Thursday, June 28, 2012

In the middle of it all

It seems like the world is burning for so many people.
Fires ravaging thousands of acres in the Western States,
Anger and frustration at the leaders of our country choking us like smoke,
And still the charring grip of financial insecurity and uncertainty claws at the necks of too many decent human beings.
And then, out of nowhere, in the middle of so much strife, life comes to a terrible halt.
It isn't fair.
It shouldn't happen.

People I love are grieving for someone else they love
Who have had to give their baby back into the arms of angels.
Another set of parents 
Who would give anything to not have to say goodbye.


It brings back memories and opens wounds.
No one should ever have to hurt like that. Ever.
Sleepless nights, empty arms, wishing the nightmare was really only a nightmare.

It  makes me wish I could reach out and heal their hurt.

I just hope and pray that every broken-hearted parent who weeps for the loss of their precious one knows
That they were valiant enough to be the parents of a pure and perfect child.

I know they don't want to be.
I didn't want to be either.
I didn't want to be brave or strong and I hated being told that I was.
Because I wanted more to have my baby back than to be thought of as "strong."

But dear, wonderful friends who are forced to share in this grief:
Please know that there are people who love you and are praying for you
That don't even know you.

Our babies; our beloved, celestial children
Are waiting for us and loving us.

Nothing fixes this hurt and I'm not going to pretend that my words are much help.
Cry. Be angry. Hate the world. Cry some more.
But in the middle of it all, love the ones you have. And pray. Please, please pray
Because our Father in Heaven and his Son
are what got me through. And They still get me through.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What I'm up to Wednesday:

Trying to sell a high chair on Craigslist.
We'll see how it goes.


She's a bit to girly for Ab-Fitz, wouldn't you say?

Lesson learned: ALWAYS buy gender neutral.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tried and True: Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

I found this recipe through Pinterest. Ah, Pinterest. Yesterday we tried it. And it was great!
So easy. So delicious.
One of those "put everything in a pot, turn it on, and forget it for the next eight hours. Then stir it and eat it. Done."

You can get the original recipe from He & She eat Clean HERE.

I didn't have any ground turkey, which I'm sure would have cut the fat content down, but I just used ground beef and it tasted good.
Here's what I did:

Ingredients:
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
(Which, holy crap, I just realized I forgot to put that in the chili yesterday. HA! Still tasted good but I bet it would have been better if I hadn't forgotten it.)
1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes with juice
1 15 oz can black beans, drained
2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 lb ground beef (original recipe calls for ground turkey)
1 bayleaf
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp sea salt (I used regular salt)
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I used paprika, still works)
1.5 cups water

Directions:
1. Put vegetables and beans in the bottom of the crock pot.
2. Layer ground meat, spices, seasonings, and water
3. Put on the crock pot lid and cook on low for 8 hours.
4. Remove lid and stir. Adjust seasonings to taste (we found that it needed a dash more salt. But then again, I did forget the garlic. Maybe we wouldn't have needed the salt if I hadn't.)
5. Replace lid, cook for an additional 20-30 mins on low.

I served it with corn bread. It makes a lot, way more than Bret and I could eat.
DELICIOUS!

Going on my Tried and True Pinterest board and in my cook book where I write my favorite recipes.

I'm trying several other recipes this week, so I'll have lots of Tried and True (or possibly tried, denied) recipes coming up! These are the ones I'm trying: Pita Bread, Beef Stuffed Crescent Rolls, and a homemade crescent roll recipe. We'll see how they turn out!

Hopefully I won't forget any ingredients this time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What I'm up to Wednesday

Thanks for all the encouraging comments on my last crazy mama post. My frustrations come and go, sometimes I'm on top of the world, sometimes crouched in terror (metaphorically).
But I do need to say that am grateful for every single thing I have and I will say here and now that I have been exceedingly blessed.
Truly!
Especially when it comes to my husband. I neglected to acknowledge what an amazing man, husband, and father he is and I am SO excited to bring his son into the world! (I secretly hope that our little boy will look just like him, but if Ab-Fitz's cuteness leans more toward my side, I'll be happy. Healthy is my main goal here.)
There are so many things I have to be thankful for. That, and this beautiful message I watched on Monday night bring me a lot of peace. Thank you, Elder Cook!


So, on to what I'm up to today:

~Renewing insurance stuff. Fun, let me tell ya. It's pretty much done, thank goodness.

~Listening to the song Anywhere by Evanescence on Pandora radio. Holy crap, such a good song.

~Going to get my blood drawn again to track my platelet count. I've been loading up on foods that are "supposed" to help raise platelet levels. We'll see!
         *Baby update: Ab-Fitz is still in breech position. Even though I'd rather not have another c-section (it sure sucks recovering from those!), I'm okay with it if it does come to that. He still has time to flip. Sorta. He's huge. 6lbs 6 oz estimated weight at the last ultrasound. I'm now 35 weeks. We'll take all that with a grain of salt of course. I know these estimates can often be way off.

disgusting dirty mirror. why I didn't clean it beforehand remains one of the mysteries of the universe.

~I'm going to force myself to write today. I get too much good feedback on my Phantom of the Opera story to keep letting myself slack off.

~I'll also do some work on another wedding video. This one is an anniversary present that my friend is giving to her husband. Just in case he were to ever stumble on my blog (highly doubt it, but just in case anyway) I'm not going to say who it is. Only that it's going to be super precious and I can't wait to give her the final product!

~And finally... the crowning jewel of my day: I'm making Spaghetti Stroganoff for dinner. One of my favorite, favorite meals!!!! Ah, I can't wait. Maybe I'll make some crusty bread to go with it. Oh yum.  *pleasant shiver*


... and I'll be eating some cheesecake. Sometime today. Probably sooner before later. Courtesy of my lovely friend Camille B. :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Confessions...

I'm not an idiot. (That's not the confession. That's the disclaimer.)
I know that reality is not going to live up to expectations.
But let me confess anyway because I actually have a broad spectrum on the expectation scale.

I often think about bringing home this perfectly adorable, perfectly well behaved child. His little cries will be minimal, his little poops nice and neat, and his little spit ups will never end up in my hair or all over my favorite shirt. Breastfeeding will be a breeze. He'll sleep for many hours at a time, allowing me to catch up on my own sleep.
I'll lose weight so fast.
Every day is going to be so fun. He'll grow up with his daddy's smile and his angel sister's chubby cheeks. He'll be sweet and polite and love going to church. He'll never talk back, never whine, and never throw a tantrum over something stupid.
Motherhood is going to be such a breeze.

Yeah. Freaking. Right.

I know none of this stuff is going to happen. But let's flip this around.

I'm scared to death. Something has to go wrong. There's going to be some major problem that's going to change our lives forever. Because nothing works out the way you hope it does, no matter how hard you struggle to have faith that it will.
It's going to be too hard. There's going to be major disappointments that will make me feel like a terrible mother. The things I fear the most will undoubtedly occur. Everything is going to blow up in my face and any mere inkling of those serene dreams I had about family life and motherhood are going to shatter. I just know it.
Or I'll just be fat forever.

Because you can't have it all. Ever. You can't have the healthy, beautiful child, the perfect body, and the wonderful marriage to someone who will be successful and happy in his profession. You just can't.
Because it wouldn't be fair. Everyone has to have trials.
Mine are just getting started, notwithstanding our nightmarish past.

That's how I feel lately.

I know I won't have this freakishly ideal home and family. But for me, even the hope of a happy, cute, and healthy baby; a happy, cute, and healthy husband; and a happy, cute, and healthy self, seems... unreachable. Unallowed. Wrong. I should accept what life gives me and be grateful. 


Why? Why do I have to feel like this? I try so hard to pray it away; to accept God's will and let go of my fear. But I can't. 
Because I want it all. I had to give my first baby back to Heavenly Father. And now I want life to give me what I want.
Is it wrong to feel like this? Do other moms feel like this?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What I'm up to Wednesday; Finding the missing bit

Technically I found this yesterday. Er, Monday. When was it? I dunno, sometime this week.

Anyway, it's an excerpt from a WIP (work in progress) that has sat on the back burner for a while. I thought I had lost it or accidentally deleted it from my computer files. I was kind-of upset. Even though it's just a little bit of writing, it was one I didn't want to re-write. I liked it the way it was. I wanted it back!
And I found it! Turns out, it was on our desktop the whole time. I thought I'd share it with you even though it contains a few little spoilers.

The story is a modern retelling of The Phantom of the Opera. Emme is our main character (her name used to be Ellie, but I liked Emme better.) She's also recently been orphaned.



            I sat on the edge of the stage and let my feet dangle into the orchestra pit. Disappointment clawed at me like a moody house cat no matter how hard I tried to beat it away. I should have been satisfied with the outcome of the audition. I was an understudy wasn’t I? That was better than no part at all…
            I sighed and rubbed my eyes with the heel of my hands. Wanting the lead role in the play had felt easy and natural before the casting list went up. Now, it just felt wrong, like wanting to play Christine had become a sin. I was the cast-aside pair of shoes that had gone out of style last week. I was the dance partner picked as a last resort. I was that final clean shirt in the closet you only wore when every other garment you possessed smelled like armpits.
            I sighed and looked over the empty seats of the auditorium. One day soon, those seats would be packed with people waiting to see the scenes on the stage. I wanted the spotlight on me. My parents might even be among them. I wanted them to hear my voice, see my face, feel the passion in my words. I wanted to show them that everything I had I owed to them. But no… I was good, but not good enough. Just an understudy. Just the stand-in for the real star of the show.
            I got up and walked over to the piano on stage right. The music for Think of Me was sitting above the shining keys. I picked up the first sheet and looked at each note as it was marked on the page. Each quarter note and chord were laughing at me. Or, on my self-pity, I tried to imagine that they were. But the notes were too old of friends to mock my moment of defeat. Instead, they beckoned; beckoned like the Phantom to Christine when he begged her to sing for him.
            I took the paper to center stage. The auditorium was still empty, there was no one to yank me off the stage by a long shepherd’s crook like they did in the cartoons. Even though I had the words to the song memorized, I looked down at the page and began to sing.
            My voice began in a soft murmur, as though hiding behind the fence of my discouragement. As the crescendo built, however, I looked up from the paper and allowed my voice to rise, sending it over the rows, filling the auditorium, filling my head, and drowning my sadness. I imagined the orchestra playing below me, the lights shining in my eyes, blinding me to the identity of the faces filling the scores of seats in front of me. I imagined a balcony and statues all gilded gold, shining with prestige and mirroring the mystery and spirit of the Opera Populaire.
            The words on the first page had long since run out, but still I sang. I didn’t hold back, didn’t worry if I missed a note or if my voice crackled on a key change. I just sang for no one but the empty chairs and the wish of my parents’ presence. When I finished on the final note, the silence that followed sounded more like the drone of lingering disapproval. The seats seemed to say, you’re still second best.
            I shook my head, returned the sheet music to the piano, and bent to pick up my things. As I did so, I heard something that made me straighten up. I thought I was alone in the auditorium but someone else was here. I heard a voice from somewhere on the stage. I came to an awful consciousness of how loose my voice had been, how loud, how rampant.
            “I said, you’re better than you think.”
            I looked around, startled and embarrassed.
            “Who’s there?”
            The voice laughed; a smooth, but deep and effortless cackle that sounded both disturbing and strangely appealing.
            “I’m leaving now,” I said, swinging my bag over my shoulder and scurrying down the steps on stage right. I looked over my shoulder as I hurried through the door of the auditorium. The laughing had quieted and the stage was as still and empty as when I had ceased singing.



Picking this story up again. That's what I'm up to.


Thoughts?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Editorial: What is it about Austen?

I just finished reading Pride and Prejudice again yesterday.
So, naturally, I had to watch the movie today.
The short one. Don't have the long one. Yet.
I forget how much I love that story.

It got me thinking. Why do we love these stories so much? What is it about this time period, this culture, and this author that captures so many hearts?

The first thing to come to mind was the men. The gentlemen, I should say. I think female fans of Regency literature are so enamored by the idea of being wooed by a gentleman that they pick these stories/film adaptations up again and again, never enjoying them any less than before. 
And of course, who couldn't love those Georgian heroines? Lizzy Bennet's wit and humor, Eleanor Dashwood's strength and forbearance, or Ann Elliot's loyalty and patience; models for us all.

But what is it, truly, about these men and women and their fictional lives that makes us wish we could don a bonnet and Spencer jacket and go strolling alongside some heavily sideburned man in breeches? (Or at least picture our significant other in such sideburns and breeches).

This path of pondering led me to my conclusion: 

Virtue.

Even if we don't realize it, I believe the main reason so many people of so many religious, moral, and financial backgrounds adore these stories is virtue.
Think about it.
The passion that grows in the heart simply from the act of restraint.
The tender feelings brought on by a simple glance, a brush of the hand, a chaste kiss on the knuckles. 
Being treated in such a way that a woman feels completely safe and treasured, while at the same time a man is able to fill the measure of his masculinity by taking charge and taking lead; appealing to his innate role as a protector and provider (not as a chauvinist or, in lay-man's terms, a "playa").

Austen's stories reach us because we wish our lives could be more like that. 
Courtship and marriage would be an honorable institution instead of a ridiculed or even undesirable one. People would strive to improve themselves for the better to win the heart of the one they love (Ex: Mr. Darcy, Emma Woodhouse, Marianne Dashwood). There would be more patience to wait for the one that is worthy (Ex: Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, Jane Bennet, Colonel Brandon, Fanny Price). And we would try to find it in our hearts to accept the eccentricities of life. (Ex: Charlotte Lucas, Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Mary Dashwood).

It all comes down to virtue and how priceless it is. The lessons learned from these stories all account for the peace and yes, even power that virtue brings to those who hold it dear. 

Not that our realities are always rosy because we did the right thing; sometimes it's quite the opposite. But I'm not talking about our realities. I'm talking about our desires. 
In the heart of every Austen fan lives the desire to get lost in that world... a world where virtue is triumphant. 

Makes you wish there was more of it in our day and age, doesn't it? 
Maybe our world won't be carriage rides and whispered tete-a-tete's, but it might be a little bit nicer if our culture began to bend back to where it used to be: instead of a place where virtue equals boredom or prudishness, a place where virtue equals greatness and happiness. 

Austen believed in it. And if we love that kind of place so much, we can believe in it too.




Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What I'm up to Wednesday

I LOVE making movies. The fictional kind and the sentimental, "for-posterity" kind. Compiling pictures and videos together to make something that'll make people laugh, smile, sigh, or remember is such a joy to me.
iMovie makes it easy.
Someday I want to make a business out of it. But until I get the proper equipment and a snazzy upgraded (and expensive) version of iMovie, I just do it free for family. Mostly cuz I love them but also cuz it's fun and keeps me busy till little Ab-Fitz is born.

My latest project is a wedding video for these two wonderful people:
photo courtesy of Adele Heslington Photography

My brother-in-law Craig (Bret's brother) and his beautiful bride Kristen. I love these guys! They are tying the knot on the 16th and they agreed to let me make their video.

It's almost finished (sorry I can't post a preview... or maybe I can....)

video

Ah, I love iMovie!! Of course, their actual video is VERY different from this little tidbit. Lots of fun music, pictures of them growing up, and other pictures and videos of them together. They're an awesome couple. Can't wait for the big day!

Along with other videos I'm working on, that's one of the things I've been up to lately.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday Tried and True: How Essential Oils have changed my life

I've done a lot of these opinionated posts lately, haven't I? I'll get back to what's going on in life soon.
But right now, I just have to share a little bit of great stuff that's helped make my life easier.

I have to start by saying I HATE health fads. I can't stand hearing the words "they did a study" when it comes to the stuff we take into or do with our bodies. All it does is confuse and frustrate me. Lots of protein, or less protein? Lots of grains or less grains? Sugar is the enemy? Eat organic or else you're poisoning your family, you terrible person?
AAGGHH!!
I'm not a organi-maniac, I'm not a vegan, I'm not a paleo, and I'm not a sugar-free-or-else dieter. I'm not a homeopath either.

I believe that if you have a cold and it's terrible and Day-quil works for you, then take it. If your kid has a fever and you can't get it to break, give them the medicine they need to bring it down. And if you want to have an epidural when having a baby, for goodness sake, GET THE EPIDURAL. And ignore the judgmental hogwash that's circling our heads because, quote, "they did a study....."

Having said that, I do believe that it's good to use and eat as natural as we can, if our pocket books and sanity allow it (we just can't afford organic food right now). Here's something simple that I've tried and that works wonders for me:

Essential Oils. (I use the doTerra brand only because I know they are 100% pure and I can trust them)

First, let me list off a few ailments that just two basic essential oils have helped me get through without the use of medications:

Migraines
Impetigo (skin infection)
Insomnia
Eczema
Braxton-Hicks contractions
and
Morning Sickness/Nausea


Migraines: I've had five during this pregnancy. Four of them were within a few weeks of each other. The first one was on Christmas Eve. Yeah. FUN!  >:(
I've got a history of migraine headaches. Luckily, I'd consider mine to be fairly moderate. They don't last more than a few hours.
My usual remedy: score 2 excedrin migraine and a pepsi, then go to bed till it passes. This would sometimes work, sometimes not at all. But since I'm pregnant, I can't take excedrin and I don't drink caffeine. Great... now what?

Alternative Remedy:  Lavender essential oil on my temples and an ice pack on my neck. Then BED. And you know what? Every time I've done this for migraine relief, I have felt little pain. Some residual soreness after the storm passed, but other than that, not much. Call it a miracle if you want (and I do) but I'm going to keep doing this remedy even after I have the baby because it works WAY better than excedrin and pepsi.

Impetigo: This is the gross one so forgive me. But it's very common among children. For those who don't know, impetigo is a staph infection on the skin. (It's not MRSA). I'm pretty prone to getting these nasty little infections and I have been all my life. I usually get it on my chin or just below my nose. It's disgusting. And did I mention incredibly contagious once it breaks out? You can google a picture of it if you're so inclined.
My usual remedy: Both oral and topical anti-biotics as soon as possible. The infection will pop out in a cluster of pustules, crust over, scab over, and the scab will fall off, all in about two weeks even with the anti-biotics. Full healing takes probably another week. In the meantime I have to be obsessively careful not to spread the bacteria ANYWHERE or to ANYONE.
Plus, just to get the meds, I have to schedule a doctor's appointment, get the prescription, fill it, and start taking it. Time wasted and $$ spent.

Alternative remedy: Again, Lavender essential oil. When I feel like I may have a patch of the infection coming on (it'll feel itchy and I might start seeing a small patch of redness or even the beginnings of little red bumps) I'll hit it hard with lavender. Undiluted, applied by a q-tip or my finger every two or three hours. I don't like the smell of lavender and it might make me sleepy, but it works, I tell you. I just did this last weekend. It works every time. The infection never even pops out. No embarrassing pustules on my face, no scab, and no contagious bacteria.

Other uses I've found for lavender: Insomnia (lavender helps you relax. Put a few drops into a warm bath), eczema (it helps itching to go away) and even Braxton-Hicks contractions (I rub lavender on my belly and lay down and the contractions will go away). I've even used it on my c-section scar when it felt a little ouchie from stretching due to the new pregnancy.

Now for another problem:

Morning Sickness/Nausea: My first pregnancy, I threw up probably 10 or so times. Sick in the first 18 weeks, sick at the end. And just plain yucky for pretty much the entire time. Most people would say that's not bad. But who likes to feel sick? Especially when you have to cook dinner. Ugh! It. sucks.

Usual remedies: ginger ale, crackers, rest, and though I've never taken it, Unisom is supposed to work.


Alternative remedy: Lemon essential oil. I rub a little bit on my earlobes or even just take a whiff of it. It smells very nice, like a lemon-flavored Starburst. Gets rid of nausea so I can cook dinner without ralphing my cookies.
Does it work on carsickness? Not sure. Something to try someday.

You can also add a few drops of lemon essential oil to a sink of soapy water to clean your kitchen with.  (I'm no expert on "green" cleaning products, but homemade recipes are all over the place on the internet. Lemon essential oil is one of the ingredients in many of the cleaners.)

These are only a few examples of what two of the most basic essential oils can do. There are many more that I want to get (peppermint, orange, eucalyptus) when I can. And no crazy side-effects.

Bottom line?
I use what works and what I can afford. I'm working my way, step by step, to a healthier body and family. I'm not trying to "convert" anyone to living a different lifestyle or cleaning out their medicine cabinet. I'm just telling you what has worked for me that has helped me avoid a lot of pain, frustration, discomfort, and inconvenience.

Tried and true.