Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Best Meal You Never Eat

What is your absolute favorite meal? Most of mine come from my mom's kitchen. My mom is a great cook and knows how to make a mean broccoli-and-rice chicken casserole and whoo-boy is her manicotti delicious!

Growing up I ate some darn good food from my mama's kitchen. The thought never crossed my mind that it was a privilege to have a favorite meal, because I never worried about where my next meal would come from. The idea of not having enough food never even occurred to me. 

But for more than 140 million children around the world - the idea of having enough food is completely foreign. Hunger is a daily reality to them. And a favorite meal? This idea would be strange too - if they get to eat at all, they certainly don't get to be picky about what meal is their favorite.

Now when I say "hunger", I'm not talking missing a meal here and there, or having a little rumble in their tummies occasionally. I'm talking severe malnourishment that causes swollen stomachs, hair loss, skin discoloration, and reduces the body's ability to fight disease and infection. And every year, for 6 million children, this kind of hunger will also cause their death. (source:

Numbers like that are not only incomprehensibly tragic, but can feel overwhelming and debilitating. But the good news is that there are people doing something about it - and you can be one of them. Compassion International's One Meal One Day campaign is raising money to intervene in the lives of some of these severely malnourished children and you can be a part of the impact.

The idea is simple: give up your favorite meal between now and November 6, 2013, and donate the money you would have spent on that meal to One Meal, One Day. Easy right? And yet the impact on the children who receive food because of your gift will be exponential. (donate here)

Perhaps you're wondering, I thought Compassion's sponsor program helped these kids - why do they need more money? Good question, and here's the answer: Compassion's sponsorship program makes an unbelievable impact around the world by rescuing children from poverty, but there are many times when a child comes to the Compassion centers so malnourished that the funds from monthly sponsorships are not enough to meet the child's needs. Also, in the case of famine, natural disasters, or in emergency situations, the child many need more intervention than the sponsorship alone can provide. The money raised through One Meal One Day will help meet these extraordinary nutritional needs.

And getting involved is so easy. I'm willing to bet that if you are reading this (with - ahem - a computer//tablet/smartphone and an Internet connection), then you aren't worried about where your next meal is coming from and you probably can afford to skip one without much detriment to your health. But the money you would have spent on that one meal will stretch so much further in a poverty stricken country - providing far more than just one meal for one person.

One Meal One Day would be an amazing project for a family with older kids to tackle together. Talk about an tangible lesson - giving up one meal and experiencing a twinge of hunger so that other kids around the world might have the nutrition they need to live. That's a life-lesson your kids won't soon forget.

Or how about this idea: host a dinner party for your friends but serve beans and rice (a staple in most third-world countries). Then, donate the money you would have spent on steaks, side-dishes, desserts, and drinks. Plus, you'll have an awesome conversation-starter for your friends.

The main point is this: it only takes a little to make a huge difference in the lives of these kids. They need someone to step in and say, "You're important - you matter." All it takes is skipping one meal. Will you join me in the fight against hunger? If so, donating is just as simple - you can visit my fundraising page here. If you do join One Meal One Day, please come back here to my blog and tell me how it went - I'd love to hear about your experience!

Hungry for change? Let's do this thing!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Six Days of Simple Styles for the Stay-at-Home Mom

During the "dark days" of trying to survive as new mom of twins, I learned an important lesson. Some days, putting on a pair of jeans instead of staying in my sweatpants was all I needed to avoid of the psychotic break I felt constantly on the verge of.

While I'm not nearly as sleep-deprived and overwhelmed as I was those first few (twelve) weeks of motherhood, I still find that it helps my mood, productivity, and psyche to put a little effort into the way I dress. Now let's be real for a moment - I've got two-year-old twin boys. So when I say, "a little effort," I literally mean as little as possible.

Some moms are totally fine wearing sweats and a t-shirt most days, which doesn't bother me one tiny bit. But personally, I feel better when I feel I look nice - and for me that means getting out of my pjs (even the days when the only people I see are my kids and husband). At the same time, I don't have much time to get myself ready most days. I've found however, that it is possible to add a little style into the everyday of being a stay-at-home mom and it isn't difficult or all that time consuming (I promise).

I put together six tips and examples to give you a little peek at how I strive for a style that makes me feel better about the way I look. (Notice: six days, not seven. Even when I try and make it a priority, looking nice seven-days-a-week just ain't gonna happen. There are some days that you just need to wear a comfy sweatshirt and yoga pants. And frankly, some days you just don't feel like trying.)

This is in no way meant to be a mom-guilt inducing post. I just know that sometimes (a lot of times) as a mom, I feel that my identity is completely lost in the daily act of motherhood. For me, looking nice is a small way to reclaim some of myself. It's not that way for all moms - and to this I say, ::SHURG:: Whatever works for you, works for me. You're rockin' motherhood in your own way - which makes you awesome. Because it's hard any way you slice it (or dress it).

But, if you feel like me and looking nice is something you want to do more often, but you are overwhelmed by the thought - here's a little something to help encourage you.

Six Simple Style Tips for the Stay-at-Home Mom:

1. Wear what you feel great in. I'm not a fashion expert (ha!). My "style" is simple and cheap. I buy most of my clothes on clearance or at the thrift store. Which means they've already been rejected by someone as being outdated or not cool enough. But so much of style is about what YOU feel attractive in. Find an outfit that is flattering on you and makes you feel beautiful. Confidence goes a LONG way, regardless of what the magazines and runways say is "in".

2. Get up a little earlier. I know, I know, this is like the last thing a mom wants to hear. But I promise, even just an extra 15 minutes to shower or slap on some make-up is going to do more for your day than hitting the snooze button one more time. (Moms of newborns - those fifteen minutes of sleep will probably make a difference to you. So grab a shower when someone comes over to help and if you can't do that some days, just throw on a pair of jeans and call it good.)

3. Don't worry about spills. Sometimes the effort to get dressed feels null and void when you're raising itty bitties. But take heart - boogers and drool and peanut butter stains generally wash out from a cute top just as well as they do from a tattered t-shirt.

4. Have your go-to outfits. There are a few of my outfits that I just plain feel great in. I might wear the same outfit once every week because of how easy it is and how confident I feel in it. The point is, I mentally know what the complete outfit looks like. I know that my blue-and-black striped sweater goes great with my black t-shirt, dark jeans, and faux pearl earrings. Because I've already "put together" this outfit before, it makes for a great outfit choice when I'm in a hurry. I don't even have to think about it. Which - as anyone who has experienced "mommy-brain" knows - is a very good thing most days.

5. Keep it simple. Three-to-four main pieces max, plus one-to-three accessories (as simple as earrings, a scarf, or a bracelet). It's not that you can never have an outfit with more than four main pieces, just remember that looking good doesn't have to be complicated.

6. Learn some hair shortcuts. For me, this means quick up-do's, hats, and hair scarves. And... confession time: I usually only wash my hair every three-or-four days. Washing, drying, and styling my hair are things I don't have time for more than twice a week. I have a "hair cycle" that makes this possible. It goes like this: Day 1: wash, dry, and curl hair, Day 2: second-day, "left-over" curls/waves, Day 3: a hat/scarf or a quick up-do, Day 4 (hey, it happens): same idea as day three. Figure out how you can creatively "cut corners" in the hair department and save yourself some precious time!

And now for some visual examples of these tips in action...

Six Days of Simple Styles for the Stay-at-Home Mom:

tutorial to braid wrapped ponytail: here 
this headband (and lots of other gorgeous pieces) can be found at Noelle Grace Designs

get a magazine bead necklace here 
(proceeds provide meals for children living in the slums of Uganda, Africa) 

Confession #1: the next day, I wore my unwashed, forth-day hair in this exact style again.
Confession #2: Today is going to be my "sweatshirt and yoga pants day" because our gorgeous fall 
weather just plummeted to 49 degrees as a high and I just can't handle it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why I am (and am NOT) the Proverbs 31 Wife

I've been overwhelmed by the "Proverbs 31 Wife" for as long as I've been aware of her. Nearly an entire chapter of Scripture exalts her accomplishments as wife, mother, seamstress, cook, community-outreach coordinator, counselor, home manager, and business entrepreneur. Described as nobel, excellent, and worth more than rubies, she's freakin' wonder woman.

Being a part of the Christian church has given me plenty of opportunities to learn exactly how to be a "P31 Woman" (there are countless Bible studies, websites, programs, clubs, books, blogs, seminars, and t-shirts all dedicated to this goal). And all my exposure to Mrs. Excellent has given me plenty of opportunities to confirm that I just don't measure up. (Never mind that she is Jewish royalty with abundant wealth and a houseful of servants - two things that I am, alas, without.)

I love how Rachel Held Evans puts it in her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood (which I shared my mixed feelings for here). After a month of trying to live out the Proverbs 31 ideal, Evans came to this painful admission (one I know I have faced as well):
"I couldn't shake the feeling that if these were indeed the accomplishments of a competent, capable, virtuous, valiant, and worthy wife, then I must be none of these things." 
Fortunately, Evans doesn't allow this depressing conclusion to be her final one (which is what I have tended towards in the past). Instead, she seeks out insight for this passage from a Jewish woman. As Evans puts it, "Seeing as how Jews have several thousand years on us when it comes to interpreting Scripture, Christians might consider listening to them more often."

And Evans doesn't just interview any Jewish woman. No, no. She interviews an Orthodox Jew named Ahava, who lives in Israel and is the wife of a rabbi. Yeah - authentic source here, people. Ahava gives a perspective on this passage of Scripture that I found to be not only fascinating, but a huge relief. Here's what she had to say when Evans asked her the question, "[Do] Jewish women struggle as much as Christian women to live up to the Proverbs 31 ideal?"
"Here's the thing. Christians seem to think that because the Bible is inspired, all of it should be taken literally. Jews don't do this. Even though we take the Torah literally (all 613 commandments!), the rest is seen differently, as a way of understanding our Creator, rather that direct commands. Take Proverbs 31, for example. I get called an eshet chayil (a valorous woman) all the time. Make your own challah instead of buying? Eshet chayil! Work to earn some extra money for the family? Eshet chayil! Make balloon animals for the kids a ShulEshet chayil! Every week at the Shabbat table, my husband sings the Proverbs 31 poem to me. It's special because I know that no matter what I do or don't do, he praises me for blessing the family with my energy and creativity." - Ahava, from A Year of Biblical Womanhood
I know that no matter what I do or don't do, he praises me for blessing the family with my energy and creativity. I love this. This something I can accomplish. And not just accomplish, but be encouraged to apply in a way that isn't overwhelming and debilitating.

While I loved this new-to-me interpretation of Proverbs 31, I also was hesitant to fully embrace it. I felt Evans, at times, spun information to her advantage in her book, so I ran this insight by my friend Aria, who is Messianic (a believer in Jesus as the Messiah who also follows Jewish traditions). She confirmed that in Jewish culture this passage is not viewed as a checklist. Rather, it is a poetic way to honor the many different attributes that an excellent wife - a woman of valor - may have.

Any other Christian ladies out there releasing a huge sign of relief right about now?

Not only is the poem used by husbands in Jewish culture to praise their wives, it is also used by Jewish women to encourage and praise other women. Which I think is amazing and something that is often lacking in our communities. Women tend to try to one-up each other, presenting a facade of perfection all the while judging other women (either to elevate themselves or to compare themselves in a self-depircating way). But the discovery that Proverbs 31's eshet chayil - woman of valor - is something woman can encourage each other with was beautiful to me.
"As I saw how powerful and affirming this ancient blessing could be, I decided it was time for Christian women to take back Proverbs 31. Somewhere along the way, we surrendered it to the same people who invented airbrushing and Auto-Tune and Rachel Ray. We abandoned the meaning of the poem by focusing on the specifics, and it became just another impossible standard by which to measure our failures. We turned an anthem into an assignment, and poem into a job description." - A Year of Biblical Womanhood (emphasis mine).
Despite the overwhelming "to do list" that shadowed my previous understanding of this passage of Scripture, and my relief that it doesn't have be viewed that way, there are things which, as a wife, mother, and believer, I still hold tightly to as ideals that should be emulated. The bit about "her husband is praised at the city gates" and "she brings [her husband] good and not harm, all the days of her life" and "her children arise and call her blessed" and "a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" (verses 23, 12, 28, and 30).

These attributes - I feel - are not just poetic, but incredibly important to a healthy and happy family and faith. I want to bless my husband with good throughout our marriage. I want my husband to be respected by others because of the way I treat him. I find hope in the idea that one day my kids may call me blessed (and that doesn't happen through passive parenting). And I want to grow in my love for and trust in the Lord. These are excellent things and ones I hope to cultivate in my marriage, parenting, and faith.

As far as the task-oriented parts on "the list"? I'll say this: Proverbs 31 is full of awesome examples of "acts of valor" that can be inspiring. It's got really, really good stuff in it. But to find all of these qualities in one women? Well, as King Lemuel's mother told him from the beginning of the poem, "who can find [her]?"

Let us be encouraged by the knowledge that while we may never be the Proverbs 31 Woman, little pieces of her can shine though all of us as we serve our families, our God, and our communities - in many different ways - with excellence and valor.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Will the Ideal, Biblical Woman Please Stand Up?

I decided to read Rachel Held Evans' book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, mainly because of the controversy. My "liberal" friends (read: female pastors who, though I don't always agree with, I admire greatly) had nothing but abounding praise for the book. While some of my deeply respected "conservative" friends (and many main-stream conservative leaders) thought the book was heretical and dangerous. And since I tend to fall somewhere in-between these two groups, and I like a good controversy now-and-then, I figured I'd pick myself up a copy.

Another reason I wanted to read this book is because while I am currently living the Westernize version of "biblical womanhood" (full time stay-at-home mom and wife), I have long struggled with the prominent, conservative viewpoint that the greatest way in which a woman brings glory to God is by being a good wife and mother who submits to her husband completely.

My struggle with this teaching doesn't exist because I think being a good wife and mother isn't a godly calling, or because I think wives shouldn't submit to their husbands - I think both are things that bring great glory to God. But when this type of role is elevated as the best, holiest, ideal position for a woman, it leaves out a huge population of faithful, God-loving women: The widowed or abandoned wife, the single mom, women who can't have children, women living in poverty who have no choice but to work to support their families, and single women like Katie Davis who moved to Uganda and adopted a whole houseful of orphans (thirteen to be more precise). And let's not forget that rather famous saint, Mother Teresa. Heard of her? Yeah. Unmarried and no kids.

Are these women unable to fully please God simply because they aren't married or don't have children? Are they "less-than" the ideal, biblical woman?

That just doesn't seem right. God uses all kinds of people in different ways, and a woman's ability to please God isn't on hold until she gets herself a husband and some kids. If the so-called, "biblical role of women" can't be applied universally to all women of faith, why is it being taught as such a rigid truth in so many Christian churches?

I felt Evans' book was, for the most part, an honest exploration of what the Bible says about women and their roles in the family and in faith. The book contained a few unflattering quotes from John Piper and Glen Beck that would probably have my conservative friends shaking their fists, and there were times that Evans approached these (and other) conservative leaders with a little too much snark. There were things about the book that I appreciated and learned from, questions I've always wrestled with that she addressed, and some things I took offense to. But overall, Evans' journey of trying to apply all of the Bible's instructions for women was a well-researched, respectful search for truth.

Reading about Evans' year-long exploration was at times humorous and at other times painful as I was confronted with some of my own judgmental attitudes towards woman who don't fit the traditional mold for a "biblical woman." And I learned that the Bible is full of stories of women who don't fit the mold either, yet are called righteous and faithful.

"The Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman is a myth.
"Among the women praised in Scripture are warriors, widows, slaves, sister-wives, apostles, teachers, concubines, queens, foreigners, prostitutes, prophets, mothers, and martyrs. What makes these women's stories leap from the page is not the fact that they all conform to some kind of universal ideal, but that, regardless of the culture or context in which they found themselves, they lived their lives with valor. They lived their lives with faith. As much as we long for the simplicity of a single definition of "biblical womanhood," there is no one right way to be a woman, not mold into which we must each cram ourselves - not if Deborah, Ruth, Rachel, Tamar, Vashti, Esther, Priscilla, Mary Magdalene, and Tabitha have anything to say about it." - Rachel Held Evans, A Year of Biblical Womanhood

The kind of marriage relationship I witnessed growing up was one of mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21), and yet I never doubted that my dad was the respected head of our household (Ephesians 5:23). My parents worked through decisions, disagreements, and life as a team. My dad had the option to give the final say on decisions, but he always took my mom's perceptive and opinion into account. He supported her dreams and she supported his. While my mom did chose to stay home with us kids (working part-time as a nurse) and my dad worked full-time, there was still a mutual love and respect between them. There was no "greater" or "lesser" partner in the marriage. They shared the decisions of life the same way they shared the burdens and joys - equally. And they now have nearly 37 years of marriage to show for it. (Love you Mom and Dad!)

I believe that the Bible's admonition for a husband to love his wife and a wife to respect her husband is a model that works beautifully when applied with the betterment of both spouses in mind - and one that can help strengthen marriages and personal faith even if only applied from one side (the wife who chooses to respect her husband and the husband who chooses to love his wife, even when he/she doesn't "deserve" it). And I believe that, if it is possible, having a mother at home with her young children is a very beneficial thing. But due to the fact that people, marriages, and families are made up of all kinds of different personalities and talents, who live in different cultures, financial situations, and realities, it is unlikely that there is only one biblical way for a woman and her family to bring glory to God.

This post is not an attack of the traditional family any more than it is a feminist battle cry for women to rebel and do whatever the heck they want. The Bible does have a lot to say on what a godly woman looks like, but let us not pick-and-choose which standards to universally apply and which to conveniently ignore in order to fit our ideals. Rather, let's acknowledge that there are a lot of different examples of faithful women in the Bible and how a woman of God brings Him glory can take many different forms.

Would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives in the comments section!

* * *

If all goes according to plan (but let's be real, when does that ever happen), I'll be writing more about this book soon. I'll be sharing something very enlightening that I learned about the Proverbs 31 woman...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Best Things About Being a Mom of Multiples

"Uh-oh, double trouble!" "Boy, do you have your hands full!" "I don't know how you do it..."

These are comments I receive at least once every time I am out and about with the twins, usually from complete strangers. The general perception of twins is that they are adorable, but all that cuteness comes with an overwhelming amount of extra work. If only I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "I love twins! But I would never want to have twins myself."

I get it- really I do. When I was a little girl, I often imagined that I had twins when playing "house" (the irony of this is not lost on me). My cousin Stephi and I were often mistaken for twins in high school, which we delighted in. My opinion growing up was that having twins, or being a twin, was awesome. But when I actually became a grown-up and found out I was actually having twins, I literally started trembling. My mind was consumed with one panicked, repetitious thought, "Double stroller, double stroller, double stroller."

For some reason, the thought that I would soon be wrestling a double stroller during all my outings really freaked me out. The Double Stroller represented how different being a mom of multiples would be from having just one baby at a time. I was completely overwhelmed by the thought of caring for two babies at once. So I understand people's "that's awesome, but I could never do it" attitude. Now that the twins are almost 20-months-old though, I have a very different opinion of being a twin mama than I did that fateful day that I sat quivering in the doctor's office.

Sure, there are times when I am exhausted and overwhelmed (and out-numbered) by the boys (especially during those first few months, hoo-boy!), but I have also discovered a lot of benefits to having multiples. So I thought that I'd pass along some of those good experiences. Maybe it will be an encouragement to a soon-to-be twin mom or of interest to anyone who is curious about what it's like to raise twins.

Five Awesome Things About Having Twins:

5). You Learn That Every Baby is Different: With all the parenting "experts" out there offering so much contradicting advice and the "mommy wars" raging with opinionated (and often insesitive) battles on the "best" way to care for a baby, I was thankful to learn early - because of our twins - that every baby is different and there is no one, perfect way to parent them. Our boys - raised in the same environment - were very different from the start and each had needs that were unique to him. This taught my husband and I early to rely on our instincts and pick up on the cues that our boys were giving us. It was the greatest lesson we've learned so far in our parenting journey and one I don't think we'd have gained so quickly had we started with only one baby.

4). Sleeping Buddy: When we moved the twins out of our room around six weeks, I found great comfort in the fact that they had each other in their big ol' nursery. They shared a crib until around three-months-old and I'm convinced they found the presence and sounds of their close-by twin soothing. They didn't necessarily sleep better than your average baby, but it was nice somehow to know they weren't alone. Even now that they are older and in separate cribs, they jibber-jabber to each other every night before they go to sleep. I imagine this is comforting to them as compared to being shut in a dark room alone at night.

3). Not Double the Workload: My cousin, Sarah, (who has identical twin girls) gave me some great encouragement when I was expecting the twins. She assured me that twins are not twice the work - more like 50% more work. "You're already changing a diapers," she told me, "so what's one more? You're already making one meal, so it's not big deal to make twice as much." And she was right - twins really aren't twice as much work - which was a great relief to discover.

2). Attention Getters: When I first started going out with both boys in-tow, I was a little irritated by how often I got stopped in the store and on the street by well-meaning twin admirers. Being a task-oriented gal who tends to overlook people in order to check off my to-do list, I found these stops deterrents to my progress. But I have since changed my tune and now really enjoy being stopped by strangers. Not because I like "showing off" my cute kids, but because it gives me the opportunity to share a smile and a friendly conversation with a stranger. I look forward to going out with the twins and chatting with new people, and I work these expected interruptions into my schedule. Because of the attention the twins bring, I've learned to slow down and put people first. I've had some really nice interactions with folks who I normally wouldn't have spoken to in my rush to accomplish a task.

1). Instant Playmate: The older the twins get, the more they entertain each other. Unlike a singleton, they don't need me to be their constant playmate - they have each other. As a stay-at-home mom, this gives me a much needed break sometimes. Yes, at times, having two kids the same age results in more fighting than with one kid (hopeful a single child is not fighting with themselves... otherwise, you've got bigger problems that entertaining him or her by yourself). In general, the twins have a great time keeping each other company.

These reasons (along with many others) are just a few ways that having twins, while a lot of work sometimes, is overall really fun. So hang in there twin-mamas and acknowledge the blessings you have because of your multiples. And if you know someone with twins (especially a new mom), encourage her with a few of these benefits to her new, double-stroller life.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Tentative Love Note to Colorado

Well Colorado, you may not be Home to me yet, but I'll say this for you - you are beautiful and your  glorious, get-outdoors, summer days are doing a decent job of wooing me.

For instance, last weekend when our little family took a day trip (just forty-five minutes away) to Manitou Park Lake and we got to enjoy the wonderful summer weather and watch our Littles explore the great outdoors to their heart's content - that was pretty great.

Digging in the dirt, hiking through the woods, throwing pine cones, climbing rocks - these are the things my little boys filled their day with. And I loved watching them get dirty and exhausted as they discovered the great big creation around them. It made my mama's heart so happy.

And the two Memorial Day BBQs we attended. They were outside (a novel experience for this Phoenix girl who associated Memorial Day BBQs with heat and sweat and hiding indoors). We ate great food and caught up with our only in-town family. We laughed and chatted with new people and starting to build those rickety bridges to new friendships. And we had a great time. 

This past weekend with you, Colorado, was refreshing and lovely. Thanks for that.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On Being The New Girl

It's awkward to wiggle your way into new friendships. When moving to a new city, you meet mostly people who already have their own circle of friends, their established trust, their shared memories, and their inside jokes. It is intimating to try and meld into that. It's not that people are unkind or unfriendly, they are simply creatures of habit and it is easy to move through life's routine without noticing the new girl.

I was guilty of a similar attitude back home in Arizona. I never joined a "mom's group" when I had the twins and I was even hesitant to started attending the Bible study group at our previous church. Why? Mainly because I was fulfilled, occupied, and content with the friendships I already had. I didn't see the point in exerting time and energy making new friends. I'm happy with the ones I got, thanks.

So with that memory in mind, I realize that I have to be the one to make the effort to form new friendships here. It is unlikely that someone is going to just up and invite the new girl out for a good heart-to-heart over a steaming cup o' joe. More likely than not, I will have to be the one to initiate the playdates, the dinners, and the coffee talks. The age-old advice of, "You've got to be a friend to make friends" really is true. Socially awkward at times - but true.

Even so, it is easy - even as "the new girl" - to get caught up in my own routine without making the effort to meet new people. Another week, another month, flies by as I'm caught up in my daily tasks and habits until I realize - wow, it's been a whoooole lot of days since I've talked face-to-face with someone other than my husband and children.

Now let me interject here that my husband has been an amazing encouragement to me during this move - allowing me to share my heart (and often my tears) and creating opportunities for us to get out a do fun things together as a family. I am incredibly grateful for this. But as much as I love my husband and enjoy spending time with him, he can not completely fill my need for friendship - especially not in the area of female relationships (for obvious reasons). And while highly entertaining at times, my children aren't real great conversationalists at the moment. (Though their unsolicited hugs do my heart a great deal of good.)

Yet even after five months in a new city and a great deal of loneliness, I still sometimes have the mindset of, "I don't need new friends - I'm happy with the ones I've got, thanks." Which is a problem because those dear friends of mine live 800 miles away. And while we stay in contact regularly (thank you, technolgy), we can't really live our lives together any more. We can't watch our kids play together while we swap mommy war-stories. We can't meet up for coffee or have a much-needed girls night out.  We can't laugh ourselves to tears while playing Pictionary after a couple of home-made margaritas. We can't offer a hug when life is painful and words just aren't enough.

With memories such as these, it is hard to make the mental shift that I need to build new friendships here in Colorado. The fact that doing this is awkward and takes a lot of effort on my part isn't a great motivator, but I shouldn't allow it to be a deterrent either.

I have to remind myself that the girlfriends that I miss so much were once complete strangers to me. I once had to wiggle my way into their circle, into their routine. I was once "the new girl" to them. It took time to form the deep relationships that we have shared for so many years now.

Humans were designed to need each other, and there are some needs that can't be filled from 800 miles away. Despite how wonderful my girlfriends back home are, the need to build relationships here is a great one. And while there are still many lonely days, ever so slowly, I'm starting to see the buds of friendship grow in the handful of acquaintances that I've made here. While I long for the closeness I shared with my friends back home, I have to trust that similar depth will form with the relationships I'm building here. Until then, it will just be one introduction, one "hi, how are you?", one slightly awkward invitation to dinner at a time. Then one day, I'll look at those friends and marvel at the fact that we were once complete strangers.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dishonest Motherhood

I almost wrote a really nasty post the other day. About my children. And I was actually planning on publishing it. On Mother's Day.

Yeah. Suffice to say, I was having a rough time with the whole motherhood thing.

It was one of those days when the only languages my 18-month-old twins seemed to know was Fusseese and Whinelish. The strain of being home with them all-day-every-day was about to result in a Jen-shaped hole straight through the front door. And I seriously considered the possibility that there might be some kind of conspiracy in place that was designed to trick women into reproducing. Because, I reasoned, surely if I have been made aware of how hard motherhood was going to be, I would have gotten myself sterilized years ago.

And while The Crazy inside me eventually cleared a bit (after a three-hour nap and a glorious hike through the woods), I still think part of my theory is true. The part about not knowing how hard being a mom was actually going to be because no one really told me.

There are days when I feel completely alone in my struggle with being a mom. Why is that? Is something broken in my mom heart? Do I not love my kids as much as other moms? I wonder sometimes when I read sugary-sweet descriptions of motherhood in books and blog posts. When moms recount for me the swell of unconditional love they felt the moment their child was placed in their arms and I just can't relate.

In all honestly, it took me a number of months to experience feelings of love towards my twins after they were born. It was just so incredibly hard to be a mom and no one had even mentioned to me that I might not feel the warm fuzzies and indescribable joy often associated with becoming a mother. What I did feel was indescribable exhaustion and inadequacy, and frankly I was shocked and frightened by the lack of affection I felt for my babies. I'd never had someone tell me that in those early months, those feelings were okay and - for some women - even normal.

I don't hate my kids - truly. I love their smiles and laughter, their emerging personalities and sense of humor. I love seeing the sparkle in their eyes when they understand something for the first time. I enjoy playing with them and helping them discover knew things. But most of the time, I can't relate to the poetic sentimentality that many moms use to describe motherhood. And when I really think about it (calmly, minus The Crazy), I don't think I'm broken or alone. I just think we moms don't share our struggles with the kind of transparency that communicates the deep doubts and difficulties of being a mom. We hear about the squooshy, mushy love (which is important to share certainly - I'm not saying we should constantly complain about our kids - there is a whole lot to love about them!). We'll share a crazy, funny story about the things our kids do or say, or that time they threw up all over the car on the way to a new friend's house. But rarely do we talk with each other about the really hard stuff.

Hard stuff like the loneliness of being home alone with children all day, or the guilt of not being able to be at home with them. The frustration over discipline, the feeling of wanting to run away, the strain of daily putting yourself aside for the benefit of someone else. And the doubts and pressures that come with the responsibility of raising a little human. Whether it's because of pride, lack of vulnerability, fear of judgment, or what-have-you, we don't talk much about the hard stuff and we end up feeling alone. And there is very little that is as debilitating as feeling alone. We suffer as a result and our children do too. All because we can't (or won't) share with honesty the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly of being a mom.

I'm not asking that women bemoan their role as mothers - it is a privilege and a gift to invest in and mold these little people that God has placed into our care. I'm simply asking that we be a little more honest with each other and ourselves about the struggle. Not with complaining or bitterness, but in a way that results in us encouraging one another. Letting other women know that, yeah motherhood is incredibly difficult at times, but you are not alone in those feeling. Let's not allow pride or fear of judgement keep us from being honest with each other. Let's allow transparency in so that loneliness and guilt fade, and (hopefully) joy and encouragement can start to take their place. This will make us better moms, not pretending we have it all together while we waste away inside. Motherhood is a great gift, but it can quickly become a burden if we feel we are alone in the struggle.

Because sometimes motherhood feels like this:

And other times if feels more like this:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A tunnel with a light at the end

I felt compelled to give a little update after my previous, rather dreary post. But I think I should back up a little first.

When I was fifteen, I had my first bout of depression, brought on by a relatively small loss that I didn't know how to process. The experience sent me into a spiral of depression that would rear its ugly head off and on all the way through college. While this depression was partial hereditary, it was made worse by unresolved emotional losses, stress, and a refusal to seek help because I was too afraid of the stigma of going to counseling or getting on medication. Sadly, it was the Christians in my life that I most feared judgement from. This was mainly due to the fact that when my depression first started, I was told by a well-meaning, but misinformed, friend that if I just "had a little more faith", I would "snap out of it."

So my perception was that if my Christian circle knew about my depression, and the resulting doubts about God, they would think me faithless, crazy, or both. So I avoided getting help until I was so deep into my depression, and so miserable, that I didn't care anymore what others thought of me. I only knew that I wouldn't be able to keep my suicidal thoughts from turning into action unless I got help.

So the summer of my senior year of college, I met with a wonderful Christian counselor and she was able to help me learn how to manage my depression, work through my doubts about God, and process the severe grief I was experiencing at the time (in the course of a few months, three of my loved ones had died - my two grandpas and a dear family friend). I learned some of the things that triggered my depression and how to guard against them. I got on medication for a while in order to get the chemicals in my brain under control enough to process my struggle more clearly. And I learned that counseling is a helpful, healing, and heathy tool for dealing with the emotional trauma that is sometimes part of life. 

So why do I bring all this up? Because another thing I learned is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how bleak and hopeless and painful things seem, there is hope. Getting there takes work and the process itself can be really painful, but there is hope. Which is how I feel about this move. It hurts now, but I know it won't hurt this bad forever. The thing is though, I haven't been sure how to get through the tunnel to the light at the end of it.

When you're dealing with something like loss and depression, it's not just a matter of giving it time, or about finding something positive to focus on. It's not even just about trusting God. I believe my faith has played a huge part in helping me manage my struggle with depression and I believe it will help me through this most recent loss, but I've also learned that having a healthy understanding of how my mind and heart are designed is incredibly important to healing completely

Which is why I contacted my counselor, Bobbie, after writing my last post. She directed me to a book called The Grief Recovery Handbook. It has been very helpful as I learn more about how our minds and hearts process loss, how our culture is full of misinformation about handling grief, and how I can work through loss in an intentional, healthy way. It has been really, really good for me and I would recommend it to anyone dealing with a loss - whether a "big" one like death or divorce, or other types of loss like the end of a relationship or friendship, moving, a career change, broken trust, or anything else that is causing you to experience the pain of loss.

For me, loss is a big trigger to my depression and I'm fighting it by working through my grief in a healthy way. I have no wish to travel down that dismal road again.  And I always want to be honest about my struggle because I don't want anyone to avoid getting help because they fear the stigma, or feel alone, as I did. Counseling is a blessing, not a reason for judgement. While the circumstances surrounding depression and grief are different for each person, no one is alone in their struggle. Pain is a part of life, but if we're afraid to process that pain in a healthy way, it will taint the joy that is also a part of life.

"There is a time for every event under heaven... A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance." - Ecclesiastes 3

There is a time for grieving. Which is good, because it sometimes takes a while to work through it. But on the other side of it, there is a time to dance. Maybe I won't be pulling out my dancing shoes every day, and maybe the tears will come more often than I'd like, but there is hope at the end of this tunnel. For me, and for anyone reading this who can relate. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Good and The Grief

A friend recently commented that she hadn't heard much from me lately. And she's right. With the exception of a few photos posted on facebook, I have been pretty quiet since the move. My facebook page, my blog, and even my own private journal lays quiet and empty. Because the truth is, I don't know how to process this move and I don't know what to say. 

I can't pretend I'm thrilled to be here, but there are things about being in Colorado that I have enjoyed. While there have been challenges to navigate around, I have enjoyed temporarily sharing a home with my brother-and-sister-in-law and their two awesome boys (my three-year-old nephew is a hoot and keeps us laughing every day with the crazy things that come out of his mouth). It's been good for Devin and I to have to lean on each other and figure out this new life as a team. We've gone on some fun outings as a family of four and I can't deny that Colorado Springs is a gorgeous place to live in and explore. 

At the same time though, I am incredibly homesick. But I'm trying not to think about it too much because I can't function under the onslaught of tears that missing home brings. I've got laundry to do and food to cook and babies to look after and a husband to love and a new life to figure out. Not being able to see or breath because I'm crying so hard isn't conducive to making life here work. 

I know I have to eventually sift through these emotions. I'm in a process of grief and I need to mourn. I know this. The grief is just really thick and has a lot of layers and it's hard to allow it in. Because I'm not just mourning the life I left behind, but also the life that I thought I would have. Experiences and memories that I planned on sharing with my Arizona family and friends as I raised my own little family close by. Those dreamed about expectations are gone. Or have, in the very best light, changed drastically. I suppose it's not healthy to dwell on the "what would have beens", but it seems almost impossible not to do so. So I just don't think about it because it hurts too much. 

I'm in a state of numbness right now- not fully happy, not fully sad, just moving through life day-by-day. Not a healthy place to be forever, but where I am at the moment. It's a survival mechanism I suppose, to hold me together until we can get into a place of our own that just might start feeling like home. Until I can unpack the last box and find a new routine and build a social life again. Until I have the strength to unlock the swell of emotions surrounding this move. Until then, I've got to just hold it together for one more day, and one more day after that... and find little moments of joy here and there to help fortify my hurting heart.

* * * 

So as to not end this post on a complete downer, I wanted to share some photos of a recent hike we took as a family that I really enjoyed. No doubt it is beautiful here in Colorado and a great city for outdoor, endorphin-producing activities. There are far, far worse places to have to move to. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

When Making New Friends Stinks

Imagine if you will, arriving at the home of a new acquaintance, whom you have never met face-to-face before, but to whom you were introduced through a friend-of-a-friend by way of an online blog comment. You've emailed each other and talked briefly on the phone, but this is your first time seeing each other.

Imagine driving to this new friend's house and, after cautiously navigating your way through the new city to which you have just moved, getting lost in her neighborhood. You've flipped so many u-turns and pulled into so many different driveways in search of the correct house, that your motion-sickness prone fifteen-month-old begins to throw up in the back seat. You pull over and rush to the other side of the car just in time to catch three handfuls (and I do mean full) of projectile mac-and-cheese-with-tuna vomit. Said child has however, already covered himself in mounds of the stuff, so you remove him from the carseat and stand him on the snow covered side road, strip him of his foul clothing, wipe down the carseat as best you can with baby wipes, and fasten him back into the smelly seat.

Oh, and while you're imagining this ridiculous scenario, add to it that the friend you are meeting up with has a broken cell phone that can receive text messages, but doesn't have the ability to accept calls. Texting back-and-forth at stop signs trying to tell her where you are and trying to understand her texted directions is proving to be a colossal failure, so your friend steps out onto her patio were she gets one bar of service and attempts through the crackle of her phone to direct your way.

Finally, you arrive, flustered and smelling of vomit. Your new friend meets you out front and without hesitation, you nearly toss your clean child (for you have twins) into her arms and carefully remove the other child, puke-covered, half-naked, from the car. Your first words of introduction are not, "It's so lovely to meet you," but rather a desperate, "Can I use your washing machine?" And this, this, is the first impression that will be forever seared into the mind of your new friend.

But, after she helps you clean up your child, she offers you coffee and chocolate and good conversation and all is right in the world again. You may be remembered evermore as the "smelly mom-of-twins", but you hope that it will be with a touch of fondness.

And if you are me, then these imaginings are actually the stuff of reality. And my new friend Erin, bless her heart, was as sweet as can be (having five boys of her own, including a set of twins, she was empathetic to my plight). And so completes my day of two big firsts: navigating (semi-successfully) my way alone through my new city, and making my first new friend in Colorado Springs. Here's to less vomit in my future introductions. I'm not sure everyone I meet here will be as understanding as Erin.   

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Well, we made it to Colorado Springs on Monday. I've been in a discombobulated haze ever since arriving. Processing that we are actually here for the long haul hasn't even begun to sink in yet. Mainly because the basement apartment we are renting didn't end up getting finished in time so we are in this weird limbo of not being able to settle in or unpack, and sleeping wherever we can all find space in my brother-and-sister-in-law's house while all our stuff sits piled to the ceiling in their entry way. Bless her heart, my sis-in-law has been great about all this. I would be losing my mind if I were in her shoes. Maybe she has lost her mind and that is why she is staying relatively calm. 

Being that I didn't pack for, "sooo... the basement isn't finished yet", we've been living out of a weekend bag for over a week now while the rest of our worldly belongings precariously teeter in the entry way. Trying to unearth anything is a bit treacherous unless it's needed badly enough to risk being crushed by boxes to retrieve. Thus, repeatedly wearing "cleanish" outfits from the weekend bag is our new way of life. It's been cause for some interesting creativity. Also, my standard of acceptable attire and cleanliness has been temporality lowered. Fortunately, my underwear drawer was accessible, so that's good news.

Someday we'll all laugh about the chaos that moving into my brother-and-sister-in-law's house has caused, but today is not quite that day. 

Beyond the madhouse of daily rearranging everyone, the Leaning Tower of Death-by-Stuff, and the normal strain of moving to another state (magnified by about ten), we've had a lot of fun with my brother-in-law and family. All the cousins (my two boys and my two nephews) are getting along great, and my sister-in-law, Shannon, and I have enjoyed keeping each other company during the long days of stay-at-home-momdom. Once the stress of finishing the basement (the carpet is being laid as I type this) is behind us, I think we'll have a really good time with this whole "communal living" experiment.  Until then, we're all learning some good lessons on flexibility and patience.