Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Shallow thoughts

In a conversation with a coworker about Christmas, I was shocked to learn about the elaborate gifts that the coworker planned to give his small kids for Christmas. Of course I was shocked for the typical reasons - money is not the real reason for the season, his kids are so small they won't know the difference, etc. However, the discussion made me reflect on an inner tension that I feel in my own life that is much deeper.

A part of me wants to shield my kids from pain. I also want to provide experiences, material items, and opportunities that I did not have as a child. However, in my attempts to do this, I also want to be sure that I do not create selfish children that believe the moon and stars revolve around them. Basically, I want my kids to understand that although they ARE the center of MY universe, they are NOT the center of THE universe.

I have also taken up Yoga. I LOVE it. I love the quiet stillness of Yoga. I love the deep breathing. I love the focus on ME. Yes, I said it - I love the fact that for one hour, I focus on my breathing, on stretching, on pushing my body a little further than I did the class before. I love the fact that in Yoga, I am not competing with others because I will never be "perfect". I will always be able to push myself to do more. Yoga, like life, is about the experience and the journey, not the destination. I will not attain perfection, and that is ok.

I read a quote, "Convictions are greater enemies of the truth than lies." The writer went on to state that "wisdom is what allows us to become more open minded, less in need of the security of dogmatic truth (a belief that this is only what the law is) and at the same time more centered in our own personal truth." So often, when we feel challenged, instead of questioning why we believe what we believe, we fall back to the defense that this is "just the way it is". We will never grow if we are slaves to dogmatic truths with no basis. If we do not know why we believe what we believe, and if we do not take the time to discover what we really believe, we will be like the man that built his house on the sand. If you do not understand your beliefs, you have no foundation for your morals, ethics, etc. Sooner or later, our beliefs will crumble when someone can show us that what we thought was true was not.

I hope that this year I can really ENJOY Christmas. Every year, I stress myself out. I feel like I have to buy the PERFECT gift for each person, I have to say the PERFECT things at our family Christmas gatherings, and I have to take the PERFECT pictures to document the PERFECT Christmas. I am finally realizing that I cannot ensure that anyone has a PERFECT Christmas. I cannot buy the perfect gift, I can't say the perfect things, I can't plan the perfect gathering. This year, I hope that I can simply enjoy the day. That is my Christmas wish - I don't want a perfect Christmas, I simply want to be present and enjoy a merry Christmas.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Healthy Dose of Guilt

I am a member of our health incentive program at work. Recently, the program challenged teams to form in an effort to maintain our weight over the holidays. Basically, we recorded our weight in November. In January, we will return to record our weight. Each team that maintains their weight within 2 pounds of their original weight over the holidays wins. I decided to do this for my own health. However, I also knew that if my boss and assistant were depending on me I would be more likely to watch my weight.
So far, this has been very challenging. I have made some significant life style changes. I am not drinking drinks with sugar. I do allow myself coffee with flavored creamer, but that is all. I also went to Whole Foods and bought whole grain oatmeal, chocolate soy milk and other healthy snacks.

The major change that I have made is joining the fitness center at work. I was a member of the Y before the kids were born and I worked out early in the morning before work. Now I am trying to manage my schedule so that I will be able to fit in exercise in the morning or at lunch. I am most excited about attending Yoga classes.

I struggle with feeling guilty about the exercise. I feel guilty because time spent at the gym is time that I could be spending with the kids, my husband, etc. I always feel guilty when I do things for myself. For some reason, I have an idealized image of the perfect woman/mother. In my mind, the perfect woman/mother is completely selfless, and she sacrifices everything for the happiness of those around her (even if the sacrifices make her miserable). Of course I do not live up to this ideal, and anytime that I do things solely for me, I tend to feel guilty. I feel especially guilty because I am a working mother. I feel that every spare moment away from work should be focused on my kids.

Recently, some very balanced and mentally healthy friends have started to change my view. I tend to view myself as an island surrounded by others. I have falsely believed that I can give and give and give without nurturing myself. I have confused developing a sense of self with being selfish. I am gradually learning that being selfish is vastly different from having a sense of self. The fact of the matter is that I am not an island. If I do not take time to discover who I am, what I believe, what I enjoy, etc., I will ultimately have no sense of self. If I have no sense of self, I will be unhappy, and I risk raising kids that also have no sense of self. The last thing I want to do is teach my kids that they should make decisions based on what others think or external validation that they may receive. I want to teach my kids to find activities that they enjoy and to love themselves. I hope that in my journey to find myself, I will teach my kids the importance of taking time for themselves so that they can know who they are and what they believe.

However, I do not know how to get past the guilt of being a working professional mother. I often feel that I am giving work 30%, family 30%, friends/community/other 30%, and perhaps I have 10% left over for God. I enjoy my job, and I enjoy the sense of fulfillment that it brings. I am also proud that my kids will see that I am a well rounded individual with many facets to my personality. However, I always feel so torn. I feel that I am not giving anything 100%. Everyone always talks about balance, but there is no real balance. Something is always getting the short end of the stick. There are times when work takes so much of me that my family is short changed. There are also times when my family takes so much of me that work is short changed. All of the guilt is often magnified by being a Christian. Instead of finding a loving community of people that understand that some mothers need to work or choose to work, most Christian leaders and authors tend to spend their energy telling mothers the many reasons that they are destroying their children by working outside the home. This makes me very sad.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Life is Busy: new church building, book club, mission trip, etc.

It's been a long time since I posted a blog. Life has been so busy.
Mike and I went on a mission trip to Delaware. We were both on staff at a youth workcamp in Magnolia Delaware. Jeremy, Aaron and Rhonda were also on staff. It was a great mission trip experience. I realized how many lonely people there are in the world and I have felt challenged since being home to start a ministry at our church visiting shut ins.
At the camp I was the photographer. This was the first year that I was not an actual "worker" at the camp. Instead, I took photos at the sites and assisted with the worship programs. I really enjoyed it. I also met so many cool kids. I especially enjoyed meeting a group from Ohio and a group from England.
The Refinery has also moved again! Our church is just under 3 years old, and we just moved to our third building. Our first year we met in the movie theater, and then we moved to an office complex. We are now leasing a church building near the Century Park neighborhood in Kernersville. Check out http://www.refinerychurch.org/ for details. The address of the church is 140 Forest Drive. The first Sunday in the new facility was great!
The kids are keeping us very busy too. They are both so active and they are both at challenging yet fun stages developmentally.
Work is still going great. I am finally feeling more settled in my job and I am getting to know many coworkers.
I have seen some old friends lately and that has been wonderful. My friend Anne from law school just moved back to Winston and I have seen her a few times. I also ran into an old high school classmate today at lunch. I had not seen him in 11 years!
I am still having problems with my eyes. They are very dry and I am having allergies. I can't wear contacts at all, and the doctor said I would never wear contacts again. I am very discouraged about that!
We have changed the location of our book club. We are now meeting a book store in Kernersville called Shakespeare and Company. We meet on the second Tuesday of the month. Our first meeting was great - we discussed Anne Rice's latest book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. In September we will be discussing Freakonomics. So far the book is great. You can get more information about our book club (past books we have read, future books, etc. on the church web site).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My June 6th Miracle

June 6 is an anniversary date for me. June 6 marks the day that my life was changed forever.

On that day a few years ago, I was in Caldwell County. That day was to be the third day of my first jury trial. However, things went badly and the day that had begun as exciting almost became one of the most tragic days of my life. I had just turned 24 weeks pregnant that morning, and I awoke at 5:30 am. I was bleeding badly. I called 911, and then called Mike crying that I had lost the baby. The ambulance came and took me to a hospital with a wonderful nurse and a terrible doctor. The doctor informed me that I was probably going to have my baby, and because he was only 24 weeks, he would most likely die. I was terrified and alone. Mike and my family were frantically trying to drive 3 hours to get to me, and I had no idea if my baby was still alive. I remained at the hospital for an entire day, having contractions and not knowing what was going to happen. That night, I was transferred by ambulance to a hospital at home. When I arrived at midnight, I was informed by my doctor that I was going to be in the hospital on bed rest until I had my baby.

The doctor and I had very different ideas about the length of my stay. I immediately assumed that I would remain on bed rest for 16 weeks (so that I would be full term). My doctor was hoping and praying that I could remain pregnant another 4 weeks. I was informed that my child had only a 50 hance of survival, and if he did live, he would probably have bleeding on the brain among other problems. Also, a babys lungs have just started to develop at 24 weeks, so I was given steroid shots in hopes that if I went into labor, my baby would live.

This began one of the longest and most difficult ordeals of my life. I later learned that I had a placental abruption. For no known reason, part of my placenta had pulled away from my uterus and caused the bleeding. This was extremely dangerous because if it happened again, I would require an immediate emergency C-section, otherwise my baby would die due to lack of oxygen. Thus, the rules of survival were simple: I would remain in bed for the remainder of my pregnancy in the hospital. So we began the process of counting days. In the early weeks of my pregnancy, every day that I managed not to go into labor was 3 less days that my child would spend in the NICU if he survived. I also learned that if I had him at 24 weeks, and if he survived, he would probably be in the NICU for at least 3 months (my entire maternity leave). However, if I could make it to 28 weeks, the chances of survival were much better. I toured the NICU, and I saw a baby that was 25 weeks old. I was devastated.

I will not bore everyone with the details, but let me tell you that this was incredibly difficult for me. I am very active and energetic. I always feel like I have to be doing something. I am a control freak, and I want to have organization. However, my doctors had told me that I could not leave my bed for anything. I felt like a prisoner. If I remained on good behavior, and we made it to the point that things were safer, I was allowed certain privileges. After the first few days, I was allowed to get up to go to the bathroom. I was also allowed to have one shower a day, and I could stand up for that. Otherwise, I never left my bed or my room. I had no privacy because doctors and nurses were constantly coming to monitor me. I had 23 ultrasounds, and sometimes I was hooked up to the fetal heart monitors 24 hours a day. One night I became so stir crazy that the doctor allowed Mike to push me outside in a bed. We got some funny looks as Mike wheeled my bed out of the hospital and into a parking space in the parking lot.

I could go on forever with the stories of how I learned to pass my days. However, I would prefer to focus on the lessons I learned. After 12 full weeks in the hospital on bed rest, my son, Jacob, was born. At 35 weeks the doctor performed an amniocentesis which revealed that the babys lungs were developed. We decided to induce labor because there was a risk after the lungs were developed that the placenta would tear and he would die. I learned so much about life during that time. Here are a few of the lessons I learned:

1) There are many things in life that I am absolutely powerless to control or change. When I am faced with such circumstances, my only option is to respond in the most positive way that I can and to learn from the situation. I quickly learned that I could change nothing about the fact that I was in the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy. Of course I was sad that I did not get to decorate my nursery, pick out the crib, etc. I also obsessed about the health of my baby constantly, and I worried every time he moved and the monitors could not find his tiny heartbeat. However, I quickly learned that I could not change these things. I could not change what had happened to me. I could not control whether my child lived or died. The only thing I could control was remaining in bed. So I stayed in bed for 12 weeks.

2) Sometimes we have to let others help us. I have always been independent. In the hospital, I had to buzz a nurse to bring me water. I had to send my laundry home with family to be washed. I had to ask my mother in law and my mom to buy new underwear and pajamas as I outgrew my cloths. I had to rely on someone else for everything. If I could not reach something from my bed, I had to rely on someone else to do it for me. There are times in our lives when survival requires that we allow others to help us.

3) I learned that the simple pleasures in life can bring so much joy. One of the only times that I could be alone was when I was in the shower. That was also the one time each day that I was eventually allowed to stand up. I quickly began to love this time. I would live completely in the moment. I loved to feel the water on my back- to smell the fresh scent of a new shower gel. These simple pleasures were the only things that brought me happiness on some days. I also learned that I missed the simplest pleasures. Sometimes friends were kind and brought me food. However, I wanted so badly to just walk into a restaurant, look at a menu and order for myself. I wanted to sit in the warmth of the sun. I wanted to play in my backyard with my dogs. I missed the simplest things.

4) I learned about the power of hope. While in the hospital, I often reflected on the situation my Granny Bertha was in. At that time, she had been in a bed paralyzed due to a stroke for 6 years. My heart ached for her. I realized that the difference in her situation and mine was that I had hope. I had the hope of having a healthy baby that I could hold in my arms. I had the assurance that I would be able to walk again (after all, I was lying in bed by choice). I learned that hope can allow you to endure some incredibly difficult circumstances.

5) I learned that true love is about the smallest gestures. While I was in the hospital, Mike tried to visit me everyday. He also went above and beyond the call of duty. For example, Mike brought our dogs to visit me while I was in the hospital. He also knew that I was so sad about not being able to decorate the nursery and prepare for the baby. So Mike took matters into his own hands and videoed our house. He videoed the nursery so that I could see what it looked like and so that I could feel like I had a role to play in preparing for our baby.

6) I learned that life is short, life is precious, life is something to be treasured. I know that it sounds cliché, but I truly believe this. I came so close to losing the human life that lived inside of me. I was desperate to do anything to keep my child alive. When he was born healthy, it changed my perspective on everything. I left the hospital completely changed. I was determined to try to find joy in the small things in life (sometimes in the shower, I still remember those days in the hospital when a shower was all that I had to look forward to). I have also been determined to treasure every moment. I learned that life is delicate, and life is to be treasured. I evaluated my life and found that I was not satisfied in my job so I quit. I quit with no other job, and this was totally out of character for me. However, I knew from my experience that life was too precious to waste on things that did not make me happy, improve me as a person, or fulfill me in some way. I still try to live each day with this in mind. Of course I still get depressed, everyone does. But each time I see a baby, or look at my babies, I think about the miracle that happened in my life. I do not want to waste a minute of my life or my childrens lives on matters that do not deserve my time and energy.

7) I learned that the worst circumstances often force us to grow in wisdom and mature. When Jacob was born healthy, I was terrified to take him home. After months of being monitored every day, and seeing a doctor every day, I had become accustomed to having constant reassurance that he was alive and healthy. When I came home, I was terrified that something would happen to him. I also had a long road ahead with regard to my own physical and emotional recovery after being in bed so long. However, now, when I look back, I realize that what was probably the worst and scariest event of my life had a profound impact on every decision that I have made since that day. When I look at my son, I know that he is a walking, talking miracle. I know that he is precious, and he could just as easily never have been in my life. He teaches me something every day, and he reminds me that life is to be enjoyed. Of course there will be sadness and pain, but he reminds me to laugh. He reminds me to enjoy the moment. He reminds me that worry often accomplishes nothing and wastes my time. He reminds me that I am a strong person, and that I can be selfless. He reminds me that even if I make mistakes in my life, I have done one thing right. I am proud of my son, and I am proud of the sacrifices I made to have him.

Do I spoil my kids? Yes. Do I take too many pictures of them (10,000 plus and counting)? Yes. Do I regret a minute of the time that I spent in bed waiting for the incredible gift of my son? No. I would do it again? In a minute.

Tragedy and sadness

Today has been one of those days. I have been having MORE problems with my eyes the never ending saga continues. Basically, I will keep this short and say that I have to wear glasses and really limit my contact lens use. I wont bore everyone with the details, but at this point I am praying that I can get my eyes to a point that they are healthy again.

Each day I read articles and updates on the law. Today I read an article that literally made me sick. I had to stand up, close the door to my office, and cry. I read about a woman in NC who worked double shifts at a nursing home. She was going to trial for the murder of her son. Basically, she had no one to care for her 8 year old son. So she would leave him in her car (the prosecution argued that she sometimes left him in the trunk, but she denied that). She admitted that she would leave him in the car for her 16 hour shift, and she told him never to leave the car. She gave him diapers to go to the bathroom. He died on a hot summer day. I know the news is filled with tragedy, but I cannot get this child out of my head. I am just sick with grief. I am sick for the mother that felt she had no other support, no options, and no other way to support her family. I am sick for an 8 year old boy that obeyed his mother even though it cost him his life. I am sick to think of the horrendous lives that some children have to live. I hate stories like this because I always think, What can I do to prevent this from happening to any other child? How can I learn from this? What power do I have to help change someone elses life for the better? I have no answers.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Da Vinci Code, Immigration, and More

Life has been busy so I have not blogged in a while.

In the last few weeks we have taken the kids to the zoo, attended our twin nephew's birthday party in Raleigh, had mother's day celebrations, etc.!

Jacob has mastered potty training, but this week he made a large mess. He went to the bathroom and came out with wet pants and dry underwear. Mike was trying to figure out how that happened when he noticed that Maria had crawled in the bathroom. She was sitting in the middle of a flooded bathroom and the toilet was overflowing. Jacob finally explained that he had used too much toilet paper.

Maria has always been so relaxed, but she also surprises me. She is 11 months old and is walking and climbing. At church Sunday I turned my back for a minute and when I turned around she had climbed on top of a table.

I am going to see the Da Vinci Code. I hope the movie is good. I found the book entertaining, and it sparked a lot of debate and thought in our book club discussion.

I think I am most bothered by the fact that people are afraid of or are condemned for reading or discussing certain issues. For example, I am so tired of hearing people condemned for reading the Da Vinci Code. It is a fiction book! When our book club read it, the book forced people to investigate issues and really think about what they believe. If anything, it strengthened my faith and my beliefs because I actually did research to understand the history. One thing that bothers me is that many people that will attend the Bible studies condemning the book will probably never read the book. How can you criticize a book that you have never read? The entire point of reading and intellectual growth and debate is to be exposed to things that will broaden your horizons, that will challenge you, that will expose you to new thoughts and ideas. Simply because I read a book that expresses viewpoints that are contrary to my own does not mean that I will immediately renounce every belief that I had and accept the new theory. Instead, what often happens is that I am forced to see an issue from a different perspective. Then, after much thought and analysis, and after considering various sides of an issue, I am able to make a decision about my beliefs based on all the information that is out there. Do we want people to be mindless drones that simply swallow the facts that we feed them or do we want people that can think and analyze things for themselves? Do you really have faith if you believe something simply because it is the only thing you have ever known? What happens to those people when their faith is challenged or they are introduced to a new idea? I think true faith is choosing to believe something after analyzing the other options. Then you have actually made a choice. (On a side note, some of these issues are brought to light in an excellent nonfiction book, Under the Banner of Heaven. The book forces the reader to consider faith and the importance of making choices as opposed to simply believing what you are told to believe).

This brings me to the immigration debate. I think that it is so sad that the majority of American's could care less what happens with immigration. Some would even argue that they feel powerless to change anything. This is the argument I often hear when people do not vote - they feel that their vote does not matter. The really sad thing is that most Americans know everything there is to know about American Idol, Survivor, etc. Most Americans will also take the time to debate who is the best singer on American Idol, and many of them will even vote (even though their vote may not really matter). What does it say about us that we are so concerned about a bunch of amateur singers, yet we could care less about having input in our political process and in political decision making that impacts us every day?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Our Vacation (Her Story)

Mike and I decided to do his side and her side versions of our vacations. His blog has a lot of detail and was written first, so I will try not to repeat things. If you read my blog first, be sure to read Mikes to hear his side of the story.

Day 1: Trip to Williamsburg
I had been stressed trying to get out of the office. I left work early, rushed home, changed cloths, and we piled in the car. We dropped the kids off and hit the road. We had some great conversation on the drive up and listened to a sermon by Donald Miller on the drive up. When we arrived at the Governors Inn, I was happy to see that the place was clean. Mike is correct when he says that we do not have high standards for our lodging. If it is clean and has a warm shower, that is generally enough for us because when we travel we try to see and do as much as we can and spend little time at the hotel. We were both really tired and went to bed after arriving. However, at about 2 am, I felt the bed shaking and heard a loud roar. I asked Mike what was going on and he said it was a train. The train was so close that you could look out our window and see it. This worried me about our hotel because one of the things I looked forward to most was being able to sleep (when you have 2 small kids, sleep is something you dream about).

Day 2: Busch Gardens
This park was beautiful. However, I had so much anxiety. I am a worrier, and I am also a lawyer (which means I have read too many products liability cases and tort cases so I know all of the bad things that can happen). I had a difficult time getting excited about the theme park because I kept imagining the many ways that I could die or be seriously injured on a roller coaster. We went to the first ride, the Lochness Monster. When we got on, I compulsively checked and rechecked the shoulder harness to make sure it was locked and secure. Of course, this only helped to ease a few fears because I knew that the roller coaster could be derailed from the track or a computer malfunction might occur that would cause the shoulder harness to release me. After the ride was over, and I knew that I had survived, I thought it was fun, so I allowed Mike to convince me to ride it a second time. We hopped back on, and were about 2/3 through the ride. We were going up a large hill when the roller coaster STOPPED. We just sat there frozen. I looked to my right, and I could see the tops of trees. I am not fond of heights, so I was not thrilled that this had happened. People kept coming onto a load speaker saying that they were having technical difficulties and that the ride would begin soon. They also told us to remain seated (it was impossible to do anything else because they had not released our harnesses). Anyway, I asked Mike why he thought this was happening. Mike said, This sort of thing happens all the time. I am sure that they are probably just backed up loading passengers, so they probably stopped us on this hill so that we would not be waiting at the loading station. I told him that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard because they always just stop the roller coaster just before the station. I was praying that they would come and get us off. I didnt know if they would use fire trucks or what, but I wanted off of that ride because I knew that there were still 2 loops left and the LAST thing I wanted was to continue a ride that was having technical difficulties.

After about 20 minutes, a woman came from the woods and said not to panic because they were going to get us out. She asked us to yell to the people in the front and Mike yelled, We are all going to die. I could have hit him, but I was frozen with fear. There were some very narrow steps by the hill where we were stopped. We were sitting at an odd angle. Workers had to come up the steps and get us out one at a time. When I finally got off the ride, they gave us a pass to go to the front on the next ride. I was really upset because I felt they were just giving us a pass to a faster death. The LAST thing I wanted to do was get on another ride.

However, because I love my husband, I decided to swallow my fears and ride the other roller coasters. I rode everything that he wanted to that day.

I wont detail everything else we did, but I will say that the Irish Dance Show was fabulous, and the food that we ate for lunch was great. The worst thing we did was go to this play called OSullivans castle. Mike wanted to go, and it was terrible.

Day 3: Colonial Williamsburg

I really enjoyed Saturday. We were able to just relax and enjoy the day. There were 2 highlights for me. First, I felt like I was in a MasterCard commercial:

Tickets to Williamsburg - $40, Lunch - $20, Seeing my husband in the middle of a tiny bed between two strange men PRICELESS.

We did a tour of the tavern. On the tour, one of the men asked crazy questions. He asked about having the bed to himself, and the lady giving the tour decided to demonstrate how people would have slept in the tavern. She put the crazy man on one side of the bed, put Mike in the middle, and put another obnoxious man on the other side of the bed. I took as many pictures as I could.

The print shop was also open. I LOVE that place. I especially love hearing the stories about how we developed our modern day phrases from the way things were done then. For example, upper case letters and lower case letters are called that because the upper case letters were literally kept in an upper case.
We also had a dessert called Death By Chocolate. It was outstanding!

Day 4: Yorktown, Jamestown, Home

I loved Jamestown and Yorktown. My only regret was that we did not have more time. Of course I tried to read EVERYTHING in the museums, and finally Mike had to tell me that I had to pick up the pace. I felt like I learned so much. It was also a beautiful day. One of the really cool things we watched was a woman making a canoe out of a tree. She was burning the tree out to make the canoe.
The ride home was fine, but I really enjoyed getting back and seeing the kids. Jacob and Maria were so happy to see us! Maria had started WALKING just before we left, so it was so much fun to watch her walk around.

All in all, this was a great vacation / anniversary trip.