Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Start the New Year off Right

Hi friends!

I've been taking it pretty slow this time around. I learned my lesson after Thanksgiving. But I wanted to wish you all a happy New Year in truly But Not Unhappy style--with a dorky picture and a joke!

Oh, and I've update my goodreads widget so check it out and let me know if you've read any of those books and what I should put on my list for 2010.

So, without further ado, here's the funny stuff.

Hmm. . .maybe my resolution will be to not take myself so seriously :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"It's Just Too Hard" : a rebuke, a problem, a lesson, and a goal

This last Sunday things were a little bittersweet: the choir sang (and did a fabulous job!) but I wasn't in it, which made me a little sad; Sunday School was spot on, but I probably talked too much so I felt a little embarrassed; and Relief Society was, well, where I got rebuked.

The Rebuke I was having a hard time paying attention to the lesson--probably because I hadn't done the reading or bothered to bring my book--and my mind wandered so I can't give you the context of the rebuke or what it had to do with anything, but here's the basic gist of what the teacher said: Just because something is hard doesn't mean you get to throw your hands up and say, "I'm done." Especially when it comes to Church stuff. God doesn't approve of quitting.

It struck me because that is exactly what I have done these last few weeks. I've just said, "I'm done," because it was too hard. Too hard to keep up with Christmas blither-blather. Too hard to do my visiting teaching. Too hard to reach out to others. Too hard. Walking away felt necessary and it felt right.

However, the teacher's comment made me panic a little. See, in Mormon culture, saying something is too hard is never an acceptable answer. I think a lot of members consider it doctrine. After all, don't we all sort of know scriptures that say something about strengthening our shoulders and being made equal to our burdens? In my mind, I always figured that meant that no matter what I was asked I was meant to say yes because, if I was righteous, God would make it all work out.

The Problem Things don't always work out. In fact, most of the time things don't work out. Especially not when "working out" is defined as being perfect and awe-inspiring and Ensign article worthy. I mean, I felt I had to forgo the visiting teaching this month because I couldn't find the time or money to make a cute, coordinated gift and card. Visiting teaching, after all, isn't just about showing up. It's about proving you care--which usually means coordinated gift and card. Or three course meal. Or both! That's when you know God is helping it all work out: things look good and appear seamless and come easily.

There's an even bigger problem of all this "working out" business, though. The implication that if things don't work out I am somehow less righteous or less worthy than others. That's why just showing up for Visiting Teaching isn't enough. The cute card and three course meal prove my righteousness and worthiness. They prove that God approves of me. Of course, if it doesn't work out then I am in big, cosmic trouble.

Hence my panic in Relief Society. There were a number of small but hard (for me) things that I had walked away from because it was simply too much. But the very act of walking away was damning because it was tantamount to saying, "I don't believe God can make this all work out and therefore I don't believe I am righteous or worthy. Because I can't do everything I am good for nothing."

(Side note: This kind of black and white thinking is a hallmark of my depression and is incorrect. When I am feeling low, not only do I have trouble making decisions but there are only two alternatives: 1) necessary but completely impossible perfection and 2) abject failure with cosmic implications. Even though there are clear lines between good evil, not every thing in life is all or nothing. There is a middle ground and it is Jesus Christ.)

As I mulled over how good I had originally felt about my giving-up-stuff decision and my real sadness about missing out on things like singing with the choir and going visiting teacher and my panicky, irrational guilt fest, something occurred to me: a fabulous and glowing middle ground of rational thought! God never meant for me to do everything. He meant for me to do only the things He wanted me to do--which, in the big picture, means using my agency to make choices, experience the consequences, and learn. As Joseph Smith said (the link is a little inexact, you'll have to scroll down a bit to find it),
“When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”

The Lesson I had taken on too much this year and in the process of trying to weed out the good, better, and best, I had given up some things that would have been better to hold on to. BUT,and this is part of the lesson too, things really were too hard this year. Besides being pregnant and trying to sell our house and having to take J off all dairy and having some other family issues pop up, I'm depressed. That really and truly does make things too hard. God gets that. He knows the reasons behind the choices I make and He understands.

The REAL Rebuke Of course, He also knows my eternal potential and He isn't going to fail to remind me that I have a lot of growing to do. Heavenly Father isn't mean but there is a germ of truth inside all my panicky thinking. There is a lot that God expects me to accomplish; He's not okay with my being lazy. God gets my reasons but He also isn't going to take them as an excuse. This is balanced by the fact that He also knows this life is a process of learning and He deliberately doles out weaknesses in order to teach. Ether 12:27 and 2 Corinthians 12:9 make that very clear. It is quite possible that God meant for me to get in over my head so I would have to learn to lean on Him. Striving for perfection on my own negates Christ's atonement and is not in harmony with God's plan. What better way to bring me to back to Him than through weakness? (Side note: Please don't think I think I am speaking for God here. His reasons are His and are probably much grander than I understand. These are just the parts He made clear to me.)

The Goal As with most rebukes from the Holy Spirit, this one came with a suggested goal: Takes this time to get my life in order so that I can be available to do what needs to be done (i.e. what God wants). I think I've only been patching up issues instead of delving into them and finding a long term solution--which will always eventually lead to chaos. I need to figure out why J screams and cries instead of sleeping, so that he and I can finally, after two-and-a-half years, get some sleep. I need to figure out what can be done to solve the reoccurring family issues. I need to avoid extremes or experiments with my depression treatments (just like spirituality, antidepressants are not a black and white scenario). I need to find what makes me stable and accept the fact that I have a mood disorder and it will always need monitoring. (I swear I have to face up to that last one at least once every month--probably when I'm picking up my Rx refill.) I need to get my life to a place where I can , at the very least, do my visiting teaching (with or without a coordinated card!) and actually attend all my Sunday meetings.

Of course, one thing I have learned by this point is that this will not be the only time I'll have to scale it back and regroup. There will be other times when life will overwhelm me and threaten to fall apart but hopefully when that next time comes I'll remember to avoid the black and white, perfectionist thinking of it all. Perfection is God's job. My job is to keep on making progress.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Not So Happy Holidays

I hate to be a downer, but, well, I am depressed so it's to be expected.

The holidays have not been so happy thus far. I've been trying really hard to take all the awesome advice you guys gave me following my post Thanksgiving crash. Most of the stuff you guys mentioned (like waiting to put up the tree and making my DH do all the clean-up) will have to wait until next year to be implemented, but the big thing I've held onto is this: Do less stuff.

My mood cycles have been getting deeper and faster; I feel like my good days are fewer and farther between and my bad days are much, much more intense. I forgot how consuming and exhausting it actually is to be depressed. The other night I found myself crying helplessly while reading my kids their bedtime stories. My voice was fine, but my mind was lost and tears were rolling down my cheeks. It was so strange and awful and, um, depressing.

So it was a good thing I scaled back about a week ago. And I mean seriously scaled back. In the name of doing less I bailed on planning my first grader's "Holiday Fiesta", the ward choir, a Sunday School lesson, visiting teaching, and two family gift exchanges (I really am sorry guys!!), I gave up working on my calling, and we decided to draw names as a family to cut down on all the shopping. When I had finished the last email and the final phone call to let people know I was opting out I sobbed with relief. (Note to self: most people were very understanding and polite. They won't hate you if you back out of something!) With all that stuff out of my brain I remembered how to get dressed, how to feed my family, and how to start cleaning my house. I know it sounds stupid, but when I am on a downturn even the simplest tasks are like trying to solve a Rubik's cube. Adding all the craziness of the holidays is like trying to work that *%^$# cube with my toes.

I did hold on to a few things, though. They were things that I felt like embodied the spirit of Christmas best. We still picked names off the angel tree and shopped for families in need. We still sent out Christmas cards because family connections are too important to let go of (I only sent out 20 and it still took two hours to get everything packaged and sent). We still made treats to share with the neighbors--although I did make a lot fewer than usual; we gave out 6 half loaves of pumpkin bread--because (besides Halloween) it is the only time of year we talk to them. And I think I'm taking my kids caroling next week. Those things feel good when I do them and they have a long term purpose behind them so they're keepers.

There are still some ways I need to scale back for next year. The ward Christmas party is up in the air for me. I don't do well with lots of noise and big crowds. And it always makes my kids stay up too late. The same goes for the Relief Society party. There's just so much pressure with that kind of stuff when I'm feeling low. It doesn't lift my spirit. It just reminds me of how far down I've gone. Hmmm. . . any ideas for a small group party that was more service-instead-socializing-oriented that can be implemented on a ward level? (I do better with a task. Just sitting and talking with people I barely know is soooo hard.)

Anyway, if you all are feeling the pain this holiday I hope you know you're not alone and it's not wrong. It's just the way we depressives react to stress and it's okay. I came across this video by Therese Bochard at Beyond Blue that was really meaningful to me. She has some good idea about how to take care of yourself during the holidays (SEE--sleep, eat right, and exercise!), but mostly it's just good to know that other people have been there and are making it work.

Oh, and yeah, I do have an appointment to see the psychiatrist. The supplements just don't cut it and I don't like teetering on the brink. I mean, the other day I was actually thinking getting hospitalized might be a nice break. That's not a good sign. Especially not when there's a little person trying to grow and thrive inside me.

*sigh* 'Tis the season.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Food Storage--CSA style

It was great season for our community supported farm. I've been getting a bushel of vegetables a week and a peck to a peck and a half of fruit every single week.

What? You don't know how much a bushel is? Or a peck?

Well, in farm terms, it's really quite simple. Those words mean a lot. Seriously, I've been getting four or five grocery bags of veggies and piles of fruit--like 30 apples a week. (It actually isn't simple. Here's the conversion formula for bushels to pounds.)

A bushel of home grown veggies also means a lot of canning and freezing. I've learned a lot this year and wanted to pass a lot of it on. (That's a lot of "a lot", but now you're getting the idea of how many veggies I have laying around!)

When I was signing up for our share this year I decided I wanted to try and see what it was like to live on locally grown produce year round--people around here call that becoming a locavore. Since I use disposable diapers (although I'm thinking of switching over to Seventh Generation diapers and toilet paper to assuage my guilt) and I actually drive a car instead of riding a bike I figure eating locally is the least I can do for the planet. One study showed that eating locally uses 17 times less oil and gas. Eating locally is actually a big deal and I think it's worth the effort.

BTW, I also aim for a "flexitarian" lifestyle. I aim for one serving or less of meat a day. That's good for the planet, too.

Now, according to my understanding of locavor-ity I can eat things that won't grow in my climate so I do buy tangerines/oranges and bananas at the grocery store. We can't live on only apples! Although, during peak summer harvest when were getting peaches, pears, plums, and melons I bought no produce at the grocery store. I try to always buy US fruit, but, well bananas always break that rule. *guilt* I'm pretty good about buying Colorado Proud milk and other dairy products, but meat and eggs are anybody's guess. I'd love to go organic on those things too but it's too expensive. *sigh* That's one reason I've gone flexitarian.

Back to the canning. Living in an area that has a great growing season but also has a definite winter makes canning and preserving food a necessity for a locavore. (See, it's not just gray-haired, sensible-shoed Mormons that do it! Canning is part of a new, hip cultural movement!) This year I put up peaches, pears, salsas, tomatoes, pickles, watermelon (both canned and as popsicles), greens, beans, squash, beets, onions, and Anaheim peppers. Whew!

For now I'll spare you the recipes and just hit you with the Big Lessons Learned:

*Canning is NOT hard. If you focus, it's not even all that time consuming and you'll get faster with practice.

*Home canned food does taste better. Mostly because you can make it the way you like it. I like my salsa with quite a big of vinegar. I like my beets with cinnamon. I like pickles with garlic. And now I can have them all that way. (As a caveat my kids balked as the first bottle of peaches we opened. But I thought they were pretty good; different from store bought, but good.)

*All that chopping and peeling can be good for your mental health. At least it has been for mine. It's a great way to unwind. I imagine it's the same feeling women get from quilting or doing needlepoint. I can be productive but not feel like a hamster on a wheel. I've got something to show for my work when I'm done and I can do it when the kids are around--sometimes they even help!

*Some tools are necessary. Things I couldn't live without: my potato peeler (which I actually mostly use on apples and carrots), my food processor (great for chopping onion and peppers), a cabbage slicer (cabbage is a pain to chop by hand and the food processor just purees the stuff), and a big ol' colander. I also bought a food dehydrator this year so that I can make apple chips and dry some of the herbs we get. But I could live without it.

Most community supported farms are looking to drum up cash during their down season and to cover their spring start up costs so they are offering discounts on shares. We've had another great year with our CSA--we tried new foods, learned new skills, and I honestly feel like it has given us better health. (No one in our house has been hit with the flu or a serious cold this year. *Knock on wood* We haven't even had an ear infection or high fever. Well, back in September E and J were down for a few days with a fever, but other that we've been healthy.) If you are at all interested check out what's in your area. Then I can start hitting you up for recipes!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Post Holiday Crash

Anyone else having one?

You know, when you're tired regardless of how much sleep you got last night. When you think you're going to scream if you have to look at one more stupid dish to wash or mess to clean. When you would rather rip your ears off your head than listen to one more noise. When getting committed sounds better than spending two more minutes doing what you're doing.

Happens to me almost every year; I should expect it and prepare for it. But I didn't. Now it's the day after Thanksgiving and all I want to do is lay in a ball and stare at the wall. (I can't even bring myself to think about how I'll be feeling a month from now with the post Christmas crash. . .)

My kids are clamoring to put up the Christmas tree but it took all I had today to just get them breakfast.

How, how, how do I avoid this in the future? What do you all do to deal with the onslaught of stress, noise, and mess that the holidays bring? Seriously. I need some tips.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Gateway Virtue of Gratitude

I gave a talk this last Sunday on gratitude and I really liked it. Since putting together a reader's theater on the subject a year ago for my Relief Society group and trying to write a sestina on the subject (um, yeah, right, Laura! The day I am a skilled enough poet to write a sestina will probably coincide with the second coming.) I've been thinking a lot about gratitude. So it was awesome to have the opportunity to put my thoughts down on paper in a coherent way. I prayed a lot and I spent a good ten hours researching and writing the thing and it's still imperfect, but I thought I'd share it with you all. Happy Thanksgiving and happy reading!

p.s. It's long--it was supposed to be a 10 minute talk and I talk fast--but it's worth reading the whole thing!

“To Live in Thanksgiving Daily”
The power of the gateway virtue of gratitude

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,” a favorite hymn begins. “Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?” it questions. Then it advises, “So amid the conflict, whether great or small, Do not be discouraged, God is over all . . . Count your many blessings; Name them one by one. Count your many blessings; See what God hath done. ” This simple admonishment of gratitude that we sing in buoyant tones is one that we hear often and one we probably underestimate the power of.

Science tells us about the power of gratitude. A 2003 study from the University of California showed that people who kept gratitude journals enjoyed a host of benefits: fewer physical ailments, more alertness and energy, a higher rate of personal goal attainment. They were more optimistic and were more likely help others. Children who practiced gratitude benefited as well, showing more positive attitudes toward school and family. ( ) A 2008 study from the United Kingdom concluded, “Gratitude is . . . uniquely important to psychological well-being.” For every thank-you we offer another our own self-esteem and mental health are increased.

The power of gratitude goes well beyond the psychological, though. It is a spiritual power as well. President James E. Faust said, “It seems as though there is a tug-of-war between opposing character traits that leaves no voids in our souls. As gratitude is absent or disappears, rebellion often enters and fills the vacuum . . . A grateful heart is the beginning of greatness. . . It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.” When viewed from an eternal perspective having a spirit of thanksgiving within ourselves is a gateway to not just more optimism, which is a considerable benefit, but also many wonderful spiritual blessings. Gratitude is an important beginning step on the road to eternal life. We cannot live with God or like God until we learn to show gratitude in all things.

Gratitude serves us in such a major spiritual way because it is actually a “binding commandment” (Faust, “Gratitude As a Saving Principle,” Ensign, Dec 1996). In Doctrine and Covenants section 59 the Lord tells us, “Thank the Lord thy God in all things . . . in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things” (verses 7 and 21)—all things meaning the good and the bad, the easy and the hard. Both ancient and modern prophets have counseled us to live this commandment. King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon counseled that in order to truly take Christ’s name upon ourselves we must, “live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which [God] doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38). More recently, President Monson has succinctly stated, “Think to thank.”

Like other binding commandments, gratitude is more than just a two-way street between us and God. For every little bit we comply we do get something back, but that is a narrow view. Heavenly Father does not work on a strictly this-for-that basis. If He did we’d all be doomed because no matter how valiant our efforts we are always “unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21). Just like when we pay our tithing and the Lord blesses us in a myriad of ways so too are we blessed when we are grateful. It isn’t as if since we thank the Lord for our dinner He will only ensure that we get another dinner. Rather, because we have thanked the Lord for our dinner our perspective will change, embracing a more eternal point of view. We will appreciate all the effort that went in to preparing the food; the food will probably taste better because we are in a more positive mind-set to begin with; we will have a better idea of the greatness of God’s creations and the depth of His wisdom that those creations testify of; then our dinner isn’t just something to fill our bellies, but something to feed our souls. This can make us more grateful and will in turn further adjust our perspective. It is this reciprocal relationship between gratitude and spiritual insight that makes gratitude a spiritual gateway.

This commandment to thank the Lord in all things is one that most of us try to embrace—especially during the holidays—and most of us have seen the benefits of as we have increased our efforts in this area. In my life when I have made a serious effort to be more grateful I have seen many spiritual blessings, but there are two I’d like to share with you today: blessings of faith and blessings of repentance.

Gratitude is the foundation of faith; it is very difficult to believe in something we are not grateful for. True faith—the kind that leads to devotion, action, and testimony—grows through small expressions of belief, of which gratitude is a primary example.

This is something we can see in our own families. I have noticed in my own family is that when we go through busy and stressful times one of the first things to disappear is gratitude. When we are busy we just forget to thank each other for the all the little things efforts that make a family run smoothly. The more we forget to thank, the more we take for granted and soon that taking for granted turns into plain old taking or, in other words, selfishness. As selfishness takes hold inside us we are blind to other efforts and can only see our own work and frustrations. It divides us and makes us miserable. Then conflicts occur.

But a thank-you can turn all that around. When meetings and appointments and homework begin to encroach our family dinner time and I start to get stressed and frustrated, for example, just getting a quick hug and a quiet thank you from my husband puts things back in perspective. It pushes the pause button on my stress and reminds me that he believes in me and in my efforts to make our family a happy one. It makes the frustrations worthwhile.

The kind of faith we show family members when we say thank- you is similar to the faith that the tenth leper showed when he returned to thank Christ for healing him. After questioning the whereabouts of the other nine the Lord didn’t say, “Thy gratitude hath made thee whole.” He said, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” When the tenth leper (who not coincidentally was a Samaritan) stopped to thank the Lord, inherent in his expression was the acknowledgment that Christ was his Master and the source of all blessings. After all, scripture tells us that the leper offered a true sentiment of gratitude. He didn’t only thank Christ but also glorified God. It was those inherent statements of faith that met the demands of the command for gratitude and that opened the door for spiritual blessings-- because when Christ made the leper whole he had already healed him physically. The wholeness given, the resultant blessing, was spiritual wholeness.

Our own expressions of thanksgiving can must us spiritually whole too. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many of us start our testimonies with statements of gratitude for the scriptures, the priesthood, temples, prophets, and especially for our Savior. When we stop and realize that depths of gratitude what we are really realizing is the depth of our faith. Which is one reason Elder Ballard has encouraged us to move from only stating our gratitude to also stating our faith; one kind of statement implies the other.

I think a similar relationship between gratitude and faith is evidenced in our prayers. When we take time in our prayers to really converse with our Father in Heaven and thank Him for our blessings what we are actually doing is acknowledging His hand. We are testifying that we know He loves us, we know He takes care of us, and we know He is the ultimate source of power and goodness in our lives. When we properly, mindfully thank Heavenly Father we are placing our trust in Him and aligning ourselves with Him thereby making a powerful statement of what we are and will be faithful to.

I think it is because of this reciprocal relationship between gratitude and faith that I have seen my understanding of and my ability to receive forgiveness grow. A weighty expression of a Latter-day Saint’s faith is his or her weekly partaking of the sacrament. When we partake of the sacrament we renew the covenants we have made and we ponder on Christ’s sacrifice for us. When we chew the bread we are, as the sacrament prayer says, to remember how Christ’s perfect and unblemished body—the body that walked on water, healed the sick, and raised the dead—was broken for us. We remember how he was tied up, beaten, spit upon, scourged, stripped, whipped, and hung on a cross. We remember how the nails pierced his hands, feet, and wrists and how the soldiers stabbed him in his side. And we remember his willingness to endure those things for each of us. President Eyring has said, “Remembrance is the seed of gratitude,” and for me it is impossible to remember those wounds and those hurts without feeling grateful—extremely and inadequately grateful, but grateful all the same.

It is similar with the water for, as the prayer reminds us, the ounce or two of water that we drink each week is in remembrance of Christ’s blood—the blood that was shed drop by drop and pore by pore for each and every one of our sins, mistakes, and weaknesses. Each week, there are so many sins that I need to cleansed of that they, drop by drop, can fill that cup. It is hard for me to not look at that cup and not think of the pain Christ suffered for me so that I could be relieved of those burdens. And that makes me grateful—again, inadequately so, but deeply grateful.

Over the course of time, when I let it, that gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice has a surprising effect on me. It softens me and makes me aware of how far I have to go. My gratitude humbles me so that I can see how many weaknesses I have. It strengthens my love for my Savior as it makes His suffering more real and allows Him to work with me in my daily life. Gratitude for Christ’s atonement, when I really feel it, takes away my desire for sin. It helps me to truly repent and helps me to receive forgiveness and to change my habits and to become born of God. It is this kind of gratitude that helps me be grateful for my weaknesses and for hardships in my life because it changes my perspective. Deep, knowledgeable, and heartfelt gratitude is a prerequisite to that all-important change of heart.

This kind of powerful gratitude was chronicled in the Book of Mormon when King Benjamin said,
“And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as yea have come to a knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.”
Gratitude leads to faith and repentance and forgiveness which then leads to more gratitude, and the cycle of growth continues.

President Benson remarked, “The Prophet Joseph said at one time that one of the greatest sins of which the Latter-day Saints would be guilty is the sin of ingratitude.” We arguably live in the most blessed period of history, and yet how often do we stop to utter thanks, to God and each other? When we fail to be grateful for our blessings—all the blessings, from the small ones like salt for our potatoes to the big ones like temples and the Restoration—we not only lose the opportunity for growth but we risk backsliding into selfishness and ignorance. A lack of gratitude closes our minds and hearts and is a “form of pride” (President Faust). Ingratitude is a great sin.

But when we remember to be grateful it can open us up to so many, many blessings—especially as it works within us to increase our faith and our desire to repent, rooting out selfishness and ungodliness and guiding us as we seek to link our lives to our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Since I opened with a modern hymn of gratitude, I’d like to close with an ancient one, the 100th Psalm:

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pregnant and Depressed Status Update (and with more than 200 characters!)

So I've been feeling so stressed/tired lately that every time I get on the computer to blog I end up over on facebook and just read everyone's status updates over there and call it good. I don't even bother posting my own! Lazy, lazy, lazy girl! So here's some updates I could have posted but didn't.

Update #1: After 8 showings and 1 month on the market we haven't gotten any takers on our house. Learning patience. (And how to clean as I go. Sort of.)

Update #2: My myriad of supplements doesn't always cut it when it comes to my mood disorder. I've had a few days where I've been bordering on non-functional. Might be time to call my psychiatrist. Being mood disordered and depressed is probably worse for the baby than Prozac. . .

Update #3: Decided to wait on calling the psych. Decided to withhold judgment until fetus and I made it out of the first tri. Well, that was last Saturday and while I'm starting to get a little more energy my anxiety level is ratcheting itself up every day. What the heck was I thinking?!? Four children?!?!

Update #4: As scared as I am of having to deal with an infant and the crazy that comes with it (so scared I spent whole therapy session on it. EMDR here I come! Say what you want about the tapping and the eye-rolling; it works for me.) I like toddlers. I like preschoolers. I like first graders. Kids keep growing and they just keep getting better. *deep breath while contemplating light at end of tunnel*

Update #5: Embarrassing but true: I find the updates about New Moon fascinating. If only I could find a way to write a paper on that. P.S. Team Jacob folks, you crack you me up!

Update #6: Seems like all I ever work on is staying in the present. Today is no exception. Instead of rehashing the my PPD past or fretting about a future that I really have no clue about, I'm going to be where I am now. Maybe. Hopefully. Today is a field trip with my daughter's preschool and a sunny day and the last day of school before Thanksgiving break. It will be good.

p.s. Fall in Colorado is beautiful!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Optimism (The Mask)

A friend of mine is working on opening up an expressive arts studio and therapy center. She's been running a couple workshops over the last few weeks and invited me to participate. And, well, since I like artsy stuff and I like therapy, art therapy is like the chocolate truffle of mental health activities; I just can't get enough!

For the last two weeks I joined Nancy and several other ladies in mask making. Last week we made actual molds of our faces out of plaster (and some interesting possible poem thoughts came to my mind. . .) and this week we transformed those masks into something completely different.

Nancy really encouraged me to come to the art-making process with no preconceived notions. No thinking ahead. No planning out. No pushing or prodding or researching. She and I have talked about how my writing has stagnated--possibly because I've been spending too much energy thinking and planning and researching and prodding and not enough time playing. Well, tonight I had notions and I had ideas (it's so hard to let go of my intellect!) but when Nancy pointed out that I was welcome to use her lighter as part of my art all those ideas went up in smoke.

The aim-n-flame and I spent quite a bit of time together and, after Sarah mentioned something about layers and Heather said I was creepy, well, I followed my gut and "Optimism (The Mask)" was born. When I brought it home my husband was kind enough to say he thought it looked like real art--like Nancy had been giving me some professional guidance. (I'm not sure I believe him, but that was sure nice of him to say.) I don't know if I'd call it art--at least not with all the strings that come attached to that word--but it was definitely exciting and interesting and troubling and consuming to create. It definitely stirred people up. It made me feel alive in all the places that being depressed (and pregnant) make me feel dead. And those things, in my mind, make it at least artist-ic.

So here it is in all it's ugly/beautiful glory. "Optimism (The Mask)". Enjoy. Or cringe. Just go with your gut. (P.S. In real life you can tell, but in the picture you can't. The newsprint is obituaries. That was a deliberate and significant choice on my part. And not just because it's morbid. And the things on it's eyes are rose-colored glasses.)Yes, I know. I'm strange. And possibly deeply troubled. *sigh* You'll just have to accept it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Mormon Therapist Blog

Hey folks,

Thanks to an interesting discussion (meaning: it's about sexuality! Love Kathryn Lynard Soper!) over at Blog Segullah I found an interesting Mormon mental health link, The Mormon Therapist. Looks like she's trying to figure out how to make money off her blog (good luck with that!), but if you scroll down and root around her site she's got some good stuff. She's got info concerning

*OCD and religion

*Exercise and depression

*Eating disorders

*Sexual dysfunction (This one has the most entries. Apparently people only feel comfortable asking these kinds of questions when they have the anonymity of the internet to bolster them.)

Her blog hasn't even been up for a year yet; I'm interested to see where/how it goes and if it survives. BUT it's an interesting experiment and another resource that just might be helpful--and that's why I'm linking to her. So check it out--just be ready for some frank discussions!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I don't know why, but Halloween always makes me want to read poetry. I blame (well, really, thank wholeheartedly) my elementary school teachers. They were always sneaking poems into things. So here's short on to inspire your own weekend hauntings:

Theme in Yellow
by Carl Sandburg

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o'-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

Halloween also makes me think of cheesy jokes, so I'm of course including one here :)

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pregnancy and Depression--how it's going thus far

I am now eleven and half weeks pregnant. I saw my OB on Monday and she got some good shots of a squiggling, half-alien, half-frog (but soon to be human!) creature--complete with beating heart. Never has any whooshing been so calming to my mind.

Mostly I've been trying to not think about this pregnancy so far. I mean, my family has already outgrown our little 1400 square foot home so we've been caught up in the busy-ness of putting our house on the market and my husband has been crazy-busy at work and we had a family sealing to go to last weekend and, well, I've pretty much been thinking about everything but the blessing/complication that is currently inhabiting my womb.

Of course just because I wasn't thinking about it doesn't mean I wasn't worrying. Every night as I go to sleep I chant "Grow little baby. Grow little baby. Grow little baby." And in every personal prayer I can't help but add, "Lord, if it's thy will, please help the tummy baby not to die!" I know it sounds little nutty, but worrying is what I do.

So, the appointment went well and I'm almost out of the first trimester danger zone and I'm starting to think about this pregnancy as a person. I can see the light at the end of the nausea and fatigue tunnel. I've never been visibly pregnant during the winter so I get do some (frugal) shopping. I'm starting to get excited. This is starting to be fun.

Especially when I remember that this is most likely my last. Barring any divine intervention I don't plan on treading the path of pregnancy again. It's too hard on my chemistry. And therefore my family. And therefore me.

So far the chemistry is doing okay. It was a little wobbly the first couple weeks off the meds, but I think it's mostly settled. My ups and downs are more intense, though. My temper seems to flare up more often. I screamed at the kids at bedtime. I cussed out my husband. I had to pray for the patience to make it through Church. Whenever my kids do something cute or someone does something nice for me I cry. I tear up at cheesy television voice-overs and commercials. I decided--unilaterally--the put our house up for sale and my husband got on board, but I was just overcome (consumed?) with the urge to find a better home for our family. It wasn't a bad urge, but it was an awfully powerful one.

I'm trying to stick with the supplement regimen that my psychiatrist and OB agreed to. I did a bunch of internet research and then called them both to get their okay on it. It was a lot of work and it made me wonder what most depressed chicks do. Knowing how bad it can be, having some pretty solid, scary memories of my own personal insanity, I was pretty motivated to figure something out. And I was lucky that I'm good with the internet and have a pretty good network of other depressed folks to hit up for advice. And that I live in an area where supplements are part of everyday life for most people; the people at Vitamin Cottage were full of info that correct and germane(!).

Here's what I'm supposed to take:

*AM: 1 prenatal vitamin (I've got the kind where you take 3 a day) which includes inositol. My OB had never heard of it but psych had; both agreed it was safe to take during pregnancy because it is a naturally occurring substance and (I think) similar to B vitamins so it's water soluble and you can't overdose on it. 1 fish oil For info on fish oil and mood disorders read this article at Webmd and this one at from the Mayo Clinic. 1 vitamin B. For info on vitamin B and mood disorders here's another article from the Mayo Clinic or try this one from the Linus Pauling Institute, you'll have to scroll down a ways to read about depression.

*NOON: 1 prenatal (inositol included) and 1 vitamin B.

*PM: 1 prenatal (inositol included), 1 vitamin B, and another fish oil. I'm thinking of switching out this second fish oil for a flaxseed one. Fish oil is an anticoagulant and so is potentially dangerous to the fetus when taken in large doses--which it usually is when being used for depression. I'm wondering if using flax oil instead would be better. . .

I asked both my docs about vitamin D and they both said that was an unsafe supplement to take during pregnancy. For info on vitamin D and depression read here. Actually the whole article, which is about nutrition and depression, is really excellent so here's a link back to the beginning!

It adds up to a lot of pills each day. I feel like I'm always popping something--especially when you add the probiotic yogurt smoothly I drink to ease the morning sickness. (Probiotics are also supposed to be good for your mood disorder. Seriously. Read this. It's only an abstract, but it's got some good info. It's also supposed to help my unborn baby avoid eczema--which is a total bonus given the saga we've gone through with J and his eczema. According to the internet probiotics are the source of all good things. I admit that all that enthusiasm makes me a little suspicious, but I like yogurt so I'm going with it. Anyway, back to the point here . . .) All those pills are a much bigger hassle than my one Cymbalta and my one mulitvitamin and if I get busy I do forget to take them. They were also very expensive. All the supplements added up to more than twice the cost of my monthly Cymbalta prescription. Now, that's mostly because my insurance covers most of the cost (lucky me!) after we meet our deductible--which we usually do in January when I fill my first month's worth of SNRI. Some of the supplements came in big bottles so they should last longer than a month, but still, it adds up. However, I do feel better when I take them so in my mind it's worth it. Because I'm getting a baby out of this.

So it's all worth it--mood disorder and all--it's worth it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mirthful Monday: Antidepressants are no laughing matter?

Since I'm now antidepressant free (it's been three and a half weeks since my last pill and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that) I thought I'd look up some good antidepressant jokes for you. Turns out there aren't any. Apparently most people who take them don't like to joke about it. Weird!

So, in what may be a truly misguided effort, I'm going to attempt to modify one very unfunny joke in order to make it funny.

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

Norma Lee.

Norma Lee who?

I really don't know.

It's still not funny, is it?

Well, at least I found a funny pic:

For one woman's take on why you just can't laugh at antidepressants click here.

OR, if you need something truly funny to perk up your Monday, there's always Charlie Bit My Finger (Little kids with British accents! That's ALWAYS funny!) or David After the Dentist (Nothing like a kid on happy gas and Novocaine!). Those are always good for a laugh :)

Happy Monday!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ch-ch-ch-changes! It's time to Mom Up

So. . . I'm pregnant.

I've been meaning to tell you for awhile, but I keep freaking out. I guess the miscarriage in June made me a little superstitious. I had just told a few friends and then--whammo--spotting, bleeding, sadness, etc. So every time I went to write this post I got nervous and decided to just wait. I told a few people because they asked me point blank or because I felt like I had to explain some bizarre behavior (like suddenly deciding to put my house on the market or getting too woozy and needing to hang out for an hour instead of just picking up my kid from the play date and leaving), but mostly I've just been obsessing about it when I'm on the phone with my sister. And when I can get my husband to sit still and let me whine about my morning sickness.

I'm only 9 weeks along. (Read: My chance for a miscarriage is still around 40%!) I haven't seen my doctor yet. (Read: have not actually confirmed existence of baby. Could be a blighted ovum. Or a chemical pregnancy. Or an, ahem, hysterical pregnancy--isn't that right up my alley!) I'm sick and tired. (Read: those are good signs that this is a viable pregnancy, but they don't really induce me to blog.)

I'm owning up to it now since I hear I was outted at a ward party and because well, this random telling-people-sometimes-thing isn't working for me anymore. This pregnancy has raised a lot of issues for me and I find myself wanting to blog about it but being too afraid of what that would mean. So it's time I man up, or mom up, as the case may be.

I've met with my psychiatrist and per my pregnancy plan, it was time to wean off my medicine. Since I was on the smallest dose available that meant stop taking it. As near as I can tell I haven't suffered any real physical symptoms. Everyone on the internet who takes Cymbalta and then quits complains of "brain zaps." Haven't had any of those. My sweatiness has actually decreased since I quit the medicine and I appreciate that.

As for mood symptoms, well, the jury is still out. Don't get me wrong. I've been moody. Actually, MOODY is probably more appropriate, but there's no real way of knowing if it's the pregnancy or the lack of SNRI or the horrible weather we've been having or what. I feel like my intrusive thoughts are back. . . and that's been a little bothersome. They're mostly pretty quiet, though. Surprising but quiet. Prayer--and music, any music with words--has been helping a lot with those. I've been having trouble sleeping, too. Falling asleep is the hardest thing. My brain just goes nuts when I lay down, spinning out all sorts of disaster scenarios. But I'm working on a mantra to calm it down. I'm kind of scared for what the next eight-ish months hold. Perinatal (and postpartum) depression really is a crapshoot. A lot of the time it feels like there's now way to win. Not taking my medicine is supposedly better for the tummy baby, but not if I'm crazy. But if I'm not really crazy, then being on the medicine is a pretty big gamble.

I've been taking my prenatals and some supplemental fish oil and vitamin B because those two have helped a lot of other depressed people going off their meds. But the vitamin B turns my urine electric lemon yellow (you wanted to know that, right?) and since it's water soluble the recommended dose for depressed people is really high--which doesn't seem safe since there's a bun in the oven. The fish oil is fine going down, but every now and again it gives me fish burps, which don't help with the nausea. And the recommended dose for depressed folk is again very high--which is absolutely NOT SAFE when pregnant because of fish oil's anticoagulant properties. I need to talk with my OB about it, but I don't see her until the end of the month.

So basically I'm a slightly fatter, very moody version of myself who is going sometimes-crazy trying to get her house ready to sell--while mentally crossing my fingers for good luck this time around. I hate being on the wrong end of statistics!

Anyway, I hope you all are in just as exciting places in your lives :) Let's make a deal: I'll keep my fingers crossed for you and you keep my fingers crossed for me and then we can all relax. . . After all, it's time to mom up and do this.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mirthful Monday: Inspirational Translations

I thought I'd better put up a Mirthful Monday after last Friday's depressing (can't say I didn't warn you!) short story. So here's some inspirational translations to get your week started off right.

For those of you who need to be reminded to take risks:

For those of you who need to be reminded to dream big:

And for those of you who need to be reminded to be courteous:

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 2, 2009

I've always wanted to be a multi-drafter

but most of my writing is done single-drafter style. Mult-drafters seem to have more fun. So I'm taking LDSP up on her Friday Writing Prompt. Hold on to your keyboards folks. This could be really bad.

(Dear LDSP, I'm know I'm supposed to start my piece with "In this one you are" but that is such a weird starting line for me. I'm taking this in my own direction. . .)

Every time she saw the picture on his dresser, Stacey got angry. Her jaw clenched, her shoulders tightened, and she had to remind herself to breathe. She knew it was irrational but seeing that perky, smiling woman staring at her--with one arm around John--she just got angry.

She tried logic. "John, it's such an old picture! After all these years of marriage, can't you just put it away?"

She even tried being honest with him. "Honey, I know it means a lot to you, but for me. . .well, I just . . . I'm just tired of looking at it. It's like she's mocking me."

Most recently she took the picture and hid it, thinking he might not notice. It took John less than five minutes to find it and restore it to its place of honor on his dresser.

This morning she took the picture into the bathroom and held it next to her face in the mirror. She couldn't believe how different the two reflections were. The woman in the picture was so young--no bags under her eyes or on her hips--there was even a little childish roundness to her face. Her smile held hints of laughter and her eyes seemed to meet the future without flinching. Stacey suspected it was lighting of the shot, but the woman in the picture was practically shining. Shining hair, shining teeth, glowing skin.

Stacey's own face was exhausted. Not only were there bags under eyes and on her hips (she silently thanked her five children for that), but her hair was short and her teeth were more mother-of-pearl than shining white. There was no way she could measure up to the woman in the picture. Stacey had done too much and worked too hard. Too many sleepless nights. Too many loads of dishes. Too many children suckled. Too many arguments with John.

In the picture, John was basking in that woman's radiance and whenever Stacey saw him look at the picture part of that radiance seemed to fill him again. She couldn't remember the last time he'd looked at her that way. For all of that, she couldn't remember the last time he'd actually looked at her. Stacey wasn't angry; she was jealous.

But no matter how many times she tried explaining it to John he just didn't seem to understand. Whatever she said his answer was always the same:

"How can you jealous of yourself? That's the woman I married. That's the woman I love. And I plan to look at her as much as I want."

It broke Stacey's heart, though, having to compete with herself that way. She knew she wasn't that woman. She knew John was living in the past. She knew she had changed. She just didn't know if John could love those changes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mirthful Monday--music video style

Reminiscence from my childhood: My parents blocked MTV and VH1 from our house. In uber-Mormon land (and in over-achieving parent land, I might add), all TV is bad--cable channels are the worst. My brother (Hi TJ!), being a budding techno-genius, figured out how to work it so we got those channels through the VCR. He and my sister watched grainy, bootleg videos every afternoon all the while exulting in the fact that they were doing something sneaky. I was the youngest and, ahem, a nark, so I told on them--a fact which no one in my family has EVER let go of. My parents called the cable company and they sent a guy who snipped the literal-under-the-ground cable and the sinful, albeit sometimes soulful, channels were gone. So we all started sneaky around so we could watch Comedy Central.

The point: I don't get music videos. Now that I'm an old, over-sensitive mommy I can't figure out why anyone, anywhere would want to watch music videos. They are dirty. They are random. And they inspire weirdo rappers/singer dudes to interrupt lovely young country starlets who are getting awards they may or may not deserve (which is entirely beside the point, Kanye!).

Anyway, I finally found a video I get. Sort of. Well, okay, I don't get it. But at least it's funny!! Happy Monday!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mirthful Monday: Where NOT to get your political views

There's been an awful lot of political chatter these days and it's making me nuts. Not because I agree or disagree, but because so much of it is the product of ridiculous, knee-jerk, reactionary thinking. To set the record straight: I won't judge you based on what you think about health care and insurance, President Obama's speech to school kids, or even if you think Obama is an antichrist. All I care about is whether or not you are well informed. So today I'm going to suggest a few places to NOT get your political eduction.

#1 Bumper Stickers

#2 T-shirts

#3 Taco joints in Pocatello, Idaho (really!)

So if we can't rely on pithy, inflammatory statements and graphics what are we to do? Maybe we should all start trying this:

Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

But Not Unhappy Science Friday: Utah is NOT the most depressed!

That's right, people. You heard me. Utah is NOT the most depressed state in the nation--well, at least that's what a new phone-survey study says. In this study Utah ranked 21st out of 34 states.

Other interesting conclusions:

Persons with major depression were:

- 2.3 times more likely to be current smokers,
- 1.8 times more likely to report binge drinking,

Hmm. . . not to be rude, but those depressed people sure don't sound like Mormons!

This study didn't seek to explain why Utah continually ranks so high for antidepressant prescriptions--but it does add more specific information to the pot. Maybe the whole "mother in zion" theory doesn't hold as much water as the media wishes it did.

The best thing to come out of this study, in my mind, was this quote:

"In our health care system, we tend to disconnect physical and mental health, but this report demonstrates the strong relationship between the two and the need to address depression when working to prevent and manage chronic health conditions."

Now that something I can say amen to!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Depression in the Ensign: Elder Marlin K. Jensen?

Sorry I've been neglecting you all lately. The farm that I have a share in has been ultra productive this year and I've been doing a LOT of canning. It's a lot of work! Also, I feel like things around my house have been extra intense over the last couple months and I've sort of been shying away from blogging--actually from writing in general. Thanks for being patient with me :)

So last week I was hunting around for something to read for scripture study and I happened upon "Living After the Manner of Happiness" by Elder Marlin K. Jensen. You all might remember him from the PBS special on us Mormons. I think I swooned over some of his awesome answers to tough questions. He's a general authority and serves as the Church Historian and Recorder so imagine my surprise when he admits--in the first line of his talk-- that,
"although I am richly blessed and have every reason to be happy, I sometimes struggle and do not always have the natural inclination toward happiness and a cheerful disposition that some people seem to enjoy."

What?!? General Authorities are not always sublimely happy and contented?

Hooray! That means there's hope for the rest of us!

His talk goes on to list nine principles of happiness gleaned from Nephi's account in the Book of Mormon. My favorites: plant a garden, keep a journal, and work (which he defines as especially with your hands).

This talk was definitely a good read :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Summer Book Thingy wrap up

Well, since it's September 2nd I think LDSPublisher's Summer Book Thingy is probably over. I have a couple more books I wanted to review for you guys, though! Here they are:

*Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf, Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA by Lance Allred. I reviewed this one for AMV so I won't say much here except that this was a good book and an interesting story--especially for those who don't know much about the Mormon fundamentalist movement.

*Stone Tables by OSC. I keep meaning to talk about this book over at AMV but I haven't gotten around to it yet. In my mind this is one of his better Mormon novels. It's nicely paced and I didn't have as many problems with the female characters as I usually do. Where I found his Women of Genesis series to be pretty paternalistic, I really liked some of the women in this book. My favorite thing about it, though, was that he sets the Moses story in a different era than other popular tellings do. According to this novel Moses is a "son" of Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh, and the politics of her time make the Moses story very plausible.

I also love that OSC originally wrote this while he was on his mission and it was musical which he sent to BYU and they produced. When Deseret Book released the novel a decade or two later, they included a recording of the original score. Somehow, that is just SO Mormon to me.

*So this book isn't Mormon but I have to recommend it to you all. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Seriously, this is one of the best Holocaust novels ever. Seriously. Read this book. It won't depress you. It's not just another Schindler's List or Anne Frank or Corrie Ten Boom. SO GOOD.

I have quite a few LDS titles still sitting on my desk that I need to finish and I'll get to those when I can!

Thanks to LDSPublisher for motivating me a little more this summer!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Depression Profile: Melissa

I haven't done a Depression Profile in a while. But I came across this blogger, Melissa at Pressing Forward With Faith, and thought you all might enjoy her stuff about depression.

Be sure to check out her sidebar. She totally owns this illness. But she also doesn't let it hold her back. I love that.

Thanks for sharing with us Melissa!

Monday, August 17, 2009

What I Wish I Said

Hi friends.

I haven't blogged in a while, but it's not because I don't love you. It's because I've been reunion-ing. (Hi family!)

Family reunions are like petri dishes for awkward conversations (and pink eye) but I mostly managed to avoid those this time around--pink eye and embarrassment. There was one conversation, though, that I've been replaying in my mind. It keeps popping up at odd moments and I think that's because I didn't say what I wished I'd said. So, you know, now I HAVE to blog about it.

Said conversation took place over a nice picnic lunch consisting of seventeen kinds of leftovers from other meals, random snacks, and delicious Bear Lake raspberries. It was sunny, all the little cousins (of which mine are the oldest; that's a lot of preschoolers!) were running around and someone asked me about my way-super-amazing-and-glamorous TV appearance of 2008.

You remember it, right? The one where I was in make-up for 20 minutes and on TV for five minutes in which I said 10 words that no one even really heard because I was one of six guests for a ten minute (including commercials) segment? What? You didn't TiVo that amazing moment in television history?

That's okay. Neither did I.

Anyway, I was on the Mike and Juliet show with my older sister, Charlotte, of the Great Fitness Experiment (she actually makes money off her blog), to talk about eating disorders. There was some newly-published study that proved eating disorders are passed around in groups--media-types were saying they were "contagious!!!"-- and Charlotte blogged about how I "caught" (I prefer inherited; my grandma started it!) my former eating disorder from her. (Former eating disorder. It's been four years since my last purge. Not that I don't fantasize/self-flagellate about it sometimes. . .) The producers booked us and flew us out to New York and I got my fifteen minutes of fame.

So, back to the family reunion: as I was explaining the contagious aspect of eating disorders and listing examples like sororities and gymnastics teams, one of my wittier (and not Mormon) family members piped up, "Or large Mormon families!" firmly derailing any train of thought I was jumping.

Now, it WAS a funny comment. I'll give her that. And I'm not holding it against her. Said family member is very smart, talented, sassy, and I wish I knew her better. But her comment rankled me a little. Probably because 1) I like being the center of attention and she upstaged me and 2)(this is the biggest reason) I punted. She threw a stereotype about Mormons and mental illness in my face and I backed down. I was basically speechless and mumbled something about how my family wasn't big, at least not by Mormon standards.

Maybe that was the right thing to do in the moment, but in the future I hope I have the guts and presence of mind to say a few things:

1. There is NO evidence that mental illness is more prevalent in Mormon families than in other groups. Those antidepressant surveys don't account for any number of variables. They don't look at patients' religious backgrounds. They don't look at patients at all. The only thing those surveys measure is how many prescriptions were written.

2. Even if there was some kind of evidence, that prevalence could be explained by any number of things--genetics being a very big one with eating disorders. As my psychiatrist said, "Your family history is basically a loaded gun." Genes are powerful and traits pop up in many unexpected ways. Also, CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION! (I should make that my email tagline. Maybe if we all start saying it a lot people will start to remember it.)

3. Stereotypes exist for a reason, but they are stereotypes all the same. Proceed with caution. It's one thing if some other Mormon chick threw out some blatantly offensive thing--I'd know she was joking because we were both implicated in the joke--but coming from someone who I know doesn't agree with my lifestyle. . . it floored me.

I wonder what would've happened had I called her on it. I doubt any good would have come of it. Except that maybe I would have felt like I stood up for myself.

Oh well. There's always next year's reunion!

p.s. Now that I've blogged about it. I'll let it go. Really.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mirthful Monday: "Scrubs--The Musical"

So I caught this episode of Scrubs as a rerun the other night and laughed until I cried. I hope it does the same for you :)

Here's my favorite number (my life as a mommy SO feels like this sometimes!):

For more fun, check out "Guy Love".

Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Turning for Peace

I'm not sure why but sometimes churchy stuff seems to exaggerate my mood disorder more than help it. Maybe it's because Church stuff is all pre-scripted. Like, my Primary teachers and YW leaders (who all meant well; this is not a criticism of them) told me how I should feel about stuff, but my feelings didn't always match up with the expected feelings and that spiritual dissonance took root in me. I think I felt (feel?) guilty for not feeling what I'm supposed to feel.

This last fast Sunday was a little like that for me. Really, my feelings were all over the place. I was annoyed when we got to Church. As I took the bread and water, I was overwhelmed by Christ's sacrifice for me and my heart fell to pieces. Once testimonies started I was tired. The mood swings just went from there. I was substituting my oldest daughter's Primary class that day and by the end of sacrament meeting I was oished. There was no way I could sit through opening exercises and sharing time with a bunch of rowdy CTR 6's without snapping at someone. One of them started complaining the minute I sat down. I looked him straight in the eye and said, "I don't care. Let it go. Don't tell me about it because I don't care."

Probably not what a kid is looking for when he comes to Primary.

So I left for a little while. I turned and walked out of that room. I found a shady spot outside and pulled out my Ipod. When I turned it on I was happy that the first song was one that always brings me peace. I worried for a minute that it wasn't a Church song but since it calmed my heart I went with it. The song is from the movie Uncorked. (Which is my favorite movie, despite what the users at imdb think. It rocks. You should watch it.) Sometimes to find peace, we have to turn away from all our obligations for a little bit--even the spiritual ones. And that's okay because by turning away you're giving yourself the option to turn back and do better.

I thought I'd post the song here for you in case you were in need of a break too. The first version is the song with a nice wannabe arty photo montage. The second is the version from the film. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What happens in a psychiatrist's office (part 2)

For part one click here.

Actually, this part takes place outside the psychiatrist's office. It happens over the phone and goes like this:

ME: Well, it's been one month since I visited my PFF, I'd best give her a call. (dials phone. waits while it rings. Makes annoyed face when answering machine picks up and points out that PFF's hours are Tuesday-Friday noon to 5:00 pm.)Um, hi. This message is for Dr. PFF. This is Laura and I met with you a month ago and you said to call you so I'm calling. . . Yeah. . . thanks.

Two days later

ME: (talking to friend who has had experience with a PFFs' offices) My PFF hasn't called back. What am I supposed to do? Do I call and leave another message?

FRIEND: I'd give it a week. They always take a week to get back to you.

Five days later

ME: (answering phone in the middle of rushed dinner during which I am trying to shove food down my toddler's throat before I leave for my ASL class) Hello? Who? Oh! Dr. PFF. Yes, sure, now's a good time. . . [Here's where I gave her some brief info about my emotional upheavals of late, part of which I now feel okay stating was an early first trimester miscarriage, and that my therapist recommended I go back up to my regular dose of Cymbalta. PFF agreed with my therapist's thoughts and hung up.]


Okay, so that really wasn't dramatic enough to warrant a dramatic writing style but that's kind of my point. I thought my phone call to the PFF would be a milestone for her. It really wasn't. It was just one more tick mark on the long, mundane chart that is my depression--at least from a clinical standpoint.

For me that phone call felt like defeat. It was admitting my failure at pregnancy and failures in other areas of my life. It was accepting the ultimate failure of my careful plans. It was the point that made me stop and reconsider and own up to the fact that things were different. I'd been trying to act like nothing had changed. The miscarriage was early enough that I told myself it didn't really matter. But it, and the other things that happened right on it's tail, did.

I tried going back up to my regular dose, but it made me sick. After a couple days I was a nauseous narcoleptic so I decided to go back to my lower dose. I'm not sick but my mood has been a little more mercurial, which is making me nervous. I don't have any refills left on the lower dose pills--that means another phone call to the PFF. Which I guess I'd better make soon, since it always takes at least a week to hear back!

I find myself fantasizing about the resurrection and how when I'm made whole I won't be depressed anymore and I won't have to take any pills and it will be easy to do the things I'm supposed to do. But that's kind of cold comfort. What I really want is for things to be easy now. Of course, in that way God is a little bit like that old song: you can't always get what you want; you get what you need. And what I need right now is another happy pill. *sigh*

Sunday, July 19, 2009

MIrthful Monday: There are worse things than depression

Imagine if you had to live with this!

Happy Monday :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On the State of Poetry ( and one of my own)

My co-blogger at AMV and friend, Tyler, posted on his personal blog about the state of poetry in our oh-so-post-post-modern-sound-bitey world. Wow, are there some good links there for aspiring poets! The part of his post I liked best:

"Poets should focus on narrative verse as a means of building their readers into more lyric poetry; that we should be using the web as a publication/distribution tool; and that narrative poets should be talking about other poets' work in an effort to get narrative poetry canonized or formally accepted by broad circles of readers."

Tyler often posts his own poetry and I enjoy reading and mulling it over. He is quite skilled. Fourth Month Rosary meant a lot to me. Rua: an elegy of holes is also quite enjoyable. In fact, his blog is a like a galleria of poetry gems.

Anyway, thanks to Tyler's (and Patricia's) example I'm posting one of my own poems today. Enjoy! And, as Tyler says, feedcrack welcome!

Bringing in the Sheep

On the lava plains of Idaho
Puffs of ocher white and brown
Dot the sagebrushed dirt,
Converging in a scrubby, shaded corner.

A streak of peach, a flit of blue, the children,
Brightly colored kites slicing clouds of sheep,
Making storms of fleece
Explode in new directions.

Sheep bleating—
Hooves stamping—
Weeds bending—
Dust swirling—

A voice calls out, half bleat, half croon,
In knowing repetition,
A trail inherent in its weavings.
The flock now moves as one.

Implicit in the shepherd’s voice
Is shelter, food, water,
Familiarity, care, and memory,
Gifts sheep cannot forage for themselves.

Hands feeding—
Fingers feeling—
Tongues licking—
Voices laughing—

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mirthful Monday: What happens when you google "funny"?

You get a lot of stupid cat pictures. And this:

Admit it: you laughed out loud, even if was just a little snicker. And, as a bonus, you'll have that song stuck in your head all day!

Happy Monday :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More Summer Reading Thingy books (and a new link!)

Like so many of my other posts, this one starts off as a confession: I've been avoiding you.

It's true. I've had a lot of stuff happening in my life the last couple weeks that I can't blog about. It's big, emotional, personal stuff and I can't put it out here right now. Part of me wants to, but there are only so many ways you can make yourself vulnerable at once. There have to be limits. Most of the time being open about stuff gives it the light and fresh air it needs to clean itself out. But sometimes being open about stuff just makes the sores bigger. I mean, Band-Aids exist for a reason. I'm telling you all this because I'm pretty sure you'd see right through me if I tried to pretend that things are hunky-dory (does anyone besides me still use that word?). And because I believe in being honest and asking for support when you need it. But being honest doesn't always mean piling all your guts on the table.

So I'm going to talk about books instead. Here are a couple reviews for LDS Publisher's Summer Reading Thingy.

* Abinadi by H.B. Moore. I was excited for this one since it won a Whitney (which is sort of like a People's Choice Award for Mormon Literature), but it really didn't work for me. It won the award for best historical fiction but I have to admit I don't see how it was super-historical. The book is really a romance. Any historical detail is completely overshadowed by the drama of the love story. The characters are completely modern--making choice based on modern motivations, using modern speech, and holding modern values. I'm not a big romance fan in the first place and the fact that Moore chose to take the story of Abinadi, which raises a lot of interesting questions, and turn it into a love story really bothered me. The book felt like one long red herring. To be fair, a lot of people liked this book--as evidenced by the Whitney award it received and the glowing reviews it's been gotten over at LDS Readers. But it didn't work for me. (I detail some of my specific gripes in this post over at AMV.)

*Long After Dark by Todd Robert Petersen. I liked this book so much I'm working on an interview/review for A Motley Vision. It was also an award winner--it got an Arty Award from a Salt Lake City newspaper. For more info on the book check out William's review at AMV.

* The Conversion of Jeff Williams by Doug Thayer. Can't remember if I mentioned this one here. I recommended it over at AMV for Father's Day and I bought a copy for my dad. This is actually one of the single best pieces of LDS fiction I have ever read. Can't recommend it enough. Here's what I put on my Goodreads review: "This book blew me away. One of the best Mormon books out there. It manipulates the tension between LDS faithfulness and earnest questioning with such skill; this has got to be Thayer's best work. . . Everyone should read this book."

I also read Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper (I had to know what all the fuss was about), The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards, Hoot by Carl Hiaasen. Fun stuff.

I hope you all are doing some good reading this summer, too. Tell me, what new favs have you picked up?

Also, FYI, there's another depressed (but not unhappy) Mormon blogger out there. She's completely anonymous but here's her blog: