Where Have You Been? /My Anxiety Coming-Out Party

Readers, you might not care where I’ve been, but I do. This post is my coming-back-to-life party. Let me take a deep breath.

I used to post at least weekly, and it wasn’t for you. It was for my mental health. (Oh, and some future version of my kids.) I don’t think straight unless I write. And you poor souls have been the recipients. I haven’t posted much lately, and for the first time in years, I didn’t post anything at all for six months. That probably means I didn’t have a complete thought during that time, either.

So, where have I been? Let’s see. I had a triumvirate* of reasons that led to my writing/thinking demise:

  • My oldest son started school. For reasons I can’t explain publicly (see Sharing vs. Oversharing), this milestone rocked our world for quite a long time. It’s been a difficult time, but I’m proud of my kid, and, yeah, proud of myself for not giving up.
  • Twin Non-Napping Disorder. For real this time. Unlike last time I wrote about my twins’ napping strike (see Fireball of Change: Twins Breach Cribs), this time there was no going back. They were done. As soon as my oldest began school, no amount of mothering finesse, bribes, threats, tricks, separations, or whiskey (just kidding, duh) could put these toddlers to sleep during the day. Nap time was one of my only blogging times. I have always said that their nap was the only thing keeping me sane. Now I have proof. Wow, it feels so sucky to be right.
  • Twin Potty Training Disorder. I haven’t really “unpacked” this one yet. I’m still too close to this train wreck to be able to write about it. You’re welcome.
  • <deep breath> I have an anxiety disorder. There. I said it. I am completely open about my struggles with infertility, IVF, adoption, miscarriage, a transracial family, and multiples. I have years of practice with all those things. I have found that being open about my struggles has brought me peace (through writing therapy) and solace (through sharing with others and opening up communication). I am good at advocating for children who have been adopted and for women who are infertile. I will fight for them. But a mental health problem? That’s new to me. I had to sit on that a while. (Although my most dedicated readers probably read between the lines  – or just read the actual lines – and figured it out a while back. Also, sometimes I write drafts and forget to publish them and then my blog or my life is out of order.)

The kicker is that the very thing that helps me muddle through these three stressors IS writing. And yet the stressors have prevented me from writing. Ugh. What a vicious self-defeating circle. Enough is enough! I have to get back on the writing wagon. (What would a “writing wagon” look like? Maybe some alphabet stickers on a Radio Flyer? A horse-drawn cart carrying authors to a writing convention?)

What are the repercussions of “coming out” as an anxiety sufferer on a public and only semi-anonymous blog? For my future? For my children? I’m not sure. (Mr. Okayest still has veto power over my posts, so he can help me there.) What I am sure of is that keeping it hidden has not worked for me. I can’t seem to work through it without writing about it. Plus, it affects my mothering life greatly (badly?), and thus, writing about being an Okayest Mom without writing about being an Anxious Okayest Mom just seems hollow.

I have learned that my anxiety, and not necessarily my children, is the source of my stress.

That was big news in my addled brain.

One of the things that gave me courage to admit that I have an anxiety disorder was a religious article published recently. It was beautifully written, and it really touched me. Hit me. Smacked me. The article is from an LDS magazine, but I believe it would benefit any religious person struggling with a mental health issue – or anyone (religious or not) who is close to that person. The author writes, “I had thought my spirit was primarily under attack, not my brain.” [You can read more about this at the end of my post if you’d like.]

Anyway, I’m glad to be back. I missed you guys. Hopefully by being more open about my anxiety, I can write more – and write better. Along the way, maybe I’ll even help some other mother who has simultaneous experience with infertility, miscarriages, adoption, IVF, multiples, a transracial family, AND anxiety.

What? Oh, that’s just me, isn’t it?

***

*I initially had three reasons, therefore I used the word “triumvirate”. Then I added a fourth thing and I couldn’t think what the word for four things would be.

***

The longer quote:

“It is essential to understand that such a spiritual crisis is not a result of spiritual weakness or lack of faith. Rather, depressive feelings and the resulting depressed view of one’s spirituality are usually caused by a chemical imbalance. Because our physical bodies and our spirits are necessarily connected (see D&C 88:15), it can be common to feel the effects of a physical disorder in a spiritual way, especially in the case of depression, which alters our very perception of ourselves. Therefore, it is important to seek out the actual source of such feelings, especially when experiencing the often-distorting effects of depression…

I soon discovered that medication and cognitive therapy were effective at bringing relief. But the one thing I didn’t find in any of my research was mention of the spiritual repercussions of mental illness. This surprised me, since so many of the symptoms I’d experienced seemed spiritual in nature. I came to realize that while the medical texts rarely acknowledged the spiritual effects of depression, I had initially gone too far the other way—I had misconstrued my depressed feelings as spiritual unworthiness. Indeed, I had been so sure my feelings were manifestations of spiritual weakness that it had never occurred to me I might have a chemical imbalance…I hadn’t seen myself as depressed because I had thought my spirit was primarily under attack, not my brain.

In the light of such challenges, the message given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the October 2013 general conference offers perspective and hope:

‘I wish to speak to those who suffer from some form of mental illness or emotional disorder, whether those afflictions be slight or severe, of brief duration or persistent over a lifetime. … These afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.'”

from https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/02/depression?lang=eng

 

 

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All My Friends Are Writing Post-Apocalyptic Books!

Two of my friends have just released good novels! Even though these two friends don’t know each other, they both wrote post-apocalyptic fiction. All the cool kids are doing it.

By some miracle, this here lifelong book nerd and overworked momma of “triplets” managed to read both of my friends’ books – and they were excellent! Phew. (If they had sucked, I would have quietly avoided my friends and not written this blog post, obviously.)

Who wants to check out some new authors?

outage voyage CrumbleBook3D_200

Ellisa Barr, a dear friend from church (we Mormons make great “preppers”), has written two young adult books in a series. Not gonna lie: I cried at the end of each – because I was mad that they were over.

The first book in the series is “Outage (Powerless Nation) (Volume 1)”. The dust jacket says: “When fifteen-year-old Dee is left at her grandpa’s farm in rural Washington, she thinks life is over. She may be right. A high-tech Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack destroys the country’s power and communication grids, and sends the U.S. hurtling back to the Dark Ages. Can Dee learn to survive without the basics: electricity, clean water… even her cell phone? Written for all fans who love apocalypse stories, Outage is a Young Adult survival novel that mixes useful prepping tips with an action-packed story.”

The second book in the series is considered “a companion novel” to the first. It is called “Voyage (Powerless Nation) (Volume 2)”. It’s just as good as the first. I’m just going to say that both books now have my heart forever.

On a personal note, Ellisa is the kind of friend who doesn’t say, “Let me know if I can do anything” when you have a new baby. She’s the type of friend who comes to your house with a swaddler when you have a sickly newborn who doesn’t sleep. She didn’t just say, “You should swaddle him.” She didn’t just name the brand of swaddler she liked best. She brought the swaddler to my house, showed me how to wrap him so little arms couldn’t break free, and made me practice in front of her. Then she told me to keep the swaddler. From then on, I swaddled that sickly baby for every single nap and every single bedtime for six months. She is the reason I got my first couple hours of sleep as a new mom. Now, don’t you want to read the book of a person like that?!

Devon Porter, a friend from high school, has written about his own personal passion: the end of the (modern) world. He wrote “After the Crumble”, which is most definitely labeled regular adult, not young adult. (Just warning you that the post-apocalyptic future looks a little more brutal than the young adult novels can say…)  The back of the book sums it up: “Our future has crumbled. In the late 2020s, the grid finally flickered out for the last time, succumbing to attacks from a newly formed Resistance, fuel scarcity, and general entropy. It is now the year 2037 and many have died, with the few that managed to escape death solely concerned with their daily survival. Gavin Collier is one of those lucky few, but survival alone isn’t enough for him anymore.”

This book is a beautiful and fast-paced story. My favorite review of “After the Crumble” expresses it best: “It’s refreshing to read a novel that finds in the collapse of modern life an opportunity for the resurrection of the best parts of us.” Plus, this book made me think about a few angles of my personal prepping that could use work.

Just FYI, the first time I met Devon was in Latin class for juvenile delinquents older boys. Devon went to the same tiny private school where I met Mr. Okayest (and also several of my best good friends featured throughout this blog). The private school pushed a classical education, so students began studying Latin at a young age. Since I entered the school in eighth grade, I was not in Latin 3 or 4 or 200 with my peers. Instead, 13-year-old skinny me was learning “veni vidi vici” with five senior men. Let’s just say they made me like Latin forever.

Now Devon raises pigs and blueberries and is definitely not a juvenile delinquent, although I’m pretty sure he is still older than me.

You can find Ellisa’s website at ellisabarr.com

You can find Devon’s website at afterthecrumble.com

(Ellisa and Devon, I’m so proud of you guys! You have inspired me!)

***

jack5.500x8.500.inddNeed more books? It turns out one of my long-lost but recently found cousins, Michelle D. Argyle, is also a published author! While she hasn’t written any post-apocalyptic fiction (yet?), she has written some great books. (She’s a little more experienced than my  ^ newbie friends, ha!) I’d like to give her a shout-out here as well. Her most recent novel is “If I Forget You”. You can see her other work at michelledargyle.com. Enjoy!

 

 

“It’s Not Your Season,” Says My Mom

“Mom, I just wish I could have some energy to do an exercise DVD after they go to bed.”

“Honey, it’s just not your season. There will be plenty of time for that.”

 

“Mom, I just miss reading so much.”

“It’s just not your season, honey. Do you think your aunt ever read a book when she was raising her five boys? Now look at her!”

 

“Mom, sometimes I feel like I’m going to scream if I have to eat PBJ for lunch one more time! I just want to go out to lunch ONCE! Just once!”

“It’s not your season.”

 

My mother is referring to The Book of Ecclesiastes: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Eccl. 3:1)

Before I was a mother, I heard a quote from one of our church leaders that stuck with me: “[A woman] need not try to sing all of the verses of her song at the same time.” [i]

Sometimes I try to sing too many verses simultaneously. Then I remember to back it up and focus on one thing at a time. But, on a larger scale, that line explains perfectly why I am a stay-at-home mother. I had a long career as a student. I had a five-year career as a kindergarten teacher. I had an eight-year career as a wife, but not a mother. I am currently having a career as a wife AND mother. And, someday, I will be able to read/exercise/go out to lunch again. It’s okay with me to do things sequentially.

I love being a woman. I love being a stay-at-home mom. My husband checks in with me frequently to make sure that I don’t feel “marginalized”. I ask him what that means, exactly. Does he want to know if I felt like the margin on a page, when he is the main print? If so, the answer is no. I am not a margin. This here, this work that I do every day, IS the main text. Everything else – work, friends, distractions, hobbies, reading books/exercising/going out to lunch – is the margin. Everything else is FOR THIS.

all three at sink

He works for THIS.

r cuddles

I quit my career for THIS.

storytime

He comes home for THIS.

tied down

I wake up for THIS.

e cuddle

“Your children are not distractions – they are the very purpose.” [ii]

He wants to be sure I don’t have regrets. I assure him that even though this is hard, this was the plan. This is what I was meant to do. I am a nurturer. My decisions are supported by wonderful friends and family.

Nevertheless, there are times when I feel like I am going to cry. And I do. There are times when I feel like I am going to scream. And I do (in the bathroom, silently). There are time when I feel like I am going crazy. And I do – but it passes. Today, I was changing one baby’s terrible terrible diaper mess, and the other baby was getting into the prescription diaper cream, while they were both crying, and the dog was barking, and the oldest was whining, all together. And I told myself, “Breathe. Just wait for this to pass. (And don’t let any poop go flying while you wait.)” Experience has taught me that those moments do pass.

There are times when I feel like nobody ever recognizes the good that we stay-at-home moms do. My husband might get an award or a bonus or a good grade, but I don’t. I just get more poop and more diaper rash and more barking and more whining and more crying. Bless his heart, though, because he says, “WE got an A-plus today. WE got a bonus. WE got a time-off award.” And often, my husband recognizes what I do around the house and with the children. But, as Dr. Phil says, there is a lot of “invisible work” that spouses don’t see – like the way I mop under the table three times a day. Or the way I miraculously read twelve books to wiggly one-year-olds today. He assumes, but he doesn’t really know. It’s the same as how I don’t see all the invisible work that he does to diagnose, repair, and maintain our dryer/ lawn mower/ beige minivan.

I remind myself that heaven sees what I do. God, Jesus, maybe my grandmother who died – I believe they see me and my hard work and my love for my children every day. There are countless witnesses above who may be watching me.

On earth, I have only three witnesses of what I do every day: my children. Most of the time, they don’t care, but every once in a while I will catch them showing empathy to each other in a way that mimics me, and I am so grateful. I will catch them pretending to read a book in the same sing-song-y fashion as me, and I am so proud. Every movement of their bodies can be attributed to something I have taught them- words from their mouths, spoons to their lips, hugs from their arms – it all attests to my hard work.

All that is the point. The main text. Not the margin. And that’s why I quit my career. That’s why I have no regrets. That’s why I don’t feel marginalized. And that’s why I have to remind myself that “it’s just not my season” for the things in the margin. Or, more accurately, I can call my mom and she can remind me.

My work is the main text, not the margin.

 

***

 

[i] James E. Faust (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/09/a-message-to-my-granddaughters-becoming-great-women?lang=eng)

[ii] Richard and Linda Eyre, from a fireside address, as quoted by Dwight Egan, Church News contributor (https://www.lds.org/church/news/father-of-8-missionary-sons-shares-advice-that-helped-him?lang=eng)

 

This post was originally written for Beyond Infertility, a website about parenting after infertility. I am a regular contributor to their website.

Christmas Fail? But Charity Never Faileth

Christmas is four days away. I feel like a failure in each and every way, and yet I am so grateful for all the acts of love and service that others have given to us.

The Okayest Family has been quite ill for quite some time, and my to-do lists have been ashamed of themselves.

My Christmas tree has looked like this for over a week now:

image

My Christmas decorations are still in their boxes in the basement:

image

My presents are still not wrapped:

image

And my dresser looks like this:

image

(Okay, let’s be honest: my dresser always looks like that. It has nothing to do with sickness or Christmas, but we can just pretend, mmkay?)

I feel frustrated. I feel sad. I feel like I’m failing. I promised my oldest that he would sit on Santa’s lap at the church Christmas party, but we couldn’t go when my husband was still too ill to assist me in child-wrangling. My kids didn’t perform in the church Christmas program this Sunday for the same reason.

Things aren’t going smoothly, and I’m so tired, and I want to cry all the time. However, most every mother probably feels this way around this time of year. Besides, I’m just okayest; I know how to take things down a notch, right? (I’m no Pinterest mom, but I do want my kids to have a Christmas.)

I force myself to pick myself up and remind myself to count my blessings. It slowly is starting to work. I am so thankful that my husband has a secure job with paid sick leave. I am so grateful that we got to cut down the Christmas tree together (even if it is still outside), that we can afford presents (even if they aren’t wrapped), that we have a warm home with room for storage of luxuries like Christmas decorations (even if they aren’t hung up).

christmas cookies (2)So many people have shown me love and service lately, and it humbles me. Every time I feel like I am drowning in illness and exhaustion and undone to-do lists, someone else shows me love and service. My in-laws come to care for the children when we can’t, even if they subject themselves to heinous viruses. My mother comes to have a “Christmas craft day” with my kids, and brings her cookies to decorate and makes sure we at least get out the only decoration that matters: my great-grandma’s nativity.

imageFriends check up on me via text. Church sisters offer to put up my tree, substitute teach my Sunday School class of six-year-olds, bring dinner, and even haul my twins into the beige minivan when I can’t physically maneuver them. One friend even makes my kids some “shake it” sensory bottles when I go to her for advice about some specific behavioral problems.

My church sisters’ love makes my heart full. My Mormon friends each have more children than I do, and yet they always help. Mormon women seem extra good at serving in specific ways. They never say, “Let me know if you need anything.” Instead, they say, “I’m bringing dinner,” and, “I’m teaching your class.” Sometimes they don’t say anything, but just pick up that runaway twin. They will do things like this for people they hardly know. They have always done it for other sisters; they will continue to do it in the next town they move to. It’s not just for me. They are a great example to me. I will pay it forward someday … when the kids are in school? I know heaven smiles on these women.

A friend reminds me to think of the one thing I can do each time I get overwhelmed. Maybe today I can play some Christmas music to bring peace, and maybe tomorrow I can read to the children about the birth of Jesus. They won’t care if the door has no wreath and the presents are “wrapped” in a brown cardboard Amazon box.

Most of all, I can remember to be ever grateful for my miraculous little family that was created against all odds. We are together, and of course, that is all that really matters.

***

Dear readers: I wish you and your family peace at this time of year. I hope you find it quicker than I have! I know Christmas can be hard for many of us for so many different reasons, but I hope that you have love in your life and peace in your homes. Much love to you all!

My Lunapads Interview was Posted!

The Lunapads company interviewed me and posted it on their website! As a “successful ambassador”, they interviewed me first. Not that I’m bragging or anything… Okay, yes I am bragging. But the real praise goes to all my readers! Thank you!! Without you, I wouldn’t have anything to brag about.  Here’s the interview:

“Meet the Lunapads Ambassadors: Melissa

We started our Lunapads Brand Ambassador Program over a year ago and are so grateful for the fabulous ambassadors we have all over Canada and the US spreading our mission and sharing our products with their communities. We started the program to nurture the special relationship we have with our customers and to support them in creating a community around them to hold space for body positivity, self-love, personal growth, and social change.

Here is an interview with one of our inspiring Ambassadors: Melissa!

1) How did you find Lunapads?

I found Lunapads just through a search engine. About five years ago, my fertility doctor had suggested that I quit using tampons, due to my endometriosis, and I was very unhappy about switching to pads. They felt disgusting and I was having a terrible time adjusting to them. Somehow, I came across the Lunapads website and I was in awe. I had never heard about anything like that, ever (and I’m a fairly “crunchy” person)! I immediately ordered a few to try them out.

2) What is your first experience with cloth pads?

I convinced a friend to try them with me, so we both ordered our first reusable pads together and compared notes for those first few periods where we were learning to use them. I found them to be “bunchy” at first, because I was used to relying on the adhesive of the disposable pads to hold them down. My friend reminded me that this wouldn’t be the same, but that it would still work. Having that person to talk to really helped. We gave each other ideas about how to handle and launder the pads.

3) Why did you want to become a Lunapads Ambassador?

I was so excited when Lunapads launched this program! I have always wanted to share the idea of reusable pads with others, because I personally believe that they have helped my health. However, I had no idea how to share that kind of information! I didn’t know how to broach the subject with my circle of mom-friends, and I certainly didn’t want to post things about my period on my Facebook wall for my dad, grandpa and uncles to see!

Besides helping me to share something that I feel passionately about, I felt that this Ambassador program was perfect for me because it wasn’t a sales job, but there was the potential to earn money. There was only the smallest initial payment on the kit I had to buy – but if things didn’t work out, then I figured I would simply add the kit to my personal collection of pads.

As a stay-at-home mom of three toddlers (adoption + IVF twins), my funds and my time are precious resources. I have very little spare time or money, so this program was perfect for me.

4) How do you share Lunapads with your network/community?

I have three ways I have shared so far:

a) I have a mommy blog (www.okayestmomblog.com) with over 2500 followers so far, so I made a page there specifically for my Lunapads thoughts. The page is titled, “Girls Only”, and I post blog articles to it every once in a while. I always add my personal Lunapads code to the bottom of each article so people remember to buy under my code!

b) I started a Facebook group where I link my blog posts, share Lunapads news (like free shipping!), and invite and encourage questions and complaints.

c) I threw a party! The key for me was to *not* throw a Lunapads party, because I didn’t think people would actually come. What I did was throw a “Ladies’ Night Out/ 80s Movie Party” one night after the kids went to bed. I invited all of my momma friends to come over after they put their kids to bed and watch an 80s movie on my projector in the basement and eat junk food. I wanted to make it something that I would actually want to attend. I warned them that I would talk about my Lunapads for five minutes beforehand. “Five minutes, I promise!” I had my kit ready, as well as some handouts I made, with my blog address on it and my Lunapads code. I had a great turnout. The women who came had completely different questions when they were handling the pads in person than they typically do when they ask questions online. It was really fun to do a face-to-face! I plan to do another one in the near future, because who doesn’t like 80s movies and junk food?

5) What would you say to a new Lunapads Ambassador to encourage or support them?

First, congrats! You are a smart person to do this program, because you can’t lose! I would say, be sure to use both the internet and personal interaction to the best of your ability. Both avenues are excellent for different reasons. And please share with the rest of us if you find something that works!

I would also add a word of caution: we need to be very sensitive when talking to others about periods. There are many reasons the people you talk to may not be experiencing periods: hormonal problems, previous illnesses or cancers, hysterectomies, infertility, pregnancy, nursing, menopause, and so on. Some of these reasons could be a source of sadness. I try to promote Lunapads with all that in mind. I tackle the angle of using Lunapads pantyliners for discharge, since most women of all ages and situations can experience that! Also, I try to encourage women to share this information with their teenage daughters and granddaughters.

Also, as an LDS (Mormon), I promote the “preparedness” angle. I have a year’s supply of food storage in the house, as well as a 72-hour kit for each member of my family. I think Lunapads should be a part of every preparedness kit and home storage. In a zombie apocalypse, would you seriously be able to get to the store for disposable pads?! (Just kidding. Kind of. Mormons don’t believe in a zombie apocalypse.)

6) Is there a particular story or experience you’ve had as a Lunapads Ambassador that is special to you, or has impacted you in some way?

I have heard many happy exclamations from first-timers, most of which are some variation of, “Wow, it feels like I’m wearing pajamas instead of a trash bag!” However, my all-time favorite story was quite touching. A friend of mine, who does not get her period due to medical issues, works as a hospice nurse. She shared my Lunapads information with one of her patients’ families, and they purchased some for the elderly woman. This poor woman was on hospice and was allergic to the disposable incontinence products they had been putting on her. Now she is resting comfortably on cozy flannel Lunapads. It really choked me up. This product can help many people in many phases of life.”

 

***

You can find the original article here. Reposted with permission from Lunapads Blog: Periods, Politics & Personalities.

The views expressed here are my own and are not necessarily those of the Lunapads company. I am not a doctor and do not offer medical advice.

You can read more about my partnership with Lunapads and my personal love of cloth menstrual pads.

I do not sell Lunapads, but I promote them and receive a straight percentage of any sales I refer. If you would like to purchase Lunapads yourself, please use MY code 515013 for 5% off your total purchase (and, let’s be honest, to give me my kickback!).

 

 

My Infertility Through Scripture

alone togetherDuring my desperate phase: “Give me children, or else I die!”Genesis 30:1

Rachel had beauty and the love of her husband Jacob, but no children. Her sister, Leah, who was married to the same man, didn’t have the love of her husband, wasn’t blessed with beauty, but had seven of his children. This particular scripture, “Give me children, or else I die!”,  is Rachel beseeching her husband. The next scripture tells his response: “And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” (Probably like a modern-day husband would respond if you screamed something so dramatic at him.) Like Rachel, I was desperate. I felt like screaming, “Give me children, or else I die!” to my husband and to God. I probably did.

adoption of RUpon adopting our firstborn: For this child I prayed.Samuel 1:27

I didn’t pray for just any child. I feel like I prayed for him. His soul was meant to be here, and it didn’t matter in what body he arrived. He is our firstborn son.

This particular scripture is not about adoption,  but it was how I felt about my firstborn son. This scripture is about Hannah. The Lord loved her but had “shut up her womb”. When she “wept sore” about her infertility, her husband said, “Am I not better to thee than ten sons?” (I must confess, Mr. Okayest is kinda even better than ten sons. )

twin pregnancy bellyFinally pregnant: “And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.”Genesis 30:22

Eventually, Rachel conceived. Eventually, after much trial and tribulation, I did too, with the help of modern medicine (which I believe God wants us to use and has given to us as a blessing).

 

 

feeding timeAt naptime with three boys on my lap: “I will…open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”Malachi 3:10

Even though this scripture is technically about tithing, this still expresses how I feel each naptime, when I settle three big baby boys on my lap for their milk. Combined, they weigh almost as much as I do. They take up all the space on my chair. My lap literally cannot hold them all. I get weepy and emotional each day during this rare quiet five minutes. It’s the only time of day I get to cuddle them all. I think of this scripture each day during this time, because there is “not room enough to receive” them all. My arms are full. My lap is full. The windows of heaven opened, and, I must say, we worked really really hard to open them.

I understand that not everyone will get the blessings for which they pray, or even the blessings that they deserve. I don’t know why my particular trials happened in this order, other than it may have been the only way our oldest son could make it into this family. Perhaps I had to go through infertility to bend enough to consider adoption. I have been taught that God always answers our prayers, but not necessarily with an affirmative. Sometimes the answers are “no”, and sometimes the answers are just “not yet”. For many years, my answers were “no” and “not yet.” Then, three times, my answers were “yes.”

I have also been taught that if we do not receive the blessings we ask for and deserve in this life, that we will receive them in the next life.

The trial that was infertility is over for me. If it is still happening to you, I hope you will gain strength from my story. I have other trials now – and here’s to hoping you will, too!

How a Good Girl Accidentally Got a Tattoo and Shaved Her Head One Time

Tattoos and shaved heads are gateway drugs to saloon life in the 1800s.

Tattoos and shaved heads are gateway drugs to saloon life in the 1800s.

Well, my “What little-known fact about me should be made into a blog post?” blog post has backfired. The ONE AND ONLY fact that I didn’t want to write about was the one that won the poll, with a whopping 42% of the vote. Ugh. Did my subconscious throw that one into the poll at the last minute or what?! Thanks a lot to those of you who voted for it, she says with a sneer.

The winning “little-known fact” was “I shaved my head and got a tattoo after a bad breakup at 18 (not Future Mr. Okayest).”

This little incident (i.e., defining moment) happened almost half my life ago. It will be very difficult to write, mostly out of concerns about respecting The Ex, as well as his family, whom I love very much. I have only ever loved two men in my life: one was The Ex and one is Mr. Okayest.

I have to use past tense on The Ex because…. he passed away. And, if I were to tell you that he died of a drug overdose, it would necessitate the fact that I use no identifying details about him.

We were high school sweethearts in a tiny high school- yes, the same high school where Mr. Okayest also attended. The Ex and I were opposites. “She’s a good girl, loved her mama,” to quote Tom Petty. We were seriously and deeply in love, drawn together by a love of good music, and perhaps from being old souls. He had some serious issues in his life, and I was a source of strength for him.

We dated for two years, and we were going to get married. He proposed. I had a ring and everything. We were going to play Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” at our wedding. “It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well.” We didn’t feel like teenagers, though. We felt like no one understood us – although that is probably just the most mundane thing to feel, since every teenager probably feels that way. Anyway, I think we really would have gotten married if the drugs hadn’t gotten in the way. And marrying him would not have been the best thing for me, no matter how much I loved him.

I really was a good girl. (I still am, ha!) I was a strong LDS girl. I went to church class (“Seminary”) every morning at 6:00 for one hour before school. I went to the hardest high school ever invented by man and had hours of homework every night. (Seriously, college was super easy.) I did every bit of homework. I got straight A’s. I had perfect attendance most of the time. I never drank or smoked or dabbled. I didn’t even drink caffeine back then! Nonetheless, I was a paradox, possibly because I myself was raised by a Mormon Good Girl and a Musician Bad Boy.

Things were starting to fall apart for The Ex before I left for college, but, when I did leave, he spiraled out of control. (Dang, I am reading that in my head with the VH1 “Behind the Music” guy’s voice. Sorry.) I am not extrapolating here. He told me that he couldn’t handle life without me. As an 18-year-old, it’s hard to understand how unhealthy codependence really is. And it’s hard to understand addiction, and all the devastating things in a person’s life that can lead to addiction. And it’s hard to understand that addiction – more specifically, controlling someone else’s addiction – isn’t actually the responsibility of said 18-year-old. (Perhaps that explains my choice of major: Psychology.)

I won’t go into specifics about the drugs, or The Ex, or the demise, out of respect for him and his family. Some of it can be summed up in the first two lines of Tom Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart”. (Go look it up if you can’t sing it off the top of your head. And then stop being friends with me.)

Our relationship ended during my freshman year of college because HE broke up with ME. Can you believe that? The addict is the one who was the break-up-er and the Good Girl is the break-up-ee? Probably like most teen girls, I believed I could “fix” him. A Bachelor’s degree in Psychology taught me that I was wrong – although you would think that the break-up would have been the deciding factor there. In retrospect, I now believe that he meant what he said: he broke up with me because he loved me and he wanted to spare me the ride on which he was stuck. It was a kind and selfless act, because he was giving me the gift I couldn’t give myself: the chance at a happy, normal, and healthy life. I would have ridden that ride with him forever, but he didn’t want that for me. I love him for that.

But, at the time, I couldn’t see past the pain, of course. It was the worst time of my short little life. To say I was devastated is an understatement. I cried so hard for so long that I burst blood vessels in my eyes and had some seriously zombie-fied eyes (before that was a trend). His family came all the way to my college to console me. Everything seemed so dramatic and so final. Mick Jagger once said something about how it’s hard to be a teenager because they just feel everything so much harder. Seriously, growing up is about putting on some sort of emotional blunting device. As my best friend once said, “Eventually we all put on some khakis and go get a job at The Gap.” (And she once wore a Barbie doll head on a dog collar around her neck.)

I was homesick. I was heartsick. My whole future seemed blacked out. I hated myself. I hated him. I wanted to hurt myself, but seeing as how I’m not a “cutter” or a drinker or a dabbler, I decided the best course of action would be to get a tattoo.

For a Mormon Good Girl, this is not a good choice. We believe our bodies are temples to our souls. We are borrowing these bodies as vessels for our spirits. Harming them or disfiguring them is just not a good idea – it is considered disrespectful to the parents and the God who gave you that body on loan. “While it may not be a sin, it’s a mistake.” I did it anyway.

I took a good friend with me. She had graduated from that same small school that The Ex, Future Mr. Okayest, and I had attended together, and then she had gone to the same (huge) college. She understood the depths of my teenage maudlin heart. We were freshmen, so we had no cars, and our college was in a rural area. This meant that, in order to permanently disfigure our bodies, we would have to really work at it. I think we used a combination of public bus routes and large amounts of walking to get to the “downtown” area where we could find a Gruff Old Tattoo Man.

I wasn’t even scared. I picked a part of my body that could hide a tattoo in a one-piece bathing suit, and that wouldn’t stretch out during pregnancy. (Despite my heartbroken state, I still knew I would have children someday.) (Oh, and I guess I picked well, because an 80-pound twin pregnancy hasn’t marred that tattoo.) Gruff Old Tattoo Man started that needle. I was holding my friend’s hand, and it didn’t even hurt as much as I expected. Nonetheless, my body decided that that moment would be the best time to faint for the first time.

Hey, it wasn’t my fault, okay? A teenager, away from home for the first time, drowning in the depths of her sorrow, doesn’t exactly remember to eat much in the days leading up to a hike to the tattoo shop, okay?

I remember that The Doors’ “Hello, I Love You” was playing on Gruff Old Tattoo Man’s radio. She’s walking down the street, blind to every eye she meets. I felt like I was in a tunnel, and I got sweaty, and that was that. They revived me and we finished the tattoo. Her arms are wicked and her legs are long.

That tattoo got showed off a good bit in the next few years, but after I got married and became more buttoned down (buttoned up?), it’s been for Mr. Okayest’s eyes only. I should not have gotten a tattoo, that’s true, but I have made peace with marring my body. I see it as a scar. It’s a scar from a very painful time in my life. It’s a sign of what I did to survive – same as the scars on my throat, abdomen, and wrists that  saved my life during the birth of the twins. Of course we would rather not have the scars in the first place, but who gets through life completely (literally) smoothly? And who regrets scars that save one’s life? It may sound overly dramatic to compare a tattoo to a life-saving port in my carotid artery, but I didn’t cut myself, start drinking, or turn to any of The Ex’s vices. I dealt.

But, to get back to 1997, I wasn’t quite finished with my breakup transformation. I marched my long-blonde-haired head to the nearest cheapo hair cutter, and chopped that beautiful stuff off. I think I can actually  say that I shaved my head. I probably had about an inch of non-flattering hair left. Since I am 5’9” and slender now, we can safely assume that I was 5’9” and skinny back then….so that is probably why my uncle told me I looked like a Q-Tip after that little haircut.

I couldn’t have explained it then, but now I understand that I did it because I felt unattractive. I wanted to be unattractive. I wanted to keep guys away. I wanted to wallow in my sorrow. However, having a shaved head and a tattoo eventually backfired: I cultivated quite a confident attitude that seemed to attract some (yucky) guys. No matter, though. I could just use my army-surplus boots to kick them away.

Anyway, after the tattoo and the haircut and the fainting and the zombie-eyes, I wasn’t doing too well. I eventually asked my grandparents pick me up and take me to their home in the mountains. They lived an hour from the nearest grocery store or hospital, so it seemed like the ideal place to hole up and heal. Their house in the woods had no air conditioning or cable, and this was before the age of internet and cell phones, so no one would bother me there. I was a good student, and college was easy for me, so missing a week or more of school didn’t hurt me. My grandparents let me sleep for days. It was a shocking act of compassion for the hardworking grandfather who yelled at vacationing grandkids for being lazy if they slept past 7AM. I guess they took one look at my broken skinny Q-Tip self and knew that I needed to hide for long while. I don’t remember what they said or did or fed to me, but they must have gotten me on my feet. I do remember that my grandma let me read her binders of old love letters from the 1940s, and I loved that. They fattened me up and took me back to school when I was ready.

I somewhat righted myself, and, while still getting good grades, I befriended some (yucky) boyfriends and probably kicked some other (yucky) boyfriends with my boots. My college roommate got sick of me and traded me. I don’t think that I was her type. (I mean, come on, she wore real eyeliner every day. I, on the other hand, didn’t shave and brought my record player to college. Yep.) Getting traded, however, was the best thing that ever happened to me. My New Roomie had also gotten traded, probably because she also was blonde, skinny, and a Chucks-wearer – but I do think she shaved.

New Roomie helped me feel not so bad about my hair-growing-out phase.

New Roomie helped me feel not so bad about my hair-growing-out phase.

New Roomie and I were a match made in heaven. She is still one of my very closest friends and favorite people in the whole world. I think God gave her to me to save me that year. She taught me to have fun again. She taught me to see beauty again, and I don’t care how cheesy that sounds! She would open the tiny window of our 8×10 cinderblock cell, and say, “Just look at that beautiful lake. Hear the ducks?” Also, she would type a paper with a gummy bear stuck to her forehead for no reason, other than to make me smile. I had found a kindred spirit. She helped me heal.

Then I got mono. This time, my mother picked me up and took me home to heal. I was home for a looooong time. I remember very little from this time, but I do remember being tired enough to have to rest my cheek on the sink counter every time I peed. I couldn’t even sit up long enough to pee.

Then, somehow, miraculously, it was finally spring. My mother took me back to college, and I would weakly walk to class with New Roomie, and I felt the warm sun on my shoulders. It felt like the first spring I had ever seen. Those daffodils were the first daffodils I had ever really seen. I felt like I could breathe again. I felt like I had finally finally survived the breakup. The Ex and I had finally made the breakup “stick” and we were no longer communicating. I could see my future, and it was sunny.

Springtime. Mono is ending, my hair is growing out, and I feel like a new woman!

Springtime. Mono is ending, my hair is growing out, and I feel like a new woman!

I went home that summer as a new woman. I had a best friend: New Roomie. I had righted myself emotionally and spiritually. I was back to church. I was taking charge of my spiritual life and feeling stronger than ever. I finally understood that The Ex had done me a kindness by letting me go. I had kicked the last of the (yucky) guys to the curb. I was ready to wait for my future husband, whomever that would be.

Enter Mr. Okayest. He deserves his own blog post. I will simply say here, in this blog post about someone else, that I fell in love with Mr. Okayest that summer I turned 19 – the summer that I was my strongest, truest self. He had been there all along, waiting.

Mr. Okayest and I had been married for seven years when The Ex found me online. I immediately told Mr. Okayest about the contact, and told him that I would be writing back. He was “okayest” with it. I was completely transparent with him: I promised to show him all the correspondence, but I needed closure with The Ex. I needed to know he was okay. I still cared about him. We wrote to each other just a handful of times. His last ten years had been filled with so much pain and addiction. It hurt to hear. But he was genuinely happy for me, and that I had married one of his friends from our tiny school. I am so thankful we got to apologize to each other and share what we had meant to each other.

Two months later, I got the call that he had died. He overdosed while in rehab. That last contact with him had been a gift from above. Mr. Okayest and my parents went to the funeral services with me. My tattoo scar was in attendance, and so was my regrown very long hair. My mom held one hand and my husband held my other hand as pictures of me and The Ex flashed on the slideshow. Even ten years later, I knew that he had loved me. He had set me free and given me a normal life. I will always love him for that.

Thus, the story about shaving my head and getting a tattoo is really the story of a remarkable man who lost his life to addiction. He was my first love.

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(This blog post is brought to you by Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy album.)