Category Archives: Imperfect Fridays

Wonderful and Thankful

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An old friend texted me today. She wanted to order a print and then we went back and forth catching up. “Everything seems really wonderful on your end,” she told me.

I paused as those words hit me hard. “It’s…” My life’s a mess, I thought. But, wonderful? How is it not wonderful?  “It’s wonderful and chaotic” is what I settled on for my reply.

Sometimes, it takes someone on the outside to snap you back into reality. To show you how things really are.

My life feels full of messy and uncertain things. Big things– parenting little kids, a busy workload, fundraising for hosting, planning our summer. And little things– my dirty kitchen floor, how I can’t get my 3 year old to stop picking his nose, an argument I got into earlier this week. All of this seems to wear me down until I feel exhausted and stressed.

But, that one sentence reminded, it’s all good stuff. There’s a bigger positive behind each negative. I can’t deny– everything IS really wonderful and I’d be an ungrateful fool to say otherwise.

Healthy kids, a helpful husband, a good job, supportive extended family, all of our needs met and most of our wants met, too. What can I complain about?

Nothing.

Instead, I need to do a better job of cultivating gratitude in myself and also modeling that for my kids.

So, today, I am very thankful for everyone supporting us through our hosting fundraiser. We’re almost halfway to the $1,400 goal we need to make by May 1! I’m also thankful that it’s Friday. 🙂

What are you thankful for today?

Excess

[Imperfect Fridays are the day I take out of the week to peel back the polished layer of the blogosphere and get real with you.]

I’d like to not be vulnerable right now. I’d like to not share what I’m about to share. But, that’s exactly why I need to share it.

I’ve struggled with my weight for a long time. I was never a rail-thin kid– I always had that tummy. The one that’s adorable on kids who aren’t me, but of course, I hated on myself. When I quit swimming after 6th grade, I gained weight even more easily, all the while hitting that age where self-esteem really tanks.
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And, so began my love/hate/addiction relationship with food. And, my hate relationship with my body.

Sometimes, I look back at pictures of 15 year old me, or 17 year old me, or 21 year old me, and I just want to reach through the screen and say “Girl, you are alright. Don’t worry about your weight… yet.”
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But, I could never have convinced myself of that at any of those ages, because I just didn’t believe it about myself. I’m slowly learning is that there’s no point in trying to fix the weight issue(belief or legitimate), until I fix that heart issue.

I will never stop struggling with my weight until I stop struggling with food. Until, I come to terms with my body and come to terms with food.

Maybe that makes no sense. But, here’s the story. Between the two adoptions, I got into weight loss and exercise and eating right. I was probably at my strongest and healthiest (although not thinnest) ever. IMG_2130

Now, almost 3 years later, I’m at my heaviest. I gained it all back, and then some. Yes, that’s what you always hear about fad diets, but that wasn’t me. I was eating well– not diet food, but real food. I was going to the gym– and running and working out at home. I knew and still know what foods are healthy and what foods aren’t. I know my ideal caloric intake in a day, approximately how many calories are in most foods, the calorie deficient needed to drop a pound, and so on. I love knowledge.

So, where’s the problem?

The problem is, I’m also a food junkie. I dealt with my weight issues, not with my heart. Not my motivation to eat or my honest opinions on the person in the mirror.  Are you following?

I had the discipline to cut my calories and work out regularly, but I still didn’t like myself anymore. I still didn’t find a different way to handle my problems than “eating my feelings”. And, so when things got hard, when I felt more stressed than ever(hello, second adoption), I had nothing to fall back on. No better crisis management than my deal old friend carbs. There was no better reward or comfort than the one I found in food.

It’s a miserable cycle– have you noticed? Stress = excess eating = excess weight. Excess weight = more stress = excess eating.

Why am I sharing this? Have I figured it out?

Nope, sorry, guys, this is Imperfect Friday. This is where I air my dirty laundry and try to be a bit more real with you all. I don’t have to figure it out to share, do I?

Tonight, we spent time with some new friends and this sweet mom, a photographer, said, “do you want me to take a picture of you with Lena?” First, my brain said “NO WAY!”, but then it said “Embrace the camera. Save this moment for Lena. She doesn’t think you’re fat. She thinks you’re beautiful.” “Yes,” I told her and passed my camera off.

And, when I flipped back through my photos later in the night, I had the reaction I knew I’d have. It’s the same reaction I had when I saw our beautiful family photos in October. That deep sinking feeling most women, most people, know. “I really look like that?!”
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And now, I shared it with you guys anyways. Part of me believes that the first step to healing is to rip off the band-aid.

Not the step to dropping pounds, but the step to reconciling my body and my heart. My biggest motivation of all is that I don’t want to pass this body hatred along to Lena. Whether she’s always lean or whether she’s 300lbs, I want her to get that she’s okay… and she’s beautiful. At 6 years old, she proclaims she is beautiful. I absolutely believe that to be true. And, she frequently tells me I am. But when will she begin to see through my “thank you!” and notice I don’t quite believe it? When will she start to comprehend society’s millions of messages that thin = beautiful and look to my example for truth? And what kind of example can I be for her, at any size, if I don’t truly believe that all people are beautiful, myself included?

No answers, just more questions.

The Return of Imperfect Fridays

Imperfect Fridays need to make a comeback. They must.

I wrote this poem-ish-thing. I don’t write poems, really, so it’s a bit chaotic… like the story being told in it.  It’s about many of our every day struggles, a schedule of how our days feel sometimes.

Morning

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Messy hair,
Untied shoes,
I don’t remember the last time I showered.

Go fast, I say,
Hurry, I yell,
Now, we’re late.

Afternoon

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Three o’clock, late again,
How was your day?
…please can it be bedtime yet?

Stand still, smile nicely,
Click,
One to blog.

Evening

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Tantrum,
Almost ready,
Time to eat.

May I be excused please?
Wipe hands, wipe face,
Tantrum.

Bedtime

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I am finished, emptied, exhausted,
Please not my turn,
My turn.

Diaper change,
Brush teeth,
Goodnight.

Real Things

A friend asked how my Christmas was today, and I told her– it was pretty good. Moments of fun and moments of “WE’RE NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!” She told me that she’d never know it by my blog– that I seem like the “world’s best mom”.

You guys. I don’t want to be THAT person. The one who puts on a show of perfection. Wonder mom who seems to do all things.

I’m not. I have my strengths as a mom, but I also have tons of weaknesses.

1. Something that I left out from Christmas Day?

I showed my kids the following adorable Christmas video.

Afterwards, I asked them who that was all about and Reed said “Moses?”

2. My cabinets are a HUGE disaster.
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If you look closely, you will notice not only the mess, but also evidence of my chocolate covered pretzel addiction. I regularly sneak candy behind my kids’ backs.

3. My floor desperately needs to be vacuumed and mopped. Ugh.
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4. That Advent calendar. Yup, I rocked it.

Here was December 8th’s card.
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We did it. And here are the canned goods on 12/27.
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… by our back door. And I took a can of beans out last week for dinner.

5. I adore my sweet dogs, but they leave a huge mess everywhere around them. Nose prints, much?
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If you are still under some illusion about me being the “world’s best mom”, just ask my kids. Although I actually did, and Lena told me that she just wants me to not correct her ever. And Reed wants me to stop dragging him to the dog park. But, there’s a lot more than I wish I could change about myself and more I’m sure they’d say if they understood what I was getting at. I lose my temper and yell or speak harshly. I regularly (as in, almost always) skip class parties. I’ve never volunteered for anything at school. We almost never have friends over to our house, which I know Reed would certainly like me to change. We are late to school at least once a week, sometimes every day. And I am a couple of minutes late to pick them up almost every day. Doing homework with my kids sends me into fits of frustration. I only share the fun stuff on here (usually), but there are lots of days where my kids watch too much TV while I sneak chocolate and don’t do anything productive. It’s true.

I’d love to do better at those things, and a lot more. But, I’m learning to not feel bad for what I cannot do and learning to not feel guilty about what is in the past. My friend Bethany shared the article, Parent Guilt – A Silent Epidemic, in my first Imperfect Friday post and I really enjoyed that. My friend Jill(who is fabulous and looks gorgeous even right out of bed, so obviously she doesn’t have any self doubt whatsoever) wrote this post, Why I Don’t Suffer Mama Guilt, which is also awesome. I’m sure I’ve read more great articles on perfect and mom guilt recently, but I’m currently suffering from another common parenting epidemic– mom brain.

Whew, anyways, I have some more photos to share with you today– and I promise they are not of my dirty house this time, so I will be back later!

Imperfect Fridays

Imperfect Fridays. It’s a thing.

Okay, okay, it’s not a thing yet. It’s a thing that I’m starting.

Last Friday, I shared about my struggles with depression. It resonated with many of you and I got lots of feedback that even if it didn’t resonate with you, many of you told me it it was a brave thing to do.

Imperfect Fridays is my attempt to do a much milder version of that every week. I spend 6 days sharing carefully composed and edited photos with you, and I want to take at least one day to show you something that hasn’t had all of the gritty edited out. What makes me a tad bit uncomfortable or even embarrassed. Because you’re a real person, too, right? And because life is imperfect.

We women can be really good at showing each other just enough to make each other jealous, and my goal is to do a bit less of that.

Welcome to my messy life.

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I took this photo before I had the idea to share my Imperfect Fridays with you, but it still hints at some imperfection. Food on the table, instead of his plate, which of course, was him, not me. A sliver of laundry baskets in the kitchen. They practically live there. And, Reed and Lena’s art baskets to the right, with their other random papers shoved in front of them. Baskets help conceal some of the mess.

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Lunch with a 2 year old. Food all over the table. And his shirt. I’m okay with that. There’s no place like home, even when your home needs to be cleaned.

What I originally planned to share today, and this is too cute not to share… Aaron taught Gus “Talk to the Hand.” That was the cool thing to say when I was in elementary school. Gus’s attitude lately is a casual “nope”, so “Talk to the Hand” is very true to him.
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I know someone out there won’t believe my sweet, quiet husband taught him this. Here’s proof.
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So, Imperfect Fridays. Anyone else want to help me make it a thing?

The best part may be that you can forget to share, and that’s a perfectly Imperfect Friday.

Reflection

I got a ton of nice email, comments, texts and calls after my post about depression yesterday. Thank you, all, for being so respectful and loving. I’m glad that my story resonated with you.

A big question I was asked today was “how do you feel after writing that?” Fine, seriously fine, not deceptively fine. I’m not struggling with depression right now. That was part of my motivation of writing that right now– it’s a lot easier to put everything into words when I am a bit detached from it. I felt very nervous about hitting “publish”, but I was quickly reminded that all of the love, encouragement, and hearing how people could relate is absolutely worth the potential backlash.

My mom sent me this NPR story from Hyberbole and a Half‘s Allie Brosh today. It’s about her experience with depression and worth a listen.

I think if you know me at all or have read my blog for any length of time, you know how much I love walks by myself. This has always been one of the best ways for me to clear my head and it helps a ton with feelings of depression, as well as everyday stress.

Today, I was able to sneak off with my dogs for a bit. The weather was perfect. It felt like spring. 70 degrees with a warm breeze. I have a feeling I’m going to read back on my blog someday and be annoyed at how often I mention the weather. But, you guys, it was PERFECT.

The clouds and the reflection in this little creek were exquisite.
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Another reflection. I love capturing these reflections with my camera right now. How appropriate, right?
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The woods at dusk. This would certainly freak some people out, but I love it. 200+ pounds of protective dogs doesn’t hurt either.
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I turned my camera to auto for these last two photos. Sorry, sorry.

My furry companions, with glowing eyes.
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These two had near-matching PJs tonight. However, they would not hold still for a photo.
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Shadows

I’ve been trying to write this for years. To share a piece of myself in the hope that it might help others. Here goes.

In grade school, I was always smiling. I was one of the teachers’ favorites– agreeable, sweet, friendly. Happy.
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I’m sure many people I know casually would still describe me that way.

But, the truth is that I’ve always been good at “putting it on”. Smiling can quickly convince people of much– that you are friendly and that you are keeping it together. It’s convenient. Smile and move on with your life.

And, a smile can be deceiving. It can be the bare minimum to get people to leave you alone, to convince them that you do have it all together, that you don’t need their help, thankyouverymuch.

I’ve mastered that use. The quiet deception.  Of course, I’m okay– I’m smiling!

In reality, I’ve lived with depression for most of my life. I first remember having the realization that I was depressed when I was about 12. By the time, I hit high school, I was profoundly depressed. At 16, you can pass off barely crawling out of bed as a grumpy teenager.

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On the outside, I was a success. I had a job, a boyfriend, and many friends. Honor Roll, Odyssey of the Mind, Key Club, choir, student government, newspaper. . .  that well-rounded, well-involved, well-liked student. And, I was living with depression. Intense, very real, very dangerous depression.

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As much as I like to keep it hidden, I’ve lived with depression ever since. There are seasons where it goes away entirely, where I can feel everything fully and happily, but there are many seasons where I live in the shadows of depression. Much of college. The fall after I met Aaron.  After we adopted Reed and Lena, those hard months while we waited to bring Gus home, and again after we adopted Gus.

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I’ve learned that many people do not understand depression. “I was depressed after I failed an exam.” “I was depressed when my boyfriend broke up with me.” It’s possible that a difficult life event can trigger depression, but more often, that feeling is just prolonged, deep sadness. Sadness is an emotion. It’s fleeting. When you are sad, the feeling is real in that moment, but you can still keep perspective on your life. And perhaps most importantly, you have a reason to be sad.

Depression is a disease. It’s a dark filter over your life. It makes the sadness sadder, the happiness less joyful, the anger more intense. It’s an unshakable weight, pulling all of your emotions down a notch, making them murkier. Or, sometimes, it makes everything duller. Where you would feel sad, where you would feel angry, where you would feel happy, all you can feel is apathy. “I don’t care.” “May I please go back to bed now?”

I chose this season to share a piece of my story with depression because this season is when so many people feel that dark cloud creeping in. It’s the season when I always fight the darkness off as long as I can, but it always finds me, at least a little. I know I’m not alone and that’s really want I want you to know, too: you are not alone. While I am not an expert and my experiences are only my own, there are a few things that I want to share, for those walking through this and those supporting them.

  1. Depression will wreck you. One day, you will find yourself different. Angry, ungrateful, apathetic to the world. Not yourself. This is the first thing that I want you to know about depression, whether it is you or your loved one dealing with it. You have NOT changed. You are sick. There is nothing wrong with your attitude that can be fixed with a change of perspective. Depression is burying you. This is not your fault.
  2. There may be no why. Well, there is a biological why, but there may not be a why in your life circumstances.  Rich people get depressed, poor people get depressed. Both Christians and atheists get depressed. Anyone can get depressed, regardless of how perfectly everything in their life is going. Please, please do not ask “why” someone is depressed.
  3. It’s okay to be depressed.  Do everything you can to fight your way out of it. Seek out people who can help you. Call your doctor and a counselor. But, also, know it’s okay to be depressed. Recognize your feelings and let yourself feel them.
  4. A depressed person is not an easy person to be with. No matter how much your friends and family in your life love you, depression is hard to take. Remember how I said it changes you? It’s not pleasant to have a new, miserable version of your loved one. But, they still love you and care about you. They want to see you get better. 
  5. You are important. To quote one of my favorite T.V. shows, Doctor Who, “Nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important”. The line is fiction, but the sentiment is true. Your experiences, especially these hard ones, they make you important. Your tenacity, your survival, the depth of your feeling, that can be a gift to others. You can do great things.  Many amazing people have lived with depression– Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, J.K. Rowling, Mozart, to name a few. It’s a miserable experience, but you are sharing it with some of the most intelligent, compassionate, creative people who have ever lived.
  6. Lastly, remember, this is not the real you; this is the disease. Hang on to the real you as tightly as you can.

While this is my story and I’ve wanted to write it for many years, this was partly inspired by Kevin Breel’s Ted Talk. And, I’ve also been inspired by Glennon Melton’s blog Momastery, her call for truth-telling. Ann Voskamp has also written some great stuff on her experience with depression, my favorite being What Christians Need to Know About Mental Health.

“Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty. So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real.” -Glennon Melton

[Photo Credit: First photo was taken by a family member, likely my mother. Photos 2&3 were taken by my friend Ashleigh Millman. And, the last one was taken by me with the help of self timer.]