Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Heavenly Possibilities

I'm going to do something I've never done before. I'm copying and pasting from Facebook. Am I lazy, no, I just felt like it would be good to share with two different audiences. A friend of mine shared a post from the blog Rage Against the Minivan it was about how today, October 15th is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I was kind of taken aback, because I could have sworn it was October 17th, and I had been planning to say something about it.....and now, now I've all but missed it. And so I decided to share something with the world that I've not talked much about........and here it is.
Our Babies. Let's talk about our babies. Would you find it strange if I said that I don't know how many children I have? I really don't. The records of the government and of my church say that I have 3 children. I love those 3 children with all my heart. But I've had 5 pregnancies.
I've never been certain why, but a friend once asked me about family group sheets (genealogical records) and when a child's name could be added to it. I've look at a lot of family group sheets in my life (Thanks Grandma Turner!) and I know that I've seen stillborn children on them, so I told her that I was pretty confident that if a child had been stillborn they could be added to a family group sheet. She then asked how old (Gestationally) a baby would have to be, to be considered stillborn. I really didn't know. 23 weeks? Maybe 20 weeks?
According to all medical knowledge, the two babies we lost were never viable, so they are not on our family group sheets. We have not named them. And like I said earlier, I don't even know if they are my babies.
This summer I sat next to a woman on an early morning bus to a half marathon. I don't remember how the subject came up, but we started talking about pregnancy loss. She had experienced it and so had I. As a member of a local Pregnancy and Infant Loss facebook group I've read a lot of differing beliefs about when "life" begins, when a baby is, well, a baby. One woman said something about how Brigham Young (a Prophet and President of my church a long time ago) said that when a woman feels the quickening (or the movements of her baby) that is when the child's spirit has entered the child's body, and she
(the facebook poster) hadn't felt her baby move but she had seen it move on an ultrasound and she fully expected that she would meet that child in heaven.
Our church doesn't really have a hard and fast teaching about WHEN a spirit enters the body, when it becomes a soul, when that child will most definitely be with you in heaven. I do believe that my family can be eternal, and that I will be with them forever, and I found myself expressing to my bus mate that morning (yep, we're back on the bus), that I really didn't know how many children to expect in heaven, but if I find myself in heaven someday, and someone walks up to me and says "Mom, it's me! You made it" I will be overjoyed and I will say "How awesome are you! You only needed me to make and carry your body for 10 weeks, and then you got to go straight to heaven! By the way, do you like the name Bubbles, because that's all we ever called you." It could happen, I guess but, I really don't know.
And so I just try to be the best Kate I can be, so that if I do have one or two Angelic Children waiting for me, that I'll be ready and able to be with them, AND the rest of my awesome family, forever.
And those are my thoughts on this day. National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Change in Perspective

Today is "National Depression Screening Day". I've been depressed at times, thankfully not for too long and not too deeply, but yeah, I've been depressed and anxious enough to seek help for it. I'm proud of the fact that I loved myself enough to want to be happier, healthier.

I learned a lot about myself while going through counseling. One of the things I learned was that I am very affected by negative self talk. When I'm not feeling the greatest, emotionally, I try to recognize what I'm saying to myself and if I'm talking negatively to myself, I try my best to stop it. This doesn't happen very often anymore, I'm pretty nice to myself nowadays, maybe even a little too nice sometimes. But I do have my moments, maybe sometimes even my days, when things aren't just as I would like them to be and I let that get me down. And that brings me to the reason for this blog post.

I've been thinking a lot about perspective recently. I find that how I feel about things, how I react to different situations can change quite easily when I allow (or force) myself to view them from a different angle. Maybe you've known about this for a long time, but for me, this has felt like an epiphany!

Here's an example of a recent encounter I had, with myself. A couple of weeks ago I was walking to church. As I walked I would occasionally look down, to check that my path was clear and probably also to check out how I looked. I saw my feet and my shoes. I have cute feet. I saw my legs, I wondered why my calves were not slimmer, they looked larger than I thought they should, I didn't think my calves were as cute as my feet. I arrived at church and as I walked towards the doors I saw my reflection, and what really caught my eye was the reflection of my legs. My calves were NOT large. Was I looking at completely different legs? What had happened in the past 100 yards? Nothing had happened, nothing but a change in my perspective. I had looked at myself from a different angle and seen myself in a completely different way. I would like to say that I will never "look down" on myself again, but I'm pretty sure that's a promise that would be hard to keep.

I started the year off weighing 183 pounds, a respectable weight for someone who was 6 weeks post-partum. I've been doing my best, trying hard, to lose weight and at the beginning of this month I weighed in at 155. I've got about 10 pounds to go, but I hope to hit the goal weight (that my doctor  and I set), by the end of the year. I'm quite possibly in the best shape of my life (I was not a very active or fit teenager). I'm feeling strong, strong and sometimes old, but mostly just strong. I really like the way my clothes fit, I'm thinner than I used to be but I'm still a woman, I still have curves. I'm also a woman who has had 3 children. Just this week I was lying on my bed reading a book before going to sleep. When I was lying on my back I had a relatively flat stomach, but then I rolled onto my side and something really weird happened. My entire stomach, skin, fat and possibly even a couple internal organs, SHIFTED and I was left with a very odd looking bulge on the left side of my abdomen. At first I thought "WHAT in the WORLD, didn't I just have a flat stomach 30 seconds ago?!?!" and then I remembered something one of my older sisters had told me before I had my first child, it was something about having to tuck your extra, stretched out, skin into your pants after you have a baby. My perspective changed and I laughed. I didn't rush to the computer and search the Internet for ways to tighten my belly, because, yeah, I earned that stretched out skin. It wobbles around, but it usually stays put when I tuck it into my pants AND I'm pretty sure that control-top pantyhose were created for women who had given birth and I'm good with that!

I wasn't planning on including that little story about my belly in this post, but this morning I saw several little teasers for articles about Jennifer Garner, an actress, who like me is also a mother of three. She was making news not because of her new movie, but rather, because she was talking about her "Baby Bump". During an interview with Ellen DeGeneres she said - 

"I get congratulated all the time by people that I know, saying, ‘I hear you’re pregnant!’ You know, this one woman who had babysat for us said, ‘OMG! I can’t wait for baby No. 4!’ and I thought, ‘What is going on?’ So I asked around and apparently I have a baby bump. And I’m here to tell you that I do—I do!......I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump, From now on ladies, I will have a bump. And it will be my baby bump. And let’s just all settle in and get used to it. It’s not going anywhere. I have a bump. Its name is VioletSamSera.”

After that recent experience I had had with my wiggly wobbly belly, I really appreciated what she said. There are so many different voices in the world today, telling us exactly what we need to do and how we need to look, to be perfect, to be loved. So many of those voices are telling us lies, but Jennifer Garner told the truth, my sister told the truth, and I hope, that someday if someone ever tells me that I look good or even that I look like I have a "baby bump" that I'll tell the truth too.I'll say, "you know, I'm getting really good at tucking my belly into my pants" I love my squishy belly, that's where my sweet squishy children grew.

So I'm recognizing that sometimes I do see things from a good angle to start off with, but other times, like with my legs, I don't. But that's okay, because I'm hoping I can stop when I'm getting down on myself and try to look at myself, my home, my thoughts or whatever I'm currently struggling with, from a different point of view. I can truly say that I've enjoyed these past couple of weeks as I've been trying to make a conscious effort to not believe my first impressions, my first "self talk" conversations, are true.

There was the day that I was cleaning my house, getting ready for friends to come over for dinner. I knew that there was a TON to do, I'm not very good at keeping the clutter at bay, and there were plenty of piles of paper and piles of toys and such around the house. I started to feel a little anxious and I knew that there was no way I would be able to get everything perfect before people showed up. But, I quickly was able to realize that I was feeling anxious. Anxious enough that the music I was listening too had started to take on a foreboding tone. I didn't go hide in my room, or yell at my family, I said to myself "Now wait a minute. Are your friends coming over to see if you have a clean house OR are they coming over because they want to see you? Of course they want to see you, they love you and they will STILL LOVE YOU even if you have clutter around the edges of every room." A new perspective, it was refreshing. I finished with the cleaning I could handle and I DID NOT go around the house stuffing clutter into a box which could then be hidden in my room until the company left. That felt awesome, I didn't hide anything! This new perspective- that I am lovable even in the midst of my clutter- came in handy when a few different family members came to stay the night a few times this last month. I'm not saying I just stopped cleaning. I did try to make my home a comfortable place to be. I'm just saying I didn't let myself get frustrated when perfection wasn't reached. That's a big thing for me. I'm guessing I'm not the only one.

I haven't given up on the idea that someday I can and will be a better housekeeper, but right now in my life, it's quite often a goal that's out of reach. In the past when perfection seemed out of reach, the only option was to give up entirely. But now, looking at it from another angle, I see that maybe I'm unable to be perfect right now, but I can still take baby steps. Some baby steps I've attempted lately, in regards to my house, have been that I set a goal to do one big, majorly not fun, chore per month. In September I washed doors and door frames throughout my house. This month I'll do something else- like washing walls or cupboard doors. There are a few chores like that, that I admit I may never have done in the 8 years we've lived in this house. In a couple of years we plan to move and I'm hoping that if I do one of those dreaded chores every month, then by the time we move those things will have been done several times over the previous 2 years and the final cleaning process won't be as horrible as it might have been. I also paid my 6 year old $3 to wipe down the baseboards, that he could get to, throughout the house. I thought that was a stroke of genius! Another baby step I've been working on has to do with our piles of clutter- I've started throwing stuff away! Sadly, it seems like it piles right back up- BUT it would be even worse if I hadn't done some recycling. Eventually I'll figure out how to keep the clutter at bay, until then, I'll do my best to not let it get to me.

Part of the clutter problem is that I'm a "Saver". You never know when you are going to need something, so you better save it. Saving things has been a blessing to us, but saving things- like clothes- also means that my dresser drawers aren't easy to close (which means I don't close them, WHICH means that even more gets piled on top of them, WHICH MEANS my dresser is a disaster area). We are also very lucky to have lots of hand me down clothes for the kids. Those clothes have saved our budget and I am VERY grateful for them. But there is an entire closet FULL of boxes stacked from the floor to the ceiling. I've wondered for a few months if we need to save all those clothes. I started going through the boxes and separating out the items that I absolutely needed to keep. Everything else we handed down to other families. I think I made it through the New Born to 6-9 month sizes of both boy and girl clothes. In the closet we have clothes through size 8 or 10. So I still have a lot of sorting to do, but it can be done. This week we made a little more room in the clothes storage closet. We had the opportunity to donate shoes to a service project the youth from our church were participating in. I realized I had a bag of shoes on top of my craft storage (that's right, they had never really been put away). I have been pondering for a while now, whether or not our family is complete, and I'm feeling more and more like it is. So when I saw that bag of shoes, shoes that we had put away to use again, I realized that, most likely, we wouldn't be using those shoes AND they could be donated. I bagged them up, along with some of my old running shoes and something told me to go to the clothes storage closet. There I found a box full of other shoes our boys had grown out of, all together we were able to donate a large garbage bag full of shoes. It felt really good, I hope that the people who handed some of those shoes down to us also felt a little lift in their day, because unbeknownst to them, they provided service as well. The change in perspective I felt about the clothes and shoes has to do with saving- the "I have to save this because I might need it again" perspective has changed to an "I can share this with someone who needs it, and if we should find ourselves in need again someday, I have faith that our needs will be met, somehow, in someway." I feel like that is a very healthy perspective.

And the last perspective change I'd like to share just happened this week, in fact it's the reason for this blog post. I really enjoyed listening to the talks from the General Conference of the LDS Church. There were lots of good messages, at one point Ken turned to me and said that we weren't hearing anything new, but it was nice to have a refresher on several Gospel topics. I've also been re-reading "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. Those two things have lead me to contemplate loving my neighbor, loving God and loving myself. Mr. Lewis, while talking about loving our neighbor, said something about how we haven't been commanded to love only the people that we instantly get along with, rather we've been commanded to love everyone, no matter how hard we might initially find them to love. This struck me, because there are a few people in my life that I find hard to love. ( I Know! Totally hard to believe!) Sadly I find it really easy to come up with reasons that I shouldn't have to love them, because I have judged their choices and feel that their current problems (which is all they seem to talk about) are pretty much directly related to those choices. This is where my change of perspective (that is currently a work in progress) comes in, What a Horrible Realization! I've been totally judgmental, I would be horrified and sad and probably depressed if I realized that someone had judged me in a similar manner. I need to stop that, I need to change (thus the work in progress). My change in perspective showed me that I still have much to do, but I CAN DO IT, I can follow the example of my Savior, I want to do what he would do, what he has asked me to do, which is to love my neighbor as myself. Love them as I would want to be loved.

And so here I am, I'm not sharing these things because I want to say "Hey, Check out how AWESOME I am" rather, I want to say "Hey, I'm flawed! I lead a messy, cluttered life, but it's a good life. I have faith. Faith that I can be so much more than I think I am, faith that small changes will eventually refine me into what God knows I can be. I am not the cream of the crop, but I'm not the bottom of the barrel, I'm just me, good ole' average Kate. And you know what? I'm happy. Completely Imperfect, yet still happy." And I hope that out there somewhere, there is someone who might be struggling with the same things I do, and maybe, they might see this and realize that they aren't a lost cause, that they are normal just like me and they can keep making baby steps too, knowing that they can be less than perfect and happy all at the same time.

When I told Ken that I was writing a blog post "all about me and my imperfections" he quickly responded "your perfect imperfections?" That Ken, he's a smart man! (Thanks John Legend for teaching him what to say.)