Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Creating Morgan: Just Say No

I don't believe in "finding" yourself, but I do believe in creating yourself and this month I discovered that I haven't been creating the person I want to be.

My whole life I have told myself the same small lie over and over again. "I can do that." Until recently, I could do that! And that! And that! I could do it all! Or I thought
I could. The truth is, I can't do that. Or that. Or that.

Can I be a room mom for D's class? Yes.
Can I be art coordinator? Yes.
Can I work part time? Yes.
Can I take care of M and give him all the cuddles? Yes and Yes.
Can I assemble a cabinet for my grandma? Yes. (Even those pesky Ikea ones.)
Can I start a personal writing business? Yes. (Will it go anywhere is a different question.)
Can I make and sell wreaths and other decor? Yes.
Can I cook dinner? Yes.
Can I visit a sick neighbor? Yes. (With a medical mask and hazmat suit on. I ain't about getting sick.)
Can I give Rich all the loves in the world? Yes.
Can I do all of these things at the same time? No. Not even close.

My whole adult life, I've prided myself on being able to do a lot of things at one time. I learn very quickly. I can multi-task like you wouldn't believe. I feel like there is nothing you can throw at me that I can't handle. (Except a hot potato. I will not handle those.) Doing many things at once has often earned a lot of praise (and some negative reactions, haters gonna hate, right?). Part of me lives for that praise. We all live for praise.

How B feels about building
cabinets.
Being able to go to art, go to work, cuddle M, craft, write, care for people and build cabinets has always been one of my greatest strengths. (Keep in mind, I don't do these exact things every day. That would be too many cabinets.) I thought it was my greatest strength. Until recently when I realized I'm not happy doing it. I enjoy it. I feel accomplished, but I don't feel like I'm going where I want to go.

"Your habits sculpt your path." (Farshad Asl) That's not something we think about as we are living our habits. It's not something I have thought about while living my habits. I don't eat cereal daily and think "yes, this is forming a nice path to being a cereal connoisseur." I have thought about the path I am on, though.

I have thought about who I want to be, the kind of woman I want to grow up to be. There are a lot of role models in my life and several more throughout history. Lately, I've felt like I'm on the wrong path to become like those women. It's felt like I'm on a parallel path that will never reach the same destination as a path I want to be on. It took me a lot of late night thinking to realize what's wrong. My habits.

I have a habit of being late. Everyone who knows me knows I run ten to thirty minutes late, minimum. If you want me to be somewhere on time, tell me to be there at an earlier time.

I also have a habit of not fully completing projects. I have a lot of pieces of projects sitting around. I have the materials to make some cute Halloween wreaths, but I just haven't put them together.

Another habit is messiness. Poor Rich probably goes nuts because he's such a neat person and I'm so messy. I'm not a slob where I leave trash on the floor, but I also don't ever put my shoes away. It's lucky if I remember to empty the dishwasher, or get M's clothes put away (or my clothes).

In all honesty, I have lied and told myself that these are signs of me being busy. They are the quirky consequences of a busy lifestyle tending to others. How wrong is that? Talk about "fake news." Being messy, stressing out my husband, is a sign of not thinking about his needs. (He did not tell me to say that, to be clear. I want to put his needs first.) He hates emptying the dishwasher. We agreed that it's the one job that is just mine. He loads, I unload. It's a team effort. But he then also does the laundry, the sorting, the folding, the hanging, the gathering of the shoes. He does it all. And what do I do? I blog about it.

Somewhere in there is Rich's
guitar. 
Our little office is a disaster. And it's all my unfinished work. This is his space, too. This is supposed to be a place where he can work on his dreams. Instead
it's a place to hoard my bad habits.

Unfortunately, I don't know that I will ever be able to be on time to things. But the rest of these problems, I can fix. I can fix them by changing my habits.

I've prided myself on saying "yes" to tasks. ALL the tasks. Run an errand? Yep! Build a cabinet? Yep! (That cabinet is on my mind. I need to get it finished.) Feed M? Yep! Listen to all three boys tell me about school at one time? Yep!

I continually lie to myself and say that these are the things that make me happy. They aren't. I don't have anything against any of them, but not everything I do makes me happy. I love to spend time with the boys and be a part of their schooling. I love cuddling M and watching him grow up. I enjoy crafting things from my imagination.

This is what makes me happy. 
What I don't enjoy is seeing the stress in my husband's eyes because he's too tired to pursue his dreams. I don't enjoy eating with chopsticks because all of our forks are dirty. I don't tripping over my own shoes in the middle of the night. I don't enjoy being so tired that by the time Rich and I have a moment alone, it's
spent talking about how tired we are. This is not the path I want to be on forever. It won't be.

People who are familiar with my tardiness also know I'm terrible at goal setting. It's sadly another product of trying to do too much. Instead, I set action plans. This is my action plan: Say No. That's it. No.

No, I don't have time to be art coordinator. No, don't buy more fake flowers. No, don't do all of those things.

It's going to be hard. It already is hard. Just typing the action plan was difficult. Habits take a lot to break. All of the things I like to do are good things. But all things require moderation, even the good things. I'm thinking about tomorrow. I have work. Then I have one parent teacher conference. I will also build that cabinet to get it off my mind. That's it. I have all that extra time. My mind immediately wants to fill the space. I could read. I could go to the library. I could go on a walk. I could work later. I could build more cabinets. That list of things relaxes me. But I can't do all of those things. I need to stop telling myself I can.

I need to say no. So I will. It is not failure. It is not weakness. It is how I am going to be who I want to be in 50 years. It's trading in my "jack of all trades" title for something better. It's putting Rich and M before myself. It's being a team player.

It's creating the Morgan I want to be.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

0-200 Challenge: Failed

I don't know that I would really say I failed. I didn't finish the challenge, but I didn't just give up. So that's a win, right?

The first two days of each activity (squats, sit ups, and push ups) went great! Then it hurt. Which is what exercise does. It hurts. But then my insides starting burning. That's when I remembered I had a C-section five months ago. It feels like a lifetime ago, but my body disagrees.

I didn't consider a C-section major surgery because I was awake for it. They numbed me of course, but I didn't think about how they took my insides out and then put them back. That's a little bit of a major surgery. My scar healed wonderfully, and my insides felt like they were back to normal, but I guess they aren't yet.

So while I didn't finish the challenge, I also didn't complete it. Will I return to it in the future? Probably not, but never say never, right? (I have said never to a lot of things, and I regret each and every one.)

I posted "before" pictures, but I don't really have any "after" pictures.

This is as close to an after photo as I have. I don't have any of my full body. I can tell you, though, that my hair did grow half an inch, so there's that! 

I did learn from this, though. I've always been someone who just "pushes" through. This is the first thing I didn't just power through. I listened to my body (it screamed, so it wasn't hard). I feel a little bummed that I didn't finish the challenge. How cool would it be to be able to "drop and give me 200"! It's a lot cooler right now to be able to walk and hold M and not be in pain. Maybe next year I can do a challenge that won't hurt, like eating a Popsicle a day or fold my laundry in a timely manner. While only one of those is a real challenge, I can probably pull both off. 

For now, I'm going to enjoy the fact that M and I are both alright 5 months later. I'm going to enjoy our nighttime cuddles. (I use cuddles lightly. He kicks me all night and leaves me with about two inches of bed space.) I'll also be enjoying my new gig as a volunteer writer for the Orem Public Library's blog. What I'm trying to say is that I'm not too upset about not being able to do 200 sit-ups. (Though, the abs of steel would have been great!)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

STEPtember; the Halfway Mark

So we aren't quite halfway, but we're close. I've been stepping for nearly two weeks. It has been an interesting two weeks.

During the first week I struggled with finding a groove. That first day was exhausting. I ended up pacing the kitchen to get the last 900 steps in. It was a good experience though. Rich and I took the opportunity to talk and come up with an action plan towards his personal goals. If I hadn't paced the kitchen, we wouldn't have given ourselves that opportunity. (I also discovered why people want heated floors. Is it possible to get frostbite from kitchen tile?)

Rich and I had the chance the second day to take my cousin to Salt Lake City. This gave us the opportunity to walk around City Creek and Temple Square in order to get my steps in. (Spoiler alert: I didn't get them in.) At Temple Square one of the hosts gave us a pamphlet. I didn't really need a pamphlet, but I carried it anyway. I actually forgot I was holding it when I went to rub my nose. I have never been more worried that I was going blind. That pamphlet jabbed my eye pretty solidly. My peripheral vision was a little blurry, and it hurt to blink. But we did get this great picture of us!

It looks like I'm squinting because of the sun...I'm not. It's because I have "pamphlet-eye."

The next few days were rough physically. My cute shoes that I love to wear are not made for walking. I felt a twinge of betrayal when I discovered blisters on my heel from walking around Utah Valley University.


Please ignore M's shirt on the floor. I promise we aren't slobs. 
I wish I could say that was the worst of it, but I feel like the following days were worse. It's easy to avoid getting blisters when the problem was the shoes It isn't easy to avoid having your legs turn to jelly when you promised to walk 10K steps a day. If muscle pain from exercising is the muscles growing stronger, then I will have legs of titanium soon. For a few days there I debated learning to walk on my hands to give my legs a break.

The second week provided different opportunities. At work, we take a moment and walk around the building (and our neighbors' buildings). Our office is right on the Provo River, so the walk is always enjoyable. I look forward to our walks. We go in groups and it's given me a chance to get to know my new office-mate. His personality contrasts my last office-mates personality in the most extreme of ways. It's been a treat to get to know him in a slightly different setting than our office. While the walk is still work-life, it's a little more relaxed and we get to talk about things other than filing insurance papers.

I haven't hit my steps this week at all. But I decided it was less about the 10K and more about the awareness and opportunities. (I must be tired. I have used the word "opportunity" more times in this post than I have in my entire life I think.)

There's a quote out there somewhere about how walking helps the brain process thoughts. It's the action of moving forward that allows the thoughts to flow more freely. I agree with that. Taking all of these walks has really allowed my brain to process a few things. Rich and I have been able to get started on his dreams. I've been able to enjoy my surroundings more. During my long walks I also am able to "find myself." I'm able to think about where I've been, and where I'm going (like from one of the park to the other...just kidding). After taking this challenge, I feel more confident in who I am, who I want to be, and what I want to accomplish. (No, Steptember isn't about me, it's about those living with Cerebral Palsy, but there have been some other great side-effects of walking so much.)

I'm already thinking ahead to October, and I think I'll keep my pedometer on. I won't aim for 10K steps, but I still want the challenge of getting up and out for some quality thinking time. (That idea might change once I walk another 160k steps. That's how many I have left to complete this month.) If you don't hear from me again it's because my legs gave out and I'm stuck somewhere wishing I had learned to walk on my hands.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

PPD and Me; pt. 2 - Authenticity

Most of you know I suffer from postpartum depression (PPD). If you didn't, you do now! I explained my PPD earlier. What I didn't explain was how difficult it is to remain "authentic" or true to myself. 

It's common knowledge that everyone puts their best foot forward when sharing personal stories online. Hollywood has trained us to want happy endings. You read a story about someone's difficulties in hopes there is a nice ending, an ending that makes you smile. The truth of reality is there are no such things as "happy endings" while we're still alive. That's not to say there aren't happy moments. Because there are a ton of those. It's that they aren't endings. There aren't really any endings in life. Everything is a moment passing by. (I feel like the way I'm phrasing this is really cynical and depressing, but I'm not meaning to say it that way. I'm trying to convey that life doesn't create neatly packaged little stories for you. Life is a string of moments--both happy and sad--that continue forever. It's not a bad thing.)

I enjoy "happy endings" in stories. I enjoy finding out that the dog finds a "furever" home. I love when strangers help each other out of tragic situations. I'm not immune to those. They melt my heart. But they are never the whole story. The dog doesn't find a home and then cease to exist. He'll likely pee on the carpet, get scolded for stealing table food, or bark at 3 in the morning. The stranger that carried the old woman through flood waters has to go back to a destroyed home. The old woman now has to worry about finding food when she is unable to walk alone. It's not all flowers and sunshine. It's life. 

That's what I want to share with you today. I want to be real with you. I want to be "authentic". It's important to me that you understand you aren't alone. You experience setback and pains and there is no "happily ever after" for some of those. This story isn't going to end, at least not with "and then my PPD went away and I was able to live happily forever!" It'll likely end subtly, after many ups and downs. I won't wake up one morning and have my PPD suddenly be washed away in the shower. It'll take time, and I likely won't realize it's gone until months after when I haven't posted about it, when I haven't thought about it. And I likely won't know what to say to wrap it into a neat little package. 

It's difficult to maintain authenticity when you suffer from any sort of mental illness. It's not because we don't want to be ourselves, but because no one wants to hear about the sad parts. People want to hear that you're "okay". They want to know that you aren't suffering. Not because they don't care, but because they can't help. That's alright. There's nothing wrong with wanting our loved ones to be okay. I always want my loved ones to be more than okay. I also want myself to be "okay". Some days, though, I'm just not okay. And that's alright. I don't always need to be okay. But I always need to be honest about it. 

We all do. It never helps anyone to put on a mask and pretend they're okay when friends ask. It helps them to be honest. It helps to say "hey, you know what, I am suffering from a lot of anxiety right now, and I don't think I can meet up for lunch." It helps to be able to answer "I'm not doing so great" when someone asks how you are. That's what relieves some of the pressure. 

Society unintentionally wants us to all be "okay." We want happy answers. We want to feel like the world is alright. Because of that, those suffering feel like we are burdening the world. We answer "okay" so we don't create more problems. It's not fair to "unload" by telling people we aren't okay. 

You can't tell, but these are
my footy pajamas. 
But that's all wrong. Not just that society wants us to answer "okay", but that we are burdens. We aren't. When I began suffering from PPD, I didn't want people to know. I wasn't ashamed, I just felt like it didn't need to be shared. I don't introduce myself and say "I'm Morgan, and I have postpartum depression. Also I sleep in footy pajamas." Those aren't things we say to each other right off the bat. But they are things we should say (maybe not the pajamas part, but seriously they're perfect for cold nights). The more I thought about it and read about PPD, the more I understood that in order for life to get better, I had to let others acknowledge the "not okay" parts. 

I had to say "hey, I know you were going to come visit, but I am suffering from some major depression and having company is overwhelming to me. Can we take a raincheck?" Know what that friend answered? "Of course! I'm really sorry to hear you're suffering from that. I know it can't be easy. I'll text you in a couple of days to see how you're doing." And then she did. She wasn't ignoring the problem, she was giving me space, and then showing she cared about me. 

By writing this, I want to show others they aren't alone. I'm not trying to normalize depression (because it's already a normal thing in the lives of most people). I want people to understand that PPD, and life in general, doesn't need to be perfectly cropped Instagram photos, or "happily ever afters". Life is a string of events. 

I so badly want to write happy endings on this blog. I want to say "Look at what I overcame." The truth is, my life isn't like that. I have overcome a lot (C-section anyone?), but I also am continuing to do that. My life isn't in cute little boxes. My life is more like my office, a cluttered mess of things I need. My life is a series of going to the elementary school, going to work, trying to get M to let go of my hair, and acknowledging that I can't do it all. 

Just like every other blogger on the planet, I want views. If I didn't want views, I wouldn't be putting it online. What gets views? Happy endings. Happy endings spread like wildfire. My blog will have happy moments, and happy posts, but it's likely not going to have a lot of happy endings. That's not authentic. It's not real. 

Real is me telling you that I had to stop doing the 0-200 challenge I mentioned because I had a C-section four months ago. Real is me showing you my life, good and bad, without sugar coatings. It's tough to do that. No one wants to read about someone else's failures (unless you want to make yourself feel better about your own...). 

If you're wondering what
oil made my nose scruch,
it was this one.
10K a Day can be painful.
As I write about PPD and my experiences with it, I fight with myself. "Throw in a happy ending." "No, don't do that. That's not real." "What is real?" "I don't know, I don't remember philosophy 1010." It's a constant discussion in my head. It's hard. It's hard to say "I am not perfect" because I am perfectly me. My leg currently doesn't want to walk a whole lot (10,000 steps is a lot a day). My inside scars don't feel so great. I'm exhausted and I don't want to see people. But I want to put on a happy face and share silly anecdotes (like the time I fell backwards over a chair in front of at least 2 dozen people). I want to tell you about how bad I am at keeping my facial expressions even when smelling the worst essential oil I have ever smelled. Sometimes, those feel like lies. They all happened, but they don't always feel real because there's more than that little tidbit. It's important to me to share all the aspects of life, the good, the bad, and the ridiculous. That's what I find authentic. Sometimes I'll have moments that seem like happy endings, but they're really just happy moments. Sometimes, I'll write painfully long posts about how hard it is to make important connections when it takes all your effort to just get out of bed.  

PPD has made it abundantly clear to me that life isn't all happy moments. There is the flip side where things are hard and dark. Those moments need to be shared, too. Without sugar, without funny pictures, without a happy ending. PPD doesn't have happy endings. It doesn't have sad ones either. It just doesn't have an ending. It might fade over time, maybe you "get over it", but it will forever shape your life. You will forever have that moment in your life. That's what life is about. Nothing truly ends. It continues and grows and morphs into more than one moment. I'll look back on this PPD someday and I'll remember how it shaped my ability to write. I'll remember what sacrifices I made just to take care of M. It will be a part of my life forever. It might not be active, but it will never end

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Is It Family Friendly?: Timpanogos Cave

Every year the local elementary school takes a fieldtrip to Timpanogos Cave. This year, I had the privilege of being a chaperon. The last time I went was when I was 9 on the same school fieldtrip. 

How I remember the trip: 
-Short
-Fun
-Easy
-Interesting

How it ended up being this time: 
-LONG
-TIRING
-Incredibly uphill
-Interesting

So at least I remembered about 25% of it correctly. 

For those of you who have never been, but are debating it, here's a map for reference. 
Hand drawn by D. 
Study that map. It's definitely not to scale, but notice the steep hills? He wasn't wrong. 

Okay, let's talk about the possible "cons" to this trip.

First, just because it is possible, doesn't mean you should do it. Yes, a bunch of fourth graders can trek up the mountain, but should you really do that? That's up to you. (To the parents of some of those fourth graders, probably only do it if you have a leash on your kid.)

A lot of people want to take their kids up to the cave, which is awesome. It's an awesome experience to go inside. The park doesn't allow strollers, though. So anyone who can't walk long distances has to be backpacked in. I honestly would never hike that trail with an extra fifteen pounds strapped to me. I barely made it just walking myself up! The trail is really steep. You're climbing 1,092 feet up the mountainside. There are frequent rockfalls, and as such there are places where you absolutely cannot stop. A lot of those places are near the top, when you're the most tired. Worst planning ever. Like couldn't they put the rock falls lower down? What the heck park planning committee! 

Seriously, there are frequent rockfalls. A ranger told us about a lady who lost her hand (that's right, took it clean off) to a rock the size of a baseball that had fallen from above. If that doesn't scare you, then I don't know what will. 

Okay, so say you're okay lugging an extra fifteen pounds up the mountain. Inside the cave should be a cake walk, right? Wrong. You cannot touch anything in the cave except the handrails. So little curious hands have to be kept tucked in. 

In some places, you have to hunch down and nearly crawl. Imagine trying to do that with fifteen pounds strapped to you while not letting any part of you touch the walls. It's like the game Operation, but more strenuous. Crawling through solo wasn't bad, even with my backpack. 

Some of the tasks, like climbing around hunched over, are worth it to see the inside of this cave. Trust me. I personally don't think it's worth lugging a toddler up the mountain, though. 

Back to the trail, there isn't a lot of shade. We got lucky and went on an overcast day, but other than that, there wasn't much shade. There are trees here and there, but mostly you're hiking in the sun. And there are no water fountains. There are benches periodically, which are nice. But again, they aren't always in the shade. If you do decide to go, bring a lot of water (but there are no trash cans...you pack down what you pack up). Also wear a lot of sunblock. Like SPF 3,000. It gets really sunny on that trail. 

I've pointed out some of the possible problems with taking kids on the hike, now let's talk about the good parts of it. 

It's gorgeous. The kids loved to look out over the valley and see things from a different point of view. They're usually looking up at everything, but this time they got to look down. 

They also loved the wildlife. The rangers said you can occasionally see mountain goats and rattlesnakes. We didn't get so lucky. We saw chipmunks, though! They were friendly enough to try to steal your lunch if you weren't looking. 


The cave itself is amazing! (If you're going to get technical, it's three caves all connected.) The formations have taken centuries to form. They grow anywhere from the width of a dime/year, to 1/4 an inch a century. These things are incredible! At one point you're 500 feet underground. The fact that there is a giant hole in the mountain just hanging out is fascinating! It makes me wonder what else is in the mountains. 

This is a sort of picture of the "heart" of the caves. It's about five feet tall, and about three feet around, but it weighs an estimated 2 tons (or 4,000 pounds). What!? And it's just hanging from the ceiling! Is that not amazing?!

It's these things that really make it worth the visit. Would I take C (15), B (12), D (9), E (5) and M (0)? No. Not a chance. I am not lugging M up that hill. And keeping an eye on E, keeping her from the edge of the cliff would be nearly impossible. She would be toast. I would definitely take C, B, and D, though. (After I get some serious leg training in.) 

All in all, it's a fun trip. You know your family best. Can you keep your little ones from sprinting off the cliffs? Can you carry an extra 15-20 pounds up the mountain? Can you handle being in the sun for nearly 5 hours? If you answered yes to all of these questions then this trip might be for your family! If not, maybe wait a year or two until your kids are able to walk themselves up in an orderly fashion. 

I do plan on taking M someday. Just not anytime soon. He won't remember the cave anyway. It's not worth it to me. I would much rather hit up a shorter trail with less chance of death. I've heard there are petroglyphs in Provo Canyon that can be reached easily. Maybe I'll try that out! If you do decide to hike Timp Cave, let me know how it goes! 

(P.S. the round trip does get you 10,000+ steps, in case you need to get some in.)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

STEPtember

Do you guys remember the ALS ice bucket challenge? Of course you do! You probably caught pneumonia participating. But it was fun! More than that, though, it raised both awareness and the funds necessary to research the disease. $220 Million was raised to help scientists research ALS, and less than 12 months after the freezing cold viral trend, researchers were able to find a protein that appears to link directly to ALS. What! That's amazing! According to Jonathan Ling, a member of the research team, this is a huge step in being able to slow the effects of ALS. How exciting is that!

What if we had the opportunity to raise that kind of awareness for other diseases and disorders? What if we could all chug a chocolate milk and find a cure for cancer? Would you do it? Probably. Chocolate milk is amazing. Curing cancer is amazing. Nothing about that sounds awful at all.

Know what does sound awful? Cerebral Palsy.
"Cerebral Palsy (CP) is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person's ability to move. It is a life-long condition, but generally does not worsen over time. It is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth." 
I'll take twenty chocolate milks, please. According to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (cparf.org) Cerebral Palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood.

CP affects everyone differently. It can affect everything from muscle control and coordination to posture and balance. That doesn't sound like a tall glass of chocolate milk. It doesn't even sound like being drenched in ice water. It sounds challenging.

You know the saying "it takes a village to raise a child"? While that's absolutely true for children, it also takes a village to help someone living with CP. While no care-giver would ever trade their child/friend/parent/loved one for another that didn't have CP, I'm sure they would give anything to take the challenge away from them. Who wouldn't? We watch our loved ones struggle with small things like smacking their head on a doorknob and we wish we could take away the pain. It hurts to watch someone you love struggle while you stand by feeling helpless.

This is where STEPtember comes in. (I capitalize the first half of that because when I first read it, I genuinely thought it was just September.)


Steptember - Every Step Counts
STEPtember is our new ice bucket challenge. It's not nearly as freezing, but it is equally as important. STEPtember is the chance we have to raise awareness for CP, as well as money to fund research.

You might have guessed what STEPtember's "ice bucket" is. Walking. That's right. Good, old fashioned walking. (Is walking old fashioned?) The goal is 10,000 steps a day for 28 days. ("10K a day" if you will.)

Just like with any challenge, it's difficult to go it alone. STEPtember allows you to create teams, making it a little friendly competition. You can, and should, also talk to your friends, family, and neighbors to help support you. The point isn't to walk 10K a day. The point is to be active, and to raise awareness. It's a win-win, unlike the ice bucket challenge which was not a win for some people (how many people got clocked with a bucket?).

Some of us don't walk. Some of us prefer other activities, such as golfing, basketball, yoga, or even crossfit. Guess what! STEPtember has a conversion chart for those. This isn't limited to those with fully able bodies, either. They have a conversion for manual wheelchairs. This is an activity for everybody that will benefit so many lives, not just those with CP.

Check out this cute little thing. It's a pedometer that was mailed to me by STEPtember's organization. Many of us have smartphones that track our steps, or fit-bits, or apple watches. I only have a smartphone (I say only as if I'm deprived...). I like to wear dresses and leggings that don't have pockets. While I can stuff my phone into my waistband, that's not my favorite thing to do. That's why I requested they send me a pedometer (free of charge). It's bite-sized! It comes with a lanyard so you can wear it around your neck, or you can clip it to your pants, or just put it into your pocket. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.

The STEPtember challenge doesn't start until Labor Day (9/4/17), but I've been practicing to get a feel for how much I would need to walk to get 10K a day in. Want to see what that looks like on me?

This is D and me after we took 10K steps on Thursday. Granted, our steps were up a mountain, through a cave, and back down. I imagine flat ground stepping will be immensely easier. Here's the thing, if D can do it, anyone can do it. We have no excuse.

Have to go grocery shopping? Walk up and down every aisle (but don't go to the store hungry, you will buy every aisle, right?).

Your office is in another city and walking/biking isn't feasible? Park in the farthest spot from the door. I'm sure plenty of them are open.

You have a desk job? Walk to the other side of the office to give a message instead of just calling/emailing. Besides, I've heard it's important to get up every 15-30 minutes and stretch your legs if you sit at a desk all day.

Need time for the family? Guess what! Kids have so much energy! Take a walk to the local park, let the kids play while you walk the rounds, or better yet, play tag with them! This isn't a solitary activity.

Sometimes, I realize, there are those with limited ability, but that doesn't exclude you from helping. Donate a dollar to the team with your favorite name (hint, it's "Blistah Sistahs"). Share the STEPtember page (or this blog post) with your friends via social media. Offer to host a bake sale, garage sale, poker game where the proceeds go to CP research.

Together, we can do this. We really can. Can I walk 10K a day? Probably not. Am I going to give it my all and tell everyone why I'm doing it? You betchya! (I'm going to be worse than that one crossfit friend that talks exclusively about their workouts and how it has transformed their life.) I'll also be looking for ways to raise funds for this cause. (Anyone want apple pie cookies, or a Halloween wreath?)

Join me and together we can conquer CP!!!

Really though, let's do this. You already move throughout the day, might as well do it for a cause.

Check back weekly for updates on how sore my legs are. STEPtember, here I come!!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Recipe Review: Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Kabobs and Garlic Parmesan Squash

That title is a mouthful! (pun intended)

This is the easiest recipe you will ever find on the internet (except perhaps a recipe for ice).

print recipe

BBQ Chicken and Pineapple Kabobs
The easiest summer recipe you'll ever find. Literally three ingredients and VOILA!
Ingredients
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can sliced pineapple
  • to taste Sweet Baby Ray's Hawaiian Style BBQ Sauce
  • 12-15 skewers
Instructions
If using wood skewers, soak them in water for 1 hour prior to using. (This prevents the wood from burning while cooking the kabobs.) You'll want to put them on the grill/stove wet. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Cut the pineapple rings into quarters. Place the chicken and pineapple on the skewers, alternating between the two. Fill each skewer to your liking. Place the loaded skewers on the grill (I used my stove because I don't own a grill). Baste the skewers lightly with the BBQ sauce. If you put too much on too early the BBQ will char and it won't give you the sweet taste you're looking for. Brown each side of the kabobs, lightly basting with BBQ with each turn. When the chicken is cooked (160 F), remove the skewers to the plate, Here you can add all the sauce you want! Serve over rice or with other vegetables.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings




For being so easy, it was delicious. We ate it with Jasmine Rice (minute rice mind you, we are very simple people). It was easily one of my favorite things that I have ever made.

Grilled pineapple is the best thing to ever grace this earth, and BBQ chicken is definitely on the top list of top five best summer meals. This was more than a win in my book! It makes my mouth water just looking at it:


It looks messy and delicious. It wasn't messy, but it was beyond delicious.

Aside from rice, we also had Garlic Parmesan Squash.




print recipe

Garlic Parmesan Squash
This is a great summer recipe. It can be served with many different meats or entrees.
Ingredients
  • 2 small/medium yellow squash
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
Instructions
Slice the squash thinly.Heat the oil and garlic in a medium skillet. Sautee the squash until tender. Sprinkle parmesan across the top, melting it just enough to make it stick. Serve warm.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 5 servings

Seriously. This was so easy, even I did it! And look how good it turned out!


This was by far the easiest dinner I have ever made. The best part is, it was tasty! A lot of super easy meals don't taste very good to me, but this was just right. It hit all the right spots. The squash was salty enough to counter the sweet kabobs, and the rice added that much needed starch.

The only thing I would do differently next time is I would make sure the pineapple juice didn't burn. It burned and made our house smell kind of gross. Watch out for that if you cook this on a stove like we did.

Overall, this was a winner.

Grodon Ramsey probably wouldn't like my plating... I'll work on it.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Understanding Autism

This is D on his first day of 4th grade. He picked his outfit out himself. It was a long day of shopping to find those red pants. Ever since he saw my red pants he wanted some of his own. (He also has a bright blue pair that he loves.) The shoes were his second choice. He wanted shiny shoes, but they didn't have any in his size. Usually he wears a white T shirt that is likely covered in stains because it's his go to shirt. The Minecraft shirt is a huge step for him. His hair is a little shorter than he usually likes, but that's because he wanted to try a new hairstyle but changed his mind halfway through the cut. The stylist had to cut it shorter to try to fix it. She did a great job. 

This is how D is comfortable. He might wear this outfit six days in a row. It's comfortable. He likes how the shirt feels against his skin. It doesn't bother him. He likes how the red pants look ("cool" is the word he uses). He feels they help him fit in. This outfit is a careful balance between fitting in and being comfortable. 

BYU vs. Oregon Ducks Baseball.
(Our cousin plays for the ducks.)
D has Autism. It causes his skin to be sensitive to the touch. The wrong type of fabric can overwhelm him. The possibility of unknown reactions to his clothes causes him anxiety. It seems ridiculous to most people. A shirt is a shirt. Cotton is cotton, it all feels the same to us. Honestly, in 4th grade, no one really cares about someone else's pants... But to D, it all matters. It's all very important. 

Along with touch sensitivity, and fear of the unexpected, he also has taste sensitivity. Anything remotely minty burns his mouth. (Do I buy mint candy so he won't steal it? Maybe...) He loves to taste things. I don't mean just samples at Costco, everything. Even if it isn't edible. He sneaks a taste when he thinks no one is watching. 

D also thrives off expectedness. I am the opposite. I thrive off needing to adapt. I seek out challenges just so I can adapt to them. D does not. He would rather watch the same segment of Lord of the Rings 100 times before watching a movie he doesn't recognize. When he has a doctor's appointment, I have to tell him at least two days in advance so he can plan on it. If something unexpectedly comes up, he breaks down and can't handle it. I am very spur of the moment. I might be lazy one second and decide to go to the park the next. D doesn't like that. He needs to know when we are going to the park, which park, how long we will be there, and what exactly we will do while there. 

We have to stop at Bath and Body works during
every mall trip. Need a recommendation?
D's got ya! 
The unexpectedness of life causes a lot of fears. Abstract thinking escapes him. Every elevator has a sign next to it that reads "In case of fire, use stairs." I explained to D that if the library were to catch fire, we would want to take the stairs because the elevator becomes unsafe. He thought I meant the elevator would catch fire spontaneously and we would all be trapped in it. Needless to say, we don't take the elevator anymore. 

All of these little quirks can easily be seen as inconveniences or problems. Sometimes they definitely feel that way (especially when school shopping). They really aren't though. They're opportunities. Most of us live our lives experiencing the world in the same way as those around us, with our five sense perfectly wired. Spicy food is spicy. Cotton is cotton. Elevators take us up and down, bypassing the many flights of stairs we encounter. Seeing the world this way can become a great disservice to yourself. 

For a long time, Autism was seen as a disability, something to be cured. Those with Autism were seen as less than. Slowly, the conversation is changing. As we grow to understand the mind of someone with Autism, our world expands. 

D knows the softest shirts around. You need a comfortable shirt? He will find it for you. Nothing you own is as comfy as what he owns. 

When you think of the places you've been, do you think of them in terms of how they tasted? I don't mean restaurants, I mean department stores, car washes, city parks, even the library.  This how D remembers places. "Morg, can we go to the place that had the soft chairs and was kind of sweet?" or "can we go to the park that tastes gross because of the skunks?" Even when I'm not with D, I pay attention to how a place smells (because I can't taste them like he can). Places that were previously boring have become interesting because of their smells. 

D's soda bottle for the fall festival 2016.
D's fear of elevators have given me legs of steel, and a huge appreciation for the lack of skyscrapers in Utah. I find myself rating staircases and avoiding buildings with staircases that are hot, gross, or scary instead of just taking the elevator. 


There are downsides and adjustments to his autism, but there are also amazing talents hidden underneath the quirks. His love of music is unrivaled. When he has the attention span, he can draw masterpieces. D has the softest heart. He loves to love and be loved.

M's biggest fan is D.
While autism is a neat little label for the way his brain works it doesn't define D. His love defines him. His ability to draw defines him. His love of music defines him. The way he strives to improve and learn defines him. 
This is a mouse we rescued from
our cat. His soft heart extends to
animals as much as people. 
How we react to him and treat him defines us. Either we can see those with autism as less than, or we can see them as the amazing individuals they are. I'm glad the conversation is changing. We all could benefit from experiencing life a little differently. The world has so much to offer us, and it seems that those with autism have the unique opportunity to unlock those secrets. Let them share that with you.







Friday, August 25, 2017

3 Uncommon Essential Oils for the Average Joe

Everyone knows at least one “crazy oil lady.” She’s the neighbor that calls you up at random and asks questions about your health. Often times, you might dodge her at the grocery store, or screen her calls. I’m sure she’s a very nice lady, just a little intense when it comes to essential oils. I get that. No one wants to be hounded about their mental, emotional, and physical health. “Natural” living isn’t for everyone.
I feel like there are three groups of people that come to mind when people bring up essential oils.
The first group is the housewife that is desperate for you to join her “team” or to host “parties.” She adds you to her groups on Facebook and says things like “Want to make money while working from home? Want to set your own schedule? PM me and I’ll tell you how!” We all know not to PM her, or even like that status.
The second group is the “ideal” housewife. The one who posts pictures of herself at the gym just “getting a quick 10 miles in before Jimmy gets home from school!” The girl whose toddler wears designer rompers. She praises oils as being the reason she is so fit, and her kid is “paraben” free. (I have no idea what a paraben is…)
The third group are the “hippies.” The ones who “live naturally” to the extent that they don’t shower regularly because “the water washes the good bacteria off your body.” They typically smell like they use oils. They camp as often as possible and carry a backpack instead of a purse. (FYI, I do carry a backpack that I call my llama bag, but it has M’s baby stuff in it…A purse isn’t logical when your baby pees enough to give Niagra Falls a run for its money.)
When you think oils, you think “this isn’t for me.” I can’t blame you. A lot of it isn’t for everyone. In fact, I think no one really uses all of the oils. I know I don’t. (I also don’t create Facebook groups, run any number of miles, and I shower regularly.) There are some oils that I do use, though. I use them because they work for me.
You can read a million blogs about the “starter oils” such as Lavender, Lemon, and Peppermint. But those oils only do so much. Instead I want to tell you about three oils that are only mentioned if you do decide to confess your life story to the “crazy oil lady” that cornered you in the cereal aisle.

DigestZen



The first one is by doTerra called DigestZen. I know what you’re thinking…well actually I don’t, but I can tell you what I first thought: “Ew.” It sounds like something you eat/drink. It can be. It’s commonly used to restore balance to the digestive system. The name says it all. “Digestive peace” essentially. I don’t want to eat or drink it. In fact, I don’t really even rub it onto my stomach as suggested. I only breathe it in (not inhale it like a drug, just smell it).
I did this a lot when I was pregnant with M. If you’ve been pregnant you know that nausea can hit you at any time without warning and it sucks. I took prescribed medicine to ease the constant nausea, but for the random bouts that would hit me I used DigestZen. It was often right before bed, right when M would do his nightly stretches (which he still does at the same time each night). I would put a drop on the hand that was next to my face as I slept. It greatly helped ease the nausea throughout the night.
I haven’t tried it for more than pregnancy nausea, but I imagine it would work for motion sickness as well. If you have a little one that gets sick during the Sunday drive through the scenic parts of town, try rubbing a little on their hands so they can smell it.

Maleluca


The next oil is Maleluca (or tea tree oil). I have mixed feelings about this oil. It’s not my favorite smell. In fact, it reminds me of the health food store as a kid that my grandma would drag me to. It felt like we spent hours in there! It was the worst! (As an adult, I like the health food store.)
I like this oil for its ability to ease ear pain. Ear aches are the worst whether you’re 2 or 102. They hurt when you swallow. They hurt to touch. They can give you a headache or sore throat. They just suck. I will try anything to ease the pain. That’s why I like this oil.
When my ears start to ache, I put a few drops of this stuff on a cotton ball (or piece of gauze because I don’t actually own cotton balls) and then put it in my ear. Yes, I do look silly walking around with cotton sticking out of my ear, but who cares! The pain goes away! It really does! I’m not just saying that so you’ll be nicer to your crazy oil friend. It really works!! It’s amazing!!
Just this week my ear was killing me. It stung to touch, I couldn’t lay on it, and swallowing caused it to burn. I stuck oily gauze in my ear for about two hours (not in one go, I kept taking it out so I could hear things) and ever since, it’s been pain free!!
B had an ear ache, and I had him do the same thing. Ear ache gone (or at least he stopped complaining about it…maybe he was worried I’d make him put different oils in his ear). BAM! Works like a charm! Best thing ever!

Purify


The third and most uncommon oil is the doTerra Purify blend. It smells clean. I mean, really clean. We’re talking lemons on a sunny day clean. Only bleach smells cleaner than this stuff. While it’s nice to diffuse and make the house smell clean, that’s not its only purpose. (Though it’s great to have diffused around the house with all the yucky diapers M makes.)
This week, I used it to make a homemade Febreze for some new/used couches we got. Rich’s parents had a loveseat and recliner they no longer needed, so we took them off their hands. The only downside to free furniture is the life they lived previously. The loveseat and chair are both upholstered in gray fabric. That’s right, fabric. Not pleather, not leather, fabric. And they own dogs. Rich is crazy allergic to anything with fur. He sneezes. His throat itches. His eyes water. And he gets a little grumpy. (Grumpiness isn’t an allergic reaction, he just hates when his allergies flare up.) So getting a fabric sofa from a dog owner isn’t an ideal situation. But FREE!!
We don’t own a carpet cleaner. In fact, our vacuum is questionable. But these couches were what we needed. We vacuumed them as much as we could. Then we sprayed them down with a water-Purify mixture. (I don’t know how much water to oil. I rarely measure things like this. I’d estimate 2 cups or water to five drops of Purify.) We sprayed the daylights out of the loveseat, chair, and two matching pillows. They all smell incredible now.
I don’t know if it was the vacuuming, or the Purify, but Rich’s allergies haven’t flared up more than a little sniffle here and there. I would like to say it’s the Purify. We’ve had the dogs visit before, and it took an insane amount of vacuuming to clear the house of dog, and even then his allergies still gave him a hard time. Miracle oil right there!!

Now, these aren’t promises that these oils will work for you exactly like they worked for me. Every person is different. Every oil reacts differently for each person. But these have been amazing in my life! I highly recommend them! And you don’t need to call your crazy oil lady to order them. You can order them online directly from doTerra. (or drop me a line and I can get it for you, no obligation to host a party or listen to me drone on about oils, I promise.)

We all know the real reason you came here was to see pictures of M. So, as always: Here's the obligatory snapshot of his chubby cheeks:


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

PPD and Me; Pt. 1

I don't know what future "parts" might hold, but I know that this beast is bigger than just one blog post.

Postpartum Depression.

The only downside to having M.

When I was pregnant my mind was constantly planning for the future. Not in the sense that I picked a house, gave it paint colors, decided which schools M would attend, etc. I was planning for me. My recovery. I greatly feared actually giving birth. I really didn't want to push anything out from down...there... That sounded horrible. I also didn't want to have to sit on a donut for months afterward. And all that blood? Ew. Physical recovery sounded awful.

But what about emotional recovery? A few years ago, I imagined having a baby was all smiles and laughs (even through the sleepless nights). I imagined my heart being so full that I could cry. I imagined feeling a sense of joy and happiness and pride. And I do feel those things. But I also feel a gnawing depression.

A year or so ago, someone named Emily took her own life after suffering from Postpartum Depression (PPD). I didn't know her personally, but most of my coworkers did. It stunned them. I could feel their hearts breaking as they shared memories of her and her lovely husband. That's when I learned about the Emily Effect. It opened my eyes to PPD.

Before M, I was prone to depression. It wasn't ever "super serious". Not like some people have it. I didn't feel the need to sit in a dark room, or be alone often. As I got closer to M's birth, I felt very unprepared emotionally. The physical recovery now seemed like a cakewalk compared to what could happen emotionally.

I read that some women take their own lives. Some harm their new babies. Most women with PPD find it hard to enjoy their little one. I didn't want that to be me, but I knew it could be. So I talked with Rich. Having had depression before, I knew talking during a downswing was not an option. I can be really good with words, but not with numbing depression. I knew that if I was struggling, the last thing I would want to do is tell someone about all the tiny details. That's why we talked about it before. I explained what it was, what possible effects it could have, and how if it did happen I'd struggle to talk about it. Rich, being the empathetic person he is, understood.

Then M came. M came in a rush. There was no pushing. There was no "this is it!" Only a groggy morning of "we gotta call Grandma. Text your parents. Text my dad." I wasn't fully awake from the medicine they gave me the previous night. I don't remember the time between being denied my pancakes and the time when the Dr. pinched me and asked if I could feel it. (No, I couldn't.) I remember seeing blood squirt onto the curtain (ew) and M being pushed out like a toothpaste from a tube. I remember Rich's face.

I also remember the second night after. (The first night I was still 90% groggy.) But that second night. I cried. And the night after that, I cried. And after that, I cried. I knew it was the baby blues, but I also knew it wasn't going to go away. The Dr. okayed me jumping back onto the anti-depressants from before my pregnancy, so I did right away. They take a few weeks to kick in all the way, and I didn't want to chance it. Weeks passed and I still struggled. I still cried. I still panicked. I still couldn't connect to the world. A nurse from the health department came to do a well-check on M (because he was so premie). She also checked on me. She listened to me, suggested I call the doctor for different medication or a higher dose. Then she followed up with me. That's what I needed. I needed someone to help pull me out of the hole. Someone that wasn't my husband who always worries about me. Someone who cared about me but was separated enough to not fear pushing me.

I called my doctor. We upped my current medication. It helped. I went from panic attacks to enjoying every second of life. That doesn't mean I'm out of the woods. It hasn't gone away. And it might not for a long while.

This week, for example, has been hard. If you know me, and you have read my recent posts, you can probably tell something is missing. Today was the culmination. Each day has been progressively worse. That's why I wrote. I write to take my mind off of the PPD. Today, though, nothing felt like I could pull out of it. Each step I took was a conscious effort. Each task I needed to accomplish was calculated. I felt like a car running out of gas. Could I get to that next corner? Could I put my shoes on? Did I have enough in me to even nap? I wanted to just do nothing. I wanted to take care of M and that's it. But I knew if I did that, I wouldn't pull out like I wanted. So I got us ready (sort of. M doesn't wear clothes which makes life easier). I drove him to my grandma's and I went to work. I pushed through the emails. I sat through the meeting. When it was over, I came home and napped. I forced myself to.

I can't say it all helped. I can't say that I'm over it. I'm not. But I'm okay for now. I don't feel crippled by anxiety or depression at this moment. It'll come back. It'll try to tear me away from my goals. It'll make me choose between putting shoes on and getting M's diaper changed. And every time, I will get up and focus. I will push. It isn't going to win. PPD might be part of my life right now, but so are many other things.

Sorry, PPD, not today!
This is a combination of grogginess and depression. You probably can't see it, but I can.
Also, check out that HAIR!

This has nothing to do with the post. This is just Rich and M playing video games. 


M is always making faces. Even in his sleep. Love this kid. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Recipe Review: Lemon Tart

This is another recipe from my Irish Cooking Bible. Again, I have never had actual Irish food, so I have no idea how closely this resembles their fare.

I also have never had a Lemon Tart. I think I'm the wrong person for this job... I really ought to review things I have eaten before, but that would be far less fun for me.

First, I'm going to throw down the recipe so no one has to scroll to find it:

Ingredients:

1 refrigerated pie crust (half a 15-oz package)
5 eggs
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (I used salted...)
1/2 cup lemon juice

Steps:
1. Preheat oven to 450 F.

2. Line 9 inch pie tin with pie crust. Press it to the bottom and the edges. Use a fork to poke the sides and bottom. (It doesn't say how much poking is needed. I did a few pokes on the bottom, and a lot on the sides.) Bake the crust for 9-10 minutes, or until golden brown (I forgot to watch it and it was a little more brown than golden.) Reduce the oven temp to 350 F.

3. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and cornstarch in medium bowl. Combine sugar, butter, and lemon juice in small saucepan over medium-low heat; cook and stir just until the butter is melted. Whisk in egg mixture; cook 8-10 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. (DO NOT LET IT BOIL!) Transfer to medium bowl; stir 1 minute until cooled. Let cool 10 minutes.

4. Pour the cooled lemon curd into the baked crust. Bake 25 minutes or until set. Cool completely before cutting.

This is what they wanted it to look like:
This is what mine looks like:

I accidentally tipped it when I put it in the oven...so it was not even.

Like I said earlier, I have never made lemon tart before. I don't know what the steps are supposed to look like as I go... this is what mine looked like:


There really aren't a lot of photogenic steps in this recipe.

This dessert is aptly named. It was fairly tart. It wasn't an overpowering tartness or sweetness. It was very subtle. I was expecting a taste similar to a lemon head. It was the exact opposite (as opposite as something lemon flavored can be).

I've heard that Americans use way too much sugar in everything. I googled other Lemon Tart recipes to see if we use far more sugar in this recipe. We don't. Not that I saw. There were some recipes that called for 1.5 cups of sugar, but nothing crazy.

All in all, this was a light dessert. The crust definitely needs to be less cooked after the first step. It was fairly dry since I forgot about it in the oven...oops.

Also, use a pie pan that won't flake off into your crust. The coating on ours coated our pie crust... Ew. We had to throw it away.

I think next time I'll try an American recipe. Any suggestions?