Saturday, September 28, 2013

Our IKEA Kitchen- Part II: The Demolition

The first step in getting our new kitchen in, was of course taking the old one out. This sounds like a lot more fun that it is. I was kind of looking forward to beating the crap out of the old ugly kitchen- but all the surprises we ran into kind of rained on the parade.
The thing is, my house was built in 1954, and I'm pretty sure every single owner of it since then (I'm not sure how many there have been, but the wall colors sure have changed a million times, I know that much.) has thought they were really good at DIY projects. Except, they thought wrong because every single professional we've had in here- be it plumbers, electricians, general contractors, etc. has been totally left scratching their heads at what the heck whoever last worked on [insert whatever they're here to fix] last was thinking. Good times.
Several things came up that we really had no way of anticipating until we were well past the point of no return. It was super stressful. Anyone who has ever done a home renovation project knows that "surprise" is synonymous with "unexpected and likely large expense." In our case, we've been lucky enough to- for the most part- have at least one family member proficient in just about every area of construction and home renovation and have been able to remedy most things without totally busting the budget. Our timeline, however, has completely gone out the window. That's been frustrating but I've accepted that it is what it is.
Jon started ripping out the floor first. It was just a blond laminate that was pretty ugly. We found this lovely linoleum straight out of the 70's underneath it. Nest he took off the counter tops, and pulled the lower cabinets away from the wall.
Jon's dad and sister came to our rescue for a weekend to help with this part- and oh man was that appreciated or what! The person who built this kitchen seriously LOVED nails. I mean, he loved nails so much that he probably used approximately eleventy billion more nails than what was actually necessary to mount these cabinets. Getting the upper ones off the walls was tricky. Not to mention the fact that being solid wood they're unreasonably heavy as well.
We discovered all kinds of fun stuff.... like the fact that behind pretty much my ENTIRE lower cabinets, there was no wall. There was a giant flippin hole that they covered by...drumroll please... taping a garbage bag over it! Not kidding. Plus, zero sealing of any kind around the duct work for the vent under the cabinets, no insulation whatsoever. I'm talking hollow shell of a wall, made out of trash bag.
We also had a galvanized pipe that was literally about to corrode through any second, so I'm glad we discovered it BEFORE it sprung a leak. I don't think my basement needs to flood any more times. In fact, I *know* it doesn't, because I might lose my dang mind if it ever does again. We've replaced all the main lines since moving in, and have replaced some of the other plumbing along the way, but this pipe was hidden until everything had come off the wall so we had no way of knowing it needed to be replaced.
We also discovered that a lot of the subflooring was in pretty rough shape- another thing we probably should have anticipated with having an older home, but being newbies to all this, we just didn't.
In addition, the walls behind the existing laminate backsplash were in HORRIBLE condition. Literally, crumbling apart. (probably because the lower half of the wall is missing?) We peeled it off and the wall just kind of started falling apart. It was one of those "uhhh... wasn't expecting THAT." moments.
I reached the point I had to just walk away before I lost my mind. I was having one of those days that everything under the sun made me want to cry (pregnancy is stupid like that) and I was feeling 1. super overwhelmed, and 2. super embarrassed to be so emotional and stupid in front of Jon's family. They probably think I'm a super unstable nutcase.
Once we got it all torn out, my kitchen looked.... well... it looked like a total disaster, because that's EXACTLY what it was. It was dirty, and had holes all over, and smelled funky. I had no idea when we started this project how much work it would really be, or how many surprises would come up- or just how rough of shape it was really in to begin with. This renovation was so much more necessary than I ever realized. I'm glad we discovered these issues before they started really causing problems, though. That's a blessing in disguise- even if I did feel totally overwhelmed the entire time.
But, that was it. Everything was out. There was no going back now. We had surprises, but no choice but to deal with it and carry on. It helped knowing that no matter what I was getting a new kitchen. Staying the way it was wasn't an option, period. At the end of all of it, things were going to get put back together... though I can't even begin to tell you how many times along the way I stood in that room, looking at the chaos and destruction, and wondered if I'd ever be able to make dinner again. Who was gonna clean up this mess, anyway?!

Our IKEA Kitchen- Part I: The Professional Planner

Our IKEA Kitchen- Part III: The Install (Coming Soon....)
Our IKEA Kitchen- Part IV: Customer Service [or lack thereof] (Coming Soon...)
Our IKEA Kitchen- Part V: The Finishing Touches (Coming Soon...)
Our IKEA Kitchen- Part VI: In Summary & Review [A look in retrospect] (Coming Soon...)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

28 weeks. Oh Hello, Third Trimester!

How far along? 28 weeks, third trimester at last!

How big is baby? bigger than last week, that's for dang sure

Total weight gain/loss: -15.

Maternity clothes? Nope. I can still wear all of my longer shirts just fine, and all of my pants fit fine if I just wear them below my belly.

Sleep: Insomnia has crept in full force. I mean I toss, turn, and try to sleep until Jon's alarm goes off at 7am. Then I sleep for about 4 hours. Then I'm tired all day.

Best moment the last two weeks: Hmm. Being in the third trimester is a neat thought- the home stretch! We also started our hypnobabies classes and I'm excited for that, too.

Movement: All the time.

Food cravings: Haven't really been having any the last two weeks. Food is mostly unappealing, and since I have been limited to a microwave for cooking (which, btw, I generally never ever use) while the kitchen is torn apart, things have been kept pretty simple.

Food Aversions: Anything leafy, again.

Gender: Boy. <3

Pregnancy Symptoms: Does being antisocial count? I mean, I'm really not the most social person to begin with but I'm ready to just get rid of my phone altogether so I don't have to keep explaining that I just don't even keep it on me, because I have nothing to say and no one I want to talk to. I'm still battling nausea pretty much every single second of every day, too. I can feel my energy level declining again, but I really think that will improve when I have a kitchen and am preparing more nutritious food again. I'm really repulsed by the amount of fast food we've had to fall back on lately, and I can feel the difference in my body, it's repulsed too.

Belly Button in or out? In

What I miss: Nothing.

What I am looking forward to: December!

Upcoming appointments/events: Next appointment is October 7th.

Milestones: So far: made it through first trimester, had first (and second) ultrasound, and discovered gender, and felt movement, Jon has felt movement from outside, belly popped finally, anatomy scan (went well), being able to see movement, point of viability passed, started birthing classes, started third trimester

Bump Picture: maybe later.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Our IKEA Kitchen- Part I: The Professional Planner

So, in deciding to keep our 1954 rambler for 8-undecided more years, Jon and I agreed that certain renovations just needed to happen. We made a list, gathered our price quotes, prioritized, and got to work. Our modest budget has meant quite a bit of DIY work and getting a little creative with certain things, but all in all I'm pretty pleased with how it's coming together.
A large part of our inside renovation budget went to the kitchen. To make a total gutting of the kitchen even remotely affordable for us at a time that we really should focus on saving, we read all we could about our options. We determined for our budget, wants, needs, and things that were important/ unimportant to us it made sense to go the IKEA route on the cabinets. My former kitchen was simply not functional. I do NOT have a lot of kitchen stuff- at all. In fact, I'm kind of a minimalist when it comes to kitchen gadgets, and even I struggled with the serious lack of storage space. Further, the cabinets just had this weird "old house smell" in them no matter how much I scrubbed them out with everything under the sun. Even Activated charcoal- which will get rotten meat stench out of a storage room (we learned when a freezer full of meat came unplugged...) won't get the weird smell out of the cabinets. Add to it the funky flour storage bins that consumed nearly all of the lower storage space rendering them useless to me, the lack of any kind of pantry, and the oven that worked but had a bad temper and a vendetta against me, and this renovation was simply needed. I needed a functional kitchen. Not necessarily fancy, but functional. It was ugly before, but not so ugly it wasn't tolerable. The lack of function wasn't going to work for me anymore, though.
So, off we embarked on our next project! Let me tell you a little about this experience.
We'd seen good pictures, read good things, and felt confident that this would give our awful 50's kitchen the much-needed face lift we were going for, while not breaking the bank. I'm not one to care about keeping up with the Jones' and was excited to have a new kitchen to prepare meals for my family in- even if nothing was custom or designer. -shrug- It would be an upgrade anyway!
I spent countless hours browsing their catalog, walking their showroom, and making lists of things I liked, didn't like, etc. The project quickly became overwhelming to me. (disclaimer: I'm pretty easily overwhelmed when I'm out of my comfort zone, in all fairness) So many options, and I was having a hard time making sure that my measurements were accurate in the online planner program.
Jon and I decided we would go ahead and hire an IKEA kitchen planner to come out, do measurements, and help us design the layout. It's not that we weren't capable of measuring, but I was worried about messing it up. To me, the security that came from putting the measurements in the hands of the pros, and having a "designer" help with the layout to where we literally just had to push a button to make it spit out our shopping list was going to be completely worth the money spent. Then we'd have the plans to go by, and planned to self-install. Not that Jon and I are super handy- we're not- but we can follow instructions pretty well and though a little nervous, were ready to tackle the project.
This is where it started going wrong.
Our "designer" showed up a few minutes late, which is fine. Things happen. I showed him the kitchen, told him a little bit about what I was thinking as far as layout, etc. I had already filled out the requested worksheet provided, indicating things like my choice of cabinet color, hardware, sink, fixtures, appliances, etc. so he could plug all that into the program.
Before- 1950's Dysfunction
I gave him some space to get the measurements, showed him which appliances were staying and going, and he said he'd set up the bare bones of the room in the program and then we'd lay it all out. I sat in the living room and waited. And waited. An waited. During this time he took several phone calls from other clients which bothered me, because when I pay for someone's time (at over $100/hour, mind you) and am on their schedule, I do expect them to respect the fact they are on MY clock. Mine. My time. That I'm paying for. He also was texting on his phone a ton, and when I walked by a few times noticed he had an instant messaging program open on his laptop and was actively chatting away. At the time I wasn't super angry- as long as he also got the kitchen mapped out it was mission accomplished as far as I was concerned.
When he called me over, I was surprised to see that he already had all the cabinets, drawers, etc. entered- I was also surprised that he didn't really implement a single change I had said I wanted to make. He had pretty much plugged in a new version of the exact same kitchen I had before.
Not only that, but he literally put every single upgrade in every single drawer and cabinet. He had included every fancy storage and organization solution you can imagine- which, neat as they are, I just have no need for all that. Regular shelves and drawers were plenty for me. I don't have a ton of stuff to begin with, so I wasn't concerned with all that. Not to mention the insane cost it added.
Before- 1950's Dysfunction
I requested that we move a few things around and he'd tell me why it wouldn't work that way. Me being the clueless novice, and he being the all-knowing "professional" I accepted his reasoning even though it made little to no sense because I was in way over my head here already. If I have a professional telling me something about a subject I know NOTHING about, and no time to learn, I am really left with no choice but to accept. The layout didn't really disappoint me, I still liked it, I'm not picky, so it was easy to quickly let go of my previous thoughts of what I had wanted. In retrospect, I think he just didn't want to edit/ redo his design. I think he was lazy. I've had a contractor, a few family members (whose opinions I really respect/ trust) tell me that his reasoning was completely bogus and had no base on literally every account. I could have had the layout I wanted. Live and learn.
As we were going through the final plans, just a few moments away from that click that spits out our shopping list, I made a few more requests. I really actually LIKE the side of my fridge exposed. The front isn't magnet and Jon and I use it as a message board of sorts. That's where our family calendar goes, coupons, shopping list, etc. I don't care if the built-in look is higher end or more desirable, I like what is functional for me. Plus, those panels were $170/piece and we'd need two. No need to increase cost where it's not necessary to me. I'm more budget conscious than that even if I DO have the money at hand. I also didn't care to pay the price for all the cabinets and drawers to have the "soft closure" add on. Regular opening and closing is just fine for me. Plus, soft closures would totally kill the dramatic effect that angrily slamming the cabinet gives. :-p (kidding. Kinda) Anyway, never had soft closure cabinets, never wished I had them, never thought about them, so at several bucks per drawer/ door.... I requested those go, too. Also, he had slide-out shelves throughout the pantry. Neat as that is, I just don't need all that and it was a lot of added expense. (think $600 in the case of regular pantry shelves vs. ones that pull out. He had also upgraded my corner cabinets from regular lazy susans to some fancy schmancy contraption that was supposed to "maximize my storage space." I explained to him approximately 8,921,284,248,129,001 times that this new design was already giving me literally four times the storage space I had and that I wasn't overly concerned with storage space, nor did I need all the expensive fancy gadgets designed to make every last square inch usable. I also didn't like the Ikea hardware options, and (as I indicated on that worksheet they so desperately stressed the importance of having done before the appointment) said I planned to get them at another time because I was undecided on style/ color at that point.
Before- Laundry in the kitchen?!
He agreed to take it all off and change it to basics. I left him to do so for the last half hour or so of his time.

It was the end of the 20% off sale. We literally had to order the stuff first thing in the morning to get that deal, and in turn save a very large amount on the materials. So, when he was finished, we went over the changes I had requested, which he lead me to believe had been done, and we submitted the order.
We opted to have IKEA deliver all the parts, because they're about 30 minutes away and it would take multiple trips in the truck- not to mention Jon's already slammed weekday schedule. The fee was reasonable enough to make it worth it. Our kitchen would come in early the next week! Yes! The planning part was done, and though we had a few little hiccups and disappointments, I was still really excited! I wasn't even going to have a washer and dryer in my kitchen anymore- it will be a REAL kitchen! I'm going to have a real laundry room! Oh happy day.
I also had no idea what I was in for. be continued...

Our IKEA Kitchen-Part II: The Demolition (Coming Soon...)
Our IKEA Kitchen- Part III: The Install (Coming Soon....)
Our IKEA Kitchen- Part IV: Customer Service [or lack thereof] (Coming Soon...)
Our IKEA Kitchen- Part V: The Finishing Touches (Coming Soon...)
Our IKEA Kitchen- Part VI: In Summary & Review [A look in retrospect] (Coming Soon...)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

26 weeks!

How far along? 26 weeks

How big is baby? According to Babycenter, he's an eggplant.

Total weight gain/loss: -12. (146)

Maternity clothes? Nope. I can still wear all of my longer shirts just fine, and all of my pants fit fine if I just wear them below my belly.

Sleep: I haven't been sleeping super well, mostly because I have SO much on my mind with all the things going on with our house/ property. I'm confident I can get this back on track after some of these projects are done. Chase gets SUPER busy at 4am every morning, like clockwork and if I'm not awake already, it wakes me up. Unfortunately I've been having night terrors and wake up in a complete panic on a regular basis. Again, probably moreso house stress than anything pregnancy related. :-/

Best moment the last two weeks: Hmm. Honestly? The last two weeks haven't been very good, and with no milestones to report, I'm stumped.

Movement: All the time.

Food cravings: Egg and cheese burritos, with lots of hot sauce.

Food Aversions: Haven't really had any as of late, which is good because I can eat leafy greens again, which I could not for several months.

Gender: Boy. <3

Pregnancy Symptoms: Mostly I just feel really emotionally whacko lately. I'm finding that I'm getting really overwhelmed really easily, which is something I struggle with anyway but moreso now. I'm crying over really stupid things and it's just frustrating. And then I cry because I'm frustrated. Though, I guess in all fairness there is A LOT going on right now, and I think most normal  people would even be a bit frenzied with all the things going terribly wrong.

Belly Button in or out? In

What I miss: Nothing.

What I am looking forward to: Third trimester, which starts next week.

Upcoming appointments/events: Next appointment is September 19, if I remember correctly. I need to double check! We start our Hypnobabies class on the 20th, and we have a forum group coming up this Saturday. I can't believe after my next appointment they move to every other week.

Milestones: So far: made it through first trimester, had first (and second) ultrasound, and discovered gender, and felt movement, Jon has felt movement from outside, belly popped finally, anatomy scan (went well), being able to see movement, point of viability passed.

Bump Picture: 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

When it Rains, it Pours

What a weekend.
Let me admit a few things about myself. Some of which are things I've just accepted are part of what make me me, and some of which are things I am making a conscious effort to work on and improve on a daily basis.
-I'm emotional, and I overwhelm easily. I don't like having a lot of obligations with set times on my agenda, and I don't like to have a lot of things going on at once. I like a slow paced day to day life, with plenty to do, but no harsh deadlines.
-I run hot. I tend to be quick to get frustrated/angry/annoyed at situations (seriously working on this...)
-I have a very difficult time with clutter and chaos. Clutter in my house clutters my brain, it makes it difficult for me to be productive or even think straight. It's a huge stress trigger, I've been known to just shut down and not even know where to start if my surroundings are too cluttered or plain chaotic. (I don't even know HOW to work on this)
-I'm super impatient. (working on it...)
-I really like things to be organized and planned. I can accept changes to the plan, but there always has to BE a plan.
-I too often worry about the acceptance of other people. It really upsets me when people are mad at me, especially people I care about. I also tend to take it too personally. (working on it...)
- I always feel like a huge inconvenience if I need help with anything, and don't like to take up other people's time.
-I'm not comfortable with most people. In fact, I really like to be left alone. Unless you're immediate family. It's not you, it's me. I'm socially inept.
-I'm pregnant, and for some reason, that means that ALL of the above seem to be completely magnified. ALL of them.

Now, knowing all that... let me tell you about my weekend.
 I'm having a really, really hard time with the fact that my dogs are boarding right now, I want them home so badly, but there's just nowhere for them to BE until some of these projects are completed. I feel like a bad breeder, a bad dog owner, a bad everything. I know my employees think I'm terrible for boarding them long-term, and I know they're a pain in the butt because they aren't "kennel dogs"... that's not their lifestyle. They are indoor, family dogs. That's what they're used to. I just feel such a sense of urgency to get them out of there, and so much guilt they are boarding in the first place. Plus, a TON of judgement.
It's really hard with me unable to do a ton of heavy lifting, and Jon working until 7pm most nights to make quick progress. I feel like we are just inching along at a snail's pace.  So, we had to suck it up and hire someone to get our fence done, or it was going to take us a seriously long time. It was supposed to be done this weekend, and ended up getting pushed until Tuesday for... I'm not even sure why. That was disappointing, though.
For the record, when my kitchen looks like this... it really makes me panic inside. 
Jon also took a half day at work Friday to have a few extra hours to work on the kitchen. Seriously, somehow tearing a kitchen apart has a way of putting an entire house into chaos. Jon's dad was awesome enough to come all the way up from Vegas for a day to help us get our teeth into the project. We got
everything ripped out, and ready for installing. Unfortunately, every step of the way things went haywire and we acquired a million little side projects we really had no way of planning on until we had everything taken out. I will do a whole post dedicated to the kitchen when it's done. It won't be done for a while...
So that really set off my stress level. I tried really hard to hold it together but I pretty much felt like I was on the verge of a total breakdown the entire time, every time some new surprise came up... I just wanted to cry. How are we going to deal with all this? I did have to hide in the bathroom and just sob a few times. I told Jon I was making an honest attempt to "hide my crazy" because I didn't want his family to think I'm a total whack job and all unstable and emotional.
After we got our to-do list settled for the next couple of days, and got Chuck and Rachel back on the road, Jon and I sat down to eat some lunch before getting back to work on the kitchen cabinets. We were talking about how much there is to do, and trying to budget our time. My stress level was high, I had done more lifting than I probably should, and having some pretty uncomfortable cramps and light bleeding, and we agreed that I could still help with everything, but I better not lift much anymore. It was nice to take a breather for a minute.
I glanced out the window and noticed some crazy fast moving clouds. I'd never seen anything like it before. Then in a matter of moments it got night-time dark (in the middle of the day) Before we knew it there was a crazy intense storm going on! Out of nowhere! Lightening, thunder, CRAZY wind, total downpour. Our lights were flickering, we were pretty sure they were going to go out. Thunder rolled... and rolled... and rolled... continually. And 30 minutes later it was over.
I didn't realize at the time just how bad it was. CostCo's parking lot was waist-deep in water, people's garages completely flooded several feet, my neighbors bringing buckets of water out of their homes, trees  fallen everywhere, trash, branches, patio furniture in the middle of the streets. I mean, obviously there's been way worse storms other places but for Utah County... it was pretty intense!
I went outside to get our trash cans, which had blown into the middle of the road (thank goodness trash day was yesterday and all the cans on our street were empty!) and that's when I noticed my favorite tree had been a victim of the storm. I was SUPER disappointed. This tree was so pretty- bright purple all summer, huge pink blossoms in the springtime, and just really pretty all year round. Plus, in the perfect spot that provided what little privacy we had to the backyard. It did some shingle and gutter damage to the roof, but nothing major, so we got lucky. It came pretty close. After a few minutes of being super upset over it, I accepted that it just was what it was and we'd deal with it. After all- there were a lot of people in the area in much worse shape. Disappointing, yes. Annoying, yes. Time consuming, yes. But we were all safe.
I looked at Jon, who is completely exhausted, and we accepted that this was another project to add to the list. -sigh- Another surprise. Another disappointment to add to the weekend. Another expense. Another stress. Why was this happening? Didn't God know I really was already at my breaking point for the weekend?!
My mom called to ask if she could borrow something for her California trip, and let me know she was in the area and could just swing by in a few moments to pick it up. I ran to the basement to grab it- and that's when I realized where my basement used to be, was now a swimming pool. Seriously?! Great. Now how in the Hell are we going to deal with THIS too.
Now let me tell you about this basement of mine.
Right after we moved in, the entire living room flooded. It was annoying, but the damage (other than the floor) was minimal, we fixed the problem, installed a while drain system my grandpa designed on that side yard, and it's never been a problem since.
Shortly after, we had a leaky pipe in the bathroom upstairs that made the entire bathroom and hallway downstairs flood. Again, carpet damaged, but we got lucky. Fixed that problem, no issues since.
Last year we had another pipe issue in the kitchen, and that flooded the cold storage room downstairs, all the way through another storage closet, down the hall. A little more damage this time, but nothing beyond repair. We dealt with it, no problems since.
This time it was coming in at the front bedroom. Pretty much the only room that HADN'T flooded before! And it was bad. There was so much water, the shop vac was no match, the carpet was done for. Mitch and Jon pulled it out, and by this time my mom had shown up and came with me to Ruff House to gather as many fans as we possibly could.
At the end of the night, Mitch and Jared, who both have busy lives of their own, families of their own, obligations of their own, were at my house until almost midnight dealing with the fallen tree and getting it cut up and taken out of the yard.
I couldn't be of much help to them, so I just left the house. I needed to just get away from the clutter, chaos, and destruction for a little bit and pretend my world wasn't falling apart. I talked to my sister, possibly had a crying meltdown when she asked me if I was OK. Somehow we got on the topic of peach  shakes from Taco Amigo and I decided I needed one. So I picked up two and headed to her house. I spent some time at Tanya's, and some time with my mom, and at the end of it all, I decided there simply has to be a bigger picture that I can't see right now. There has to be some kind of plan.
One thing is for sure: I'm glad I had no dogs in the yard when that tree went down. With as fast and hard as that storm rolled in, if my yard had been done on time like it was supposed to be, there's a good chance they'd have been out there for the beginning bit of it- which was the harshest part of the wind. I haven't found the possible blessing-in-disguise for the basement flooding, but I have to believe that there is one otherwise I feel too bitter and angry over it.
I'm really not sure how we will manage to deal with all the damages. Our budget is pretty strapped wish all the kitchen surprises, but I have to just trust it will work out, somehow. It just has to.
No matter what, though, I am so thankful for family. Without Chuck's help this weekend, we'd be so lost and confused on this kitchen project. Our lack of know-how would be slowing us down SO much it would never be done. And if Mitch and Jared hadn't selflessly come to help- even at a most inconvenient hour on a Saturday night when they BOTH had a million other things they could be doing for themselves- I'm not sure how long that tree would be sitting on my lawn. If Tanya and my mom hadn't been there for me I'd probably be checking into a crazy house right about now.
It makes me sad for the people who don't have that. What do you do without family? Who can you count on? Who comes to your house at midnight to cut up a tree just because it needs to be done? Who spends the afternoon helping rip out waterlogged, soggy carpet because it it more than a one-man job? Who drives six hours just to help renovate a kitchen without monetary compensation? Who lets you come over at midnight when you're leaving town in a few hours, just because you need to vent, and cry, and maybe hopefully laugh a little? Family. That's who.
Sometimes I look at the amazing people I'm blessed enough to call family and I'm not sure what I could have possibly done to deserve them. I feel often that I have so little to offer in return. They do so much more for Jon and I than we could ever do in return- we just don't have the skill/ know-how.

My point is: despite the overwhelming amount of things that went wrong this weekend, and despite the fact I really quite frankly have NO idea how we are doing to manage to remedy them all... it's OK. Because at the end of the day, even when it pours, we've got an amazing family to dance in the rain with. What more could we want?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Modesty, Slut Shaming, and Accountability.

Hello, huge reader base that I do not have! Ok, more accurately, hi, Tanya.

Trending this week on Facebook is one mom's blog post aimed at teenage girls. It's been shared, posted, and reposted a million times. I read it after seeing it for the millionth time, and while I completely agree with most of her thoughts, something about it super irked me and I couldn't quite put my finger on what, but I figured it out.
You can read the original post here.
Modesty. It's a choice I have made in my own personal life, for my own personal reasons. As a happily married woman, my body is in fact shared with my husband, and not the world because that's the choice that is right for me. I'd feel silly posting half naked photos of myself on the internet- not to mention the fact that no one wants to see that. Trust me. Other women might make other choices, for a whole array of other reasons... and at the end of the day, it's not for me to judge them. I do think a lot of it stems from insecurity, and vying for compliments and attention from whomever will give it to them. I only think this because I personally have been guilty of this in a past life, and that's why. Looking back, I feel silly over the types of pictures of myself I had on my old Facebook account. But, like I said. Past lifetime. Maybe some women post racy pictures because they simply look damn good and want to show it off! Whatever their reason- it's their reason, and their life, not mine.
But at the end of the day, who defines modesty? What, exactly, is a modest appearance? In some cultures, the simple act of women wearing pants is incredibly immodest. In some countries, women go topless and no one bats an eye. American culture is so sexualized... what is and isn't modest is simply a matter of opinion. I am a DD cup size, I'd have to wear turtlenecks to avoid any hint of cleavage on a daily basis. Am I immodest for not doing so? Heck. I skip a bra half the time, (sorry world, I don't really 'do' pain and discomfort in the name of fashion) does having nipples make me immodest?
Today, I stumbled across a response blog post. And it made me realize what it was about the first one that bothered me so much.
You can read the response post here. 
Accountability. That's what the first post forgot. At the end of the day, no matter what the teenage girls are wearing, those boys are still accountable for their thoughts and actions. You can not hide your children from the world. I say this as someone who DOES believe in a clear cut right and wrong in most cases. But I do not believe in imposing MY idea of right and wrong on the lives of everyone around me.
I've noticed this trend, particularly in Christian (and especially UTAH Mormon) culture, of blaming the girls for the boy's thoughts and actions. Let me be clear, I DO intend to raise my daughters with a sense of modesty, to help them understand the messages that they might be sending with how they dress and present themselves, because that is what I believe in. But never would I raise my sons to believe that a female who dresses a certain way does not deserve every ounce of their respect as any other.
Boys and men are not a poor defenseless species unable to be held accountable for their own thoughts and actions. Women's bodies are sexualized for marketing left and right. You can not turn on a TV, walk through a shopping mall, drive down the freeway, or really even step out your front door without seeing examples of it anymore. I'm not saying that makes it ok, but what I'm saying is rather than attempting the impossible task of making sure your boys are never, ever exposed to a revealing photo of the female body, perhaps parents should spend more time teaching their sons the reasons that some women might make those choices, and that how a woman dresses is no excuse to objectify her. I hope that Chase will be respectful of ALL women, not just those who make choices that are directly in line with his beliefs.
Shame. I can't help but wonder, when we make such accusations (girls being held responsible for the thoughts and actions of boys...) what messages we are sending. Body shaming is a huge problem in our culture right now. As if there weren't enough women facing body image issues, now we are praised for teaching our girls that any female who shows more of her body than we deem appropriate is a "slut" "skank" "whore" etc. Then proceed to encourage them to cover up, head to toe, that our bodies are something to be ashamed of. We raise our men to think that any woman exposing whatever we have deemed to be "too much" skin is some kind of tramp that is not deserving of their respect, or even their civil attention. I like to think there's a happy medium. I like to think that it's possible to raise girls with a sense of modesty, whatever that word means in your home, AND possible to raise boys who are still respectful of women who might make different choices, who are accountable for their own actions. We see it all the time in the news, "female assaulted/ raped/ etc. while walking home" and then the comments pour in... "She had it coming, her skirt is too short." "Maybe if she didn't want it she should have covered up." "If she had just covered up it wouldn't have happened." It is disgusting that our culture holds one accountable for another's actions... as if the male involved had no choice. Pathetic. Disgusting.
MY OPINION is that bodies aren't something to be ashamed of, and every inch does not need to be objectified and sexualized to the point men are given a "free pass" to lose control at a moment's glimpse of too much skin. Give your sons more credit than that. Raise them to be accountable for themselves. You do not have to AGREE with someone's choices to accept their right to make them. You can raise your children with whatever set of moral and religious values you want, without teaching them to shame others who think/believe/feel/act differently.

Look at our world today. Look at the war, the destruction, the hate, the crime. Look at all the hurt caused, the lives taken too soon, the violence. At the end of the day, can't you just smile and nod at the woman walking down the street, no matter how tight her top is, or how short her skirt is, without worrying that your sons are going to loose all self control? She's a person. Just like you. And do we really need more negative energy to go around? Why does HAVING moral and religious beliefs give people a free pass to push them onto everyone else. Free agency. We all have it. In fact, from a religious standpoint- it's a key element to this whole plan. So why then can we simply not live and let live when others actually choose to use theirs?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The best weekend in Hell EVER!

Finally, eight years after she moved there, I made the trek to Texas (which I often refer to as Hell. Hence the title.) to visit my sister and her family this last week! I've been meaning to go for so long but life always got in the way... as it has tendency to do with many things. I'm so glad I was able to make it work, because I really had one of the best weekends I have in a really, really long time. Let me tell you the ways.
Well, first of all, have you ever been to Texas? It's a lot like Hell, only wetter. Our plane landed at midnight and it was still hot. Like, really damn hot. Whatever little breeze may have gone by wasn't even refreshing. In fact, it was hardly even a "breeze".... it felt more like a flame thrower launching fireballs at your face and hitting you every single time. How people actually LIVE in places with weather like that I'm not really sure, but I much prefer more mild weather. I don't handle heat or humidity super well, and I was worried I'd end up just being sick all weekend but luckily that wasn't the case thanks to air conditioning. It was nice to finally see her house, which is beautiful and fully equipped with a time capsule. (OK, so really it's a bathroom that has all the decor from our old house in California in it... but being in there is like stepping back in time, so I call it the time capsule.)
Aside from it being Labor Day weekend, Monday was also Shelly's birthday, so we made the whole weekend a celebration. My niece, Lexi, was so cute and had so much fun picking out cakes (yes. Plural. We bought two. And a bucket of ice cream. Don't judge.) and balloons and flowers for her mommy's birthday. And I'm pretty sure we sang happy birthday 500 times over the weekend. In fact, Lexi sang to all of us, all weekend. She is getting so big, it's hard only seeing them once or twice a year because each time the little ones are whole new people! She had songs about turtles, and big blue whales, and an alligator that snatches monkies from a tree, and bumble bees. So. Many. Songs. Each one cuter than the next. Breken, only being a few months old, didn't say or do too much this weekend, mostly just looked really cute and pooped on grandma a few times. You know, things babies do. :-)
My sister's husband, Nathan, is a police officer in San Antonio and works a lot. Especially because of the holiday weekend and being on drunk duty patrol his shifts were long and exhausting so unfortunately we didn't get to see a whole lot of him, but my mom and I still had a complete blast with my sister and her two little ones. It was a great 'girl's weekend' to say the least. SO many laughs, and so many memories made. Delicious food. The best company. It really was a weekend made up of the things in life worth living for.
The weekend came to an end and Mom and I flew back to Utah last night. It is always so hard saying "see you later" but hopefully someday Shelly and Nathan will move and be Utards with us, and the last piece of the puzzle will be in place to have the whole family together. I can't think of a single thing that would make me happier! Until then, we will get visits in when we can.

As I watched my sister and her kids this weekend, and watched my mom helping her own daughter so happily in the kitchen, I couldn't help but to once again feel overwhelmingly thankful for the family I have. I can't imagine a life without them. I am preparing to embark on my own journey through motherhood, and I'm certain I will get a lot of things "wrong" but I feel so lucky to have these examples of strong beautiful women around me, who are such good representations of the kind of wife and mother I truly aspire to be. The quality of role models that my children will have in their extended family- aunts, uncles, grandparents- is such a blessing.