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!