Thankful – 6/11/2014

Our AC Unit - On the lighter side of the list, because its only June and I don’t know what people did before air conditioning!

Forgiving myself - Sometimes we think we have things all figured out.  And then life continues to happen.  And we get to revisit previous thoughts and forgive ourselves for our limited perspective and certainty back then. I will forever be working on this, but I’m thankful for the realization it needs to happen.

A place to be vulnerable - As easy as this move has been, its hit me more recently that I’ve yet to find when and where I can really be vulnerable. I find that I feel so much shame for my tears lately. Especially as a mom, I shouldn’t be crying. Like, ever. I don’t know whether its a “proper East Coast thing” or the fact that I feel so uncomfortable after I “try to go deeper” in a friendship and feel hung out to dry when I’ve shared too much.  Or the fact that I don’t want to admit that I’m struggling with something. Its always been easy for me to acknowledge I am a vulnerable person, but lately I’ve felt a lot more shame in sharing that. I thought it was due to wanting to “ponder things in my heart” more, like Mary, but I wonder if its not just pride in wanting to look like I have it all together. The internet has slowly become a place I don’t even want to share thoughts like these, what with its glossy pictures of beautiful lives and promises of perfection, so I’ve missed sharing on here as well. Anyway, all that to say, I found a place this morning, and it was so appreciated. I am thankful to hearing ears and open hearts.

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A quick search on vulnerability after this morning’s discussion led me to these talks, which were nice to serve as reminders for me to have courage to share. You’ve probably seen them since they already went viral a while back, but I’m thankful for finding them anyway today.

Ted talk on vulnerability.

Ted talk on listening to shame

Thankful – 5/29/2014

For my in-laws. They love my husband and my son so much, it blankets us when we visit them. I am so thankful for their part in our lives and how they smother us with love whenever we see them. Our roots have grown firmly in the foundation they started.

For old friends. Old is always relative term with me. I think it describes how well our souls see each other rather than a length of time, but I love picking up with friends I haven’t seen in a while as if it was just yesterday that we talked. And they truly get you. This happened on our trip and I am so thankful to have these people in my life.

For friends I’ve only met a few times. But have changed my life. Because I simply cannot properly express the feeling that comes with walking into a church with a person you’ve only just met, but “known” for years, and have them point to a specific place and say “This is where I would come to pray for you and for your son, before he was even born.” 

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“I am with you, watching over you constantly. I am Immanuel (God with you); My Presence enfolds you in radiant Love. Nothing, including the brightest blessings and the darkest trials, can separate you from Me. Some of My children find Me more readily during dark times, when difficulties force them to depend on Me. Others feel closer to Me when their lives are filled with good things. They respond with thanksgiving and praise, thus opening wide the door to My Presence.

I know precisely what you need to draw nearer to Me. Go through each day looking for what I have prepared for you. Accept every event as My hand-tailored provision for your needs. When you view your life this way, the most reasonable response is to be thankful. Do not reject any of My gifts; find Me in every situation.”

- p. 156, Jesus Calling, Young.

A lot can grow in a week

We just got back from our first trip back to California since living on the East coast.  Sometimes it feels like I never even lived there. and this trip was proof of it.  The whole trip just seemed like a vaguely familiar dream.  I knew those highways, restaurants, flowers and mountains. People were more or less the same and conversations caught back up as if I never left. The scenery was gorgeous, the driving was a price to pay for it, and in a way, it felt like I never left.  But it has been about 10 months since I’ve been away and a new place is where I belong now.  This trip was a weird reminder that ‘home’ for me will always be a moving target.  I sink my claws in when I move to a place, but leaving and getting used to a new adventure isn’t as hard as I anticipate.  At least, it wasn’t this time.

Anyway.

You know you have a gardening problem when the first thing you do upon arriving at your house after a week away is to run to the backyard and see how your garden is doing! So much can change in a week! I think this is why I love gardening.  Tangible results. My husband says I’m in to all things fertility related (such as NFP, infertility, etc.) and I guess my garden is no exception.

I made some little pictures here to update where we’re at growing wise. I love to look back at these at the end of the season and remember how small those tomato plants started out! Hopefully the labeling will help me remember what’s what!

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I made three 12x4ft.  garden beds in total.  I basically have a full on farm back here! If you recall, I dug up about a 14 ft. diameter bed of bulbs to place beds #2 and #3. About a week before we left on our trip, I finally dug up the surrounding bulbs outside of the garden beds and planted grass using a lawn patch repair kit. From far away I think that the grass could qualify as “coming in nicely”, though if you’re up close it might tell a different story. I think from far away the circle is hardly visible anymore, right? Maybe? Stark contrast to what it was a few weeks ago.

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Not really when it was at its worst, but there is a glimpse of how many bulbs I had to dig up.

Though #1 was our “afterthought” its what I’ll start off with first.

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I planted the flowers you guys suggested along the fence, but none of them have come up yet. Its been a few months, so I’m not sure what happened. I even planted a “round two” two weeks after the first round didn’t take. Everything else seems to be growing. I had lavender and rosemary growing from seed where the squash is now, but none of it ever came up.  Much like the “oregano”, which never seemed to grow. I will probably just buy a plant and stick it in there. Everything else was from seed.

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The other side of the garden has some lavender working it out (behind the peas, not pictured) and some corn.  Our squirrels are little rascals, so only a few shoots are coming up, the ones that I think have survived the scavenging.  Anyway, it makes for an interesting growing pattern for sure!

Now onto #2.

MM_3Most of these are from seeds. Minus a few pickling cucumbers (I’ll have to thin, I’m sure) and the jalapenos.  My sad, sad jalapeño story is that I had them growing GREAT from seed indoors.  Fabulous. And then while hardening off, I saw a few leaves missing. I thought it was from placing them outside. I showed my husband one night when I moved them back indoors how many leaves were missing.  Well, when I woke up the next morning, the ENTIRE PLANTS were gone. All three of my jalapeño plants.  That’s when I realized how bad our mice problem was!!  So I went on a rampage to get rid of those suckers and I think we’re good now. But man, what little goobers.

Also, my master plan is to have jalapeños and tomatoes for salsa and cucumbers and dill for pickles, in case you were wondering if there was a method to my madness.

And the view from the back:

MM_6Yes, I am attempting more melons this year.  After last year’s miserable failure, I wasn’t going to, but then my husband requested them.  So, here’s to round two.

Now bed #3.

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I probably have too many tomatoes for my own good, but I thought mine had died, so I went out and bought an extra cherry and roma just to be safe.  And since it still looked like mine weren’t growing, I accepted two plants from a neighbor who had extra.  Then when I came back, mine suddenly caught up and look like contenders after all.  So that makes 7 total (I don’t think I labeled them all here). Maybe I’ll try pasta sauce this year? It hardly seems worth the time, so maybe I’ll stick with salsas.

From the back side:

MM_5Only the cilantro was from seed here.  Everything else I tried to grow inside failed miserably, so I just bought everything else on super sale one day. The broccoli looked so pitiful I didn’t think it would make it, so I planted them all close together. Although somethings munching on them, they actually are all almost thriving (whereas two of the romaine’s already died) and now planted entirely too close (I think). I guess we’ll see what happens from here.  The spinach isn’t growing well at all, so I don’t expect it to last much longer, but hopefully the rest make it.  We’re having salad tonight, as a matter of fact! I harvested right after this picture.

Finally, if you remember, there was a dilapidated bench that was sitting in the back there in the far left corner of the yard.

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We had a dead tree removed there earlier this winter so now there is a nice plant to sit and some old roots under that soil, which is rumored to be a great place to have a garden.

ImageAfter the bulb fiasco, I have been too lazy to dig this all up, but I just randomly planted some winter squash back there, and it actually came up.

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This would be a great place for them to spread out and grow if they actually make it, so I’m hoping they stick with it (and I remember to water them!).

Sub-fertility and (slowly) learning to embrace my square peg

I’ve hesitated writing this post for so long because it never seems to come out quite right.  I fumble with the words again and again and my pride doesn’t want to put it out for people to read, imperfectly, because it comes from such a tender part of my heart that I’m afraid to expose it to ridicule.  I remember reading posts similar to what I’m probably about to write when I was primarily infertile and there was probably not a post I understood less.  But YOU already have your child! Why are you still whining!

But the fact is, I’m still sub-fertile.  And I’m still learning to live with that.  

I wish I was better about writing when the days are great because then I wouldn’t look so consumed with this subject.  But I’m still not that great at writing about great days, bragging about happy events. I’ll leave that to others.

The raw truth is that around the turn of the year, the time coinciding with so much anger in my life, coincided with a year of cycles with no baby. I have so many reasons to have hope for our future, and I do, but that unfortunate anniversary played a part. I tried my best to ignore it and I really thought I was at a place where I had accepted that we had our child and that was it, whatever else come what may, but the reality of living with sub-fertility will always be with me.

Sometimes I think the infertility experience creates muscle memory that is really hard to shake. I thought that was just what was going on.  A year of cycles, yes, but that’s OK. I didn’t want to fall into a game of counting, charting, checking, stating, and drugs, because I know little ones come slow for us and I just want to enjoy what I have for once.  This beautiful post from the other day and this timely one from today speak perfectly to my overall feelings and perspective on all that I have now. 

The fact is that even while being completely grateful for what I have, the reality of being sub-fertile means my motherhood does look different from most women, especially most Catholic women. I was very unprepared for how to deal with that. Its not a given that I’ll have more children to raise. The solutions to my child’s behavior problems aren’t as simple as “Oh he’ll learn that when he has a sibling”.  I don’t have the fatigue that accompanies constant pregnancy, but I don’t need to feel guilty about having a hard time with “just one”.

As much as I wanted to ignore it, I really had to confront this constant murmuring that was going on in the background face on at the start of year and realize the my dreams that I have in my life need to be 100% my own because I can’t live a life that I think a “Catholic mother” is supposed to live.  I need to live the life that God is calling me to live right here and right now.

I’m sub-fertile and I’m not trying to fit my square ‘motherhood’ peg into a little circle anymore.  

There’s no use idealizing having a large family and what I would do if I just had more children because I would seriously be missing out on everything that God has planned for me and the son he has already graciously entrusted me. And the truth is all mothers have to figure this out for themselves.  Although so often we just want to fit in, following someone else’s idea of what a Catholic mom should look like, or what any mom should look like, doesn’t work when you’re talking about unique individuals, sub-fertile or not.

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There was a moment several months ago where I was having a heart to heart with Mary and I just asked her, was it really enough, just having Jesus? Were you really totally satisfied, or did you think things like what I think now, about wanting more children?

I really felt like her answer was loud and clear, piercing my heart, “Really, Jesus was enough for me.  Jesus is enough for everyone.”

Talk about getting the smack down from your mom.  But sometimes I need tough love.

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The fact was that today was a “reminder” day.  I was asked when we’re having more kids. I was let in on a friend’s imminent  pregnancy announcement and I continually learn humility from a son that “is a biter”, which, if I were the type of parent that took credit for all my child’s successes, would also mean I would have to take credit for his faults.  But, luckily for me, I’m not that type of parent. Whew. 

I am trying to listen to the little voices during my prayer time that point me towards things that I am called to do.  One of the things that has helped me combat my anger and frustration over what I can’t control is allowing myself to dream about what I can work towards.  And then set goals to make those things happen.

I am not called to have a large family right now. Maybe not ever, but certainly not now.

So what I am called to do?  Well, this is me, trying to find that square place to rest my square peg.  My little, perfectly square shaped Alison motherhood peg.

Why infertile women can’t get over themselves….still.

Its been a busy last month.  I’ve had hardly 3 days in a row in our home over the last month where we have been home or without visitors.  I’ve been more than happy to accommodate guests and to take trips ourselves, but the reality is that in our cozy bungalow that means that any alone/computer/writing time has been non-existent.  So while I haven’t been posting anything during this past link-up to during Infertility Awareness Week, I have been trying to follow along in my thoughts and prayers. 

You just don’t forget about weeks like this. Even with a kid who just turned two.

My most viewed post, by far, has been when I wrote on Why infertile women can’t get over themselves.

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It has also been the post that I’ve had to delete the most comments on over the past few years.  I’ve gotten such vicious, hateful comments on this piece that I had to break my vow to publish whatever comments people decided to take the time to share with me.

I’m not sure why I share that piece of information, other than it points to the fact that, no matter how much we tire of this subject or just wish it and all the horrible feelings associated with it would just go away, reflections and thoughts on it must still be shared.

Many people clearly still think that sharing about why you feel such a grief over something is a narcissistic and inappropriate.  Or that trying to unpack the complicated emotions surrounding a topic such as the inability to conceive and bare a child makes you selfish or just focusing on the negative. 

I just don’t understand that. Talking and writing about things are how we heal and move forward.

If we can’t talk about something like this and ever be allowed to process our grief, in a healthy manner, we are surely destined for a life of bitterness.

So I’m glad there’s been a week of articles and thoughts on infertility, especially from the Catholic perspective since there are layers of grief and complication present that may not be present otherwise.  And I’m even more thankful for the women who have helped open up this conversation on their own blogs, even though they haven’t experienced it themselves. 

For more information, please go read the links here.

St. Gianna, pray for us!

Writing: A necessity for joy

I wrote a few weeks back about my resolution to seek and fight for joy in my life.

I’m generally consider myself an optimistic person, but I can really be plagued with moments of extreme doubt.  Paralyzed almost.  And if I’m not careful, these moments can stretch longer, and have a much greater effect on everything around me. 

At the start of this year, I really resolved to seek joy, but it turns out resolving to do something doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the tools to help you get there.  For me, I’d forgotten how much writing it out really helps me process and let go of things.  It helps me give it a place. Put a name to whatever is frustrating me and then move on and do something from there.  I had a couple good friends listen as I rambled, because I just kept failing to make the time to put it down in writing, so that ultimately helped me some.  But really, writing would have been so much quicker.  Not publicly, mind you.  But at least in my personal journal.  Its been collecting dust since October. I don’t know why I always forget this. 

I went to a little round-robin clinic about different health matters lately, and one of the topics was “journaling”. 

I almost didn’t want to go to it.  Actually, I didn’t want to go to it, but it was the last one left.  So I went.  And it turns out it was just what I needed to hear. 

“Journaling shouldn’t be a burden to you, just another thing that you have to do.  It should be something that helps you be.”

That quote was like a key unlocking a deep issue I’ve had with writing.  Journaling looks so different for everyone.  I know others do this, but I find the very idea of making myself write in a journal every day to be suffocating.  Mostly because I hate anyone telling me what to do, including myself, apparently.  But II admit more importantly because I have a fear of failure and journaling is a way to blatantly record all of those messy failures.  I find old journals to be a liability.  They are evidence of an imperfect past, of my human nature and of a perspective continuously evolving that is never complete. A snippet in time that maybe, shouldn’t have been recorded because that wasn’t the end goal. That was just a post-marker. A point I needed to stop and suck air because I was so winded. And that can be hard to look back on and read. 

Sometimes I just get overwhelmed with sadness at the person I was. Which is ironic because some of my writings on subfertility are some of my most treasured possessions.

But its my nature to just get stuck right there.  And not move any further. To dwell on the negative.

And here’s the incredible irony.

By dwelling on the fact that “I’m not there yet”, in letting that negative self-talk stop me from writing down my thoughts, I fail to allow myself to process what I’m going through, therefore stunting any possibility for growth in the future. Because writing it how I process it. I just get stuck in a cycle of not moving anywhere.  This is somewhat what I was trying to touch on when I wrote this

I’m going to try to focus more on the journey, rather than just wanting immediate results. Maybe I’m finally learning that “I’m not there yet” is a straw-man argument because “there” doesn’t really exist.

Anyway, the base of it is that if writing helps you know yourself, you should do it, simply because then it allows you to be yourself.  And we need more people who are passionately themselves so they can make changes in this world.

For me, writing is a necessary step towards joy, and something that I’ve been missing. 

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I just want to clarify, since this is a public blog, that I don’t necessarily mean writing for all the world to see, but writing for myself to process complicated thoughts and emotions. I haven’t even been doing that. I strive to strike the right balance between sharing privately and publicly, because unfortunately, sometimes I think more damage than good can be done when we share immature thoughts on a public forum.

Our (East Coast) garden

On my list of the many, many things I’m trying to get accomplished lately, “build an entire new garden” suddenly got thrown in there.  I blame SmartGardener (after all my praises, yes!) because it really made me realize that I need to get on this already and so I went into a turmoil trying to get it all built. My rush was probably a little premature, because I wonder if Smart Gardener is aware of exactly how much snow has been covering our yard this winter…

Anyways, I took advantage of the last few sunny weekends and weekdays to get things moving.  After much back and forth, we decided to tear up the existing flower bed to build above ground boxes like last year instead of in ground beds like I had planned.  And unlike last year, where I basically had free (husband) labor, this year I acquired the materials and built the boxes myself! Yes, quality suffered as a result and my body was complete jelly last week, but they’re holding soil so, I didn’t do that poorly!

I don’t have a “before” picture of the massive flower bed but it was a 13 ft diameter circle completely full of an ivy ground cover and chalk full of bulbs (that we didn’t realize until we started digging it up).  Of what kind of flower, I have no idea. I sent an email out to our neighborhood with the subject “Free Bulbs” and had a few interested people come by and dig some up.  No one could identify them. Not nearly as many people came by as I was hoping for (4 total) but I was happy at least some bulbs got a new home! If we can’t eat it, we aren’t interested in it. At this point, anyway.

It was seriously back breaking work to dig the beds as the ground was so root clogged and full of bulbs that I was afraid we were going to have no soil left after we got rid of all the roots.  This was partially true. It took a week of work on my part and another full weekend of more help from my husband. Fortunately, our neighbors are doing a home addition and have a large pile of dirt we were able to supplement with.  Unfortunately, even after supplementing with compost, this soil very clayey, so I’m not sure how things will grow. I did my little soil tests and made amendments, but I guess I need to buy another kit to see what its like now.  Sometimes I miss the days of access to a water quality lab. Its killing me to pay for these tests!

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“your soil and your camera focus stink”

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boxes built and soil pathetically dug up (before my husband helped here). congrats, you have 2 12×4 ft garden boxes on a giant mud pit. i was so proud!

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and this happened. taken monday. built just in time! let’s get planting! er…

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Taken today, boxes are filled. And see? Clayey. Debating adding sand. We will also need to get the rest of the bulbs (sprigs of green) around the boxes before we spread mulch.

We also decided to do a third garden bed along the side yard.  I want to plant some tall things here to bring us a little privacy from our neighbors yard.  Corn, sunflowers, maybe some other flowers as well. This one is 12×4 ft and yes, I still need to recycle all the weeds just sitting by the side. These are some really rough “during” photos. You can also see the color difference in the soil.  I really think we are going to need to add some more topsoil to the boxes.

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Side garden bed. And yes, check out our beautiful laundry rack that I failed to fold up before it froze this way…

Just looking at those pictures at our old garden in California last year make me realize how green everything was.  Its so dreary here right now!  I am really looking forward to the spring and summer and more color!

The funk of not creating and the Age of Information Overload

I wonder if anyone else feels this way.  I’ve been in a funk of not creating lately.  At least, that’s one theory I have for feeling so off at the start of the year. Its so easy to consume consume consume on the internet to the point that you feel bloated and saturated with all sorts of random tidbits of useless knowledge. The ease with which I can access all types of information means I can swiftly gorge myself until my eyes hurt I’m sitting at the table with my buttons popped open, feeling fat and lazy and just, completely unproductive.  In my haze, its easy to become a consumer and not a creator.

I don’t want to just consume, I want to create. I want to bring something of my own to the table.

Well, duh. Then just create.

Most of last year I think this is what the internet represented to me.  Instead of relationships and support like I’ve relied on in the past, it became just a place to feel like I’m being sold something. Apparently I have an addictive personality where its easy for me to just keep clicking until I feel completely overwhelmed at all of the information on the internet that I didn’t know I needed to know! To me, this is the Age of Information Overload.

I feel good when I create, either little things like a new dinner one night or trying to knit a new article of clothing.  As much as I love parenting, it seems like one of the hardest parts is that you’re forever creating in half hour increments to keep the little one’s attention and not working on something long term, or at least something that won’t get destroyed by the end of the day. And my internet habits start to mirror that.

Without getting into a full blown discussion on the merits of stay-at-home vs. work outside the home moms (just yet! I’ll save that for later), I have found for me, finding this balance in being able to contribute to a longer-term goal is crucial to my well-being.

So, deciding what I will spend my limited time and energy on creating is one of the things that I’ve been trying to focus on recently.  Its taken effort and intention, but I feel like I’m already seeing progress on figuring it out.

This is probably such a no-brainer to people, but I guess it took time for me to realize that hey, if reading mommy and parenting blogs and signing onto Facebook with everyone’s incessant posts of “read this article” and “click on this link of lists you have to see!” are just not relevant or something I care about, then I should really just stop reading them.

Its easy to just follow the flow and be led where others are intentionally trying to lead you, rather than intentionally lead yourself to goal that you have prayerfully discerned.

Have you started your seeds yet?

Good news, there’s been a lot of changes over here, mainly to my attitude, ahem, and things are going much more joyfully.  And I’m trying to keep it up. I know I could give more details, but that’s all I’ve got right now, because….

In even BETTER news….have you guys seen this? http://www.smartgardener.com

Holy smokes, a friend casually mentioned this site to me when we were talking about starting our seeds indoors and she completely underrated it.  I thought maybe it was just going to be another one of those sites that is probably more effort than its worth. You know, put in this information and this information and we’ll tell you what they add up to!  But it turns out this pretty much organizes my entire gardening life, not to mention gives tips and pointers along the way.  And organization is something I’m chronically horrible at so, I appreciate all the help I can get!

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Last year’s garden. I was pretty much winging it.

I guess another thing that made it easier is this friend and I split seeds she bought from here, so that could complicate it if you don’t have the exact plants the site recommends for purchase, but selecting something similar could possibly work. I just selected similar plants based on the seeds I got elsewhere.

Anyway, the whole site will give you a possible garden schematic if you give it your location, what plants you want, what direction is north, sunlight information, and bed dimensions.  Then it emails you a weekly to-do list in terms of soil preparation, seeding and transplanting, etc.

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This year’s garden? Ok, yeah, probably not. But one can dream.

So, pretty useful if you’re like me and find yourself just randomly seeding indoors because you can’t wait for the snow to be gone!

So have you started your seeds yet? If not, don’t worry.  And get on this site!

Here’s hoping this prevents stuff like this happening to my crack at gardening this year!

mildew?

mildew?

More real writing soon.  I don’t mean to be turning into a continuous infomercial over here!