Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Of Ice and Men

There was a lot of hype surrounding the theatre release of Frozen. I was finishing up my last semester at BYU-Idaho and so I decided to wait until it was available on Netflix and watch it at home. When we did I was really surprised to learn that Elsa is the villain and the moral of the story was more about love overcoming personal differences than about doing what’s right for you. You know the only thing I ever hear people reference about Frozen? Elsa’s show-stopping song “Let it Go”. Here are some snippets of that song:

"I don't care what they're going to say! Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway"

"It's time to see what I can do... No right, No wrong, no rules for me I'm free!"

How did a story about sacrificing oneself for the benefit of another get turned into a story about girl who did what was right for her? How did Elsa become the heroin for turning her back on her kingdom rather than for healing her sister? How did “Let it Go” become the anthem of this movie and go on to win an Academy Award and a Grammy?

During my last semester at BYU-Idaho, I was enrolled in a class which discussed cultural differences  between America and most of the rest of the world pertaining to the practice of Psychology. Two of the most widely used motto's which seems common place in America but strange in other countries are “do what’s right for you” and “you have to love yourself before you can love another”.  What bothers me about these two snippets of advice is where do you stop? Aren’t they both supremely suggestive? Taking the advice to “do what’s right for me”, when led to its’ logical conclusion, could allow me to do whatever I wanted because what’s right for me is inside myself and no one can tell me what’s right for me is wrong. Don’t judge. And likewise, when have you ever thought to yourself “You know, I have enough self-love, it’s time to love someone else”? I feel that’s why Frozen seems only remembered for “Letting it Go” because the song embodies the mantras todays culture lives by. “No right, no wrong, no rules for me- I’m free!”

A couple of years ago I came across a blog post that has really stuck with me. The blog post is entitled “My Life is Not my Own” and in it, the writer tells a story of when her mother came to the conclusion her life is not hers to have and to hold but to share. I began repeating this in regards to my husband. When we were first married I wanted him home beside me all the time and yet between work and church responsibilities  he seemed never to be home. One day, while complaining in my mind that I was having to share my husband too much, I applied this title to express “My husband is not my own”. I don’t mean this in a fidelity way but in a Godly way. He is God’s servant and commissioned to do the will of God. Thinking that I was completely selfless for letting others borrow my husband to move their stuff or teach them or meet for study groups, I have come to realize I have never really seen the truthfulness of the mantra “My Life is Not My Own” until I had a child.

Of course I had heard before the idea that children change your life and things you may have taken for granted before (like using the bathroom in private) are long sought after once children are around. But in my experience nothing is my own. When I was pregnant my body was not my own but mine and my child’s. What I put in to my body affected her. That continues after the baby is born (if nursing). My energy is not my own to use how I would, but is my baby’s. My sleep is not my own. My house is not my own. My stuff is not my own (she is very grabby these days…). My money is not my own. My time is not my own. Nothing is “mine”.

When I was a senior in high school, I came to a crossroads. Two messages had been taught to me exclusively and I was trying to find a way to combine them. One message was that I was to be a mother. Another message was to be ambitious and follow my dreams. Some women are able to combine the two messages and carry on down the road, but I decided to choose to be ambitious and follow my dreams. I did what was right for me. I heeded not the council of those around me and thus did not care what other people said. I let go of a lot of the things I had been taught and, in effect,  let go of who I was. Down this road all I found were thorns and potholes to trip over. I unknowingly searched for someone to help me and luckily found someone. But not soon enough to not have hurt people. Not soon enough to make a positive impression on those I came into contact with. Not soon enough to not have regrets about that part of my life.

Thankfully, I met my husband and we embarked to turn around and go down the other road- the road towards having a family. And now that I have my baby, I learn every day the truthfulness of the words "my life is not my own". But I don't bemoan this fact. I am grateful! I am grateful my life has more meaning than me. "You can't achieve your life's purpose by trying to achieve your life's purpose". Jesus likewise said “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself... For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” Matt 16:24-23. Jesus also never once said to make sure you as an individual are loved by you before you give any love to others.  He said “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” Matt 7:12; and “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” Matt 5:43-44 

(And lest we fear that we only have so much love to give so it would be best to save our love for those we choose, Jesus further explains: For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again Luke 6:32-35)

I know I am at the beginning of my motherhood journey but I hope I can keep as a mantra “my life is not my own”. I hope I can teach my kids that their actions affect others and so they should be concerned for others (even more than themselves). I also hope I never have to hear “Let it Go” ever again.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thoughts on Fathers

           Happy Father’s day!  This has been the first father’s day (to my knowledge) I have ever celebrated. My dad is retired from the NAVY and when I was younger he was often off on deployments. I have one really vague memory of us standing in the kitchen in the home I grew up in. He would grab my hands and I would walk up the front of his body. I also have a hazy memory of a weekend spent with my older siblings and him in which I scored a nifty air brush toy. You would put a marker into this holder and then pump a pedal with your foot that blew air over the marker. Come to find out, that was the weekend he and my mom’s divorce was finalized so, besides random phone calls throughout the year, I grew up in a home essentially father-less.
            When I would tell this to my teachers or other kids they often replied “sorry” but I was never upset about it. Like I said, because my dad lived most of my life away from home, having my mom and him divorced was no different from when they were married. I never really felt I had missed out on anything until things like father/daughter dances were scheduled as church activities and days like father’s day. I would not feel necessarily sad about these things, but I thought of it as something others did that I abstained from. After living most of my life with the understanding that I did not have a father, one day in my teenage years, it dawned on me that I do have a Father. I have a Father who is perfect, who is everywhere, who knows everything, and who can achieve anything He sets His mind to doing. This began my understanding of what a father’s role is and why we need them.
            In further study, I have come to realize as children of Heavenly Father, we have many fathers. We refer to our progenitor as “Father Adam”. We learn about our “Father Abraham” who had many sons. In the Doctrine and Covenants we learn that Joseph, Jacob and Isaac are also considered our Fathers. Because of all of these fathers we have great blessings promised to us. Because Abraham was obedient to God and agreed to receive the higher Priesthood (or the Melchezedek Priesthood as we refer to it today) and was sealed to his wife, God promised that all of Abraham’s children would be able to enter into the same covenant Abraham entered into. Because of Abraham, we have the ability to “come forth in the first resurrection”, “inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions” and these blessings have the potential to continue to our posterity forever and ever.
            Similarly to Abraham, Jacob blessed Joseph through Ephraim that his seed will be numerous that they will be “fruitful, and multiply” and that this numerous seed will be strong and will be made strong through the “hands of the mighty God”. Later, Moses blesses the tribe of Joseph and compares them to a bull exclaiming “his horns… shall push the people together to the ends of the earth”.  If this isn’t enough of a reason to celebrate Father’s Day, let me explain one more Father we all share.
            In an article published by the First Presidency and the Twelve, the doctrine was taught “the term Father as applied to Deity occurs in sacred writ with plainly different meanings”. There is the Father as our literal parent (or Heavenly Father- Father of our spirits), and Father as creator who would include both Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is further referred to as our Father since this is His Gospel which we, His followers abide in, and Jesus Christ is also a Father by divine investiture of authority. Divine investiture is a fancy way to say that Jesus Christ not only represents the Father but speaks on behalf of the Father. In John 14:7, Jesus is recorded as explaining “if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” so even though we sometimes may feel as though we do not know much about our Spiritual Father in Heaven, by Jesus Christ we can come to know Him. So let’s look at some of the blessings we have because of our Father. One of the things I really enjoy about Father’s day is hearing people’s stories about their fathers. In learning the stories of Jesus, we come to see what a father is and why it is important to have fathers. Jesus teaches us Fathers provide, teach, and love for their children.
            When Jesus found his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded, Jesus boarded a ship and went to a deserted place. His followers heard that he had gone away and decided to walk to find Him. Matthew tells us that when “Jesus went forth [He] saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick”. This went on all day! Jesus’ apostles finally came to him and said (in effect) “It’s getting dark and there is no food around. Tell everyone to go home so they can get themselves something to eat”. Jesus replied “They need not depart; give ye them to eat”. The apostles, possibly annoyed, possibly hangry, replied “we have here but five loaves and two fishes”. Jesus asked them to give the food over and, after blessing the food, fed over five thousand people. In this story, I can totally relate with the apostles. Jesus just had a major death in his family. He goes away to get some peace and quiet and over five thousand people come to him to have him help them in their need. Instead of sending them away to focus on himself and his loss, he works all day to serve the multitude. He does not tell the multitude he needs “me” time but forgets himself and goes to work. In this way Jesus not only provided for the temporal hunger of the multitude, but left them with a testimony to provide for the multitudes spiritual hunger as well.
            We find Jesus in the midst of the multitude again and again; sometimes friendly but more often not. There are many occasions when the Pharisees come to Jesus in an attempt to teach Him but end up themselves being taught. Some of these times Jesus was overt in his teaching, such as when He taught on the Mount or in the synagogues. To say Jesus was a great teacher would be an understatement and yet he had to repeat himself and still people did not understand. While He was out fulfilling prophecy from the books  which those that condemned him read, He found it necessary to explicitly state He was the Messiah. It was the custom for those known for their knowledge and religiousness to read the lessons in front of those gathered in the synagogue. On one such day, Jesus read the prophecy from Isiah “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”. Possibly letting the irony of the words sink in to those in the audience, Jesus closed the book and returned to His seat. Then to make sure everyone in attendance understood, He declared” this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”. Jesus not only fulfilled the prophecy by stating He would heal the sick and deliver those in captivity, but by spending His days preaching the gospel, healing those in need, and delivering the captives. Still, if He were to judge His effectiveness by 100% compliance, He might have thought of himself a failure.
            Sometimes we may feel that providing for our children and teaching them are enough proof of our love for them but Jesus sees it fit to prove His love to us by declaring his love to us with His blood. There are times in parenting when we must allow our children to face the consequences of their actions. There are other times when we must rescue them from themselves. Isn’t it ironic that the death of Christ embodies both of these techniques? Because Adam partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, a redemption from this fall was needed. We needed someone to save us from ourselves and Jesus has always been the willing Save-er. Heavenly Father however could not step in and save His son from the physical agony and death He would experience. Heavenly Father withdrew himself from Jesus when Jesus was trying to save the Father’s children. The only reason Jesus had to save the children in the first place was because of a choice one of the children made. Jesus tells us “greater love hath no man… that a man lay down his life for his friends” or in this case, His children.
            After such a study of my scriptural fathers, I can feel nothing but gratitude. My gratitude was further extended when I married and inherited a father-in-law. PJ tells of a time he arrived home from school and his entire house smelled of sulfur. When he found his dad sleeping, PJ awoke his dad and asked why the house smelled. PJ’s dad realized that he had tried to make himself a snack of a hard-boiled eggs and, in anticipation of the 30 or so minutes passing until he could eat it, fell asleep. Thus PJ learned that napping and cooking do not mix well. Ever industrious, PJ also tells of a time his dad helped him beat a level in a video game. The video game required the player to spin the joystick as fast as he could so the character in the game would roll quickly past obstacles. After many tries, PJ was unable to beat the level so PJ’s dad got a drill, stuck a foam ball onto the bit of the drill, and pressed it against the joystick. The level was beaten and PJ’s dad set PJ on a path of engineering solutions to life’s problems. As proof, PJ’s favorite saying is “I can fix this”.
            Now as I get to observe my daughter with her father, I find that even though our scriptural fathers provide eternal blessings, our earthly fathers provide and fulfill many of our temporal needs. There may be a special bond with mothers and their children, but I can testify to the bond that fathers have with their children, especially girls to their daddies. At a time in which women are making it known that they are able and are necessary, I would like to take this opportunity to announce fathers are needed too! We should not worry about divvying up the amount of necessity. Paul touches on this in one of his epistles to the Corinthians when he asks “if the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” Just because one element of the body is important, does not mean the other parts of the body are less important. While it is true that some are born without sight or hearing, it is also true that having both sight and hearing is advantageous and ideal. Similarly having both a mom and a dad is what God intends for us. And lest you fathers feel inadequate or that your words of caution fall on deaf ears or wonder if your children know you love them; just remember 80% of success is showing up.
            I am grateful for the fathers of the world who do their due diligence in providing, teaching, and loving their family. I am also grateful for my scriptural fathers, in particular my Heavenly Father. I know that He lives and while sometimes it is hard to feel His spiritual presence in this tangible world, if I listen closely enough I know He is there. He hears me, He loves me, as He loves each of you and desires nothing more than for us to follow His words and return to the safety of his fold. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Experience: The First Three Months


 21 woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

What does it mean to be a mother? I wish I had a beautifully poetic, well-thought-out definition but I don't. People have asked me how I enjoy motherhood and I know they want to hear how rewarding it is and how my life has been impacted for the better but, for me, being a mother of a newborn is not an euphoric experience. I don't hate it, I'm not depressed, this is just my experience.  

Over the past three months, each one has come with it's own challenges. The first month I remember as somewhat of a honey moon with the baby. I was tired and sore from delivery, but very blessed to have family in town for the whole month. I didn't have to cook, clean or stay up with the baby during the day if I needed a nap. I remember the baby sleeping pretty well at night (one night she even slept 8 hours!) and being scared to let her sleep during the day in fear that she wouldn't sleep at night. My main goal for this first month was to heal and, thanks to my family, I was able to do that! 

The second month was the hardest. Since I was able to get so much rest during the first month, being alone with the baby didn't scare me. It was hard to find my rhythm to work in grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc... but I felt able. What became hard is around 6-7 weeks, the baby woke up and hit a growth spurt. We also had daylights savings time. Luckily the baby still slept during the night, but it was getting her to go to sleep that had me in fits. We would start her nighttime routine around 7 (I still don't remember why that time but it must have been when she was going to sleep previously) which consisted of bath, feeding, swaddle and to bed but she wouldn't sleep. My husband and I would take turns for hours rocking her trying to get her to sleep. We put trash bags over the windows to make it darker in her room. We had a vibrating pad in her crib to try to soothe her. We had two noisemakers (mother's heart beat and white noise). I tried essential oils to "soothe" her to sleep. Still for a week or two we tag teamed bouncing her for 2-3 hours. 

We have a sleep book suggested by my pediatrician and one night, out of total desperation, I was studying the book trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. It was suggested in the book that around this age babies enjoy an earlier bedtime so we started bedtime around 6-6:30. The first night was beautiful. Bath, feeding, swaddle, in bed and asleep. She woke up to eat again about an hour or so after we put her down and went back to sleep. But as the week progressed, it turned into the same ol' song and dance to where, eventually, she wouldn't even go to sleep after the bath and swaddle. As I was sobbing in my room (out of pure frustration, desperation, and coming to terms that I would never sleep again [I'm not dramatic at all..]) I pulled myself together, went into her room and took her from my husband and she was asleep! Like completely out. I looked at the time and realized it was the same time she had been going to sleep all along when we would spend hours in her room rocking her. Alas! It wasn't an earlier bedtime but a later bedtime that was needed. 

The third month of my baby's life was ushered in with another growth spurt but luckily I could recognize the signs of what was going on and I extended a little more patience. At this point she is very interested in the world around her, constantly looking around wherever we are. The one comment I receive most consistently about her (besides how cute she is :D ) is how alert she is. She loves bath time and loves to swat and sometimes grab her toys dangling from her jungle gym. She can grab other toys if you hold it out for her and she loves to smile and we can squeeze a laugh out of her occasionally. 

To say that my experience with motherhood has not been a spiritual one would not be true. Just like with new exercise routines you find muscles you didn't know you had, I have been stretched in ways I didn't know I needed to be. One of the biggest lessons is remembering that my baby is not out to get me. She doesn't mean anything by what she does. While we are all learning about life, she's just starting out on this journey of life. 

While I don't have any flowery description of what it means to be my baby's mother, I am grateful that I have the chance and opportunity to guide her through this initial part of her life and watch her grow. It might have not been as soon as I was delivered of the child that I was joyful, but every day, week, month has brought more and more joy that a [wo]man "has been born into the world". 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Birth Story

 It is so weird to think that this time last week I had just given birth to the baby who had been cooking for about 9 full months. I don't think I've done anything for 9-10 months straight.

My pregnancy was pretty easy going. I didn't have any cravings or mood swings but I did have a lot of heart burn and boy does baby girl have hair! For the first half of the first trimester, I felt great. I thought to myself "why do people complain about being pregnant?" Then the second half of the first trimester I had migraines and laid in bed with a pillow over my head what seemed like all day. Migraines weren't new for me but it was the first time I couldn't take Excedrin for them. The second trimester was great! 'Nuff said.

The third trimester started around the time of the holidays and we had an arctic blast which came and froze the city including thick fog and single digit temperatures. At first the weather kept me inside, and then it was the limited mobility/aching because of a growing belly in addition to the weather which kept me inside. I had Braxton Hicks off and on for the month of January and in the last two weeks of January I started having actual contractions. Usually just over the weekends for an hour at a time. One of those weeks I woke up and felt like I could conquer the world. I had energy! I had a drive to go out and do things! I actually wanted to cook! I spent that week shopping for food and stuffing my freezer so we would have at least two weeks worth of food.

I would normally wake up around 2:00 a.m. to use the bathroom but Tuesday, February 3 I woke up at 2:00 a.m. with contractions. After about the third one I started timing them and they were consistently about 3-5 minutes apart until around lunch time and for some reason they slowed down. They became really irregular, some coming 8 minutes apart and then 30 minutes apart. I was really annoyed because, to be quite honest, I was ready to have this baby weeks ago. PJ and I took a walk around the neighborhood and, while the contractions sped up when we were walking, they slowed down as soon as I sat down. PJ had to go to school around 4 p.m. and, about an hour after he left, the contractions became a lot more regular around 5-7 minutes apart. He got home at 6:30 and by 8 p.m., we were out the door to the hospital. When we got to the hospital, I was dilated to a 6 and about 100% effaced so they admitted me and I finally got my epidural around 10:30 p.m. I finally got to rest!

Around 2 a.m. Wedensday morning the nurse came in to check on me and I could feel Wendy pretty low down in the birth canal but she encouraged me to wait so I wouldn't have to push as long. Around 3:30 a.m. I started pushing and honestly this was the most enjoyable part of labor. I think my epidural was wearing off so I could feel a lot more than I thought I would be able to, but it felt so good to do something to cope with the contractions rather than just lay there and wait for it to pass. At 5 a.m. Wendy joined us and was placed on my chest while the doctor finished up his job. I don't remember a whole lot about the pushing experience but I remember when she finally came out and the nurse gave her to me, Wendy and I just stared at each other like "What just happened". If I had to describe that moment in one word, it would be relief. Relief that labor was over, pregnancy was over, relief that she was OK. The details after that are a little blurry, I know I asked if I tore and they told me I did and hemorrhaged  and they had to give me medicine to stop the bleeding. I remember I asked for a warm blanket, threw up, and then went to sleep. About an hour later, they moved me to my recovery room and three days later I was discharged. Once we got home and I was able to sit down in my own house, I had another overwhelming feeling of relief. As great as the nurses were at the hospital, there truly is no place like home!

Before Delivery
1 Week Later