Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Bird's Eye View

Today was a big day for me. I accomplished something I would never have even imagined for myself. I ran the Savannah Bridge Run today. I only did the 5k but I am so proud of myself. And in a few months time I plan to do the impossible again and I contemplated on waiting to share this until after I completed my half marathon but I feel the persistent urge to share it now. I've come so far in the last 5 years that it doesn't really seem real most days.

Most of you probably know that I used to be a wildland firefighter back when I graduated high school but I had to quit because I tore my ACL in 2010. I made a quick and full recovery from that but later in the winter of 2010/11 I came down with what I thought was just a cold. It didn't go away for months though. I had received my mission call to serve an 18 month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and so rather than going back to fire I took a job building barb wire fences in the desert of Utah because the job duration was shorter. That "cold" I had caught only seemed to get worse as the summer wore on and soon I was having trouble even making it up the stairs to get to the front door let alone out the front door to carry posts and string barb wire up. When I finally felt that I could no longer ignore what was happening I went to the doctor. A week before I was to leave for my mission they told me I had mono and I needed to delay. They would test again in 6 weeks and if it was no longer active in my system I would be able to leave on my mission. Long story short, I was cleared but my health was never the same and I barely survived 9 weeks in the MTC when it was determined my health was too poor to continue to serve. I was beyond devastated but I met Riker a few months and crazy turns later and so I full faith in the Lord's timing. 

Riker and I got engaged after having only dated for...a short time... and I moved back to live with my parents in Oregon to try and get help from my doctor back home before the wedding. My health problems turned out to be so much more than just mono. We actually didn't solve anything until June 2013 and up until then I was having severe joint and muscle pain and fatigue. That summer I slept all the time and lost a ton of weight because I either didn't have the energy to eat or what I ate made me sick. I have one very vivid memory from the months leading up to our wedding and one from after we were married. Which is surprising considering how much of a fog I was in most of the time--especially once they started me on medications. Riker came to visit me at one point and I actually don't remember almost any of the visit.

The first memory was back in Oregon. I had woken up at my usual time since being sick which was around noon. I knew I needed to get dressed before my mom got home so I could say that I had accomplished something. The pain was so bad by that time that I had resorted to only wearing button up or zip up shirts because I couldn't pull a regular shirt over my head. However, that day the pain was so severe that I couldn't manage to even button the shirt up. I don't even remember starting to cry but when my mom got home I was sitting on the bed sobbing. I'm honestly embarrassed to even be sharing this because as a 21 year old it is quite mortifying for your mom to catch you sitting on your bed crying and unable to dress yourself let alone telling everyone on the internet it happened. She very lovingly helped me get dressed and took me to the ER. Even now I'm so overwhelmed by her love that it makes me tear up. The PA working at the ER refused to actually see me and when we insisted she came in and called me a liar to my face and refused to treat me telling me I was simply seeking narcotics and clearly wasn't exercising enough. I left the ER that day devastated. I felt fairly well doomed to that same scenario on repeat for the rest of my life.

The second memory was not long after Riker and I had been married. Once again, I was embarrassed when I was found crying. The pain had gotten so bad again that I was no longer able to lift my arms to wash my own hair. I was so humiliated and mortified to have to ask my husband of only a few short weeks to wash my hair for me that I sat in the bathroom and quietly cried instead. He felt prompted, and probably a little worried at how long I had been in the bathroom, and came to check on me. This sweet manly man, who is blue collar through and through, whose hands were callused from years of hard labor who can fix anything you ask him to lovingly sat me down, washed my hair, and fixed my broken heart and body--for weeks. Every time I recall that memory I am so humbled. Riker truly is a man of God and the love that he has for me amazes me on a daily basis. True love comes in a small cramped bathroom with your newlywed husband sitting on the toilet and you sitting in the tub like a little child and crying while he washes your hair. And never once did he complain. I love that man more than I could ever describe.

I tell you those two memories to show you where I was. The lowest I had ever been in my life; incapable of accomplishing the most menial of tasks.

And then today as I ran over the top of that bridge, never stopping once, I had a bird's eye view of how far I have come. I had given up on myself repeatedly before but Riker, my family, and most importantly Heavenly Father never had and never will. They have shown me that I am capable. That sometimes we need a little help and that is ok because we can come back stronger than we ever thought possible. Now, I will never give up on myself either. Today I achieved my impossible and I plan to do it again. And again and again. Because my body that once was so weak I couldn't dress myself or wash my own hair is no longer weak. I am strong. I am beautiful and capable and will achieve the impossible every day. Because I am unstoppable.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How Do You Do It?

"How do you do it?"

As a military spouse I hear this question almost daily. My response is generally a dismissive shoulder shrug and a, "You just do." I try not to think about it much. We have spent most of our marriage apart and are currently experiencing our first actual deployment. Despite my effort to not think about it I constantly am. How could I not? Our daughter just turned 14 months old and my husband has only seen her for less than 4 months of that. Birthdays, holidays, important milestones, all missed. We all have our own ways of dealing with our trials and for the longest time my answer was to basically box up important moments and store them away to be celebrated at another time.

I kept just wishing and hoping that the small milestones would just wait until R could be home or that he would just happen to be on the phone when Little Miss Sass would giggle for the first time or when she learned to roll over or walk. It was a difficult conundrum of wanting time to stand still and speed up. Eventually living like that will catch up to you and you end up a bit of a hot mess. Or I did anyway. A hot, confused, blubbery, complainer of a mess. I let all of what I'd been holding in boil over with several friends and even some acquaintances and to them I say sorry and thank you. Sorry you had to deal with my breakdown(s) and thank you for loving me anyway and for listening.

The funny thing about having a breakdown is it makes you stop and evaluate what you need to do differently to not go down that path again. I fully believe that it is okay for you to have a bad day on occasion--it's inevitable. However, I don't believe that it is okay to make every day a pity party when life is difficult. I hadn't necessarily been doing that but I had been ignoring my situation. And so I did some thinking. And praying. A lot of praying. And crying. (More of that than I care to admit.) It has taken me some time but I have learned a thing or two and am still learning a thing or two more.

First, I've learned a lot about patience. R and my marriage is based on our love for our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. We rely on the Gospel of Jesus Christ to guide us and help direct us to live a life of righteousness, kindness, love, and devotion. As a family we pray to know that the decisions we are making are in line with these characteristics and that we are where we need to be that we can best help others. Joining the military was a process of much prayer and sleepless nights for months without answer so we stopped asking and months after that one morning in separate situations we both felt the affirmative answer come. R signed his contract the same day we found out we were expecting our first baby. I thought my patience had been tested with waiting for an answer but I had yet to learn anything. Two months later we went our separate ways--me and my barely pregnant belly to Oregon and R 3,000 miles away to Georgia. Patience comes in many forms. Waiting for letters, phone calls, and then the worst, waiting for the military. I could write a book on my frustrations with the military but I'd rather not. They probably aren't what you would expect anyway.

Second, and more importantly, I learned about my convictions and how I feel and where I stand as a mother and especially on my convictions about how I feel and where I stand as a wife. Particularly a military wife. My biggest struggle has been reconciling how important we feel family is with the importance of R's job (which in my mind was seemingly less important.) Now, forgive me as I go into this next part as I am still feeling it out myself but as I have prayed and cried and seemingly received no answers I actually received much more than I initially thought. I can't say that I understand it all and I know I will always be working on it but I feel at peace. I feel reconciled in many ways. R and I read our scriptures together each night and we also discuss our big decisions we have coming and all of my crazy I have rolling around in my head. As he can't tell me what is happening where he is our conversations focus mostly on me and Little Miss. Our last few conversations have been hard ones.

How can I feel like I have any sort of a relationship with someone so far away? Someone who can't tell me where he is or what he's doing? And then the only relationship is sporadic letters and hopefully nightly phone calls or Skype dates if we are lucky and home? How can I teach Little Miss about how amazing her daddy is when their relationship consists mostly of slobbered kisses on a computer screen or ignoring him altogether if she doesn't feel like coming by the computer? How can I teach her and anyone else I meet about the importance of family when I don't quite feel like I really have a family on most days? How can I support this job that takes my husband from my family to fight for something that I feel so disconnected from and can't comprehend?

"How do you do it?"

I honestly don't know. I take comfort in the words of the scriptures and these verses in particular stood out to me in our nightly reading. I barely made it through them through all my tears.

"We would not shed the blood of our brethren if they would not rise up in rebellion and take the sword against usWe would subject ourselves to the yoke of bondage if it were requisite with the justice of God, or if he should command us so to do. But behold he doth not command us that we shall subject ourselves to our enemies, but that we should put our trust in him, and he will deliver usTherefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God. Therefore, come unto me speedily with a few of your men,...give unto them power to conduct the war in that part of the land, according to the Spirit of God, which is also the spirit of freedom which is in themBehold I have sent a few provisions unto them, that they may not perish until ye can come unto me. Gather together whatsoever force ye can upon your march hither, and we will go speedily against those dissenters, in the strength of our God according to the faith which is in us...yea, we will go forth against them in the strength of the Lord, and we will put an end to this great iniquity. And now, Moroni, I do joy in receiving your epistle, for I was somewhat worried concerning what we should do, whether it should be just in us to go against our brethren. But ye have said, except they repent the Lord hath commanded you that ye should go against them. See that ye strengthen Lehi and Teancum in the Lord; tell them to fear not, for God will deliver them, yea, and also all those who stand fast in that liberty wherewith God hath made them free. And now I close mine epistle to my beloved brother, Moroni. (Alma 61:11-21)

There are unspeakable atrocities occurring all over the world. My husband (nor I) feels we can sit idly by while such harm is being done. Someone must stand up for our freedoms. Someone must resist our enemies with our swords that we may retain our freedom. My husband is one of those men. I do not fault him for this drive and desire. I support him more fully than I could ever express. He is an honorable man and an amazing father and husband. Distance may change the definition of those attributes but it certainly doesn't change the truthfulness behind them. R is a man that cannot look upon others lack and not share the goodness of what he has. This man is my husband and my hero. His selflessness, his ambition, his drive, loyalty, and love are why I love him. I know that God will deliver my husband and the brave men he works with because they stand fast in the liberty wherewith God hath made them free. 

Where does this put me as a wife? Proud would be the first word that comes to mind. I am a proud wife. And a conflicted one. I want my husband home with me at all times. I want to know he is safe. I don't like the gut wrenching feeling of not hearing from him for days and wondering when I will again. I want the kind of movie relationship you see where it appears no one has jobs and there is endless amounts of money to do whatever you want. But that isn't my reality. (If it is yours please share your secret to success. Unless you say trust fund.) My reality is that I hold down the fort at home. I pay the bills, I deal with the credit card fraud, I deal with our only car breaking down on the side of the freeway with my one year old and someone else's 10 year old in the car, I keep the house clean (hahahahaha.....), I do the laundry, bath time, dinner time, play dates, reading time, I clean up the vomit at 3 am from my dog and then a few hours later the vomit from my toddler. I kill all the spiders and cockroaches and fire ants. And I worry. It keeps me up until all hours and then I am up an hour later with the sun and with a hungry toddler. And I do it because I love my husband. And more importantly I do it because I love God and I believe in His plan. I believe that we each, no matter what country we live in, have the right to certain freedoms in this life and that good people have to be willing to fight for those rights. I'm not on the actual front lines but I'm as much committed to this life as my husband is. Whether it be for one enlistment or as a career. 

"How do you do it?" 

I believe. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

On How to Become a Mother.

A few days ago I took a nap with my precious girl. I don't generally do this but for whatever reason I did that day. As I tried to coax my overtired, cranky, beasty baby to sleep I thought about the last 7 months of having this girl in my life.

Ever since I was a little girl I couldn't imagine anything more rewarding than being a mother. I thought I wanted to be a doctor for a while, maybe a biologist, or even stay with firefighting. But none of those felt quite right because I truly wanted nothing more than to be a mom. When we found out that we were expecting I was beyond ecstatic; this was it! I was finally doing what I was put on this earth to do. I went through all the morning sickness, the first kick, the little baby hiccups, seeing our baby girl on the ultrasound screen and each time I felt this small feeling of excitement. But it was just that--small. I told myself over and over again that it was simply because I wasn't experiencing it with my husband and as soon as he was here to enjoy it with me I would be overwhelmed with excitement. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't dreading it (not completely because let's be honest who isn't terrified of becoming a parent and totally screwing up a perfect human being?) but I didn't feel like a mom. It just wasn't the feeling I expected.

Riker was able to fly home for her birth and they induced me to make sure he wouldn't miss it on his limited leave. Labor came on strong and hard (25 hours of it) and then suddenly I was holding this beautiful, perfect, squirmy little girl. "Here it is, finally," I thought, "I'm a mother.... But I don't feel like it still." I was holding this tiny human and I felt my heart connected to hers in a way I had never felt my heart connected to someone and yet I just felt...defeated.

Addi took to breastfeeding like it was her one and only purpose on earth (which I suppose for the time being it was) but I still got mastitis which turned to an abscess that had to be drained. But I stuck with it because I'm stubborn and just had to do it but I once again felt...defeated. It happened over and over again when I accidentally clipped her finger instead of her fingernail or when I put her diaper on inside out and I told myself once again that it was because Riker wasn't there with me to enjoy it all. Surely once we were all together as a family and nothing was missing I would feel like a mom.

While I was thinking over all of these things I fell asleep long before my little one. And when I woke up and I gazed at this sweet babe who had little dried tears in the corner of her eyes and her hand wrapped in my hair for comfort it struck me, "I'm a mother." And I didn't feel defeated. At least not until the next morning when I hadn't realized Riker had gotten out of bed because I was still asleep and woke up to the loud crash of Addi rolling off the bed. As I held my crying baby and tried to calm her down to no avail I felt that sense of defeat again. That pang grew even stronger when Riker took her from me and she stopped crying immediately (he is totally her favorite).

As I sat and watched the two of them, though, I felt that feeling rise in my chest again and I understood, finally, what a mother is. A mother isn't a perfect being (except for my mother, she totally rocks). A mother is full of love. A mother tries every day even if it ends up with her and her baby crying. A mother is learning. I had this idea that I would BE A MOM when I had Addi but in reality you aren't suddenly just a mother. You BECOME a mother. Some women feel that, "I'm a mother" feeling long before others but the truth is that you become a mother through each tear (either yours or your babe's), through each tumble (like when Addi rolled out of bed), through each giggle and smile, and each time she wraps her tiny fingers in your hair because that is her favorite place to be.

I'm becoming a mother which is something I never expected. I didn't think I would have all the answers but I also didn't realize I would have none of the answers. Some days I feel defeated and I eat leftover pizza for breakfast and I don't shower because Addi screams if I leave the room so I sit there and watch her play (because she doesn't want me to play with her but just sit there. Don't touch her toys unless you have permission!) And other mornings I wake up and I do yoga and I feel totally at peace and I totally rock the whole "mom" thing. I am beyond excited now. I'm overwhelmed each day by a myriad of feelings and they only grow more intense each day. I'm learning; I'm becoming a mom and it is totally as great as I expected.

Our Easter Bunny