Rachel Heath

Intentional Living: learning to be fully present

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An Open Letter to Extroverts

Dear Extroverts,

We introverts really do like you, but it seems we have a bit of a disconnect. A lot of us feel misunderstood. We feel a pressure to fit into your environment instead of create a new one together. On the Introvert-Extrovert scale, I’m closer to the middle than either edge, but I’m definitely an introvert. I’m married to one of your people, though, which has given me ample opportunity to understand just where it is that we’re missing each other. I don’t want to blame it all on you, but there are a few myths that some of you seem to believe about us that I’d like to clear up. (And let me just say, I know not all extroverts are the same. I wouldn’t lump you all together. Just read with an open mind.)

1. Introverts are Boring

They’re so not. Some of the most fun, funny people I know are introverts. They’re often funnier because they are so unassuming, and extroverts can easily miss it. In a group of people, you extroverts will almost always naturally dominate the conversation or direct the activity. This isn’t because introverts are passive by nature. It’s because we’ve learned that we probably won’t be truly listened to and we don’t appreciate being verbally bowled over. You don’t mean to, but you often do. So instead, we choose not to engage. We don’t feel the need to share like you do. We’re happy to just observe and be silently amused by our unspoken jokes and ideas.

Introverts can be a blast if they’re with people they trust. Example: my mom is a total introvert, and she’s hilarious. But you won’t hear the funny stuff she’s thinking at a big party because she’s not about to trust a group of rowdy extroverts to stop talking over each other for two seconds and listen.

I’ll add the caveat that I do know some extroverts (not many, sorry) who are great listeners. The problem is that when you get around each other, you can tend to ignore everyone else.

2. Introverts are Shy or Anti-Social

Introversion does not equal shyness, just as extroversion does not equal confidence. This, I think, is the biggest myth about these two personality types. Let’s get the definitions cleared up.

Introvert: Someone who is energized by solitary time

Extrovert: Someone who is energized by social time

If I’m not already exhausted, I actually look forward to social gatherings. I really enjoy hanging out with people. I know who I am and I’m not afraid of big groups. The difference between me and you is that I arrive home from a party half dead with thoughts of yoga pants and a glass of wine and Tolkien for the next 6 hours and definitely no talking. After a party, you’re probably busy rounding up willing participants for FroYo or a midnight showing of American Hustle or a last minute road trip to Vegas.

3. Your Introvert is Mad because He/She is Not Talking

Your introvert is probably just thinking. Maybe about something important like health care reform or global warming or how Sherlock actually survived the jump. Or maybe not. But if they’re going to offer up their thoughts to you, chances are they won’t do it until those thoughts are fully formed. Ok yeah, sometimes we’re mad and silently flipping through a rolodex of sarcastic quips to throw your way. But usually we’re simply enjoying our head space.

My sister-in-law is high on the extrovert scale. It took her a few years to figure out that filling up the empty space in our conversation with more words was shutting me down. That empty space is an invitation for a slower-to-speak introvert to step in and share their ideas. (Likewise, it took me a few years to figure out how to insert myself into tiny breaks in discussion, and that my half-formed thoughts shared verbally would go a long, long way to making her feel connected.) She thought I didn’t like her and didn’t want to have a relationship with her. I thought she didn’t care about me and didn’t want to have a relationship with me. After 7 years of practice we now chat easily, but it took some learning for both of us.

4. Introversion is Inferior to Extroversion

Our culture is built for extroverts, and runs on the premise that extroversion is the superior personality type, and that, in fact, introversion isn’t a personality type so much as a character weakness. At some point during every team building exercise or social event, introverts are invited to “get out of their comfort zones” and “have a little fun.” First of all, I was already having fun until you coerced me into participating in an icebreaker. Second, this is a subtle but persistent assumption that my comfort zone is unhealthy, but yours is all good.

Just once, I’d like to hear the following announcement at a party: “Ok, all you social butterflies, it’s time to stretch yourself a bit and have some fun. I’d like you to pair off with one person you already know, find a quiet spot, and spend the remainder of the evening in meaningful, intimate conversation with that person.”

Here’s the thing: we all have a comfort zone, and it can be unhealthy if we stay there all the time. It’s a very good thing to stretch the limits of our ease from time to time. I’m just tired of being told that I’m the one that needs to push my boundaries in order to fit into your comfort zone.

You probably don’t realize that that’s the message we introverts are receiving. I don’t think it’s intentional. But it’s definitely there, in every arena of our lives. I’d like to ask you to give us a little space, a little time, and a little freedom. And maybe step into our comfort zones once in a while.

Introverts, what would you add?
Extroverts, what are we missing?

On the Art and Grace of Homemaking (and how I suck at it)

Many of my friends are homemakers, and I say that with the utmost respect. They are talented, brilliant, creative women (and a handful of men) who bring dignity to the title and joyfully shine the light of love in their homes and on their families.

They have chalkboards in their kitchens on which inspiring messages are written in neat, lovely handwriting, which I assume helps them not yell at their kids while they cook dinner.

Their homes aren’t just clean; they’re decorated with unique items they picked up at thrift stores and garage sales and flea markets for super cheap and then upcycled to fit into a color palette that was clearly intentional.

They have framed family photos and a beautiful homemade wreath on their front door and a special basket in the entryway for shoes. They decorate for the holidays and host baby showers and craft their own Thanksgiving centerpieces.

They remember to replace their burned-out lightbulbs.

I, on the other hand, am more of a home maintainer, and that’s putting it generously.

Most of our picture frames still have the fake families in them.

We have hooks over our closet doors but my purse and gym bag and diaper bag are almost always laying on the couch or the floor or wherever I dropped them when I came in, the contents indiscriminately strewn about from when I dug around to find my wallet or iPod or a spare diaper.

Blocks and stuffed animals and books and dinosaurs and dog toys cover every square foot of our floor. Shoes live wherever we take them off, which is everywhere-ish.

My desk is so covered with mail and bills and receipts and random papers that I practically have to exhume my laptop whenever I sit down to work.

Lip-smudged wine glasses and empty mugs containing dried-up tea bags sit on side tables. Plates and bowls lay on the floor, licked clean by the dog and abandoned.

Laundry is usually spilling out of baskets sitting on a couch or in a corner, sweaters and coats are draped across chairs. Wet dog-nose prints make a blurry line across the sliding glass door which I suspect may never come perfectly clean. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t tried.

The best I manage on any given day is to briefly reign in the chaos before it breaks free again the next day. I put the laundry in piles for each family member, shove the toys into the toy box, carry the dishes to the sink, and refill that wine glass.

Decorating? Psh. Right.

A few weeks ago we were visiting a church. They announced an upcoming holiday event (aimed at women, predictably, but I won’t go there today) where they would be giving away fully decorated Christmas trees and festive tablescapes.

“Tablescapes?” I thought. “Shit, that’s a thing?” I was mentally transported to our dining room table, upon which two small pumpkins sat, colored with sharpies, one half-rotted and collapsing in on itself: my fall “decor.”

I usually just laugh at the myriad ways I don’t fit the feminine stereotype, but I suddenly felt wholly inadequate. In over 6 years I haven’t managed to get our wedding pictures framed (or, for that matter, even printed) and now I’m supposed to have a tablescape?

I, like so much of the feminist movement, have been quick to dismiss the traditionally female role of homemaking as insignificant, the idea of special seasonal decor as silly, but the truth is that I just really suck at it. I mean, I don’t even try. Not at all. Partly out of some misplaced noble rebellion against the stereotype, but mostly because I seriously suck at it and I seriously hate sucking at things.

Honestly, I love visiting my homemaker friends (especially this time of year!) who are gifted at decorating and hosting, who excel at creating a warm space and inviting atmosphere. I appreciate the dozens of subtle details they’ve attended to. I’m awed by the hundreds of quiet acts they do to serve and bless those who live in and pass through their homes. There is an art and a grace to the profession of making a home, and for all my impassioned rants about cultural gender expectations (which I stand by), I’m also secretly disappointed that I seem to come up lacking.

Seriously. How hard would this be?

Seriously. How hard would this be?

Deep down, I want my house to be organized and simple and pretty and have a few of those just-right accessories. I want it to be welcoming and comfortable. I want it to be festive during the holidays. I don’t want a lot of materialistic junk, just a few touches that show that we care about how things look around here. I know the concept of home is more than how it appears, but I’d like to enjoy a living space that looks like I’ve put even an ounce of thought into it.

But maybe it doesn’t come as naturally as I assume it does to all my friends. Maybe it’s something I can experiment with and learn to do. Maybe it’s ok to try a little, and maybe that doesn’t mean I believe all women are predestined to be homemakers and all men are predestined to be breadwinners. Maybe I just want to do some decorating.

I guess it probably starts with replacing a few lightbulbs and breaking out the windex.

Happy Homemaking.

On 174 Pounds

I recently read “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” by Peggy Orenstein. It’s a chilling and inspiring read for those of us with daughters, and I ate it up. In it, Orenstein mentions several stats that brought me to tears:

  • Nearly half of 1st-3rd grade girls already think they aren’t skinny enough.
  • 81% of 9-year-old girls are already dieting.
  • Roughly half of 10-year-old girls are scared of getting fat.

When I read that, I realized a few things:

  • In gradeschool and junior high, I never thought – not even a little bit – about the size and shape of my body. I was a high school sophomore when I began to understand that I even had a “size.”
  • I was a high school junior the first time I took note of my own weight.
  • I was a college freshman the first time I tried on clothes and fretted about whether they “flattered” my figure (ie, noticed I had any features that needed “flattering”).

At first I congratulated myself for being so counter-cultural, but it didn’t last long. You see, around age 18, I experienced an abrupt shift from total lack of a body image to sudden self-loathing and shame over my body, and as I read those stats, I was overwhelmed with fear that my daughter would end up like I am: obsessed with her inadequate body, despite the best efforts of her parents to protect her.

I’m still not sure why it took hold so quickly, but I bloomed very late, and grew up shielded from the powers of advertising and consumerism. When I emerged into the real world as an adult, the marketing machine hit me and it hit me hard. Like Adam and Eve becoming aware of their nakedness, I suddenly realized that there existed for women A Standard of physical perfection, and that I didn’t fit it. Not even a little bit.

I am a size 12. I’m 5’8″ and weigh 174 pounds. My torso is  too long. My shoulders are too broad. My thighs are too muscular. My calves are too big. My arms are too squishy. My hips are too wide. My tummy is too wobbly. And let’s not even talk about my boobs.

I feel the pressure of perfection everywhere I look. Slender, pretty, fit-but-not-too-fit women surround me. On television and in movies. In department stores. In virtually every advertisement ever conceived of in the history of advertising. On pinterest, smiling ironically from between a recipe for brownies and  another for cheese dip.  In my favorite body-positive magazines (et tu, yoga journal?). Even in dear friends whom I perceive to be thinner and daintier and more stylish and therefore much, much better than me.

measuring-tapeI know academically that “Identity is Appearance” is a giant lie, but my walk ain’t as liberated as my talk. The fact that I still say “I am a size 12″ rather than “I wear a size 12″  reveals the fact that I believe The Lie. The Lie says I should feel guilty over every dessert eaten, every carb consumed, every excess calorie not burned. The Lie makes me feel jealous of women who are smaller than me, and superior to those who are larger. The Lie has led me to defiantly wear clothing too small for me, for years, believing that the number on the tag reflects on who I am. The Lie says that once I get into that smaller size, I’ll be happier. That if my stomach were a little flatter, people would like me more.

Over the last few months I’ve  slowly become aware of just how prevalent The Lie is, and I’ve been carefully and painfully dismantling it. Or trying to, anyway. Like I said, there’s a lot of self-congratulations happening and not a lot of actual change. I still count my calories. I still furtively eat chocolate and then feel guilty all day. Last time I shopped for pants I cried at least 3 times in the changing room. I’m a liberated woman. I make my own choices, societal standards be damned. What is wrong with me?

Last week I was in yoga, in my dark corner by the mirror. I slid my right foot forward into a deep lunge, and pulled myself up into crescent, extending my arms above my head, spreading my fingers, and digging my toes into the mat. I glanced up to check my form in the mirror and was met with my reflection, like I always am. My jiggly arms, my chubby belly, my wide hips, my thunder thighs. The same reflection I see every time. The same “problem areas.”

I was swiftly flooded with an emotion I’ve honestly never felt in over 2 years of practicing yoga:

Gratitude.

I was so overcome with gratitude for my body I could hardly look at it. Twice in my adult life have I found my reflection, without judgement, to be truly beautiful: the day I shaved my head, and last Wednesday, standing in crescent lunge, sweating and trembling.

I had a Suddenly moment. Where before I saw jiggling, I began to remember meals and drinks, lovingly prepared, and shared with people I love. Instead of chub, I saw 81 total weeks of pregnancy, 2 beautiful babies, hundreds of hours of breastfeeding. Instead of big and wide I felt strong and stable.

Look at this fabulous body, I thought. Look at what it can do. The mountains it’s climbed. The miles it’s walked, carrying backpacks in the wilderness, carrying babies back and forth across the carpet in the middle of the night. Look at the children it’s grown, and birthed, and nursed. Look at the way it lets me experience, tangibly, each relationship in my life. This body has made love, given and received countless kisses, shared thousands of hugs. Look at the way I live and move and breathe with this incredible body.

In that moment, in yoga class surrounded by people with whom I had previously been comparing myself, I was changed. I can feel it still,  gratitude pulsing in my spirit, and a sense of proud ownership. I smile at myself in the mirror. I give my body what it needs instead of punishing it. I go to yoga and lift weights and run because it makes me feel grounded and happy and I’m nicer to my kids afterwards… not because I feel bad about what I had for lunch. I show my daughter what confidence and fulfillment really looks like, and it doesn’t look like striving.

We’ve had enough of the fighting, my body and I. I’m tired of reaching for approval I don’t need. I’m tired of doing things for other people, tired of apologizing and hiding. I’m tired of hating my body and ready to love it, every curve and every fold, all 174 pounds.

Five Minute Friday: Here

Lisa-Jo Baker has been hosting a Five Minute Friday party for over a year and somehow, I’ve never participated. It’s simple- she just shares a writing prompt and hundreds of bloggers write about it for five minutes. No editing, no planning, no worrying. Just raw writing.

So I’m joining in today. The prompt is: Here. So here I go…

 

Since my daughter was born 27 months ago, I’ve been learning a daily lesson in being present. Admittedly the first 12 or so months were more like a forced lesson, as I struggled with the challenge of caring for a child, day in, day out. My reality, here.

But I adjusted. I got out of my stupid head, through my ridiculous pride, and asked some people for help. I learned to get out of bed every morning (whatever time it was) knowing that I would be present. That I would be here.

Now I’m waiting for my son to be born. We’re having a homebirth, so I’m just staying… here.

No need to leave. No need to rush. He’ll just come when he’s ready. A big part of me has thought back to those early weeks with Isabella and felt a lot of fear. I remember wanting to escape, and I know there will be even more bringing me back to reality. Not just a newborn, but a toddler. I’ll be needed… here. I don’t know what it will be like, but I guess I’m just trying to say this: I promise I’ll ask for help if I need it. Right away, not a year from now.

Being here is worth more than my pride.

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On Why I’m Not Sharing My Due Date

There are a handful of questions you get asked over and over and over again when you’re pregnant. The top two, at least for me, have been “How are you feeling?” and “When are you due?”

As you get farther along in your pregnancy and begin to show more, the due date question is one you hear nearly every day, from friends and family and strangers alike. It’s an easy icebreaker, a safe topic of conversation, and it’s basic information, so it’s easy to see why it’s the number one question pregnant women must answer.

But I’m not answering it this time.

I think the due date is one of the most prevalent misconceptions in American medicine. When a health care provider assigns a pregnant woman a due date, many women take it as a deadline. People constantly ask you when you’re due. People count down with you to the due date. People are confused and concerned when you go past the due date. Many doctors routinely schedule women for inductions a few days after their due date. Women refer to the days after their due date as the most challenging part of their pregnancy.

And the whole thing is based on a giant misunderstanding, perpetuated by the medical community, and bought into wholesale by our tightly-scheduled, deadline-obsessed, instant-gratification culture. We, as Americans, love having everything planned out. We crave predictability. We hate having to slow down and wait. We are uncomfortable with the unexpected.

How Do We Get the Due Date?

The technical term is actually “Estimated Due Date,” or EDD. They take the first day of your last period and count out 40 weeks from that date. In 1744 a botanist name Harmanni Boerhaave referenced evidence from the bible and determined that human gestation lasts 10 lunar months.

Then, in 1812, a German obstetrician named Franz Naegele publicized the method, but he calculated it wrong. He assumed 4 weeks per month multiplied by 10 months… that’s 40 weeks, or 280 days.  There’s one problem with that method, though. 10 lunar months (from new moon to new moon) is actually 15 days, a full two weeks, longer than Naegele’s Rule allows.

Add to this the wide variation in cycle length from woman to woman and the unreliability of ultrasound to determine gestation (it can be off by up to 21 days during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy), and you’ve got a big misunderstanding on your hands.

Full human gestation is actually closer to 42 weeks than 40, and 50-80% of women, if their bodies are allowed to lead the way, will deliver after 40 weeks.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists says that it’s safe and normal to deliver anytime between 37 and 42 weeks gestation, and recommends that health care providers not interfere with a healthy pregnancy until 42 weeks.

The Emotional and Mental Impact

The result of the due date is that our entire pregnancies, our mindsets, get built around this magic date. Because we are constantly asked about the date, we are constantly reminded of the date, and the closer we get, the more it feels like a timer slowly ticking down to an expected end. When that date comes and nothing happens, it can be incredibly disappointing, confusing, and even frightening. The psychological impact of counting down to a single date when the EDD was never meant to be a deadline, but a window, is astounding.

Labor is meant to start spontaneously, and the outcomes are exponentially better when a woman’s body is allowed to begin the work without outside interference than when we start it artificially. We are led to believe that every day we are pregnant after our due date represents something wrong with us, something getting worse, that needs to be fixed. We think we’re “late” when we’re, statistically speaking, totally normal. Instead of trusting our bodies to do what God designed them to do, we give them over to pharmaceutical solutions for a problem that doesn’t exist. (Of course, there are time when interventions are absolutely necessary. I’m talking about healthy, normal pregnancy and birth, not genuine high-risk situation.)

So, I’m not sharing my due date. Partly because I want to use this as an opportunity to educate people about what the estimated due date is actually meant to represent. Mostly, though, I don’t want to get sucked into the countdown. I’m not offended or bothered by the due date question, but for my own sanity I’m not answering it in the way people expect.

When people ask, I tell them I’m due in April. When they ask for a more specific date, I tell them I’ll be 42 weeks around the end of April, so this baby is welcome to arrive anytime during the month (although, if he could avoid our anniversary on the 7th, that would be great…). If you really want to figure out my 40 week date from there, go for it!

But I’ve already forgotten my EDD, and I’m more at peace that way. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about birth, it’s that a woman has to be at peace for it to work.

The Best Pumpkin Bread Ever

Ok, maybe it’s not very humble of me, but… it’s true. The pumpkin bread I made a few days ago is the best pumpkin bread I’ve ever had.

This is a big deal for me. I don’t bake. I’m terrible at it. Even when I follow a recipe to the letter, my cookies always spread into one giant mess, my bread is always either too dry or still mushy on the inside, and my brownies always burn. Truthfully, I’ve been getting better, but historically, baking has just never been my thing.

Even so, I faithfully attempt pumpkin bread every year. Something about this time of year makes me forget all my baking failures and hopefully proclaim, “It will be different this year!” And for 6 autumns, I have attempted to use my mother-in-law’s pumpkin bread recipe because Stephen loves it and always asks me to. And every year, we have Pumpkin Bread Tension. Any woman whose husband has handed her one of his mom’s recipes knows what I’m talking about.

He grew up eating that pumpkin bread every year, the way his mama made it, the same way every time. If you don’t get it quite right… hey, no one wants to be compared to their mother-in-law. It’s pressure. And as we’ve discussed, I don’t have a lot of success even when following tried-and-true recipes. I’ve not yet made it and had him say, “This is right.” I’ve even had a couple years where he liked it, but… it’s wasn’t the same. It wasn’t right.

This year, I had an advantage. Just last week I made zucchini bread. It wasn’t awful, it wasn’t great, and I got a few mistakes out of my system. The experience was fresh when Stephen said, “What I’m really looking forward to is pumpkin bread…”

I took a few risks. I started with my mother-in-law’s recipe and made a few substitutions to lighten it up and make it healthier, and added more spices. The final product is the pinnacle of my baking career. In fact, I completely shocked myself. It turned out absolutely perfect and it’s been such a solid hit that between the 3 of us, we’ve eaten a whole loaf in just under 48 hours.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup macadamia nut oil (coconut oil would be great as well)
  • 2 cups plain pumpkin, canned or fresh
  • 3 eggs
  • 3½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 heaping tsp nutmeg
  • heaping tsp allspice
  • heaping tsp cinnamon
  • heaping tsp ground cloves
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • ½ cup cranberries (optional)
  • ¾ cup water (or less)

 

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the applesauce, sugar, and oil.
  3. Add the pumpkin and mix well.
  4. Beat in the eggs.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.
  6. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture about a ½ cup at a time. As the mixture thickens, begin to alternate adding water as necessary. I ended up adding about ¾ cup.
  7. Oil two glass bread pans and divide the batter between them.
  8. Bake for 75-90 minutes.
  9. Remove the pans from the oven, let cool, and remove the bread from the pans.

We love to toast our bread and top it with a little oil and a sprinkling of brown sugar. I’d love to hear what you do with yours!

On childhood memories, wilderness, and my Dad

It’s summer, officially, finally.  I keep saying my summer will be full of hiking and exploring and sipping margaritas on patios but so far it’s involved a lot of hiding out in our apartment with the A/C blasting because it’s too hot to do anything fun outside and we’re too poor to use gas on driving to the mountains all the time.

Even so, it brings me peace to go outside and just see the mountains standing in their resolute line.  I know that, somewhere out there, is wilderness.  Untamed, unspoiled wild.  Warm, green meadows and hidden valleys full of wildflowers and cut by ice cold rivers.  Pine trees, tall and fragrant, and magical aspens glittering and trembling in the fierce sun.  Steep scree slopes and jagged heights and far off peaks, layer upon layer, for mile upon mile.  Open sky, bluer than blue at the zenith.  Bigness.  Quietness that gets into your soul.  Places that a great many people living in this city will never, ever lay their eyes on.

Me camping, with dirty hands, and proud of it.

When I think of the times I was happiest, I think of long drives to the deep mountains playing silly games in the backseat with Amy to keep ourselves entertained, of skinned knees and hands sticky with sap and dirt in my hair.

I think of the crisp feeling of the air early in the morning before it gets warm, of hot cocoa and oatmeal made over a camping stove.

I think of the smell of warm pine in the air, the smell of sunscreen and bug spray.

I think of days spent exploring, climbing, camping, walking, standing on mountain tops.

I think of mica and quartz and glittering rocks and the dust on the ground positively shimmering because it’s so full of minerals and listening to my dad tell about how and when they were all formed.

I think of carrying a heavy pack, walking along the trail, singing hymns with my dad.

I think of the slickerey sound of a sleeping bag and the sound of rain pounding the walls of our tent.

I think of feeling exhausted and happy, and the brightness and effusiveness of the stars uncontaminated by city light.

Me, my Dad, and our dog Pebbles on top of Grays Peak.

I think of all these things and get literally hungry for the wilderness.  Sometimes I begin to feel trapped by the city.  I hate the asphalt and the shopping centers and the neat little walking paths and the trees planted just where the civic engineers wanted them to live and I must. get. out.

So, once or twice a week, we pack up food and diapers and water and the dog and get as close to that wilderness as we can.  We don’t go far.  Long car rides cost money and they can have an unpleasant effect on an active toddler.  I’m happy to just explore the open spaces in the front range, to get outside and hear the dirt crunch under my feet and drink in the sky.  It maintains my sanity, and hers, too.

She’s my daughter, that’s for certain.  When she’s stormy and bored and angry, being outside quiets her, seems to bring her back to center. Now that she’s old enough to walk, I take her out of the backpack and let her explore.  And suddenly the old familiar mountain parks we’ve visited dozens of times are all new because they’re all new to her, and my love of this beautiful state is constantly galvanized.

Many of my happiest memories are intrinsically connected with my dad.  He loves the mountains, he longs for the wilderness, and so I learned to, too.  I wonder about Isabella’s childhood memories.  When she thinks back on her happiest times, what will they be?

Stephen, me, my Dad, Amy, and Moses backpacking in Weminuche Wilderness Area.

It’s belated, but Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.  The summer days spent with you, the geology lessons, the jokes and laughs and singing and time you gave me has grounded me for 26 years.  I deeply hope to instill the same passion in Isabella that you have shared with me.  Thank you.

On Double Standards

I don’t like to talk politics for two reasons.  First, it’s just not something I’m super passionate about.  There are many other things I’d prefer to discuss.  Secondly, most of my friends are conservative republicans, and while I describe myself as unaffiliated, I tend to lean to the left.  Sharing my political views has often made me the recipient of scorn, anger, and rejection.  And there are many other things I’d prefer to do than get yelled at because I buy into the whole global warming scam, or whatever.

Today I saw this car parked in a parking lot.
Bumper stickers from left to right read:
“fuck your tea party”
“Your prejudice is your own.  Don’t blame God.”
“GOD is NOT a republican”
“Focus on your own family”
“When do I get to vote on YOUR marriage?”
My point here isn’t to talk about each individual issue.  What stood out to me was the overarching theme and the hypocrisy that’s regarded as acceptable so long as it’s directed at a certain group.
I couldn’t help but put myself in this person’s position and wonder why they feel this way, wonder what he or she might be thinking.   “How dare you tell me how to live my life or try to force your values on my family.  How dare you tell me that your way is better, that it’s the only way.  How dare you tell me how lost I am.”  I get it.  But at the same time they seem to be saying some of the same things.  “Your way is wrong.  My way is right.”  Offering up the reminder, “judge not lest ye be judged” while in the same breath saying “fuck anyone who challenges my point of view,” as our Hyundai Sonata puts it.
What a double standard.  And I’m not just talking about the left or the non-religious, I hear this attitude from conservatives and religious people all the time.  It’s easy to talk about love and tolerance and an open discussion until you’re confronted by the people that you feel hated by, and then it’s ok to retaliate in kind.  But that just doesn’t work.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t stand up for their rights and values and what they believe in.  I’m not saying they don’t have every right to voice their opinions.  But there’s a big difference between respectful political discourse (even when only one party is respectful) and retaliating against those who challenge you.  Look at how Martin Luther King, Jr. did it.  Look at how Ghandi did it.  Look at how Jesus did it.  And then explain why fighting hate with more hate is a better way.
Remember Westboro Baptist Church?  God, I look forward to the day that no one remembers who they are.  I won’t post any pictures of their signs, you can google them if you have to.  Anyway, I remember seeing a news spot about a gay and lesbian rights group that set up a booth across the street from where Westboro was picketing, and they were taking donations to support their cause.  I’ll never forget the guy they interviewed- not just his words but the tone of his voice, the look on his face.  It wasn’t hatred, or anger, neither was it submission or shame.  He didn’t have an unkind word to say about the people who were shouting in the background, he just explained that he was trying to make good out of an ugly situation.  He decided to fight hate with peace, and his organization raised an absurd amount of money that day.
No matter what you believe in, you won’t get anywhere with mere words.  It’s time to start backing them up with actions.  Don’t want to be judged?  Believe everyone has a right to their opinion?  Think everyone has equal value?  Then live it yourself, even- no, especially- when it’s not easy.  As I stated in my last post, the times it’s hardest to stick to your values are the times it’s most important.

On My Worst Moments

I love being a mom.  I really do, but I didn’t at first.  I really struggled for the first 6 months to find an inner peace, a steady place every day, and I often felt overwhelmed and unhappy.  I watched other moms cope with the challenges of a new baby, watched them adapt beautifully (or at least appear to) and wondered, “why is this so hard for me?”  I’ve always felt somehow lacking as a woman and for months, motherhood was another confirmation of my feminine inferiority.  I felt guilty every time someone said to me, “Isn’t it fun?” or “Don’t you love it?” and answered a meek “oh, yeah” but inside felt a resounding “NO!”  I finally decided to drop my pride, ask for help, and be authentic with the people who love me.  I received in return many listening ears, much understanding, and plenty of support.

The last few months have been vastly more enjoyable, ever better and better.  I’m finally feeling that I’m a competent mother, able to handle the many and varied challenges, able to adapt.

I practice what I’ve been calling “intentional parenting.”  It’s the same way I treat Stephen.  We’ve always believed in being intentional with one another, never doing or saying anything casually or thoughtlessly or out of routine, quick to repent when we do, talking about everything, and I’m happy to say it’s given us a rock solid marriage.  I suppose I could call it “intentional relating” just as easily; it simply means I approach every day and every interaction with purpose.


I wake up every morning with the higher calling of not only meeting Isabella’s basic needs- feeding her, clothing her, keeping her safe- but sowing into her heart and spirit the messages and values that Stephen and I have determined are most important.

That she is abundantly loved, of exceptional worth, and highly honored.

That we deeply value her heart, needs, desires, thoughts, and emotions.

That she is strong, beautiful, tender, intelligent, powerful, bold, and capable of doing absolutely anything she sets her mind to.

That Stephen and I are a safe place for her to run to when she’s unsure.

That we deeply value our relationship with her.

I try to give my daughter more than the minimum.  I try to pour everything I have into her, and I truly love doing it.  The things I set aside for her benefit are not even worth mentioning, because she’s worth my time and energy.

I work for this every day, and I’m covered by grace when I fail.  But at nighttime, everything that I value so much during the daylight hours seems to go out the window.  Lack of sleep is like a mental illness for me.  I’m not kidding.  I feel like I turn into a totally different person.

I don’t know (nor do I particularly want to know) if this is normal, but Isabella often wakes up to nurse 3 or 4 times a night.  Even at 9 months old it’s rare for her to make it longer than 5 hours at a time.  I’ll usually get up and nurse her and she’ll fall right back to sleep, no big deal.  But sometimes she just can’t get settled back down, and no matter how many times I bounce her to sleep and set her gently in her crib and pat her back for what feels like an eternity, she just wakes back up and I lose my temper so hard I think I’ll never find it again.  I would never, ever hurt my daughter but I definitely know what it feels like to kind of want to a little tiny bit, in some deep dark corner of my heart.  Instead, I slam doors and stomp around and curse like mad and get so worked up that even when Stephen finally gets her back to sleep I’m too full of adrenaline to get back to sleep.

Then as I lay awake in bed with my heart pounding feeling like a werewolf slowly returning to human form, God speaks to me in a firm but gentle voice.  He reminds me who I am, what He made me for, that I’m better than this.  He reminds me of the commitments I’ve made as a parent, and that I’ll look back at this challenging season as a moment in time, a mere heartbeat in the journey of my child’s life.  And then I remember that every nighttime waking where I respond to Isabella and don’t leave her alone to cry in a dark room, I’ve taken another brick and cemented it into the foundation of her heart, building the knowledge that her needs are important and that Mommy and Daddy are people to be trusted.

And in the morning I apologize to Isabella and ask her forgiveness for losing my temper, for not being gentle and loving and patient with her.  I thank her for being patient with me and giving me grace.  I tell her I’m going to work on this issue in my heart and I tell her how much she means to me.  I know, she’s only 9 months old… that’s why it’s so important I start humbling myself now, while it’s still relatively easy.  We want to cultivate a culture of honor in our home, and it happens day in and day out, over time.  With humility.  With intention.

I’m slowly realizing that the moments it’s hardest to honor and love are the moments it’s most important to do so.  This is how character is built.

Under Pressure

I don’t know what’s gotten into Isabella over the last few days.  She’s barely napped during the day, is difficult to get to sleep in the evening, and is waking up a lot during the night.  Classic teething symptoms aside from there being no sign of teeth emerging.  Anyway, I was trying to put her down for a nap today, she was fighting it and I was getting really frustrated.
We absolutely don’t believe in letting our daughter “cry it out” but sometimes I need to take a couple minutes to regain my composure when she’s having a hard time.  So I put her down in her crib, said “I love you,” and left the room.  I sat down at the dining room table for a minute or two to take a break and tried to breathe deeply.
Isabella’s cries were getting really insistent and I decided not to push it.  If she’s really not ready for a nap, I’m not going to try to force her.  One of the things I’ve learned during the last nine months is that I can’t control my child- or anyone else- no matter how much I want to.
I went in, picked her up, and carried her out of her bedroom and into the living room.  Her room was dark so I couldn’t really see her when I picked her up, but when I got her into the light and looked at her face, I was completely horrified.
Isabella’s cheeks, chin, mouth, hands, and shirt were covered in blood.  The expression on her face was undeniable fear.  I was an absolute disaster… thankfully Stephen was home, he held her while I cleaned her off with a rag and finally managed to pry her mouth open.  The blood was coming from a cut on the inside of her upper lip- probably from her own teeth.  When I went back into her room I found that her comforter was bloody, too.
I feel wretched,  My little girl hurt herself and needed me.  She was crying for me and I couldn’t tell the difference between “I’m frustrated and tired” crying and “I’m hurt and bleeding alone in a dark room please help me” crying.  She didn’t have to wait more than 90 seconds for me… but that’s still a long time for a baby in pain.
I’m thankful she wasn’t seriously hurt, I just hate that she was scared and I didn’t come for her right away.  I hate that when I realized she was bleeding I couldn’t stop freaking out and get my head on straight and do something about it, all I saw was bright red blood all over my baby’s sweet little cheeks.  I just kept saying “oh my god oh my god my little girl, I’m so sorry oh my god,” while Stephen tried to reassure me  (reassure me) that everything was ok.  And it is now… minor injury, minor incident.
But seriously… is this me as a mom under pressure?  I’m terrible at it.

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