Thursday, March 31, 2011

Preparing for My First Ultrasound

Today I had my first wellness exam since we adopted. Two years ago, Justin and I were pursuing fertility treatments while we were waiting to adopt. And once Joci came along, we didn't bother with any more treatments.

I was really nervous about going back to the same doctor who was directing our treatments. He was so focused on getting me pregnant that I wondered if he'd understand that we adopted instead.

As the doctor reviewed my chart, refreshing his memory of who I was, I told him about our adoption. After he was all caught up, the first thing he did was start talking about IVF for me.

This was what I was afraid of.

I wasn't there to talk about infertility. I was there to fulfill an insurance requirement so my rates won't go up.

I told him I wasn't ready to talk about IVF. He said that was absolutely fine and I was the captain of my ship. Then he reminded me of my age and that while it's okay not too talk about it right now, I won't have much longer to consider it.

Nothing makes you feel older than a fertility doctor. Seriously. When I started going to him at 26, he already told me we had no time to waste - I would be 30 before long and the whole game changes at 30. Ugh. I am ancient.

An interesting development is that I am going to get my first ultrasound ever to take a peek at my uterine fibroid tumors, because we suspect they could be growing. This will happen Saturday.  I am definitely curious to see the results, but at the same time, it's sad.

Ultrasounds are supposed to be about heartbeats and little alien fish fetuses flipping around on the screen, their entire spinal column perfectly formed. Ultrasounds are supposed to make you cry and leave you in wonder at the miracle of life. My ultrasound will be a little different. We will count tumors and measure them. We will wonder at the malfunctions of the human body. And I may cry a few tears, but a different kind.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Am an American from America

I have heard in the past that calling our country America or calling yourself an American is offensive to other people who live on North or South America because they can technically be considered Americans too. Okay, whatever. So I've always tried to say United States and USA and stuff like that.

 Then I realized that was dumb.
  • We call it Brazil. Real name: Federative Republic of Brazil
  • We call it the UK, Britain, England, etc. Real name: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland                  
  • We call it Bulgaria. Real name: Republic of Bulgaria
  • We call it Iran. Real name: Islamic Republic of Iran
  • We call it Mexico. Real name: United Mexican States
  • We call it Spain. Real name: Kingdom of Spain
  • We call it Greece. Real name: Hellenic Republic
  • We call it Laos. Real name: Lao People's Democratic Republic
Get my drift? Our country's official name is the United States of America. But I think precedent and popular opinion show that it is not only acceptable but also expected to drop all the formalities and just say America/American.

 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trapper Keepers are Still Awesome - No Matter What

Whining is unattractive.

My natural vain self tries to avoid unattractive things (except, apparently, dressing like a sitcom dad) so I do try to be a positive ray of sunshine all the time and avoid whining.

But we all have those days. Like yesterday’s Trapper Keeper experience.

I can’t say I am feeling totally different than yesterday, but I feel the need to rebalance my universe with a little self-love to make up for the self-loathing.

I think comparing ourselves to others is emotional poison. No good ever comes of it. Yet, I do it. We all do it. Looking to others for inspiration and motivation is okay…but there’s a very fine line when that turns into comparing and self-loathing.

So I don’t have awesome fashion sense. I don’t have an awesome wardrobe. I don’t have an awesomely branded blog.

I am still awesome.

There will always be things about me that I don’t like.

But there will always be things about me that I love. I have to remind myself of these things sometimes. Here are a few.

  • I am quirky.
  • I do a lot of stuff that keeps our lives running smoothly.
  • I love to learn and I know a lot of stuff. I get teased about starting every other sentence with “I read this study the other day and…”
  • I am honest and open.
  • My hair is fairly good to me. I have bad hair days, but in general, if I put in the styling effort, it will do what I want it to do.
  • I can pull off Halloween socks in March.
  • I am good at communicating.
  • I am good at putting on makeup and creating different, flattering looks. 
  • I love beauty—anything beautiful I love and appreciate.
  • I am slow to anger and give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • I forgive easily. I have even learned to forgive myself.
  • I tell good stories. You wouldn’t know it from my lame Trapper Keeper blog, but I do tell good stories.
  • I am comfortable with who I am. I can be alone with myself for hours and days and be content and happy.
  • People who have known me for years are often surprised by something I say or do. I am unexpected. I even surprise myself. I love that. I love that I haven’t figured myself out yet. It sometimes drives me slightly batty, but really, it is probably the most exciting and enjoyable thing about me.
  • I look good in any hair color. Here's proof - my new look.


It's hard to celebrate ourselves, but it is necessary. We need to be better about it. If you agree, take my challenge: do a similar post listing the things you like about yourself. Leave me a comment to let me know you have.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Life as a Trapper Keeper


Do you ever have those days when you just feel so…

I don’t know – like a Trapper Keeper?

You remember Trapper Keepers, right? Once upon a time they were cool. They hold all kinds of stuff—but usually boring stuff—and after a little bit of use they start to tear at the binding and the picture gets scuffed—and not a cool picture but something more generic because you were lucky that your mom would even spring for a Trapper Keeper in the first place—and even though it’s scuffed and the plastic is jagged it’s still functional so you can’t justify getting rid of it and you try to convince everyone that it’s ironically cool in a hipster sort of way even though you resent hipsters and openly rebel against their egoistical uniqueness.




I am feeling a bit like a Trapper Keeper today. 

I read other blogs and think, “My blog is so boring. I could do more, right? I am supposed to be creative. I am a freakin’ professional creative writer. I can do better than this, right?” And then I think, “Maybe I can’t do better than this. Man, I am lame. Lame like an old Trapper Keeper.”

I look at other women and think, “I have no sense of fashion. I am lucky if my clothes fit. I am excited that I have finally found a pair of jeans that I love. First time in my life that has ever happened. They are from GAP. And I paid full price. How do people find amazing outfits at TJ Maxx for $17 when it took me years to find an acceptable pair of jeans for $60?”

Am I the only twenty-something woman in America who owns only one pair of jeans?

Am I the only twenty-something woman in America who has exactly three pairs of pants that fit properly and that I actually like to wear (said jeans are part of this number)?

Am I the only twenty-something (almost thirty-something!) who still feels like a lost teenager trying to find her voice, personality, and style?

I often catch myself thinking that this self-dislike (not quite self-loathing, but on that spectrum) would just end if I were taller/thinner/richer/smarter/funnier?





P.S. I have a follow up to this post for tomorrow. It will be more positive. I hope.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Our Financial Progress...Thus Far

I have this mission to be more honest and transparent about our finances. I feel that mystery in money is a poison to financial security and a big contributor to the economic struggles many families are experiencing now.

When we looked at our budget, we realized a few things.
  • We had less debt than the average American family.
  • We made a little more than the average American family, too.
  • We didn't have enough savings to cover a minor emergency, let alone a major emergency.
  • We were reliant on two incomes.
  • I was uncomfortable with the amount of debt we had.
  • We needed to stop gauging our situation by the national average, because I think the average American household is financially poisoned and I don't want to think that "average" means "acceptable."
Last October, we officially started our Total Money Makeover using Dave Ramsey's advice. We accomplished Step 1, saving $1000 in 30 days or less. Progress in December was a little slow because of Christmas, but we actually did make progress while enjoying a very nice Christmas - and we didn't charge a single penny on credit. That says a lot. I usually get pretty indulgent with Christmas gifts and justify it. At the beginning of February, we paid off the credit card with the lowest balance. By the end of the month, we will pay off the next loan on the chopping block. We are on track to have all commercial debt (everything but two student loans and the mortgage) paid off by the end of this year.

I was just looking at our budget from the end of 2009. That was a crazy year for us - Justin was out of work for about six months, we adopted Jocelyn, and I took a three month maternity leave. We accrued a lot of debt - close to a my year's salary in debt. At the end of 2009 - just a little over a year ago - 50% of our monthly income went to creditors. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we pay 10% of our income to in tithes every month. So that left us with 40% of our income to pay static monthly bills like utilities and insurance, and things like gas and food and fun. Of that 50%, only about 15% of that amount actually went to principal. The rest was making other people rich. It made me cry.

Since the end of 2009
  • We have paid off $14,000 of debt
  • We have paid off and closed four credit cards/department store cards
  • Even though we now pay daycare and more gas because Justin commutes every day, we have more discretionary money
  • Besides eating out less and having a few more generic items around the house, our lifestyles haven't really changed
I am so proud of our progress. I thought it was inevitable to always be barely getting  by. Our discipline is already paying off and we have just barely gotten serious about it! 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Passing on Wisdom

An important part about being a parent is imparting wisdom to your children.

Like how to perfectly dunk an Oreo.







Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mystery

My friend Meagan from Life Simplified is doing a giveaway to celebrate her 2 year blogoversary. She doesn't know what she's giving away yet, but she makes the awesomest stuff (remember her darling onesie tutorial?) so it will totally be worth entering.

Check it out!

Re-evaluating My Self-Value

One of the most magical thing about being a parent is experiencing the world through a new set of eyes. You get to experience the wonders of childhood again.

New discoveries I have made...

Being around people you love is all that matters.

Joci, Justin, cousins Paige, and Afton


Bad hair days, unfashionable clothes, stuff on your face have no affect on self-esteem.

uh-oh spaghettio!


Everything is better when you share it.



Materialistic stuff doesn't matter. A box, a used toy from a garage sale, or even a drawer full of towels can be way more fun than the fanciest, "hottest" toys.

Christmas morning


When you're helping you're happy.



Creating things has more satisfaction than almost anything.



Being outside refreshes the soul.




There is no such thing as too many hugs.



In all seriousness though, I am humbled daily to see how happy and confident Jocelyn is no matter what - when I don't do her hair, when she has stains all over her clothes, when her clothes don't match, when she has a blemish on her face...all things that would put a serious cramp in my self confidence. These daily lessens remind me that my true value does not lie in my beauty, in my wardrobe, in my bank account, or in my triumphs at work. My value comes from being a daughter of God and by helping and loving others.

Thank you, Jocelyn, for reminding me.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thoughts for Tokyo

Like most people, I heard the news about the massive earthquake in Tokyo this morning. What concerned me first was the tsunamis heading around the Pacific. My sister and her husband have been vacationing in Hawaii. They flew home late last night and witnessed some of the high tides. And they were in California today with hopes of getting out of San Francisco Bay before the water hit the west coast. Once I learned my family was okay, I read more about Tokyo. I read about the body count. I saw the images of broken land and broken cities. Buildings ablaze. People missing. Billions of dollars of destruction. A nuclear facility overheating. I scanned through the images. I had seen them all before, really. Nothing was new. India. Indonesia. New Orleans. Haiti. Chile. New Zealand. It's getting to be quite common.

As I was walking down the hall to a morning meeting, I was realizing how many times I have seen pictures of devastation and lifeless bodies buried in the rubble. I have seen so many images like that. So many that I am desensitized entirely. And I started crying. Right there in the hallway at work surrounded by hundreds of other employees. I stopped and sent up a tearful prayer to heaven on behalf of all of Japan and the entire world because we are all affected by this immense tragedy. And my heart breaks for every citizen of this planet.


"Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together."  - Eugene Ionesco

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Perfume Bottle Time Machine

One whiff and I was thirteen again...



The other day I was killing time at a drug store. At the perfume counter I saw a bottle of Exclamation - my first perfume. I picked up the bottle, slowly tracing the cool glass, then removed the lid and inhaled.

And there I was in my cheerleading uniform, waiting after practice for the guy I was "going out with" to appear so we could have ten minutes of chaste hand holding and swooning before my mom picked me up.


i'm on the far right

The soundtrack of my early teen years played in my memory like a mixed tape:

"Back for Good" by Take That
"Roll to Me" by Del Amitri
"Ironic" by Alanis Morissette
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Deep Blue Something
"Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio

That first peck in the choir room that barely qualified as a kiss. Attending the first boy/girl party (well, the first one since I was probably seven). Chillin' with my friends in the journalism room.

They say scent is the biggest memory trigger. I have to agree. There's something about Exclamation that is pure teen angst in a bottle. Could an adult even get away with wearing it? It was perfect for a thirteen year old, though.

What was your first perfume?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What's This Brown Mess?

Brown something smeared on the toilet seat.



Uh oh.

Brown something on the bath mat.



Oh dear.

Brown something dribbling down my baby's chin.



What has she eaten???


Just her Valentine's candy! I don't know why she ate it in the bathroom, but I am glad it's chocolate smeared on the toilet. :)



And here's a bonus picture. Joci in timeout because it is just so cute. I swear she likes going to time out. She is so good about going to the corner and staying there.



Friday, March 4, 2011

Weekend in Yellowstone, Part 2

This post is a little overdue.

Remember when Justin and I spent a weekend in Yellowstone and had our first night without Jocelyn and I dropped the digital camera and broke it? Remember how we bought a disposable film camera and I promised to finish blogging about our trip when I got the film developed?

The time has come. Back to our story...

After Justin and Lara enjoyed a relaxing detour in the sun drenched meadows near Wraith Falls, Lara lost a battle with a piece of Velcro and dropped their digital camera on the rocky path.

With their stomachs sinking at the loss of their beloved camera, they trudged back to the car. Lara tried digital CPR, but nothing revived it. Undeterred, they continued on to the town of Mammoth where they would spend the night.

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel


Frantically, Lara dashed into every gift shop the eye could see looking for a disposable digital camera. She had seen them before at countless superstores. Alas, the appeal of West Yellowstone is that it represents a simpler time. And thus it was - there were not disposable digital cameras for sale. Only film cameras. They would have to get used to not having a zoom lens, having a limit of 24 photographs, and not having the instant gratification of playing back pictures.

After selecting one with a flash, Justin and Lara travelled to the mysterious Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces.

Lara posing in front of Liberty Cap - once a geyser





Such alien beauty. Such crystalline treasures. It felt like being in Kal-El's temple of solitude. The disposable camera even obtained a decent shot or two. Miles of hiking on wooden stairways and boardwalks perched inches above steaming water brought them to magical formations with names like Cleopatra's Terrace, Minerva Terrace, and the grate Jupiter Terrace.



Lara overlooking Jupiter Terrace

A breathtaking view of Jupiter Terrace


With rubbery legs, Justin and Lara made their way back down the terraces and nourished themselves at a fabulous restaurant. As the shadows grew longer and twilight made its way into the park, Lara lamented that they had not seen any elk. This was one of the reasons why they had come. It was the season of the rut. Mating season. Bull elk would bugle for the cows and often fight each other for glory. Perhaps it was the unseasonably warm autumn, but the park that was usually teeming with elk this time of year was inexplicably void of wildlife.

Lara saw a similar sight when she was last in Mammoth in early October - elk literally everywhere. No such luck this time.


Lara thought of the Madison Valley - a swampland near the west entrance. The Madison herd of elk frequented these open lands often and Lara thought they would definitely see elk there. They paid their tab and dashed into the car, trying to beat the dying light of the day. Before long, Lara realized they were on a fool's errand. It was too dark to see anything. They turned back.

They enjoyed a quiet evening of reading in their quaint hotel room. No televisions. No internet WiFi. No telephones. Just each other taking turns reading Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. This hotel was built in 1891 with renovations taking place every twenty years or so. Some relics of the past included button light switches that took a little while to figure out (and soaps too cute to use), windows with sashes that actually opened to the crisp fall air, and an old fashioned claw-foot tub.



 
 Lara awoke early the next morning, prepared to elk invading the quaint town of Mammoth. No. Not a single one. They ate a lovely breakfast and continued their adventures. They stopped at Roaring Mountain where they could hear the mountain growl as if a ferocious dragon lived within.

Roaring Mountain


With great joy, they met up with Grandma and Grandpa at Old Faithful Geyser and were reunited with their princess. She was very well-behaved for her grandparents. It was hard to tell who had more fun.

Old Faithful Geyser just getting started

Their last stop brought them to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with sweeping vistas of the glorious waterfalls and forests.




The little family lingered long enough in the park so that they exited at Madison Valley right at dusk. Their patience payed off. On the road, Lara had to slow down to let a cow pass by.


Not far from this cow was a pull out crowded with cars. Lara pulled over knowing that that many cars could mean only one thing - elk. Just off the shoulder of the road, a large bull held his majestic head high and bugled. A returned cry came from behind and the cow they had just passed on the road stampeded through the congestion of cars and startled onlookers. Justin and Lara watched for thirty minutes as the bull gathered his harem of about five cows and herded them across the river and into the deepening night. What an experience.


Pictures at night with a disposable camera aren't great. But can you make out the horizontal reflective strip of the river on the right, halfway down the picture? Can you see the two figures standing near the water's edge - one wearing dark colors and one wearing light colors? Then there is a mass of blackness and another figure wearing white toward the left. In that mass of blackness were about six elk. The bull kept coming closer and closer to the people, even trapping a family in the dead branches of a fallen tree.

As they say, this is God's country.

Justin and Lara had such a magnificent time, they vowed to make it an annual tradition.

The end.

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