Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Best Laid Plans

For years I have cherished the hope of coming back to Provo, of Avram getting a job at BYU and moving to Utah, buying a house, and staying there for the rest of my life. Never mind that Pa Ingalls and I have the same itchy feet, and I start having (literal, night-time) dreams of moving after a year or so of living in the same place.  I work this out by hoping that Avram would also make it on the study abroad circuit, and every few years I would be refreshed by a year spent exploring another country, and coming home would feel fresh and new again.  Regardless, the thought of being able to settle down, buy a house, have a full-time job with things like insurance and benefits that is also a satisfying career; these things have sustained me through the last nine years of marriage, especially at times when our journey towards financial and working stability has felt like the mythical Odyssey home to Penelope, minus magical carefree hedonistic years spent with a minor goddess (but with the addition of lots of consequences of fun yet responsible marital years, ie children).

As an intermittent hobby I have combed through Zillow for the latest house listings in my favorite areas, namely those around downtown, and the tree streets neighborhood up by the Y mountain. I know perfectly well that Avram getting a job at BYU has depended on a lot of factors, namely his qualifications, their having an opening, and then the perfect stars aligning and the hiring committee picking him.  Yet in comparison to any other school in America, which may or may not have an opening for many years at a time, and then for Avram to be on the market at the right time, and then for his application to stand out among many other applications, when they have never met him; in comparison, BYU has felt like a good opportunity.  The religion department is large, which means that there are more jobs that come available, and some years there are even more than one job available.  Avram has now taught for them a couple of times, so he is not an unknown quantity, but rather they have a real relationship - which could go either way, of course, but I believe (even through my natural bias as his wife) that Avram's greatest strength in the trifecta of academia - teaching, research, and being a good citizen, ie administration and working with others - is in teaching, so BYU seeing him up close teaching can only be helpful.  Their hiring of him for two summer terms has never implied, and we have never taken it that way, that he will be given preferred status for any future opening. but at least it means that they know who he is, and that he can teach well.

Now we only have a year left, and suddenly the far off distant future is right next to us.  As far as Avram's qualification, we know that he needs an outside (ie, not LDS) publication to be considered.  Currently he has an article under review, that we do not know for certain will be published, but we and his advisor feel confident about, and even if it is not published with the journal currently looking at it, believe it will be published somewhere. And yet, after all of this, it turns out that the Ancient Scripture side of the religion department will probably not have a job opening next year.  All the best laid plains I have been making all these years were always dependent on that one, small and yet vital aspect.  And now, I feel a little like we are free falling.

Of course, he will apply anywhere else that has an opening in his field - we have three other jobs that he knows he will be applying to thus far, and more will hopefully be posted.  We would be happy to go anywhere, truly.  There are even positives about some other places, like the thought of living in a small college town, or old houses with a lot of character, which I adore.  The climate of the midwest is great, with its rain and four seasons.  The west has a lot of family all over, and many mountains as well.  The east is where Avram's family is centered.  The south has a long growing season - great for gardening.  Part of the stress is that getting an academic job is rather time sensitive.  It is important to get a job immediately after graduation - the longer after you graduate without a job in the field, the more likely you will never get a job in the field.  So finding an academic job this coming year is not just nice, but vital.  Tenure track is the gold standard, but it would be alright to have an instructorship, and even adjuncting (teaching, but not full time) would be better than nothing. What is most scary is not having an academic job at all - with having spent eight years in graduate school, and in the end finding an entry level administrative or public servant job at best, or at worst fulfilling the butt of every joke about higher education by flipping burgers.

 But as with any area of life, I have spent so much time with a known, even just a potential known, future, that it is so hard to trust and accept different futures.  Especially because I truly believe that while God loves us, and wants us to be happy, he thinks happiness is found in following his plan and obeying his laws, and not found in a comfortable salary and satisfying career that one has trained for.  I know that trusting in him, and following him, and accepting what happens could mean not getting an academic job at all, but getting some other job that will support our family in an acceptable manner.  The modern conception of having to have a job that fulfills our financial, social and intellectual desires is just that - modern.  People throughout most of world history, and throughout most of the world today, do not have jobs that are fine-tune suited for every quirk, every ability they may possess, and I believe, I have to believe, that we can find satisfaction and fulfillment in our life while still spending most of the hours our life completing jobs that we do not love.  There is no shame in working to provide for life's basic needs, to help your family live so that they and you in turn may work on what's truly important - fostering family and friend relationships, following Him, finding joy just in living.

I partly have to believe this, because in my own life I have found this to be true.  I love being a mother - I love my five children, and would love to have more if God blesses us with such.  But I do not particularly love many of the aspects of being a stay at home mother as my "job", and yet for myself and my life circumstances, I also feel like it is important for me to be at home right now in my family's stage of life (among other reasons being that we have many young children, and I do not have an important or grand career that by accomplishing it will help others or fulfill myself , and we are able to financially live without a second income.  This is not meant to conscribe others in their lives - we are each unique, and what is important or works for me with a career is not meant to describe you or your life situation).  I know that although I have struggled, and will probably always feel a little unnatural in my job, that it is what is right for me and my family at this time.  Additionally, I only have an undergraduate degree in Near Eastern Studies - I also do not have the training or skills for some other, more fulfilling job that incorporates my individual interests and talents.  And yet, I believe that I can work hard at my job, that I have feel fulfilled in life, and that doing something I don't always enjoy or feel like is the best personal fit for me can still lead to a fulfilling life overall.  This life isn't about me, about what the world, what my job, what God can give to me, or allow me to even achieve through hard work, that will give me glory, fame, money, or intellectual satisfaction.  It is about what I can contribute to others, about how I can serve.  And that can be accomplished through a high paying job, or by working at home with no paycheck at all.

To bring this back to Avram, I know that is also the case with academia - Avram can accomplish much in academics.  I believe that he has a lot to say in the intersection of Early Rabbinic Judaism, the Hebrew Bible, and if he gets a job at BYU, in the LDS interaction with both, as well as with unique Mormon topics such as the Book of Mormon.  And yet I also believe that after this next year, even if he never has an academic job, that his life up to that point will not have been wasted, that the Ph.d. and the eight years of graduate school will not be wasted.  Avram and I were talking recently, and both agreed that we feel like he has a voice to add to Mormon Scriptural Studies.  And soberingly, we both felt like that voice could either be heard through working at BYU, or alternately, not working in academics at all, and thus having the extra energy to devote to independent Mormon scholarship.

Truthfully, I feel like Avram will get a job in academia.  Years ago when we first returned as a couple to BYU, we both independently felt strongly while on campus that someday - not on any timeline mind you, we would return to BYU (of course, that could have been fulfilled by these two summers spent teaching here....). But those feelings have sometimes led me to a place of over confidence, because the alternative is too scary to contemplate - that in a year we may have a life we have never dreamed of, never planned for, even though it could be better than I have ever dreamed of as well.  I am a planner by nature - I plan everything from what I would do if Avram died when he is a few minutes later than expected from work to what we will spend our tax refund on months before it is even submitted.  I want to plan the future, but at a certain point a year from now our future is flat out un-plannable.  At the crux of the matter, time and time again I have had to surrender control to God, have had to recognize that I cannot force life to conform a certain way, despite all of my schemes, well laid and planned as they may be.

So here is my prayer, that I may be able to let it go, to let the future rest in its place, while finding joy in the place we are in now, uncertainty and all.  However, don't expect me never to visit Zillow again - after all, there are limits in what I am capable of, even in giving all to God.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

An attempt to find a voice

Whew, if there were electronic cobwebs, this place would be covered in them.  I think deep down I feel like I lost my voice somewhere, and it's hard to write when you don't know how you want to say things.  Realistically though, after this many years my old voice has probably gone the way of my twenties, easy socializing that doesn't require taking into account five children, a house that when it's dirty I have only myself to blame, and clothing that I haven't worn since three kids ago.  I think I'm finally coming to realize that the only way to forge a new voice is to, gulp, actually sit and write and feel dumb but still hit publish.

But, enough catch-up, let's chat.  Well, where is the Shannon clan now?  Currently we're in Utah, living in a two bedroom apartment with seven people (seven!  When did we get a new member?  In June of this year, and her name is Athena).  But only for the next couple of weeks, and then we're going back to Ohio, where Avram has one final year left of his Ph.d.  Yes, there will be an end to this mythical journey called "Getting a Ph.d. while having five children."  Just as a refresher, Avram is getting a degree in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from OSU, which specifically in his case refers to Hebrew Bible and Early Rabbinic Judaism. He's writing his dissertation on Foreign Ritual (mostly Greco-Roman) as seen through the eyes of the Early Rabbis, and what this teaches about Rabbinic conceptions of appropriate ritual and religious action.

We are in Utah this summer where Avram is teaching a couple of Book of Mormon classes at BYU.  He did the same thing two years ago, if this sounds familiar. We are even staying in the same apartment as last time, only this time with two more kids.  Enoch gets the privilege of sleeping in the pantry off the kitchen, while our three older girls are in the second bedroom we also call the playroom, and Athena is in with us.  Also, the Living Room houses a couch, small bookcase, and table and six chairs, since the kitchen isn't large enough for a table.  This makes the living room feel kind of like a crowded hallway (it isn't large either).  It's fun to laugh about, and it really isn't bad, because at home we have four kids sleeping in a room together, and Enoch would even fit in their room here, it's just that it's easier to have him sleep on the other end of the house from the sparse toys we have here.  Also, I know from experience that this will make returning to our three bedroom (one we use as a playroom) house that actually has a table in the kitchen feel positively roomy.

Lydia is eight, and is obsessed with poetry, reading, and avoiding writing and chores at any cost (writing more than chores, even).  Elisheva is six, and loves Frozen, makeup (which she doesn't get to wear), dress-up, pink and purple, and anything else that sounds like a stereotype of a six year old girl.  Guinevere is four, and is a great cleaner, very opinionated and stubborn, and cannot be forced into anything (but we have been working on the fine art of persuading for years now).  Enoch is the strong but silent type - he doesn't speak almost at all, even at 23 months.  We already have an appointment with the doctor when we get back, but until then we are grateful that he is fairly even tempered, and isn't too picky, except when it comes to food, because he doesn't seem to mind that we don't understand his garbled sentences.  He is also built like a tank, which is highly entertaining aspect of his character.  Athena is only seven weeks old, but has an old soul, and face.  I realize that pictures would be highly appreciated here.  Hey, I'd like them here too, but then I would have to go and upload them from my camera (which means finding my camera), then picking them out, then trying to get them in the post, and somewhere along this line giving up in disgust and finding some other activity that doesn't involve so much bother just to say a few words.

As for myself, well, I'm still me.  It's amazing how even though I have more kids, years, and opinions, I still am as me as I ever was - I pick reading over cleaning, love seeing people and also love spending time alone (usually reading), love the outdoors, but only if I am doing something in it (camping, gardening, hiking).  I talk too much, or just a lot, depending on who you are. My current life plans are to go back to school a year after Avram starts a full time job (so, hopefully in two years).  If he gets a job at BYU I want to do a master's degree in Archaeology/Anthropology, with a certificate in Museum Studies.  What do people with that degree do, you ask? Why am I going to get what could just be a vanity degree?  Well, first off, because I wouldn't be paying tuition, so why not?  Second, I actually would love to work in that field, or in many potential fields like that .  I previously wrote about that here on this blog, and my basic thoughts still remain the same.  Of course, we could end up almost anywhere (please, God, let it be somewhere), so the specific thing I would get a further degree in would depend on what what available.  BYU is our top choice for a number of reasons, which brings me to my final hobby - looking at the Provo housing market via Zillow.  I found a perfect 1913 home near where we live now (which is a couple of blocks from the Provo City Center temple that's currently being built) that is a great price.  Unfortunately, Avram has no job in Provo, so the grown up side of me is not putting in an offer, but I like to imagine being a crazy couple that buys a house in a state they don't live in, entirely on the slim hope they will return, and then I like to further wake up, and be grateful I'm not crazy.

So that's the Shannons.  In a nutshell.  Maybe a brazilnut nutshell, but that's just how I write - and is part of my voice, whether years ago or today.  Maybe next session we can work out topics I like to write about that I won't get too nervous or self conscious about, and stick back in a drafts folder to never see the electronic light of computer screens.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Enoch's Birth Post- August 2012



This post was lost by the Internet, but luckily my sister-in-law's reader had a copy saved.  

After my experience with Guinevere's birth, I knew that if I had another baby in Columbus, I wanted a different midwife group.  Aleatha, my sister-in-law, and Rachael, a woman in my ward (and whose house we are now renting...it's a small world) both had seen a group of three midwives that they absolutely loved, so I planned to go with them. 

Fast forward to December 22, 2011, and I was several days late for my cycle, and strongly suspected that I was pregnant...oh, and just a little thing, I also happened to have an IUD, the copper kind.  Avram's whole family was in town for Christmas, and I had been trying to casually pick up a pregnancy test, you know, without tipping it off to the extended family, and since I won't run errands for just one thing, I was failing. That, and I couldn't find it at the dollar store when we were there (yes, I use dollar store pregnancy tests...)  Finally I asked Avram to pick it up when he was already going out with Samuel, and he did, which made for a slightly awkward conversation, but regardless, I had the pregnancy test, and since you know that I have a ten month old baby, this next sentence may be lacking in the surprise department, but sure enough, it was positive.  I don't know why I worried about not telling family - the second we knew, I told the whole family anyway, which worked out well when several days later we were making dinner, and I was reduced to tears because the mango lassi that I made used a slightly mushy mango, and although it tasted fine, and no one else could tell, I knew that it was mushy, and the imperfection of it all left me bawling in my bedroom while everyone else cleaned up dinner....yeah, so it was a good thing we didn't attempt to keep it a secret, or else they would have concluded that I had just gone crazy.

Anyway, back on track to the birth story, which will come eventually, I toyed with just calling the new midwives immediately, but I thought that it made sense to go back to the people who gave me the IUD first, so we made an appointment for the next day with them.  A doctor at the same practice examined me, and sure enough, I was pregnant, and sure enough, there was the IUD, which thankfully was no where near the fetus, so she was able to take it out, which although still left me with a 50% chance of miscarriage, at least meant that I wouldn't have a high risk pregnancy, like would have happened if it had to be left in the whole pregnancy.  After the awkward moment where she asked if we wanted to keep the pregnancy (this connects to how I have had a complete change of heart regarding birth control, which I may write down sometime, but you know, you can only be so controversial at a time on the Internet, and as this post deals with natural births and midwives, I'll leave that for another day), we were all set up with a second follow up appointment, to basically see if the fetus stuck around or not.

So here we were on December 23, with a Christmas surprise.  Despite the fact that Enoch had a .05% chance of conception, we were both quite calm with it all - we had been talking about trying for another baby soon,  and that month had even while at the temple prayed about it. Although we hadn't received any particular feeling while there (and yet we both, independently and at the same time in the Endowment had a strong impression that Avram should become a temple worker.  I figure that God already knew we were about to have a baby, so didn't feel like we needed any inspiration in that sector....), we were both basically ready emotionally for another baby, and of course I got quite excited once there was new life on the horizon.

Back in the appointment mill of the the old midwife office, I was concerned that I would let myself just get sucked back into their system, but after that second appointment, where little fetus was just doing great, no spotting at all (and once again, the baby who's currently trying to wake up kind of sucks all the narrative suspense here), I just didn't make the next appointment that the doctor wrote out for me.  I hoped that they would assume that I miscarried after all, and never call me and harass me about it. I don't know if my assumption was correct, but they never did call and try and make another appointment, and so that was the end of that office, and on to the new midwives.

I really loved the new midwives - there were three of them, and I felt like they got me, and my situation.  Avram taught at BYU in the Summer of 2012, and so the biggest hiccup in the pregnancy came from me spending my seventh through ninth month away from any health care at all.  Thankfully I never went into labor, and after a successful two day drive across country, less than two weeks to my due date, I met with the midwives again, and all was well.  Sunday morning, six days before my due date, I thought that my water might be leaking. I had thought that often for the last weak (which in retrospect, it may well have been), and so went back and forth on going to Church, or what, but I eventually decided to go, since I had no certain idea.  I did wear a pad as a precaution, though.

As we walked in to church, into the chapel, a sister in the ward asked me how I was doing, and if I was ready to be done. I told her that I was ready, but that I was there...but that you never know, I might leave half way through church.  Except for in the place of the ellipses, there was a small pause, while I felt my water break.  Avram was ahead of me with the kids, so I just walked straight through the chapel and then on to the bathroom, while he meanwhile had no idea what had happened to me.  As I went into the bathroom, another sister in the ward asked me if I was ready to be done yet.  I ruefully told her with a laugh that I actually had just had my water break, and if she would be willing to see if there was anyone with a pad or something, because I wasn't leaving the stall until I could get something.  As an aside here, I love the women of the Gospel - they were all so helpful to me this day, and I felt like part of such a sisterhood.  So she went to see, and eventually came back with nothing, and then left again, and she and another sister (This is Susan and Marta, for those who know), and Marta offered me a baby's diaper that they found, which they could cut in half. 

Just as an FYI - first, if you're male, I hope that this all doesn't bother you, because I haven't even written about the birth yet, so if you don't like words like pad or water breaking, just click away now - I won't mind.  Second, if your water breaks your body continuously makes more water, so you will continue to leak water, which is actually amniotic fluid, until the birth. Despite the fact that there is only an 11% chance of your water breaking before labor, 50% of my pregnancies have ended with my water breaking first.

So, with all this accomplished, I waddled back into Sacrament Meeting, where I admit my thoughts were really distracted, and not focused on the singing, sacrament or messages.  We passed a paper note back a couple of rows to a family, the George's, who had offered to take our kids if Samuel and Aleatha were still out of town in Kansas.  In the note I told them my water was broken, and would they take the kids after church home with them?  They agreed, with a note sent back up. It made me feel like I had returned to junior high, but it was also comforting to know that things were arranged. 

I thought to originally stay at church, but after sacrament meeting I ended up calling the midwife, with Rachael's encouragement.  The midwife on duty, Cassandra, gave me the deadline of 10:00 pm to come into the hospital, in labor or not, from a 10:00 am water breaking time.  I pulled Avram out of Sunday School, and we went walking around near the church for twenty minutes, but I felt great, not a contraction to worry about.  Finally I decided that we should go home - I couldn't concentrate on church anyway, and I wanted to get a good meal in, in case I did go into labor.  At home it was so quiet without our three kids.  We finished cleaning up the house, so that I could come to a sparkling home. I did some kick counts with the baby, since he had always been such a calm baby in utero that often I didn't feel him move for a long time, and with my water broken, I didn't feel him move at all for long stretches.  A member, Tim, came over and helped Avram give me a blessing, which I really appreciated.  I still didn't go into labor. In the last phone conversation with Cassandra, she suggested trying to start labor with nipple stimulation.  I was reluctant to do so...it seemed kind of weird, but as eight pm rolled around I got kind of desperate.  I knew I really, really did not want to be induced, and I knew that some kind of induction was hanging over my head. 

So I took a shower, as she suggested, and tried the technique - sure enough, I had strong contractions that started, but I didn't think they were real, or would last on their own. Feeling discouraged, and after the fifteen minute time period Cassandra suggested I got out of the shower, and while drying off had another contraction.  And while getting dressed, had another contraction.  And then while eating a late dinner (homemade Ratatouille, homemade artisan bread, and roast chicken - yum!) I had a few more.  And then I knew I was really in labor, and with my quicker labors rather than dragging it out going to the hospital, I began to want to hurry up and get there.  We called the midwife, and then my mother called, and then we were out and on our way to St. Ann's.  By now the contractions were picking up in intensity, and driving to the hospital was like it always is - unpleasant.  We walked slowly to the entrance, having a couple of contractions, and right outside the entrance, I had a killer long contraction - I leaned on Avram and breathed/moaned through it, and meanwhile, tons and tons and TONS of water came out - as in, overflowed the pad I was wearing, ran down my pants, puddled on the sidewalk into a two foot diameter or more.  As this was all happening, a couple left the birth center, and walked right by us.  A small part of me hoped that they had had children before, but if not, well, that's what you get when you visit maternity sections. 

We did the long laborious part of checking in, despite having pre-checked in (and really, what is the point? Why do they ask so many questions while you're in labor?) and they showed us to my room. Thankfully this hospital didn't have a triage room like OSU, so I was in my room to stay, and it had a birthing tub, which was exactly what I wanted.  I had worried that with my water breaking I wouldn't be able to have a water birth, but the midwife assured me it would be no problem.

After three labors, I finally feel like I know what really works for me, and my type of labors.  My labors are fast, and progress well on their own.  So what I need to do most is relax, and let my body do the work.  I reclined in the bed, half sitting up, while Avram sat next to me and talked me through each contraction, as I slowly breathed in and out, letting my out breaths go on and on.  I concentrated on relaxing all of my body, so that the only thing that was working was the uterus. The triage nurses joked that he was relaxing them - they seemed very comfortable with labor, and natural labor, which was good for me.  At some point during labor, I noticed that there was a cross with Jesus on it on the wall (this being a Catholic hospital and all).  As I focused on the cross, I thought to myself that Christ has suffered the pains of all mankind, and boy is that a lot of labor.  I knew that if he had made it through for everyone, that I could make it through my one, small birth.  This thought helped me keep going, and gave my labor a religious tinge I had never thought of before in the actual moment.

I had never tried a birthing ball, so I wanted to try it, so while they were waiting for the midwife to arrive and give the go ahead for me to get into the tub, I laboriously got off the bed, and sat on a ball.  Where within one contraction I knew that it wasn't for me.  I then tried to just relax on the ball, which wasn't as nearly as pleasant, but by this point the water was filling, and I didn't want to have to get back into bed, and then get right back out again.  The midwife, who was now Becky had arrived, and given the all go ahead for the tub, and I got in, and immediately relaxed again.  We had arrived at the hospital some time shortly after ten, and by now it was probably around 11 pm.  I love laboring in water - I did it with Lydia, and went from 2 centimeters dilated to 8 in an hour and a half.  I floated in the water while Avram continued to support me, by giving me ice chips and water.  During contractions I submerged my self all in water but my face, and just relaxed into the warmth. 

I could tell that I must be moving along, and that they thought I was nearing the end, because people were coming in and out of the room, preparing a bed for the baby, and the midwife came back in and was working with me, but I was also intentionally trying to stay slightly out of it, focusing on one contraction at a time, and not thinking about time passing, or being goal oriented to get to the end.  Labor is like nothing else that I've experienced - you have to find the zen in it, and let it carry you, but not like a current that's our of control, but rather some other overwrought metaphor that boils down to you controlling the situation.  I had a super long contraction, and after working through it could tell that things were progressing.  Around this same time the indigestion/heartburn that had plagued me this whole pregnancy visited again, and I had to sit up to calm my stomach.  The change in position affected how well I could zone out during contractions, which is to say that I stopped zoning out at all, and suddenly I wasn't handling them so well anymore.  Becky the midwife talked me through them, and as I told her that I couldn't do this any more, and I didn't want to, she became firm with me, and told me, "You are doing it.  You're doing it right now."  At that moment it was what I needed to hear - someone who knew I could make it through. 

With most of my births, I haven't liked the pushing stage - it's been fast and furious, with only small breaks in between contractions instead of large ones.  With Guinevere I was still in transition (emotionally, if nothing else), when she was born.  This time I was terrified of pushing, because I thought it would be worse than transition, and so I had a hard time getting through transition, because that's where I was at, and getting past that mental block.  Soon enough I was almost ready to push, and although I was mentally not quite on top anymore, Becky was right there, encouraging me, and preparing me.  When I had my first pushing contraction, I was still unsure about wanting to continue, but it felt so much better than not pushing.  I was still in the tub, and Becky had me sitting upright, with pulling my legs up against me. As I pushed in a second contraction, the baby's head started coming out, and Becky told me to keep pushing, that I needed to get him all out in that contraction (because it was partially in water, they always want to  make sure you don't have shoulder dystocia or any other complications).  I drew on reserves I never knew I had, and pushed and pushed, and out he came. It was an amazing feeling, feeling him come out - I have never been so mentally present for the that moment, and realizing that my body had actually brought forth a baby, that an 8 lb 13 oz baby had come out of me, which the geometry of that equation still confounds me. 

I kept exclaiming, "A baby, I had a baby, a boy!" Which felt a lot less inane in the moment, but there are few words that can adequately describe birth, especially when you're the one delivering.  Becky quickly cut the cord, because she likes to move Mom and baby out of the tub immediately, and doesn't like them being attached while trying to move in the slippery water.  I knew this was coming beforehand, but was alright with the trade off of having a water birth (or rather, water labor, which was what I cared about more) than waiting to cut the umbilical cord.  We moved to the bed, and looking back it was like a scene from a horror movie, with red tinged water everywhere, even dripping down the outside of the tub.  Thank goodness that was someone else's mess to clean up.  They measured him and such, and then I got to hold him and feed him for the next forty minutes or so - the perfect opposite to the last delivery.  Also, once they got me to the recovery room, the nurse brought me a toasted bagel with cream cheese, although it was the middle of the night.  I scarfed it down.

Enoch Bleys was born at 12:23 am on Monday morning, just missing his grandfather's birthday by 23 minutes, but instead hitting his uncle Neal's birthday.  We didn't name him that night, since I wanted to wait until I had some sleep behind me before making that big decision, but named him the next day (and Enoch wasn't even on the long list of name options, but I'm glad we waited to name him until we had some time to think).

In a fun coincidence, Becky was also on duty the next night, when my friend Rachael had her baby boy Marc (Mark?) - at 1:15 the next morning.  I got to visit Rachael just hours later, and was her first visitor. 

Overall it was such a better labor, and my favorite labor so far that I've had. If this is the last labor I ever have, I'll be happy I ended with it.  I felt bad that I lost it during the transition, but at the six week follow up with my Midwife, I told Becky sorry that I hadn't kept calm during transition, and she laughed it off, and said that people routinely struggle with transition, and not to worry about it.  I was especially grateful that she spent so much of the labor in the room with me, and knew when to be gentle with me, and when to be firm. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Guinevere's birth - June 2010

Guinevere as a two month old (I can't find her birth pictures - although there aren't any from the actual birth - see below)

This morning I was thinking about Enoch's birth story, and wanted to write it down.  So what if I never got around to sharing Guinevere's, or that Enoch is already ten months old (I tell myself)?  I meant to write out Guinevere's birth, but whenever I went to do it, I didn't feel like it.  There was no muse, if being a muse of birth stories ever was a Greek ideal anyway.  Over time I realized that this was precisely because I was disappointed by Guinevere's birth.  Nothing went majorly (or even minorly) wrong; I wanted a natural birth, and I got a natural birth. She was fine.  But I didn't like it.  Birth stories are great to write out when they go great - but a lot harder when they are technically fine, but in reality lame.  But to really write about Enoch's birth, I have to record Guinevere's, because a lot of the impetus for decisions I made with Enoch happened because of Guinevere's birth.

With Guinevere I saw a group of Certified Nurse Midwifes, and I never really loved their practice.  Sure, I never had to wait for appointments, but that was the best thing I thought about them.  The midwives were always in a hurry (I felt), and the nurses assistants did the baby's heartbeat, and every other measurement except measuring the uterus.  I felt like I was mainly being seen by a bureaucracy, not a midwife.  And yet they were the only midwives our insurance covered, since they were only midwife group who delivered at the OSU hospital.  Also discouraging was when we toured the hospital (OSU), and I asked the touring nurse, who had worked their for almost 20 years, whether the nurses preferred to know if it was a natural birth being planned, so that nurses who felt comfortable with natural births were then assigned to that room.  The nurse looked thoughtful for a moment, then a moment longer, and then said, "I'm not sure I've seen a natural birth here...."

Regardless, there I was, and at forty weeks when I went into labor with Guinevere, off to that hospital and those midwives we went.  During triage the nurse came in and asked me if I knew that my daughter had a heart murmur.  Whaaaa???  And then she left again, and being in labor, I hadn't been collected enough to ask her any questions about it, and so I spent the next ten minutes or so with the worst labor, as I fought each contraction in worry, instead of working with it. Worse case scenarios went through my mind, of having to have a C-section, of Guinevere needing surgery, of her dying....Of course the next time she came in, I did ask her, and she told me that it wouldn't affect the labor at all, and everything would be fine, just that when the baby was born they would want to test her to make sure everything was all right. When the triage nurse called the midwife on duty, she recommended that they have me walk around the halls for an hour - despite the fact that I was 4.5 centimeters dilated, and that my previous two labors were six hours and 2 1/2 hours, respectively, and that I was already two and a half hours into this labor.  So Avram and I did, and I hated it.  My body labors very well on its own (which after having four labors, I now know I do well with the Bradley method, because I really am comfortable lying down in a bed or tub and not moving at all while my body does the work and progresses just fine on its own, with Avram coaching me to relax).  Although a whole hour had not passed (45 minutes had?), the triage nurse turn pity on us as we tried to complete the second trip up and down the hall and I was stopping for contractions every few feet.  She brought us back to the triage room, and now I was six or seven centimeters.

 So we went off to my room, thankfully pushing me in the bed because there was no way I was walking there.  In my room the TV was on, and blaring loudly.  I had noticed this as we walked up and down the hall, and with the small part of my brain that wasn't laboring I thought it was ridiculous that a TV was going at full blast in an empty room.  Of course of all the empty rooms that was the one we ended up in. I labored on the bed for a little bit, while the room filled with people doing whatever it is medical staff do with birthing rooms, when I finally between a contraction yelled for them to turn the TV off! I'm still surprised no one thought of turning it off themselves.  Meanwhile, despite the fact that at four thirty am after triage when the midwife was called, at 5:45 she was called again, and despite the fact that my labors, as outlined on my records and birth plan had been short, my midwife was no where to be found.  I was in transition (I am sure), and as a nurse stood there and asked me all sorts of important questions, "Where were you born?" and random trivia about me and my medical history (really?  really?!  I thought I was preregistering for a reason!), an ob-gyn on duty for her residency came in and started snapping on her gloves and asking me questions about how I wanted to deliver.  I have to hand it to the hospital that despite the fact that natural labors are not the norm, or even on the side of normal, this doctor was very supportive, and checked Guinevere's vitals while I labored on my hands and knees, and asked me what position I was planning to deliver in, and although she said she had never checked vitals like that before, and had never delivered someone like that before, she did not seem put out at all, and even happy to do it.

By this point it was past 6:20 am, and I found out later from Avram (much, much later, as in sometime this year, in 2013, not in 2010 when it happened, because he knew my blood would boil) that the midwife had gotten to the hospital, but was somewhere having coffee, and the staff didn't think she would actually make the birth at all.  I thought that the whole reason you have midwives is because they actually come to the labor and don't just show up when you push the baby out. And he's right - my blood is still boiling.  The midwife finally waltzed in for the last fifteen minutes of labor, just as I moved from transition to pushing.  The midwife was concerned that Guinevere's heartbeat wasn't doing well with me on my hands and knees (on the bed), and so she had me lie down on my side, with Avram holding one leg up. I didn't like this position at all, and yet I have almost no breaks between my pushing contractions, and so couldn't really suggest nor move to another position at that point.  By this point the whole labor had felt so out of control, so choppy, that I never really got into the groove of laboring.  I had tried working with the contractions, and relaxing, but with the walking and room changes, care changes, etc, I did not feel like I was riding the labor, but rather that it was riding on top of me, and squishing me.  During my second pushing contraction I was yelling at the midwife that I didn't want to do this, I couldn't do this anymore, I was done (because I have such short labors, and because my pushing is so short as well, my pushing usually feels like I'm still in transition...I usually can't snap out of it before the baby is born), when she told me to look down, and there was Guinevere, halfway out.  I hadn't even realized that she was crowning, and the midwife hadn't had me pause and push her out on the next contraction (which can prevent tearing).  So she was born at 6:42 am, and I had a small tear, but nothing that needed stitches.

The midwife wanted to cut the cord immediately because they needed to test Guinevere's heart, but I said that we could cut it when the team showed up to test here.  So I got to hold her on my chest for a couple of minutes, but then they showed up, and cut her cord and took her off to a different part of the room, and began testing her.  By this point my room felt like a circus, there were so many different people in there, all doing their thing.  Guinevere seemed to be fine, but they needed to do more tests on her, so I sent Avram upstairs with her while I remained on the labor and delivery floor.  I went through the post birth shock I've had with all my kids - I got hot the chills and was shaking and was hot and cold.  Soon enough the midwife finished and left, and all the circus drained out of my room until it was just me and a nurse on occasion. I kept asking for food, for breakfast, and telling them I was starving, but people just kept telling me that they didn't have any food on that floor, and I had to wait until they took me to the recovery floor, where I could have breakfast.  The shift change occurred, and so no one transferred me until eight thirty.  By then I was starving, and I had no idea what had happened to my daughter or husband.  They had me sit up, and then go to stand up to get in a wheelchair, when I almost blacked out and also almost threw up.  The nurse told me that I turned grey.  It turned out that I had been serious when I kept telling people that I was starving!  So they had me lie back down again, and finally got me some food - but it was only graham crackers and apple juice.  Still, I slowly ate it, as by this time I was nauseous, and eventually over a half hour later they came to move me again.  I still had no word on Avram or Guinevere.

They moved me upstairs, and as they wheeled me to my room I saw Avram standing in the hallway by the nursery.  He came to the room and told me that they had Guinevere in the nursery. He'd trailed behind with everything, but was never really included, and they had taken Guinevere into the nursery, but he'd been left outside, and so had spent a long time just standing at the window, trying to be connected with our daughter and not abandon her.  I asked for some breakfast from the recovery nurses, and they told me that breakfast time was over, and there was no breakfast on the floor anymore.  I honestly don't remember how I ended up eating that morning - I think I kept demanding until someone got me some cold eggs or something.  And eventually they brought Guinevere to us.   The rest of the stay in the hospital was fine, and except for the fact that they had us watch a how-to video before being released, that told us the finer points on diaper changing and not shaking babies - good information, but shouldn't they have an advanced parent track for people once they are on their third or more babies?

When I got home, I always meant to do a write up of her story. I'm sure if I had from that time period it would have focused a lot more on the positive, and a lot more on the feeling of the labor itself, since it would have been so fresh in my mind.  A lot more of how I worked through contractions, etc.  Over time thought, this was the impression my labor left on me; chaotic, choppy, and like no one was really overseeing the labor from a medical perspective. Also, OSU is a huge teaching hospital, with lots of bureaucracy (as seen by the breakfast fiasco).  This was great when just a few months later I was back in that hospital with double pneumonia and hyperthyroidism.  But for birth, which is not a medical condition, I didn't like feeling like a small cog in a great machine.  Especially a machine formed for epidurals, which didn't take into account how someone with a natural labor would function. The case in point?  There were huge flat screen TVs in all of the labor rooms, but the hospital has no birthing tub, I never saw a birthing ball, and there we no other natural-birthing-friendly ways or systems set up to labor.

At the six week checkup, the Midwife was very proud of how well I had recovered, and made some comment about what a great job she had done with the delivery, so that I hadn't needed any stitches.  If I were better at confrontation, I would have told her how in England I hadn't torn at all, and that as far as I was concerned she had contributed almost nothing to the delivery, and therefore had nothing to be proud about.  I'm not good at confrontation, so I said nothing.  But I knew I was never going to deliver a baby with that group and at that hospital again.

After Guinevere I knew that for my next baby, if it was born in Columbus, I wanted something very different.


Friday, May 10, 2013

100 Things About Myself

1. I don't like being read aloud to - I'd much rather read something for myself.  I also don't like reading out loud. I do read to my children, but not as much as many parents do, I'm sure.  I think this is because I'm a fast reader, and I hate receiving information slower than I could get it myself.

2. Sometimes when I'm driving, I worry that I'll run into an invisible car.  I'll be driving along, and turn left, and ram into a car, only it won't be my fault, because it was invisible - not that I just didn't see it, but truly invisible.  For some reason, this has never happened so far.

3. Every time I see a police officer while driving, I also get very nervous, and start coming up with a dialogue of how I'll explain to him why it wasn't my fault that I did X, regardless that I feel very strongly about keeping the speed limit, and try never to disobey any traffic laws.

4. Except once when I was young and stupid and dating Avram, and had borrowed my sister's car which had been in a car accident, and one car light had been hit.  I drove it home from his apartment after dark, because I couldn't pull myself away until then (yes, I was young and in love....), and as I was driving home, I just knew a police officer would see me, and pull over (can the Spirit warn you when you're dumb and breaking the law?) Sure enough, one did pull me over, and came up to lecture me.  A few lines in to our conversation, where we were exploring how dumb I was, he got called by the dispatcher to a scene that needed all of the police available, immediately.  So he looked at dumb me, and told me to drive straight home, and not drive at night anymore in that car.  And he left, and drove off.

5. Sometimes I even come up with scenarios where I'm going to be sent to jail by a police officer, and I'll have to find someone to come and take my kids.  The other scenario I explore while driving is that I'll die, or that Avram will die.  And then I plan everything out, because planning for catastraphies makes me feel better.   I realize that the last four points make me sound like I'm slightly crazy.  I promise I'm very in possession of my faculties.

6. But on the subject of slightly delusional, I like to pretend that someday I'm going to write novels. I have the beginnings to five novels in my head, that I periodically talk about or explore with Avram.  One novel is straight fantasy based on an ancient Mediterranean city states with a dual sun god and moon goddess, where the main character is a head priestess for the moon goddess, who is then let go from her (lifelong) position, one is 18th century British fantasy, where the heroine is jolted out of her mourning for her dead husband by deep intrigues on the part of his magical family, one is a dystopic future where Vampires have blood farms or blood plantations they keep full of humans - the main character is a 'progressive' vampire and her plantation is moved to rebellion by a human against her, and one is a memoir type novel written by an old lady who has a strong voice and a fascinating past (it's not fantasy at all - it's my attempt at a great American novel).   I also like to think that I'll write a memoir of my own childhood, or a fictionalized account ala Little Women.

7. I've only written two pages at most at a time for any of these novels. Every time I have ever written anything, I'm mostly just amazed at how ridiculous it sounds, and then I freeze up and can't write a word. So I think I'll probably in truth just remain a consumer of the written word.

8. Obviously the above mentioned doesn't apply when I write blog posts. I can essay my fingers to the bone, and never mind.  Somehow I think the selling of essay books went out with Montaigne, so I'll have to keep with the blog writing.

9. I think I'm secretly a fascinating person, with a fascinating life, and if I could just get this conveyed somehow, everyone else would see this too. I say this, despite the fact that my current claim to fame might be that I'm currently writing this while simultaneously nursing Enoch.

10. I nurse Enoch without a cover. I nurse Enoch (and everyone post Lydia) at Church in sacrament meeting, at Ikea in the sample rooms, in Walmart and Meijer, while getting my van's oil changed, in the park, at restaurants, while teaching my primary class, in story time at the library, and basically anywhere I happen to be with a hungry baby.  I only cover up when I'm wearing an shirt that doesn't stretch well.  (And when teaching the class, since I'm usually triple tasking at that point.)  I've never had a single person comment on it negatively.  Most of the time I can tell people don't even realize I'm nursing at all.

11. I also cloth diaper, and try and eat more locally, and I only buy free range eggs and free range chickens (because I think they are the worst treated animal in the agribusiness field).  And garden.  And make homemade whole wheat bread every week, and have had four natural births, one of which was a water birth. So I seem a little crunchy.

12. But I also buy lot-fed every other animal.  And when I eat out, I eat chicken without even thinking. And I vaccinate my children (I even believe in ideologically).  And I buy bread all throughout my pregnancies and post pregnancy until I feel like baking. And I have a strong distrust and disbelief of homeopathic medicine, and don't use any, and when I was pregnant I tried doing the hypnobirthing exercises with Avram, but I couldn't stop laughing, I thought that the idea of hypnotizing myself was so ridiculous (although I think other people do manage it) .  Ultimately, I think people can't fit in in a box of "crunchy" or "granola."

13. Avram and I have never had a TV hooked up for TV (just for movies).  The only TV show I have followed since high school was Design Star, which I watched online last summer with Lydia and Eliseheva when I was 7-9 months pregnant.  I don't like TV.

14. I also don't like watching movies very much - I'd much rather read.

15. I like reading design blogs, and think about how to design my house a lot. I like doing a casual cottage style with a homey vibe, but nothing that embraces old rusty farm implements on the wall - I like function and beauty to meet together; for example, we have a large map on our living room wall.

16. I took up throught AP calculus in high school, and got a four on the test, but have never had a math class since then, and now I can't remember a single thing from that class except that calculus was magical in a way.

17. I pick up crafty hobbies for a little while, and then get bored and drop them.  I've knitted, sewed (more than once), scrapbooked, done felted wool, and I don't do any of them right now. Around 18 months ago I declared that I am not a crafty person, and haven't done a crafty thing since then.  I've loved it.

18. The hobbies that have stayed with me my whole life are reading, blogging (I haven't left emotionally, I just can't write without mental and physical peace), cooking, and people.

19. I love people.  I love seeing people, talking with people, going to parties, and having people come to my house.  One of the hardest things for me as a SAHM has been the very reduced amount of people I see day to day.

20. I talk a lot, which isn't enough to be a something about me, because you all already knew that.  What you may not know is that I love vibrant conversations. I love two people talking to each other - getting in the middle of each others' sentences, talking (and listening) at the same time, going on tangents that lead to new subjects and then jumping back to old long dead subjects in an instant. I don't mind being interrupted in the slightest, but I also don't mind interrupting. Too bad most of the world does.

21. I do not like monologuing, nor having a conversation with someone who never talks. It makes me uncomfortable, and I talk more, but not in a sharing, happy way, but more in a panicked, why-aren't-they-saying-anything way.

22. I also love big group conversation dynamics, the ebb and flow of a ton of people all together.  I love hearing my big family all get together and talk for this reason. It's ca-razy, and you can't hear yourself think, but it's also very synergistic and energizing.

23. I played classical guitar as a child, but the only song I can still play on the guitar is Greensleeves.

24. I'm not much of a music person. I rarely listen to music, although I'm trying to change this - one of my New Year's goals is to try and listen to a CD a day.  I did not achieve this goal today.

25. When I do listen to music I like songs that I can understand the words in, and are singable to, and that tell stories instead of mooning over love all the time, with lots of repeating choruses.  I like bluegrass, some country, folk, hymns, and any genre that intersects between these the most.

26. My favorite movie is While You Were Sleeping. I've watched it so many times I can quote from all parts of it.  This is more memorable, because see above, I don't usually like movies very much.

27. I've always wanted to live next to the sea, preferably somewhere like Cornwall or the Coast of Maine, or the Puget Sound.  I want to live somewhere where I could see the ocean, and walk along the rocky coast (I seriously imagine me doing this all the time).  I want to smell it in the air, and collect shells in my house, and have clam bakes and chowders, and watch the rolling storm clouds move in, and see the sun rise (or set) every morning (or night).  I also think none of the above will ever happen in any life I can realistically see me living.

28. When I was a kid I saw myself as a mix between Anne of Green Gables and Laura Ingalls.  I thought I had been born in the wrong century, and I used to lie in my backyard, which was once where George Q. Cannon's orchard was in Salt Lake City, Utah, and close my eyes and will myself to wake up a hundred or a hundred and 50 years previously and live my life out among the pioneers.

29. I also used to constantly pretend that I was moving back to England to live with my Aunt on the Moors.  I would talk to myself, and pack up my belongings, and walk around outside.

30. I would also sing in my play out in the backyard, as part of my own musicals.  I was kind of a loner for play, but I loved it that way.

31. I was also convinced that my stuffed animals were alive, and would jump into my room super fast, to try and catch them moving. I never cared much for dolls, that I only gave the name Sarah to, but I had a whole kingdom of stuffed animals, with a king and queen bear, and little baby prince bear who had his own stuffed dog he rode on around my bedroom.

32.  I had a very, very large imagination as a child.  I'm not sure what that gets channeled into now...maybe reading? Maybe roleplaying? Maybe I need more hobbies that aren't just being a mom?

33. I cried the evening when I first left the temple after receiving my own endowment (not to switch topics on you, but I was getting a little sad I couldn't be a kid anymore, so I'm focusing on adulty things).  I loved being in the temple, I loved the endowment, and I loved the celestial room, and afterwards I really felt that I was in such a dreary world, full of things like driving, and getting dinner from Taco Bell, which could make anyone cry.  After Avram and I drove back to Provo from Jordan River, where I received my endowment, I crawled over to the passenger seat where he was sitting, and curled up in his lap, and cried about how I didn't want to leave the temple. (Note for anyone who may have stumbled on this blog - I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, and I am referring to Mormon temples).

34. The temple is the favorite part of my religion.  I love it, I love all the ordinances, I love the insights it has given me in women and priesthood, the plan of salvation, and the eternities.  I love the white clothes, and soft voices, and someday I want to be a temple worker.  It's where I receive inspiration most clearly, and where I feel the Spirit the strongest.

35. Missionary work is my least favorite part of my religion. I struggle with telling others about things that truly matter to me.  My religion and my beliefs in God and Jesus Christ are the most important beliefs I have - and the hardest for me to talk about with others.

36. I also really struggle with talking about politics in public (or facebook).  Or my true thoughts on lots of controversial subjects.  Although I also am not very political - I have lots of thoughts on a few political subjects, and almost no thoughts on most.

37.  I do believe in voting, though, and I have researched my choices and voted in every election since I turned 18, except for the two years that I was living abroad, in Egypt and England respectively.

38. I don't like circumcision.  Avram and I have had discussions about this that have ended in tears on both sides.  Enoch is circumcised. I realized that there were some fights that weren't worth winning, and volunteered to lose.  I still don't like it, though.  It makes me sad every time I change his diaper.  Someday I hope that if we adopt a boy, that he won't be circumcised.

39. I've always wanted to adopt a child or more someday since I was a teenager.  Specifically, I've always wanted to do foster care, and then possibly adopt.  Currently Avram and I are talking about possibly being doing with biological birth, and then trying harder to adopt later.  I want a large family, which currently hovers at five to six kids.

40. I often hope I'll never be pregnant again.  I've had postpartum hyperthyroidism and then hypothyroidism after the last two kids, and I've also felt postpartum depression. I wonder if the two are linked?  Regardless, I don't feel like myself after a baby, and I feel like every pregnancy and recovery has been more hard.

41. I don't play with my kids.  I've never been the kind of mom who gets down on the floor and pretends with my girls.  I much prefer to set up situations for them to play with each other.

42. I don't like animals.  Sure, I like going to the zoo.  I think it's important to be good stewards of animals, and I like that other people have pets.  I just don't like interacting with animals very much.  Except the occasional cat.  I realize this sounds in some circles like I am deficient as a person.  I probably am.

43. In reference to number 28 and Anne Of Green Gables, Elisheva's middle name is Anne, after her.  In some ways, I consider Anne to be one of my childhood friends.  She used to talk to an imaginary friend in the glass in a piece of furniture, and I liked to think that somehow, my interacting with her went the other way, and we met in the middle.  Ironically, I don't always like reading Anne books nowdays - she seems a little twee sometimes.  And her positive attitude bothers me a little.  I think currently I like the memory of them better.

44. I was in the medieval club at BYU, known as the Quill and the Sword, and this was where I met Avram - specifically we got to know each other in the cooking guild, where we tested Medieval feast recipes every Friday night.

45. Avram and I got engaged at the same time, but on different days, and on different continents..  (He was in America, and I was in Egypt).

46.I do almost all the driving in our family.

47. Every other week I play a Role Playing Game with Avram and three other guys.  Currently we are playing Fading Suns, a game that is like DUNE.  I enjoy roleplaying (which if you don't know what this is - imagine you're ten, and playing games, and (at least we did), you stop actually playing, and start telling each other what your character is doing, or saying, and then combine that with an improv group, along with dice that resolve skills/fighting, etc. and character sheets you're sticking to.  Yeah, it's like that.

48. The way I show love the most is by time spent with people.  It made me tend towards co-dependency in my college relationships.  Also, this is why I don't think I could ever be in a marriage where my husband had a job that he traveled constantly for (if we ever got to that point, I'd probably go bonkers crazy, and he'd end up changing fields.)

49. One of my favorite desserts are Cinnamon Rolls.  I love them, especially with fluffy cream cheese frosting.  All of my favorite sugar items are baked goods - cakes, pies, etc.

59. I don't love most candy, I won't eat anything but dark chocolate, and even then I'd rather have it in a baked dessert/frosting, and I'm not a huge fan of ice cream.

60. I read fiction books around 100 pages an hour.

61. I deconstruct a lot of fiction that I read.  I am almost the only person I know (Avram being the other), who is significantly bothered by the economic unrealities present in Panem in the Hunger Games (ie, the coal mining town that would supply enough power for absolutely nothing...).  I once even wrote a whole, long blog rant about this, but didn't publish it. Twilight bothers me because the choices that are set up are not the ones played out, so it suffers from a disconnect of consequences (but doesn't realize it, so it's not like the book is knowingly playing with your expectations).  Life of Pi is actually anti-religion, and no-one seems to realize this, including perhaps the author.  Many novels come under my unrelenting eye for exacting standards.  I tend to deconstruct movies a lot too - often to the point I can't enjoy them.  Avram, bless him, is my audience for this.  He is a patient, patient man.

62. Along with this tendency, plus the fact that I edit Avram's papers, and care deeply about sentence structure and the way that we convey ideas through writing, makes Avram think that I should consider becoming an editor.  Although, please don't judge the quality of well-written sentences by those appearing in my blog.  It's not enough for me to note that something isn't working well in a story - I have to think it out, play it out in my mind and through conversation, until I can pinpoint what exactly is going wrong, and where, and what should have been done instead (in my opinion).

63. One of the ways that I process thoughts is through conversation - talking things out.  I have often talked to myself, although since being married, Avram is the more usual recipient for this.  This doesn't always end well, when I'm talking to him while he's trying to go to sleep. (Usually we both enjoy talking things out with each other, don't worry. Also, I believe he doesn't remember this at all - ie, he was asleep.) This is, however, why I'm always a little bothered when people assume that there is one better way to be as a person, and silence is that way (or that talking should be reserved when you have something important  or witty, or new, or interesting to say).  Not that there can't be people like that - but they process the world differently than I do.

64. My current favorite color is aqua blue - like a light, or pale turquoise.

65. My favorite foods are lamb, cherries, watermelon, tuna melts (but not all at the same time).

66. I've lived in in six states (Idaho, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Virginia and Ohio), and two other countries (Egypt and England) in my life.

67. I attended Wayland Academy, a boarding school in Beaver Dam Wisconsin, for my junior and senior years of High School.  I'm trying to think of a short way to contextualize that, but really, it was a pretty random thing in my life, too. They were recruiting, I saw it, and had spent my youth pretending to attend boarding schools in England, and so was hooked.  I applied, got accepted, got a small scholarship, plus financial aid until we could afford to send me.  It was a hard experience, but good for me growing up.

68.  I will say that there are five kids in my family, or nine, or ten, or eleven, depending on the circumstances being discussed.  All are true statements. (My mom had five kids.  She got divorced and remarried, and my step-dad had custody of his daughters, with four at home.  We all grew up together from when I was almost ten on.  He had another grown up daughter that I didn't live with, which makes ten.  And finally, I have an informally adopted adult sister added a few years ago into our family.)

69. One of my favorite singers is Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Al-Islam.  I love his voice, no matter what he's singing.  I also really like Peter, Paul and Mary.

70. I want to go back to school and get a master's degree, and then possibly a Ph.d., and teach at the college level.

71. Reading my Alumni magazine from my Alma Mater, BYU, often makes me feel inferior and lame, because I read about all these amazing women, doing these amazing jobs, plus having families, and I want to be like them.  But then I worry that I'm not really as capable as I think I am, and that I won't be able to go very far professionally/academically.  My inferiority complex knows no bounds when it comes to academics, although I've always been good at school, and I think I'm smart.  I mean, I remember that I used to be considered smart back in high school and college - but that was a long time ago, now.  Also, I've seen enough grad school first hand to know that just being smart isn't enough.  But regardless I'm going to try anyway, because I feel like half a person when my only job is being a stay at home mom.  (It's the stay at home part I struggle with, not the mom part.)

72. I'm also a confused person, because I deeply believe that for myself, and my family, I want to be at home when my children are young.  I've been happier about this lately, by focusing on enjoying each moment, and not always looking for tomorrow, or feeling like all my yesterdays are creeping in a petty pace, day to day.

73. I like reading fantasy (my favorite fantasy author is Brandon Sanderson), classics (especially British works from the 19th century), "book club" books - ie modern thinking books.  Really, I just love reading.  And thinking from what I'm reading.

74. I find I do best in regards to how I feel about my religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when I'm doing, rather than thinking.  When I read up on issues people have, or historical topics, or modern Mormon Feminists, or whatnot, I feel confused.  When I attend church, teach my class, bear my testimony of what I know, attend the temple, serve others, visit teach, etc, I have purpose and meaning in my religious devotion.  I feel calm.

75.  Because of this I avoid public discussions, or any controversial topic about my religion on facebook, or anywhere on the Internet.  Although sometimes the mischievous part of me goes and looks at them anyway, and then Avram has to deal with the cleanup while I hash out all my thoughts and emotions (see number 63).

76.  Walking is my favorite form of exercise.  Avram and I would walk all over Provo when we were dating, so that we could have privacy and talk.  Everywhere from the Castle Ampitheater on the Mental Health Grounds to up on the mountain on what I called our rock (it's a big old rock above the tree streets) to up by the temple, out in west Provo, and many, many times around campus and south of campus.  I still love going on walks with Avram.

77. I majored in Near Eastern Studies at BYU, and had an Arabic minor.  I also went on a study abroad to Alexandria, Egypt, and I can safely say that this changed my life (it's how I decided to marry Avram.)

78. I prefer to wear skirts over pants almost all the time.  I think they're more comfortable, and fun, and can dress up or down to fit any occasion.  I don't like the feel of jeans, although I do wear them in the winter because they're warm, and while camping because they're durable.

79. I got an 800 on my verbal for the SAT.  Which is a perfect score, and of course in life it means nothing, but hey, this is a list of a 100 things about myself, so I guess I can be pointlessly braggy, especially at this point, when most people have probably stopped reading.  I got a 1500 total.

80. I didn't study for the SAT at all.  The night before I did run through some sample questions, just to get the format down.  However, in my ninth grade class my Latin teacher, who had also been an English teacher, told us about a student she'd had who had gotten an 800 on the SAT verbal, and who had done so by having a notebook that she had kept for years, where whenever she ran across a word she didn't know, she would write it down, and then look it up when convenient.  I started a notebook like that then, and kept one for the next four years.  So that probably helped, and could count as long term prepping.

81. And yet I didn't learn what the world heuristic meant until this last year, which is a real pity, because it's a humdinger of a word - not just another flowery adjective, but an actual concept difficult to express simply otherwise. Or Hermeneutics, which I learned after I completed college.

82. Although I'm not an athletic, out doorsy kind of person, I really like camping.  I love being in nature, and campfires, and s'mores (made only with dark chocolate), and watching stars.

83. Speaking of star watching, I really love it.  In college I used to go up with friends a half hour or so into the Provo Canyon and lie out in a public area/entrance to a state park, and watch the stars there.  I had used to watch them on the edge of a field, but then a police officer came and found my friend Jarom and I and made us move off private property.  Yeah, it was awkward to be found lying next to a boy, in the dark, in a field (just a meadow), by a police officer.  If only because I was very aware what he was probably assuming about the situation, especially when we told him we were star watching. The truth is always more awkward than fiction.

84.  Speaking of, I was once at a birthday party that was crashed by a SWAT Team.  I don't know who felt more embarrassed - us, or them.  Probably them.

85. I am anti Credit Cards.  I don't believe in buying into a system that is designed to keep people in debt, even though I know there are those who 'beat' the system, and just earn the rewards.  Just remember - those credit card companies are not non profits.  They don't offer you those miles, or rewards, out of the goodness of their hearts.  Also, people have been proven to spend more when using a credit card, then spend less using a debit card, and finally use the least comparatively when using cash.

86. When I first read Dave Ramsey, it was validating to hear a professional say what I had been saying for years about finance and money.  We all have our things - I'm kind of anti-money.  I think we all (including myself) think about it too much, say that it's the love of money that's evil, not money itself, but then, how many of us hate money?  Avoid money?  Also, we equate money too much with success in life.  Anyway, that's my soap box.

87. My sister Mary and I talk on the phone several times a week while we clean our houses, for conversation.  My sister Mary, Camilla and I will also do what we call 'sister chats' where we have a three way phone call. I love being able to talk to people while doing things like laundry or dishes.

88. I am horrible with technology.  For someone born after PCs were invented, I don't have the natural skills to do diddly-squat on any mobile device.

89. I don't like to inadvertently give the wrong impression to people, and so I will often over explain an unimportant piece of background detail to a story, because I hate abridging something so that it sounds like some small detail was actually another small detail.

90. I was president of the Medieval club I was in in college my sophmore year.  We had around forty members, and that year I had a larger leadership role than I'd had before or since.  It was hard, but I liked it.  I liked going through and organizing behind the scenes.

91. My freshman year I was also a double major with Comparative Literature, but I dropped that my sophomore year - I don't always like how people can over theorize books to death, particularly with weird buzzword lingo.

92.  I know that I come across as a pushy purson, who is opinionated.  A red/blue split on the color personality test.

93. But I'm not confrontational at all.  I don't like directly facing off against someone. I also dread making phone calls, although they never seem to be as bad I as I fear.

94. Some of my favorite hymns are How Firm a Foundation and Be Still My Soul.

95. Up until I got married I was an avid journal writer.  Somehow writing about all the boys I liked lost its appeal once I had just one husband....

96. If I could have three wishes, I would wish first that Avram would get a good tenure track job when he graduates (I'd prefer BYU, but I'd hate to force our future if we are meant to go somewhere else), second that I could achieve and maintain a good balance of housekeeping/parenting/working/life, and third that I would be accepted in going back to school, and would find the best field for me that I'd be great at, and would succeed in and love.

97. I don't consider myself a feminist, and a lot of creeds I read by feminists do not resonate with me, and mainly address issues/imbalances that I've never felt, or that I think are missing the main point.  However, in the last year or so, I have come to a new awakening about how I feel about women in history (I think we got the short end of the stick), and although I can explain historically and culturally and biologically why that all happened, it still bothers me.  It bothers me now that having children (which I think is important) is so much harder for women than men.  It takes nine months of our life, plus then another year at least of nursing, and up to three years anciently, and four years even further back.  And some feminist approaches - to just not have children, also bother me.  I don't know a way to even know what the perfect balance would be for men and women, for our roles as parents and wage earners and nurturers.

98. I've told Avram before that I think in my perfect world, he would work 30-35 hours a week, and I would work 15-20.  Too bad careers don't really come in those increments.  Although being a part time adjunct faculty member would be close on my side, and I do love the flexibility that academics has for him, so that he is really a huge part of parenting our children as well.

99. I'm inecisive. I'm so indecisive that it's taken me over an hour to complete that last thirteen of these comments (which in turn has taken me two sessions weeks apart to do - man, 100 is a lot of items!).  Even more indecisive, it took me months to decide to marry Avram.  When we go out to eat, we commonly look up the menu first, and I decide what I'll order before I go, so that way I don't spend forever hemming and hawing over a couple of choices.

100. I won't let my kids have barbies.  Or toys that light up and make noise.  I'm kind of a Nazi mom, but I feel like the comparative silence in our home and lack of annoying strange shaped dolls that would always end up naked and with matted hair and cheap clothing more than make up for that.  I like non licensed toys the best, that are open ended, by which I mean, generic legos instead of a specific set, or random dress up that becomes all sorts of things, rather than a Disney princess dress.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Diamond Castle - a "let's read and discuss" Story

Here is a story, called The Diamond Castle:

"Alexa and Liana are best friends.  They love to sing.  One day, they find magic stones.  They make necklaces.  They promise to be best friends always.  Later that day, Liana and Alexa meet a poor old woman.  The girls give her their lunch.  The woman gives them an old mirror.  At home, the girls sing.  A third voice joins in. It is coming from the mirror! A girl named Melody is trapped inside.

Melody tells the story of the Diamond Castle Three muses lived there. But evil Lydia wanted to be the only muse. The two good muses hid the Diamond Castle.  They gave Melody the key. Then Lydia turned the good muses to stone.

 Now Lydia wants the key to the Diamond Castle. Lydia's dragon, Slyder, must find Melody. Slyder flies to the girls' cottage. They hide in the cellar. Slyder is right upstairs! They girls all escape.

Melody still had the key. She can save the muses. Alexa and Liana set out for the castle with the mirror. On the way, they find two puppies.  They name them Lily and Sparkles.  Soon the girls meet twin brothers.  Their names are Jeremy and Ian.  They want to help Liana and Alexa.

Lydia and Slyder look for Alexa and Liana.  Slyder chases them! The twins rescue the girls just in time! Alexa and Liana rest at a manor. They find food to eat and they try on gowns. But the girls argue. Alexa wants to stay. Liana thinks they should keep going.

Lydia lures both girls to her cavern. She puts Alexa under a spell.  Alexa is going ot fall! Liana and Lily save her. The girls are friends again. Now Lydia has the mirror. Melody is still inside! Lydia creates a whirlpool. She uses a spell to make the girls walk into it. But they trick her! Alexa grabs Lydia's magic flute. Liana saves the mirror from Lydia.

Alexa and Liana sing. Then the Diamond Castle appears! Singing was the key! Melody appears, too. She is free from the mirror! The Diamond Castle sparkles with magic. Lydia and Slyder turn to stone. The good muses are free.

Liana and Alexa become Princesses of Music. Their gowns sparkle. Liana, Alexa, and Melody are best friends always."

What if I told you that Lydia (first grade) had written the above story?  You would be very impresses with the precociousness  and inventiveness of a small child.  Or what if this was a story from my childhood, maybe written when I was in third grade or so? You would still laugh over it, and think it was cute.

However, what if I told you that this was a published book, whose full title is Barbie & The Diamond Castle and is actually a badly done summary of a (I presume) badly done movie aimed at girls?

Now, I usually try and refrain from writing rants.  And obviously, I didn't have to read the book - it came into this house because Elisheva gets to pick two books a week from the library, and this is one she picked.  I'm usually a live and let live kind of person for femininity and girls things.  By which I mean, that although I really dislike licensed products aimed to sell more products, I have nothing against princesses and pink and even boys sometimes rescuing girls.  I like a lot of traditional fairy tales, which usually include at least one of the above mentioned tropes.  Yet reading a book where the plot jumps around, includes random encounters (Old woman never explained! Puppies!  Young men who disappear after two pages, providing a convenient save!), proceeds in an illogical manner (how do the girls escape the cellar?  How do they trick Lydia and escape the spell? How come when they sing and Melody joins in, in the beginning the Diamond Castle doesn't appear at that point, and not later?), and digresses into trying on gowns as the big deterrent in the quest, gives me fits.  A piece of writing that would be advanced and impressive for a first grader is pathetic for a published book, regardless whether they are hiding under the title of Barbie, are also a "step into reading" (and therefore simple) book, or even are a summarization of a movie.

And we feed these books to our children!  I know that children have a large ability to intake media and not be overly influenced or damaged by it.  Avram watched a lot of Heman as a child.  I loved reading all hundreds of the baby sitter club books.  We are still functioning humans, and he doesn't think it's normal to run around wearing what amounts to a diaper with straps for a grown man, and I never tried to make my own babysitter's club.  Yet what we intake, becomes our normal.  If nothing else, I hope that Elisheva, or Lydia, who read this book on her own, thinks that this constitutes a good story, a well written story. What really boils my blood isn't even the theme, the pink and all it entails, or any of the other women as objects moments - it's the bad writing.  What kind of writer let these words be published, and put her name on this books! And this one was even personally adapted - I've seen books written by committee that are even more egregious.  What kind of editors would pass this off into publishing?  I know that writing summaries at best are sketchy, and try to avoid any movie to book adaptation, but still, one can have self respect for what one creates.  Of course, if the movie is really bad, there isn't anything a summary could do to save it, so perhaps the adapter had nothing to work with, in which case we can extend this to what media in general are we feeding to out children.


One could say that the onus of this burden of protecting my child from the dreck lies with me, and you would be correct.  I do like to let the girls pick at least one book a week that their little souls desire, without my strong opinions over-riding. Elisheva's soul just happens to crave princesses, ballerinas, Cinderella, fairies and pink/purple.  Usually I try and guide this into the more folklore section, where last week we got two Cinderella books, one a retelling in Mexico, and one a retelling in the Caribbean. (Not that those stories weren't without issue either, but I recognize it's hard to make a version of Cinderella where she isn't a passive player that other characters act upon to tell the story.)  This week my guard was down, and we ended up with Barbie & the lack of any talent, substance or worth book. I will not be so lax again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Last Night I had the Strangest Dream

Last night I had a dream straight out of the movie Family Man.  I dreamt that I was married to my first college boyfriend, the missionary, the one who (spoiler) I dumped Avram for, and the one who (not very much a spoiler) I then broke off our tenuous understanding (I was in Egypt, long story....) and married Avram.  We'll call him D, so I don't embarrass myself on Google searches.  A note - sometimes in the past in my marriage I have had a bad tendency to think that although life is hard, and this husband and these kids are hard, that if I had married someone else, it would be easier.  Oh, sure, logically I knew that milk would still spoil, and kids would still cry, but fundamentally I fuzzily thought it would be easier in some hand-wavium, romanticized-past sort of way.

Well, in the dream, just like in the movie Family Man, I woke up into an alternate life, one wherein D and I were married.  I was basically the same age I am now, and it was, I presume, the parallel life I would have had.  I knew that I was only in that life for a day or so, and I could still remember my normal life with Avram & Co.  First off, we were living with D's parents.  Yes.  In a big old rambling house.  I went downstairs to see my children, not really knowing who or what my children were.  The two oldest were playing together in the basement family room.  One looked up, and his name was Andy, and as I looked into his eyes, his sweet eyes that I couldn't completely reach, the soundtrack of my life ground to a screeching halt, and I realized he was autistic.  He was fairly high functioning - he could talk and such, but was definitely autistic.   He was my oldest, and in school, and half of the dream was spent discussing his IEP, and the most recent meeting we had had with the school about it.    This wasn't how I had imagined my life - any life.   In that life, I loved Andy furiously, but the part of me from this life was still in the back of my mind, noting how wrong this all was - autism isn't easy and isn't something you 'recover' from.  Also, on less epic notes, I was thinking, "Andy - really?  Andy? I'm more of an unusual namer (you may have noticed), and I'm pretty sure I would never name a child Andy."  It wasn't until I woke up that I fully realized that D's middle name is Andrew - so I presume he was named after his father.

Then next to Andy, my second child, a daughter, looked up.  And it was Elisheva.  She looked just like Elisheva, and we had named her Elisheva in this alternate life as well.  I sat there thinking that she must be her mother's daughter through and through.  For half the dream I didn't know where, or who, my youngest was, but eventually I found him, a little baby boy on the cusp of toddlerhood, named Brandon.  After Andy as a name, I wasn't as surprised that I had named a child Brandon, but I was still feeling like did I really know myself at all, and I admit, my first thought upon finding this out was that I couldn't believe I was one of those fans, who had named my child after my favorite author, Brandon Sanderson.

The dream progressed through the day/life.  I felt awkward sharing my in-law's space, there was a large family gathering I felt overwhelmed in, and I was still trying to absorb my three children, not to mention that I was trying to figure out who I had become in this life.  In all of that, the actual matter of my husband was relatively small.  He was there, and solid, but not much happened with our relationship in that day - like real life as well, some days, with a busy family.  I wanted to know more about who I was, and in lieu of any other recording that I could find, I looked over this other Thora's pinterest boards, scanning them to learn something of myself.  I also looked hard for record of wedding pictures, which I found, and were nice.  I pinned them to my pinterest boards.  (I don't know where Facebook was - I guess I didn't use it?).  Much of the dream was spent talking to D's sister, there for the family get-together, and surreptitiously trying to figure out my place in this family, in this life, this marriage, without sounding like I'd gone crazy, or forgotten my own children's names.

By the evening I felt very drained with all of this new life, and new burdens.  I excused myself from the family, and pulled D along to bed early, where we first sat down to read a scripture program we were doing, that involved reading some set texts for twenty minutes a day (on our kindles - I was pretty high tech for me).  Just a few minutes in, I was so exhausted from everything, and starting to fall asleep, that I had to cut it off and go to bed right then.  This was another large moment for me in the dream.  Back when D and I dated our freshman year, he was living with his sister and brother-in-law, and I would often join with them in a family scripture study.  I had always assumed that a real, great strength of that would-have-been relationship would have been our steady as a rock scripture study.  I felt so disappointed in myself in the dream, thinking that this was what our life was - I couldn't even stay awake during scripture study, we were living with family (for unknown reasons), I had a special needs child that although wonderful was also a lot harder than I had bargained parenting to be, and apparently I had developed a mundane taste in names (apologies to anyone with the name of Andy or Brandon - but I just like to be different with names.)

The dream progressed in so real a manner, that it never felt like a dream. The setting didn't suddenly change, the makeup of people didn't shift and change, no rampaging Unicorns nor impossible actions like falling from the sky and jumping up occurred.  The dream just was.
I haven't really given a thought to the might have beens of other marriages in years, yet Avram and I did talk about the past briefly last night, which I supposed must have spurred that dream, although the small and crazy part of me likes to think - what if it really was a what if?  It was a good reminder that life is hard - any life.