Mommy Madness

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I’ve never shot a handgun before. This year, my husband bought one with his Christmas money. He brought it home last night and was eager to go out and shoot some cans with it. We live outside of town, so he headed out to the backyard.

I’ve always loved a good adventure, so when he offered to teach me to shoot it, I agreed. I shot probably five times just to try it. When we returned to the house, both of us realized that might not have been the best idea.

See, I’m pregnant. Almost 24 weeks along. We just found out it’s a boy.

Now, I inwardly shake my head at parents who follow their kids across the playground like they’re made of porcelain. Just let them be kids. And kids sometimes skin their knees. You can’t always be there to protect them, so teach them how to handle life’s bumps and bruises. Easy, right?

Not so easy when it’s your kid. I went into protective mother mode (i.e. high alert) and did research online to find–unsurprisingly–mixed opinions about the safety of shooting a gun while pregnant. Of course, the general consensus was to avoid it as a precaution since we still don’t know about all of the effects it may have on the fetus. Generally, the risk can come from lead exposure and loud noise on developing ears.

Just like that, I became the overprotective mother on the playground. Basically, my whole system went haywire with worry. From five shots in a matter of mere minutes.

I washed the clothes we were wearing, including the gloves I had on. Wearing the gloves had been a lucky fluke. I put them on because it was cold, but they may have protected me from some of the lead exposure. At least that’s how I’m validating it to myself.

I even soaked in Epsom salts the next day. My midwife has cleared me for Epsom soaks as long as I don’t let the water get too hot. And as an extra precaution, I soak for 15 minutes or less using a timer to be sure. It may not have done anything but ease my mind, but in that moment, that’s what I needed.

I have vowed not to target practice again until after the baby comes.

Now, logically, I know this probably wasn’t the best decision, but it happened once and only for a short amount of time. Most of the research cites high levels of lead exposure and continuous loud noise to be the main culprits for safety or developmental issues. I seriously doubt this one time will be detrimental to the baby in the long run. It was stupid and I shouldn’t have been so hasty, but I can’t go back and change it now.

So I guess this is my first real dose of parenthood. All parents make mistakes when raising kids. And our critical society is usually quick to point it out and lay on the guilt trip. But nobody’s perfect.

I didn’t have to admit my mistake to anyone. And I know I could receive backlash about it. It was an early lesson. For one, I need to stop being so hard on myself. I believe good parents do the best they can with what they know and what they have in life. They aren’t perfect, but they are trying to do the best thing for their kids. Even if someone else doesn’t think it’s the best thing. There are too many opinions out there. You’ve just got to trust yourself and your instincts and do what you believe is right.

Secondly, it’s easy to judge when you’re not the one in the hot seat. We should all learn to stop being so critical of how someone else is living their life. And on the other end of that, we also must learn to work through and past the criticism we may receive for our decisions and our mistakes. Even if that means powering through it while covering our ears.

So here’s to starting out 2017 with a dose of forgiveness towards ourselves and giving other people permission to live their lives and make their own decisions without our judgment. After all, we’ve all got enough of our own lives to live without dictating someone else’s.

Have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year everyone! Be good and gracious to yourselves!

 

 

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Stormy Skies

It’s hard to see the sun when you’re in a the middle of a storm. For so long, I was ready for change. I begged for it and dreamed about it. Now that I’m in the middle of it, I realize how difficult change can be. Not for my mindset, because I’m open and (hopefully) really ready for it. It’s just: Change uproots what you know and replaces it with the unknown.

We’ve moved. It’s official. All of our stuff is in the new house waiting to be unpacked. Our old place is empty now. There’s no turning back. I’ve been working at my new job for  a month and a half now. And it’s been hard. So much harder than I ever expected it could or would be.

The truth is, I’m stressed out and unhappy. But I have to believe this will change after I adjust to the new routine. The job wasn’t what I expected. I feel misled by the description I was given. I feel duped. I uprooted my family’s livelihood for this?!?!

Then I remember the cute farmhouse we’re renting and how it really does feel like my own. I already have pride in it, even though it’s just a rental. And I like it so much better than our last rental. Also, there are adventures to be had in the new city. I’m so excited to get to know some new people and to explore a place with so much opportunity.

It’s just….the career. This is the awful pattern in my life. And I’m really tired of the vicious cycle. To top it off, my husband is still job-searching and the bills are still coming in. And we have to replace the engine in his truck (a repair costing around $5,000). With Christmas days away, it compounds the stress. When I hear Christmas songs on the radio, Scrooge rises up in me and declares, “Bah Humbug!”

I’m trying to make the most of it. This too shall pass. And I do see a break in the clouds. I do feel like there’s hope. I’m not sure why or how, but we will get through this. And in less than a month, we get a fresh start with a brand new year. We can hope to see more positive months ahead. Time will tell.

Until then, I’ll keep staring up at the clouds, trying to see past the gloom to the shining sun behind them. Perhaps this calls for a fresh cup of tea.

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Photo credit: byronv2 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

 

My Better Half

There’s a saying that your significant other is your better half. I know it’s meant to be a compliment to them, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s really an insult to both of us. I’ve been downgraded by society since I got married. Somehow, I went from being a full, independent person to being viewed as half of a person.

Together, we are not two halves. We are two FULL people now unified by our commitment to each other. I refuse to accept that marriage has downgraded me to half a person.

But not everyone agrees. I lost a lot of friends when I got married. Suddenly, my single friends didn’t think we could hang out or relate. I didn’t change; my marital status did. I’m half a person to them (and now a stranger).

I also feel like I’ve been thrown away by others close to me. They think it doesn’t matter if I don’t have a career, because my husband will take care of me. But I didn’t waste thousands of dollars and four years in college just to throw away any aspiration of having my own career.

Even in the closest relationships, it’s important for both people to have some measure of independence and individual goals. Otherwise you end up co-dependent, which doesn’t allow for a healthy relationship.

I used to think feminists were just crazy ladies imagining inequality, but as I’ve gotten older, I see what they see. After all, I’m living in the gender gap. I’ve been thrown away, even by people who may not have meant to throw me away. Even by people who care about me. They care, but they don’t think I have what it takes to get by in the world on my own.

The better half of me has been disregarded. My better half consists of my skills, talents, drive, etc. Instead of being recognized for the better parts of me, I’m seen as only a woman. No one to take note of.

I practice target archery. Though I’m not the only female archer in my area, there tend to be more men than women. On one of our casual shoots, there was a guy I’d never met before. And I was the only female there.

Before we got started, he told me not to giggle during the shoot. It was a tasteless, sexist joke, but I smiled at him and brushed it off. Then he brought it up again mid-shoot. I still managed to shrug it off again, but afterwards it really bothered me.

He had no intention of taking me serious as an archer, despite the fact that I out-shot my husband at that shoot. This man saw me as some giggling schoolgirl instead of another competitor. I didn’t come there to giggle. I came there to shoot. Just like him and every other archer there. Why should I be considered the fool?

Think of how ridiculous he would sound if he said that to one of the guys. They wouldn’t have tolerated it. And honestly, I shouldn’t have either. I’m tired of being treated as a naive, foolish girl when I am a grown, capable woman. Yes, I compete with the men, because it’s about my skill level, not my gender.

This needs to stop. All these labels need to stop. A person cannot be fully described by one word. They are so much more than that. I am not just a female. He’s not just a gay man. She’s not just a mother. The list goes on.

We are so much more than the label forced upon us.

And that is what the world is truly afraid of.

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Photo credit: jjay69 / Source / CC BY-NC-SA

Unshaken Love

There are some types of love that you just don’t mess with.

When I was ready to date during college (at a small Christian university), I was met with disappointment. Every boy I was interested in seemed only to be looking for a wife. I just wanted to date. I discovered that I am not preacher’s wife material, as they made obvious when I showed any sign of interest in them.

At the time, I was hurt by this. They were telling me that I wasn’t good enough for them. I thought we were on the same playing field. Instead, I was on the bench feeling lonely and left out.

I was always magnetized to the guy who was already magnetized to his future preacher’s wife. And she was nothing like me.

In one instance, I had a crush on this genuinely good guy. One day in the cafeteria, I was sitting with a group that included him and his girlfriend. I watched the way they interacted and how they looked at each other. I could feel the electricity between them. It was not shallow, lustful electricity, but something true and strong (albeit subtle).

Later, I told my roommate that I knew they were going to get married. She said, “You don’t know that.” But I insisted that I did and that if she would just wait, she would see that I was right.

They are married today. *Insert smug grin.*

Anyway, my point of that story is that I saw and felt their love. This was the type of love that you don’t mess with. Even if you tried, you couldn’t easily break their bond. He had chosen his lady and even then, I knew she was the right one for him. I stepped down and distanced myself from my feelings until they withered away. My feelings for him were so shallow in comparison to hers.

It was a foreshadow. Just like an author drops hints to what is coming, God was nudging me. At the time, it didn’t feel like a nudge. It really felt like a kick in the gut.

Yet another foreshadow was when two friends of mine married. I watched them grow from friends to newlyweds. At the start of their relationship, they loudly denied that they were dating before finally and slowly reaching a point where they could deny no more.

I had never shed a tear at a wedding until theirs. In fact, I always thought it was ridiculous when I heard sniffles from other wedding guests. But when the bride came into the church, I was overcome with emotion. Truly, this was a match made by God. I knew it because I had seen it grow. They were made for each other. Their relationship planted a seed of hope in me that I’ve only just begun to recognize.

My husband and I started as friends, but it was not until we were alone together that we saw the potential that hadn’t come to the surface before. More than common interests, we have similar worldviews.

It was uncanny how his comments would echo my exact thoughts. It was like realizing you’re lost at the same time someone finds you. I didn’t know how much I longed to be understood like that. Perhaps this is what my friends above went through before they tied the knot. Perhaps they had shown me the possibility.

As our relationship grew into something more, we reached a point where we could no longer deny it either. We were in love. By accident really. And so here we are today: married and grateful to have found each other.

All along, those stings of love and the relationships around me were not God’s cruel trick on an aching heart. They were hints of what was to come. I just misread His intentions.

I wonder how often I do that with other elements of my life. When I spit complaints and anger at God, He could be in the process of doing something to make my future life that much better. How dare I think otherwise.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Wonderfully Mundane

Sometimes we need small reminders about the good things in our lives. It’s easy to get used to what we have and to overlook our blessings. It may take someone else’s fresh look at our life to give us new perspective. But it’s rare to hear what other people honestly think about our lives. For many people, compliments are harder to pass along than negativity.

The next best thing is occasionally taking that trip down memory lane. Ever since the invention of digital cameras, most of us have taken more than enough pictures of us doing anything and everything you can think of. We no longer have to wait a few days or *gasp* a week to see how our photos turned out. And that means we have more pictures of the seemingly mundane things we do throughout the day.

For me, those mundane moments have given me great perspective. My husband and I recently filled the memory card on our camera (yes, we still use a real camera and not just our phones to snap pictures). In the process of getting the old pictures on my computer, I got to see what my life was like just a few years ago.

Things have changed in small ways, but my life is very different now compared to just three years ago. It was the very beginning of my marriage. It’s interesting to see how our living room was arranged because those things tell our story. We had to improvise to find room for two households of stuff in one house. There are pictures of us vacuuming, sitting at the computer, cooking, etc. For anyone who wants to argue about why we would take pictures of that, just take a look at half of the selfies out there and you might think we’re a bit more sane.

For us, those pictures mean more because of the look of happiness on our faces, the pet cages in the background, or just the feeling we get when we remember what our life was like at that time. It was the fresh, new take on marriage, the calm before the storm of trouble that every relationship finds, and an optimistic view on life and careers. So much more than vacuuming. No one else may get it. To everyone else it’s just vacuuming. To me, it’s life in all its beauty. The small bursts of happiness are what add up to make life worth living.

So don’t wait for someone to compliment you on your lifestyle. It doesn’t matter what they think anyway. Use those mundane snapshots to remind you how far you’ve come and how blessed you are. I’m beginning to see my life with a clear perspective. And it’s beautiful in all the horrible and wonderful ways combined. Wonderfully mundane.

Photo credit: MildlyDiverting / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 

Photo credit: MildlyDiverting / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

My One Thing

Childhood. Summer.

When I first told a friend of mine that I was engaged, she said, “I think you’ve finally found what you’ve been searching for.” It took me back. She knew me very well. I had never realized that I was searching for something, especially that singular special thing. I smiled and thought, “Maybe you’re right. Things are going to get better now.”

She was right in some ways. Marriage was something I had been searching for, whether I realized it or not on a conscious level. And my life has gotten better since then. I’ve improved as a person with the help of my very patient husband. I’ve taken many steps forward in a lot of different ways. But marriage was not the “one thing” I needed.

So, she was also wrong in some ways. There isn’t one single thing that settles you in for life. You always end up wanting more. After marriage, you want a house, or a baby, etc. There’s nothing that you can have solely by itself and be content. And if we did find the one thing that makes everything perfect for us, it would be a curse. Because life is full of so much more. If we found the “one thing” and we wanted nothing more, we would stop seeing all the other wonderful things life has to offer. We would miss out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not meaning that marriage is not fulfilling or good. It’s just one piece of the bigger picture. It’s one thing of many. Marriage has not magically turned my life into a picture-perfect image. It hasn’t solved all of my problems. It hasn’t provided me with a continual, eternal state of happiness. And no marriage will. As every married person will say, marriage is hard work. And if you work hard on it, it becomes a very special and very fulfilling part of life. And it can make you very happy. But it cannot singularly complete your life.

I’ve been married over three years now, and all I know is that I’ve taken a step in a better direction. I’m happier than I was before marriage. I hold more promise for my future. But I’m still searching. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop searching.

Life is a journey, not a destination, so nothing will stop us on the path and make us sigh with utter completeness. Life is just not that perfect. We’ve got to bring those good things with us as we continue along. We are blessed with many things, not just one. And I think that’s a better way even if we don’t get them all at the same time. That means no matter how great things become, we still have something to look forward to.

So, ultimately, my one thing is everything. And no one can have everything. So I’ll just keep searching to see how close I can get. And there’s nothing wrong with that as long as I remember to hold onto the good things I bring with me and to let go of the things that aren’t meant to be mine.

 

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