Tuesday, October 30, 2012

One Thousand Gifts

I've been wondering when...if I would return to my blog posting.  I like it because I use it to keep up a journaling of our family and what happens.  I've had a rough year, the worst in my life, thank you very much!  I have been thinking it might be too hard to go back to anything I did pre-March 2012...I've discovered everything I did before that time has become "contaminated" (Do I sound like I've been "shrinked?" ) to return to just yet.  Yeah, so my life was and is contaminated and many memories and activities bring up anxious feelings of dread and pain so I had decided to stay away from them, including blogging.

However, my awesome, amazing, fabulous, and beautiful sister-in-law, Sheri changed my mind by recommending a book and blog that has been a game changer for me...or at least I hope it will be.  The book is called One Thousand Gifts/A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp.  First of all, this woman can write with passion and soul!  There's nothing I love more than words used beautifully...hers paint pictures truly!  Her words drew me in right away.  Second, I feel much like the author felt when she began her "dare."  I feel drained, sucked completely dry of anything happy, like I have been carrying this huge burden of sadness, grief and depression around for so long that I'm sagging.  And to be honest I'm tired of it.  So.Very.Tired.

I will go into more detail about the book in later posts as I read further along and make my own discoveries.  But for now, I will just share what the "dare" was.  It was to make a list of one thousand gifts or blessings that she noticed in her life.  I have always loved the idea of gratitude journals but have never kept one for long.  The author suggested that by doing this long-term she is, "hammering in nails to pound out nails, ugly nails that Satan has pierced through the world," and her heart.  Nails through the world and my heart?  Sounds accurate enough. 

So I begin my own "One Thousand Gifts."  Ms. Voskamp keeps a pen and paper with her all the time and also a camera to take photos of her gifts if prompted.  I will attempt to do the same, but expect it will be difficult.  I've found since I started, it is difficult to always be in the frame of mind of "gratitude," especially with what I've been dealt this year.  My goal is to continue my gift record until gratitude becomes easier...even thoughtless.  And I will keep my "official record" here and update it every week. 

1.  Autumn leaves blowing in the wind.

2.  My electric blanket and how it keeps my forever cold feet warm while I'm in bed, even if M is gone.
3.  The funny way my Dad talks.  How he loves to bring laughter to people.
4.  How listening to certain songs can stir remarkable emotion.
5. Smelling things and liking it.  I spent 20+ weeks in a state where any smell would make me instantly throw up, gag or cause unmeasured anxiety.  If being able to smell things like a normal human being isn't a gift, I don't know what is!
6.  A perfect shade of blue sky.  The autumnal kind that comes in early Fall.  The one that makes you stop and inhale.
7.  Medications...yes, this is the place I am right now.  I am on medications to regulate this and stop that and allow me to do this.  It's humbling to need them, have them and use them.  In another time or place I might be a lot worse off.
8.  Isaac insisting that I wave to him every morning as he is driven away on the school bus.  He reminds me every time.
9.  Olivia wanting to go to breakfast every Wednesday morning to be with ME.
10.  "Owl City" songs that can almost always lighten my mood and make me smile.
11.  The cat Tinker laying on her back, arms folded into a pose mimicking a bear or rabbit, eyes closed denoting complete comfort and relaxation.
12.  Walking into the elementary school where my children have been going for 12 years and smelling the smells that go along with children and hearing the soft talking that goes along with learning.
12.  Isaac's art posted in the hallways of his school and me getting to look at it in the quiet hallways, alone, smile on my face, feeling unbelievable love.

13.  A young girl who, though not of our faith, encourages my Son to go to church and seminary...hoping it will lighten him.

14.  Isaac's face changing expressions of emotion as he watches "Spongebob" on TV, unaware of anyone watching.
15.  A daughter who never has a desire or inkling to be or dress immodest, and her quiet confidence in her choices.
16.  LOL cats.  I can't help it, they always make me laugh! 
17.  Watching Livi walk deliberately and unhaultingly into school, head held high, shoulders pressed down by the weight of 4 large heavy books in her backpack, knowing she's READY...driven, ever driven like her father.
18.  Low blood pressure readings, after a couple of scary months when doctors couldn't explain the spikes and indiscrepancies.
19.  Oldest Son's first boutonniere from his first dance hanging on my jewelry tree, reminding me he's not so little anymore.
20.  That clean house smell...work completed.
21.  The perfect Autumn fingernail shade reminding me of pumpkins, leaves and warmth.
22.  The soft sound and light flicker of the TV from downstairs at one am.  Martin working late again, but always, always there.

23.  My Dad...remembering holding his hand all calloused and rough from hard work and me knowing he still has time for me.  His hand firm, tight and warm.
24.  A sweet, kind voice of a Medical Assistant turned friend who dared to love a flawed patient who probably complains too much, too often. She shows it...shows love every time.
25.  Steps sounding on the porch and the rattling of a key in the door...it's 2:35, and my kids are arriving home from school!

26.  A beautiful color of orchid I've never seen.

27.  Olivia getting ready to dance.

28.  My Mom talking and comforting me when I'm 19 and I am missing my best friend.
29.  My favorite scarf a dear friend gave me.  I wear it and think of her still.

I'll be adding more later.  My goal is 1000 listed by Christmas.  We'll see how that goes!

Until later.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Our Winter Goings On

We've had a fairly eventful Winter.  By eventful, for me, I mean stressful.  The kids have had a great time.  While I've been rushing around trying to get all the paper work in to finalize the adoption process and begin the long wait, I've also been rushing the kids to and from everywhere you could possibly imagine (including Maple Valley and I hate Maple Valley, sorry to all my MV friends).  Older kids=mom changes from caregiver to chauffeur...not a fan, NOT a fan.  Martin has also been busier at work (if possible) than I've ever seen him.  He's really trying to climb that managerial ladder!

Alex finished Drivers Ed. right before Christmas break which is a huge blessing because that was getting severely old.  He's a good driver, cautious, courteous, watchful..... FAST.   He is his Dad's son.  He aced his written test and now we just have to wait until a little past his birthday until he can go get legal.  Can I just tell you how nice it will be to have someone else drive to the store or drop off his siblings somewhere?

We had an ice storm which rendered the city and surrounding areas without power for anywhere from 2 to 10 days.  It reminds me of the week we were out of power in 2007, but I digress.  We've never had ice like this.  The roads were seriously scary, not just, "Ha-ha, Seattle drivers are so weird about driving in the snow," (although there is always an element of that), but more like, "Holy  #@*%  Babe, you seriously can't drive down the hill this fast!"  But we had our trusty all-wheel drive and were able to go to McDonald's in Eastgate to have a break and power up our electronic devices.  Our kids liked being out of power after the initial shock wore off.  Alex made some sort of mention that he would rather die than live without his iPod, tablet, Xbox, TV and computer.  He denies it now, but anyone who knows Alex knows I'm not kidding.

Side note:  I never do this, but the day before the blackout I cooked for 4 hours straight making 7 meals for the fam because I've been teaching so much I haven't had a minute to make dinners and I was getting nervous about all the McDonald's being consumed.  Yeah, well, then the power went out and I was afraid my food was all going to waste in the freezer, so Alex made me a freezer out in the snow!

Frozen grass growing out of our retaining wall

A little tree with each branch encased in ice

The morning after the ice snow I trekked outside to make sure we didn't have any loose branches attempting to fall on the house.  I was hearing all kinds of cracking and falling items in the woods in front of our house.  There are some pretty big evergreens out there.  I couldn't believe that there was a thick layer of snow (thick for Seattle that is),  a 1 inch slab of ice and then a skiff of snow on top.  Whenever I walked, it would crunch down and break into large pieces of ice.

Crystal reading Harrry Potter to Isaac in our dark house
Alex and Adam making me a freezer
We layed low for the next day, had the missionaries over because they were cold and starving and hung out.  Our great friends, the Zurligen's invited us to escape with them to Lake Chelan, where their parents had a time share with power.  How could we turn that down?  We decided to wait until the snow had pretty much stopped to head up the pass, and were pleasantly surprised to see the going was pretty easy.

Lake Chelan was beautiful (first timer here) and we loved spending time with our dear friends and just hanging out.  We got to swim, sled, snowmobile and watch movies and talk.  It was so fun, and something the kids will remember for a long time.  Something I will remember is renting snowmobiles and going for a short ride.  It reminded me of growing up.  However, two of our machines got stuck and these were 800 pound machines, so they were not easy to get "un-stuck."  It took everyone hefting and Adam's know-how in getting them out.  Then we lost Martin who incidentally had my baby on back of his snowmobile.  Me and Alex, and Crystal and Adam didn't know what to do because our time was up and we needed to get back or be charged an exorbitant late fee.  So we decided Alex and I would go back to the beginning, let the renter dude know what was going on and Crystal and Adam would see if they could find Martin.  Long story short, Martin had taken a wrong turn and got stuck and had to move his machine 180 degrees (with Isaac's help) to head back in the other direction.  In these huge snowmobiles there is no "off-trailing."  So, in the end we paid for an extra hour but we had a good story to tell and my boys were safe.

My bestie

My other bestie

Isaac gearing up
After we got home and things settled down we have been still as busy as ever.  Martin is working late a lot and I'm teaching a lot, trying to get hours in to practice for my AEA (Aquatic Exercise Association) certification exam.  I'm really stressed but I'm reading and learning a lot and feel in two weeks that test will be a breeze (fingers crossed).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I somehow came across this song the other day.  It was odd that I found it at the time I did because it meshed exactly with what's been going through my mind lately.  "Oh, jeez, Heather, does this have to do with mental health again?" you ask.  Why, yes.  Yes, it does!  Not because I'm taking my blog to this whole new "mental disorder sphere," but, rather, because it helps me keep track of my emotions and I blog instead of journal.  Plus, a lot of people appreciated my last blog post and could relate to what I had been through.  This is for you.

Anyway, the song is by an up-and-coming artist from Seattle (yay!!) named Jen Woods (bing her, she's amazing) and the words sunk in so deep that it almost stopped my heart when the meaning hit me.  Wow, not too many songs or artists or lyricists (whatever) write about this subject.  So needless to say it affected me.  Here it is and the lyrics are below.


Today I threw away my pills
against my family doctor's will.
They said they would make me smile
but instead I feel nothing,
nothing at all.

I see that look on your face
wondering if I'm okay.
Mother need not to fear.
I promise to stay near.

You won't be there forever.
You won't be there forever.
You won't be there forever.

I can learn to trust.
I can learn to scream.
I can learn to say yes
if that's what you need from me.

You can learn to trust.
You can learn to scream.
I can learn to say yes
if that's what you need from me.

You won't be there forever.

The first time I listened to this song I was intrigued that someone would write about throwing away their antidepressants.  I've been there--done that.  Without my meds I'm a raving, sobbing lunatic running around creating hell for anyone in my way.  But I got to thinking about the fact that I've been on my "pills" for so long that I don't remember what it feels like to be me.  My drugs even me out...which is a good thing, and a bad thing.  I don't remember the last time I got really excited or super happy about something.  I don't, or at least I'm not supposed to feel the super lows either.  This is what the pills do generally speaking. 

I then realized that this "person" I am now can't emotionally live my whole life, just a portioned part of it.  Don't get me wrong, I'd rather feel like this than the alternative.  But a certain sense of mourning comes with the help.  Here's where the guilt comes in that she talks about in the song.  Like her, my Mom doesn't receive the entire Heather, and if that's true, then neither do my kids, or my husband or anyone in my life.  The guilt is, at times, overwhelming.  And further, I don't feel like I have ever been able to truly mourn my Sister's death, or my Dad's stroke, etc., etc., etc. because those feeling simply don't exist in my world.  It sucks, but it's the reality. 

So, I can learn to trust, I can learn to scream and I can learn to say yes...I have to let people see that part of me that is suffering or needs help or just needs to scream sometimes.  I would expect and hope that you would show those things to me.

My youngest has a hard time with over-feeling things.  He is the most sensitive, sweet, courageous person I know and at age 8 he is having to learn these things way too early.  I pray every day that the road is easier for him.  I hope that he has learned something from watching me struggle and I hope that modern medicine can someday perfect the "pills."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Here's to a New (Better) Year

It’s been ages since I posted anything.  But my resolve has been  brushed off and gussied up and I’m off to a new year full of great and happy blogs.  Blogging is how I scrapbook and keep histories of me, my family and our activities.  At the end of each year I put the blogs in a book and publish it.  This year I missed a lot of the stuff that really happened and I don’t want it to go unsaid, so I will attempt to briefly navigate you through our year, starting with the following.

The start of the year brought on a setting for the rest of the year.   Unfortunately, not a savory one.  I have Clinical Depression and Anxiety Disorder.  It runs in my family.  Although both conditions are controlled and have been for 16 years with the same medication, for some reason they decided to rear their ugly heads early on in January 2011.  To improve things I had to adjust some medications and found out, in a rather unhappy way, that I am sensitive to many other drugs.  The drug Abilify sent me into a tail spin and I started whirling down a drain of shear agony in both mind and body.  I was one sick puppy!!  Not able to describe my mental symptoms, (for there are no words) I will tell you that I threw up constantly, had no appetite and so lost 15 pounds in 5 days, and wasn't able to sleep and/or sit still for any amount of time.   Poor Martin!!  I scared him something fierce!  But he finally took me to the Hospital where I learned of an out-patient program that would be my guide out of the depths.  My Psychiatrist  (whom has been helping me for 7 years) helped me out of my stupor with an anti-anxiety drug and I slowly started to climb out of the hole I was in (thank the good Lord for modern medicine).  I slowly began to be able to eat again and function somewhat, even though I felt awful every day and was extremely weak.  From there I was able to begin the out-patient program at the Overlake Behavioral Hospital.  Yep, I had suffered a mental breakdown (as they used to call them) and was going to the Loony Bin (you have to laugh at yourself in these situations!).

This mental episode is undoubtedly the hardest thing I had ever endured.  Pain of the mind is not something to be trifled with and I do not wish it on my worst enemy.  It has a different face, a darker, much scarier face.  The thought that came to my mind is when Joseph Smith was kneeling in his first prayer when he was interrupted by a force so evil, so all-encompassing that he felt like he wanted to die.  I felt like this.  We know, as a church, that the force he felt was Satan himself. I don't know for sure if I felt Satan but I will tell you it felt like it.  It affected my body just as well.  It affected my family, my friends, my neighbors.  I was hopeless...quite literally, I was without hope.  But with all problems comes the opportunity for growth.  Although, I was simply trying to make it through the day and not thinking about how I would grow through all of this, growth did come. 

The things I learned during my hospital time, are things I won't forget.  Even though most of the tools and strategies they teach there are useful, I remember the most useful things were the people I met.  They were all faces drawn and shadowed in pain, and we all shared the same thing, hope.  I learned so much from those people I now would call friends.  As I did a lot of listening there, as well as talking, I heard stories about things people should never endure, and all of a sudden, I wasn't so bad off.  I met a man who is a Clergyman of some kind.  His whole congregation loves him and reveres him as their leader.  Yet, he cannot get out of bed on some days because his son took his own life and he blames himself.  Although he is loved by hundreds of congregation members he is tormented by the few he knows who dislike the way he does things.  I met a young girl who has attempted suicide so many times that she has lost count.  She reads books that describe near-death experiences.  From these accounts (all positive) she is convinced that the after-life is going to be so much better.  I didn't have the heart to ask if she's ever read any books of similar experiences that turn out to be of the horrifying sort written by people who attempted suicide (I've read such accounts).  I met a lady who had lived in the In-patient facility for 3 weeks during which time she couldn't utter a word.  No one knew why, including herself.  However, she was blessed when, trying all kinds of medications, her doctors found the one that worked for her.  She was speaking within an hour of taking it.  The woman I sat next to was addicted to gambling.  She was in the facility for other reasons but she denied her gambling addiction and described her pain and self-loathing in vivid color.  Every day on leaving the facility we each had to say whether we were committed to not harming our self while apart, or not.  Sadly, some couldn't even commit to even that.  I met a lot of other people who made me feel I was worth something, and I felt in turn that they were of invaluable worth.  They loved me even though my problems seemed so much smaller.  They talked to me and told me they saw hope and love in my eyes and that they knew I would be okay.  Those hours with them mean so incredibly much to me.  It was a scary time, but I was blessed to make it through with a whole new perspective on life.  And so I took baby steps out of hell.

As for my family, they were blessed greatly through this experience.  I occasionally still feel guilty that my family had to see me that way.  But as I have learned, through adversity we grow.  My kids know they can come to me with their problems and I will never judge them.  They know that I went through something horrific, but that I made it through to the other side.  They know now to take advantage of every moment they are free of pain and suffering and to have compassion for those who are suffering because it could some day be them.  They learned that there are people everywhere who care about us and love to serve.  I hope they remember that and want to serve people in the future.

Some people don't get the whole mental health issue.  That's okay.  I know it's hard to comprehend if you haven't gone through something similar.  I lost friends when they found out I had collapsed so heavily.  It has broken my heart but I am determined to go along anyway.  I choose to try and understand their side and let them be, even though it hurts.

Why am I sharing this information?  It's super embarrassing after all--right, admitting you have gone off the deep end, so to speak?  Well, I feel like it doesn't have to be embarrassing.  My grandmother spent a lot of her life in pain and wasn't able to get help.  Much of her life was spent in mental hospitals without any hope of recovery.  I feel an unexplicable bond to her, even though she passed away before I remember her at all.  I think things have changed since then and I often think how I would love to go back in time and help her understand her condition a little more.   I know there is so much more help out there now.  I want people to know that and find help if they need it.  It's out there.

So I start out my 2012 with super gigantic hope.  I have found many ways to cope with my conditions.  I struggle daily.  I think many people do.  However, I found things I love to do that keep me happy and fulfilled, things I never knew I'd love.  I also hug my kids and husband every day.  I hope to keep growing and learning, but man, do I hope it's an easier road for a while:).

Monday, May 2, 2011

Alex's Birthday and Reinventing myself

 Alex turned 15 on March the 15th (again, his golden birthday).  Our dear friends Adam and Crystal Zurligen  made this cake for him and I thought it was the sweetest thing ever.  Not only that, but it tasted delish!!!  Carrot cake is Alex's fav so that's what the field was and the baseball was white cake for the kids (who prefer white cake).  I was touched that our friends would do that for us.  It was a fun night and Alex really felt spoiled, I think.   He also got a basketball hoop for the trampoline, which he spends every waking moment on, unless he's playing baseball :).
Adam presenting the work of art

So my fifteen year old is growing up and I'm falling behind in keeping up with him.  He started baseball recently, is on two teams and is busy as could be.  Oh, he also has maintained his honor roll status and recently finished learning a song on the piano that is, in my opinion, very difficult.  It took him most of the year, but hey, it was worth it, and is beautiful.  He is also playing the guitar and has quite a bit of talent.  He is always writing songs and coming up with new things to play on both instruments.  He is the light of my life.   My first born and my dear friend.  He is a teenager, so don't get me wrong, we have our tiffs, but this kid is a dream!  He starts drivers ed in a few months (once baseball is over) and is excited to drive...his mom is excited too, I must say.  I will be happy when he can drive himself to all these practices!

All of us on Alex's birthday (except me--someone needed to take the picture!)

Crystal and little Radley having bouncing fun on the trampoline.

My sweet friend Crystal, who knows way too much about me for how little we've known each other.  She tolerates me well,  and beautiful boy Radley.

So what's new with "Reinventing myself" you ask????  WELL.....I have taken up quilting.  I got a fabulous new sewing machine from a sweet undisclosed source and took some lessons.  I love doing the quilting and have already finished 3 pieced tops.  It's very fun and lets me be creative.
A quilt I made for a friend's new baby.  It turned out okay, but it was hard to sew on flannel that thin!!!

My first quilt I started at my class.  I wish you could see the print of the fabric.  It's all birds and bird-related it's beautiful if I say so myself.

What else is new this last few months?? Well, I have started to swim a lot.  I am at the pool almost every day and I'm trying desperately to teach myself to swim....you know, the "real" way with breathing and the whole bit.  It's something I've never been able to do.  I'm getting better.  I usually just use the kick board a lot and snorkel, but I can feel my lungs getting stronger, not to mention my legs and arms.  It's something I look forward to everyday.

One more new thing is that Martin and I have almost completely got our adoption work started and going.  We haven't got an agency officially but have done our home study through LDS Social Services.  It's taken a lot of paper work and a lot of classes and a lot of fingerprinting down at the police station (which is the closest I hope to ever get).  It has been an eye opener.  The classes especially have been fun and we have learned a ton.  So how do we adopt without an agency?  Well, if we get a designated adoption we would be allowed to go through LDS, but otherwise we might be paying some major bucks, but it's worth it.  We hope to be ready to start with our adoption blog and pass out cards (yes, they have pass along cards for adoption) and hopefully putting a profile on "Parent profiles."  So look for that coming up.  In the mean time word of mouth is our best friend.  If you have any leads for a birth mother who is looking for a loving family to adopt please pass on our name and even this blog.

We love you all and hope everyone is doing well!!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dear Family and Friends

It is with great joy that Martin and I would like to share with you the recent decision our family has made to pursue adoption. We are sure this may come as a great surprise to many of you, but after much prayer, fasting, and confirmation we feel certain that this is a road we are meant to now travel at this time. This letter will share a few of the things that have led us to this monumental decision. We hope that you will read and consider these things with an open mind and heart.
We have felt for a long time that there is a fourth child meant to be in our family. I have known there was a fourth since the minute Isaac was born. Our family is not yet complete. The spirit has over and over again reconfirmed this feeling. Yet we have been confused as to how best welcome this spirit in to our home. I have some health concerns, and as you know pregnancy is extremely difficult for me. Those avenues have not led us to where we want to be. We have spent agonizing months and years trying to make sense of how to deal with health issues and how in the world I would be able to have a healthy pregnancy. We feel this is no longer a feasible option.

We have spent a great deal of time researching adoption, talking to friends and professionals about the process and what all is involved. We apologize for not keeping you in the loop about our thoughts on this topic, but as it is such a personal decision we decided to keep the decision between Martin and I until we had received confirmation about what we are supposed to do.
We are certain that you may have opinions on the decision we have made. Please know that we love you and value your input. But also realize that we have already made a decision with the Lord’s help, and ask that you respect our decision to move forward with adoption. This is a highly sensitive topic for us obviously.

The next steps for us are to choose an agency to work with. We will most likely choose LDS Social Services. We then will need to complete an extensive home study designed to certify us as “good parents.” I wish I could tell you what kind of a timeline to expect – we have been told the process can be very quick (from a matter of weeks) to several years. We are in this for the long haul, and however long it takes we will be glad to welcome one special, chosen child of our Heavenly Father's into our home.

We love you all and are grateful to share this amazing, and somewhat scary, new chapter in our lives with you. Feel free to ask us about the process at any time as I’m sure we will be eager to share details. We know you will welcome this beautiful new baby into your hearts with the same love you have Alex, Olivia and Isaac.

All our love,

Heather and Martin