I had only ever seen it mentioned in passing on a message board, many years prior. Yet it was something so terrible, it almost made me give up on breastfeeding!

I mean, who wants to go through that torture 5 - 8 times every day? Nobody. But since I'd never been warned it could happen, I wondered if I had some significant problem with breastfeeding, or if I was experiencing some kind of psychosis. Thank goodness Google cleared that all up.

Something DID help me get through it, though, and that was talking about it. Once I knew what I had, I began telling people -- my husband, my mom and my close friends. Their sympathy alone made a difference.

Also, being aware of the D-MER and understanding what caused it didn't make it go away, but it helped me handle it better. I knew that it would end after a few minutes and I would feel happy again soon.

If you have these feelings when your baby is nursing, just know you're not alone. You are not crazy; you do not belong in a psych ward. You have D-MER. It will go away eventually. The intense sadness/anxiety/anger you are feeling during breastfeeding is not rooted in reality but is simply a hormonal response. Remember that, and don't let it get to you.

And maybe it's just too much and you want to quit breastfeeding. Only you can make that call. If you feel it's best for you and your baby to switch to formula because the D-MER is making you miserable, go for it. Breast isn't always best, and maybe severe D-MER is an example of a situation that warrants bottle-feeding. I fully support moms who do what is best for their family, whatever that may be.

Have you or a loved one ever experienced D-MER?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

How do we look upon sin?

About a month ago while we were staying with my parents, my sister came home from church. It was the first Sunday of the month -- Fast Sunday -- which means instead of a regular sermon, members of the congregation are invited to share their personal testimonies from the pulpit. She mentioned how a number of congregants related sentiments like, "No matter how far you fall away from Him, God will always, always love you." My sister said her bishop did eventually get up and remind the congregation that while God does indeed love us and always will, He "cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance." Which means, He doesn't allow sin to enter His kingdom.

I've been thinking about this a lot, especially recently. Here are my somewhat-jumbled, hopefully-coherent thoughts on the matter.

First, I do agree no matter how much we sin, God will always love us. Remember, He is our Father. And a parent's love is (or at least, should be) unconditional. No matter how many times my children unroll the toilet paper, punch each other in the face and generally behave like holy terrors, I will always love them. And when they get older and make really terrible choices, even when they shatter my heart into a million pieces, I will always love them. And God, being a perfect parent, will always love us, too. Even when we break HIS heart, over and over again.

God loves us, and that is why he looks upon sin with the least degree of allowance.

Think about it, parents: if we love our kids so much, why do we make rules for them? Isn't that oppressive and cruel? No -- we love our kids and we want them to become the best people they can be. We don't want them going into society, unrolling toilet paper all over the place, punching other people and being holy terrors. So, we set boundaries to help them turn into decent adults and live up to their potential. But, we ultimately allow them to choose, committing to loving them no matter what.

Here's another reason why God looks upon sin with the least degree of allowance -- His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, paid the ultimate price in suffering the sins of all humankind. God could never tolerate sin in the face of his Son's beautiful and heartbreaking Atonement. If so, He would cease to be God.

God does not want us to sin, but He knows we will. That is why he provided a Savior. But Christ did not atone for our sins so we could make mistakes with wild abandon. He requires us to follow Him, be baptized and keep His commandments. He asks that when we sin, we repent in full humility. We need to correct our sinful behaviors before He will cleanse us.

The Atonement is not a free car wash we can simply ride through without even exiting the vehicle. Instead, it is Christ standing with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge, ready to help us wash the car by hand. He requires our best effort. That is the only way a true change of heart can occur.

Now, how should we look upon sin? Some may argue that we should be like God and not tolerate any sin of any kind, ever. Even others' sins. But to that, I say, do you intend to obey all the commandments? Don't forget Christ's admonition to "judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). I am so glad it is not my responsibility to decide who is a sinner and who isn't. I cannot possibly understand the hows, whys and whats of everyone on Earth, but God and Jesus Christ do. So, I'll gladly leave the judgment to them.

Photo by Mark Mabry

Also, we can look to Jesus Christ's example. During his mortal life, He associated with sinners. He did this not to accept or excuse their behavior, but to invite them to change and follow Him. How are we to help others come unto Christ if we abandon them the second they slip up? We can't. In fact, by doing so, we may even encourage them to turn further away from Him.

However, in our own lives, it's a different story entirely. We are all personally responsible for ridding ourselves of sin. We shouldn't allow it in our own lives, ever! When we realize our errors, we should repent as soon as possible to restore the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can and should testify that sinful behavior is evil, but going beyond that -- such as pointing out specific sins in others -- is the kind of judgment Christ warned about in Matthew 7:

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye."

In other words, if you're going to help people remove the splinters from their eyes, you better be darned sure you don't have a two-by-four hanging out of yours.

Now, what about when society as a whole is engaged in sinful behavior? Again, as baptized members of the Church, it is our duty to "stand as a witness of Christ at all times, and in all things, and in all places." We can do this by living the commandments and being a good example of righteousness. We can testify of truth to others when the Spirit influences us to do so. We can exercise the right to vote for or against measures that coincide or conflict with our moral convictions.

But, we must not judge others.

So, how do we look upon sin? With the least degree of allowance -- in our own lives. We should repent immediately when we realize our mistakes. We shouldn't allow misdeeds to fester and corrupt us.

We can help others by living as an example, testifying of truth and exercising our right to vote when applicable. And most importantly, we can also reach out in love, as the Savior did. But He is the Savior of the world, and He has the power to judge the sins of others where we do not. We must be careful not to cross that line.

What can we do, then, when those whom we love are engaged in sinful behavior? Here are some suggestions:

-- Love them as you always have. Be kind and respectful.

-- Continue to associate with them, since abandoning others goes against the principle "love thy neighbor." Have them over for dinner, game night, play dates, etc. Invite them to your family functions and events.

-- Share your belief in gospel principles when the Spirit invites you.

-- Pray for them.

-- Avoid contention and arguing.

--Let go of what you can't control.

Remember, we're all on life's journey together. We all have different struggles and strengths, and NONE of us have mote-less eyes. God knows us perfectly and He will judge us fairly. And while He does love us and will always love us, He does not want us to sin. He wants us to repent and be made whole so we can inherit all the blessings He has in store for us.