Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I believe in this.

When the Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriage in all 50 states came down last Friday morning, I had a million thoughts and feelings, as most people did. But before blasting an opinion piece on it, I decided to wait. I wanted to mull things over, figure out how to articulate best how I feel and execute it carefully.

So, here we go.


---------------------------------------------

I believe in a lot of things, but here are just a few of them:

I believe in a loving Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ, who is God's Son.

I believe we are all God's children.

I believe God gave us the agency to choose for ourselves, and He wants us to have every opportunity to do so.

I believe the consumption of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs, as well as coffee and tea, is harmful to the body, mind and soul.

I believe in always being kind, no matter what.

I believe in standing for your convictions.

I believe God has ordained marriage between one man and one woman.

To me, marriage between one man and one woman is a sacred and holy institution. This is a religious belief I hold dear, and no matter how many people disagree with me, the right to believe it cannot be taken away. Thanks, Constitution!

Why is traditional marriage so important to me, as an LDS person (Mormon)? I believe God is married to our Heavenly Mother, and They intended for Their children to marry in the same fashion. I believe They set the pattern for us to follow with the creation of the first mortal children, Adam and Eve. I don't believe they were merely the first humans to inhabit the Earth, but I believe they were also married by God in the Garden of Eden. I believe God's ordination sealed their companionship, permitting them to bring children into the world. I believe we are supposed to follow their example so we can someday become like our Heavenly Parents. This is not only a personal belief, but also a core teaching of Mormonism. It is a very significant part of my faith.

However ...

I do not believe it's my place to judge others. I don't know why some people are attracted to the same gender, to both genders or to no gender at all. But I believe they are my spiritual brothers and sisters and they deserve respect and kindness. I am so relieved I don't have to judge anyone for their choices or actions. God will see to that. My responsibility is to love my neighbor and share the Gospel with them. That's all.

I do not believe in blocking others from accessing agency. It is now legal for gays and lesbians to marry in this country. And I believe in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law. I also believe the Constitution was inspired by God because He wants us to be free to choose and think however we see fit. I believe in equal rights and fairness in the eyes of the law. And just as my abstinence from alcohol doesn't infringe on others' right to drink, my belief in traditional marriage cannot stop gay couples from marrying, either. What a great country we live in, where all kinds of religious and personal beliefs are allowed to co-exist! It would be even better if we could figure out how to do so peacefully.

I do not believe "the gays will ruin America." Since the ruling came down, I've read numerous sentiments in the vein of, "Oh, now that gays can marry, all the children are going to suffer and divorce will be rampant and we're all gonna DIE!!!" These thoughts disappoint and depress me. But I'm choosing to be optimistic. I hope that since everyone can marry now, people of all orientations will choose to commit to their significant others for life and provide stable homes for their children. I hope that we will see stronger relationships and greater respect between parents and children in general. I hope that all married people, whether gay or straight, will value the commitment they have made and appreciate its importance instead of running straight to court at the first sign of martial stress. I hope we will all be more conscientious of how our choices affect those around us, particularly the children, because -- "I believe the children are our future!"

If anyone is ruining America, it's the selfish, prideful, angry and violent people who reside here. Those adjectives can apply to people of all genders, orientations, races, economic statuses and religions. It's our personal responsibility to see that we don't contribute to the demise of this great nation, no matter who we claim to be.

I do not believe in being argumentative or mean.
I've seen people on both sides of this coin acting so cruelly toward those with whom they don't agree, and it's disheartening. Here's a little secret I've learned in life -- you don't have to be friends with everyone, but you can always be friendly. What do snark and scorn accomplish? Do you honestly think that yelling at someone or calling them names, either virtually or in person, will win them over to your way of thinking? Guess what, it won't. Don't be a bully. Think before you speak.

Remember, LOVE WINS. (See what I did there?)

Oh wait! There's one more thing:

I believe people who believe differently can be friends without judging each other.
A few years ago, I went to lunch with four other blogging ladies here in Arizona. I knew from reading their blogs that one was a nutritionist, one was very vocal about the importance of eating whole, raw foods and one was gluten- and dairy-free. The remaining blogger was very thin, and I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that she watched what she ate, too. At the time, I was beginning to care more about the importance of a healthy diet, and I felt immense pressure about what to order at that restaurant. I felt like all the food-conscious eyes were on me as I selected what to eat. I ended up settling on an underwhelming and really lame (but healthy!) salad, and I was so mad at myself. I succumbed to imagined peer pressure instead of doing what I wanted to do.

The thing is ... all four of those ladies probably wouldn't have cared too much if I had chosen something greasy and delicious instead of that salad. I am still in touch with all of them on a regular basis and as I get to know them more, I realize judgment isn't their thing. I can eat what I want in front of them and they'll still like me!

My point is, you and I can be friends, even if we disagree about food. Even if we disagree about marriage, even if we disagree about education, about parenting, about religion, about the best place to go on vacation ... doesn't matter! Friendship is more than finding people who are exactly like you and deleting them from your life the second they don't conform anymore. We are better than that. We are evolved humans and our close relationships should transcend our differences.

I believe in this.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Moment-capturing.



It's late in the evening, and I'm sitting in my week-old home. Dill is playing church basketball down the street; all three kids are snoozing in their freshly-painted bedrooms. I'm sitting on my comfy couch in my family room, admiring my beautiful, clean, white kitchen when all the sudden, it hits me:

At this moment, everything is pretty darn near perfect.

I'm taking a mental photograph of this so one day, when everything feels not-even-close-to-perfect again, I can remind myself that these times of peace and wholeness do come.

A month ago, when I was frantically throwing my whole life into boxes, simultaneously hating and mourning my first home (talk about an awkward feeling!) and dealing with the insurmountable anxiety that comes with major change, I could not envision this moment. All I saw were document signing appointments, realtor phone calls, inspections, appraisals, walk-throughs, storage units, moving trucks, packing, packing and more packing. Living with my parents and two youngest sisters AND their puppy for three weeks. Driving them all totally insane. Then, packing up and moving AGAIN. Then, painting the interior of the new house (because what parent of three children wants flat white paint throughout their entire home)?

Well, we got through it all. Sure, there are still pictures to be hung, miscellaneous items to be unpacked, garage shelves to be reassembled. But those things are not crucial. They can wait.

The crazy-stressful mandatory stuff: it's done.

And, why am I telling you all of this?

Because you're probably going through something hard, too. And I want you to know that the hard stuff will end. Life is about ebb and flow, give and take, here and there. It's not all hard. Sometimes, if only for a moment, it's basically perfect.

Just don't forget to pause for a minute, breathe in, and gratefully enjoy the peace.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Breastfeeding: The end of an era.


On May 1st, I breastfed my baby for the last time.

It was a surprisingly unceremonious occasion. By that point, Clara was only nursing once a day -- first thing in the morning. And it was mostly for my convenience, as it bought me some time to rest in bed before having to get up for the day.

Though we enjoyed it for a full 12 months, Clara and I have both outgrown breastfeeding. She is far too busy exploring and eating solid foods these days, and I was more than ready to stop.

When I realized it was time to drop that last morning feeding, I made the decision and stuck with it. Dill was home those first two days, so he got up with Clara and fed her breakfast as a diversion. Five days have passed since the last feeding and she hasn't cried for it once. She hasn't tried to lift my shirt or bite my shoulder. My instinct was correct -- Clara is just as "done" with breastfeeding as I am.

It's a bittersweet thing, moving into a new phase of life with your child, but also mourning the simplicity of the early days. I will miss the ease of pacifying my child by simply nursing her. It comes so naturally. It's a basic instinct on the part of both mother and child -- baby cries, mother knows exactly what to do.

But babies grow into children, who grow into teenagers, who grow into adults, who don't need their moms as much anymore. This is the natural progression of things and I need to accept that.

Some people may judge me for only breastfeeding for a year and for being somewhat nonchalant about stopping. Remember, everyone is different. All babies are different and all mothers are different. Clara simply wasn't all that attached to nursing and neither was I. It's true -- I haven't shed a single tear over the end of this era. That doesn't mean I'm heartless. I'm sure I will miss it someday and will look back on those times with fondness. But, I am also ready for the change.

I thought about writing a "How to Wean Your Baby at 12 Months" post, but I decided not to. Breastfeeding is such a personal thing. And just because it was easy for us doesn't mean it will be a cake walk for everyone else. In my experience, each mom knows best when and how to transition their baby from breast to cup. A one-size-fits-all approach to weaning doesn't exist, so I'm not about to try creating one for you.

However, having gone through this twice now, I can offer some tips that may make the transition a bit easier:

--Introduce a bottle or sippy cup long before you wean so your baby will be familiar with their new source of liquids once the process begins. It can be hard for a baby to learn to drink from a cup, so it's helpful to establish this skill before they must rely on it to quench their thirst.

--Eliminate the less ritualistic mid-day feedings first; then, move onto the harder ones (first morning and bedtime).

--Heed your baby's cues. If he or she doesn't express a desire to nurse, don't push it. It is common for babies to drop feedings once they start eating solids. A baby knows when to eat and will give cues if they are hungry.

I do NOT recommend quitting cold turkey. As with any major change, weaning should be a gradual process. Drastically dropping feedings can lead to clogged ducts and mastitis for you and emotional distress for everyone. I understand sometimes it has to happen this way, but try to avoid hurrying things if you can.

Also, unless your baby is demanding to be done, (like my Carson did), try to nurse at least a full year. Though babies receive most of their nutrition from solid foods by then, breast milk is still a reliable source of important nutrients.

And most importantly ... don't force anything. There's no rule that says you MUST stop breastfeeding your baby at a year. If you're both not up to it, keep going! Who cares what people think? Like I said before, every baby is different; every mom is different. Do what works best for you both.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Final Chair picture.

Would you even believe if I told you that one year ago at this very moment, I was snuggling my 10-hour-old baby in the hospital, thinking maybe epidurals are as wonderful as everyone says they are?

Yep. My baby is ONE today!

Here's a progression collage so you can see how much the wee one has changed over the months ...


And finally ...



Whoop! There it is.

Clara had some tubes installed in her eardrums about two weeks ago, and life's been dandy ever since. Imagine always feeling like you're ears need to pop and hearing as if you're submerged in water, then taking a 5-minute anesthesia-induced nap and waking up with no pressure in your ears and normal hearing. That's about all there was to it! Since then, she's more responsive, less fussy and has been talking a bit more, too! The other day, Dill picked her up and she very clearly said, "Dah-ee!" It is so exciting to see the changes in her.

Basically, ear tubes are AMAZING and I will sing their praises until I'm in the grave.

Clara has a bunch of teeth in her mouth, eats everything in sight, loves to crawl and climb (but not walk), adores the people she knows and is really skeptical of those whom she doesn't. We're talking, tears, meltdowns, refusal to be held ... sigh. I suppose I was lucky to have two kids who had zero concept of "stranger danger" and I should count my blessings. Maybe we can somehow lovingly convince her that other people aren't scary monsters who want to eat her for dinner and she'll outgrow this phase before too long? Let us pray.

In other news, we sold our HOUSE! In one showing. I know, try not to hate us. I am so relieved though, because living in a "model home" with three kids, one of whom likes to crawl behind you and undo all your cleaning and organizing, it the pits. I actually considered locking my kids outdoors at one point to prevent any further disarray in the "model home." Also, imagine my panic when the first showing is right during my EVMCO concert and poor Dillon not only has to get the "model home" ready but also corral the kids all by his lonesome. Well, apparently I should have more faith in the man because not only did he pull it off, but they offered more than we asked the very next day! Kudos, Dilly-Pie.

So anyway, we're on our way outta here and I'm feeling all sorts of emotions over it. Happy that we will be moving closer to Dill's place of work and we'll all get to see more of him. Sad that I have to leave so many great friends and neighbors behind. Discouraged by how expensive homes are in Phoenix and they're not all fancy and clean and cute like they are out in the East Valley. Unsure about where my kids are going to attend school. It's a whirlwind of feelings, people.

But for now, I'm going to quit worrying and savor this day. I'm going to forget about house-hunting for a while and have some pie and cake for my last baby's first birthday tonight. Bittersweet. They really do grow up too fast.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Encouraging light.

As most of you know, I'm a Mormon. And every six months, the leaders of my church present a collection of sermons in a massive three-day conference, which is then broadcast to the entire body of the Church. It's like a TED for Mormons. We call it General Conference. In fact, we just finished the latest conference last weekend.

Sometimes, the words of the speakers reaffirm that I am living my life the way I have committed to God. These talks feel like a little pat on the back for me. Most times, the speakers help me realize what I need to change about my life to be a better person. While it's always nice to feel validated, it's far more productive to get a little "kick in the pants," so to speak. There's always room for improvement.

On Sunday, one of the speakers, Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, gave a talk about a church member who stopped actively participating in Mormonism for a time but eventually came back. She discussed her friend's journey and noted what helped her friend return. Some of my dear family members and friends are currently struggling with certain historical facts and doctrinal teachings of the Church and have distanced themselves from Mormonism. This talk did give me hope they might find their way back, too.

However, I appreciated more when Sister Wixom quoted Elder Dieter F. Uchtorf, saying:

"We are all pilgrims seeking God's light as we journey on the path of discipleship. We do not condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have; rather, we nourish and encourage all light until it grows clear, bright and true."

Did you catch that? "We nourish and encourage ALL LIGHT."

Immediately, I realized what I need to improve on, and that is finding the light within others and encouraging it, whatever it may be.

Do you ever walk into a room and notice how dark a particular corner is? Do you think about what's underneath the bed or the couch? Do you wonder about the absence of light behind a closed cabinet? Probably not. Instead, you are drawn to the light. Your eye catches those things that are illuminated and bright, not the things residing in the dark. So, why then do we so often focus on the less-attractive attributes of others instead of admiring their light sources?

I sometimes get so caught up in the choices others make, especially the ones I don't agree with -- the "dark" ones. I find myself doing this less as I get older, realizing it's often impossible to change someone's mind and also learning that what works for me may simply not work for someone else, and that is OK. It is their right to experience life however they want to. Even though I know this, I still sometimes focus on what I perceive to be the negative aspects about others. I allow people's different personal choices to make me feel sad, frustrated and even angry sometimes. I see their pictures on social media and remember that THING I don't like instead of thinking about them as a human being with feelings and thoughts as real and valuable as my own. I'm basically looking under their bed instead of admiring the lovely painting hanging on their wall. Sad way to live, isn't it?

I know I am not alone in this, though. I know it because I catch the snide comments people make about my faith, I see the passive-aggressive (and sometimes plain ol' aggressive) posts on social media and I know others feel the same way about my choices, too. I know there are people who want me to "wake up" and leave Mormonism and all its cultural affiliations behind, just as much as I want those same people to come back to Mormonism. Plainly put, both sides are struggling to accept that people are going to choose what they will, and they likely aren't going to be persuaded with some antagonistic comic on Facebook or anything else of that ilk.

So, when I heard Sister Wixom relay this quote, I knew what I personally had to do:

Stop finding fault in others. Find their light and encourage it.

For example: A friend of mine has left the Mormon Church. She has a lot to say about it, much of which hurts my feelings. But she's very intellectual and a great writer with a gift for communicating. So, I read and comment on her blog posts. I "like" the intellectually-stimulating articles she shares on social media. I don't have to like everything she does and says, though. I can still live authentically. I choose to ignore the things that hurt. I find her light and encourage it.

Another example: Let's suppose you are a former Mormon or currently not practicing, and your sister keeps posting Conference quotes that really annoy you and may even hurt your feelings at times. But she's so talented and giving. And you like that about her. So, you compliment those gifts. You don't have to like the things you disagree with. You can choose to ignore them. Just find her light and encourage it.

"But! I have to stand up for what I believe in! I can't let people go around thinking things that are JUST PLAIN WRONG!"

If you feel you must correct the bigoted/unrighteous/sinful/hateful/ignorant opinions of another person, find a way to do it lovingly and without attacking. Skip the sarcasm, the passive-aggressiveness and the rudeness. Say what you need to say and then move the heck on. The message will be received just fine. Probably better than if you had yelled it at them with some choice insults.

I've realized I can't continue to let people's actions upset me. Granted, I will hear and read hurtful things from others for the rest of my life, but I can let the pain pass. I don't need to internalize it to the point I feel depressed or ill. It is NOT my burden to bear. The healthier and far more uplifting approach is to focus on the good in that person and then foster it. Take the moral high road. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, we can all agree that kindness is king.

So, my new motto is this: Find the light and encourage it. Find it in your right-wing neighbor, your radically liberal co-worker, your zealously religious sister, your non-religious brother. It's there -- light is within everyone. And you don't even have to look very hard to see it.

I'm now committed to living a life filled with positivity and love for others, regardless of their choices. I want others to afford me the same courtesy. I think about how the world has become such a divided, antagonistic place lately, and I think this is the solution. Accept that others will make choices I don't like; then, find their light and encourage it. Stand up for my beliefs when needed. But most importantly, "never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved."

Monday, March 30, 2015

11 months of Clara Bean.

Yesterday, our little Bean turned 11 months! Today, I took a picture in The Chair to document her growth.



What a doll!

Clara's recurring ear infections (six of them, if we're keeping count) earned her a visit to the ENT, who said it's time for tubes! Yaaaaay. So that little procedure is happening April 16. It completely shattered my heart to learn she hears as if she is under water. Poor thing. She sure is a happy little girl despite having plugged ears.

Clara has also grown quite a collection of teeth over the past month, so we've graduated from purees to soft solids. Yes! A new lease on life! She enjoys eating pretty much anything I stick in her mouth. It's so cute to watch her pop her mouth wide open whenever a spoon or fork gets close. Homegirl went to town at Joe's Real BBQ the other night. Even babies think their mac 'n cheese is divine.

No walking yet, but she stands next to furniture and cruises. She also lets go sometimes and stands without assistance. I predict she'll be walking right at a year. I look forward to clean hands and knees.

And here's some news you'll appreciate: she can now drink out of a sippy cup! Wahoo!!! I was truly worried about her becoming dehydrated. Now, she chugs that thing whenever she gets the chance. 
 
Drinking more water also means she has slowed down with her nursing quite a bit. It's pretty much only in the morning and at bedtime now. I hope to have her weaned at a year. Simply put, I have no desire to breastfeed beyond that point. Yesterday, the little turkey bit me hard when I tried to offer her the breast, so I am guessing she feels pretty similarly. I will miss our little snuggles, though. Oh, and as the feedings have decreased, my acne has burst forth in an inversely proportionate matter. So that's really cool. I feel like I'm 14 again.

Well, the Bean is currently tearing up her brother and sister's room, so I'm outta here!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mom's Cancer Chronicles: How's your mom?

I've been on the receiving end of this innocuous, considerate question multiple times a week since I publicly announced my mom's breast cancer diagnosis:

"How's your mom doing?"

After hearing this question numerous times over the past month, the thought occurred to me that I haven't updated my blog about this in a while, and maybe that would be the best way to thoroughly answer the question of "How's your mom doing?" So, for all who would like to know, here's my answer.

First off, my mom's cancer experience is not like most of the ones you see portrayed in movies and on television. She's not bald or bedridden, she's not having chemotherapy, radiation or surgery at the moment, and you can't tell she has cancer just by looking at her -- she appears to be her bubbly, beautiful, youthful self. As she explains on her blog, she is not suffering through the more painful and difficult side effects of cancer treatment people usually think of. No debilitating nausea and vomiting, no hand-and-foot syndrome and she's still able to go to her home-away-from-home Costco on a frequent basis.

But I don't want to give a partial answer, either. Regardless of her appearance and Costco attendance statistics, Mom still has Stage IV breast cancer. It is not curable and will never go into remission. She constantly has to deal with the emotional stress of this diagnosis along with the physical pain. In conjunction with her two cancer treatments -- a daily estrogen-inhibitor pill and an IV bone loss prevention drug she receives once a month -- she takes an anti-anxiety medication just so she can sleep at night. This truly breaks my heart.

But, it could be worse.

But ... it's still pretty bad.

The bone drug, Zometa, is intense. She received her first round at the end of February. It gave her severe joint pain and made her feel like she had the worst flu ever, and the side effects lasted a few weeks. This drug also carries a risk of increased bone fractures, which she could sustain even from doing NOTHING. She will have to take this for the rest of her life.

The estrogen-inhibitor, Arimidex, gives her hot flashes and makes her feel like she's going through menopause all over again. She suffers with constant back pain caused by the medication as well. And yes, she will also have to take this drug for the rest of her life.

In a few months, she'll be rescanned to see how the cancer is responding. Remember, the cancer won't ever go away, but its progression can be stopped with these medications. So that is our prayer, that is what we are fasting and hoping for daily.

So ... that is the most current answer to "How's your mom doing?" But be aware that it changes from day to day. It's complicated, dealing with cancer. It's a roller coaster of tests, diagnoses, medications, appointments and side effects. It's not simply "good" or "bad." It's a myriad of ever-changing emotions, experiences and challenges.

Now to address "the question" in question (haha). When asked face-to-face how my mom is doing, the answer I give depends on how much time I have as well as how attentive I perceive the person asking the question to be. As you now know, it's a long and complicated answer, and you honestly may not have the time to hear the whole thing. You may be in the middle of dealing with your children or on your way to a meeting or doing some other preoccupying activity, and that's OK -- I appreciate that you thought to ask. It shows you care and it's a meaningful gesture. But I want to do the response justice. I want to answer as thoroughly as I can, because this is a really big deal and I don't want to treat it lightly. Plus, it helps me process what I am going through to tell and retell the ins and outs of my mother's cancer experience.

It becomes exhausting to think about my mom's illness day in, day out. Emotionally, I have to prepare myself for these kinds of questions. Every time I am asked, it takes me back to how I felt when I first learned my mom has cancer -- that gloom-and-doom, insecure pit in my stomach reappears. At least I am putting my journalism degree to good use, having to consciously disconnect emotionally to disseminate the facts to people without bawling in their faces.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, feel free to ask me how my mom is doing, but please know this question is not in the same vein as, "How was your dinner at The Olive Garden?" I ask that you please don't use it as some kind of cheap ice-breaker or conversation-filler. Please, don't ask unless you're prepared for a few minutes of uninterrupted conversation about it. Because if one of us is wrestling our kids or I'm passing you in the hallway at church, you're going to get the quick, basic answer of "She's fine; thanks for asking." Which is to say, "She still alive and well enough to go to Costco ... but there's so much more!" And I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about my mom and what she's going through. She might be "fine" by all appearances, but she is going through a huge trial nonetheless.

And as I said before, it's a rather immense question. It's easier for me to respond to things like, "What kind of treatment is your mom having right now?" "What are her side effects like?" "What is the puppy up to these days?" It's not as overwhelming. I can handle small questions.

If you want to call me up or text me or even chat in person about it, I'm totally down with that, too. And also, if you want to show you care but don't have time for a lengthy conversation, you could always just say something like, "I've been thinking about your mom." Then, I can reply with a very sincere, "Thank you so much," and we can move on from there.

On that note, I do want to thank all of you who have left supportive comments, engaged in conversation about this and have done nice things for me since Mom's diagnosis. A few people brought me dinner and treats, offered to watch my kids, sent me really nice texts and have generally been very uplifting. It really does brighten my days and gives me a little hope when I'm feeling down about it. I am so, so grateful for all of it.

Let's end on a happy note -- yesterday, I took Audrey (on Spring Break) and baby Clara to visit my parents and sisters. The puppy, Daisy, is getting huge! She is so cute, though, like a fluffilicious teddy bear. Here is a picture of Audrey holding her. She really loved having some one-on-one time with Daisy.