Thursday, May 24, 2012

The ordinary miracle: More thoughts on Arden's birth.

For about three years now, I've known that I'm supposed to work with birth. That's one reason I was so, so excited to attend Arden's birth. But as Thad came to pick me up from Jessica's house and we drove away, I was really surprised by how I felt. I thought I was going to have this euphoric, other-worldly feeling, and I didn't. I was happy, but I mostly felt tired. And hungry. I came home, cooked up some bacon and eggs(at 1AM) and stuffed myself silly, and then fell right into bed and crashed. I wondered if the lack of the euphoria that I had expected meant that I wasn't really called to birth work after all? I was too tired to really think about it much.



The next morning, however, was very different. I literally couldn't think about anything else. The fact that I had just witnessed, for the first time, a human life being brought into the world, totally consumed my thoughts and I knew I needed to process. I turned on a movie for the kids, and went into Hayden's room to get some quiet time. I turned on Sarah McLachlan's Ordinary Miracle, and just cried. I wrote out a whole page of thoughts and feelings. It felt really good to get it all out.



I wonder if it's like this for birth workers after every birth? Do you ever get used to it? Do you have to take time to process after every birth? Birth is so miraculous, and for most people, it's something they only get to experience a couple of times in their lifetime. What must it be like to be a witness and an assistant to the miraculous on a regular basis? Does that change your outlook on life? Does that change your attitude, your interactions, your choices?



That song, Ordinary Miracle, was one of the ones that Jessica chose for her labor playlist. She said that was a perfect song because it so perfectly describes the birth experience- both ordinary and miraculous. I couldn't agree more. Birth is miraculous- a brand new human being that never existed before is brough into the world, and a mother is made out of the woman that used to stand in her place. But birth is also very normal- it's simply a part of life that's been happening ever since humans have been around. Man and woman come together, a baby is created, and a new life comes into the world. It's the circle of life.



Isn't it remarkable?

Like every time a raindrop falls

It's just another ordinary miracle today.



I think that's the one thing that stood out to me most about Arden's birth- how perfecly normal it was. The house was so peaceful and buzzing with life. Jessica's older two daughters were baking in the kitchen. All the adults were talking and laughing between contractions. At one point, Jessica's oldest got ready and left to go teach a ballet class. There was no fear, no worries, no drama. Just a loving family ready to welcome a new member. As the video feed was turned on later on in the labor, several viewers commented that they thought it was so cool that Jessica's older daughters were there as their mom labored. Honestly, until they mentioned that, it hadn't even crossed my mind that that's something different than what a lot of people have. It seemed so normal to me to have them there. It seemed so normal to them that they were there. They were just there, helping, waiting, playing on my ipad. ;)



It was the same after the baby was born. Jessica's second daughter was the one one in there for the actual birth(Arden came out so quickly that the first and third daughters missed it- so sad!), but afterwards they all gathered around to meet their new sister. Seeing the family bonding together was so incredibly sweet! At one point, Jessica's third daughter asked if she could hold the baby. Jessica asked her to take her shirt off first so that she could be skin to skin with Arden. It brought tears to my eyes to see the sisters bonding that way.



After the placenta came out, the midwife examined it to make sure all the parts were there and that everything looked okay. The placenta- again, while it's not something you see every day, it's perfectly normal! Jessica's girls gathered around as the midwife examined the placenta, and she gave them(and me!) a mini lesson on the placenta. She showed us all of the different parts, the fetal side, the maternal side, and the amniotic sac. She even pulled the sac apart and showed how the it's two different sections- amnion and chorion. I had never seen that before, and it was just so cool. I've always been fascinated by the placenta, and this was the first time I've gotten to see one up close. I'd bet people really would have commented if they had seen Jessica's daughters examining the placenta up close, but the camera had been turned off by then. Shortly after, Jessica and Arden went to take an herbal bath in the birth pool. (Side note: herbal baths after giving birth are the. best.) The whole family was gathered around- there was no uncomfortableness with the nudity involved, just excitement about the new baby. Jessica's oldest even came over and put her hair up so that it wouldn't get wet. I dunno about your family, but that wouldn't have been normal or comfortable in the family I grew up in. It was so refreshing to see a family that was so comfortable in their skin, so comfortable with each other, and so comfortable with birth. The whole experience was incredibly miraculous, and yet also incredibly normal. The combination of the two was just breathtakingly beautiful. Definitely a memory I'll keep with me forever.



Do you agree that "Ordinary Miracle" is a very fitting description for birth? Has that been your experience too? If you're a birth worker, did you ever get "used to" experiencing the miraculous on a regular basis? Has that changed the way you experience the rest of your life?


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why am I so passionate about real food?

"Why is this all such a big deal to you? You didn't used to eat like this."


My father in law asked me that a little while back. He's right- I didn't used to eat like this. Ever heard of the S.A.D.- the Standard American Diet? That's what I ate growing up. Fast food (still remember those off menu cheese sticks from Long John Silvers), biscuits from a can, fried bologna sandwiches on white bread, Kraft mac'n'cheese from the orange box, and Lay's potato chips with onion dip. You name it, we ate it. The nutritional value of the foods we were eating never really factored into the equation. It just wasn't something that was discussed or talked about.



It's ironic, really, because my parents were outside of the mainstream in many ways. My sister and I weren't vaccinated. My mom breastfed back in the 80's when it wasn't as popular as it is today. We were homeschooled. I even remember, as a teen, my dad explaining to me that he believed that the unhealthy American diet was responsible for the drastic rise in chronic disease and infertility over the past several decades. The truth was right there, so close, but somehow it never made it's way all the way into action.



My dad is the reason I'm so passionate about eating real food and feeding it to my family. He passed away at only 39 years old, when my sister and I were still teens. He was morbidly obese, and died in his sleep one night due to an enlarged heart. He weighed about 350 lbs when he died, and that was after losing about 300. We had no idea that he was in trouble or that his heart was enlarged. I never got to say goodbye. I just woke up one morning and he was gone.



I wrote this back in April and shared it on my facebook wall, on what would have been my dad's birthday:


Do you think that what you eat doesn't really matter? Or maybe you're meaning to start eating healthier, but you keep putting it off? Can't seem to make time for exercise? Think it's all not really a big deal? When you see me talking about cleaning up my diet, do you think I've taken it just a little too far? When I tell you I don't feed my kids sugar or grains, do you really think I've gone off the deep end??? Does it make you uncomfortable when you hear about the risks of eating fake food and not exercising? Are you feeling uncomfortable right now, reading this status?

Good. I hope you are feeling uncomfortable. I hope you're feeling uncomfortable enough to DO something about it. Because you know what else is uncomfortable? Missing your dad. Watching his favorite team win the NCAA championship without him. Knowing you'll never get to introduce your kids to him, at least not this side of heaven. My dad should be turning 47 today. But instead we lost him to obesity at the too-young age of 39.

Please don't make the same mistake. Please don't think that it doesn't matter, that it won't happen to you, that you have plenty of time left. Your family needs you. Please honor my dad today and think about what kind of changes you can make to be healthier. You don't have to change it all at once. Take baby steps. Do a couple of things at a time. But please, don't keep putting it off. Do it for you, do it for me, do it for your family.

Does that seem shomewhat inappropriate? Would it still feel inappropriate if my dad had died from lung cancer, and I was pleading with you to stop smoking? What if he had died in an auto accident, and I was spreading the word about how seatbelts and car seats save lives? Would it be ok for me to spread those message? Why is it different just because I'm talking about food? Fake food kills. Obesity kills. And I'm going to keep sharing that message with as many people as I can.



I don't say all of this to defame my dad. He was amazing in many ways. I could go on and on about all of his good qualities and things that he taught me. But today I'm sharing the source of my inspiration, and hoping that maybe you're feeling inspired too. I don't want to just remember the good about my dad. I also want to remember the ways that he fell short- not so that I can be bitter about them, but so that I can learn from his mistakes and hopefully not make the same ones. I do what I do in honor of his memory- not to defame it.



So this is why I'm so passionate about real food. There are other reasons, and I'm sure I'll talk about them later. But my dad is one of the main reasons I eat the way that I do. I never, never want to get so unhealthy that I'm in danger of leaving my kids without a parent. Sure, I could die at any time in a freak accident. But if that doesn't happen, I want to be the best steward that I can of the body and the life that I've been given. I'm not just going to sit back and say, "Meh- it doesn't really matter what I eat." Because it does matter. If it didn't matter, my dad would likely still be with us today. And I'm not going to make that same mistake.


Monday, May 21, 2012

My experience at baby Arden's birth!

This April, I had the incredible honor of being present at a friend's homebirth. You might have heard of my friend, Jessica from The Leaky B@@b. We don't know each other very well(better now!), and yet she asked me to be there with her as she gave birth, to facilitate the live chat and video that she wanted to have running as she labored and birthed. I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped all the way to the floor when she asked me! If you know me at all, you know that I'm super passionate about birth and dream of being a midwife someday, so to have the opportunity to be at a birth without having to wait until I'm finished with all the training I'll need was a dream come true for me. And then to have it be the birth of someone that's making waves in the breastfeeding world, that has built the largest interactive breastfeeding support community on facebook(over 53,000 people now!), and a woman that I truly admire- let's just say I was humbled, honored, and excited for the opportunity.



Jessica decided that she wanted to have a live video stream running on her blog as she gave birth. Why in the world would she choose to share such an intimate moment live for anyone to view? Stated simply, to normalize birth and to empower women. Of course, I'm all for that! Jessica told me that she has learned so much and felt so empowered by the birth videos that she had watched years ago, and that she wanted to pass that experience on and hopefully empower others. I think she did that and more, and it was so, so amazing to watch.



Jessica contacted me around 10AM on Thursday, April 19th. Of course, you never know when someone is going to go into labor, but this birth worked out pretty much perfectly for me. SInce we only have one car, and Thad works so much(sometimes across town), I had several contingency plans in place. Thankfully I didn't have to use any of them- when I got the message from Jessica, Thad was already at home, with no big plans for the day! I was able to quickly throw some stuff together and we headed out the door. I was so, so excited, and a little nervous too. I knew I had a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, and I didn't want to screw it up! I said a quick prayer that I'd be able to do everything that Jessica wanted me to do, and that I'd be a good representative of her heart in sharing the birth and that I wouldn't do anything to damage The Leaky B@@b's good reputation!



Jessica's house is about an hour from mine, but by the time I got over there she was still in early labor. The Piano Man(Jessica's husband) got me started on the live chat that he had just set up. Within minutes there were several hundred people! We couldn't believe how fast they were showing up! So much love and so many well wishes for Jessica and her family. If it wasn't obvious before that this woman has touched many lives, there's no doubt now. The comments were just pouring in, both on the live chat and The Leaky B@@b facebook wall. Jessica didn't want the live video feed turned on until closer to delivery, but her friend Sue took some short videos of Jessica and The Piano Man dancing through contractions. Everyone loved it- they were just eating up each picture and video.



The atmosphere in the house was so peaceful in those early labor hours. Everyone was calm and relaxed, and Jessica had the most wonderful labor playlist turned up loud. Every time she'd have a contraction she'd stand in the middle of the living room, and sway and sing with the music. When the contraction got intense, she'd call for The Piano Man and he'd dance with her or press on her hips. You could see the love flowing through them as they gazed into each others eyes- it was truly idyllic. Whenver Jessica would get a contraction, she'd call out, "Tell me", and The Piano Man would reply, "I love you". So, so sweet.



After a little while, Jessica's midwife showed up, along with her birth photographer. So, besides family, there were four of us there- Jessica's midwife, Cathy Rude; Jessica's friend and nurse that helped her so much with the ivs and everything needed for HG, Sue Potts; the birth photographer(so sorry I don't remember her name), and me. We were all just waiting! I've never been to a birth before, so I was a little curious as to what it would be like waiting around for the baby to come. I was there for over 12 hours total, but it really didn't seem like that long. The live chat and TLB facebook page kept me really busy. The downside of the program that we were using to host the chat and video was that I had to individually approve each and every comment. It was a total pain in the neck, both for me and the commenters!



After several hours, and after having the midwife break her water, Jessica decided to turn the camera on. All the viewers were totally thrilled about that! Questions and comments were pouring in! Everyone wanted to know who was who- they even asked me to step in front of the camera and wave. I'm pretty introverted, so I was very happy to hide in the corner out of view of the camera, but I did indulge their requests and gave a little wave. Everyone was so excited about that- I was just surprised that anyone cared! It still seemed surreal that there were so many people watching live. Jessica and The Piano Man were still doing the "Tell me", "I love you" routine with just about every contraction. Several viewers said that it was so sweet they were tearing up! Everyone was commenting about how supportive The Piano Man was, and how they wish he could give labor partner lessons to their husbands! He really did do an amazing job, and I'm blessed to say that I know the feeling, as Thad was also incredibly supportive during my two births. It really does make a huge difference to have the person that you love most be right there cheering you through the whole time.


If I remember right, the camera was on for about half an hour, but then Jessica's labor stalled a bit around 5 cms, so the camera was turned back off. She tried nipple stimulation with a pump, relaxed in the bath for a bit, and tried some different positions to encourage the baby to descend. The viewers weren't deterred by the break in the live video feed though. There were still about 16,000 people on the live chat, and the comments were literally coming in faster than I could approve them. I kept apologizing that I wasn't able to get to everyone's comments! I was pretty tired by that point, and my butt was going numb. I was trying not to let myself think any of those thoughts, because I knew that Jessica was in a lot more uncomfortable than I was! I finally decided that it would be wise to take a break while Jessica was in the bath and the camera was turned off. I didn't want to leave 16,000 people, but I had already been on the computer for around 8 hours, and I knew I should get a little rest before the baby really started coming. I sat in the living room and just relaxed for a couple of minutes and chatted with the birth photographer. I realized I was STARVING!!! (Next time I go to a birth, I'm definitely bringing more snacks.) I'm so thankful that Sue was willing to stop and get me some Larabars while she was out picking up something for the birth pool. Thank you Sue!



Whatever Jessica and her midwife did to encourage things along worked, because after an hour or two they headed back into the bedroom and turned the camera back on. I tucked myself into the corner of the room with Jessica's laptop and resumed chatting. To say that everyone was excited is an understatement. The number of people viewing the live chat was pushing 18,000 by that point! Amazing! I wish I had gotten a couple of screen shots, but it totally slipped my mind. (And my only regret of the whole thing is that I didn't get a picture of me and Jessica! Oh well.)



Jessica labored for a little while on the bed again, and then she started getting pushy! The viewers noticed immediately and started commenting. "Was that a push I heard?" "She sounds pushy!" Jessica was on her hands and knees on the bed, facing the camera and the side of the room where I was. She started to give a big push, and the midwife said something like, "Oh, here she comes, there's the head!" I was thinking she probably still had a little ways to go, and several more pushes before the baby was actually born. I started to get up really slowly, thinking maybe I should go see the baby crowning. No such luck- by the time I had gotten off the floor, I saw a baby on the bed! I couldn't believe how fast she came out!!! Jessica sat back on the bed, ripped her dress off(I don't think I've ever seen anyone move so fast!), and pulled her baby to her chest. I don't know if everyone else did, but I started tearing up! I'd dare say there's nothing more amazing in this world than seeing a baby being born into it.



Baby Arden started to pink up right away- she had amazing color. All the family gathered around to meet the new baby and start the bonding process. It brought back such wonderful memories from Tristan's birth. After a minute, I composed myself, and got back on the laptop to continue approving comments and make the birth announcement on TLB facebook page. Within minutes, the post had over 1,000 likes, and has nearly 6,000 likes today. So much love for this wonderful momma and her family. Jessica and The Piano Man announced the name that they chose for their little Sugarbaby- Arden Credence, which means passionate belief. I don't think any baby born into this family has much chance of not being passionate about something! ;) Arden latched on right away and did great with nursing! Again, I don't think she had much of an option there!




I was excited going into this, but I honestly wasn't sure what to expect, and definitely didn't know how deeply I'd be moved. But Arden's birth was inspiring to me on so many levels. I loved getting to meet Jessica's family and get a little taste of their life. It was so obvious that their home and family are just full of love, and I so enjoyed getting to watch them all interact. This is a family that's committed to each other, that's serious about what they believe in, and that's ready and willing to share their love with the world. It's so cool to know that families like this really exist, and I hope and pray that my own family can emulate them in some way. It was also so amazing to see how many thousands of people were moved and inspired as the watched the birth. To know that I played a role in sharing that with them is just incredibly humbling. As far as the birth itself- it's hard to put such a fully tangible, yet incredibly spiritual experience into words, but it's touched me so deeply. (More on that later.) I know I'm called to birth work, and I'm so thankful that my first experience was with such a normal, peaceful, perfect birth. Jessica, thank you so much for inviting and allowing me to be a part of Arden's birth- I'll be forever grateful.


Welcome, baby Arden! Do you know how many lives you've touched already?



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 5/16/12

Some pics from Mother's Day to start out with.


He loves the drums!

My babies and me on Mother's Day!

And my gift from my awesome husband- Crossfit shoes! Yay!!!

Thats the mountain of laundry on my bed right now. And those are just the towels!

Hope you're having a great Wednesday!!!


Friday, May 11, 2012

You might be a crunchy parent if...(Our trip to the zoo)

We went to the zoo today! It was Tristan's first time, and it might as well have been Hayden's first time too, since the last time that we went she was too young to remember any of it. (I know. We don't get out much. I blame my husband's crazy work schedule and my lack of car.) Hayden was so excited to be going to the zoo. She couldn't stop talking on the way up there- it was so cute.


The elephants were one of the first animals that we saw. One one side, in a seperate area, there was a mommy and a baby elephant! They were just too cute! I was so hoping that the baby would nurse, and sure enough- it did! It was a total lactivist geek-out moment for me- DH was rolling his eyes. It was such perfect timing though, because Hayden and I had just been talking earlier about animals nursing. A couple of days ago during lunch, she asked me, "Mommy, why do cows have little pigs on the back of them, on the bottom?" She thought that the cows' udders were little pigs! Oops! I guessed maybe it was time for a basic anatomy lesson. Thanks to good old Google, I pulled up a bunch of pictures of different animals nursing, and we talked about how lots of different animals get milk from their mommies, just like she did when she was a baby, and just like Tristan still does now. She was so fascinated and really had a fun time looking at all the pictures. She kept saying how cute each baby animal was. Then we watched the classic Sesame Street clip, Buffy nurses Cody, and she just loved that.


So it was perfect timing to go to the zoo two days later and get to see a baby elephant nursing!!! You can't really see it in the picture, but s/he was getting momma milk! The elephant had crazy long nipples- you can kindof see one in the second picture, and in the one above.


Of course, we saw lots of different animals. It was fun to ask Tristan what he thought each animal was. He knows a lot of different animals for a two year old, but of course not nearly all the animals in the zoo. We saw some huge(!) longhorn cows, and when I asked him what kind of animal they were, he said, "Puppy!" Then he got a good look at the horns and said, "Is that a tuba? *giggle* No, that's not a tuba."



The first primates we saw were baboons. Some of them were really crazy looking! Apparently when a female baboon is ovulating, her genital area swells up like a balloon and turns bright pink! There were several females that had the bright pink swelling going on. I guess maybe, like humans, when several females live together they tend to cycle together? It was really gross looking, but I thought it was really fascinating as well! Of course, I do find the whole conception/pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding journey to be immensely interesting, so I would think that. You know you're a crunchy parent when your favorite part of the zoo is the nursing elephant and the ovulating baboon!


I didn't get any pictures of the baboons, but they looked something like this. Isn't that crazy?!?

The kids had a blast riding the carousel- I'm pretty sure it was their first time to do that too. (Told ya we don't get out much.) Then they posed by the giraffe.


Tristan just had to push the stroller by himself on the way out. "No, Pawpaw, let me do it myself!" He's getting so independent- and articulate!


We had so much fun!



Baboon Photo Credit


Friday, May 4, 2012

Marketing Strategies: Also for three year olds.

"Mommy, does that check mark mean that this is healthy?"



Those are the words that came out of my three year old's mouth when we were on the cereal aisle at the grocery store. We've been talking a lot about healthy and not healthy foods lately. She knows that healthy foods are good for her body, and that not healthy foods could make her get sick. And at the tender young age of three and a half, the marketing techniques of General Mills are reaching her.


We made a major overhaul on the kids' diets about two months ago. As you know, I've been on the GAPS diet since just after the first of the year, and I've seen some pretty incredible improvements in my health. When I first started out, I was the only one doing the diet. The DH wasn't particularly interested(and didn't have any pressing health issues that he was concerned about), and since the diet is fairly difficult to get started on I wanted to get adjusted to it first before I thought about getting the kids involved. That didn't last long though. I couldn't stand feeding my kids food that I knew was going to damage their gut and their health, particularly the gluten and sugar! I couldn't justify feeding them food that I wouldn't dream of putting into my own body.


It was hard, but I planned ahead and we went cold turkey, completely removing grains and all sugar(except fruit and honey) from their diets. The first week was really tough, but we all made it and have seen significant results! Naturally, as we made such big changes to the kids' diets, we did a lot of talking about what we were doing and why. I did a lot of explaining about how healthy foods helped your body to grow strong and how unhealthy foods were bad for your body and could make you get sick. The last time Hayden had a doughnut, instead of just dealing with the meltdown that followed, I decided to explain to her what was happening and why she felt the way that she did. She ate the doughnut, and then about 15 minutes later had an absolute meltdown. Nothing tragic had happened, but because of the sugar in her system she totally overreacted and started sobbing. I calmed her down a little, and then explained to her that she was feeling so sad because of the doughnut that she just ate. I explained that the doughnut had a lot of sugar, and that when she eats a lot of sugar it makes her feel really yucky and sad. Her eyes got really big, and she thought about it for a minute, and then said, "But doughnuts taste really yummy!" I replied, "Yeah, I think they taste really yummy too! But the problem is that they taste really yummy in your mouth, but then when they go down to your tummy they make you feel really yucky, and they could make you sick later too." I know she's young, but I could really see the wheels turning as she thought about it, and she seemed to really understand the concept. The more that she understands about what foods to eat and why, the more empowered she'll be to make the right choices herself, even when I'm not there to guide her.



For the next several weeks, she'd ask this about nearly every food, "Does this have sugar in it?" Even Tristan asked a couple of times. We'd talk about nearly every food item that she saw. "Is this healthy?" "Does this have sugar in it?" "Could this make me sick?" We did a lot of talking about healthy food and unhealthy food. Then one day as we were watching tv, she saw a commercial for some kind of processed "health food". She heard the advertiser talking about how healthy the product was, and she said something like, "Look, mommy, that's a healthy food! Can we get that?" Oh boy. This is exactly what these big food companies want you to think!!! "Healthy whole grains" are not healthy! Processed food in a box or bag is not healthy! Grains and sugar with added vitamins are not healthy! These things will not nourish your body. I explained to Hayden that these foods are actually NOT healthy, but the people that make the food and the people that are on tv are lying to us, telling us that the food is healthy so that we'll buy it. She laughed, and thought that was pretty funny, and we talked about how it's not good to tell lies.



So then as we're at the grocery store, she asks, "Mom, does that check mark mean that it's healthy?" What a perfect teaching moment! I explained to her that, just like the commercials on tv, the people that make this cereal are lying to us, wanting us to think that their product is healthy when it's really not! I showed her how we could turn the cereal box around to look for ourselves at the ingredient list to see if it was healthy or not.


I read, "Corn, that's not healthy. Sugar- is that healthy for your body?" Hayden shook her head no. "More corn, and then corn syrup, which is just another name for sugar! More sugar! Is this sounding like something that we should eat?" Hayden: "Nope." Then I got down near the bottom of the list and started reading, "Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and other color added. Those are colors! Are we supposed to eat colors?" Hayden started laughing really hard. "Mom- that's not food!" I said, "You're right, it's not! Colors are for coloring with, like with your markers. They're not even food- why would someone want to put those in cereal and eat them?!?" We had a good laugh and decided that the cereal wasn't a good choice for us to eat.



Marketing techniques are powerful, especially the ones targeted at kids and the ones that want us to believe that anything out of a box is good for us! Don't fall for it! No matter how fun the box looks, this cereal is not a healthy choice for anyone's breakfast, much less a child's. When your child starts to ask for these types of foods, I challenge you to consider using the situation as a learning experience for your child, instead of buying it for them because the package looks exciting. Consider teaching them about how marketing works, why the food they're asking for isn't a good choice, and how to read an ingredient list for themselves. Not only will they be a little healthier now for having not eaten the food at question, but they'll have learned valuable lessons that will be useful throughout their entire lives!




Have you noticed your children picking up on marketing techniques? How do you handle that in your family?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A healthy discontent

I'll be honest- I tend towards obsession. This can be simultaneously a strength and a weakness of my personality. Sometimes I obsess about somewhat trivial things like which stroller or food processor to buy. (Although, in the moment, those things don't seem very trivial, but I digress.) I'll spend hours reading reviews, comparing models, and searching for the perfect deal. I won't mention the pro/con scoring sheets that may or may not have been created in the past. Nope! Moving on...

Sometimes I obsess about things that are important. I'll find something that I want to be good at, or an area where I need to improve personally, and just attack it. I'll read blogs, like facebook pages, join a relevant message board if one exists, read books and add more to my Amazon wish list, and spend lots and lots of time thinking about it and working on it. I'll do this until I've either learned everything I wish to know about the topic, or have completely exhausted my attention span, in which case I'll put the topic to rest for a while and get back to it later.

On one hand, this is a good thing. I'm able to be pretty honest with myself about areas where I need improvement, and then focus on improving them. I take myself seriously- not in an arrogant "I'm a big deal" kind of way, but in a "I want to be the best me I can be" kind of way. I do New Year's Resolutions, not because they're a cute tradition, but because to me New Years is a fresh start and a perfect time to set goals and for myself. This year I made a pretty detailed list of things I wanted to accomplish personally and what concrete steps I was going to take to make them happen. I'm a completely different person than I was 5 years ago, and I'm really proud of that fact.

The downside is that I too often expect perfection from myself. I'll walk by a closet that I cleaned out a couple of months ago, and start internally attacking myself because it's gotten messy again. It's not my first instinct to remember the three bags of stuff that I got rid of, and that the closet still looks tons better than it did before. My first instinct is to expect it to look totally neat and organized. That's a somewhat trivial, tangible example, but I often follow that same line of thought when it comes to the big things also. Too often I expect perfection, instead of being pleased with progress.

I have several women in my life that I really look up too. Most of them I don't know super well, but I know all of them well enough to know that I want to be like them. These women share my unique views about parenting, women, marriage, and Christianity. Not only do they have a great perspective on so many issues, but they're able to effectively share their wisdom with others. These women are awesome mothers, have amazing marriages, and are really making a difference in the world. That's who I want to be! That's what I want to do! And so often I get frustrated that I'm just not there yet! And then the other day it dawned on me. These women that I look up to are in their thirties, forties, or even fifties. How can I expect to be in the same place that they are at only 26? This is not the end of the road for me. I'm constantly growing and learning, and everyone has to start somewhere. If I grow and change even half as much in the next five years as I have in the last five years, then maybe I actually can start to look like the woman that I so desperately want to be. And I have no reason to believe that I won't be able to get there. I'm constantly learning, critiquing, evaluating, and growing. I'm not standing still, not by a long shot. So then why am I so hard on myself? Why can't I stop more often and celebrate the victories that I have acheived?

Photo credit

As I've been struggling with these thoughts, I came across this post at Health-bent that was really encouraging to me. Megan Keatley writes:

"Evaluating the way we look, act, and are received is simply part of being on Earth. The point I’m trying to make is that I believe it can be perfectly normal to take what society thinks is “good” + what you think is “good”; mesh it together to figure out what you want and is necessary, and go for it. It is truly a blessing and a curse. You’re constantly proud of the progress you’ve made and where you’re at, but slightly dissatisfied all the while thinking there’s more. Once you reach a goal you want to set a new one, etc…you know what I’m talking about. Let’s call it “healthfully dissatisfied”. Temporary satisfaction can usually be found when you know you have done all you can do and will continue to do so. And we believe dissatisfaction and insecurity lies where you know you haven’t."

That pretty eloquently describes how I feel! So maybe this is a good thing? I'm definitely proud of how far I've come, but I'm not willing to put down roots and stay here.

Then on Sunday night I stumbled across a blog I've never seen before, and read something that was equally challenging, but from another perspective. Beth Berry writes:

"My life right now is not as it should be. It should be some other way.

Can it be? Right this very moment, can your life be different? Not until you do something to make it different. There is no good that comes from dwelling on how it “should be.” The truth is, it shouldn’t be any different, because IT ISN’T! Instead, an embrace of what is allows for an opportunity to be fully present and more attentive to the beauty of now. This is one of those limitations that I’m still very much in the throws of. These days it manifests itself as, “I should be doing more – I should be writing more, cooking more, studying more Spanish, investing more time in my kids, the Maya, my parents, my friends, my grandparents.” It’s a pretty awful feeling and one that I intend to conquer, as long as it takes me. When I catch myself, I can see the fallacy in my thinking, but its roots are deep and stubborn and consistent weeding takes some real discipline."

And that's so true too. Sometimes I need to be able to just slow down and enjoy the moment, and not worry about which mountain I'm going to conquer next. Each day already has enough joy for me to savor if I'll slow down long enough to notice it. I encourage you to go and read the rest of that post- there are some really good nuggets in there that I didn't touch on at all.

So maybe, just like everything else in life, this is about balance? I need to find a balance between having a healthy discontentment with where I'm at, and yet taking the time to slow down and enjoy exactly where I am right now and how far I've come already. Maybe I'll make finding that balance my new obsession...

Photo Credit


Wordless Wednesday!