Thursday, February 24, 2011

Balance: Trials

Everything is about balance, isn't it? And that's tricky because if you take your focus away from maintaining it - even for a moment - it's easy to lose.

There's a balance between always looking on the bright side of life and getting completely mired in self-pity. I'm not so good at finding balance in this area; I'm a bit of an emotion stuffer because I always think of others who have it harder. It could be worse, right? While that is true for many, it doesn't mean that we don't - each and every one of us - struggle.

4 years ago last month I had a miscarriage. I wasn't very far along and we hadn't planned on getting pregnant just yet, but the miscarriage was still devastating to me. I didn't like talking about it too much, but when I did I had several people say, "How far along were you? Oh, it's good you weren't farther along. You'll get pregnant again soon." The topic would quickly change and I felt like I was being dismissed. And I knew people who had lost babies farther along in pregnancy, had stillbirths, lost children, so I didn't feel like I had a right to grieve. My loss was not as great. I found myself saying, "We weren't quite ready for another baby" (our first was just 9 months old) and "It's okay, we'll be trying for another baby soon." I stuffed my feelings down every time they tried to surface.

Fast-forward a few months. Tyler and I got into an argument one night; I was not being reasonable and I think I was picking a fight. I had been on edge for a little while and couldn't put my finger on it. Our "discussion" was going in circles and I knew I just needed to take a breather. It was late and so I went in and laid on the bed in our guest bedroom. I prayed because that's what I do. I realized quickly that I had been stuffing my emotions about the miscarriage for too long, but there they'd sat, just under the surface, waiting to be addressed. And now was the time. Suddenly, I was sobbing like I had never sobbed before and all of my feelings of grief were pouring out of me. I finally knew that I had a right to them and that I needed to own them in order to move forward. I let it flow...and flow it did. For a long time. It was the closure that I needed.

We should not compare our trials to anyone else's - either to say that we have it worse or that we have it easy. At least not at first. Should we ever? Own your trial. Understand your trial. Say that your trial is hard and look for help from others if you need to. Accept and learn from your trial. Conquer that thing!

I've learned that even though I live around NAVY wives whose husbands are out to sea for months at a time, I still have a right to say that it stinks that my kids don't see their dad 2 days a week because he works and is going to school. It's hard for me...for us. But at the same time, it has deepened my respect for NAVY families and their sacrifices.

A balancing act, to be sure. Sometimes I put my foot down on the wallowing side for too long and sometimes I drop down into the optimistic side where I don't let myself really feel. Own my feelings, but don't get mired in them. I'm not always good at it. Maybe I'm never really good at it? But I'm trying.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Good Enough to Do Good

We are good enough to do good in the world NOW! We don't have to wait to be the best at something, have enough money, or possess some wonderful talent to reach out and help others.

I've mentioned that I've done a few triathlons (swim-bike-run). In one of my posts I eluded to a person being one of the very last out of the water during a tri; that was me, in case you didn't catch that. I don't really know how to swim. Sure, I can stay afloat and move my body through the water, but it's not with any grace, that's fo' sho'. I don't know any real strokes. But, sure, sign me up for a triathlon in open water with hundreds of other swimmers splashing around me! It's scary and I am s-l-o-w. The bike portion isn't all that awesome either. AND I'm not a very fast runner. But slow and steady wins....errr *ahem* scratch that...finishes the race in a sweaty heap. But the point is that I finished, darn it!

I have a story to share from one of my triathlons. This is taken from my personal blog right after it happened:

I was coming to the last portion of the race and way ahead I saw this guy walking. My first thought was, "Good. Someone to pass." I'm kind of competitive but not super fast, so when I see that I can pass someone, that gives me a little adrenaline kick and some sort of thrill. I know, not very nice. There was another group of girls that were running slower and I had just passed them. We were coming into the home stretch. I was coming up on this guy who I had seen walking for quite some time and just as I passed him I touched his arm and said, "Run!" I don't know what surprised me more - that I said it or that he actually responded. He immediately started running alongside me. As we were running I said, "You push me and I'll push you." He sounded desperate and on the verge of tears and said, "I'm trying!" "You're doing great! Just keep going," I said. I have to tell you that I felt electrified from my head to my toes. Literally. It was physical. I felt so proud of this man I did not know. I was pulling for him and suddenly didn't care about my own race anymore. I wanted him to feel great about his finish. I was on the verge of tears myself, but for a different reason. The end of a race always feels emotional to me and this was adding a different element to that emotion. He gasped, "How much longer?!" I told him that we were almost there, it couldn't be more than .2 miles. Suddenly we came around a corner and there was the finish line, lined with people cheering. I said, "Come on!" and we kicked it up and ran our hearts out to the finish. I heard his wife or some lady cheering for him as we were reaching the finish line.He and I didn't talk afterward (like either of us could talk at that point), but it was a really cool experience for me. All I could think about for the rest of the day was how good it felt to help someone else to the finish line. It was a different kind of feeling at the finish than I've ever had before. I'm tearing up just typing this out and thinking about it.

I was not the best triathlete, but I think I made a tiny difference in how this man felt about how he finished. And it was my best experience yet. Taking the focus off of my finish time made it so much more enjoyable! In subsequent races I have been the one lifted by a word of encouragement from a fellow runner at the time I most needed it. Sometimes we do the lifting and sometimes we are the ones who need the lift. That's true of all service, isn't it?

Focusing on others can make a world of difference in how we feel about our particular "race". So I encourage you to just ACT. If you have the thought to do something for someone, just do it. You may not know how it will affect their life, but it will affect you for the better. Guaranteed. Don't wait to have more or to be more, you are ENOUGH to make a difference now.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fab Forum Friday

Today's Question:

Who has inspired you lately?

Give specifics. It could be that you've been inspired by how a friend organizes her pantry, a co-worker who has a really positive attitude, or good ol' Oprah. Who has inspired you and how will it change your life? Please share. Chances are, the inspiration will spread!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

When I was a teenager, I would stand in the mirror getting ready for the day with my little sisters, 2 and 4 years younger than me, and say, "Oh my gosh. I am SO beautiful. Look at my hair; I have such nice hair. Don't I have beautiful eyes? I am SO pretty!" I thought it was so funny because I would feign seriousness and they would roll their eyes at me. Apparently it became a source of great concern, though, because my mom told me that my youngest sister had come to her, sincerely worried that I was conceited and suggested she should talk to me about it.

My relationship with the mirror is slightly strained these days. For one, I don't have the time to stare at back at my mug. Getting ready is get in, get out, get on with it. But when the hubs is home and I can take my time getting ready, if I stand back to look at myself I might think every now and again, "Oh, I look pretty good today." But then my eyes will wander down to love handles or arms that I wish weren't so flabby and I find myself frustrated so I move quickly out of reflection range and get on with life.

Why are mirrors so powerful? Or why do we allow them to have so much power? They can tell us we're beautiful, ugly, too thin, not thin enough, lacking in some area, bulging in others...but that's only if we let them!

I went through one particularly rough year in high school where I was trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be (I'm sure I'm the only teenager to experience this....) I was extremely lonely and confused and didn't think much of myself. But I was - and am - the praying type so I would often pray to see myself the way that God sees me. One day I was sitting on the floor in front of the full-length mirror in my bedroom, putting on my makeup (because that's how my friend, Cathy, did her makeup and I thought she was really cool.) On this particular day I started to just look at all of the features of my face and quickly came to my eyes. I stared into my eyes for a long time and it suddenly turned very emotional for me. I've heard many times the phrase, "The eyes are the window to the soul" and I am of the belief that we do have souls that lived before and will go on living after we die. Well, I could see and feel my soul at that moment. It was powerful, shocking, and life-changing. I suddenly knew that inside this body of mine was a strong, beautiful, incredible soul and I needed to give her the opportunity to shine. I started to cry, but I did not want to break the gaze. I sat there for a very long time and made promises to myself to live up to my potential, to love me for who I was, and I felt confidence quickly seeping back into my body. I told the girl in the mirror that I loved her...and that felt SO good. I don't know how long I sat there, but it felt like a very long time. Finally I felt like it was okay to turn away from the mirror and I went and told my mom about my experience. That was a defining moment in my life.

I highly recommend this exercise to anyone. We should be able to tell ourselves, "I love you" and really mean it. We should know more about the soul that is housed inside of our bodies and what she/he is capable of. We should be able to look in the mirror and only allow it to be a force for good in our lives. The mirror only has power if you concede yours. Don't give that power up because then all you will see is what you want to change. Look for the complete you next time you look in the mirror. And throw in a few "I love yous" to the person looking back. It's also a good exercise to say - and really believe - that your hair, eyes, and other features are beautiful...even if it makes your sisters roll their eyes. :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

To compare or not to compare?

I was extremely pregnant with my first baby, sitting on the couch with my hubby watching Biggest Loser: Couples in April of 2006. One of the couples that made it to the end went home for a few months before the finale and ran a stinkin' triathlon! Amazing, right? I love that show; so inspiring. Anyway, there's something about being large with child that makes you want to do things you've never done. Maybe it's all of those hormones, the fact that you haven't seen your feet for several months, or the large amounts of ice cream and cereal one consumes (okay, maybe that's just me) and the fact that everything jiggles. Whatever it was, I turned to my husband and said, "If they can do it, we can do it." Now I knew my husband could do it, but I hadn't consistently exercised in...well...ever. Long story short, I ran my first triathlon a little over a year after my babe was born. It was one of the more exhilarating and empowering experiences of my life and has kept me signing up for various races ever since. Thank you, couple from Hawai'i for the inspiration!

This past Saturday I went for a run because I have to get my booty in gear for the races I am doing this summer. I really keep signing up to scare myself into shape, and it totally works for me. But, I wasn't feeling it that morning. I did NOT want to run. I live at the bottom of a hill in a neighborhood on a ridge, so my run starts out with some awful hills, which is pretty discouraging when you already wish you were in your warm house, in your pj's, with your little family instead of purposely putting your body and lungs through pain. I got to the top of the third hill and onto the main road when I saw another runner across the street. He looked so confident and happy to be running. I noticed my slumped shoulders and drooping head and immediately felt my posture change as I tried to copy his form so that I could enjoy the rest of my run. And it totally worked! That change in posture and the happy runner made a world of difference. Thanks, dude with the dog for making my run a happy one!

There are good comparisons. It is so good to look at people around you and try to implement great things they do in your life. I know that most everyone does this already, so that's not exactly what I am preaching here. It's when we run too far with those comparisons and allow ourselves to become discouraged that things go south. I struggle with this.

I have a very dear friend who inspires me to be better and to do more every time I talk to her (which isn't often enough.) She is honest, sincere, funny, beautiful, smart, home schools her kids, exercises nearly every day, whips up cookies for neighbors, throws cool parties, blogs, has an extremely busy husband, just got a new puppy, and makes every person she talks to feel super important and loved. I always come away from talking to her thinking of 5-10 things I want to change or do better in my life. But I am coming up on Kindergarten for my oldest and I am not going to home school. I think she would hate that I've felt some guilt about that, but I have. "Am I less of a mother because I'm not homeschooling my children?" I've asked myself that question more than a few times. But the answer is NO! (Right? The answer is no? :) )

Sure, try out something in your life that you've seen someone else be successful with if you feel so inclined. Look for ways to be better in your career, in your marriage, in your friendships, as a neighbor, wife, mother (father too...first comment from a dude on the last post!) Just be sure that when you are looking around the figurative room, seeing the amazing qualities in those around you, that your eyes lock with that incredible person in the mirror. Give her props for what she does well too. And don't feel bad that you can't whip up a fabulous built-in cabinet for your home like another super talented lady you know. You can put some painted clothespins on ribbon to display your kid's art work! Hooray for you!

In short, don't let the comparisons go to the dark side and remember that you so totally rock and have a lot to offer by way of inspiration as well for those around you. THEY are looking at YOU for ways to improve themselves. Believe it, because it is true. There is not a single person I know who doesn't have at least one quality I admire. Please don't be discouraged by the talents or abilities you lack, be inspired! Don't let the fact that you are the world's slowest swimmer and are one of the last to get out of the water keep you from doing a triathlon or four. To keep comparisons good, you have to be good to yourself.

LOVED the comments from this weekend's forum. You should go back and read them if you haven't already. Elizabeth's final paragraph is right in line with this post. Oh, and Marty Overfelt is the first dude I was referring to. Thanks, Marty! I really enjoyed your thoughts.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fab Forum Friday

On Fridays I'll post some kind of question for you all to answer over the weekend...the comments are the very best part about this blog (all two posts of it :) )!

Today's Question:

How do you balance feeling good enough with the feeling that you aren't doing enough?

Because it's important to have goals, but we also need to love ourselves for who we are at the moment. Make sense? Discuss.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nobody Cares!

A quick note: I loved, loved, loved your comments! Thank you for reading, thank you for encouraging, thank you for sharing your thoughts. It's obvious that we are all going to learn a lot from each other and I hope you keep the comments rolling. I think we'll also have some guest posts by those of you who want to share something specific that you have learned or struggle with. You can e-mail me at if you'd like the chance to post in the future. Thank you!

I married my sweet husband and after a three-day honeymoon we moved across the country--switched coasts--put our cars on a truck, along with our wedding gifts, newly purchased couch and entertainment center from RC Willey (where I got an employee discount) so the paid-for-by-the-new-employer moving company could make the drive for us while we comfortably flew--arrived in January to bitter cold with a new coat thanks to my in-laws who knew this girl from the desert was in for a rude awakening. I grew up in Las Vegas, much of Hubby's family was in Denver and we settled into our first apartment in Upstate New York. (I totally recommend this for newlyweds, by the way. Not specifically the New York in January part, but the part where you move away from both sides of the family at the beginning of your marriage. Except when it comes to my children. I recommend that they live about 5 minutes from me.) I had a lot of family and good friends on the other side of the United States who I was SURE wanted to have updates on our lives and know how we were settling in, so I would send long-winded e-mails with some frequency to a large group of people.

These e-mails only picked up recipients and interest when we moved BACK across the country, this time to Washington State. By interest I don't mean that the readers began clamoring for more...the added interest was because I was growing a little human inside of me which is infinitely more interesting than the walk we went on by the river or that I made meatloaf for the first time. My husband would read these e-mails and say, "WHO wants to know this much about our lives? Nobody really cares this much." There would be the occasional friend or family member, though, who would tell me, "I love your e-mails! Thanks for sending them. Keep it up!" If this was said just to me, I would make sure that it was repeated in the presence of my sweet husband. "See?! People care!" And he would just smile and shake his head, I'm sure silently cursing them for encouraging his verbose wife.

Fast-forward some. Now we've added children, three to be exact. I have an obsession passed down from my mother for Baby Magic lotion. It's heavenly. If you've never had the pleasure of smelling it, you should. Every time we leave the house, I MUST put Baby Magic on my kid's heads so that they will smell appealing and everyone who holds them or hugs them will instantly be more in love because they smell so good. I also have to fix hair - which involves more Baby Magic - and make sure clothes are presentable. MOST of the time, Hubby doesn't mind. But when we are just going to one store, running late, or if he is taking the kids out by himself and I insist on taking the time to freshen them up, he'll insist, "Nobody cares!"

When I stand in front of the mirror, frustrated by bad hair or a shirt that doesn't fit the same because I've had three babies and eat too much ice cream and cookies, he'll say, "Dana, nobody cares." Followed with a comment on how beautiful I am, of course; brother knows what's good for him.

Our oldest son is into making his own fashion choices these days (he's 4) which would involve his Wolverine costume every time if he were permitted. And somehow when my husband dresses the kids he has the uncanny ability to pick the one shirt in their entire closet that I really don't like and never put on them and then match it with the pair of pants that I should have packed away months ago because they are too small. It is SO hard for me to let it go if we are going somewhere. If I want to change them, I am sure you can guess what my man says, "Dana, seriously, nobody cares!"

Many times I will respond with , "But I care!" Which begs the question, "Why do I care?" It's something I've thought about a lot.

I think that many of us feel like we are living our lives on some sort of imaginary stage, playing out our lives for the world to see and critique. And, boy, are we concerned about reading the fact, we often write them ourselves! But if I am so busy playing the part in my personal play, I certainly don't have time to critique your performance. And the same goes for everyone around us. We are not being judged nearly as often as we imagine. I really believe that. And compliments can sometimes be the good review that encourage a destructive way of thinking.

Now, I don't think that we should walk around unkempt, smelly, and mismatched, never complimenting each other. I just think that we need to evaluate the reason we do what we do and not care so darn much! It's pretty liberating taking your kids to a birthday party in costumes even though costumes weren't requested...especially when your daughter wants to wear the Red Ranger costume that is way too big on her, rolled up at the ankles and wrists, with the mask sitting atop her messy hair and she is still the cutest thing you've ever seen. It also feels good to have a group of women to your home for a friend's birthday party without having had the time for a shower or makeup and realize that they love you just the same.

So, how does this nobody cares business translate into how we live our lives? I am still going to slather my kids in Baby Magic (probably until they're 20...I'll have to resort to doing it in their sleep at some point, I'm sure) and I still love to do my daughter's hair and dress my kids in clothes I like; I will continue to compliment others and appreciate the compliments I receive. BUT I am also going to chill out and let my husband dress the kids sometimes, I will proudly walk into Albertsons with my son in his Wolverine costume, and I will occasionally rock the shirt that shows my love handles because I still really like the shirt. When I receive a compliment, I will not think that I have to continue looking or living a certain way for that person to approve of me. In short, I will joyfully, and often, exclaim within myself that nobody cares! Not nearly as much as I think they do.

I still maintain, however, that people DID care about those e-mails early in our marriage. They cared and they loved them.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I have been a wife for 6 years and 1 1/2 months. I have been a stay-at-home mom for 4 years and 9 months. In that time, I have had hundreds of conversations with women regarding feelings of self-doubt and loathing, failure to measure up, depression, inadequacy, etc. I am extremely troubled by how pervasive these feelings and attitudes seem to be among women. I am troubled that they are deep-seeded in my heart as well.

The thought that keeps coming to my mind is, ENOUGH! Enough of the self-judging, enough of the anxiety to be perfect, enough already! And on the flip side of that, I AM ENOUGH. I am good enough.

Why do we compare ourselves - that person whose weaknesses we know intimately - to the mom at church or at our kid's school who seems to always have it together? You know, the mom who has 10 children but finds time to make some fancy-pants dessert, has children who are always presentable, never raises her voice and always seems to be smiling. I think we should all have a conversation with that woman. Instead of standing in awe from afar and hating ourselves a little more every time she calmly responds to a child having a meltdown whose wiping chocolate all over her neatly-pressed beige slacks, why don't we take the time to get to know her? Sure, she might turn out to really be that awesome, but I am willing to bet that there is something she struggles with that will help you to realize she is, in fact, quite normal; that you are much more similar to her than you ever could have imagined.

Two short stories:

#1: I know such a mom. I was uncomfortable around her all the time. I would see her each week with her four children at our library's story time. She was always on time and her kids sat and listened politely. And there I was with half the amount of children, always late and trying to corral my kids onto the darn mat to pay attention to the nice story time lady. I thought that my perfect-mom-friend must be silently shaking her head at me. One day I mentioned to her how embarrassed I was by this and she said simply, "Well, you should see my house. I left it a mess to get here." I had imagined every aspect of her life to be controlled and perfect. Human, after all. I can't tell you what a relief that was! We've been sincere friends ever since. I still think she rocks, but now I am not judging myself against her all the time...only every once in a while, and most of the time it's a good kind of comparison. (yes, I think there's such a thing and I want to talk about that more in the future)

#2: A few months ago a dear friend of mine was at my house and saw a pizza box on the counter. She let out a sigh of relief and said, "Oh good! I am so glad to see that you get pizza sometimes. I'm not the only one who doesn't make dinner every night." Seriously?! This friend has lived up the street from me for nearly four years and we have spent a great deal of time together. She's thought this whole time that I make dinner from scratch for my family every night? Psssshhh. Not a chance. It would be nice, but not a chance. It really made me think about the image I am portraying in an effort to look like I have it together.

It was just a few days ago that the push to start this blog really started weighing on me. I stood in my kitchen with two good friends, having an all-too-familiar conversation. "I always think, how does she keep her house so clean?" "Why do I struggle getting my two kids to church on time with the help of my husband when she is always on time with three kids and no husband to help?" I asked them, "WHY?! Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we compare our worst selves to another's best?"

I have had similar conversations many times over and we all seem to ask the same question as the conversation draws to a close - why do we compare ourselves like that? - but without any answer. I'm not saying this blog is going to be an answer. I am not a great writer or an expert in any field. I am just a very passionate sista who thinks we should transform the way we, as women, look at ourselves and at others. It's very likely that just my mom, sisters, and a few devoted friends will read this. But maybe, just maybe, a few more will join in and we will build one another and chip away at what I perceive to be a destructive way of thinking.