Breathe

If you read this and think… those sentences are short. She sounds kind of done… you’d be right.

The past week has been a little tiring. We were on vacation with family at the beach for part of the week and then the second half of the week, Taylor and I went to the beach. Just me, him, and Selah. All of it was fun and it was so so nice to be around family. Taking Selah to the beach is exciting, even though she can’t last very long in the sun and water. Just seeing her stick her fingers in the sand and squeeze as a smile spreads across her face. It’s something simple, but it’s sweet and rewarding watching her experience something so small like that for the very first time.

Before we left for the beach, I worked super hard to get the house put together so that we could come back to a clean house. We’ve been trying to do this ever since we were married. I don’t know why it’s so difficult, but it’s like… there’s always something that stops us from reaching the unachievable goal. There’s a load of laundry needing to be washed, or there are dirty dishes, or …SOMETHING. So, this time I was determined. I ran around the house like a crazy person, throwing clothes all over the place, making lists, sweeping, taking out the trash. Selah just sat in the floor staring at me and chasing after my feet and giggling. I’m sure she thought I was playing a game with her.

Traveling in the car with Selah is, at best, tolerable. She’s not a car baby. Never has been. It’s chance. Some days she’s okay, other days she screams until you pull the car over and get her out of the car seat. Mostly, I just want to pull my hair out. She’s been slightly better lately, but she still has her moments. When we do get her to go to sleep, we end up sitting in silence or with her sound machine on or whispering with the music down really low. This is a little frustrating for me since, ever since we were friends, one of the things Taylor and I do best and really enjoy doing is having great conversations in the car. That has been put on hold recently because of the monster in the back seat.

Getting Selah from the beach house to the beach is not really difficult… just a handful. She also had (and still does a little bit) a horrible diaper rash while we were there and keeping a wet diaper on does not help that at all. She was only happy for as long as she was in the water. It was cool and relieving I think. She crawls and gets the sand everywhere. She just wants to feel it. She looks at it with such wonder and it makes the trips worth it. Taylor and I are not really beach people. I like sitting in a chair with water at my feet, but that is where my love for the beach stops. The heat is crazy. The sand is of the devil. I’ve always hated the ocean. It scares me. I can’t see what’s at my feet and I also can’t control its ebb and flow. I have a need to control things so… there’s that. A great thing about the beach is that Selah would take super long afternoon naps. It was wonderful to be able to lay on the couch, fall asleep, and actually not wake up 30 minutes later.

We are back home now and struggling still a bit with the diaper rash, although Selah doesn’t seem bothered by it. On our way back on Saturday, she cried for basically the last hour in the car. There’s nothing you can do about it either. We tried giving her a bottle, feeding her, putting on her favorite song (yes, she has a favorite song), but she was just DONE. She wanted out and she wanted out YESTERDAY. Little did we know, that was just the start. We got home, Taylor went out to run an errand, and I laid Selah down for a nap since she hadn’t slept in the car. She slept for about 10 minutes and woke back up and refused to lay back down. I did everything we usually do. I let her cry it out, I rocked her, I sang her song… nothing. She was sobbing and I began to feel guilty, of course. I brought her back upstairs, tried to start playing with her, but she kept crying. I texted Taylor and said, “please tell me you’re almost home.” Taylor got home and helped to keep her happy until bedtime. We gave her a bath to calm her down, fed her, did the whole normal bedtime routine with a little bit more love and compassion. By this point, we realized something was wrong. She was just not herself. Our baby is happy and giggly and rarely ever ACTUALLY gets upset at something. She has always been consolable, but not yesterday. I volunteered to get comfy in the recliner in the nursery so that if she woke up I wouldn’t have to keep going up and down the stairs. She woke up once, maybe twice, between 8pm-10pm.


Taylor came down at 10 and we went to bed. For those of you who don’t know, our room is right next to the nursery. Like… 3 steps close. Since Taylor has to work on Sundays, I said I would get up if she woke up again. And she did. The first time I remember is 12:15am. After that it’s blurry. 3am, 4:30am, 5am, 6:15am and a few more in there that I don’t remember. This may be normal for a lot of people with 9 month olds, but I’ll tell you something…we have been incredibly blessed with a good sleeper. Since about… 8-10 weeks she was sleeping a full 12 hours through the night so anytime she wakes up, we know something isn’t right. At 6:45am, I decided to just get up so I got her a bottle and we went upstairs to start the day. I won’t bore you with all the details, but know that the rest of the day was basically the same. Random crying in the middle of playing, crawling towards me and clinging to my clothes, crying if I wasn’t within reach, crying if I fed her, crying if I didn’t, etc… She took a good morning nap (thank you Lord) but completely skipped the afternoon nap, again. She’s drooling, has a runny nose, won’t let me anywhere near her mouth, can’t breathe when you lay her down because her nose is congested… She doesn’t have a fever so I’m almost positive she’s teething. Taylor got home from church and helped to try to lay her down, but she screamed and screamed. We both are feeling bad that she feels bad, but we’re also both at our limit. Then…

I feel it. The tick on my wrist that, lately, has snapped me back into reality. I’m going to lose some of you at this point, but just… stay with me. Throughout the school year last year whenever a kid was getting on my nerves, my watch would buzz my wrist. When I feel like I’m about to pull my hair out with Selah, my watch buzzes. When I’m done with the car, when the house is messy, when I’m overwhelmed with my lists, when I’m about to wash the sand out of Selah’s pants for the 100th time that day… my watch buzzes. For those of you that don’t know, the Apple Watch has this thing that reminds you to breathe. It’s supposed to promote intentional breathing or something, idk. It’s probably on a timer and just goes off every 2 hours, but I promise you… my watch has evolved. It reads my heart rate or just knows by the temperature of my skin or the grumbling sound I’m making that it’s time to remind me. It buzzes my wrist, I look down at it and it says… “Breathe.” I know what it’s there for, but for me it’s become a way of putting my life into perspective. It reminds me to chill out and focus on what’s happening. It tells me to take a few seconds, regroup and try again with more patience. I can tell on the days when I really need that reminder because the watch will buzz, I’ll look down, take a deep breath and tears will get caught in my throat.

All of these moments I’ve talked about have happened in the past 2 weeks. I was running around the house getting it cleaned and there is nothing wrong with that. However, there was a beautiful child at my feet giggling at mommy running around and maybe I should have actually played a game with her while I cleaned or just given up on the cleaning until she was asleep (or have foregone the cleaning all together). I needed to take a breath in the car and be thankful that I have a healthy child who likes to move… that I have a husband that I love to talk to about anything… that, hey… you know what? She’s a baby and she can’t help it. Keep talking to her. Keep singing to her. It won’t be so simple later on. Take a breath and enjoy the time you’ve got with family on vacation, because family won’t always be there when you need them or want them. Breathe in and look at this crying, helpless child and realize that she just needs to be snuggled a little harder, kissed a little more, sung to a little louder, to go outside and take a breather herself. She’s more tired, more sick, more frustrated than you are. (Sorry, talking to myself now.)

May I have the wherewithal, patience, and wisdom to take a breath and really dig my fingers into the sand.

Tomorrow Will Be Kinder

“Stay with us, Lord Jesus, stay with us.  

Stay with us, it soon is evening.

Stay with us, Lord Jesus, stay with us, it soon is evening and night is falling.”

I tend to think in song lyrics sometimes.  I guess it’s part of being a musician.  I have songs from when I was a kid all the way to now stuck somewhere in my head.  When something reminds me of a song, the lyrics pop in my head and are there all day.  Most of the time it’s just simple songs.  Lately, it’s been kids songs since that’s all I sing with Selah.  On certain days, however, my heart takes over and reaches for songs like “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” or “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”  Recently, the song that’s been in my head has been one that we sang in Sanctuary Choir at church.  The lyrics come from Luke 24:29, “But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.”  Somedays, all I can think over and over again is “stay with me, please stay with me.”  The days when my Dad was really sick and the months after he died, I begged… Please, night is coming and I need You here.  Please, stay.  After Selah was born and I struggled with breastfeeding… please stay with me.  Every time I hear of a new tragedy that has happened around the world, when I think of children who have been separated from their families through war, when I become burdened with the darkness in this world… The list could go on… Please, Lord, stay with us.  

 When I was younger, I did my best to put myself in others’ shoes.  For whatever reason, the older I got the more emotional I became over other people’s burdens.  Part of it is growing up and having my world-view widened, I suppose.  As we grow up we, hopefully, become more aware of what’s going on and in turn, our hearts are opened up to the needs of those around us.  I believe the other part is teaching and motherhood.  Ever since I started teaching, I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of my students.  Some of these kids have lives and struggles that I’ve never seen or experienced.  Before Selah was born, Taylor and I used to watch crime shows like Criminal Minds.  It was one of my absolute favorites.  The closer I got to the third trimester the less I wanted to watch them.  I would start to cry and feel anxious anytime there was an episode involving children or families.  

Now, the news comes on and there’s another story about some tragedy and my heart just breaks.  I just don’t understand how we can be so cruel to each other… how can there be so much suffering… how can families be separated, children be bullied, people be persecuted for any reason someone else can find?  I often become so overwhelmed with these feelings that all I can do is repeat these song lyrics over and over again.  

Stay with us, Lord Jesus.  I plead over and over again, please, stay with us.  I know we make mistakes.  I know we are cruel to each other.  I know we are not taking care of Your world, of Your children, of our brothers and sisters… but please.  Please, stay with us.

I search for hope in everything.  A song I’ve been singing this week is called “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” by the Secret Sisters.

“Black clouds are behind me, I now can see ahead
Often I wonder why I try hoping for an end
Sorrow weighs my shoulders down
And trouble haunts my mind
But I know the present will not last
And tomorrow will be kinder
Tomorrow will be kinder
It’s true, I’ve seen it before
A brighter day is coming my way
Yes, tomorrow will be kinder.”

On the days that I’m particularly bogged down, I try to sing this song.  It gives me a hope.  Some people are good at recalling Bible verses and I do wish I was better at it, but I am thankful that songs come to mind first.  Singing these lyrics over and over again assure me that there is hope for tomorrow.  There will always be hope for change in this world, for improvement, for love, and for compassion for others.  

It is too easy to become burdened, weighed down, and saddened in this world.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I think allowing ourselves to feel for others makes us better human beings.  It becomes a problem when the sadness takes over and keeps us from action.  I pray that we are able to find something to hold onto each day, whether it’s Scripture, a song, a saying, a picture, a memory, or a simple hope that allows to look forward to the future and to know that even in the nighttime, Jesus stays with us.  

The Reason I Hate “Kids These Days”

I apologize for the clickbait title, but I couldn’t help myself.  I’ve been working on this post for a while now.  Editing it, reading it over and over, and basically just trying to decide whether or not I sound too judgmental or like I’m coming down on one group of people.  At this point, I can’t read it again and if someone is offended by it, then I think they’ve missed the point. So, here we go…

Okay, I know some of you are thinking “you hate kids?? You are definitely in the wrong profession!” but hold on… let me explain.  I absolutely hate when I hear people say “kids these days…” This statement is usually followed by one of the following or something similar:

  • they are so rude and disrespectful.
  • they are always on their phones.
  • they are growing up faster.
  • they know too much for their age.
  • they only care about themselves.
  • they don’t know how to use their imagination.

and on and on and on…

I hear stuff like this ALL.  THE.  TIME.  Maybe it’s part of being a teacher, idk. While I agree with many of these statements, the tone behind them is what irritates the hec out of me.  Sometimes people say these things like it’s all the kids’ fault, as if they were just born that way, but let’s look at these and break them down.

The one I hear the most is:  “Kids these days are so disrespectful.  They are so rude and negative towards any authority figure.  They can’t even look me in the eye when I’m talking to them.”  Well, let me tell you something… I don’t know about you, but I didn’t come out of my mother’s womb knowing how to do those things.  I wasn’t born with perfect social manners.  i wasn’t born with the ability to be a great conversationalist or to say “yes, ma’am” or “no, sir.”  I was taught those things.   I was told by my parents that I needed to be respectful.  I was taught how to do this and why it was important.  They first taught me to “honor your father and mother.”  Then through respecting my parents I learned that it’s just as important to respect other adults.  They taught me through verbal instruction AND modeling for me how I was supposed to behave.  If a kid doesn’t have a parent, mentor, guide, older sibling, leader, etc… to show them how to do this and to teach them that it’s the right thing, then how will they know to do this?  If they watch their parent, guide, mentor, etc. be disrespectful to those around them, how else will they know?

Another one I hear a lot is: “Kids these days only care about themselves.”  Once again, while many people are born with a gift for caring for others, we still learn by watching the examples that are given in life.  I was taught to care about others.  I was shown how to care for someone else, first and foremost, by watching how my mom and dad cared for each other, then by watching how they cared for me and my sister.  I watched them care for the youth at church.  I watched Dad pack a box for a homeless man near his work almost every winter.  I watched both parents and my older sister go on missions trips.  My parents, teachers, pastor, and friends showed me how important it was and why it was important to care about others needs.  If kids are never shown how or told why, how else will they know?

“Kids these days are always on their phones.  They have no imagination because they never get outside and play or read books or, etc…”  I’m just gonna come right out and say… I see more adults texting and driving than I do teens.  Kids learn by watching someone else.  Yes, kids are on their phones, but more and more SO ARE ADULTS.  If you don’t want your kid to be on their phone, take it away and put yours away too!  Technology has opened up so many social avenues and I think it’s amazing!  Kids are able to connect with each other in so many ways.  Maybe it’s my age, but I don’t think these avenues are inherently bad.  I use social media to keep in contact with a friend in Prague, to send pictures and messages to friends from college, to talk to my sister in the Dominican Republic, to send my husband texts during the day, to get pictures of my child when I miss her at work, etc.  The point is, there is a right and wrong way to use social media.  There is a right and wrong time to use social media.  In fear of belaboring the point… this.  has.  to.  be.  taught.  Just like everything I’ve said above, behaviors are learned.  If you don’t think church is the time to have the phone out, teach the kid that.  If they shouldn’t have it at the dinner table, then teach them that.  If they’re in a social situation and they haven’t looked up in 30 seconds to look at someone else in the room, then let them know that it’s time to put the phone away.  These behaviors are taught.

Lastly, “kids are growing up faster these days.  They know too much, too fast.”  Just take a second and think about what has changed the most during the past 50 years?  Our access to knowledge.  We have technology at our fingertips, constantly.  There are phones, ipads, computers, internet, along with every other resource we had before.  I’ve never realized how many restaurants have TV’s before we started trying to keep Selah away from screens.  They are EVERYWHERE.  Even in my own house.  Kids are using technology at home AND at school.  They are exposed to so much information all the time.  This is great in so many ways, especially in education.  The downside is that this makes it more difficult to monitor what they can be exposed to.  Even if, as parents/mentors/teachers, we are diligent about vetting what kids watch or see, there are some things we just can’t stop them from hearing or seeing.  Whether it be through friends, music on the radio, in books they read, etc… they will hear or see something.  Just the other night we were watching March Madness and a commercial came on that (in the words of a facebook friend) was more like a sex ed class than a car commercial.  The point is that March Madness is a family thing.  Plenty of kids stay up to watch it.  I sure did when I was little.  If a child picks up on what is happening, then the parent is forced to have a conversation before they or even their child is ready.  The parents have to make a decision between talking to them before either is prepared vs. letting their kids find out through a friend at school.  Most of the time, these friends have wrong information or tells more than they need to.  I could go on and on about this one, but I’ll stop for now.  Technology and media are at the root of this problem.

I hate the phrase “kids these days” because “kids these days” are bombarded with all sorts of issues that I never had to deal with, much less my parents, or grandparents generation.  They are smothered in body image issues everywhere they look; sexual innuendos in every song, commercial, or tv show; bullying; social media problems; so many activities that demand their time… and parents, teachers, mentors, that NEVER had these problems and are trying to guide these children through all of it.  We cannot pretend like they have it just as easy as we did.  They are exposed to so much and if they don’t have guidance and love, they are bound to get lost.

I’ll finish with this:  The students I have had in school are self-conscious, kind, loyal, pleading for attention, eager to please, courageous, funny, talented, good kids.  Some are troubled and misunderstood and desperately need love.  Next time you see a kid on their phone, don’t assume that they are wasting their time.  They could be speaking with a friend or reading a book.  Next time a kid doesn’t look you in the eye, don’t assume that they are being rude.  Maybe they have learned by experience to not look adults in the eye.  Have some compassion, try to understand the world they are growing up in, teach them in love, and always give them a second chance.

A Letter to Selah About Commitment

Just something I’ve been dealing with and thinking about lately…

Selah,

I know at this point in your life, you haven’t made any commitments, but one day I want you to understand how strongly your Dad and I look at commitments.  The definition of commitment is “the state of being dedicated to a cause; and engagement that restricts freedom of action.”  I assume that when you read this I will still be teaching choir (hopefully in a middle school), but who knows… I could get tired of dealing with commitment issues and choose another career path.  Being a choir teacher gives me a different outlook on commitment.  I feel like I’m constantly begging kids to commit to something.  “Be a part of the choir! Please come to the concert!  Please wear the right clothes!  Please sing out more!  You committed to this class back in August and you signed a contract saying that you would be at this concert! Don’t give up on me now!” If I ever seem a little frustrated after a day at work, it’s most likely not you that I’m irritated with.  I’m most likely tired of trying to win kids over.  I’m tired of trying to get them in my class.  I’m tired of trying to motivate them to do something just for the fun and excitement of it rather than doing it out of the fear of getting a bad grade.  I cannot tell you how many times in a year I hear… “is this for a grade?”  “what happens if I don’t show up to the concert?”  “Do I HAVE to be there? Or is this like… an optional thing?” I want to sit down with them and say… “Look, you’ve been working on this stuff since August.  Does that not make you feel like you’ve wasted all this time if you don’t go to the concert?  What was the point of all that work?”  I’ve even gone so far as to say things like, “If you don’t show up to the concert, that would be like skipping on end-of-year tests or going to all the practices for your sport and then not showing up for the game.  What is the point of class if you’re not going to show up for the concert?  If you abandon your teammate on a football field, the WHOLE team suffers.  It’s the same with choir!  If I’m missing 4 altos on the night of the concert, the choir simply will not sound as good as it could.”

Dearest Selah… to be quite frank.  I am sick and tired of having to compare choir (or any other art for that matter) to a sport in order for it to get the respect it deserves.  I’m going to stop myself there because that’s a different letter for a different day.  Here is the point that I am trying to make… In your life, when you make a commitment to something… HOLD THAT COMMITMENT.  I don’t care what it is that you’ve committed to.  If you’ve promised to meet someone for lunch, do it.  If you’ve said you’ll be there at soccer practice, do it.  If you’ve said you were going to help someone out with homework, do it.  For the first 18 years of your life, my dear, you will not have a choice.  Your Dad and I will be making that decision for you.  You can be mad at that (and I’m sure at some point in your life you will), but I think it is going to teach you a valuable lesson; a lesson that my parents taught me and I am so grateful for that.  

Academics come first.  If you are in a class and there is a test, field trip, choir competition, science fair, etc… you WILL complete it.  I don’t care if the choir concert is the night of your best friend’s 16th birthday.  You are not going to that party until AFTER the concert.  (Also, side note… what are you doing have a best friend who isn’t in choir???) I don’t care if the basketball championship game is the same night of the science fair that you entered in months before you tried out for the basketball team… you WILL compete in the science fair and then I will do my best to rush you over to the game.  I was an athlete in high school.  I get it.  I loved having sports as an outlet, but what my parents taught me was academics came before extracurriculars.  Always.

Church comes before academics.  I know, I know.  I said academics come first.  My brain was tired, it’s Friday.  If it’s Sunday, we’re at church.  If it’s Wednesday night, we are at church.  Even if your Dad wasn’t a music minister… we would be there.  You would be going to youth choir, Bible study, Sunday school, etc… This isn’t a choice.  It wasn’t a choice for me for 18 years and I loved it.  I loved going to church.  The minute I started struggling with church was the first Sunday I chose not to go in college.  Some parents may not like the fact that I force you to go to these things, but as my parents told me… They’re not your parents.  I am.  If you decide to play sports or be a part of a club or band in school and they have practice/rehearsal/meetings on a Wednesday night or Sunday afternoon, you will just have to miss it.  I won’t apologize for that.

I understand that there are always circumstances beyond your control.  I understand that last minute emergencies happen.  I understand that sometimes people get sick.  I understand that some days… you will just have a poopy day.  You won’t feel like coming home from school and then leaving again to go to church on Wednesday night.  You won’t feel like going to soccer practice when it’s 40 degrees outside and raining.  You won’t feel like spending an hour running around a gym after you’ve been up since 6am in a classroom doing work.  You won’t feel like spending an hour in a choir rehearsal and then coming back that night in a nice dress and standing up in front of people to do it again.  I get it.  Everyone has their days, but as long as you are healthy… you will be there.   You wanna know why?  Because you SAID you would.  If you join WHATEVER club or extracurricular activity, you will do it knowing that if it conflicts with church, you’ll miss it that day.  If it conflicts with an academic event, you’ll miss it that day.  You will join knowing that if your grades start to slip and your performance in school is falling, you will quit.

Your commitment to things is good practice for your commitment to relationships.  Will you always be there for your best friend?  Will you always support your significant other? Or… will you, the moment its tough, back out and say, “Do I have to do this?”  and I hope I will always be there in your head asking, “Did you say you would be?”

Here’s the deal, my girl… I came home tired today.  I drove home thinking about how frustrating it is to listen to students say, “I can’t go to this because I have (insert sports event here) that night.”  I drove home thinking about how I wanted a student to do something simply BECAUSE they committed and they cared… not because they were going to get a bad grade.  I drove home thinking about how I didn’t want my child to be like that to her teachers.  I drove home thinking about how I wanted you to understand how much teachers and other adults who lead students commit to those students’ lives and how disheartening it is to hear students say that they basically don’t care.  I came home thinking about how I wanted you to be a student and eventually an adult who commits to things…who gives their word and people believe them.  I want you to be a person who other people trust when they commit to something.  I want you to be dependable.  I want you to be honest.  I want you to be dedicated.  And if I have to make you mad along the way, I’ll do that for you.  

The Thing About Anger…

I promise that this isn’t a musical review.  It’s going to seem that way for the first 2 paragraphs, but I promise it’s not.  Just… get through it 🙂

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely LOVE musicals.  I grew up watching them with my sister and my best friend.  Anytime there’s a new musical, my BFF seems to have a heads up on it before anyone else.  She’ll text me and say “OH MY GOODNESS! Have you HEARD the soundtrack to the new musical _____??!!! You’re going to LOVE it.”  And sure enough, she’s right every time.  I do love it.  We basically just find bootlegs of musicals on Youtube, watch them and then text each other what we think.  I have recently been listening to a musical called “Waitress.”  I found a bootleg of this musical on YouTube because I neither have the time nor the money to fly to New York to see all the greatest shows 🙂   The music was written by Sara Bareilles and you can definitely tell.  It sounds just like her music.  Simply put, the story is about these three women who work at a diner together and help each other through life.  The main character, Jenna, has a husband who … how shall we put it… he drinks too much and gets angry.  He takes her tips away from her at the end of each day.  He won’t let her have a car because he doesn’t think she needs to go anywhere by herself and while it is never actually shown, it is insinuated that he could become physically aggressive.

The tricky thing about Waitress is that it starts out fun and inviting and the songs are catchy.  While one of the first songs has a bit of profanity in it, I decided to give it 5 more minutes.  (I really can’t stand a bunch of profanity.  It makes me a little irritated.)  I loved the characters immediately, the humor was great, the music was perfect.  They get you settled into a world where one of the worst problems is one of the girls is making an online dating profile.  However, for Jenna, life is not so simple.  She is pregnant and does not want to be.  At this point in the show, you haven’t met her husband yet so you don’t understand her fear and hesitation.  They have lulled you into a bright and shiny world and then all of a sudden, her husband walks in.  He is tall and intimidating and controlling and I immediately got the chills.  He takes her tips and degrades her in front of her friends.  When she gets home, he’s been drinking and is angry.  He threatens her and to protect herself she tells him that she’s pregnant.  As I was watching this, I actually felt fear.  Part of this is the acting.  It was spot on, but the other part of this is something I’ve been realizing about myself over the past several years.  I am terrified of anger.

Now, I’m not talking about someone being “mad.”  That is something completely different.  If you are mad, you are upset at something or someone.  You need to vent, you need to work it out, you need to sleep it off, etc… Anger is something else.  I’m about to get all science-y on you.  Google says that…

“When someone is experiencing and expressing anger, he or she is not using the thinking (cortex) part of the brain, but primarily, the limbic center of the brain. Within the limbic system is a small structure called the amygdala, a storehouse for emotional memories.” (lakesideconnect.com)

When you are angry, you, literally, are not using your thinker.  Your emotions are controlling everything about you.  Anger is something that sinks its claws into your heart.  It makes you burn from the inside out.  It is wild and uncontrollable and unpredictable.  It is often paired with hatred.  Those two together are a dangerous combination.  I feel fear every time I watch a movie with a person who is unrighteously angry.  I am mildly fearful when I hear someone being angry.  I felt chill bumps and fear watching this fictional character on a YouTube video.  Even when the character wasn’t being “angry” I was afraid and thinking ahead of things that could happen that would make him explode.

I’m not saying all this to get sympathy.  I’m saying it because this is what I’ve realized: In movies, TV, musicals, etc… we watch people act out certain emotions.  Love, hatred, sympathy, anger, sadness, happiness, etc…  Sometimes their acting is not quite right and we don’t believe it.  Sometimes the chemistry is off between actors and we don’t believe they’re in love.  Sometimes, they cry and it makes us wonder whether or not they are actually sad.  Sometimes it’s just bad acting.  They don’t bring us into their story.  BUT… Rarely, have I seen someone get anger wrong.  Anger is one of the emotions that is almost always believable.  I honestly think that this is because anger is so easy.  It’s easy for us to tap into.  There’s a reason that Corinthians says, “Love is not easily angered.”  Anger is easy.  Ecclesiastes 7:9 says,

“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”  

Not to be too poetic, but I think anger just sits and waits for us to open a door, window, a crack somewhere, so that it can burst in.  It is, unfortunately, a part of who we are as imperfect humans.

Sometimes, after a bad week at work, or a busy week at home, I feel irritable.  I just want to sit down for 10 minutes and the baby wants me to walk.  I just want to watch a movie with Taylor, but there’s laundry to be done.  The list could go on and on.  Instead of voicing my irritation, or going for a run, or praying about it, I let that irritation sit and over the course of a few days it turns to anger.  It’s like Irritation is the fingernail of Anger.  Anger has put its sharp fingernail in the crack that I’ve opened up and it is slowly prying away so that it can come into my life.  I have a very vivid image in my head of what this looks like, but as I am no artist… think about the “Pain & Panic” characters from Disney’s Hercules.  I’d totally post a picture of them, but you know… copyright.  What I’m thinking of is like Pain, but creepier looking.

I end up exploding over something small.  People will say “don’t let your anger get the best of you”, but if it were up to me alone, that anger would best me every time.  It is so important for me to remember James 1:19-20,

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  

I have to repeat that to myself over and over again.  Ultimately, I think I become angry because I do not seek GOD above all things.  I seek acknowledgement for everything that I do.  I seek praise or personal satisfaction or sympathy, rather than seeking GOD.  James 4:1-3 says,

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You desire, but do not have so you kill.  You covet, but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  

Or in the Message version:

“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from?  Do you think they just happen?  Think again.  They come about because you want your own way and fight for it deep inside yourselves.  You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it.  You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.”  

Whoa!  This makes it so obvious where anger can become dangerous.  When anger does get the best of us, we become violent, pushing anything and everything aside JUST to get what we want.  James continues,

“You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you?  And why not?  Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to.  You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.”   

This makes it very clear to me.  When I am angry, I am acting like a spoiled child.  I do not have the logic to ask God to help me because I am not using my thinker.  I am so caught up in my emotions that I have forgotten that GOD has also given me a brain and the ability to be patient and calm.  I want what I want, when I want it, and I am not afraid of hurting anyone in the process.  This is a dangerous mindset to have and one that I want to stay far away from.

I am challenging myself to be more patient and calm over the next few weeks.  The closer we get to Lent, the more I want to give up anger, and with it irritation, impatience, bitterness, and pettiness.  It is going to take a lot of prayer and practice.  I hope that by saying it here, that the people around me will keep me accountable for this.  I want to live in a constant relationship of love, peace, and kindness with the world and if there is anger in any part of me, that is impossible.

“Therefore, as GOD’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” – Colossians 3:12.

The Beginning of Selah’s Birth, Pt. 3

Selah was born 4 months ago today so I think it’s only right that I do my best to finish her birth story today.  When we got to baby & co, I basically spent all my time in the shower or the huge tub.  The hot water helped considerably, but I did not like the fact that I was unable to move in the tub.  The shower was wonderful, but at some point it became difficult to stand.  During the last 3-4 hours, the pain increased and it became more difficult to keep my head clear and above water… figuratively and literally.  My mother had arrived at this point and I asked if she would read some notecards that I had written verses or motivational statements on.  There were three that I tried to keep repeating in my head over and over as the pain became too much.

  1. This pain is just a moment and it will pass.
  2. Philippians 1:6 – He who started a good work in you will carry it to completion.
  3. Isaiah 66:9 – In the same way, I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.

That last one especially stuck with me and I’m pretty sure I began to cry at this point.  Like I said, things got a bit cloudy from here.  So, what I am saying is… here is either the bits and pieces that I do remember or it is second hand information from Taylor or my mom.  At some point, my sister, her husband, and their two kids got there, as well as Taylor’s mom, dad, and sister.  I think he went out to say hello and update them once, but I really did not like being left alone, so he stayed by my side throughout everything.  (more on Taylor’s just sheer amazingness later…) So… there are a few different stages of labor and in my birthing class I remember them saying that the last part of labor is the toughest.  The contractions are very close together and they are the most painful.  I do remember, however, that there are supposed to be breaks between contractions, just not very long.

At this point, my water STILL had not broken and it was around 3-4am?  I was in what they call “transition” and my contractions were the worst they’d been and very close together.  I began to have what I later learned were called “rolling contractions.”  This basically means, before the first one is over, the next one has already started.  So, the first one reaches its peak and as it’s coming back down the hill, the next one picks up.  I would have about 3-4 of these in a row before I’d get about 20-30 seconds of rest.  This was more mentally tiring than physically.  I knew they had to end, but at that point in time, it never felt like they would.  I would begin to feel relief and it would start hurting again.  My sister has told me that she was in a room down the hall feeding her daughter, and she could hear me moaning and whimpering.  (I vaguely remember this because the next morning in the hospital with Selah my throat was soon sore.)  My brain was wearing down, I was leaning over the bed on an exercise ball with Taylor trying to support me.  This is the point where I began saying and believing, “I can’t do this.  I can’t do this.  It’s too hard.  I can’t do this.”  Taylor, being amazing (I’ll get to that later, just kept saying, “yes, you can.  You ARE doing this.  You’re so close.  You can do this.”  I tried to keep telling myself, “This has to end at some point.  Just hold on.  This has to end.”

At some point in this miserable cycle, my water broke.  It was not at all like I expected it to be and I know it surprised Taylor, but it FINALLY broke.  I became a little more excited and energized at this point because I felt like now she could come out and all this pain wasn’t happening in vain.

I’m going to take a quick pause here and talk about Taylor.  He has always been great at being a supportive person when you are in need.  He was wonderful when my dad died and throughout that whole grieving process.  He was just amazing.  There is no other way to put it.  I never doubted how he would handle labor.  He has this way of becoming completely calm and logical during stressful times.  The whole time we were at home and I was dealing with contractions, he was right there rubbing my back and being encouraging.  We got to Baby and Co and he stood in the shower with me, helping hold me up, rubbing my back, handing me a bottle of water and forcing me to drink.  When I was in the tub, he was sitting on the floor next to it, holding my arms, squeezing my neck, reminding me to breathe, and once again, forcing me to drink water.  When I moved to the bed, he was there, rubbing my arm, reminding me to breathe, forcing me to drink water, etc… He was always telling me I could do it, asking questions when I couldn’t, just being present. In the words of my sister, “I remember how amazing Mom said Taylor was.  She bragged on him for days.  Telling how he stayed right with you and didn’t leave your side for anything (even to change his wet clothes).  She said he was always so confident and encouraging.  He was seriously your biggest fan and coach all in one.”  He had not left my side.  So… here we go….

My water broke, I asked him to go and get Alice Ann, he did.  He came back and Alice Ann came in after him.  She took one look at the floor where my water had broke and said, “Okay.  So.  This isn’t an emergency, but that’s definitely meconium.  That means that baby has pooped in utero.  We want to make sure that she hasn’t ingested any because if she has, she could be sick.  This is one of our reasons that we transfer moms to the hospital.  This is a non-emergency, but we do need to begin that transfer, okay?  Do you understand?”  Now you see why we really like Alice Ann.  She’s honest, forthright, but she makes sure you understand that everything is okay.  She was very much like Taylor.  I nodded my head (all I could manage at this point) and she left the room.  I started to cry, partially because of exhaustion, partially because of pain, partially because I was afraid that everything was falling apart.  Taylor assured me that everything was alright and that Alice would have said differently if it weren’t an emergency.  My mother cried at this point, I believe.  A few minutes later, Alice Ann came in with a wheelchair and wheeled me out to the parking lot.  Taylor got in the driver seat of our car, I got in the passenger seat, and Alice got in the backseat.  We drove over to the hospital, Alice reminding me to breathe the whole time.  Ya’ll… sitting down while having contractions is the WORST.

We got to the hospital 3 minutes later, they wheeled me into the elevator and took me upstairs.  It was about 5am-5:30am.  They got me into a room, onto a bed, and Alice Ann talked to the doctor about the rest of the delivery.  They immediately let me begin pushing.  Let me just say… they told me that when you started to push everything would change.  It certainly does. The pain of the contractions basically disappear because now you have a job and that’s exactly what I needed.  I desperately need a job, a purpose.  As soon as they let me start doing this, time flew by and I actually felt like we were getting somewhere.  Looking back, it was so exciting.  She was coming and soon.  They told me that they could actually see her.  This wasn’t something I had made up.  There was an actual baby and she was being born within the hour.  It took about an hour of pushing and when she was born there was such a relief.  I have never felt relief like this.  They lifted her up so that I could see her and then they took her to the other side of the room.

Because there was meconium in my water, they wanted to make sure she hadn’t ingested any.  She had to be suctioned and then they washed her off and handed her right back.  It was 1-2 minutes max, but it felt like eternity.  We laid there and she immediately just curled up on my chest.  She was warm and smelled lovely.  Her skin was perfect, her nose was perfect, her adorable little body was just perfect.  They moved us to a different room and as they wheeled us down the hall, the hospital played “Brahms Lullaby” to signal Selah’s birth.  I, of course cried, because that’s what my mother used to hum to me when she would tuck me in at night.  About 30 minutes after we got to the room, Taylor came over to the bed and said, “Are you okay? Do you need me?” and I must have made a confused face because he said, “Can I use the bathroom?”  I burst out laughing.  I hadn’t even noticed that he hadn’t used the bathroom, but I should’ve known.  He had been with me since 6pm the night before and now it was 6:30am.  I told you he was wonderful.  I spent the next day or two just laying in bed with Selah and watching Selah lay on Taylor’s chest.

Baby & Co continued to be supportive in the next day or two and even the next several weeks.  I have called and facetimed several times since she was born for many reasons.  I will always recommend them to anyone who is looking for great women’s care.  I cannot tell you how beautiful this whole process was for me.  I know it’s different for everyone, but despite all the pain and the last minute change of plans… it is so incredibly worth it.  I’ll end with another special memory from my sister: “When I first came into the room, I saw her sweet little angel face and I saw in my mind the first time I met you in the hospital, and I knew how amazing and special this moment was, so instead of going straight to my niece, I hugged you first.  I knew what you had done to bring her into this world, I knew how hard you had worked, how scary moments had been for you, and I knew all the flurry of emotions you were experiencing (and would experience in the next 8 weeks to come).  At the same time, I could see you at that size and I was so proud of you, I thought my heart would burst or overflow.”

The Beginning of Selah’s Birth, pt. 2

There will probably be one more birth post after this.  It’s a long story, so I’ve tried to split it up.  This one is a bit long 🙂

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The week or two before Selah was born, I had already begun to have Braxton Hicks.  I was never confused about whether or not they were real contractions, partially because my brain was like, “hey, she’s not coming yet.  It’s not her due date.  No way.”  and also because, they really didn’t hurt too bad.  They would occasionally make me catch my breath, but it wasn’t painful.  Friday, October 14th was my last day at work.  I came home and collapsed on the couch.  I slept as much as I could that night and on Saturday, we woke up and went for a walk.  I remember sitting in Selah’s nursery, folding baby clothes and organizing her books (AGAIN) thinking about how I wanted her to come first thing Monday morning… like I had a choice.  I was working 4 days before she was born.  I was on my feet for 8 hours, leaning over a piano, trying to get middle school boys to sing on pitch (which is hard enough without being 9 months pregnant).  I think if I had quit working earlier, I would have been miserable.  

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I was ready to not be pregnant, especially by Sunday the 16th.  I knew she had dropped.  I was having what is apparently called “lightning” pains; and no, I don’t mean “lightening” pains.  Two entirely different things.  Lightening (from what I understand), is when the baby drops and is ready to go.  Your heartburn sometimes goes away (mine def did not), your stomach feels lower and heavier (why did they call it lightening you may ask?, idk.)  “Lightning” pain is a shooting, sharp pain that goes downwards after the baby has dropped.  I would be walking and all of a sudden have to stop and kind of bend over for a second.  It happened every once in a while at school and I could see the fear in my students eyes.  The last thing they wanted is for my water to break and for me to go in labor during class.  I, however, didn’t have that fear.  I remember the class we took at Baby & Co. talking about how it NEVER happened the way it does in the movies.  It’s not like, your water breaks and BAM here comes the baby.  Oh man, would that have been nice.  Anyways… Sunday morning, we got up and went to church and everyone asked that question that no pregnant woman ever wants to hear… “So, when is she coming? Is she gonna come yet? Tell that girl to get out here!”  Something about being 9 months pregnant… let’s just say that’s never a good question to ask someone who desperately wants to get the cantaloupe out of their stomach.  

At church, people were asking Taylor, “So, when is she coming?” and he would answer, “well, she’s a Vancil so I’m thinking she’ll be right on time.  On her due date, nice at early in the morning.”  I’m pretty sure Taylor’s spiritual gift is prophecy.  We got Mexican food that afternoon and a part of me was hoping that the old wives tale of spicy food would work for me.  I was way ready, but nope.  It didn’t give me anything except a giant case of heartburn.  I went home that night, feeling slightly better about the fact that I didn’t have to go to work in the morning so I could at least sleep as much as my belly would let me.  Selah, at this point, had slowly stopped kicking and had moved to more of a pushing/stretching motion.  She was running out of room.  Mondays were Taylor’s day off, so we both got up together, double checked to make sure that the house was ready, and then proceeded to be complete bums all day.  I’m sure at some point we went for a walk.  I was doing anything to pass the time.  

Tuesday rolled around, Taylor went back to work, and I woke up, double checked everything in every room (nesting, much?), vacuumed, swept, mopped, went for a walk around 8:30am (yes, all of that happened before 8:30am; I should have known) and took the dog with me.  On the walk, I was having Braxton Hicks, but nothing was consistent or more than what I had felt so I didn’t think anything of it.  I was so deeply lost in thoughts about wondering when she was going to come and what it would feel like and if everything would be okay that I almost didn’t recognize a woman from church who stopped to talk to me.  She was out walking and said something like, “I see you trying to walk that baby out.”  I very incoherently mumbled something and nodded.  She quickly realized that I was confused and let me know that she was from church and said something about her mom doing the same thing and how it worked.  I smiled and nodded again (still a little lost in my thoughts, sorry Lakena.  Promise I wasn’t being rude.) and kept on walking.  

I got back to the house, ate lunch, walked around the house again.  I thought about painting my nails and I’m not sure why I didn’t.  That would’ve been a good moment.  I slept a bit, watched TV a bit, and waited for Taylor to get home.  Taylor got back around 4pm and I was really feeling antsy at this point.  I asked him to go on a walk (again; come on Sarah, get a clue) and he agreed.  That was around 5ish?  We went for a walk and on this walk, the Braxton Hicks (silly me) really picked up.  They were really starting to hurt on the way back up the hill to our house.  We got back, I got a glass of water (I was listening in my birthing class!) and sat down in my chair in the living room.  I kept having what I thought were Braxton Hicks, but then all of a sudden, something changed.  It was like … she dropped even more than what I thought and the contractions I was feeling, left my lower abdomen and dropped even lower.  I waited for about 20 minutes before I said anything to Taylor.  After it had happened a few times, I told him that something had changed and that the feelings I was having were not the same.  I decided to get up and get a shower.  I had a few more of these feelings (what I now know were contractions) while in the shower.  I got out, sat back down in my chair and Taylor tried to get me to play a video game while I sat there. While it took my mind off of it for a second, I very quickly became irritated at sitting still.  I remembered the midwife saying something about “sleep while you can” so I went downstairs to lay down.  It was probably around 7pm at this point.  I went downstairs, turned on season 1 of Friends (my fav season) and downloaded a timer for contractions.  I started using it and while the contractions weren’t super painful yet, I felt like they were too close together to still be in the first stage of labor.  They didn’t feel like active labor, but they were close together.  

When they started hurting bad enough where I realized that I wasn’t going to sleep, I texted my mom (always).  I was worried that maybe my pain tolerance was better than I was hoping and that maybe I was already in active labor.  She told me the wise thing… call baby & co and ask.  I called for Taylor to come downstairs.  He said the same thing.  I called Baby & Co and one of my favorite midwives, Alice, picked up.   She was calm and kind and asked me if I was having a contraction over the phone and I said yes.  She told me to call back when I couldn’t talk through one.  I hung up, french braided my hair and Taylor and I both went back upstairs.  My go-bag was by the door, I had my labor gown on and was, by this point, bending over the kitchen counter during a contraction.  Taylor was giving me “friends” trivia from an app on the iphone.  It was keeping me occupied; that and him rubbing my back.  In between contractions, I was having time to recover and felt fine.  The contractions were about 30 seconds long and a few minutes apart.  When it came to the point where I couldn’t talk through one, Taylor called Alice and she said to come on in to Baby & Co.  We live about 20 minutes from Baby & Co so I wasn’t too worried about the drive.  (once again, silly me) We grabbed the go-bag (and by we, I mean Taylor) and I hobbled to the car. (10pmish?)  Our neighbors were out on their front porch and yelled over, “IS IT TIME???”  Taylor said something like, “I sure hope so.” and we got in the car.  I kept the seatbelt as loose as possible the whole way there and squirmed and rode backwards and laid on my side… I’m pretty sure if a police officer saw us, we definitely would have been pulled over.  I’m also pretty sure that if one HAD pulled us over, he would’ve given us an escort to Baby & Co, either because of Taylor begging him or because of me giving him a death glare for making Taylor stop the car.  

We got to Baby & Co, pulled in the parking lot, I finished having the contraction I was right in the middle of, rolled myself out of the car and just left Taylor behind.  He, being the wonderful person he is, got the bags from the car and followed in after me.  From the walk from the car to the door which is all but 20 feet, I started having another contraction, pushed the doorbell and leaned up against the wall.  Alice Ann came to the door and said “No shoes, huh?  Well, that’s a good sign!”  I looked down at my feet, like… what’s she talking about??  I had apparently walked out of the house in my socks and didn’t even notice.  Alice walked us back to the room that we would be in for the night and said she’d be right back.  There was apparently another girl in labor that same night and her baby was about 2 hours from being born.  Taylor said that was fine.  I asked permission to get in the shower and turn on the tub.  She laughed at me and said, “Please, do whatever you want to get comfortable.”  

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(This picture is from their website HERE… they are so wonderful.  This was my room, but they have a few different rooms.  We, somehow, took NO pictures whatsoever until after Selah was born.  I am 100% okay with that because I’m sure I looked miserable.)

Another reason that we chose Baby & Co is because of all the options you have while in labor.  The 20 minutes I was sitting in the car on the way there were HORRIBLE.  I couldn’t get up and walk around or use heat or stretch or anything.  I am not one to judge anyone’s birthing choices, but I don’t know how anyone copes with the pain in the hospital, unable to move around or eat or drink.  Baby and co has a huge shower that has detachable shower heads, a huge tub, a queen sized bed, an exercise ball, an exercise ball that’s in the shape of a peanut, bars on the wall that you can hold on to… all sorts of things that are helpful.  I immediately got into the shower and used one of the shower heads to put hot water on the place where I felt the most pain.  The immediate relief was amazing.  The pain (obviously) didn’t go away, but the hot water helped me get my brain out of the cloudiness and fear.  I got back on top of what was happening and was able to cope.  After this point, things got a bit fuzzy, but I’ll try to remember what I can (with the help of Taylor).

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This is all for tonight.  I’ll post the 3rd (and hopefully last part) later this week.  Enjoy!

 

Not What it Was Supposed to Be… but When is Life Ever?

I sit here with tears in my eyes at the end of a very long and hard week. I know I’m supposed to be uploading part two of Selah’s birth, but I just don’t have that in me today.  There are dirty bottles in the sink (as well as one that I cannot find; it’s somewhere around here).  The baby bath is sitting out, still full of water, baby blankets are covering every sitting space in the house, even though she only uses one blanket at a time.  There is an empty pizza box on top of the stove.  There’s a full trash bag in the trash can, waiting to be taken out.  Poor Leo (our dog) hasn’t had a good run in a week or so.  The floor could probably stand to be swept and mopped.  I’m pretty sure there’s even a dirty diaper sitting on the kitchen counter (leftover from bathtime).  It is very important to me that I say all of these things.  It’s like admitting you have a problem.  I like to live in a world where my house is constantly in order, the cloth diapers are always washed and ready to go, Selah’s things are always folded and put away, all the bottles are filled and in the fridge ready to go, and there is NEVER a diaper sitting on my kitchen counter.  This is rarely ever the case… or if it is, it’s only this way for an hour until Selah wakes up from her nap and the mess starts all over again.  

Back to the beginning… Why do I have tears in my eyes? (OH, btw.  I completely realize that everything I’m about to mention are 100% first world problems, but they are weighing heavily on me so I’m doing my best to get them out.)  Monday morning, I woke up at 5am, got ready for work, cleaned the bottles, got everything ready for Selah’s day, packed my lunch and went to work.  I got home at 3:45pm, fed Selah, played with her for about 45 minutes and then she was ready to go back down for a nap.  I laid her down, ate a snack and just as I was about to clean bottles and pick up the house, she woke up… that’s right… 30 minutes after I laid her down, she woke up.  How dare she? Didn’t she know that I had things to do? I ended up leaving a little while later at 5:40pm to go teach the musicianship class I teach at Charlotte Children’s Choir.  By the time, I got back, she was down for the night so I just looked at her on the baby monitor until I fell asleep.  Tuesday went very much the same.  I got home from work at 3:45pm, fed her, laid her back down, left at 5:45pm to go back to work since my students had their choir concert.  When I got back home, she was laid down for the night (deja vu?) so I stared at the monitor until I fell asleep.  That night, Selah decided to wake up at 2am, 4 hours we had given her the dreamfeed.  Taylor, being the saint that he is, woke up and fed her so that I could sleep.  Exactly 4 hours later, she woke up again at 6am.  I took her upstairs to Nana so that Taylor could sleep and so that I could get ready for work.  Nana fed her and she had a great day.  Wednesday night, I got home at 3:45pm, fed her while she was being fussy, not sure if she wanted the bottle or not, laid her down and she slept until 7pm, woke her up, took her to church, fed her and sat down for choir practice. (Taking Selah to choir practice is another post for another day.)  When we got home from choir, it was time for her to go to bed… proceed with the usual staring at the monitor.  Thursday, wake up, work, come home, try to feed her, lay her down for a nap, feed her again, lay her down for the night.  

This morning she decided to wake up at 3:30am and then again at 7am.  At that point, I was already gone for work.  I got home today at 3:45, tried to feed her, but she apparently wasn’t hungry.  She’d had a rough day with the girl that takes care of her on Fridays.  I had no idea what was wrong with her because I hadn’t been with her all day.  I didn’t know when she had eaten last, when she had slept today and for how long, when her last diaper change was, or anything.  After attempting to feed her multiple times this afternoon and getting barely an ounce in before she gave up and cried, I decided at 7:30 (which is usually her bedtime) that I was going to give her a bath.  She always likes baths.  It’s like a reset for her brain.  I got her in the bath and cried as I washed her.  She laid there, perfectly calm, and somewhat sleepy after her fussy afternoon.  I gave her one more ounce of milk while in the bathtub, she burped on her own, I wrapped her up in the towel and all of a sudden she was snuggly and sleepy.  This sweet little angel, that I had been crying over all afternoon, was fine.  She was more than fine.  She was content and sleepy.  It was at this moment that she looked up at me…

So now I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes because I haven’t known one day thisweek, what my child needs when I get home.  I haven’t laid her down one day this week to go to bed for the night.  I haven’t had one snuggle, one successful feeding without tears.  I haven’t had one hour this week that we’ve laid and played together and I know what she wants or what she needs before she gets upset.  I’ve had something every night this week and this is when the mommy guilt sets in.  For those of you who have never had mommy guilt, it’s the worst guilt I’ve ever felt.  I feel guilty when I stay at home with her, because I miss my job.  I feel guilty when I’m at work, because I miss my child and I don’t feel like I know what she wants.  When I’m with my child, I feel guilty because all I want is for her to sleep so that I can sleep, or shower, or eat without interruptions.  When I sleep, shower, or eat, I feel guilty because I feel like I should be cleaning the house or preparing for when she wakes up.  When I sit down at the end of the day, I feel guilty about not exercising because I desperately need to get back into shape.  

I’m doing my absolute best to stay present and not strive for perfection, but so far I’m failing.  I’ve been reading two books that talk about the importance of grace and not perfection.  But there’s a problem with that for me… I feel like if I read the books and master the art of grace and not perfection, THEN… I’ll be perfect.  But… that defeats the purpose.  I haven’t read those books in a week because every time I read them, I try to be BETTER at being present.  I strive for being PERFECT at giving myself GRACE and that is not helping the situation.  A friend of mine once told me, when we were talking about kids and jobs and family, etc… that “you CAN have it all… you just might not have it all at the same time.”

This week has been a great example of that for me.  I’ve tried to stay on top of things and be perfect.  I’ve washed bottles, been a mom, been a teacher, cleaned the house, started a load of laundry at 6am, while eating breakfast.  I’m trying to do everything and it’s simply not working.  I’m failing at trying to be perfect.  I’m doing my BEST to be the best I can be and that’s not the point.  The point is for me to be here.  To see Selah.  To give her what I can.  To do what I can.  It’s easier said than done and I wish I could wrap this all up in a nice pretty bow and tell you how I’ve overcome my perfectionist mindset, but I haven’t so I can’t.  I’m still a perfectionist and I’m prepared to struggle with that for my entire life.  Right now, all I can do is trust that GOD will continue to change me… to help me realize my imperfections and be okay with them, to help me realize what my priorities should be in life, and to help me present not perfect.  To give and want Grace over perfection.    

The Beginning of Selah’s Birth

My next few posts will be about Selah, pregnancy, and her birth.  I’ll try not to be too graphic and I’ll give you a warning ahead of time if something is going to be TMI.  This one’s pretty safe 🙂

When I found out I was pregnant, I honestly had no idea what I was getting into.  I would like to say that I kept it to myself and came up with a great way to surprise Taylor with the news.  I would like to say that I started journaling from Day 1 and kept record of every tiny little feeling, thought and emotion.  I would LOVE to say that I was 100% prepared for the changes about to happen.  However… as soon as I found out, I walked into the other room where Taylor sat and said something like… “I think I’m pregnant.”  Instead of journaling, I had a baby notebook that I went back to a month after each pregnancy milestone was hit and did my best to remember what had happened.  Instead of being prepared, I probably read 50% of Mayo Clinic’s What to Expect.  I didn’t even buy that book.  My insurance company sent it to me for free.  My best friend will tell you that I read one chapter ahead of what I needed to know for that week of pregnancy.  I was too afraid to read too far ahead.    

I am usually a very prepared person.  I like planning ahead.  No… I love planning ahead.  I like making plans even more than I like doing the actual thing I’ve planned for. (Nesting was a serious problem for me.) With pregnancy, I think ignorance was bliss.  Not knowing what was going to happen in the months ahead actually made me a) enjoy it while it was actually happening b) not stress out about it or think about it too much ahead of time.  

I had a relatively easy pregnancy.  (I know, I know.  You’re never supposed to say that.  But, hey.  I’m being honest here, right?)  During the first trimester, I had very slight nausea.  I hadn’t figured out what to do about it until one day at work, we had a hot chocolate bar.  There was a little bowl filled with red hots and I grabbed a handful.  I ate the red hots and sipped on a ginger ale and BAM! Immediately, the nausea was gone.  My students noticed I was eating a lot of red hots and started bringing them to me at school.  Once I got to the second trimester, the nausea went away and heartburn took its place.  I couldn’t even look at a red hot without getting horrible indigestion.  Today, I have two huge jars full of red hots because I’m too afraid to eat them.  

Around 8 weeks, I couldn’t keep the secret anymore so Taylor told our parents and a few close friends and family.  Then we naturally let the word spread. I posted a picture of Selah’s ultrasound that had her footprint.  For whatever reason, that picture of her little foot stuck with me throughout the rest of the pregnancy.  

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As she began to grow inside me, there were many thoughts that touched me.  I took communion every Sunday at the Lutheran church I attended in Dallas.  For whatever reason, taking communion with this child growing inside of me made me super emotional.  It was a very intimate, spiritual moment every single Sunday and I will never forget how special that way.  

We also decided along the way that I didn’t want to deliver in a hospital, but a birthing center.  If you had asked me 5 years ago what I would choose, I would say, um… hospital with all the drugs please! Then a few years ago, my best friend recommended I watch this documentary on Netflix.  It was about birthing centers.  It was extremely biased and that was evident, BUT… it started me thinking.  I was still pretty set on hospital and all the drugs, but I thought home births or birthing centers were pretty beautiful.  Then I read a blog written by a friend of mine who chose to have her baby at a birthing center called “Baby & Co.”  The idea of birthing in a hospital became less and less appealing.  Not being able to move or eat or go home when I wanted, not being able to feel when I should push or not, not being able to feel how far along I was just made me feel NOT in control… and I HATE not feeling in control.  I started doing some research and found two Baby & Co’s in NC.  The great thing about Baby & Co… let me change that… one of the many great things about Baby & Co is the fact that everything is so relaxed.  The baby’s health is paramount, you have choices, they don’t treat you like a patient.  They treat you like you’re an actual person.  I never had to get there 30 minutes before my doctor’s appointment.  They ALWAYS scheduled me after work so I wouldn’t have to take off work to be there.  They were so kind and friendly.  At the time, I was unsure where we would be living, but I was hoping it was within 30 minutes of Baby & Co.  

By the time we moved back to NC, I was feeling Selah move and kick and stretch.  I could feel her move when I was singing or when there was a loud noise.  The heartburn was in full gear and I, often, couldn’t tell the difference between not being hungry and fear of eating because of heartburn.  After we got back to NC, time flew by.  I started working at Stanley so I had something to keep me occupied during the day.  After work, I’d be on my feet for HOURS, just nesting.  I was unpacking things, washing clothes, vacuuming the nursery for the 10th time that week.  It was 10:30pm and I wanted so badly to go to sleep, but I seriously could not.  There were clothes to be folded and I wanted to put the car seat in, and fold blankets, and sterilize bottles, and do everything I could.  

I packed my birthing “go-bag” at like… 32 weeks.  I packed the diaper bag that same week.  I was soooo ready for Selah to get here.  I had originally planned on working until I went into labor.  Then I got to 38 weeks and started to doubt my perseverance.  

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Can you see it in my face?  Kill me now, please.  I’m so done with this.  At 39 weeks, I said, “That’s it.  Friday is my last day.  I can’t do this anymore.  My feet hurt, I’m tired all the time.  All I want to do is clean the house and make sure everything is ready.”  So, I took off on Friday, October 14th.  I slept as much as I could on Saturday & Sunday and that’s when the fun started.  

Part 2 coming soon!

Who I Am (pt. 2)

Oh man.  TGIF.  I love teaching, but man is it exhausting sometimes.  Today was rough around the edges, but that’s a post for another day.  If you haven’t read pt. 1 you’re gonna want to.

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After Christmas of 2013, my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and their dog came to our apartment in January for my mother’s birthday.  We went to bed the night they got there expecting to wake up the next morning and spend the day together.  

I was woken up in the middle of the night by mom asking for our address.  Thank goodness Taylor had a clear mind at 1am.  He spit out our address and quickly followed up with, “what’s wrong?”  Dad was having a seizure and it was not his usual quick, short-lasting seizures that he only had to let his doctor know about the next day.  This one had been going on long enough for mom to wonder and to worry and then decide to call 911, come to our room and ask for our address.  We all put clothes on, the ambulance got there, came up, got Dad, and we all followed them to the hospital in our own car.  When we got to the hospital, they began all the tests and procedures.  It lasted all night.  They eventually transferred him to a bigger, better equipped hospital in Charlotte.  We all followed the ambulance and settled down there for the day.  We each took turns going back home, letting the dogs out, and going back to the hospital.  At this point, we were each running on about 3 hours of sleep.  Looking back and thinking about my sister who was 8-9 months pregnant at the time… good heavens.  I’m not sure how she stayed on her feet that day.  God bless you Lauren.  

Eventually, after some scary moments, humorous moments thanks to Dad being able to use sign language, and some lovely supporting people… the doctors decided Dad was stable enough to be transferred back home to Duke hospital.  Mom followed the ambulance and Taylor and I went back home and said we’d wait until Mom had heard more from Dad’s doctor.  This last seizure had messed with Dad’s speech as well as the mobility on one side of his body.  His doctor said he would need lots of speech therapy as well as therapy to be able to walk, but that it seemed highly unlikely that he’d gain back full mobility.  At this point, my idea of church and faith was gone.  I mean, what was the point?  I went to church consistently for the first 20 years of my life.  I loved church.  I loved the Bible.  I loved God.  I loved sharing all of those things with other people.  My own father had taught Sunday School for years, hosted Bible Study in his home for years, been on countless mission trips, spent so much time studying the Bible and furthering his relationship with God, dedicated his life to helping others and look where it got him.  I did not understand how someone so dedicated to serving Christ could end up with such a bad deal.  

Now, looking back, I see so many things that had gone in our favor.  We were told in 2011 that he had brain cancer.  He knew, although he did not tell us, that it could be months.  We were given 3 more years.  For this last seizure, we were all there together.  All of us, in the same house, so we could all deal with it together and support each other.  Our apartment was literally half a block from the hospital.  It took the ambulance 2 minutes to get there and 2 more minutes to get Dad to the hospital where they stopped the seizure.  They saved his life and gave us a few more months.  There were so many times I thought… what if this had happened at his home?  How would they have gotten him to the hospital on time?  

After Dad went home, they moved his bedroom downstairs.  My mom promised to call me if something happened or if I needed to come home.  At some point a few weeks later, I got that call.  I left work, packed my bag, and came home.  One of my best friends that laid in the nursery with me was getting married while I was home.  I was a bridesmaid in her wedding.  I was there for a couple more days when my sister went into labor.  My precious nephew was born at the perfect time.   He brought such joy and excitement into our house.  Dad was continuing to try to talk with us and make jokes like always.  His hospice nurses would let us know a general time frame, as well as let us know they were praying for us.  Dad always charmed his nurses.  He was kind and sincere and I think people were drawn to that.  He wasn’t two-faced at all.  He was an honest and giving person.  One day, it was time to call Taylor and he came to my parents house as soon as he could get there.  We had another day or two and that was it.  Dad was gone.  I remember sitting there, holding his hand, not wanting to be anywhere else and simultaneously wishing to be anywhere else, but here.  After a few minutes of his light breathing it slowed and eventually got so light that I couldn’t hear it.  Mom signaled for the nurse to come in, she checked his pulse and shook her head.  As much as I loved my Dad, I immediately felt disconnected from that room.  He wasn’t there.  He was where he wanted to be.  He was where he could speak clearly and move freely.  He was where he had always wanted to be.  “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” became a motto in our house.  They sang “This is My Father’s World” at his funeral and I still can’t hear that hymn without crying.   

Taylor and I, at this point, had returned to the church we went to together in college.  I was struggling emotionally.  I would hear a song on the radio and cry.  I would listen to my students sing and cry.  I would look at my dog and cry.  I had never been an emotional person.  I didn’t cry a whole lot growing up, but I knew something was wrong.  I wasn’t allowing myself to grieve.  I sat down and had a talk with our pastor and through this conversation I realized a few things.  The most important one was this… If I don’t allow myself to feel the things that I need to, I cannot be honest with myself. I grew up with this mentality of “it’s no use to cry over spilt milk.”  When I said this to the pastor, he responded with something I will never forget.  “Well, okay.  Let’s take that analogy and use it.  Sarah, you’ve spilled milk on the table and not only are you not crying over it, but you’re not even acknowledging that it happened.  When you spill milk on the table and choose not only to not cry over it, but to even acknowledge that it’s been spilled… it ends up just sitting there.  It drips on the floor and possibly on you.  Then after a while, that milk begins to dry and sour.  You can ignore it if you want to, but at some point that milk is going to stink and you won’t be able to do anything without being bothered by the smell of that milk.  Now, would it be better to completely ignore the milk or to acknowledge that milk has been spilled, cry if you must, and then clean it up and take care of the problem before it becomes worse?”  I remember sitting on his couch and just sobbing.  I finally understood.  I had spilled milk.  It was everywhere and my heart was starting to sour.  I had chosen to ignore the problem completely.  I was jaded with church, I was distrusting of religion, I was bitter about what had happened to my Dad.  Rather than dealing with these emotions, I ignored them.  That was a turning point for me.  I began to try and let myself cry whenever it came up.  I tried to actually feel the feelings that I had pushed down for so long.  It was like I had opened floodgates.  Everything was heightened.  If I was happy, I was ecstatic.  If I was sad, I was inconsolable.  It has been a slow change and it is something I still struggle with today.  

Talking with Taylor helps tremendously, but I am hoping that this blog will also give me an outlet to let go of those emotions.  I can feel myself healing slowly.  Every once in awhile I have a day where I just want to forget about everything and harden myself up again.  Then I glance at Selah while she’s sleeping and my heart just melts.  In some ways, not acknowledging my feelings was so much easier, but I recognize that that’s not healthy.  My time at my school in Texas was perfect healing.  The teachers there were just amazing.  They were so friendly and accepting.  They made me laugh every day and made me fall in love with teaching again.  I went to Christ Lutheran Church while in Dallas and I from the moment I walked into the church, it felt warm and inviting.  Their choir became like family for me and I will always be grateful for them.  I am grateful to be in a church now and in a job where I am supported.  Every time I open myself up to someone, I can feel healing take place.  Anyways, I could go on for a while… like I said, floodgates.  For now, I rest knowing that I can find family anywhere as long as I am willing to open my heart.  For now, I know that healing comes in building relationships with others.  For now, I rest knowing that God can heal physical pain, emotional pain, and spiritual pain.  For now, I rest on the promise that GOD provides.  

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