Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Now Get to Work

I can tell from the comments on my Mother's Retreat Tutorial that I do not have you fully convinced. A break would be nice, sure, but really? Not worth the expense or hassle or husband deprivation. Am I right? Is that the track that's playing in the back of your mind?

What was missing from my tutorial was what I meant by "Get to work." This is really the meat and potatoes of the retreat, the heart and soul, the thing that is going to rejuvenate you and fill your bucket with enough emotional stamina to last months (I make it about five or six).

My purpose is to sit quietly and ponder on the things facing my family and myself at the current moment. Leave the tv and radio off. Relish the silence. Besides just enjoying a moment with no one screaming at you or begging for something or destroying some priceless family heirloom, silence is a wonderful tool in hearing the promptings of the Spirit. With the right kind of effort, you can set the stage for a wonderful spiritual environment in which to be inspired on ways to best help your family.

I always start with a prayer. It sets the tone for the entire venture and helps to put me in the right mindset for what I'm hoping to accomplish. I know that much more can be done with the Lord on my side than what I can do on my own.

I have scriptures and other books on hand. Part of this is just my personal style--I love to be surrounded by my books, especially when I know no one else will touch, tear, or otherwise defile them. (Can you tell I enjoy having a break from my kids now and again?) I packed an entire suitcase filled with nothing but books. And that didn't include the ones that I shoved in the corners around my clothes in my overnight bag. Or the couple that I stashed inside my pillowcase. Or the ones in my purse... I love my books.

I had the books turned this way so the bindings wouldn't be overly damaged during transport. I took the picture, then it occurred to me that someone out there just might be interested in what books I chose to haul along. So I turned them all around and took another picture. And then unpacked them and put them back on the shelves since I didn't think to take a picture until I was already home.

Feel free to ask if you want specific information on any of these books.

I see this as a time to stock up on the tools of the trade. Putting in the time to lay out a clear and concise plan can have an amazing effect on actually accomplishing something. Even if you just write it down and only glance at it again a few times after you're home, just having the idea planted in your mind will yield surprising results. Making the decisions and formulating the plan in advance will help bring much greater success than living life just flying by the seat of your pants.

Here comes the brain work. These are just a few things that I have pondered on my retreats, a few guiding questions to get your mind going. You do not have to do all of these in one trip. Pick two or three, or one. Or don't use any of my ideas and choose your own direction. Just start somewhere and see where the Spirit guides you.

Personal Mission Statement

Who do you want to be as a person? As a mother? As a wife? Consider what traits you want to have and how to attain them. What weaknesses you have that need strengthening. What your purpose is within your family and your sphere of influence and how you are going to achieve it.

Stephen R. Covey has a wonderful free online tool for writing both personal and family mission statements, found HERE.

Five-Facet Child Review

For each child, assess their needs in each of these five areas: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and intellectual/mental. What are they struggling with most? What can you do to help them? Not every category necessarily applies (particularly to babies) but it is still worth putting in individual time for every child.

I also find this to be an excellent time to write letters to each child. I have a journal for each that I try to write in at major milestones--birthdays, learning to walk, beginning and end of school year, etc. My retreats are a good time to write when life events are less noteworthy and I can focus more on the child as a person, especially in moments when I have put in a lot of thought already into that child's life and my present relationship with him or her.

Marriage Check-up

This was a big one on my most recent retreat. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and lose track of what's most important in your marriage: your husband. Remind yourself why you married him and why you love him now. Make a list of his traits you admire and respect the most, then make a list of ways to show him that you love him now more than you did when you got married. Make sure you follow through with this when you get home! You may want to write him a letter, too.


Where do you want to be in five years? Ten years? Personally? With your family? Financially? Academically? Spiritually? Take the time to write down goals for what you hope to be achieving in your current season of life--remember, if you don't know your destination, you'll never know when you've arrived. Try to write SMART goals where feasible: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound (thank you Arby's for teaching me that so well. ha).

Schedules and Routines

When I'm caught up in the chaos of the day, I find it difficult to make quick decisions (this is a symptom of PPD, yes, but this is certainly not an isolated problem). In these quiet moments, I find it a very good time to lay out what my "ideal" day would look like--meals, naps, activities, play time, Mom time, housework, appointments, all that jazz. Once I have a picture of the ideal, I picture the realistic (often much more different than we want it to be!) and try to bring them as close together as possible. Determining what time we have snack gives me a basis around which to plan learning time or play time or sit-at-the-table-and-color-so-I-can-finally-get-the-dishes-done time.

This helps me a lot with sticking to what I know I want to do. It may be a great idea to only have one snack, at the table, between breakfast and lunch, but it harder to remember that wisdom when I have all the kids climbing on me begging for "just one more" cracker. If I've planned it ahead of time, I find it much easier to stick to my guns and hold my ground.

You can plan schedules and routines for anything as broad as what the entire day looks like down to how you put the baby to bed at night or what kind of manners are reasonable to expect from the toddler at the dinner table. Be as general or as specific as you feel fits your needs.


Whether or not you are a regular journal-writer, this is a great time to take stock of life as you know it. What things are going well? What do you wish would go differently? What changes would you like to see happen and how can you achieve them? (Remember, you are only in control of yourself--don't try to plan changes that require someone else to do the changing.)

Recognizing God's Hand

I like to do this at the end of my retreats, regardless of whatever else I've ended up doing. In your journal or on a piece of scratch paper or on the little notepad hotels usually have next to the phone, make a list of ways that you can see God's hand in your life. I promise that the more you try, the more you will notice. It's definitely worth the practice.


Like I said, those are just a few suggestions. Work on whatever is forefront in your mind, whatever you feel needs the most attention and will be the most beneficial to you. It is also not required that you be completely isolated at a hotel to accomplish these things. If you have a couple hours after the kids are in bed, pick one thing to put some thought into. If you can escape out to lunch, hunker down in a booth with your hamburger and your journal and see how far you can get in a hour. Your goal is to rejuvenate yourself and recommit to your roles as mother, wife, and daughter of God. Do whatever it takes!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Seven Months

3 Days

4 Months

7 Months

Yep, that's the new car seat. I'll have to get him buckled before I take his picture next time--he just kept trying to sit up. At least he's finally got a little hair. :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mother's Retreat Tutorial

In my recent stories, I have more than once referred to my Mother's Retreat I did back in September. While it didn't necessarily accomplish everything I had originally hoped, it was wonderful nonetheless. Circumstances ended up being beyond what one weekend could solve--it was no fault of my retreat!

In fact, it was so wonderful, I did it again.

Before I go on, I would like to give credit where credit is due. I didn't just come up with this idea out of the blue on my own. The original inspiration came from Linda Eyre in her book I Didn't Plan to Be a Witch and Other Surprises of a Joyful Mother. I thoroughly enjoyed that entire book (the several times I've read it now) and this particular technique she shared--taking a "day off"--really resonated with me. I took her suggestions and ran with it and really made it my own. So far, the Mother's Retreat has served me well, and I hope it will continue to serve me well for many years to come!

Rather than just bragging about what an amazingly awesome weekend I had, I thought I would instead share my tips and tricks on how it is to be done, so that you, too, can have a superbly fabulous retreat that will relax your body, refresh your mind, and strengthen your spirit so that you can fight that daily mothering battle with renewed purpose and vigor.

Doesn't that just sound great? Ah, it is. Believe me, it is.

And so, here are my step-by-step instructions for planning your own one-night Mother's Retreat, alone and away from home--also known as "Laura's Guide to Remembering that You Really Do Like Your Kids."

Step 1: Convince yourself that it's a good idea.

How would you feel if you worked for a company that never provided any time off? No sick days, no vacation time, not even a quick bathroom break every couple of hours. Honestly, would you want to work for them? Would you consent to be an employee in such a company? No! More likely, you would throw a fit and refuse to be subjected to working under such harsh conditions.

So...why are you doing that to yourself?

A professional company would probably be sued if they didn't allow their employees time off, whether than be days in a week or minutes in the hours. State and federal laws mandate time off--and it's not because they are trying to be nice. It's because they want productive employees. If a person works and works and works for hours, days, weeks, months on end, they get burned out. They are no longer productive, contributing employees. It is in the company's best interest to allow their employees time to recuperate between shifts.

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. No, mothering does not end. Your shift is quite literally 25 hours a day, 9 and a half days a week. I here add my voice to the many, many others before and around me who say YOU NEED A BREAK. You will be a more productive employee--a nicer, calmer, more peaceful, more approachable mother--if you take a break. Trust me.

If you're not convinced, try this experiment. While your kids are all safely occupied, go outside. Walk down the street just a little bit, just so far as to stand in front of the neighbor's house maybe. Now stop, take a deep breath, and listen. Just listen... No one is screaming at you. No one is pulling on your legs. There aren't any toys or dirty clothes to pick up. No dishes to wash. No snotty noses to wipe. Close your eyes, take another deep breath, and just let it all soak in.

Now imagine that lasting an entire night.

I'm going to assume that I have you convinced.

Step 2: Convince your husband that it's a good idea.

Yes, this may be the hardest step in the entire process. I probably actually had you convinced as soon as I said "retreat." Mention it to him and his first thought will be, "How can you abandon me with them!?" Husbands are wonderful creatures who are hopelessly attached to us--they just like us so much they don't ever want us to leave. Can you blame them? We're awesome. But it's still a good idea for him to be left alone with the kids for just one night. Just one. You'll be back in the morning!

I don't actually have a whole lot of suggestions on this one--sorry! You know your husband better than anyone, you know what it will take to convince him! My only tips are to make sure you approach it nicely--don't demand anything, make it sound like he's doing you a ginormous favor out of the goodness of his heart (because he is!). And make sure you promise to make it up to him in anyway he wants. I'll leave that one to your own imaginations...

Step 3: Make your plans.

There are several important factors to consider when you start planning the nitty-gritty of your retreat.


Depending on your own family finances, this may be tricky. On my retreats, I intend to pay for a hotel room, eating out twice, and at least some measure of entertainment (to be defined later). That's quite a chunk to pull out of our grocery budget. We save up for a few months before I go, putting away extra cash here and there. I babysat neighbors' kids to earn a little extra cash, my husband will work a few hours of overtime, things like that. I've always used the Cash-back Rewards program from our credit card. It will take a little planning, and it may take a few weeks longer to pull the money together than you'd like, but it's worth the wait.

Keep an eye out online for good deals on hotel rooms--travelocity, expedia, whichever of those sites you like to use. It's also good to watch for coupons for restaurants you might want to go to.


Decide when you're going to go. You'll want a day and a night when your husband is available to watch the kids, no other events get it. You know when you're available.


Decide where you're going to go. For my retreat this weekend, I went to a town about 15 miles away. My reasonings: I wanted to be far enough away that I felt like I was getting away from home (helps with the break mentality), but not use up all my time traveling. I also wanted to go to an area I was familiar with and, again, not use up my time trying to figure out how to get where I was trying to go.

You don't have to go far. If you can't afford a hotel, look for other possible options--crash at a friend or neighbor's house with the understanding that you'll be there, but not hang out with them at all. :)

Those Left Behind

Ha. That sounds melodramatic.

For the sake of both your husband and your kids, I suggest laying out all the pajamas, clothes, meals, snacks, games, activities, movies, shoes, coats, bottles... so they are ready. The less of an effort it takes your husband in the moment the more willing he will be to let you be gone. Also, if they have fun things to do, they won't spend all their time just missing you!

Step 4: Follow your Dreams! ...and the rules.

The day finally arrives. Take off! Enjoy the wonderfulness of getting into the car and only needing to buckle your own seat belt. Turn on the radio to whatever station you want...or listen to nothing at all. Anything you want!

Pick your YOU activity.

What do you want to do? Go shopping. Go to a movie. Check into the hotel and soak in the hot tub. Get your nails done. Take advantage of your temporary kid-less-ness and spoil yourself a bit.


Eat what you want. Go to that one restaurant you don't want to take the kids to. Order that thing you usually refrain from because it's just too fattening. Order it, and eat it all. If you're limiting your money, pack a few indulgent snacks along with your meals. I Promise You, one night of eating what you want will not irrevocably ruin your figure. Don't go overboard, but feel free to relax just a bit. And enjoy the fact that no one else will ask for a bite.

Erase the "should" voice.

The most important thing about this retreat is doing what will be refreshing to you. Don't do things because you feel like you Should. Don't let anyone else dictate what you do, whether they've talked to you about it or not. Seriously. Do whatever you want.

Ease up on the technology.

Turn off your cell phone--give your husband the contact info for the hotel in case of emergency, but really, anyone else who wants to get a hold of you can wait until tomorrow. Cover up the clock--don't feel rushed. Don't force yourself to go to bed at a certain time. Stay up as long as you want--or go to bed as early as you want. You get to pick! 

Step 5: Get to work.

Alas, it's not all fun and games. If you're anything like me, you've got some work to do, too.

I will say, though, this is actually my favorite part.

Now is a time for personal reflection, life evaluation, and planning. I often have things in the back of my mind that I want to really think about and figure out what to do with, but I never have enough time to really do it right. This is the chance.

I can give suggestions on what to do on this part, but it's really up to you and what you think you need. Would you like a list of ideas, though, to get you started? I'm willing to write that, just not at the moment. I'm kind of tired of typing right now and my kids are climbing all over me begging for attention. I guess my retreat is really over...until next time. ;)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Part III: In which I stop breathing

The two most common answers I received in response to my “what do you want to know” question were how I realized I had a problem and needed help, and what I’ve done that has helped. I’m going to use those to direct the rest of my posts—starting with how I realized I had a problem and that I truly did need help.

It didn’t take me long to know that things were not going well once we came home from the hospital after Ben was born. That wasn’t unexpected, though, with a new baby as well as recovering from surgery. I cut myself some slack and settled in to “wait it out” until life worked itself into a new normal with three kids instead of just two.

Sadly, it didn’t really get better. That’s when I formulated my plan to go on a retreat. I had heard the idea from a book I read, and it really resonated with me. I was completely convinced that if I could just get away for a while and re-evaluate, I would be able to figure out how I wanted life to go now and who I wanted to be as a mother.

I know I’ve already written about this before, but it was pretty significant for me. At that point, I knew enough to know that life was not how I wanted it to be, and I took every step in my power to change it for the better. That was a great weekend that I look back on fondly, even though it didn’t have quite the lasting results I was going for.

When I came back from that weekend, I began implementing all the plans I had made. We had a much better daily routine, with set times for meals and snacks and naps and playing. TV time was greatly decreased. We started having family prayer every night and Family Home Evening every week. I arranged playdates and excursions to get us all out of the house. I came up with crafts and activities for the girls to do. We starting practicing letters and numbers to get Jane ready for school. See—all kinds of good things!

I was asked how I managed to look so in control when really I was completely losing it inside all the time. Basically, it came down to these plans. A symptom of PPD is the inability to make basic decisions. I could not for the life of me decide what to eat for lunch on a given day. I had meltdowns when I had to come up with something for dinner. If I had a spare twenty minutes, the tv would inevitably come on just to spare me the anguish of thinking on the spot. When I had to make a decision, I completely froze, no matter what the decision was. Having all those plans in place removed the decision making. I could follow a plan if I had already laid it out. It was almost like a way of staying out of my own mind, a way of ignoring the fact that I was not actually functioning.

Even still, those plans only lasted so long. Shortly after my retreat, Chris went into a very busy time at work (you may remember me blogging about it at the time). He worked 70-80 hours per week for six weeks. Six weeks. That’s pretty much an eternity. He wasn’t home ever. He would leave early in the morning before anyone was out of bed, and he wouldn’t come home often until after 11:00, or even as late as 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, and then still be up and gone by 5:00 or 6:00.

In my already stressful state, I was then responsible for my kids 24-7 and essentially without a husband for those six weeks. We managed a few dates here and there, and I almost always waited up for him so we could have a few minutes together when he got home, but for the most part, our communication was limited to texts and emails. I went completely into survival mode. It was largely during this time that Jane basically ran the house. (How’s that for responsible? A 3-year-old in charge.) I knew in the back of my mind that I really wasn’t doing well, that my plans were slipping, but I convinced myself that as soon as Chris was home again, everything would be fine.

Once again, my grand assumptions turned out completely wrong. I had a special knack for that…

It was during this time that my panic attacks started. There was one particular night that I remember vividly. Chris had come home around 11:00 and we both went straight to bed. Just as we had turned out the lights and laid down, Ben started crying. Chris was already asleep, and I knew he needed to sleep because of his work schedule. I had to get up.

Bad plan.

I couldn’t pick Ben up. I knew that if I touched him, I wouldn’t be able to control my actions. Scary thought. I ran away. In a matter of moments, I found myself alone on the living room floor, curled up tightly in a ball and sobbing. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had nothing left. I had nothing to give. Nothing. I felt like only a shell of a person, and yet powerfully controlled by emotions I did not begin to understand. Despair. Fear. Hopelessness. I knew I was lost—so far lost that I didn’t even know where I was trying to go. Or if I wanted to get there. As all those emotions washed over me, I started hyperventilating. My chest was so tight I couldn’t breathe. I have no idea how long it really lasted, probably only a few minutes in reality, but as far as I could tell, I spent hours upon hours on that floor.

I wrote an email to Britta the next day and tried to give her some picture of what was going on. I couldn’t explain it well because I didn’t understand it (it’s so much easier looking back now than it was at the time). In my attempt at explanation, I said something to the effect of, “I just cry all the time for no reason.” That right there set off a huge lightbulb in my mind. Isn’t that the typical postpartum depression phrase?

I started doing some research online and was able to find the screening evaluation my doctor used to diagnose PPD. There are 10 questions, and each question is given a score of 1, 2, or 3. The maximum score is 30, but anything over 13 is cause for concern. My score that day was 22. A few days later, my score had gone up. I knew then that I had a problem.

Now for a confession: I had never really believed in depression. I believed that anyone and everyone could be completely happy if they would just read their scriptures and say their prayers and go to church. If you weren’t happy, then you weren’t doing it right. I know how utterly wrong that is now, but I didn’t at the time. I was convinced that if I just pushed through, studied my scriptures more, said more fervent prayers, all my problems would go away.

Then I really lost it.

One day was going particularly badly. I had tried to keep myself together all morning long, but I was quickly coming to my wit’s end. Every time one of the kids made a noise, my body would tense up with fear that I would actually have to do something about it. No matter what I tried, I knew I was losing control.

It came down to one moment. I was sitting in the rocking chair next to the living room window. I knew I was having a hard time and that I probably wouldn’t make it through the rest of the day on my own. I called and talked to Chris for a few minutes, but it wouldn’t work well for him to leave work, so that conversation ended with me still feeling lost and worried and alone, even though I knew he would come home in a heartbeat if I asked him to. Then Jane walked into the room.

All she did was walk from the kitchen into the living room, just a few steps. She stopped. At that very moment, I had an overwhelming sense that if she came any closer, I would hurt her. I knew that I was so out of control of myself that if she came anywhere near me, I would put her in the hospital.

Before you all start calling Child Protective Services, let me make it perfectly clear that I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING. I take it as a tender mercy from God—a miracle, even—that Jane turned around and walked out of the room without saying anything or coming any closer to me. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt at that moment that I could not be trusted with my children and that I desperately, desperately needed help.

Second tender mercy of the day—I called Amy and she was home. She only lives around the corner, and she was at my door in a matter of minutes. She looked at me and promptly asked if I needed a hug—and I said yes. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I don’t hug often. I hug my husband, and I hug my children, but that’s about as far as my comfort level extends. The fact that I said yes was a HUGE red flag that something was really wrong with me.

Amy immediately took over. She ushered the kids out of the room and got them occupied, then sent me away. Sounds harsh, but it was exactly what I needed. That day was my first visit to my thinking spot. After I came home a few hours later, she still watched the kids so I could take a nap. That was what I consider Step 1 toward emotional salvation—strong word, but that’s really what it felt like.

To sum up, the first thing that was absolutely critical in surviving postpartum depression was HELP. Support from others is so, so, so important both for my personal sanity and my ability to cope and, facts are facts, the safety and well-being of my children. As much as I love them, they needed more than I could give at that time.

I have so much more I want to say! That’s why I’m writing a book, right? I’ll have to let you read it sometime. But, for now, we’ll leave it at that. Peek into part IV: How I learned about traumatic birth and posttraumatic stress.

P.S. I know that I am making some hidden references to Winnie the Pooh—starting chapter names with “In which”, talking about my thinking spot. I would just like to note that I am not making that connection on purpose. I don’t really even like Winnie the Pooh. In fact, most times when someone gave us clothing that had Winnie the Pooh on it, I wouldn’t let my kids wear it…until they were big enough to pick for themselves. Now the girls wear that stuff all the time. Sigh.

Not that that has anything to do with anything. Just saying.

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's not nice to kiss elves.

I took Jane to Primary Children's last week to meet with a dermatologist about her birthmark. We killed time by reading--Mom always brings a book to the doctor's office, so Jane wanted to also.

There came a point when the book wasn't quite interesting enough, so Jane told me her own story. I was impressed, so I wrote it down so I could share.

From Jane...

"Once a long time ago there was a princess named Snow White Rose. She was lost in the forest and didn't know her way home. She had to run because three elves were trying to kill her. She hid in a house and covered her face with blankets. The three elves sneaked in and pulled the covers down and they saw  Snow White Rose! But then in 12 seconds the prince came and saved Snow White Rose, then the prince kissed her. The princess, not the elves. It's not nice to kiss elves."

And in case you are wondering, the doctor did say that it would be possible to at least decrease the size of Jane's birthmark, even if it can't be removed entirely just yet. We're trying a new medication that has recently been shown to help reduce this type of hemangioma while we wait for word from the insurance company on whether or not they will authorize the laser treatments. We'll keep you posted if anything interesting happens.

Friday, February 17, 2012

In Case of Emergency

Chris and I have been working on re-evaluating our financial situation and setting goals that will be most advantageous to our family in the coming years. Not the most fun to post about, but I will say that it feels really good to know that we'll be done with student loans long before the estimated 10 years and that we'll be able to still have fun along the way. (Moab, we're coming!)

Ironically, one of our goals required spending over $5,000 in one shot--and not on loans. But, if we find ourselves in a state of emergency, we at least won't go hungry.

We purchased a family supply of food storage from Daily Bread. The food is freeze-dried, requiring only water to reconstitute. It has a 30-year shelf life and, possibly more importantly, it actually tastes really good. That's good when it comes to not letting my kids starve.

And, I'd like to note, picking up said food storage comprised our Valentine's Day holiday celebrations. Amy took Ben to work with her and I dropped the girls off (we even had an extra one) at Liz's house--Thanks again!!--while I went to pick up the food since it wouldn't fit in the van with all the car seats. Lucky me, I happened to drive past Chris's work and when I called to say hello, he decided to come with me. Yay! Spontaneous date!

(You know you don't get a lot of alone time when picking up food storage at a warehouse, unloading it at home, and driving back to work is considered a date.)

A moment to brag: I carried all those boxes downstairs myself. They weigh 20-30 pounds each, and there are 14 boxes. That was at least 28 individual trips on the stairs. It certainly covered my workout for the day.

In other news, Ben can sit up now. Life is much more entertaining when your head is more than five inches off the floor.

This is Madisyn. I watch her now Monday through Friday.

My goodness, she is the easiest child I have ever babysat. Often a lot easier than my own, even. Jane and Megan have fully adopted her. She blends right in--except for that adorably curly hair. I always wished I had curly hair instead of boring old straight hair. Sigh.

And...I had this picture on my camera from an Elders' Quorum game night. Have a good laugh. You're welcome.

P.S. Happy Birthday to Sarah!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pause before Part III: In which I reflect and ask a question

I have received quite the response to my first two posts about depression. Again, I thank you all for your kind words and caring concern for me and my family. It is greatly appreciated. I know that I have not personally responded to many of you who have sent me private messages and emails. Please know that I have read them all (several times!) and I feel for you. I do hope to write personal responses eventually, but I’ve learned to not expect too much out of myself…so please don’t be hurt if you haven’t heard back from me.

And let me again reiterate that I am doing well now. I had several phone calls after my last post from friends concerned that I am still very much in the middle of the worst—that’s just not the case. No, I am not all better, and yes, I still have bad days, but for the most part, I am managing quite well and continue to move on past the worst of it. Perhaps even more importantly, I know now how to recognize when I need help and I will ask for it. So no worries. Please. J

Chris says that I repeat myself often if there is something that’s on my mind a lot. (Well, he doesn’t say that so much as “You already told me that.”) I apologize in advance if I write something to this same effect every time I post another part of my story. Ha.

I’ve been considering for a while now (before I wrote Part II) what order I want to tell my story in. There are so many different pieces that I feel deserve sincere attention. I also find a significant amount of healing in writing those pieces, though it can be very difficult for me.  My debate comes in what order to post things. I want it to make sense, but then I have the whole picture in my head (since I lived through it) and I have a hard time knowing what will make sense to those who haven’t heard any of it.

Basically, it comes down to a decision that I’ve made to write a book instead of just a string of blog posts. That way, I can elaborate as much as I choose without necessarily posting it on the internet, and I can rearrange chapters however I choose once they are all written. No real thought of publishing or anything, I just needed a structure that makes real sense to me in which to write.

If you haven’t picked up on it, writing this story has become very, very important to me.

Having already posted two parts, I know that there are many people who want and even need to hear my story. I am absolutely willing to share. I just don’t know how to go about it in a way that will be understandable to those of you out there who do still want to read, and yet still be useful for me in writing it.

That’s kind of vague—that’s what happens when you get stuck inside my head.

My question, then, is what do you want to know? Without already knowing the details, what parts of the story do you wonder about? What might be helpful for you, if that’s what you’re going for in reading?

I really am interested in getting feedback on this one. I fully intend to write a book one way or the other, but as far as blogging, I’d like to have a little help in choosing a direction. Please leave a comment, or send me a message.

And Britta, I’m waiting and pins and needles for that email!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Like Mother, Like Daughter

It is a long-established fact that I am a dreamer. Not a world peace kind of dreamer, a last night I walked to Jupiter kind of dreamer. In high school, I had a group of friends who would spend their entire lunch hour trying to interpret my dreams using a dream dictionary I had been gifted.

For curiosity's sake, I looked up possible interpretations of a few of my recent dreams using the site

Dream 1: Lion Wrestling

"To see a lion in your dreams symbolizes great strength, courage, aggression, and power. You will overcome some of your emotional difficulties."

Well, that would be nice. Alternately...

"To dream that you are attacked by a lion suggests that a force may be driving you to self-destruction."

Yeah, that sounds closer.

Dream 2: Navigating a Maze (specifically a maze of office cubicles)

"To dream that you are in a maze denotes that you need to deal with a waking task on a more direct level. You are making a situation harder than it really is. Alternatively, the maze symbolizes life's twists and turns. It represents indecision, confusion, missteps, feeling lost or being misled."

Now, that one might have some measure of truth to it. But how about this?

"To dream of a work office indicates that you cannot seem to leave your work at the office. You are overworked."

Umm...I don't have a job.

Dream 3: Playing trumpets with Denzel Washington

"To see or hear a trumpet signifies some sort of warning. It may be your subconcious trying to get your attention."

"To see a celebrity in your dreams represents your beliefs and understanding about him or hear. Consider what the celebrity is famous or known for and how you relate to that quality."

So, my subconscious is trying to warn me that I might soon turn into a wealthy black man?

OR Chris and I were talking about when he used to play the trumpet, and I had recently watched Much Ado About Nothing in which Mr. Washington portrays Don Pedro. That seems more like it, don't you think?

Dream 4: Transformation

It would appear that this particular character trait--vivid and frequent dreaming--has been passed on to at least one of my children. Or at least the one with an extensive enough vocabulary to vocalize it.

Jane (you guessed that, right?) came knocking on our bedroom door in the middle of the night to inform me that she had had a bad dream. In her own words:

"I was a grown-up and I was in the car with my friends and suddenly we all turned into animals. Animals! Remember, like Kuzco. I turned into a llama."


"To see a llama in your dreams represents deep trust, strength, and endurance. It may also mean that you are worrying too much and carrying too many problems."

It may also mean that you watch Emperor's New Groove a little too often.

P.S. Jess, I totally thought of you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Part II: In which I run away from home

Before I continue my story, I would like to note that I have Chris’s full support and encouragement in writing down and publishing my story for so many people to read. It is a very personal story that goes far beyond myself alone, with many details that greatly affect our family life—our home, our children, and especially the relationship between Chris and myself. I would not write this if he was uncomfortable about it in any way.

Love you, Christopher.

It probably goes without saying, but I would also like to mention that this story is mine. I know that many people have struggled with depression, postpartum depression, and trauma—even if they didn’t know it at the time. Many of the details will sound familiar. I don’t proclaim to know all there is to know about PPD or PTSD, however. I have no college degree or professional training to give me any kind of authority on the subject. This is not the writing of an expert. Please don’t take it as such. It’s just my story.

In my experience, there are two very difficult aspects of dealing with PPD:

1. How you feel
2. What you think about how you feel

Honestly, it’s a toss-up on which has actually been harder to work through for me.

How I felt…

This is one of the harder things for me to write about. Not necessarily because I have a hard time describing the feelings, but more to the point, I have a hard time remembering the feelings. I was so far down, I did not have a clear perspective of myself or anything going on around me. This is one part of the story that Chris was more aware of than me, I think.

Looking back now, I know how bad it really was. I managed to get up every day, but I only got dressed because I didn’t want to walk around in my underwear all day. I only showered every once in a while—it didn’t matter to me because I never left the house. 95% of my day was spent sitting on the couch, staring blankly at the computer or mindlessly watching PBS with the kids. Hour upon hour upon hour, I never moved more than a few feet—from one end of the couch to the other and back. Every few hours, I might make it as far as the kitchen or bathroom. Maybe.

My mind was completely numb. I had moments of lucidity in which I realized how unhappy I felt and how out of control of my life I was, but for the most part, I just didn’t even notice. Sometimes I cried, sometimes I was really angry, but when I could manage it, I didn’t think or feel anything. I just existed—it was too hard to do anything else.

This time was obviously hardest on Chris and the kids. My poor kids! Jane was essentially responsible for feeding her and Megan all day. They lived on bread or toast, goldfish crackers, and whatever fruit Megan managed to dig out of the drawers of the fridge. On good days, I would microwave some chicken nuggets or corn dogs. On bad days, I have no idea what they ate.

There finally came a point—I have no idea when, really—that I could no longer stand being in my house. I would suddenly have an intense and insatiable need to be gone. With no warning, I would fly into a fury of packing, loading up a diaper bag, making a bottle, finding shoes and coats. Within moments, my kids and I would all be loaded in the van and we would drive away.

It’s not that I had anywhere to go. I just drove. No one could get into any trouble if they were securely buckled into the five-point harnesses of the car seats. If I turned the radio up loud enough I couldn’t hear them talking to me. And, if I was lucky, they would all fall asleep anyway.

Interstate 215 through the Salt Lake Valley is a wonderful thing. I could drive and drive and drive without ever getting more than 10 or 15 miles away from home. I once detoured to Park City, and another time we actually made it as far as Logan. In four months, I single-handedly put over 1,000 miles on my van having only left the valley twice. That car was my sanctuary when I had no escape.

This could only go on so long, though. There were other, much darker and stronger, emotions at work. I refer, of course, to the trauma. This is not that post, however; those details must wait still. But suffice now to say that there came a day when I could no longer guarantee the safety of my children when left solely in my care.

Do you have any idea how terrifying such a realization is? The honest acknowledgment that your children, your own children, would be better cared for by someone else? That they truly are not safe with their mother?

Enter Amy.

Friday, February 10, 2012

10 Year Anniversary

On February 10, 2002, I finished reading The Book of Mormon for the first time on my own.

It was a rather significant day--those of you in Marysville, Washington at that time may remember that to be the day that the Marysville 3rd Ward was dissolved and combined with the 5th Ward.

As you might guess, this was not a terribly exciting thing for those of us in the 3rd Ward. It was kind of an in-your-face "You're not good enough to be a ward anymore" moment. There was a lot of anger and anxiety that day that I can clearly recall. I was 16 at the time.

I read the last few chapters of Moroni only hours before we went to the meeting where this change was announced. Because of the Spirit that came to me from reading then, I managed to keep myself out of much of the emotion involved in changing the wards. I knew, beyond a doubt, that the Church and the gospel were much larger than what building you happened to meet in and what number was listed at the top of the Sacrament Meeting bulletin. The wards are only a tool to facilitate members in growing closer to the Savior and in caring for families and those in need. Testimony that is based on doctrine and comes through personal revelation cannot be shaken by shifting ward boundaries.

It was a powerful lesson my teenage self learned that day. Ever since, I have had a strong connection to the Book of Mormon and its standard for containing the full and complete Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On February 10, 2012--today--I finished reading The Book of Mormon again, having it read it enough times in the last ten years that I've lost count. My testimony of that book has never wavered, and every time I read, I find new insights and delicious words that strengthen my soul. In honor of this anniversary today, I want to share a few of my favorite verses.

* * * * *
The Book of Mormon gives clarity to principles taught in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 10:13 states,

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as which is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

This is a wonderful promised from God, proving that we will be given all the help and tools will need to succeed in this mortal life. However, I have occasionally heard this verse used almost as an excuse or catch-all for giving in--something to the effect of not needing to try too hard because we won't ever be faced with temptations or decisions that are that hard to bear.

In the Book of Mormon, we can find clarification on that idea in Alma 13:28.

"But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit..."

We have to do our part--humble ourselves and call on God--in order to receive that promise of strength. Once we have done as much as we can ourselves, God will take over the rest.

* * * * *
Particularly in the last six months, many verses have stood out to me as reminders that God truly is in control, like Mormon 5:23,

"Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll?"

and other verses that show how much God loves us, like 3 Nephi 17:7.

"Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy." (bold added)

The most powerful verses, though, are the ones that seem to be speaking directly to me. I first came across this verse, that seemed as though I could have written it myself, for it so very much sounded exactly how I felt in dealing with depression and especially trauma--2 Nephi 4:26,

"O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?"

Why, oh, why.

Peace comes only a few short verses later, if you'll let it--2 Nephi 4:30,

"Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my sould will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation."

If you have a copy of the Book of Mormon, I strongly encourage you to read the rest of that chapter, 2 Nephi 4. If you do not have a copy of the Book of Mormon and would like one, call me!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Karmic Siblings

Picture this...

holding the ribbon bookmark of a hardbound book
spinning and twirling all around the room

getting too close

hello, second black eye

recovery consists of pillow, blanket, cold rag, and baby brother

Picture this...

not an hour later
in the bathroom

trying to intrude

slamming the door

smashed and bleeding finger

recovery consists of pillow, blanket, cold rag, and bandaid

leave it to sisters to keep the universe in balance

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Melden Cows

Let me start by saying thank you to everyone who has commented on my previous post. I received more comments, messages, and emails than I anticipated, and they just keep coming. Since I posted it last night, I have had over 300 hits on my blog. Maybe it's just me, but that seems like a lot in less than 24 hours! I am humbled by the support I've received, and saddened by the stories that have been shared. I feel your pain!

In reading the comments you have made, I find myself more anxious than ever to actually get this all written down. And yet, when I think about what it would take to actually do that, my hands start to shake and my heart beats just a little faster. I will write it, I will, but I make no promises on how long it takes me. It's a complex story and it takes a lot out of me to sort out how to write about it. And, who am I kidding, I don't want to spend every waking moment thinking about it anymore. Just when I feel up to it.

So, I will write more, but in the meantime, life goes on! Knowing that my blog will be receiving much more traffic and attention than I ever get, I thought I'd break it back in to normal-ish blogging with just a few of Jane's recent utterances.

"I have a friend at school named Elden. It's kind of like Melden, but without the M. You can remember that his name is Elden because you can think of Melden."

Is that supposed to be helpful?

Jane woke up in the middle of the night disoriented from a dream (like mother, like daughter, I guess). As I tucked her back into bed, she looked at me with a contented smile on her face, sighed, and said, "Oh, I just love snuggling with cows."

Jane had a few coins that she accidentally left at Amy's house. When Amy came to our house the next day, Jane cornered her in the kitchen, hands on hips, finger pointed, and in her best intimidating voice declared,

"You better bring my money back to me or I will CRUSH YOU."

Ha. We've bred a miniature loan shark. All that for eighteen cents.