Oh This Again

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Last spring was a time of anxious waiting for our family. Nick was in process with the United Methodist Church to receive his first appointment. (You may not be familiar with the UMC appointment system. If that’s the case, read a quick summary here.) We didn’t know if there would be an appointment available, if it would be full time, or where it would be. A lot of unknowns with nothing we could do to get answers except wait.

The call came in May, which is on the later side for receiving an appointment. But it came and it was good. A full time position in a small community near family. It was by far the best situation we could possibly ask for.

We’ve been in Bartonville now for 9 months. Life has settled into routines. Nick is dreaming about expanding the ministry of the church and I am dreaming about a garden in my backyard. While there are things we wish were different, you just take the good with the bad and we mostly have good.

But it’s spring again and we are once again faced with the reality that it’s appointment season. While this is just our first year at Bartonville and they usually wouldn’t move a pastor after a year, we’re not exempt. If the Bishop feels we belong somewhere else, he will move us. We’ll face this uncertainty every spring, for as long as we’re part of the United Methodist Church.

Truthfully, I kind of don’t like it. I like control, I like plans, I like stability and I get none of that. Instead, I trust my fate to a man I’ve never met. I’m afraid we’ll get sent to the most southern tip of Illinois, putting us hours away from family. I’m afraid of starting over every couple of years.

This week a friend of Nick’s announced he had been reappointed. While it’s all of my worst fears, they had only been at their current church for 2 years and have been reappointed 3 hours away, the announcement he posted actually gave me some peace and renewed my faith. He said that what brought him here was taking him there.

My fear is trusting the bishop, but my hope should be in God’s control.

My fear is being away from family, my faith should be that I find family wherever I go.

My fear is in the unknown, my trust should be in our known God.

So we wait. We keep doing what we’re doing, where we’re at, until we’re told to pack it up and head on. Oh Lord, grant me peace.

Can I Get a Do-Over?

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Last week completely spiraled out of control. I can’t even believe that it was only a week; it felt more like a lifetime. By the time Saturday rolled around, I was crying out to God “I hurt.” Two simple words because I couldn’t make sense of everything else going on inside of my head.

It started when Nick’s younger brother asked if we could watch our 2-year-old nephew for a few days. They’re moving back to California and were having a hard time packing with a 2-year-old and newborn. Now let me just say, we gladly agreed to having our nephew over. First of all, it means a lot when someone trusts you with their child. Second of all, I wanted some quality time with my nephew before they moved. And lastly, I’m committed to our family and helping in time of need.

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But a 1- and 2-year-old can be quite exhausting! Especially when one of them is in an unfamiliar place with somewhat unfamiliar people. It took a lot of energy to keep them both happy…and fed.

While our nephew was still with us, we got word that my mom had flown out to Maryland to be with her mom in what we thought might be her final days. Fortunately the doctors are a little more optimistic about her outcome, but it stirred up a lot of emotions for me. The last time someone in my family died, I was in the 4th grade. It’s been almost 20 years since I went through the grief of losing a relative. To be honest, I was terrified that I didn’t know how to grieve. That when my grandma died, I wouldn’t know how to process it. That’s a lot to handle when you’ve already got your hands full with 2 boys!

Our nephew went home, but the next day Milo was diagnosed with an ear infection. That night felt like the longest of my life. I’ve grown accustomed to Milo sleeping through the night; now there was nothing I could do to get him to sleep. At the same time, Nick came down with a cold. For the next few days, Nick and Milo got worse and my patience dwindled.

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I ended up running only 3 times that week. No cross training, strength training, or making any attempts to get extra movement in my day. Everything inside me said to conserve my energy. I was running on empty and couldn’t afford to waste what little I had left.

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By the time this week rolled around, not only was I tired, but I had done a really good job of beating myself up. In an attempt to comfort Milo, I had allowed him to start nursing during the day again. It felt like a slap in the face, a huge step back. My heart rate monitor reminded me everyday that I was not moving enough and I was afraid I was sabotaging my training. And my husband was sick, but I did nothing to help him. It felt like every man for himself, survival of the fittest. But if the tables had been turned and I was the one sick, I would have never let him neglect me.

Fortunately it’s a new week. Nick is on the mend. Milo is on new medicine and is sleeping regularly again. I’m 100% for my runs so far this week. My grandma is still alive and recovering. Having a couple of days to catch my breath, get some sleep, and feel a little more human, I’ve started to reflect on last week and my shortcomings.

If the worst thing I do for my son is breastfeed him, I’m ok with that.

I trust my husband that he wouldn’t let me neglect him in time of need. I also trust that I acted upon every request he did make, so I did my best in the circumstances.

I believe I am better off for having taking a couple of days off of running than if I had tried to push through. Training on empty leaves you at higher risk for injury as well as illness. I may have missed a run or two, but if I had gotten sick it would have been worse.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. When the time comes that I lose a family member, I will experience grief in my own ways. But I don’t need to worry over that right now. Lastly, I am only human and I’m doing the best that I can.

Thank God that week is over.

It Doesn’t Get Easier

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I was around 8 months pregnant when I first started saying, “it will get easier when…” It will get easier when I’m not throwing up all of the time or when I can find a comfortable position to sleep in. I was so over being pregnant and thought things would just be easier when that phase was over.

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Then it was over and I wasn’t throwing up all of the time, but I also wasn’t sleeping. And I was sore from delivery and sore from nursing. It would get easier when…

Milo figured out nursing and started sleeping through the night, which definitely brought relief. But as he got bigger, my arms and back would get so tired from carrying him around all day. It was exhausting lifting him up and down repeatedly, and carrying him around on my hip while I did housework. It would get easier when he could move around a bit on his own.

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Then he started sitting up, rolling over, and eventually crawling. My weary arms would have a break. Except then he also started pulling himself up. I had to move everything from my coffee table, be more careful where I left my drink, and start baby-proofing the house. Gone were the days of being able to put Milo in one place and expect him to stay there. While he was moving around, he still wasn’t very quick. It would get easier when he could walk.

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He did start walking and I almost feel more tired now than I have in a long time. I’m constantly chasing him down. Not only does he walk, he runs to where he wants to go. He’s opening cabinets and pulling open drawers. He doesn’t want to be carried, he wants his independence.

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My latest “it will get easier when…” thought revolves around talking. So often I find myself in situations where I don’t understand what he wants, like what he wants to eat or what he wants to do. I think how much easier it will be when he can just tell me. Except with talking comes talking back and I’m not really ready for that.

When I look back over the last year and a half, I realize that things never got easier. Every time I thought they would, a new series of challenges would be waiting for me. Things don’t actually get easier; they just get different. Every stage with Milo has had its blessings as well as its challenges.

Not only am I tired of expecting the next phase to be better or easier; I’m tired of wishing Milo’s life away. I don’t want him to grow up any faster than he has to. I want to cherish these moments. So while it’s a struggle and I don’t understand why he loves bananas one day and won’t eat them the next, I’m resisting the temptation to add another day, week, or month to his life. We’ll get there eventually, but at this moment I’ll live in the better days. The days I have now.

4 Things I’ve Learned from Being Married 2 Years

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Monday will mark 2 years since I married Nick. Things haven’t been perfect, but they have been great. I still can’t believe this is real life. And while I’m not an expert on marriage by any means, I have learned a few things over these last 2 years.

Sometime I need to go to bed angry.
Read any list of tips for a happy, healthy marriage and they almost always say don’t go to bed angry. But the truth is, that doesn’t always work for me. I’m not a night person at all. So if Nick and I find ourselves in an argument at the end of the day, I just can’t resolve it right then. At that point, I’m tired, overwhelmed, and irrational. When Nick tries to engage a conversation, I find myself even more angry, defensive, and just plain hurtful. But given the opportunity to sleep on it, I’m much more able to put into words what I’m feeling, I can hear Nick better, and can actually come to a resolution. Of course Nick would prefer we didn’t go to bed angry and it’s not that I enjoy it either, but in the long run it usually works out for the best.

God doesn’t have a plan for me.
He has a plan for us. After moving to Bartonville, I felt like a tag along. Nick’s doing amazing work in the church and has developed a lot of relationships. It was very obvious that God had called him here, but it felt like God had forgotten a calling for me. I was lonely and felt like I had no purpose. But God has called us together as a couple, which means our purpose is intertwined as well. Not that God has the same plan for both of us, but we are both part of one larger plan. I believe that God has placed us here because it the best place for both of us; I just haven’t discovered my part of plan yet.

The work isn’t split 50-50.
There are days I feel like I do everything here. I do the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. I mow the yard, rake the leaves, and shovel the snow. At times, I convince myself Nick has it made. He doesn’t have to do anything. Except, you know, his 40+ hour job each week. Without the work he does, we wouldn’t have the money for the things I do. His job at the church is just as much a part of the housework as what I do. Besides, I get to spend all day in sweatpants and I love mowing the yard. Some would say that I have it made, and they’d be right.

Some things just take time.
My experience with Nick has been like we’re living in fast forward. We were dating for 2 months and then got engaged, 4 months later we were married, and 2 months later I was pregnant. In such a short time, I already can’t remember what life was like before Nick. But we’ve only been married for 2 years, and that’s really not long. Our marriage is still in the infancy stage and will take time to mature. There’s no shortcut or 10 best practices, just plain ole time will bring us closer and make things better.

So this is what I’ve learned and am learning about marriage. Like I said, I’m definitely not an expert. These aren’t tried and true tips for everyone, but just a reflection on my 2 years of marriage. I hope it encourages others to reflect on their marriages and the things that make them strong.

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A Step Back to Move Forward

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The marathon has always been my race. From the moment I decided to start competing, I was focused on it. I wanted to not only finish, but immediately had the goal of qualifying for Boston.

The marathon has been good to me. I did qualify for Boston the first time I ran a marathon. I continued getting faster, winning for my age group, and requalifying for Boston. I love being a marathoner and it loves me.

But after this year, I found myself questioning the marathon and whether it really was the distance I should be running right now.

The time to train. It’s not that I don’t have the time; it’s whether it’s worth it. Marathon training requires 3-4 months of work, with long runs that last hours. At the peak of my training, I would lose half a day to the long run and then recovery. That never phased me before, but I didn’t have a husband and child to consider. We make it work and it’s totally worth it when you have a good race, but it’s a huge gamble. I spent hours training last spring, only to get sick the week of the marathon. My fall training went off without a hitch, and we had 20 mph winds the day of the race. I’m struggling to justify all that time training when it can fall apart at the last minute.

I have nothing to prove. I can run a marathon. I have run 12 of them. I ran Chicago in 2007, which was the year we had record heat and they had to close the race down early for some runners. I was able to finish and, even with the extreme temperature, I qualified for Boston. I got a stomach bug the night before I ran Boston in 2009 and still ran the race the next morning. Even with stopping to vomit, I finished in qualifying time. I ran the Quad Cities and finished first for my age group and in the Top Ten women two years in a row. At this point, if I’m going to run a marathon, it won’t be for the accomplishment. I want to run for time, to be the fastest I can.

Can I get faster at the marathon by running marathons? Some people can. With more experience they just get faster, but my body isn’t responding that way. I got really fast for a time, I was average for even longer, and then I slowed way down. It doesn’t seem like I can just keep doing what I’ve been doing and expect to actually get better.

I took these concerns to my coach, Joe. Of course he wasn’t surprised: he’s had the same concerns for a long time. When I first started working with Joe, I had run four marathons but not a single 5k. The first thing he said was that I needed to incorporate shorter distances into my racing, and I was compliant.

But after several years of working with him, Joe started suggesting I take a break from marathons. He said I should give my body and mind a break and a chance to heal from all of the miles. I wouldn’t have it. I’m a marathoner. If I’m not running marathons, who am I? I’ve wrestled with that for a while now, but I think I’m finding peace with it.

I’m not a marathoner, I’m a runner. I don’t need a distance to define me. By allowing myself to be a runner, I don’t lose my identity just because I’m not running marathons. I am who I am at 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons just as much as I am at marathons.

I’m allowing myself to explore my potential. It’s still something I struggle with, but what if I’m actually better at a 10k than I am the marathon? What if all this time I’ve been so fixated on a distance that I’m good at, while there is another one I excel at? While it’s my marathon times I’m the most proud of, I also have impressive PRs for the 5k and half marathon. I need to give myself a chance to try new things and see what’s really the best fit for me.

So I’m not running any marathons in 2015. It will be at least 3 years before I race another marathon, although that’s not to say I won’t run one in that time. My goal is to develop speed and sharpen my mental endurance. I’m going to train harder and shorter. My goal is also to find peace with being a runner. My ultimate goal is to return to the marathon stronger than I’ve ever been. But if I can’t, my goal is to be okay with that too.

So right now I’m training for a half marathon in May. I’ve run numerous half marathons, but always in preparation for a marathon. This is my first time training specifically to race this event. That’s exciting and scary at the same time since I hate change. But it’s all still running and I’m grateful that doesn’t change.

Silence is Golden

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I broke the Golden Rule of blogging: blog. I started out December incredibly strong with I Hope He Thinks We’re Poor. Apparently that post struck a familiar chord with a lot of people because, within days of that blog post, it had 500 views. That’s a lot more traffic than I’m used to. Most people probably would have advised that I ride that train, keeping churning out blogs, in hopes of capturing many of those readers. But I just couldn’t.

It wasn’t that I choked. I didn’t get too busy to write. And it certainly wasn’t that I was void of material. I just didn’t have anything to say that was more valuable than not saying anything at all.

My silence was the sound of me basking in the Christmas Season. For the first time in years, I felt like I was really aware of the Christmas. I felt it’s joy, it’s peace. My fear was if I tried to put it all into words, I would forever lose the moment. So I remained silent and soaked in the holidays.

There was nothing special about it and yet everything was special. We had a simple Christmas dinner of venison, bread, and cheese. But it was amazing because we spent it at home, just our small family of 3.

Milo is too small to understand Christmas, so there was no delight in watching him open his presents. But he was still lavished upon by family and church members, so it served as a reminder of how loved we are.

And we’re not in a position to buy expensive gifts. In fact, we’re not in a position to buy much in the way of gifts at all. As our siblings continue to marry and have children, we now have 22 immediate family members. So this year I crocheted 14 scarves and am finishing an afghan blanket. It wasn’t much and I’m sure half of them will go unworn. But I tried to make up for what we couldn’t spend in money, with what I could give of my time and love.

I didn’t watch a single Christmas movie and I don’t think I even listened to a complete Christmas album. But every morning I did enjoy a cup of coffee in the simple light of my tree.

Even now, as I write this, I find it absurd just how wonderful my Christmas was. Which is exactly why I didn’t write about it sooner. Upon observation the whole thing would have been lost.

I hope that you can forgive my absence and that I didn’t lose too many of you. And forgive me for not caring if you are gone; you just weren’t quite worth my Christmas. But I’m back now, and I’m looking forward to seeing how 2015 unfolds–one step at a time.

Raising an Independent Son

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I have been looking forward to this day for months. I thought that I would be over the moon; maybe even throw a small celebration in my honor. I thought I would feel liberated, like a new woman. And yet, I find myself in a state that seems like grief. I’m mourning a loss, the passing of a time. Suddenly I find myself wishing for “back then.” Back when Milo needed me more. Back when he wasn’t quite so independent.

We’ve started the weaning process. To be honest, I’m a person of routine. So I just kept nursing Milo every 3 hrs because that’s what we did. I didn’t give much thought to weaning because it meant a change. But then he turned 1 and I realized he was still nursing for my sake more than his own. Within the matter of a week, we went from every 3 hrs to first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

I did hold a brief celebration. I wore a turtleneck sweater dress because I could. I went on a date with my husband and didn’t need to worrying about having milk for the sitter. I felt like Mel Gibson on top of my horse yelling “FREEDOM!!!”

That’s when the grief began to set in. I realized that, in the most basic sense, I was no different to Milo than anyone else. What made me unique, what only I could provide, was null and void. He doesn’t need me for sustenance; he could just eat a banana. I can be gone for days and he’ll miss me, but he’ll be fine without me.

I wanted to go back to the way things were; back to when I was necessary. And then I realized, to give in to that temptation was to raise a dependent son. A Momma’s boy. A man who still lived at home and had his mom doing his laundry when he’s 40. That’s not what I want for Milo at all (or for myself for that matter).

These are the first steps toward independence. And it’s so hard but I’m coming to terms with the fact that as Milo’s mom it’s my job to make sure he keeps taking these steps. I have 18 years to prepare him for a lifetime on his own. I know it might sound like I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill; that he’s only 1 which still makes him a baby, a toddler at most and all we’re talking about is nursing. But it is a big deal because it’s a turning point for me as a parent.

How can I embrace this change? How can I celebrate the fact that my son is an individual and that I am a participant in his life, not the keeper of his life? How can I provide an environment that encourages him to learn and grow, while also maintaining boundaries. How can I stand out of his way so he can mature into a functioning adult?

But there is always a silver lining. The other day I got to walk hand in hand through a store with my independent little guy. And while he may not need me, I know he chooses me every time he wraps his arms around my neck. And pretty soon I’ll get to hear the words I’ve felt in my heart, “Mommy, I love you.” These are my rewards to letting go of my baby embracing his independence.

I Hope He Thinks We’re Poor

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I’ve had many conversations with my dad over a wide variety of topics, but I can’t remember a time in which we ever discussed his salary. I have no idea how much money my dad made each year, but I put together plenty of clues. Based on the evidence, I put together that my dad didn’t make very much money. We were poor.

My parents had a very humble beginning to their marriage. Their wedding was simple, the took only a weekend honeymoon, and they moved in with my dad’s oldest brother. I can imagine my dad in his young 20s rubbing two nickels together in attempt to provide for him and his young bride.

They put themselves through college and started a family while my dad was working on his master’s and PhD. Times were tough and money was tight.

These were the details my dad did talk about. But from there he was silent on the issue of money and all I had was my experience as his daughter.

We took a vacation every summer, but we always drove and we always stayed with family.

My sisters and I each were given $100
at the beginning of the school year to get the necessary supplies and new clothes. It seems like a lot, but it doesn’t go far when you’re trying to buy new Nikes for gym class and enough clothes so you don’t have to repeat an outfit during the week.

Eating out was reserved for special occasions. When we did eat out, my dad would usually make my sisters and I split a meal. He said he was not going to waste money and food if we weren’t going to eat it all.

When my older sister turned 16, my parents bought a new car for my mom and handed down her old car (a Chevy Cavalier) to us kids. We had 1 car to
share along with 1 cellphone. The cellphone stayed with the car and was for emergencies only.

We also had to get a part time job when we turned 16. I really didn’t take issue with this; I babysat full time during the summer for 3 kids when I was 13. When I turned 14, I babysat during the summer and also worked at the Dairy Queen in town. I’ve always enjoyed working. But my dad was strict about our paychecks. We had to tithe and we had to put money into savings from every check we earned.

I was horrible at sharing the car, so when it came time for my younger sister to drive my dad told me to share or buy my own car. He co-signed my loan, but provided no money for it. He told me the first time I missed a payment and he had to cover for me, he would take my car and sell it.

When my older sister got engaged, my dad gave her a lump sum of money for her wedding. We were told we’d each receive this amount for our weddings. We got to keep any of it we didn’t spend, but if we went over we had to pay from our own pockets. Now it was a generous amount, I’ve never been given anywhere close to this amount of money before. But when it comes to a wedding these days, what my dad gave us wouldn’t go far. My sister and I both opted for low key weddings rather than investing our own money into the event.

All of these experiences painted a picture of poverty in my mind. I had friends who were always flying to this place and that with their families. Friends who would only wear the latest, trendiest (expensive) clothes. They had their own cars and cellphones. I made the assumption that that was the kind of life my dad wished I could have, but our lack of money wouldn’t allow it.

Yet this picture of poverty has some flaws. My parents paid for all our college tuition. During that time, they also paid for our housing and groceries. I graduated college without a cent of debt to my name.

Nick and I had only been dating for two months when we got engaged. I figured with how quickly it happened that my dad wouldn’t have the money readily available. Without hesitation my dad wrote me a check. He didn’t have to put the wedding expenses on a credit card or ask for time to get the money to me. He had the money and could give it to me without liquidating any assets first.

 

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In my house, I have a coffee table, 2 bedside tables, a bookcase, a queen sized bed frame, a full sized dresser and chest of drawers, a crib, and a changing table. All made by my dad. All solid oak. And I’ve never paid a dime for it. All I had to do was ask.

 

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When I was pregnant and had to make several trips to the ER, my parents gave us money to help with the medical bills.

My parents wrote us a rather large check to help pay off our car loans. More recently, the wrote us another check to help buy a new, larger vehicle. All without batting an eye.

Where did this money come from? How did my parents go from being so poor, to being so loaded?

I’ve embarrassed to say I never made the connection until this past weekend. I have finally matured enough to see the kind of man my father is and to realize that he always wanted more for me than a stupid pair of designer jeans. I thought we were poor because I was living in the moment; aware only of the possessions I wanted, but could never have.

 

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But my dad has always had the future in mind. The money I thought we didn’t have was actually in the bank the entire time. My dad knew that there would be tuition to be paid, weddings to fund, and family emergencies.

 

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I’m grateful for the furniture and the money; I can’t pretend as if those things aren’t valuable to me. But more importantly, I’m grateful that my dad taught me the value of working hard and living beneath your means. These are lessons I want Milo to learn. I want Milo to think we’re poor. I want him to assume that his mom makes the laundry detergent and toothpaste because we can’t afford the store bought stuff. I want him to assume that we almost never eat out and buy second hand couches because we have no money. And then someday I want to lavishly give him the gifts he needs because all the time we were living poor we were actually storing up.

 

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The Fog Has Lifted

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No mom wants to suffer from postpartum depression. Most moms experience it in some degree. Few moms will openly admit to. We don’t want people to think we don’t love our babies or that we’re not grateful for them. We tell ourselves that moms everywhere are successfully having and raising babies, and that we should be able to as well. We tell ourselves it’s just a phase and that it will pass, but we do few things to aide it’s passing.

I don’t know if this is standard practice or just something with the hospital I delivered at, but when I went in for my 6 week postpartum checkup I had to take an evaluation for my risk of postpartum depression. It wasn’t an official psych evaluation, but it would serve as a red flag if something could be wrong. A score over 10 meant that I was at risk for postpartum depression. I scored a 22.

For 6 weeks, I suffered but thought it was normal. The exhaustion, the fight to keep going, the crying; I thought this was just part of being a new mom. Then I took the evaluation and had an open conversation with my doctor. Yes, it was normal in the sense that most moms experience they same highs and lows after giving birth. But no, it was not healthy and should not be ignored.

After leaving her office, I had to have more candid conversations with my husband, our parents, and my boss. Until I could take the depression evaluation and score a 10 or below, my doctor would not clear me to return to work. I would need to enlist the help of friends, family, and yes medication to get to that point.

It was a struggle to get better. I had to learn boundaries; what I could handle on my own and when I needed to ask for help. I had to learn to ask for help. We would have my mother-in-law over just so I could go for a 30 minute run and take a shower.

It took another 6 weeks and multiple appointments with my doctor before I finally “passed” my evaluation. Even then, my doctor said she wanted to keep me on the current dosage of Zoloft for a year. She said we needed to be realistic; there would be more challenges over the course of the first year and we needed to keep me functioning.

It hurts to think about that experience. To remember the mornings that I would wake to Milo’s cries and would be frozen in bed, I didn’t think I had the strength to get myself up and face another day. To remember the days Nick would come home from work and I would desperately tell him I needed him to take Milo from me. I’d go in the bedroom and sob. It was all so hard. And it’s hard to think back on it and not feel guilt and shame.

It wasn’t until this week that I realized the fog has finally lifted. I’m no longer treading just trying to keep my head above water. I’m actually thriving!

Sure, I’ve run 2 marathons which could be a measure of my postpartum success. I’m managing my household; making dinner every night, baking bread, cleaning the bathroom, etc. They’re all wonderful accomplishments.

But the real mark of achievement has come from our church family. On multiple occasions they have commented to me on how well I handle Milo on Sunday mornings. (For those who don’t know, Milo is the only child in our church. We don’t have a nursery, so I have to entertain Milo every Sunday while trying to also listen to the service.)

Nick had a Church Council on Monday, when he came home he told me that more people were talking about my parenting skills. They were impressed with how well I kept my cool on Sunday mornings. I do my fair share of complaining about the situation; I sometimes feel cheated that God would call us to a place that offers me no support as a mom. But as I thought about it this week, I realized that I get frustrated with the circumstances, not with Milo. And more importantly, I don’t take Milo’s mischief and wandering personally. The fact that he likes to explore does not make me feel like I have no control over my child.

A year ago, this wouldn’t be true. A year ago, I would have been frantic. A year ago, I would have been visibly distraught. A year ago, I would not be able to emotionally handle this situation. Thank God that time and the fog have passed!

What Am I Doing Here?

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My personal training certificate is through the NSCA, the National Strength and Conditioning Association. To keep your certification, you have to renew every 3 years by completing 6 CEUs. It doesn’t sound that hard, except .1 CEU=1 hr. Ok, so every 3 years I have to spend 60 hrs on continuing education. No big deal. Except the NSCA puts a cap on how many CEUs you can receive for one activity. And there are categories (workshops, at home studies, other certifications) with their own limits of how much you can do. In other words, I have to spend a lot of time in conferences, reading books, and taking tests in order to maintain my status as an NSCA-CPT.

This year is a certification year, so I’m scrambling to complete my CEUs. On Saturday, I attended the Illinois State Clinic. It was a day of lectures from various professionals in the field. I love these types of conferences. There’s something about being surrounded by like-minded people and getting inspired by what they’re doing. But I was filled with anxiety as I drove up to Chicago for the day. What if someone asked me where I work? It’s a question you would expect someone to ask, especially at an event like this. Well, I’m a stay-at-home-mom.

So what are you doing here?

I had my obvious reasons. We all were attending because we needed the CEUs. That was a sufficient excuse to be at this conference. But for me, that implied another question: why do you need to remain certified?

Sure, my son is an infant and someday he’ll go to school and maybe then I’ll enter back into the work force. Or we’ll have more kids and need the additional income. Or someday I might go crazy at home and we decide that the best thing for the family is for me to get a job. All reasonable arguments for me to keep certified. Except I renewed my certification 3 years ago like I was supposed to, but I had just quit my job as a trainer. In the last 3 years, I have had a lot of jobs but none of them were training or even in a related field.

There are a lot of things keeping me from pursuing a job as a personal trainer, even at a part time level. The hours are awful; I mean really horrible. Most people want to train first thing in the morning before they go to work, or in the evening after work. In other words, the time my family has together would become prime working hours for me. But also, it’s really frustrating. People hire personal trainers expecting to get results just because they showed up to their session. I can work a person to the bone but if they go home and binge on the crap food they keep tucked away, they just aren’t going to get the results they want. And they always blame the trainer. In some ways my experience as a trainer brought me back down from my ideal world into reality: it’s hard work and sometimes people fail no matter what you do.

So why to I keep spending the time and money for a certificate that has little value for me? I don’t know. Honestly, I have no idea. Right now I’m just holding onto faith. Faith that it will become meaningful to me again. Faith that my failures as a trainer will someday be redeemed. Faith that I will understand how to better motivate my clients to be compliant. And faith that I will find my niche as a trainer. But none of that will happen if I throw it all in the trash today.

So I’m doing the work to keep my certification. I’m going through the motions and trying not to worry about the future. But that’s always been my biggest struggle: taking things one step at a time.