Monday, November 24, 2014

A Month of Gratitude

For the month of November, I have participated in the 30 days of thanks, posting each day something I am thankful for. The month isn't over yet, so not all of these have made it on my wall, and I will continue to do so through the end of the month, but I wanted to compile my list here, too. I think it's important to reflect on the things we are thankful for on a regular basis. I know that literally counting and listing my blessings, naming them one by one as the song goes, has helped me get back to a positive outlook on more than one occasion.

I am guilty of falling into negative thoughts fairly easily. I sometimes get bitter than Jon is away so much when really I should be thankful he has a job and is so willing to work hard to support us. I sometimes get overwhelmed at the task of unpacking and moving back into our home when really I should be expressing gratitude that we have everything we need AND a place to call home. I sometimes feel angry at the NICU related bills that have flooded our mailbox this year, when really I am so thankful for my little miracle boy. Negative thoughts come easy to me, I am not an optimist by nature and it's something within myself that I have to constantly work on.
Day 1: I am thankful for my affection and passion for dogs. It is through that interest that I have met some if my dearest friends in my adult life. My dogs, particularly the Danes, have brought me in contact with some pretty incredible people. From the breeders who have helped me along the way, to the ones I've simply looked up to from afar, to the people we have placed puppies with, to enthusiasts of other breeds. When I rattle through the list of "folks I like a lot" aside from family, nearly ALL of them I met because of a common love of canines. It's been a blessing in my life, no doubt. The dog community can be brutal. Nasty. Judgemental. But for me, it's brought precious gems into my life I can't imagine being without. New friendships and old, they wouldn't be mine without that common ground. For someone who has a pretty tough time relating to people, that's priceless. 

Day 2: I am thankful for modern technology that make fulfilling my designated role in our family easier. I can't imagine doing my mountains of laundry by hand all the time, and am even spoiled enough to not be able to imagine life without a dishwasher. These seem like such simple things, and in today's world are, but I'm thankful they allow me to spend more time doing things I love. 
Confession: I enjoy doing laundry.

Day 3: I am thankful for Ben & Jerry's cake batter ice cream. And that's all I've got to say about that.

Day 4: I'm thankful for my house. It isn't anything special. It's old, it needs a lot of work, but it's home. It's where I put my son to sleep each night, it's where my family comes together each night to recharge to face the world again tomorrow. It is my safe zone, my space. I'm thankful for these old walls.

Day 5: I'm thankful for Jon's job. Not only for the obvious income it provides, but that he's actually doing something he really enjoys and the flexibility it has given him. I was skeptical to say the least when he took the job but remained supportive. I am thankful that in the economy we have, he has been able to move forward and up in his career path.

Day 6: I am thankful for good music that helps me get my butt in gear and be productive when really all I want to do is lay on the couch and watch chickens explore the back yard. Kenny chesney and blake shelton will get me through this just-wanna-be-lazy day.

Day 7: I am thankful for my car, I can not imagine not having my own reliable transportation and truthfully have never had that inconvenience in my adult life. 

Day 8: I am thankful for my property. It's not much, just a 1/4 acre corner postage stamp smack in the middle of town, but it is ours. We have molded it into what works for us: a yard for the dogs, a chicken run, a yard for us, a big garden. we grow our food on this property. We make memories here. We are raising our family, two legged and four legged alike. In a world so many live without even a roof over their head I recognized how blessed to have that AND ground to use.

Day 9: I am thankful to live in the proximity to my family that we do. I do not love Utah County. Heck, I do not love Utah... , but for as long as family is here, this is home and I embrace it. (though I can not deny a chunk of my heart will always long for N. Idaho. 

Day 10: I am thankful for my chickens! Entertainment and eggs. Though... one is a rooster and soon I will indeed rip his head off when he starts making noise. But don't let that fool you, I like him.

Day 11: I am thankful for my bed, and the mere fact that I am blessed and lucky enough to have a safe cozy place to sleep each night. 

Day 12: I am thankful for Facebook and how easy it makes it to keep contact with our Dane family. I love to watch them settle into their families and be adored and loved. 

Day 13: I'm thankful for my holiday decorations and the simple joy they bring to my home. 

Day 14: I am thankful for my genuine love of cooking. Even if I didn't love it, I would still prepare healthy meals to nourish my family but it's quite convenient that I enjoy it so much. Even if I'm not great at it. 

Day 15: I am thankful for soft water. Perhaps it falls under the category of simple pleasures but it's something I appreciate. And so does my hair. And my plumbing. And my appliances.

Day 16: I am thankful to live in a place that going to church is as simple as walking less than a block, where many travel great distances every Sunday.

Day 17: in light of World Prematurity Day, I am thankful for the team of NICU nurses, doctors, and specialists that kept Chase safe and progressing during our two month stay last year. 

Day 18: I'm thankful to have incredible examples of motherhood around me, and to call so many of them family. Spent the day with Tanya, Grandma, and Sharlyn yesterday doing nothing important or exciting and yet, it was a great day. They are just three of the many amazing women in my life but quality time with them makes ME a better wife and mother, and I am thankful for that. 

Day 19: I am thankful for Tide. Yup. Tide.

Day 20: Jon asked me to make a wishlist on Amazon for Christmas shopping. I'm sitting here and truthfully.... there's not one thing I need. I'm in purging mode, getting rid of things left and right and I just have no need or want for anything. I am thankful to have the things I need to adequately care for my family in a time many do not. 
Well. Except I can always use more cloth diapers for Chase, right?

Day 21: I'm thankful to have the family that I do. It's special. Yes, we get angry sometimes and have small disagreements but never in my lifetime has there been a family feud. We don't stop talking to each other, or pick sides, or get ugly with one another. I thought family drama was something in movies until I realized how very special it is that not once has mine ever turned their backs on one another over a disagreement. Ever. 
Family is all you can truly rely on and I can't think of a better one to be a part of.

Day 22: our economy is not so hot lately. I'm thankful for Jon's jobs. Sometimes I get grumpy because he's gone so much but truthfully I recognized how blessed that he even has not one but two jobs to help support our little family.

Day 23: I am thankful for delicious home cooked food. We had Thanksgiving dinner as a family last night at my Grandma's last night, and I can't help but think my family's food is just a little more delicious than everyone else's. Ok, a lot.

Day 24: as we go into Thanksgiving week I can't help but feel it appropriate to recognize some of the absolute MOST important people in my life. 
Starting with my husband Jon. I don't know how I got so lucky to have the unconditional love of such a respectable, amazing man. I met Jon at a turning point in my life, and he accepted me and my past without judgement. Even from the beginning before we had the history to hold us together he was patient while I pieced my life back together. Every single day he makes me want to be a better person and doesn't give up on me when I make mistakes. Our marriage has been through more bumps than anyone realizes and I'm convinced that together we can get through absolutely anything. Of all the things in this world, of all the things I have listed this month, there is nothing I am more thankful for than the dedication of my eternal companion. I love you, Jonathan Lanman.

Day 25: Over the course of this week I'm recognizing with gratitude some of the people in my life that have been most influential to me. I can not dream up a better mother if I tried. When I think of all I put my mother through, it is truly a wonder how she managed to not ever give up on me. She's been through more than anyone I know, and is one of the strongest, most beautiful women inside and out than I've ever met. We did not always have a close relationship, and it makes me sad to think of the years I missed out on that because of my own selfishness and attitude. But now, she's truly one of my very best friends and there's few people whose company I enjoy so much. 

Day 26: I can not even put into words how much I love my siblings. I am thankful for the role they have played in my life, and I am endlessly thankful for the friendships I have with them now. When I hear of people who "haven't spoken to their brother(s)/sister(s) in years" it truly boggles my mind. We've been through some pretty tough stuff together, but even in my darkest days I've ALWAYS known I could count on these three incredible people. And it's not just a generic "yay for siblings" I am thankful to have the EXACT ones I do.
Tanya, is undoubtedly one of the most giving people on this planet. Her generosity and willingness to serve those around her is inspirational. Her home is bursting with love and you can truly FEEL it when you walk in the door. She's one of very few people who asks how you're doing, and genuinely cares to hear the answer. I aspire to be a little more like her. 

Shelly embodies nearly every trait I wish to foster in myself. I watch in awe as she stands strong for her family. I don't know how she does it with such little help and so far away. She's an amazing wife, mother, and friend to all those around her. So very talented, and so beautiful in so many ways. I have always admired and looked up to her, even as a kid but moreso now. 
Mitch will never know what an anchor he is in my life. Even when I was the screwed up teenager I was, I could always turn to my big brother. Now in my adult life, when things go wrong or we need help with something he's one of the first people I can call. I'm so thankful for his influence, I'm thankful that he's always been so honest with me, he can tell it to me like it is and I still know he loves me. Yes, I am thankful for my brother. 

Day 27: Happy Thanksgiving. As I reflect on the meaning of this lifetime, and our purpose here, my heart is filled with gratitude for perhaps the MOST consistent positive influence in my life: my grandparents. He's not with my family in the flesh today, but I know Grandpa Albert is so very close, and I am so thankful to have my sweet Grandma here with us still. When I think of my most cherished memories growing up, they are right there in the middle of them all. Oh how I always looked forward to Summertime when we would spend weeks and months at a time with them, I will never forget the excitement I felt when I'd be sitting in class and hear the recognizable horn of the motor home as they'd roll past, letting us know they were here, and we'd literally run the whole mile home to see them after school. When my life his ROCK BOTTOM in 2009, I showed up on their doorstep after years of pushing them away, drinking, substance abuse, promiscuity, and do you know what they did? They took me in. They lifted me up. They opened their home and hearts to me and helped me rebuild myself and my life. I knew they would, I knew I could count on them. They're just that kind of people. Albert and Billie don't just believe in the gospel, they live it. Their marriage is beautiful, and such a shining example to everyone around them. I have absolutely no doubt that my life would be nowhere near as joyful as it is without their guidance, example, and love. 

Day 28: It's no secret, family is so important to me. I am so blessed. I am thankful that after three years of trying, we were blessed with our little Chase. What an incredible little boy. No doubt he was meant to be ours. this little boy has filled our home, hearts, and lives with so much joy. I don't know what I could have possibly done to deserve him but dangit, I am thankful. He's beaten the odds more than once and has proven to be so very strong. I can't imagine life without my little buddy. 

Day 29: I am thankful for my knowledge of the gospel. I don't know how people manage to keep a positive outlook or cope with loss without it. It has been hard this year, dealing with the loss of Albert, the cornerstone to our family, and the only thing that has made it even kind of bearable is knowing without any doubt that I will indeed see him again, him and everyone else that has gone before me. I am thankful to know of the Plan of Salvation. Knowing my purpose here on Earth, and knowing the things I need to do brings me comfort and security. 

Day 30: I am thankful for the employees at Ruff House, for being honest, hard workers and making it the place that it is. I watch closer than any of them may think, and am constantly impressed by their dedication to those dogs. I know when I leave my own dogs there, they are in good hands and that is a priceless comfort to have! I appreciate each and every one of them for their hard work, and I recognize that without a fantastic staff, I would not be able to be home and present for my family. I am not the best business owner, oh no, not by a long shot. I have so much to learn still, always room for improvement no doubt. I'm thankful for their patience with me. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wrestling Alligators

I wish I had more confidence. I wish I wasn't so socially inept and could actually make friends and relate to people. I wish it were that simple. It doesn't make sense to me. It's not logical. I don't like it. I know deep down I am just as good as anyone else. I know that this is MY problem, not everyone else's.
The thing is, I truly could sit here and list off a million things I genuinely like about myself. I think I'm a good person. Sure, there have been chapters of my life I am less than proud of, and choices that I would like to forget I ever made. But, the person I am today, though I am not without flaws, I believe is a pretty darn good person. I am a good wife, a good mother, and a good friend. I have many good qualities about me.
I don't know why I struggle so much with my own self confidence. I don't know why these feelings of "not good enough" take over in so many social situations. I had two experiences yesterday with feeling unreasonably small.
The first was in CostCo. I spotted in line a local mama that I have been Facebook friends with for about a year now. Our babies were in the same NICU and we connected in a group of preemie moms. I've watched her darling little boy grow up through pictures. I can relate so much to her story, we've fought many of the same battles. She is kind, her family is beautiful. We've never met in person. The idea of approaching her was instantly paralyzing. And there was my mom, "Go say hi! Go introduce yourself!" As if it were that simple. The mere idea made my stomach turn, created a lump in my throat that could not be swallowed. Why? I don't know. I really don't know.
The second was at Buckle. I've coveted their jeans for a solid eight years. I went in to try some on. For some reason in a high end store, surrounded by beautiful people, there I was shrinking. Smaller. Smaller. Smaller. Everyone was so nice. I got no rude glares. No stares. No comments. No one treated me poorly, no one was unwelcoming. And yet, I could not shake this feeling that I didn't belong, that I was not good enough or didn't deserve these beautiful, well made clothes. The lady helping me was nice as could be, and full of compliments. Genuine compliments. Why then I stood in the dressing room, fighting tears and wrestling with the idea that I did not belong there, I don't know. There I stood, slipping effortlessly the smallest size that the store carried, watching as they easily slipped over my slim thighs, buttoning with ease around my hips and flat belly.... and yet, in my mind, I was the 250lb obese woman getting mocked and ridiculed and told I can't try on clothes because my fat body might ruin them in a clothing store in India. I go back to that humiliation every. single. time. And it's not just clothes shopping, I go back to being that person in all social settings.
At church, I go back to being that black sheep, feeling like everyone knows my past. I go back to feeling like I don't belong, like I'm not good enough, like everyone knows my deepest secrets. I go back to being 16 and sitting in the pew wondering WHY I couldn't stay on track, WHY did I make the same mistakes over and over? I wanted to do good, why was that so hard for me? I could feel the stares of my peers on me, as if they were wondering why I was even there. They knew. I had a reputation. One I had earned. I didn't belong at church. Now, ten years later, I still battle those feelings. I made my peace. I made it worthily to the temple with my husband. And yet, I wrestle that alligator every Sunday morning. Palms sweating, I walk to church. I sit in the back. Everyone is so nice. And yet... I don't belong.
I look at these groups of moms connecting, having play day dates, doing things that I WANT to do. I watch as friendships build around me knowing that I only have myself to blame for not fitting in. Knowing that if I could get past my absolutely baseless fears I could have that too. I could have play dates. I could have friends. I could do that. If I could bring myself to not be so weird.
I am not sure why social anxiety plagues every corner of my life. I am not sure how to overcome this. I am not sure how to make friends, or how to stop feeling not good enough. I AM good enough. I know that. I just don't know how to LIVE that. How to let that worthiness bleed into my image of myself. I don't know how to let that belief apply to my day-to-day life and become the confidence I so desperately want it to be. I don't know how to stop FEELING like the weird, ugly middle school kid with frizzy hair. I don't know how to stop feeling like the promiscuous teenager desperately seeking validation. I don't know how to stop feeling like the obese young adult trying to be invisible. That's NOT who I am, but it's who I feel like.
I don't know how to stop wrestling the same alligators every day.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Just Shut Up, Mr. President

I will preface this with a disclaimer. I know right now it's all the rage to embrace everyone for every single decision they make and to actually have an opinion on right and wrong makes me a straight up first class jackass. The thing is... I do believe most cases come with a pretty clear cut right and wrong,  or at the very least obvious superior choices, so I am fully loaded with opinions on pretty much everything whether I am entitled to them or not.
Also, I think Obama is an idiot with an agenda against the family unit, possessing no moral compass or common sense, and undoubtedly the most un American president in the history of this country.
Also, I hate the current feminism movement. War on women? How about war on family, folks.
So, there's also that. But at least my general bias is out in the open.

In a speech this week, he gave us this lovely gem:

"And sometimes someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay at home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make."
The speech in its entirety was a fairly pointless ramble about child care costs and how women are forced to leave the work force and how dare we make women choose between a lucrative career and actually *gasp* being mothers. Ladies can have it all! And apparently should. Or something.

"He's totally not saying women shouldn't stay home and raise babies, he's saying they shouldn't have to choose."
On the surface, this annoys me. Life is about making choices. Here's the thing: you aren't entitled to the fruits of another person's labors. If a woman leaves the workforce to raise babies for 18, 20, 30 years be it because she WANTS to, or has no choice, her value in a professional capacity goes down. It's a natural consequence of her choice. This notion that she should be able to jump back into the game with the same wage/ salary as her peers who have years or even decades of experience is pure hogwash. Women who have less years invested in a company SHOULD make less money than those who have put in the time. You know what also makes an employee more valuable? Experience. Flexibility. An open schedule. NOT having to call out of work because your kids have an appointment/ need a ride/ are sick/ don't have a babysitter. These are consequences of parenthood that tend to fall more on mothers than fathers (obviously as with everything there are exceptions) that make mothers as a whole less valuable employees than their childless peers. It's reality, and it's OK.
But let's force companies to pay everyone the same, regardless of what they have to offer the company because it makes us feel warm and fuzzy and then watch as we all go out of business for being idiots and then wonder why it happened. This simply does not work applied to real life. Women (and men) can NOT have it all. We all have to make choices, some out of preference and some out of necessity but in the end it's the same.

"Child care is too expensive."
Child care SHOULD be expensive. It's hard work and it one of the most important jobs in the world. It shouldn't be cheap and it shouldn't be subsidized by the government, even a little bit. The government didn't make you get pregnant. Your choices did. -Unless of course the objective here is to make it easy to ignore the importance of the family unit and how literally EVERYTHING becomes more complicated and/ or goes to Hell when we make choices that clearly go against that. Oh, wait..... 21

"But women should better themselves through education and career and staying home is a waste of their talents and skills and they will never reach their full potential sitting around raising kids!"
If you believe this, there is simply no hope for you. I can't even entertain it with a response other than expressing a genuine hope that these people don't ever reproduce if they place that little value in parenthood. How sad.

Our choices have consequences. Some positive. Some negative. Some both. That's just the reality of this little thing called life. LIFE. That thing we all live that is one big decision-making fest.
Sure, I have an opinion on what mothers SHOULD do, but I have an even stronger opinion on that fact that she should own the consequences of whatever she decides.

And I can't miss the opportunity to shine a light on how incredibly well the family unit as designed by God works. I believe The Family: A Proclamation to the World is the single most valuable piece of literature pertaining to our salvation second only to the Book of Mormon and Holy Bible (which work hand in hand, contrary to popular belief) You do NOT have to be LDS to appreciate the words that so clearly lay out God's intention for women as mothers and men as fathers. Indeed, when we live our lives in a way that applies these principles many of these problems- childcare costs, pay inequality, the imaginary war on women, government assistance programs- they all become nearly irrelevant. Within his structure it clearly states "Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation." What gets dangerous, is when we start laying out exceptions not based on disability, death, or other circumstances which may be out of our control, but rather to accommodate people's choices. Because we live in a society that likes to think that no matter what we choose for ourselves, other people should pick up the slack and accommodate us because LOVE, EQUALITY, PEACE. Stupid.

I could really go on and on but I won't. DO I think working moms are bad moms? Hell. No. Some of the best. It's not that black and white. Do I think when at all POSSIBLE women should stay at home with their babies, even if it means making huge lifestyle sacrifices and giving up an enjoyable career? I absolutely, positively do. Hands down. 100% of the time. Does it annoy me to no end to hear how moms "have to work" because they "just can't afford not to" because they really "need the money to pay the bills and get by" and they could "not even survive on their husband's salary." YES. Because 99.9% of the time it's simply not true, they just want to believe that it is to justify decisions. If you have more than one modest economy car, go on vacation, own recreational toys, have the latest technology gadget, buy designer clothes, accessories, toys, etc.... congratulations, you are working to support a lifestyle, not to survive. Kindly stop fooling yourself.