Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015, a hard year

As I sit and contemplate all that has happened this past year, I realize I’m extremely blessed. I always knew that God was in the little things but this year they have been what I have clung to as my world felt lifted up and left to free fall. I started out 2015 knowing another little one (Paul, born July 10, is such a joy to us) would join our family but terrified that I would miscarry again (Baby Gillespie left us in October 2014). Then cancer came in waves to both sides of my family. My grandmother (my mom’s mom) was given 6 months to a year after an extremely aggressive form of brain cancer was diagnosed. At the same time, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. Within a week after all this news came, my Mammaw (my dad’s mom) came down with pneumonia and was not looking like she was going to bounce back. In my own body, depression and hormones were feeding the fear. I was slowly losing while depression was quickly winning the war in my mind, slowly eeking into my heart. As Mammaw lost the fight but joined our Savior in heaven in March, our family transitioned into our most challenging year of our lives. I almost dreaded talking to my family for fear of new bad news. Our baby continued to grow and develop inside me. Winter broke and turned to spring. I was struggling with depression even with the change in weather and had trouble finding happy moments, even with a bouncy toddler and a supportive and loving husband. We knew we would miss Caleb’s sister’s wedding and many family gatherings because of the baby’s timing. Grandma Jane’s condition was deteriorating but she said she had unfinished business, she had to meet her grandson. My mother-in-law was getting treatments and responding well to chemo. 

We met summer with projects for home and yard, a few too many for both of our tastes but all were soon eclipsed on July 10th (eight days early) when Paul joined us. Caleb had biked to work so the call to come home at noon got us to the hospital at 3 pm and Paul was born at 5:07 pm. He was the turning point in our year. We knew he would be. Grandma Jane went into hospice but was able to hear Paul over the phone and see pictures of him from the hospital. Even though she had trouble finding words (a new normal since her diagnosis), she smiled and said, “Baby, baby, baby.” Less than a week later, she was in her eternal home. We finally got to see family as they came to meet Paul. Fall quickly passed and our children grew. Our family was cancer free when my mother-in-law finished up her surgeries and is recovering well. We visited family before Thanksgiving and now at Christmas.

I look back on this year and see God in all of it, calling to me, “cling to me, you are mine, I’m with you.” Just like he has my entire life, he kept me in palm of his hand. These aren’t clichés to me. These are truths that comfort me.

Now I’m seeing him point me back to work on my desire for a creative business, to make, because my creator created me to create. I miss my Grandma Jane and my Mammaw…more than words can express fully. I love my family and the support they give me, even if it’s accompanied by new wrinkles and some eye rolls. Thanks to anyone who has played a role in my year. I hope that 2016 is not as difficult but is full of growth in God’s plan. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Motherhood Makes Time Fly

Last week, I was looking at my blog to find something I wrote. I thought it would be only a few months back but when I looked at the post, it was 9 months ago!

Why is it that my brain seems to have skipped over almost a year? I do look back and realize a lot went on, but I remember feeling time pass more slowly. I remember getting to the end of a school year and feeling like I'd lived through a lifetime.

Now, every day seems long, until nap time then it flies :). I see my son growing into a little boy and get glimpses of the man he will be.

I pray that God shows me what moments to embrace and remember and what ones I can let go.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What I want for my son

Today concluded a short Bible study on conversations you should have with your son.

While I can't actually have a conversation with my son, even though he's starting to mimic sounds :), my husband and I should get our game plan together because those opportunities will come all too quickly.

Teaching my son to be a godly man is a very daunting task. I know that I have great examples to follow and wonderful resources all around me. While making the most of these opportunities, I'm planning to prepare for those times coming around the bend where teaching my son what God wants from him and how he can please God will be possible.

My example won't be a direct showing of how a godly man behaves because ...well... I'm not a man. But I can take it as a teachable time to show my son what a godly woman looks like and how strong she can be. He hopefully will see that relying on God for identity and purpose is what makes true beauty.

I'm a ways from being confident in that truth. I hope that I see the ways that God is giving me the wisdom and the confidence to teach my son by example about all that God has for him, because He is the only one who wants more for my son than my husband or I do.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Supermom VS. The Fear of Mediocrity

As I'm now in the beginning of my journey as a mom, I'm fighting an old fight that has been with me for almost as long as I can remember. This struggle became glaringly apparent in college as I pursued a degree in architecture.

One day at a desk critique, my professor tells me if I don't start trying harder I'm only going to ever be mediocre. He went on to explain my designs were average at best. The whole time I was choking back tears. My professors had over the years made it clear that these critiques were about our work, not about us, so not to take what is said personally.

I know and have told myself he was trying to motivate me with these words, but these words have hurt me and are still affecting me. Even six years later, I'm scared of being mediocre, not adding anything original or worthwhile to the world.

I admit that the base reason I gave up on my pursuit of becoming a licensed architect is because of this fear. This conversation with my professor did not plant this seed of fear in me, it mainly amplified it to the point where I could not ignore it or live in bliss of ignorance I had lived in before.  My idealistic views of my future were shattered that day and were not repaired as my college years in the program went on.

Going to college, I was under the illusion that I would go to school and learn how to take my field by storm. This was partly naiveté, on my part. I did not do enough research ahead of time to make sure I was making an appropriate career path choice.

With this naiveté and fly by the seat of my pants mentality, I was setting myself up for a brick wall collision somewhere along the way. I'm surprised it took until the end of Sophomore year!

I tried harder, but soon realized I was at my peak far behind my classmates. With a shortage of jobs because of a collapse in the housing and building market, I found I could not compete for the few jobs available because of the nagging reminders that I wasn't good enough or trying hard enough.

Soon, I was exhausted. Between the strenuous hours of studio work, my graduation date rushing towards me, and the hunt for a job, I was barely sleeping and stressed to the max. All the while, I was terrified of mediocrity. I was tired of not making a mark on the people around me.

I was struggling to see my purpose.

Realizing I'd have to move in with parents after graduation because of a lack of a job, I knew that was the end to my architectural pursuits. They lived in an area with even fewer architecture job opportunities than where my school was! The job market everywhere was flooded with more experienced candidates and time passing only meant more recent graduates would be coming on the scene as well. I knew I couldn't compete. Maybe it was the voice in my head saying, you're just mediocre, maybe it was reality finally hitting that this was not my skill set.

Either way, I gave up, got three part-time jobs since my school loans were coming due and tried to distract myself from my classmates getting internships and returning to school for their masters degree. I wanted to go back to be with friends but knew the course load would be too much for me.

That time after graduation wasn't all bad. Because of living closer to my family and my boyfriend, I was able to reinvest in those relationships I had neglected. My boyfriend became my husband, and my family became friends on a new level. So many blessing came from being home for those two years after graduation.

Now with life settling after marriage, a move across three states, and a baby, I've been able to process all these changes in a new light and realize the fear of mediocrity has followed me. It's been with me well before my sophomore year of college, and is still hard to shake.

Today, aspirations of being a "Supermom" seem to be my way of battling my fear of mediocrity. I must excel at what I do to battle that broken record in my head telling me I'll never be more than average.

I've found that record plays louder when I'm in a spiritual desert. When I'm not relying on God, I seem to let my thoughts of self doubt play louder.

The more time in this desert, the more ways my thoughts bring out my insecurities.

I find myself in a new spiritual desert now as I'm battling exhaustion, sleep deprivation, separation from family, endless household tasks, all while trying to embrace my changing child and keep my marriage strong.

As much as I hated hearing her say this over and over when I was younger, I find the words of my mother entering my thoughts: Your identity is in Christ as a child of God. Remember whose you are.

I obviously have failed Christ in many ways as anyone has. HE, however, has extended grace so that even if I am average or mediocre at best:
HE still died for me!
HE still provided a way of salvation for me.
HE still loves me and pursues me to be closer to HIM!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Myth of Supermom

There once was a woman who had several children and provided for all of them without her sparkling smile leaving her face. While preparing her daily organic gourmet meals and perfect chocolate chip cookies (just in time for her children coming home from school) her apron cinched her waist while displaying her symmetrical form. Even though her body looks effortlessly flawless, she'll let you know her daily runs are the true reason for her slender form--that and her eight glasses of water a day as well as all the fruits and veggies she snacks on. She never passes on a bake sale but never over indulges on any treat.

You never see her sweat. She could run a marathon or face a firing squad without a hair falling out of place.

Her children are so well behaved, they could teach finishing school and their idea of rebellion is vacuuming the carpet in diagonal strokes.

Her wardrobe reflects current fashion without making her look like she's trying too hard or trying to hide her true age.

Her hair is coiffed in a style that is effortless but stylish and flattering.

Unrealistic as it seems, she never needs help, never takes a break, never waivers in her convictions or loyalties  She's caring, compassionate, vivacious, energetic, Perfect!

She exposes all your insecurities in blinding light. Everything you struggle with she masters with ease and excels through any turbulence.

She turns you into a green-eyed monster.

She's Supermom! (queue the brass band and the fireworks announcing her arrival)
She can't be real...oh, wait, she's not...she's a myth.

Yes, there are real women who seem super human in the mom department, but they are an exception. Even those who exceed common conceptions of motherhood, fail in other areas.

I've aspired to be the mythical supermom, and even my short experience has shown failures to live up to those mythical expectations.

If we as mothers are setting ourselves up for failure by believing this myth of motherhood is ideal, what image of motherhood should we embrace rather than this myth?

I'm going to be working through different areas of the Supermom Myth in coming posts. If you have stories or insights
, please share as this is a complicated issue. There are the pressures from society, from yourself, from family. Some are valid, some are not. I am personally working through my idea of the mom I want to be and this will be one of my outlets to sort this out.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

First Solo Canning Experience: Lemon Honey Marmalade

Today, I'm writing about the success of my FIRST canning endeavor. My mom and sister have set a tradition in my family of canning every harvest, mainly tomatoes or salsa. I decided to bite the bullet and try my hand at it. 

Armed with the book, Food in Jars, I started on the recipe for Lemon Honey Marmalade. Aldi had lemons for 20 cents a piece so I bought $4 worth and a whole jar of clover honey ($3.79). I also had to pick up some cheese cloth since the recipe uses the lemon seeds as the pectin source. 

I had to cut up the lemons by topping and tailing them, removing the seeds and cutting them into 1/4 inch wedges. This took about an hour and I was very thankful I didn't have any cuts on my fingers because all the lemon juice. 

After the lemons were sliced and put in a large pot, I bundled up the seeds in the cheese cloth and stuck it in the pot as well. I brought it to a boil and then lowered the temperature to just a simmer, keeping it on the stove for an hour. *Just a note, I love having a gas stove because it's so easy to adjust the heat*

After the hour, I turned off the burner and let the whole mixture sit out, covered, overnight. 

The next day, with a caldron sized pot of water on the stove next to the pot of lemons (I took out the lemon bundle and discarded it), I started to mix and prepare the lemons, juice, sugar, and honey into a sloppy mess. After I thought the mixture had cooked enough, I decided to put it into the jars and proceed with a water bath. 

I had prepared four pint jars in the hot water, but to my surprise, there was more marmalade left over. I didn't want to waste this mixture I had worked so hard for so I processed those four pints, and brought the lemon mixture back to a simmer so that it wouldn't set up. After the water bath for those four jars was finished, I processed four half-pint jars and filled those (so this recipe produced MUCH more than it said it would).  

When all the jars were processed, I realized they were sloopy and sloshy. So, according to the recipe, I waited an hour and checked back...still sloopy and sloshy. I guess I didn't need to worry about the mixture setting in the pot. I wanted to cry...two days of work and it wasn't setting into a nice chunky marmalade. 

Rather than throwing in the towel, I just waited overnight. Thankfully, the half-pint jars (the marmalade I put in those jars had cooked longer than the first set of jars) had set up. I was hopeful that the first set had cooked through enough to eventually set. 

After about a week, the marmalade didn't slide to one side of the jar if I tilted it so I realized I could do this! I could can like my mom and my sister and preserve yummy food I made!

My husband really enjoys this tart and soothing marmalade mixed with greek yogurt or on toast. I am really excited for when the weather turns cooler so that I can have a hot cup of tea with an english muffin slathered with this wonderful treat!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When All I Do Is Laundry

Between our new adventure of being parents and still figuring out my talents, my stage of life seems to contain load after load of laundry.

Cloth diapering produces a small load every other day. Then there is normally dirty baby linens and clothing which makes another load every other day. That does not include the three to four loads weekly of sheets, towels, and clothing my husband and I make.

I've gone from a carefree outlook on laundry where I only have one type of detergent and generic dryer sheets to now evaluating each load for it's specific needs. This could include an extra rinse cycle for the cloth diapers. Or what if our little bundle of joy spits up on my favorite shirt? Well, that's when the OxyClean comes into play, both powder and stain removing spray. Then the question of Dreft vs another detergent or maybe bleach?

The dryer had quickly become an elite club where diaper covers, biking jerseys, jeans, and sometimes pre-fold diapers are no longer welcome.  They have collectively joined together to take up prime real estate in my home on a drying rack.

Even though my laundry baskets are rarely empty now, I've come to terms with the fact that more and more of my time is going to be occupied by sorting, washing, drying, folding, and putting away laundry.

Take my word for it, I'm not super happy about being elbows deep in dirty clothing or constantly asking my husband to help me put yet another load of laundry away, but this increase in domestic responsibility can be "blamed" on one little guy, my son.

I'd do laundry 24 hours a day if it meant my son is in my life. I love him more than free time, more than a lower water bill, more than getting enough sleep. It's only 19 days that's he's been here and all I want is more! All I want is to hold him and see him discover, see him grow, see him change. If that means more laundry, BRING IT ON!!