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Archive for February, 2008

Part 4: Hooray For Progress
by Alicia

As you may remember, Part 3 ended with me reluctantly starting my antidepressant. So, I asked myself, “why am I so hesitant to take medication for my brain, but I am so willing to take my thyroid meds?” I came up with 2 reasons. My first reason was due to the stigma surrounding mental illness and antidepressant drugs. The second reason was because I was nursing and didn’t know how compatible this drug was with breast feeding. Is Prozac the “ideal” medication for me? These are the 3 things that convinced me and eased my mind that this is what I should be doing:

1. My husband’s reasoning to help me get past the stigma surrounding antidepressants. I felt like with enough positive thinking and prayer, my depression should be cured. He reminded me that people treat physical illnesses in their bodies with medication, so why wouldn’t I want to treat my mental illness with a medication. I concluded that in my case, trying to “think away” my depression would be as naive as trying to “think away” a physical condition such as diabetes.

2. The opinion of my therapist. She agreed that it was time that I added a drug to my therapy mix. This medication would break down some mental “barriers” which were limiting the effectiveness of the counseling sessions.

3. The opinion of 2 Spectrum Health Hospital nurses who Jenna emailed on my behalf. I trust Jenna and this is what she said about them, “I trust these two ladies more than I trust my own doctor–they know so much about postpartum hormones, nursing, mood disorders, drugs, etc..” Here are the nurses responses: “Prozac is being widely used as is Zoloft for PPD in nursing moms” and “We have many many new mothers who are breastfeeding and taking Prozac at the same time…I would support what the physician has ordered.”

OK, so now I have committed to taking Prozac (actually the generic). When will I notice results? When will I be “normal” again? I was told that typically results are noticed within 2-4 weeks of starting treatment. That is a long time to wait when you want feel better yesterday! I was discouraged by the thought of the wait time. I was also discouraged by the possibility that this dosage and/or medication may not provide improvement for me. I had heard personal stories and read facts that several different drug options may need to be tried before finding the right one – everyone is unique. Let’s just say I was VERY skeptical that medication, brain altering medication, would work for me.

I had a counseling appointment 4 days after starting on Prozac. I was absolutely dreading going to this appointment. My anxiety was very high. I kept telling Russell that I was ready to quit going (half joking of course) and he said he would drag me there “kicking and screaming” if he had to. I really liked working with my therapist and she had been doing great things with me. So why didn’t I want to go this time? Actually, I never really wanted to go to any of my sessions, but I knew I had to in order to change for the better. Each time on the drive to counseling I would convince myself I shouldn’t be doing this. Each time in the waiting room I wondered how words would even come out of my mouth. And regardless of the fact that each time I left the counseling sessions with a little more hope, I still dreaded going. And the thought of this next session was downright frightening. I think this was due to the fact that my therapist knew I had a meltdown a week earlier and had fully opened up to my husband. So now she knew that I hadn’t been completely opening up in our sessions. I was scared of the questions she would now ask me. I also had to admit to her that I called my doctor’s office and had started on Prozac. I felt like I had failed myself (and her) in some way because the talk therapy wasn’t totally helping me. So I went to the session; and to my surprise, I survived. Looking back, I don’t really remember what happened or exactly what I said/rambled in that session. My head was in an “anxiety fog” (which was pretty typical those days). However, I did leave with the confidence that I was taking care of myself the best I could.

I had another counseling appointment 11 days after starting on Prozac. My therapist asked if I had noticed any changes yet, but I hadn’t. I remember talking a lot about family, holiday get-togethers and the typical stress that goes along with the holidays (Thanksgiving had been a few days earlier). I was having a rough time wanting to spend any time with my extended family – this being my Mom & Dad, my Sister & her husband & 2 kids, and my Brother & his wife. When we had pulled up to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, I asked Russell if I could just stay in the car and he could bring a plate of food out to me. I love my family but I did not want to be social with them yet – I wasn’t sure all the wounds had been healed. This was the first time we were all together since the stressful events of the summer – I can’t believe my Mom was brave enough to have Thanksgiving dinner. I was running all different scenarios in my head of what could possibly happen to ruin the day. However, none of these played out and everything went “fine” because we were busy stuffing our faces and all the conversations were superficial. I was just as guilty as everyone else for contributing to the superficial talk. I was holding in my own secrets. My family didn’t know how much I had been struggling and that I was now on an antidepressant medication. I think everyone knew I was going to counseling (my Mom for sure because she was babysitting for me), but no one knew the hard work I was doing to improve myself. I assumed they were all judging me because I needed counseling (even though a few of them need it too). A previous comment that my Dad made regarding counseling really hurt me. He said, “Only weak people get counseling because they can’t think for themselves. They need someone else to tell them what to do and how to think.” Russell reassured me this was not true by repeating a comment that a pastor had told him: “WISE people, not weak people, get counseling. It takes wisdom to realize that what you are trying to deal with may be beyond your own abilities, thus requiring the expertise of a counselor.”

I had another counseling appointment 20 days after starting on Prozac. My therapist asked if I had noticed any changes yet, and I had! I told her it was hard to explain, but I just felt different…a better different. She said to watch for ways in which I noticed that I reacted differently to situations. A few days later LAB met and Jenna told me, “I can tell you are feeling better because I can see more of your teeth.” In other words, I was no longer half heartedly mustering a smile, but was truly smiling and enjoying being there.

I had another counseling appointment 32 days after starting on Prozac. This was the first time that I looked forward to my appointment. This time I had more positive changes to note. The biggest change for me is that the persistent, intense anxiety is gone! It wasn’t until this abnormal anxiety was gone that I realized how “paralyzing” it was. I also never realized some of the physical problems it was causing such as: blurred vision, blushing, chest discomfort, muscle tension, numbness (mainly arms and hands), stomach problems and sweating. There may have been additional physical symptoms, but these are the ones I noticed were gone when I was in situations that previously would have caused anxiety.

Another change is that I seem to be more “even”. I am not as easily affected by my circumstances. For example, my 3 young kids make a lot of “messes” as all kids do, but it was almost as if I used to take it personally. I would view it as though they were purposely creating more work for me. This would cause me to be irritable. Now I have much more patience and understanding when dealing with the kids. Other notable changes are that I do not feel so overwhelmed with my daily responsibilities and I can think more clearly.

I had my first appointment with the endocrinologist 3 months after starting on Levothyroxin and 34 days after starting on Prozac. The doctor said my thyroid levels were too low to be due to postpartum thyroiditis. He also said my thyroid function may not return to normal. I told the doctor that I was still tired (not exhausted like I used to be) despite my 2 medications. He said the thyroid medication should have made an immediate improvement in the fatigue. I guess I’ll just have to accept the fact that a mom will always be somewhat tired. I can’t remember an uninterrupted night of sleep since being pregnant with Paige. I may get 9 hours of sleep in a day, but they are not consecutive hours. Anyway, the endocrinologist ordered some more blood tests. Based on the results they told me to stay on my current dosage of 100 MCG and to meet with them again in 3 months.

I had another counseling appointment in January and another one a month later in February. My sessions are getting less frequent because there have been positive, consistent improvements. Every day I thank God for putting people/things in my path to help me get better. God is always working on us for growth and has shown me gracious responses even in times of trouble. Every day I am so thankful to my supportive husband for seeking out help when I was so reluctant. I am thankful to my therapist for helping me in ways medicine couldn’t. I am thankful for supportive friends and family. I am thankful for modern medicine and that my particular antidepressant worked for me.

I mentioned above some of the improvements that I had noticed after being on Prozac for about 1 month. As I type this it has been just over 3 months and I have changed so much. I can’t say I am back to the “old Alicia.” In fact, I don’t know if I want to be the “old Alicia” because I suspect I have been dealing with a low-grade depression for a long time (even prior to having kids). But I can definitely say that I am more of who I always dreamed Alicia would be. I no longer have a head filled with racing thoughts which would mess with me and cause trouble concentrating. I no longer have the intrusive thoughts that David is lying dead in his crib. I no longer have to stop what I am doing to check on David or wake with paralyzing fear. I no longer cry because I am so overwhelmed. I am able to keep things in perspective. I no longer cry because of the self-imposed guilt of not being “supermom”. I no longer snap instantly (trust me, I do still get frustrated). I was afraid that an antidepressant would make me emotionally blunted, however it hasn’t. I am able to be sad and I am able to be more loving with the kids. I do not have the high anxiety in social situations and thus have been less withdrawn. I have increased self-esteem and confidence. This is evident in the fact that I wrote all this. I am proud of myself that I was able to share what I vowed would never come out.

The end.

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The image “https://i2.wp.com/www.thenewyorkerstore.com/Assets/1/41208_s.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.“Who referred you to me?” asked the doctor. NOT the question I was expecting at all to be my opening question.

“My OB/GYN. You see, I’ve been struggling with postpartum mood disorder for almost 2 years now. I think I should be about ‘done’ with the PPD part of my struggle, and need to figure out how to get myself back to being ‘me’ again.”

I went on to explain that I had never experienced any type of depression, moodiness, or psychotic break until after my first child was born. I outlined the time line for him as follows:

  • May ’03–give birth to first baby
  • February ’04–find out I am pregnant with second child after missing one BC pill (and still nursing first child–ladies, nursing is NOT birth control)
  • March–OB/GYN visit to confirm pregnancy. This is where I tell my doctor, “I don’t remember much of anything from the past 8 months. I look at pictures and realize I wasn’t really “there”, and was not myself at all. When I asked my husband if I’ve been different, he answers “YES” before I even finished the question.” My doctor tells me this sounds a lot like PPD and that she will keep a close watch on me. This is where my research begins…
  • November ’04–give birth to my daughter. Happiest I’ve felt in my life until 2 weeks later when I lose my job and crash pretty hard. I call my OB and ask for a prescription for medication and start taking Zoloft. I started blubbering at this point…
  • August ’05–take 6 positive pregnancy tests because I cannot believe I am pregnant again when we were supposed to be “done”–still nursing, counting my days, and using 2 additional forms of birth control. I immediately plummet and am medicated throughout my entire unplanned pregnancy.
  • April ’06–give birth to my second daughter and had a tubal ligation the following day. Continue on meds etc.

I tell the doctor I’ve never really felt ‘good’, just like I was surviving and meds were taking the edge off and allowing me to function. I told him I was very involved in support groups and I hear and read so many stories of people who say they are able to be themselves again. I tell him I’m going through all these tests, doctor and psych visits etc. because I’m tired of being just OK, I want to feel good and be happy, not just keeping my nose above water.

He asks some questions about my cycles, any family history of mental illness, any major moves or events in my past, how I would describe my happiness on a scale of 1-10, how I would have described my mental state as a senior in high school, how I viewed my college years, if I have ever thought about committing suicide, and he took a look at my recent lab results. I shared that I’ve been having severe night sweats, been tracking my monthly cycle and moods and he asked me some questions about that information.

He educated me a little bit about estrogen dips during the childbearing years and we talked about how I felt about taking medication, etc. I shared that I had been sampling an estrogen patch for about a month in addition to switching from Zoloft 100mg to Effexor XR 75mg. We decided together to try upping my medication to see if the ‘robustness’, as he called it, was there to get me where I needed to be. Then if we are finding I am still having other symptoms that necessitate HRT via extra estrogen or any additional meds, we’ll introduce them one at a time.

He said he is 100% positive that in my case, there is hope that we can get me back to ‘me’. He actually said it twice. He asked me if I thought there was anything else he hadn’t asked me about, and I replied, “yes, you haven’t asked me about my marriage”.Tiki Tissue Box This is where I broke down and started blubbering again and had to go through round 2 with the tissue box.

While I sniffled and dabbed, he went across the hall to get some more Effexor XR samples for me to use while I am slowly upping my dosage until I hit the “robustness” I need. At this point, he said he’d like to see me again in 3 weeks. I never got to talk abut my marriage and didn’t quite feel finished, but…

…I took my bag of samples out to the receptionist, scheduled my next appointment, and headed down to the car. When I got in and turned it on, the clock said 9:52. Hey…wait a minute! I didn’t get my full time!

to be continued after 3 weeks and my next visit has ensued…

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by Alicia

I mentioned in Part 2 of my story that during my first few counseling sessions I had come to the conclusion that I was JUST MOM. I will try and explain to you what I meant by this.

In my counseling sessions I would often talk about how busy and overwhelmed I felt. It seemed like there was always so much to do and I could never get caught up. I remember saying, “I just can’t get there.” (Wherever “there” is.) I felt like I was “stuck in a rut” with no change in sight. Life with young kids can be very monotonous and they demand so much time and energy. I get up in the morning, perform the daily tasks, go to bed, and wake up the next day to do it all over again. It rarely happens that I can complete a task from start to finish, uninterrupted! This leads to a feeling of being unproductive.

One day Russell came home and asked me what I did that day, my answer was, “nothing.” I in fact had done many things, but I just didn’t complete anything. Russell disagreed with my answer and said, “you were VERY productive today…you met the kid’s basic needs, right? look, they’re alive.”

So my therapist told me that I was feeling this way because I was being constantly “depleted” and that I had to find ways to “refresh” myself. This meant I needed to do something that would give me energy and revive me to again tackle daily life. My “homework” assignment was to write down what refreshed me. Oh, this will be easy, I thought. https://i2.wp.com/www.babybingo.com/GIFTS/our_name_is_mud/onim_platter_mom.jpgI wrote down several things (but I cannot remember all of them now because I later threw the paper away in anger). As I looked over this list of things that I thought refreshed me, I realized most of them truly didn’t. I realized that ever since having kids, I rarely did anything just for myself – I was JUST MOM now.

Now don’t get me wrong, I did occasionally get out by myself or with some friends, but the guilt I would feel from leaving my family behind was almost not worth it. In addition, I had the warped belief that my family wouldn’t be able to function without me (which is partly true because Russell often forgets drinks for the kids at meal time). I felt selfish in taking “me” time.

My next homework assignment was to experiment with some possible things that would refresh me. Russell encouraged me to take time for myself. He kept reminding me that I deserved it, our family would benefit from it, and I cannot be balanced if I am always depleted. At my next counseling session, I was complaining how hard it is to carve out time for just me. There is time in the evening after the kids go to bed, however all I want to do is just rest on the couch. Whether that means just sitting, talking with Russell, watching tv, or using the computer – all of which are not necessarily “refreshing”, just relaxing. (Seeking refreshment is still a work in progress as it is so unnatural for me.https://i2.wp.com/www.velkeveci.sk/images/actions/logos/REFRESH%20small.jpg I am trying to get some alone time at least once a week – even if this means just wandering around Target or reading in my room while Russell watches the kids. I have also forced myself to be more social. In fact, I have really enjoyed the times that I have gotten out with friends. I am trying to stay more in touch by answering my phone and emailing.)

Because I couldn’t seem to find much me time, my next homework assignment was to make a list of all the things I typically do in a week to keep the household running smoothly. When I looked at my list, I realized that other than “routine self-maintenance” (ie, eating, showering, dressing, sleeping), everything that I filled my week with was for my family – again I was JUST MOM.

The only 3 things that I could actually omit from my list to free up time were naps for me, counseling and dance for the girls. Everything else pretty much had to be done or chaos would ensue. I am a stay at home, “non-working” mom – isn’t this constant juggling of tasks just expected out of me? Trying to manage the lives of 5 people takes up a lot of time. By picking apart my week I noticed the titles/roles that hog up most of my time: housekeeper, day care provider, meal planner and cook, office manager, teacher, taxi driver, events planner (social and medical), and nurse. When I analyzed my time and roles like this, I became less content with my life.

SMACK!!! (this is the sound of my hand slapping my face.) Here I am whining about being JUST MOM when I should be so thankful for what I have. I had prayed for a loving, Christian husband – God gave me Russell. I wanted a daughter – God made my first born a girl. If we were only having 2 kids, I want another daughter – God made my second born a girl. Well, we wanted more kids and I wanted the next one to be a son – God made my third born a boy. Why am I complaining? What more can I ask for? God has given me everything I have ever wanted. I love my kids more than anything and their needs come first. If living out my simple dreams of being a mom means I may be depleted most of the time, then so be it. Being a mom is a challenge and there may not be instant satisfaction in all I do.

Something that has helped is I that I am trying to lower my expectations – for myself and for the kids. That way I do not feel like I or they are continually falling short. I believe the Prozac has allowed me to change my perspective/attitutude to one of enjoyment, rather than one of merely enduring. I also need to be careful with my “hindsight” perspective. What I mean is when I look at my life day-to-day, I do not see much change. This can be discouraging. But if I look back over the past 6 months or year, the changes are much more apparent.

The image “https://i2.wp.com/www.leapyearpublishing.com/images/Precious-Moments-image.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Something interesting happened at church recently. I was near the entrance helping my kids with their coats when in walked this old woman (80ish? – rare for my church). She eyed my kids and walked over to see them. She caressed David’s hands and pulled out his pacifier to see him smile. She hugged Paige and Brooke and kissed them on the head. I have no idea who she was. She then walked away after saying, “I just love little kids, they are so precious.” Did God place this old woman in my path to remind me that even though it can be draining, some day I will miss being JUST MOM? I think so.

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guest_speaker

Brooke Sellers , MA, CHHC will be doing a healthy cooking demonstration. Learn about (and taste) some quick, mom-friendly kitchen tips that utilize whole, real food.

We meet in the nursery of Ada Bible Church at 8899 Cascade Rd SE, Ada, MI 49301 from 7-9ish. Come when you can and leave when you must. There is no fee and no need to register.

Meet our speaker, Brooke:
As a master’s level counselor, I spent hours working with people who were depressed, anxious, and out-of-sorts. To be honest, I was all of those things myself! I struggled with the disconnect between what I could offer to my clients as a mental health professional and the seemingly insignificant difference it made in their lives and my own. On the other hand, I wasn’t comfortable with the medical system’s contribution to the dis-ease crisis I was witnessing all around me.

Through three years of working under the mentoring of a brilliant naturopathic physician, Adrian den Boer, DC, ND, during graduate school and through my own research (I’m a borderline-obsessive reader and learner), I came to see that the solutions to people’s dis-ease are much more holistic. I could no longer rely on mere mental health counseling nor on traditional medical systems; there was need to see people in a larger context and to address their illness on multiple levels: physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational. Once I started implementing these holistic principles in my own life and in the lives of my clients, I started to see meaningful changes occur.

I am also a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition which is affiliated with Columbia University. At Integrative Nutrition, I have learned to synthesize all of these parts into a cohesive whole, making me uniquely equipped to empower people to move toward true wellness in their lives.

Holistic wellness is a way of life for me. It shows up in my whole foods cooking, the decisions I make about leisure time (walking, enjoying community, reading, traveling, and constantly growing), and who I am becoming. I believe that I can only take my clients as far as I myself have traveled. For this reason, I strive to walk my talk.

I love what I do! I have the best job that I can imagine possible. What makes it so great is that I am a daily witness to the personal transformation of my clients. I would love to play a part in your road to healing as well.

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I’m very excited to introduce you to MomsBloom–postpartum support services. Sara Binkley-Tow, who spoke to LAB on the topic of infant massage, has started this non-profit (status pending) group to help families in Kent county get the help they need for a safe and smooth transition to parenthood. Take a look. If you or someone you know would benefit from any of the services listed below, please contact sara@momsbloom.org. Use this e-mail address if you would like to find out more about MomsBloom or volunteer your services.


Moms flourish when they have a chance to grow.

Mission Statement:
MomsBloom exists to help strengthen the community by providing postpartum support and services to families with infants.

Why postpartum support is important:
For new parents the challenges are numerous-recovery from birth; total responsibility for a tiny dependent newborn; sleeplessness; emotional adjustment; mastery of infant feeding and care; understanding of and adjustment to the unique personality of their baby; and household organization.

Sometimes the physical or emotional health of the new mother or baby is compromised, and the parents need more support at home than they had expected. MomsBloom is the extended family for the twenty-first-century!

Who is eligible:
Any family living in Kent County, Michigan with an infant 0-3 months regardless of income level.

In-Home Services may include:

  • Non-judgmental support and companionship
  • Promotion of parent-infant bonding
  • Emotional and physical recovery from birth
  • Newborn care
  • Meal preparation and light household tasks
  • Connection to community resources
  • Infant feeding support
  • Care for siblings
  • Parent education
  • Soothing and coping skills

Who provides the service:
MomsBloom volunteers are comprised of people who are passionate about the bond between parent and baby. Volunteers help make the transition into parenthood as smooth as possible. MomsBloom volunteers have completed training given by certified Postpartum Doulas and Lactation Consultants.

Fee for service:
Free; donations accepted.

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The image “https://i1.wp.com/www.lactivist.co.uk/images/badgecow.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.This article was posted sent to me by my friend Brooke who is a holistic health counselor–and will be doing a healthy cooking demonstration at LAB next week.

I shudder as I read this, because I LOVE all things dairy and an iced glass of milk is one of my favorites.

DOCTOR’S CORNER
 
Why Milk May Not Be Good For You

I decided to give this topic a mild title, but I could have gone the “Enquirer” route and called this article “Milk: The Cause of Breast Cancer?” or, “Prostate Cancer and Milk: the Undeniable Link!!” But, since we are not the National Enquirer, but a high-brow, well-respected Functional Medicine practice (ahem), I thought we’d keep it more low key.


In all seriousness, however, milk has been linked by science as a significant factor contributing to these diseases, in addition to diabetes, osteoporosis, and probably other inflammatory diseases. Last time I checked, milk is designed for young calves, and not adult humans, to consume.

 

The ideal calcium to magnesium ratio is 2:1; milk is 10:1, and cheese 28:1. This imbalance creates magnesium deficiency. It is not wonder that up to 70% of my patients are deficient in this all-important mineral when they first come in.

 

To make matters worse, modern milk is rich in insulin growth factor (IGF-1), which has been linked to increased prostate cancer risk, and has significant impact on breast cancer as well. Higher levels of estrogen has become a problem as well.

 

Dr. Hans Michael Dosch, professor of immunology at Mount Sinai Hospital, NY, has identified a compound in milk called BSA, which is the specific factor that increases the risk of insulin-dependent diabetes. This was especially seen as a high risk in the four-month-old-or-younger crowd, due to the immature gut wall not being able to fully digest the milk products. He has shown that among children who have developed diabetes, 100% have developed antibodies against BSA, while among kids that did not, only 2% have developed antibodies against this milk compound.

 

In my 18 years of practice, I have seen many cases of digestive disorders, ear infections, sinus problems, skin conditions, and fatigue improve with milk avoidance. But what about the calcium? We have been very effectively brain-washed that milk is good for the bones. But what if we cannot digest milk enough to benefit from the calcium it contains, and what if milk sets up an inflammatory process that hurts bone density, and what if milk changes our pH enough that the body is forced to leach calcium from our bones to normalize pH, and what if we are sensitive to milk, which causes inflammation that destroys our cartilage and who knows what else? What about the estrogen, BSA, IGF-1, and the fact that osteoporosis is only found in dairy consuming countries?

 

This space has not enough room and I may be starting to bore you. Thus I highly recommend that you re-evaluate milk as a staple, consider soy, rice, hemp, or almond milk as an alternative, and use vegetables and weight-bearing exercise as your superior source of strong bone health. Supplement with a high-quality calcium where it is appropriate (such as in cases where there is family history of osteoporosis, breastfeeding, inactivity, or if you are over age 40). I recommend calcium supplements containing MCHC, as it is the only form proven to not only to stop bone loss, but also is able to reverse it!

 

The scientific evidence is in: milk is for calves, not humans! I hope that this message will eventually be heard over the din of the American Dairy Council’s propaganda.

(Adrian J. den Boer, DC, ND)

I must admit that when my children get colds and runny noses I try to switch them to rice milk and their mucous seems to lessen. But it’s so handy and easy to buy the “cheap milk” and other dairy-laden products. And it seems a little daunting to buy dairy alternatives and figure out how to cook with them or use them.

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journal2

So yesterday was Valentine’s Day. And I struggled through it. As I’m sitting here in the library typing this, I’m trying hard not to cry. It must be almost ‘that time of the month’–where is my calendar? (tangent: I’m starting to chart my moods and cycles–a friend with IF charts her cycles and a fellow PPD mom suggested maybe I try this to see if I noticed any patterns. This is my second month trying to remember to put a little question mark on the day I should start my period, and a little X on the day I actually do. And slashes up for ‘up’ or good days and a slash ‘down’ for bad or down days. Not a great system, but I’ve got to start somewhere.)

Back to the V-day confession.

Dan and I didn’t even agree on a “limit” to spend on each other this year, we are so on the same wavelength when it comes to finances that we didn’t even have to say a word. Thanks a lot Dave Ramsey! (10% sarcastic, 90% truly thankful for practical guidance)

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I did cave in and buy our kids each a book from the library book sale, but that was only after Liam found my “Christmas stash” of cheap/free gifts I amass throughout the year. He asked me if the blue Sea Exploration book was for him as a present for Valentine’s Day. I got put on the spot, and I completely wilted under his sunny enthusiasm. So much for not ‘doing’ Valentine’s Day!

There is this secret obvious part of me that wants to be showered in fresh flower arrangements, surprised with tiny boxes, draped with (real) jewels, bedecked in new clothing, spoiled with satin, dine out at a place where they don’t post prices on the menu, and be just plain spoiled for no good reason except that it’s just another day with a fancy name, as my friend Alicia puts it.

But I know that our choosing to live on a budget right now will allow us to live in a way very few others will able to in the future. Instead of throwing money away nickel and dime, hundred here and thousand there, we are buckling down and taking life seriously.https://i0.wp.com/www.kellywillard.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/CONTENTMENT.jpg

I was getting bit big-time by the jealous monster knowing others were headed out for “big” Valentine’s Day plans, coming back from tropical locations, receiving surprise gifts, heading out to dinners that cost more than our monthly grocery bill, entertaining friends for a fancy shmancy party, and just plain wallowing in my having to re-enroll yet again what our pastor calls the “school of contentment”. Why? Because I was failing dismally at being confident in my current station in life and feeling like others were flaunting their shiny new toys and extravagant lifestyles in my recycling-grocery-bags-to-get-five-cents-back-so-we-can-live-debt-free, save-for-college-for-our-kids, keep-building-our-retirement-funds, be-generous-when-we-see-a-need and pay-off-our-mortgage-early face. (I just finished reading Virginia Woolf, forgive my exorbitantly long sentences!)

I didn’t give up anything for this season of lent. My life is so erratic I don’t think I can say there is anything I do every single day that I could ‘give up’. But I love the idea of adding in something good. So I’ve added in some intentional ‘good reading’ to my daily schedule.

10-Minute Time Outs for MomsThis gets a little personal, I’m sorry if it’s TMI. Usually, bathroom time for me is as short, un-private, and solely pragmatic as possible. But this month I’ve been ‘allowing’ myself to use the downstairs bathroom where I can get away from the kids, shut the door and be by myself, and even if my ‘business’ only takes a few seconds or minutes, I’m allowing myself the time it takes to sit and read a chapter in a book called 10-Minute Time Outs for Moms.

Dan bought me this book after Liam was born–when I complained that I didn’t have enough time or energy to sit down for Bible study.

I was slightly offended that he thought I needed such a parochial and cliche Biblical resource. I was mad that he spent $10.99 on it. And I was annoyed that the picture of the author on the back cover was wearing a turtleneck under a V-neck sweater and had feathered bangs. So I never cracked the spine.

But I’m in a different place now. I have realized that no matter how “cheesy” the resource may seem on the outside, this fact remains. God’s word never returns void.

It’s funny how the chapter I opened to for the day’s reading was so pertinent to my situation, entitled “Follow the Leader”. It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of today.

After the vignette about elementary-aged students playing a game of “follow the leader” on the playground–where one leader performed benign actions such as skipping, jumping jacks, somersaults, etc for her friends to mimic and another leader tried to coax kids to engage in mischievous acts such as throwing rocks ‘near’ windows–she gives some grown up advice.

Smart kids choose to follow a wise leader! Let’s hope they remember the lesson as they enter their teen years.

Following the leader isn’t an innocent game when issues such as alcohol, illegal drugs, and premarital sex are involved. Peers, television, movies, radio, magazines–all urge our kids to copycat their values, pursue their path. Only a strong child or teen can say, “I’m not following you.”

Even adults must decide whom they wish to mirror. On one hand society coaxes, “Come my way. Earn more money. Drive a newer car. Buy a nicer house. Look out for number one–grab the leadership reins and follow your own desires.”

On the other hand, the Bible teaches us to follow God’s way. Avoid heartache. Invest in eternal matters. Be content. Practice servant hood.

Our emotions tempt us to do what feels best or what’s most convenient. God’s Word instructs otherwise. Deuteronomy 13:4 offers wise, straightforward counsel; Follow the Lord. Revere Him. Serve Him.

My heart eventually caught up to my head and the day turned around. Instead of fixating on others’ attainments, I was finding myself –and my husband–blessed in the most odd and unexpected ways the entire rest of the day, weekend, and even into the next week. Those blessing words and actions from others reassured us that we are, indeed, doing the right things. That we are indeed ‘smart kids’ following the wise Leader. That we are human to struggle with contentment in a possession-rich culture. And to hurt when we see those we care about wandering aimlessly, not sure who the leader is, or too weak to say, “I’m not following you.”

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