Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why Mothering Is Hard

Because it is unpredictable.

I was going to take my kids out today.  We were going to have some fun, see a new-to-us bookstore that we'd just discovered the other day . . .I thought maybe we'd pop our heads into some of the little stores downtown that I've never been in.  Have a cup of soup because its coldish outside.

Instead, Number 3 started throwing up in the middle of the night and has been on the couch ALL day long.  Poor thing.  She finally started keeping some fluids down and actually got excited about some pictures of cute animals on my phone but for most of the day she's been absolutely miserable.

Because part of Momming is enforcing.

And it stinks to be the enforcer.  Who wants to make their kid mad?  Who wants to get the death glare from their child?  Nobody.  But that's what Mom's do.  We make them do their homework.  We make them try vegetables.  When the choose to act inappropriately, its our job to correct them.  Not fun.  But a good Mom cares enough to keep her kid from being a monster.

Because there is a lot of stuff to maintain.

We gotta feed these kids, make sure they have clean clothes to wear.  We have to make sure there are clean dishes to eat off of and that there is shampoo and conditioner.  We are the ones who need to make sure that the money stretches as far as it can because the kiddos aren't interested in that.

Because Mothering doesn't automatically come with a huge a cheering section.

Some people might have that . . .but I haven't met any of them.  :)  I personally am working on building my  physically close "village" . . .my support system.  I have a great long distant support system, but I need people close by, too.  Someone to pick my oldest up when the youngers are sick and I can't leave because hubby is out of town.

Your support system, your village . . . that's where you get cheered on, from other people who understand what you are going through and see what you're doing.  But in America that's not an automatic perk of motherhood.  Getting that cheering section is hard work because it requires building authentic relationships ( where you cheer on your friends, too!) and that can be hard for so many different reasons.

But anything worth doing is going to take effort.  And we're not doing this mothering thing because we want Joe Blow from down the street to say "Isn't she a great mom!"

We mother well because we love our children and want the best for them.

So if you are mothering and it feels HARD, remember you are doing REALLY important work.  There'd probably be something rather wrong if it was super easy.  Like maybe you might be raising robot kids that had been swapped for your kids!


Enjoy the journey!

~ Jennifer

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Teaching Kids to Be Thankful

So let's do a little imagining.  Just close your eyes and picture you and the people you love the best on  your dream vacation.

Where are you?  At the beach?  In the mountains?  Maybe you are at Disney . . .hey, I don't know!  It's your fantasy, not mine.

And everybody's laughing, right?  Smiling from ear to ear?  I thought so.  :)

Attitude really IS everything.  And today I want to just spend a few minutes telling you about one of my favorite attitudes:  thankfulness.

I can't remember when we decided that family dinners were going to be a tradition at our house, but they are.  No TV, no electronic devices and we all hang out in the same room.  ( It used to be around a table but since Hubby hurt his back we've been in the living room)  By the way, google family dinners and you will be SHOCKED at how many benefits they offer the modern kid.  Really a good idea.  But anyway.

We do family dinners.

And we talk.

Let me be honest.  Sometimes people are tired and crabby.  Sometimes they are distracted.  But guess what?

We've come up with a way to beat up the blahs.  It's not original with us (without taking the time to google it and confirm, I want to say that monks invented this concept).

Each person says what their highlight for the day was.  And each person also tells what their lowlight was.  If you have the time and inclination, tell everybody something that you learned that day.

It looks something like this:

Mom:  "My highlight was the way you guys cleaned up the living room with such a great attitude!  You worked together so well!"

"My lowlight is that Daddy's back hurts."

Child 1:  "My highlight is that I get to sing alto at the next choir concert!  We had auditions and I got the part I want!"

"My lowlight is that Audrey is still causing drama!"

There is something about everyday acknowledging the good in your life that makes things beautiful.  It makes your children beautiful.  Now, as for the lowlights . . .those are super important, too.  Why?  Because through those questions you learn bits about their life that you would NEVER have heard about otherwise.  And you can offer empathy and occasionally, solutions, from everybody.

And the great thing is that it becomes so easy and natural to share with each other after you've done this a bit . . .after all, you can be just as shallow or deep as you like.  It's fun to include visitors, too.

Here's to you and your loved ones and your family dinners!

~ Jennifer

Monday, November 11, 2013

What's Thankfulness Got to Do With Faith!?!

I am in a Bible Study group.  It meets every week and we are reading Lord, Change My Attitude Before It's Too Late by James MacDonald.

Perhaps I should explain that faith is one of those concepts I've always found challenging.  I suppose I'm not unusual in that regard . . .don't we all like to be able to explain to ourselves and others why things work the way they do?

There was a time in my life when I bemoaned my lack of faith;  I would say things to God like this "I'm sorry God!  I wish I had more faith but I just don't and I don't know how to fix it, either!"

I thought this way for decades.  I know I did because I can remember the first time I really agonized over my lack of faith . . .I knew that to please God I needed faith and I was afraid I just didn't have it.

But what's a girl to do?  I just kept going.  I went to church, I read my Bible, I prayed.  I was thankful for the good things in my life.

There were times in my life when bad things happened and it was okay.  I mean, it really was fine.  Like when our house burned down.  I remember standing outside of our house in a crowd of people who were just plain gawking.  They'd seen the smoke and the flames from a distance and they'd come to watch.

I stood among them and watched as though it wasn't my bedroom window that the flames were billowing out of, as though I didn't know every picture on the wall, every quilt, every book on the shelves.

And I said something like "Okay, God.  This is too big for us to fix.  You're going to have to do it."  Yep, faith.

He was extremely good to us.  God's people surrounded us and provided the money and the resources to get us back on our feet.  The one thing that I really mourned was the loss of some pictures . . .scrapbooks I hadn't been able to get out.

A few months after the fire Hubby and I drove out there and all of the wreckage had been bulldozed into this massive pile.  In retrospect what I did was stupid,  but I climbed that pile.  And I found the charred remains of my scrapbooks!  Not everything was able to be saved, but I was able to peel the top and the bottom off . . .and what was in the middle . . .not the sides, mind you, was still there.  It was awesome.

During that time it was very easy to be thankful as people gave to us.  It was easy to have faith that things would turn out the way they should.

Without going into all the sordid details, let me just say that I've had others times in my life when being thankful wasn't really very easy.  ( and can I just say that this seems to go in cycles?  I have times when being thankful is SO easy and then there are the times when it is SO hard.)

For me, being thankful had to become a conscious choice.  I had to choose to wake up on cold, dreary days and look for something to be thankful for.  There's always something . . .but sometimes you have to search!  Believe me, I understand.

So when I read these words ( from page 56 of Lord, Change My Attitude Before It's Too Late ) I began to realize that . . .hey, this is pretty amazing and cool.  I have lived this formula before and not realized it. But it worked!  And it can work again!

I also realized that I have NOT lived this formula before and during that time I was miserable and my family was probably pretty miserable, too.  Because whether I want to admit it or not, my attitude/condition does make their lives a lot easier or not so easy.

Anyway, the words from page 56 go like this:

"Only when we recognize God as our gracious provider do we comprehend our need for God and begin to express faith in Him.  That is a very significant point.  Faith grows in the soil of thankfulness."

So basically, if you are suffering from a lack of faith in your life;  if you are angry at God for allowing bad things to happen to you ( I have BEEN there.  I understand!), then start looking for the good.  And say "Thank You!" to God.  ( we know He's real because it doesn't make sense to have a world that exists without a designer . . .Romans 1:19-20)

Say "thank you" for the beauty around you.  It's there.  You might have to look a bit, but it's there.

Say "thank you" for the physical things you can do.  My Hubby is suffering from sciatica right now.  It's really horrible.  But thank God, he hasn't lost control of his bowels.  That's one of the side effects he might have suffered.  I have always taken the ability to go potty when I want and where for granted.  But guess what?  It's not to be take for granted!

The ability to read!  To search on your computer!  To type!  All of these things I take for granted are, in fact, HUGE blessings.

And if your poor brain is too tired and too tormented to focus . . .that's okay, too.  God knows you want to do your best.  He's knows that if you had the strength to think clearly you'd be praising to the moon.

Just enjoy knowing that His will for you is not negative, horrible thought loops.  It's faith building thankful loops . . .

And if you want to think His way, He'll help with that.

Much Love,

~ Jennifer

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bipolar and Fear

Today I was pretty useless for a while.  I did straighten the house, make a pot roast and do the bare minimum as far as homeschooling my sweet girl was concerned.

But I did a lot of laying on the couch in my pajama's feeling like a slug.  My throat hurt.  I think I have an infection in my lymph nodes.  I am tired.

About four o'clock my darling husband called and asked me to bring him something.  I drug myself off the couch and put on jeans instead of my fuzzy PJ pants.

I figured that as long as I had to go to him I might as well stop at the grocery store and pick up some necessary items.  But as I drove I realized that I was doing that "tearful" thing.  I didn't even have the "bad thought" loops going on.

And the fear came rushing in.  It sounded like this:  "What if my bipolar comes back?  It can't come back.  I can't take another episode.  It's not good for me and it's no good for anybody else, especially with Hubby facing physical therapy and maybe back surgery.  I can't lay on the couch and be sad and non-functional."

The next thing that I said to myself was "Well, my forum friend recommended the Living Well With Chronic Illness class and it's being offered here soon."

Fear number two raised it's head:  "But I have no friends here to watch my kids ( we've just moved.)  I'd better not."

Fear number three said "You don't want to go to that class.  You're going to walk in and people are going to be like  "Look at you!  You're young!  You don't have anything REALLY wrong with you!  What's a little depression!  It's no big deal."

Fear number four said "You can't even ask your few new friends about finding childcare because then you'd have to go into why and they'd be like . . .eh, this girl is not a good person to be friends with.  Bipolar is a BAD word."

So here I am . . .feeling like eh, if I reveal my real self to the world, I get rejected.

If I don't reveal my real self, I get worse and then I really WILL get rejected.


"Hello, darkness, my old friend. . . "

I can't do the darkness.

So tonight I'll do my best to talk to Hubby and we'll figure something out.  I'm not going to risk going into the dark place again.

An interesting thing happened when I walked into the grocery store.  I walked the aisles, looking at this, picking this up, doing some mental math.  I joked with a couple of people.  I smiled at the cashier.  Basically, being out changed my attitude.  I was "okay" in those moments.

And I walked out knowing that I HAVE to make myself get out of the house . . .yep.  Get out of the house and face my fears.

I'll let you know how it goes.  And here's to you getting out and facing your fears!

Be Well,

~ Jennifer

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Pain, My Problem

Not really.  My pain IS my problem, yes.

But it is also my husband's pain;  it's my kids pain.

That's why self-care is so necessary.  Because it isn't really "all about me."  It's all about me being the me who can be there for others.

We are hard-wired for connection.  That's what science tells us.  But when we are in pain, we isolate.

I have felt before that I should not be around others when I am "at my worst."  I feel that I have nothing to offer.  And maybe I don't have much to offer, except that being around other people helps me to heal and then . . .then I can be the person I want to be.

I'm not sure why I feel the need to dash these words off. . .maybe because the days are shorter and colder now and I want to just stay inside and isolate myself from the rest of the world and I know that's just not an option if I want to be the best me that I can be.

Here's to you being the best you that you can be, too!

~ Jennifer

Monday, November 4, 2013

On Hope, and a bit more of my story ( Part Eight)

"Hope" is the thing with feathers - 

by Emily Dickinson

Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -

That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -

Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

This is a favorite poem of mine;  I can't remember where I first heard it . . .but now and then it pops into my mind and I always find it comforting.

I spent some time this morning reading from last years journal entries at the this time.  They brought me to tears.  I was in a bad place and didn't know it until it was right on top of me;  then I knew.  When the suicidal loops started playing, then I knew.

I suppose some of you are wondering how I could "let myself" get to such a place after having a major episode.

Well, the answer to that is ignorance.  When I was first diagnosed my doctor got me samples of the medicine I needed.  When we moved out of state I didn't know how to afford my meds.  I was rather ignorant about how to find help and not clear on what exactly I needed to be the best me possible . . .so I decided that I'd find a doctor to help me get off my meds and see how that would work out for me.

I asked for help weaning off of my anti-depressant.  I knew I was supposed to stay on my mood stabilizer.  But I was shocked and surprised to find that I had weaned off both at the same time and GUESS WHAT?  I was sane!

I felt so good that I just went med-free.  I tried to eat healthy (got on a good fish oil supplement!) and I joined an online bipolar support group.  I made friends and positive choices.

And you know what?  It worked for about seven years.  And then I crashed again, pretty hard.  

Second time around, last year, I found a clinic that really helped.  For the first time in my life I got a therapist.  Loved her.  She was great.  And she looked in my eyes and told me that 100% of all mentally ill people go off their meds.  That was pretty encouraging, knowing that I wasn't the only person who had "relapsed" because I felt pretty stupid ending up in the same spot again.

But now we're in a new spot again and once again I'm doing the find help again dance.  It's a preventative measure.  I'm really not bad at all right now.  A little grouchy, a little absentminded.  Somewhat sad if I don't keep super busy or engaged.

And I have hope.  I am not as bad as I was last year.  And last year wasn't as bad as my first episode.

It's a matter of understanding;  I got sick last night.  Nauseous.  Hubby looked at me and said "What did you eat today?"

"Emmm . . .a small bowl of pasta about noon . . ."

Well, no wonder I was sick.  I stop eating when I'm depressed.  I just don't think about food.  

I've also been sleeping terribly because my Hubby and Baby are both sick.  I can't sleep unless they are both sleeping well . . .

And guess what?  We've had some stress going on.  Hubby has been in so much pain for the past almost month.  Poor guy!  It's not his fault, but when one of us hurts, the other one hurts/gets stressed, too.

So add that all up:  poor appetite, poor sleep, major stress.

It's no wonder that I'm feeling like things are about to go to pieces.

But I know things will be okay.  We've been through bad stuff before and come out okay.  This will be another rough patch that we sail through . . .roughed up and seasick, but still afloat;  and the sun will come out again, the sea will smooth again and Hope, the little bird with feathers, will sing her sweet song to us again.

~ Be Well,


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Staying on Sane; Just another thing to mark off this week's to-do-list

This week I will go to my nice general practitioner's office.  I'll sit there and I'll tell her that I think that I need to talk to somebody who knows a little bit more about mental health.  Maybe a psychiatrist or maybe a therapist.  Someone who can help me figure out what this tearfulness means and how I need to stop it from escalating into something else.

I have changed.  I no longer say to myself "What is WRONG with you?  What are you doing wrong?  You shouldn't be crying."

Now I say, "Hmmm, better get this checked out.  You promised yourself you'd never let this happen again ( this being the suicidal mess I became before)."

It's a little discouraging.  I don't want to be a mess.  I want to be happy, upbeat, cheerful.  I've done my part ( except, I admit, I have not exercised lately.  I'm really thinking I'll get my boots on and go out soon.  But Little Girl has been really fussy and I haven't been able to put her down . . .so, that is a problem.  Also, Hubby is in a lot of pain.  Sciatica.  Google it.  You'll see how awful it is.  So I've been trying to ease his troubles the best I know how.)

I am reading my Bible, listening to upbeat music, taking my vitamins.  But I'm feeling sadness, like a low-grade fever.

So anyway, off I go to ask for help.  Again.

So help me, God.  I need it.  Gotta stay sane.  That's my calling.  :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Sacrifice of Praise

My Bible Study leader asked me to write about what this phrase meant to me.  So here goes.  I hope there's something helpful in here for you.  :)

After reading it I was reminded that even Jesus had to get away from the clutter and chaos of His day to day life.  If you are feeling unable to function where you are, maybe a bit of change is just what you need.  Twice I remember being so unable to focus, so distraught that my Hubby took my arm and we just went for a short drive.  It was like it shocked me out of the "bad" place I was in for a little while and made things go back to the proper perspective.

All my spinning thoughts couldn't get me out of the hole of despair that I was in . . .it took someone else caring enough to boot me out of my bedroom and into the land of the living.

If you don't have someone like that, take the first step towards finding someone.  Google an online support group.  Call a suicide hotline if you are really in crisis.

Reach out to NAMI or a church in your community.

And be well.


~ Jenn


WHY of making the “Sacrifice of Praise” personal.

If praise was always easy, always natural, the words “sacrifice of praise” wouldn’t be in the Scripture.  

Sacrifice implies giving up something important.  It sometimes hurts to give up what we value the most.

So you could say that sometimes sacrifice equals pain. 

I think that before you can make the “sacrifice of praise” personal, you have to identify the most important thing in your life . . . the thing that perhaps God has allowed to be taken from you.  Maybe, if you are a better person than I am, you are glad to give up the things that you hold dearest to you . . .me, I'm not quite there yet.

I think that if you’d asked me what the most important thing in my life was ten years ago I would have said it was God first, then my husband and my babies.  

I never dreamed that there was something else that was so important that I took it completely for granted:  my sanity.

I lost it for awhile.  It was horrible.  And when I got my brain back, I discovered that I’d lost some of my faith and ability to trust God as well.   In a sense, it felt exactly as if I’d lost God.  I didn’t “lose” Him, but it felt that way.  So I had to decide that He was real again, and after I decided that He was real I had to decide that He was, indeed, the good God that He said He was. Praising Him had been natural prior to my breakdown but it sure wasn’t anymore.  Praising God became a sacrifice because every time I chose to approach God I was making myself vulnerable again.  I was saying “I trust You.  Even though You allowed me to lose my sanity for a bit, I trust you.”

The HOW of praise.

So for me, praise comes deliberately.  It comes on the days when I choose to turn my face towards God.  I turn my face towards God in a variety of ways:  Bible reading, journal, prayer-walking, singing and listening to Praise and Worship  music.

The WHEN of praise.

Ideally, praise happens first thing in the morning.  That’s when I like to grab my notebook, Bible, study book and a cup of coffee.  I start my timer and I try as hard as I can to get some time in with God before I’m interrupted.  But praise also occurs during the daytime when I find myself thanking God for something good in my life, when I am caught off guard by the beauty in the world around me . . .when I remember, again, how fortunate I am for things such as the breath in my lungs, the strength in my legs as I walk, and the joy in my baby’s hearty laughter.  I’ll be honest.  There are times when I can’t praise.  I am too angry or too upset.  That’s when I have to get out of that situation:  eat something because I haven't eat yet that day, leave the house, go somewhere peaceful and beautiful.  And then I can be alone with God and reflect on His goodness.  When I start to be able to think clearly, away from the clutter and chaos, that’s when my heart can really praise God properly.

The WHERE of praise

Praise happens wherever a Christian is, if he/she is living for God.  Much of my praise happens right at my kitchen table because that is where I do my devotions.  That’s where my notebook sits open and I take the time to jot down random “God” thoughts throughout the day.  It also happens in the car, when I point out something especially unique and wonderful about our surroundings, or a memory we have of other times, places and people.  We need to remember that “every good and perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of Lights . . .”  ( James 1:17)  And of course it happens at church when my Christian brothers and sisters raise their voices together to praise their God.

The WHY  of praise

We were created to praise.  That’s the why of praise.  Yes, God loves it. But part of the reason He loves it is because praise does something wonderful for us.  It takes our minds off of our problems.  When we’re  praising God, we aren’t thinking about our problems.  When we’re praising God we aren’t thinking about how we’re all that and a basket of fries.  God wants us to praise Him for our own good.  He wants us to revel in the peace it brings us when we acknowledge that He’s in charge and that we know that He’s got us in His hands and nothing can snatch us away . . .

Praise is my gift to God, but it’s His gift to me, too.