Sunday, May 14, 2017

To Those Who Want To Be Mothers But “Aren’t”

In Luke, before we hear anything about the birth of Christ or anything about his parents, we learn about Elisabeth and Zacharias, an elderly couple who hadn’t had the opportunity to bear their own children. Luke begins by explaining to us that Elisabeth and Zacharias “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

These were super righteous wonderful people. Zacharias was a priest that drew the lot to offer incense in the temple—a rare privilege. They had spent their lives doing good. They were “blameless.”

They were blameless…

I know that as a mother to a daughter, I am not in the position to be the spokeswoman for women that can’t have children. I get that. And I hope that me writing about it today doesn’t hurt anybody. The reason that I am writing this out today is that there were two years that I really thought that I was going to be a woman without children. Today isn’t the day to get into my health issues and worries, but I did have a long stretch there of wondering month after month why I couldn’t get a period, why none of my hormones were regulating, and whether or not I would ever be able to have a child. While acknowledging that my experience was very short compared to others, but also acknowledging that I still, and will for the next decade, think about my fertility every. single. day. I just have to write something, today, for the women that feel tears welling up in their eyes as they scroll through social media or are hoping their eyes don’t give them away as they greet people at church or family dinners. 

Something that I wish somebody had said to me during that dark and lonely period of time in my life was exactly what Luke tells us about Elisabeth and Zacharias. I’m not sure if he was aware of the feeling of societal pressure that would be felt by the women of our day when we lay curled up on the bathroom floor in tears wondering what is wrong with us, what made us so unworthy or different that WE couldn’t seem to house a baby while it came so easily to others. I’m not sure if he himself had personal experience in this arena. Whatever his intent, Luke begins his account by noting for all of us that Elisabeth and Zacharias were blameless.

They. Were. Blameless.

When you are trying desperately to understand infertility, often that truth feels very far away. It gets buried under so many layers of fear and pain that it is hard to sift through that stack and find that comfort without throwing all of those other feelings out of the basket first. But that truth is there. And it is real. In the dark, seemingly endless tunnel of infertility, please please know that you have done nothing wrong, and you have done everything right. Everything. And God trusts your pure goodness and desires enough that He knows you will continue to have the desire to mother even when it isn’t handed to you quickly and neatly in a swaddled package. And that, my dear fellow-women, is a level of motherhood that some may never reach. That is the most motherly strength, feeling, and power I think you can ever have. 

Luke continues on with the story telling us the good news that Elisabeth will bear a son. I’m not sure how others feel when they finally read a positive sign on a pregnancy test, but for me there was still a lot of fear. There were a lot of unknowns and concerns that haunted me, and I wondered if any of this was actually real or would really happen. I cannot imagine getting that news at such an advanced age AND THEN not worrying yourself crazy for 9 months. On top of that, Elisabeth, in all the woes of her pregnancy, was going to have a husband that could not speak. She would have to face all of this unknown territory without hearing any feedback or comfort from her husband. Her excitement, gratitude, and worry must have been extreme.

By the time Elisabeth is in her 6th month of pregnancy, her relative (a much much younger and less experienced Mary) finds out that she too is pregnant. Her pregnancy is a little different because she is still in those awkward barely teenage years…and she is an unmarried virgin. This is an absolutely remarkable, miraculous thing that would change the entire course of history for all mankind.

But that great moment isn’t what I want to think about today. I want to think about the small and simple moment of Elisabeth.

After finding out she is pregnant, Mary travels to a city of Juda to go visit Elisabeth and tell her all of this news. It never says whether Mary knows that Elisabeth is also pregnant, and for the sake of this blogpost, I am going to assume that she didn’t know.

So in walks Mary and sees the elderly barren Elisabeth with a pregnant belly. Can you imagine the anticipation Elisabeth felt to finally be able to tell a family member that she was pregnant? Is this something that she had dreamed about for years? And then for years, put that dream away in the back of a drawer in her mind, a place she only visited when she really wanted to hurt? How many hundreds of times had she thought of this moment and how many years had it been since she had stopped thinking about this moment?

Certainly Elisabeth had never pictured this moment including the news that Mary was bringing with her. In the ultimate one-upper, Mary could hear Elisabeth’s news and reply to her aging relative that she too, in her young fertile body, was carrying a child, and she had done absolutely zero work to house this baby.

Please don’t think I am trying to villainize or trivialize any part of the amazing Mary and what this moment meant. I’m just saying, think about what Elisabeth could have felt or even what most of us would feel. 

Elisabeth’s response? “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

And this is the moment that will cause me to find Elisabeth somewhere in heaven and fall at her feet in tears. Because I’m not sure I could have done it. I’m not sure I could have responded in that way, with that sincerity, that quickly.

And this is the moment that we realize who a mother is.

Neill F. Marriott once said, “Eve was called a 'mother' before she had children. I believe that ‘to mother’ means ‘to give life.’ Think of the many ways you give life. It could mean giving emotional life to the hopeless or spiritual life to the doubter.”

To mother is to give life. To mother is to see somebody who needs love and give it. To mother is putting somebody else before you. To mother is to find somebody sharing a part of themselves or their day with you and choosing to validate them instead of use it as an opportunity to talk about yourself, one-up them, or place yourself above them.

Each day we are faced with people and conversations that provide us with an opportunity to either connect or compete. I believe that the work of motherhood is a relentless commitment to choosing to connect instead of compete. 

What does choosing to connect look like?

The opportunity: “I am so tired. I had so much to do before work today.” 
The connection: “Man, those days are rough! I’m sorry. You work so hard for your clients, and I’m sure they will appreciate all of that work.”
The competition: “Hah yeah just you wait till you are in a management position/have children/get married/etc”

What does choosing to connect look like?

The opportunity: “I am pregnant, too!”
The connection: “Blessed art thou among women…”

I know that motherhood doesn’t just happen when you physically birth a child. I know it. I know it for many reasons, but I know it mostly because of Elisabeth. Because for Mary to make such a long trip to Elisabeth’s house (and it was stinking long) she must have had experiences with Elisabeth that made her feel like she was a mother to her. Mary stayed for THREE MONTHS. She wasn’t hanging out with her mom or Joseph, she sought out Elisabeth. She must have had experiences in which Elisabeth had been a mother to her.

And then in this moment where Elisabeth is faced with a choice to connect or compete, she chose motherhood. She chose to be a mother. Instead of focusing on her situation, she looked at Mary and could see a young, worn from travel, probably scared and confused yet faithful future mother, and saw that she was being given a chance to connect with her, give her life, a chance to mother her. And she took it. Being able to make that choice in that moment tells me that Elisabeth had been making the choice to mother for many many years.

I wish I was more Elisabeth. I wish I could tear away more from focusing on my own life and trials and more clearly see when there are Marys traveling across far emotional terrain to reach out to me. I also wish I was more Mary and had the courage to reach out and ask for connection and help from the Elisabeths in my life.

If Sis Marriott is right, and I believe that she is, that “to mother means to give life,” then the greatest “mother” of all time was Jesus Christ. Not only did He give His life, but He gave all things life from the beginning. He continues to give us not only physical but emotional and spiritual life every day. I think Christ lived in a way that taught us how to live a mothering life.

When I see motherhood that way—as a pattern of choosing to give life and connect—I can look back and see years of my own life of mothering. I physically gave birth a little over a year ago. Some people have asked me since then if it has been a big weird difficult transition…and it hasn’t. Because it is all the same work. It. is. all. the. same. work. I will be honest with you—I don’t feel like I became a mother a year ago. I feel like I have years of experience. Because guess what? I do. And so do you.

Maybe I wasn’t wiping noses and cleaning bottles, but I was wiping tears and cleaning kitchens. Maybe I wasn’t up all night in a rocking chair, but I was up all night in worry and prayer. Maybe I wasn’t working all day for a person that came out of me, but I was working all day for people that DIDN’T come out of me…and sometimes it is easier to work for those of whom we are physically mothers.

I know that you do these things too. I know you have years of unseen mothering. You have stretch marks on your heart from all the people you continue to choose to let in despite possible fear and pain.

To those that choose to love, choose to connect, choose to give life, I honor you today. You have been a mother to me. You are a mother to the people in your life.

 Thank you for choosing to mother.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Hamilton, Breastfeeding, and The Atonement of Jesus Christ

This last December, my brother snagged us tickets to Hamilton, and so RBH and I went on a mega-date and left Babygirl at home. I was nervous to be leaving Babygirl for 8+ hours, but there was also a boiling pot of emotion overflowing inside of me that would not simmer down until I saw Hamilton live. I had left her for that long before when I had to go back to work for awhile, but I had had access to a breast pump then. This trip downtown would be spent in a public restaurant and theater, and I didn't have my pump with me. I had already had breast infections, and I was not looking forward to the uncomfortable feeling I would have on the way home.

My brother, SIL Jennika, RBH, and I had an incredible night. We went out to dinner and didn't have to rush through eating our food to tend to our children. We walked hand in hand down the streets of the city and took in the energy and joy of the season. And we each tried to keep the thrill of our hearts inside our chests as the lights dimmed to start the show. At intermission, the lights came up and we each floated back down into our squeaky cushioned seats to talk about the spectacle we just witnessed.

We were talking over each other with too many hand gestures as we tried to express in so many superlatives how we were feeling. My eyes were having trouble focusing on each emotion-filled face, and I thought to myself, "this is the most incredible thing I've ever seen." As I reveled in this undiluted escape to a world where every person could express themselves in a perfect display of consonance and rhyme, I realized that half of my brain was constantly occupied. For the past 3 or 4 hours, despite having the most perfectly constructed distraction displayed in front of me, I had also been thinking about my daughter. I could feel the heaviness in my chest as her lifeline that I carried with me began to accumulate. The area surrounding my heart began to feel tight and uncomfortable and pull my thoughts away from my situation. I wished I could just run out and meet up with her at intermission so that each of us could get some relief.

I stood up quickly and announced that I had to have some sort of release if I was going to make it through the show. I turned a corner and almost smacked into the back of a woman whose head was repeated hundreds of times down the hall inching it's way towards the propped open bathroom door. There was no way I would make it back to my seat in time. I took a deep breath and headed back to my row of glowing companions and told myself to just ignore the discomfort and enjoy myself. I sat down next to my sister-in-law, Jennika, who was also breastfeeding her daughter and told her my plight. She mercifully comforted me, and we talked about how my girl needed more milk at that time than hers did. Hers had progressed a little farther in relying on other forms of sustenance, her need had changed, and so Jennika wasn't feeling the same constricting pressure that I felt.

That's really the thing that absolutely boggles my mind about breastfeeding. Those first few weeks, when you and your baby are getting acquainted, your body just produces whatever it feels like producing. It still thinks it is alone in this. But slowly as those weeks pass, and your hearts get used to beating separately but still next to each other and she figures out where her head fits most comfortably on your shoulder and the corners of her lips curl up the minute you have eye-contact and her fear of being a lone body exposed to this world starts to diminish, your body learns to start listening to her. Your body learns that its reason to pump life right now is not for you to thrive, but for her. Your body finally gets that this isn't about you.

And thats why all of a sudden she cries, and your milk drops. That's why even when your body is downstairs, you can feel her need upstairs--her soul a magnet so powerful that even when you go somewhere without her, you can feel each step lagging back a little as she pulls you back to where she is. That is why death, which never seemed scary before, all of a sudden keeps you up worrying at night that one day your body might have to leave her body to walk this world alone.

There is something divine, something celestial, about the fact that my body produces the sustenance my daughter requires to live in exact proportion to her need. There is something other-worldly about the fact that my body has learned to acclimate itself to her in a way that what I provide is tailored so personally to what she requires to grow, thrive, and feel comfort.

As I sat in the theater that night, my chest ached, and I groaned under the weight of this un-used nourishment and a scripture came to mind:

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?
yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. - Isaiah 49:14-15

I thought about my sweet girl and how badly I wanted to feed her for both of our sakes. I thought about the fact that even though she was away, my body continued to produce exactly what she needed and how much of it she needed exactly when she would be needing it.

I thought about the pain I would feel as we traveled home, and the waste it would be to dump my extra milk down the sink when my body had worked so hard to make it just for her.

Even if I could have forgotten her, my physical body would not let me settle for too long being away from her. I would feel actual physical pain because of the length of time it had been since we communed together.

I could not forget her. My body could not forget her. She was a part of me, and my body existed for her.

When babygirl refuses to nurse, it isn't like my milk just goes away. She just decides not to drink it. But it will still be there and still keep producing whether she chooses to nurse or not. She isn't doing me any favors when she decides she can go without it. But it does mean she will lose some added strength and nourishment, and I will feel some pain.

The weight of this scripture came crashing down on me. The fact that my body was having to painfully acclimate to being away from my child's need humbled me in a way I hadn't anticipated.

I thought about the many times that I had been hungry, and my soul had been empty, and I chose not to turn to The Lord for sustenance. Times when I thought I was doing Him a favor by showing how strong I was on my own, not wanting to bother Him in asking for help, and I wondered at the physical and emotional toll that may have taken on Him.

I know that He chose His body to exist and suffer and produce for me. I know that He has the exact amount of love, comfort, strength, clarity, and wholeness that I need to sustain me. And He produces it and offers it exactly when I need it. The pain that He must feel when I refuse to commune with Him, when I say no thanks and He respects my decision and mourns over the wasted sustenance being poured down the drain, makes me feel small. It makes me feel silly and childish. It makes me feel shame for the unnecessary pain and estrangement it causes both of us.

I truly cannot believe that as much as I could never forget my nursing baby girl, I am in His thoughts even more. My needs are continually before His face.

Just as I plan my entire day around nap time and nursing, He plans His around me. He knows when I will need His undivided and undiluted aid. And when I refuse to receive what He is offering, He feels it. And He chooses to feel it because He loves me.

"Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying,
     Drink ye all of it;
This cup is the new testament of my blood,
       which is shed for you."

                                                                                (Matt 26:26-28 & Luke 22:20)

Thursday, December 01, 2016

To Love As He Loves

It was 9:30am, and E had woken up at 5:30am after keeping us up for most of the night. For some reason I had woken up that morning with a terrible throbbing pain in my right eye. Anytime I blinked, it felt like there were grains of sand circling my retina. RBH was at his office, and I had been trying to get a very tired E to sleep for a long time. She does this thing where she groans when she knows she is close to sleeping--almost like she thinks if she keeps talking then she can't fall asleep. So here we are: she keeps groaning and flailing her limbs around and fighting me and I am getting super super frustrated. JUST SLEEP. You are so tired, just let go. I am even here rocking you and holding you and giving you everything you need. Just let yourself sleep. Please. You will feel better. I promise you will be happy again.

I put her down in her bed, turned on some hymns, and left the room to give myself a moment to collect myself, calm down, and start again. I felt so guilty that I was feeling frustrated. I felt so exhausted. I felt irritated that my eye was killing me for no apparent reason. I was mad that society portrays a mother's work as easy or a joke or even a lazy disappointment--because it is the single hardest thing I've ever done. I was feeling jealous of my husband who was reading theory and not having to wrestle a tiny strong-willed child. And did I mention? Feeling really really guilty that I was feeling any of these things at all. Because in my heart of hearts, I was happy and had all these blessings that I've been praying for for years.

I got down on my knees.
He was there. He always is. And somehow He never makes me feel bad for showing up late. There is this understanding between us--we both know I should have been here hours ago. But because we both know it, He never shoves it in my face. Instead He smiles, relieved that I have finally come to get His help. I stopped groaning, I stopped fighting it, I knelt down, and I let Him hold me. I told Him everything I was feeling--at first starting sentences with "I know I shouldn't feel this" and "I'm sorry that I am thinking these things" but after a couple more minutes of rocking ending with "I know you know" and "thank you for" sentences. I know that Christ healed lepers and blind men. I know He raised the dead and caused the lame to leap. I know He lives. I have a list of 12 really silly and unimportant things that I really need some healing in--my shame, my insecurity, my eye, my impatience, my lack of empathy, my pride, my selfishness, etc. And my baby girl is laying in her bed in the next room needing me. I am her whole world, and I really want her to have a constant, safe, loving world--not an insecure and reactionary one. Please heal me. I'm done holding onto it now.

I heard the hymns in the next room stop playing--E had found my phone and touched it somehow. I stood up, wiped my tear streaked face, and blinked. My eye was fine. My eye didn't hurt anymore. Maybe there is still some injury there, I don't know. But for the next while, He wouldn't make me feel it. I walked into E's room and she lay there, still, breathing deeply. She was ready. She was ready to give it away, to let go and let me step in and help her fall asleep. I picked her up in my arms. She looked up at me with sleepy gratitude. We sat down for a minute, and I cuddled her and let her drift off. She stopped groaning. She stopped fighting it. I can't know what was going on in her little mind, but there was a part of me that wondered whether there were the buds of some future thoughts in there: "Thanks mom. I know. We both know I should have been here hours ago." and "I have a list of 12 really silly and unimportant things that I really need some healing in--I don't know why I feel this way. My body doesn't let me move in all the ways I want to move. I feel so tired, but I really want to stay up and hang out with you. I don't have a name for any of the feelings or experiences that my body and mind are going through. I don't yet know how to control and interact with this body I've been given. Please heal me. I'm done holding onto it now."

And somehow I had the privilege to walk in and scoop her up and help take it away. She eventually let go, closed her eyes, and slept.

I have so many needs. I am so weak. I so quickly fall back into things I feel I should have mastered and moved on from by now. But somehow I get to be the one that comforts a little soul. I get to be the one that is just a little more capable and knows a little more of the big picture than she does, at least for now. And I get to have a tiny piece of what it feels like to take the bad away.
I will never stop being amazed by how much God loves me, answers my prayers, gave His son to die for me, and daily heals the hard and bad in my life.
But even that doesn't come close to the amazement that I feel that He gave me a daughter and with that, the chance to feel a little bit of what He feels. To become a little bit more like He is. To love a little more closely to the way He loves.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Books Read in 2015

I never posted this list, and I am pretty obsessed with keeping track of this stuff in an orderly fashion. 57 books this year + short stories and some cookbooks that rocked my world. Shout out to the FW public library for making my year...

1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

2. The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister

3. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

4. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

5. Celiac Disease for Dummies by Ian Blumer

6. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

7. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

8. The Old Testament by God

9. The Old Testament Student Manual Part 2 by The LDS Church

10. The Stranger by Albert Camus

11. Bossypants by Tina Fey

12. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

13. Essential College English: A Grammar, Punctuation, and Writing Workbook by Norwood Selby

14. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

15. Jennifer's Way by Jennifer Esposito

16. The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

17. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

18. The Pearl by John Steinbeck

19. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

20. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

21. Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher

22. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

23. Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic by Peter H.R. Green

24. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

25. Believing Christ by Stephen E. Robinson

26. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

27. Standing For Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes by Gordon B. Hinckley

28. Antigone by Sophocles

29. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

30. Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer

31. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

32. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

33. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

34. S. by Doug Dorst and JJ Abrams

35. How Children Succeed by Paul Tough

36. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

37. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

38. the AP Vertical Teams Guide for English by The College Board

39. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

40. Bringing Out the Best in Students by David Scheidecker

41. Digestive Health with Real Food by Aglaee Jacob

42. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

43. Yoga as Medicine by Timothy Mccall

44. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

45. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

46. Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

47. What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

48. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

49. Temple Worship by Andrew C. Skinner

50. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

51. Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

52. Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

53. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

54. The Pregnant Body Book by Sarah Brewer

55. The Marriage Proposal by Anton Chekhov

56. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

57. The Immortal Nicholas by Glenn Beck

Short Stories:
58. The Earth on the Turtle's Back by Carol Pugliano-Martin

59. Where is Here? by Joyce Carol Oates

60. The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant by W.D. Wetherell

61. Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

62. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards

63. A Model of Christian Charity by John Winthrop

64. The Possibility of Evil by Shirley Jackson

65. The Interlopers by Saki

66. The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

67. A Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

68. There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury

69. The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

70. Meeting at Night by Robert Browning

71. The Man in the Water by Roger Rosenblatt

72. There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale

73. Only Daughter by Sandra Cisneros

74. Against All Grain by Danielle Walker

75. The Paleo Kitchen by Juli Bauer

76. The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook by Mickey Trescott

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

A Love Letter to Those That Have Auto-immune Diseases...and to Those That Don't

Just stick with me on this's long but I think it's worth it to make it to the end...

I have been thinking about self-love and self-preservation a lot recently. A lot of this has come because of my recent diagnosis with an auto-immune disease called Celiac Disease and the huge paradigm shift that has followed since. 

When I was 12, I started getting terrible stomachaches. Not like a normal "upset tummy"--these suckers would take the life out of me. My heart rate would elevate, and I would sweat while my body would stiffen and shake. I would groan and cry and lay my head on my backpack in the public school restrooms praying that it would pass. When it hit its peak, I would start seeing black spots in my vision and intense vertigo/out of body before I would slam back down to the reality of the pain that would leave nail marks in my clenched fists. The exertion it would take to get through these feats of self-preservation would leave me physically spent--a complete exhaustion of body and mind.

It was bad. I mean, I've had stomach flu and food poisoning. Heck, I've had appendicitis and none of those things compare to the absolutely draining experience of those stomachaches.

Parents and doctors and professionals poked and prodded me for a couple years with no results or conclusive diagnosis. The eventual blanket verdict I received was that these stomachaches were a result of my emotions. They must have been anxiety driven. My 12 year old heart and brain were told, in effect, that I was causing myself to go through these terrible ordeals of physical and emotional distress--you hear that pubescent soul? This is all your fault.

This wasn't child abuse, don't worry. There were hundreds of people in my life that loved and took care of me. My parents, family, adults at church and in my circle were all extremely loving towards me. But the naked cold fact remained that my struggle of being thrown into daily crippling pain was my fault alone, and it was all within my control.

I was taught lamaze breathing and psychological techniques to mentally overcome the agony. I would sit in class and clench my pencil as I stared at one corner of my desk while I breathed away the pain and blinked away the black spots that filled my vision. If this was my fault, I would have to defeat it.

My stomachaches started becoming slaves to my will power. They still came, but I would tie them to a chair and beat them till they shrank into self-shaming silence. I gained control, but I started having more spells of light-headed/out of body/faint feeling where I would feel totally disconnected from my body. 14 year old me couldn't understand that when you yell at and punish somebody, they will begin to withdraw. Since I wouldn't give my body the option to hurt, withdrawing was the only choice my body could make.

It has been a journey of almost a decade and a half of learning how to suppress the different ailments of my body (I wish it was just stomachaches now) so that I didn't have to miss out on whatever was going on in life at the moment--to put my not-feeling-well into my back pocket so that I could go hiking with friends, be funny for family, and be normal for the people that love me. This sounds like a tragedy, but it isn't. After the first couple years of suppressing not-feeling-well, you stop realizing that you don't feel well.

For the past decade or so, I've felt totally fine, because I didn't realize that other people's fine was way better than mine was. It took getting married for me to realize that other people didn't feel the way that I did every day. It took somebody else's complete love and awareness of me, somebody else's "you really should rest if you feel that way" and "you really don't have to act like you're feeling well for me to love you and want to be with you" for me to entertain the thought again that maybe there was something wrong with my body--
that maybe this feeling and this fight I've been in isn't my fault.

I told RBH that the day my doctor told me I had Celiac Disease was like the day I was baptized. You never really know what living with Christ is like until you realize you've been living without Him. And that day was that for me. I had no idea that I could feel healthy--that I deserved to feel healthy.

I have let myself become aware of my body again. It is hard to start practicing self-love when you've been trained to treat your body like its the enemy. I didn't know that suppression isn't progression. Or that pain isn't bad--it is communication.

I've been learning, now, to lean into it. I don't want to tape it's mouth shut and tie it back to that old chair and tell it to "shut up or I'll make it suffer" while holding an ibuprofen gun to its temple. Instead, I pull up a chair beside it and talk to it. I look it straight in the eyes and listen. Even though it's hurt me all these years, I forgive it and I love it. And we start to move on together. 

I think a lot about my future children. I always have. I don't know why but I've always felt very connected to them--making certain decisions for them even before I know who they are. Often I think about how I want them to know that they are always the most important thing in my life and that I will always stop whatever it is that I'm doing to take care of them, spend time with them, listen to them and comfort them when they need me. I will never tell them with my actions that my "stuff of life" is more important than their well-being.

I am, in a way, already their mother, and I've already chosen things in my life to better mother them. In a very real sense, I am also the mother to my body. And I want to mother my body with the same care and attention that I will mother my children. When my body has a breakdown and starts crying out in public, falling in a flustered heap at the grocery store with tears streaming down it's innocent red face, I will not be the mother that screams back and tells it to "shut up because you're embarrassing me". I'm going to pick it up, look it in the eyes, and let it have as much time it needs to talk it out, be with me, and feel better before we move on to something else.

Mothers don't ever need to feel embarrassed or ridiculed when they need to excuse themselves from an activity because they need to spend some time with their child. We shouldn't have to do that when our bodies need some extra mothering, either. Unfortunately, the biggest critics of mothers are other mothers. People will make comments, glares, and judgments about the way you mother--whether its your children or your body. 

People will make comments like "Hah okay I get tired too, and you don't see me whining." And you just have to remember that you aren't whining, you are winning.

We live in a world that tells us we have to be more this and that than somebody else--that we have to be busy and successful in a certain accepted way. You never need to hustle for your worth. Your worth never has and never will fluctuate or become contingent on anything. It is not weakness to take care of yourself, to feel, to say I can't or I won't. It is not weakness to need. It is not weakness to choose to love yourself instead of prove yourself.

Taking care of yourself in a world that screams that you are only worth something if you're too busy to take care of yourself? That is really something.

But people will still say they have harder lives/trials/illnesses than you do. And you will just have to look back and be understanding of their need to compare because they just don't get it yet. That comparing isn't the thing. It is always destructive for both parties. It is always lose-lose. They aren't there yet, and that is okay. They don't know you or your soul. The people that judge you for taking care of yourself are most likely just trying to communicate their own insecurities, desperate for somebody to listen. They just need more love, and that's the only way they know how to ask for it.

It is like when a baby is first learning to talk (and I really don't mean this in a condescending way, because I've been this baby...just follow the comparison for a second). Babies are trying to communicate how they feel, but they don't know the words yet. They throw empty bowls at you because they are hungry, even when they don't comprehend what that feeling is.

Don't take it personally when the people around you throw their empty bowls of judgment at the soft spots in your heart.
They just don't know how else to fill the bowl, and they are starving.
No need to mend yourself, just pick up the bowl and fill it for them. Unfortunately, most of the time, when you put their filled bowl back in front of them, they will still knock it over. 

Last weekend, I was watching this woman at a restaurant with her baby. She spent the entire 20 minute meal picking her son's bowl up off the ground and placing it back on his high chair just to have him knock it back down again. Over...and over...and over. I couldn't help but wonder why she didn't just discipline him and put the bowl out of his reach so that she could be done with it. The only explanation for such behavior was that she loved him. She loved him more than self. She loved him even though he couldn't even understand or fully accept her love for him yet.

To those that struggle with physical or mental illness, to those that struggle with trials, and to those that don't:
I will always pick up your bowl. Even if you throw it at me.

Love, Coco

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Book Reviews 2015: The First 30

I know I shouldn't do them all at once like this--talk about overwhelming! After doing a small write-up of each book after I read each one, I'm finally publishing what I've read from January to May this year.

Here are the first 30 books of 2015...

It's too long and needs a page cut! Sorry!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

26 Things I've Learned About Texas

We've been living in Texas for a couple months, now. I love moving to a new place and finding certain specific things that are unique to that area. I love talking to people that move to the Midwest and tell me something is weird that I never noticed because I grew up there, and I didn't know anything else.

I started making a list of things in Texas that crack us up...


Seriously. This is a real thing. GUYS. Do you see this? People take things like THIS seriously here.
Confused? I was too. Read up on it here


People love football here. like L.O.V.E. I get the sports thing. But this is like...religious. The craziest thing to me is the love of high school football. High. School. Football. haha. They have these huge football fields (stadiums? what is the terminology here?) for HIGH SCHOOL GAMES. I'm in shock over this culture--but this is coming from the girl that would sit in the back with her chinese food when she had to go to a game in high school.

3. Texas winters.
This is a funny one. We knew winters here would be AWESOME. They totally are. But the surprising thing? When we moved here, people kept saying things like "oh my gosh just wait for the ice storms in the winter they are awful. terrible. You won't leave your house for days"
...huh..what?! hahahah HYSTERICAL. It is my favorite when a Texan starts warning us about driving on ice. Guys. Do you realize what my hometown looks like right now?!

4. People have legitimate accents. They are real and awesome.

5. People really say y'all...but they don't always spell it right (ya'll haha...seriously)

6. I now want to say y'all as much as possible. All times.

7. Chicken. It's everywhere. The only fried chicken place I ever knew growing up was KFC. Apparently I was missing out on a world of fried chicken options. There are, seriously, 6 or 7 DIFFERENT fried chicken fast food places within a mile of our apartment. It is so strange.

8. People are hecka nice here. (Some Mormon CA slang in there for ya). No really, people are way nice. (Some Mormon UT slang there for ya). Seriously, though, people are real nice here. (Some Mormon TX slang in there for ya)

9. The roads are totally slanted. They make an upside down U shape. Totally threw me off for a good month.

10. Okay speaking of roads--their highways are giant, intricate, and TALL.

11. People don't do Halloween decorations. Very minimal skeletons and cobwebs around here.

12. The libraries are extremely intense with their fees. I learned the hard way.

13. It is over 100 degrees in October. Yeah.

14. The Texas Pledge. There is something about this that really makes Reilly and I laugh. Well, actually, it is the fact that we don't know the Texas pledge and try to recite it as often as possible making up different versions that make us laugh. Every time we observe something about Texas, we add it into The Texas Pledge. We also think it's funny that the word Texas sticks out so much in the pledge that we will randomly say "Texas" in inappropriate parts of our conversations.

15. They love their state, and I like that.

16. People saying hi in public places. Hi! ...uh hi? Me? Is that me you're saying hi to?

17. The female population at TCU all wear the same outfit...every single day. Walking on campus is like being in an episode of The Twilight Zone--totally freaked me out for a while. It is a weird thing to try to describe--they wear these giant old looking pastel tshirts and really short gym shorts so that (if you've really mastered the look) it looks like you aren't wearing any pants...just an old big Tshirt and gym shoes. Why? Whyyyyyyy

18. I haven't seen a cowboy yet... ;)

19. We drive for 8 hours...and we are still. here. This thing is big.

20. Churches are everywhere. And people go to them. (I love this part)

21. Blue Bell... really is as good as they say. I am converted. I've started having distracting thoughts about Pecan Pralines 'n Cream on the daily.

22. Unhealthy addiction, thy name is HALF. PRICE. BOOKS.

23. People leave HUGE gaps between cars when they're stopped at lights. Its incredible. Whole legions of children could fit in between the cars driving on the road.

24. Everything is in Arlington.

25. Whataburger fancy ketchup. We had no idea that this was a thing haha. We tried Whataburger because that is what everybody talks about, and I turn to RBH like "hey. I feel like their ketchup is better than other ketchups." We just laughed it off like hmm must be a good ketchup crop day. Later, we found out it is A THING. hahaha

26. They are SO nice that they don't even put your weight on your driver's license haha.

Sigh. We are really loving this cooky state. Teach us more, Tx. Teach us more.