Friday, December 16, 2016

Socialization and Anxiety

To those who know me well, I don't think it will come as much surprise that I'm an introvert. I can quite happily curl up on the couch with Netflix or a book and be content for hours. When I worked as a barista, my job alone was enough to fulfill most of my social needs. (The fact that my coworkers at the time were awesome didn't hurt though.) Now that I'm a nanny, I have to find social interaction. Even introverts need some. Most weeks for me that means lunch at my in-laws on Sundays, Monday night dinners (affectionately known as Dragonland), story time at the library on Wednesdays where I talk the librarians' ears off, and the absolute highlight of my week is my mommy group Thursday mornings.

But lately, our Monday night host has been travelling out of town, I've had to drive my husband to work which interferes with story time, and the location for mommy group closed down. So I haven't been getting my social life fix. Finally, yesterday, with the return of our second vehicle to working order and a rescheduled mommy group hosted at someone's house, I was able to get some socialization. And I needed it. To be able to hang out with my friends, let the kids play, and, as a bonus, my daughter and I were able to eat everything but the cheese cubes without worry. (She has food allergies which impact my diet too.)

While I love my time with my friends, and I desperately need the adult interaction, the minute I leave, my anxiety roars its ugly head and makes me question, makes me doubt. I walk out the door and I begin to analyze every thing I did or said. Did they know I meant this? Did I come across like that? Did I talk too much? Am I too self-centered? Am I too needy? Did I ask enough questions about the other person? If I had my phone out, did I spend too much time on it?

My first anxiety attack, that I can recall, I was 8 years old. That means I've been dealing with this monster for 18 years. If my mental illness was a person, he could vote and sign a contract and get a tattoo. I have what's considered high functioning anxiety. It doesn't stop me from doing many things (except for the semester in college where it sabotaged my efforts to meet my chapel requirement). But every interaction I have gets replayed in my head over and over several times. It gets questioned and disected and analyzed until even I am sick of it.

If it was as simple as not thinking that, trust me, I'd stop in an instant. But that's just not the reality. My brain goes into overdrive and I cannot turn it off. I can't stop these thoughts like I can stop the faucet on my kitchen sink. And at the end of the day, they can get overwhelming. They can get to the point where I just want to scream or rip my hair out or revert back to how I coped in high school and hurt myself. Because if I'm in pain, I'm not focusing on the interactions I had all day. I'm focusing on causing the pain, dealing with the pain, and then after I'd be focused on the guilt of making that choice. (The guilt would then consume my brain, I wouldn't be able to turn those thoughts off, and it would end up an awful cycle. This is why I haven't done that in about ten years.)

I wish I could just change on a dime. I wish it was that simple. But I've done this my entire life. Until recently, I thought everyone did. I didn't know this was a symptom of my anxiety. I thought it was just exaggerated for me. Which makes me wonder how much of my standard behaviors, thoughts, things I say are part of my mental illnesses. They impact every aspect of my life. Even when they're under control. I'll never be able to get twenty years of my life back from this monster. I'll never be able to go back to Germany and attend those drink nights that I skipped because I wasn't sure exactly where it was or those times I bowed out from events in college because I didn't know who would be there. I'll never have that back. Maybe someday I'll have an afternoon with friends where I don't leave and second guess every single thing I said and every single thing I did. In the mean time, I won't let it stop me from going to my mommy group, from messaging my friends about German or haircuts or babywearing. I won't let this illness hold me back the times I'm able to overcome it. And when I'm not able to overcome it, I will seek help. Because as my husband said, that's an awful way to live.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Voting in the Kingdom

Today is Election Day in America and I have never been more scared for the results.

I have my opinions on who is or is not qualified for the position of president but that is not what this post is about. This post is about how I'm coming to peace with the possible results of the election. While you may gather what my vote is from this or from other conversations with me, please do not make this about that. Any comments campaigning for or against any candidate will be deleted.

No matter what my vote, or yours, that's not the important part. Don't get me wrong, I believe voting is important and I believe we should be informed voters. I've come to peace with my decision. I've picked the candidate that most closely aligns with what is most important to me and I will be casting my ballot after my daughter wakes up from her nap. But I was still struggling this morning when I woke up with worry over the results. Would the rest of America make the choice that I believed was best? Or would they do something I thought would be detrimental to our country and to the world in general? Like it or not, America has a huge role to play in the way the world functions. But you know what?

It's not up to me.

This election is in bigger hands. If G-d controls my life, why wouldn't He have a say in who runs this country? No matter who ends up President, be it Trump, Clinton, or Johnson, my King is in control. My prayer these days is "Thy will be done, above all else. But selfishly I pray You'd keep my family safe, my daughter safe, and give me peace." No matter if tomorrow we know our next president will be the first female president or whether we will have another Mr. President, if you were my friend yesterday, you'll be my friend tomorrow. If you were family yesterday, you'll be family tomorrow.

So go, educate yourself, and vote. But please, pray about it too. Let Him guide your ballot.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Loving Me Instead of Liking Me

There's a difference between being okay with who you are and loving yourself.

A friend challenged the ladies in her group to name something they love about themselves and then comment on something they love about the others who had commented. I was one of the first to see the post but at least half a dozen women commented before me. Not because they were so quick to respond but because I had to think.

And think.

And think.

It took me about two hours to come up with something I loved about myself. Two hours. I thought about the fact that I didn't go through a crisis of self-confidence after giving birth. I didn't struggle with my self-image. I accepted my squishy belly and my tiger stripes almost immediately. But I'm realizing it wasn't a struggle because I didn't love my body before I got pregnant either. I was okay with it. I accepted it as a matter of course. It was like an old car. It got me where I needed to, didn't cause too many problems, but I didn't put too much effort into it either. It just was. I didn't like it but I didn't dislike it either. But that wasn't something to love about me.

I thought about the breakdown I had the other night about how I felt about my attitude, my personality. I thought about all the mean things my anxiety and my depression tell me are true. That I'm mean and selfish. That other people don't really like me, they just put up with me. That I'm no fun and I'm awkward. That I talk too much. I thought about all the things I don't like about me. Clearly, those weren't answers either.

I tried to think of one thing about me that I loved. I love being a mom but that's not really about me. It's about a blessing I was given. It's about my daughter. It's a fact of my being. But I thought about the things I love about being a mom. Wearing my daughter in our wrap, holding her close, nursing her, spending time engaging with her, snuggling her, sleeping with her in my arms. So many of those things required me to do research, to know what I was doing before I tried. I needed to know how to wrap before I could try it with her. I had to know it even existed as an option!

I had to know so much more about breastfeeding than I thought possible. Knowing what hunger cues were and the reasons why babies need to eat on demand and not on a schedule. Why she might actually be hungry even though she just popped off an hour ago. That breastmilk is so easily digested. What things meant I might have a low supply and what things didn't. Why topping her off with formula would have done more harm than good in most cases. Things I see women question daily because we've lost that cultural knowledge. Once upon a time, our mothers passed us that information. But in families like mine, the last nursing mother is three generations back and she passed away before I got to this stage. It's not something we grow up with anymore. It's not something we're familiar with or that we're used to. We have to learn it. I've been successful because I read voraciously while I was pregnant.

There are many other things I had to learn to be confident in the choices I've made as a mom. And I don't think I'm by any means done learning. But rather than being a daunting prospect, I look forward to the journey. I love to learn and to research and I love my thirst for knowledge. That, ultimately, was what I shared with the other women in the group. But it took me two hours to come to that conclusion.

Until today, I thought I was doing pretty good in terms of self confidence, self esteem. Because I didn't have a litany of self-hatred pour out when I looked in the mirror and because I like my body, I'm proud of the stretch marks that cover my stomach, that show I grew an entire human being, I thought I was doing well. But liking yourself is not loving yourself and I realize that now. I realize I'm not where I need to be. So today I'm starting a journey to love myself. To forgive my imperfections and to move from liking me to loving me. To treat me the way I want my daughter to treat herself. I'm not sure how I'm going to get there but I know I have to try. Care to join me?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The End of My Rope

I am at the end of me. For 7 months or more, I've tried to run on my own energy, my own steam, my own will. I've tried to do it all without interference, without help, without Him. I've paused in the amazement of my blessings, the wonder of watching my daughter grow and learn and I've whispered a quick thank you but I haven't stopped to listen to Him. I haven't stopped to really soak in Him, bask in His presence, connect with the One who made everything around me. And for the most part, I haven't been writing. Not here, not in my journals, not anywhere but texts. I've overcommitted and I've taken on too much mentally while simultaneously managing to not do much at all. My list of things to accomplish is a mile long and never ending.
When the house is a disaster, it's my fault. But simultaneously, it's not at all because my husband said he'd do the dishes a week ago and still hasn't. But in that week, neither have I. So while I sit here, not doing anything about the mess that surrounds me, blaming someone else, I also beat myself up about the fact that I can't even keep my house clean. Yes, the workings of my mind are a dark and twisty place sometimes. I spend too much time on my phone playing games and involved in facebook crap and not enough time connecting with my Creator and I wonder why I struggle. With winter coming, this is an even more serious issue for me.
In case you didn't already know, I struggle with depression, especially seasonal depression. I was incredibly lucky to escape postpartum depression immediately after my daughter's birth. I was at high risk and technically I'm not out of the woods yet. PPD and PPA can strike at any time in the first year postpartum. Mental illness is a very real thing and it's something I've struggled with for 18 years. Yes, you read that right. I'm still in my twenties and I've been in this battle most of my life. I hadn't even hit puberty yet when I began fighting. I've never known what it was like to not worry about what others thought of me or to not take the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Last night, I hit my breaking point. We'd had a good day. My husband had the day off and we took the kids I watch to a corn maze and to get pumpkins. Except for some potty training issues and a missing cup, the day went off without a hitch. But on the way home, talking about the little girl I watch, my husband mentioned how much like me she can be. How we're both stubborn. And in his words, "she's preparing [me] for someone who's going to be [my] little clone". Those words just hit me like a brick. I love my daughter beyond measure but in that moment I felt awful. I don't want her to be like me. I'm selfish and I'm stubborn. I can be mean and I struggle with anger and frustration. I'm impatient and at times I don't just walk away from G-d but I run. He is not the center of my life as He should be. I want her to be better than me. And last night, I couldn't see any of the good things in me. I couldn't see any of the reasons why I should be proud that she might take after me.
What an awful point to come to. After such a good day, a day where the kids made good choices and we had so much fun, where we began a fall tradition and picked out a first pumpkin for a little one, to end up in tears practically begging my husband to tell me what he loved about me because I couldn't see it... Well I haven't been that low in a long time. Is it postpartum, sleep deprivation? Or the changing of the seasons? Or is it all because I broke the rope that had previously felt like it was keeping me from running too far from G-d and drifted off to sea? I don't know. But I know I need to fix this. No, I need to open myself and allow Him to fix me. I need to change and I cannot do that on my own. I've tried for too long.
So I'm not going to say that I'll be blogging regularly or on any sort of a schedule. I'm not going to make any more demands on myself or promise anything to anyone else. My word for the year was temple. I am a temple of the Holy Spirit and I need to take care of that temple. That means putting me on the list. And maybe crossing a few things off. My mental health is important. My spiritual growth is important. So I'm not going to oblige myself any more than I already am. But I am going to take care of me. Part of that will be writing more. But I don't know where I'll be doing that. If it's here, I hope you'll read and chime in. If it's in my journals, I know that my Audience will be attentive to every jot and tittle. And if it's working on my book, well, someday you'll have the chance to read it. But while that's still on my agenda, I refuse to make it a chore. It's so much more than that and it's far too important to ever let myself dread. Every word of it needs to be written with purpose and with love. So if it takes me another decade or two to write, so be it. It will be done when He wants it done. And after He helps me determine what I'm supposed to write about!
I hope when you read this you understand. I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm not looking for pity. I'm not looking for you to tell me what to do to fix this. These are my mental blocks and I'm slowly developing a plan to knock them out of my way, to jump over them. I hope if you have similar mental blocks, or even just stubborn ones of your own, maybe this will inspire you to create your own plan. Maybe it will just make you aware that you are not alone. And maybe some day we'll both look back on this and know that we reached the end of us and found something so much greater.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

FLYing again

My darling daughter, who currently is sleeping on my chest, will be three months old this week. My life for the last thirteen weeks has revolved completely around her. And while that's exactly how it should be, it means my house, which is normally lived in, if you will, has become downright messy. Add in two guinea pigs (who need far more attention than they're currently receiving) and nannying four days a week plus an upcoming move into a new apartment and things need to get under control. Since this precious babe has started to like her swing and will be entertained in it for anywhere between five minutes and a solid hour, that means Mama (and Daddy too) can tame the housework mess. If we get into the habit now, our new place will never look half as bad as what this one does.

But the question is how to start. Since I've never been the best housekeeper, I turned back to FLYlady. For those of you who are unfamiliar, FLYlady is a system in which you break your house into zones and work on each one a week every month. The main tenents of the system are routines (stored in your handy control journal, which is basically a manual for running your house that you design) and the idea that you can do anything for 15 minutes. Well, some days I may not have 15 minutes in which the baby is content but that's the beauty of the system. I can set my timer for two minutes and get to work. Or if she fusses before my timer dings, I simply pause it, tend to her, and go back to it. Housework done "incorrectly" still blesses my family. And I think we all feel better when our homes are taken care of. So to get started, I've created routines. I'd like to make them look pretty before I put them into my control journal but I'm not letting my perfectionism stop me from getting started. The pretty part will come later. Without further adieu, my routines.

Get dressed.
Make the bed.
Take care of the baby. (Diaper, clothes, nurse.)
Eat breakfast (or at least take it with me!).

Afternoon: (This will get done during naptimes most days.)
Write down what I need to pack for tomorrow. (Am I low on diapers? Do I need more wipes?)
Spend time with Jesus.
Move your butt! (Walk, exercise, whatever.)

Eat dinner.
Tidy up.
Prep for tomorrow.
     Diaper bag
     Clothes for me, Wes, baby laid out
Piggy time! (Floor for one, lap for the other)

Meal plan
Wash diapers 2x
Check and sync calendars
Vaccuum the middles (aka don't move stuff, just get what you can get)
Sweep/mop floors.
Clean bathroom
Clean pig cages
Clean out fridge
Wipe down the stove

Wipe down appliances inside and out.
File papers.
Clean washer, dryer, dishwasher.
Wash sheets.

Outside windows.
Wipe walls, baseboards, cabinets inside and out.
Switch out clothes for the season.
Wash pillows, comforter, duvets.
Clear out expired medicines.
Vaccuum under/behind things.

Is it perfect? No. Is it what you should do? Probably not. But this is my plan for my home and hopefully it'll work for me! Oh and one other thing: I don't plan to accomplish everything on this list alone. This is the plan for the home. Which means my husband will be helping too. This will just keep us both on track. What do your routines look like? You may not have them written down but everyone has some sort of a routine.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Fears of My Mama Heart

Lord, make our daughters like Sarah and Rebecca
Like Rachel and like Leah, who built the house of Israel
Lord, make our daughters like Sarah and Rebecca
Like Rachel and like Leah, who built the house of Israel
Oh Lord, we pray

I was listening to the playlist of music I curated for when I'm in labor earlier and this song jumped out at me. (No, I'm not in labor yet. I won't be live-blogging that. I just wanted to listen to good Christian music and that fit the bill.) I first heard this song at Houghton College during a concert by John Waller himself. At the time, the song struck me because I longed to be like these great women of the Bible myself, to be a woman after G-d's own heart, to be someone others could look at and say that I took after Sarah and Rebecca. These days, this song holds a different meaning to me.

My daughter is almost done with the time she'll spend growing inside me. Any time between now and Easter, I could go into labor and she could make her entrance. As uncomfortable as I'm getting and as ready as I am to have my body back to myself, I wonder if I'm ready to step into motherhood in this way. Yes, I'm already her mother but the minute she's in my arms, our dynamic changes. Taking care of her right now is almost a passive action. I don't have to put much thought into feeding her or comforting her. I don't have to change diapers or put her to sleep. Those things just happen on their own right now. But someday soon, she'll be not only her own being but she'll have her own needs on her own schedule and I won't be able to tend them quite as easily. My little girl will make her demands known in a very different way and as the day draws nearer, I wonder if I'm prepared.

Will I be able to distinguish between the signs for "I'm hungry" and "I'm wet"? Will I be able to comfort her and rock her to sleep as easily on the outside as I can now? I already know she's a Daddy's girl. Does that mean I'm doomed to a day of fussing and crying until we get home at night and he can hold her? As her sole source of food for the next several months and main source for the next year, will I be able to handle it? Will I get touched out? Will I have enough milk? Will I recognize whether she has a good latch and be able to correct it if not? Or will I be so overwhelmed that I'll want to give up long before it's best for her?

And once she's older, will I be able to teach her what she needs to know? To set the best example for her? Will my daughter grow to be like Sarah and Rebecca, like Rachel and like Leah? Will she look up to me as a godly woman, a good example? Will she see the influence of these women in my life? Or will she see G-d as a part of my life but not the center? Will she see my flaws, my shortcomings, my ineptitude before she sees my love for the Creator? What will she think is the central part of my life? Will it be my faith? Or my family? Or myself?

My daughter already has her own personality, her own thoughts and ideas and opinions. She already has preferences for what foods she likes (spicy foods and cupcakes seem to be a favorite, chicken not so much). She's not even born yet and she's fully formed. Yes, the events of her life will shape her and mold her. I don't mean to say she's the same person now that she will be even a year from now. But the blueprint is there. As she grows, either the workmanship can be shoddy and can result in crooked walls and crumbling foundation or it can be solid and she can grow into the person G-d intends for her to be. And a good chunk of which way that goes depends on the examples set for her and the ways in which her father and I raise her.

What a huge responsibility! I think the weight of what we've signed up for is starting to sink in as it becomes more and more real that this little one is an independent person and will very soon occupy her own space in this world. I love my daughter and I would do this again in a heartbeat just to have her. I do not regret this pregnancy or the timing of it. I know that this was when she was meant to make her way into our lives and I could not be more overjoyed. That does not mean I'm not allowed to be apprehensive or overwhelmed. My daughter means everything to me and I want to do what's right by her. It's only natural that I would see the monumental size of this task and balk just a bit. To raise her to take after these great women, I feel inadequate. To show her what it means to be a godly woman, to love the L-rd with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and with all your strength is a huge calling. There are so many, many things I want her to learn. I guess I need to start learning some of them myself and pray that she'll see my struggles to be like Hannah and Ruth and Mary, to be the mother she deserves and the woman I know G-d wants me to be, and that she'll realize her mommy may not be perfect. And I may stumble and fall time and time again. But I will always pick myself back up and I will always try again and I will always, through it all, love her and her father and I will strive to put G-d at the center of our home and our lives and my own heart.

L-rd, make me a woman after Your heart. Make me a mother like Hannah. Help me devote my life and my child to Your cause. For this child, I have prayed, G-d, and I turn her life over to You. Guide me in the best ways to raise her and love her and care for her. Give me patience as I await her arrival and as I figure out how to be her mama in a more active way. Grant me humility to ask for help when I need it and just enough sleep to get through my days. G-d, bless my daughter. Let her grow into the woman You have planned for her to be and keep her in Your ways. I ask only that You'd let me witness Your work and I thank You for the privilege of having a part in this miracle. Amen.

Friday, January 1, 2016

My One Word for 2016

2016 is going to be one hell of a year. Don't get me wrong; 2015 was incredible, but I am so excited for 2016. 2015 was the year I first began as a wife. The year we began to figure out what that meant. We navigated budgetting and saving and meal planning and chores. We added some fur babies to our home (one at the end of 2014, the other this fall). We took a leap of faith and handed control of one particular aspect of our lives over to G-d. Then, on July 4th, we found out our family would be growing by another human. (Thankfully only one this time!) It's been insane ever since.

Ever since that moment, I've been growing into a different person, a mom, her mom. I know I'm never done growing as a person and I know my identity isn't solely who I am as a mom. I'm still a wife, a woman, a daughter, a sister. And those parts of me are nowhere near finished. But now there's this big new part being unlocked. It started the moment that second line showed up and has grown day by day. Every time I've heard her heartbeat or felt her kick, I've fallen a little more in love with her. And every moment she's gone nuts for the San Jose Sharks or kicked out of shock at the newest Star Wars movies and I've seen the pride and the joy on my husband's face, I've fallen more in love with him.

In this next year, while everyone is making their resolutions, I think my goals are fairly simple. You may disagree. In about three months, my daughter will enter the world and I want to be the mama she needs. I want to show her love, to show her what it means to be a godly woman and a loving wife. I want to show her how to adult, to budget and save and meal plan and cook. And I want to teach her to take care of herself too. To take five minutes for a shower, to drink a cup of tea and just breathe. I want to show her that eating good, healthy food doesn't mean being deprived or boring and that working out is something we do to feel our best and to be good stewards of the body G-d gave us, not because we don't like our reflection or we hate our thighs.

Do I think she's going to soak all of this in by the end of 2016?No. But I do think it will start to set a firm foundation. These values I want to impart to her aren't necessarily things I've already got mastered. So this goal isn't just "Keep living how I am but with a baby." It involves work and growth and deliberate change.

I don't expect to suddenly change who I am overnight. My diet won't suddenly be 100% organic or sugar free. We won't suddenly have our bills line up perfectly every month and I might sometimes overspend on stupid things. I won't suddenly work out 3x a week or stick to my devos every day. But these are all things I plan to work on. So for 2016, my one word is 'temple'. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and it is my job to care for it, inside and out.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from G-d? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor G-d with your bodies.
-1 Corinthians 6:19-20