Filling In the Gap(s)

Sometimes I don’t even know why I have a blog. I suppose the idea was that I would use it as a digital “journal” to document my life since it is easy and convenient and I am a terrible journal keeper. (I have one journal that spans at least ten years…)

HA. That obviously worked out.

Some highlights from the last year(ish):

Some events not represented in photos:

  • after a lot of hard work and late nights at the office, Gared got a big promotion—so proud of him! He is good companion, provider, and Daddy
  • we moved—less than a week before William was born (I don’t recommend it)

I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting. So much has changed in so little time, and not all the changes have been easy. But I can say that they have been for the better. It is becoming clear to me that there is really no such thing as “homeostasis” when it comes to life. I suppose if I was single and had no children I could create a relatively predictable existence for myself—but that wouldn’t be much fun, would it? Nothing seems to happen the way I envision, but I am falling more and more in love with my family and the life we are (haphazardly) creating for ourselves. It’s a good one.

 

 

It has to be done…

Hi, my name is Holly, and I am a procrastinator.

I have been a procrastinator all my life. I have also always been a perfectionist. From a very young age, I paid extreme attention to tiny details. I refused to color outside the lines. I would erase perfectly good, correct math exercises because I didn’t like the way I had written a particular number “4.” I was always the last to finish any sort of craft activity at church because I became so absorbed with completing it perfectly. I have lost countless hours of sleep correcting papers over and over again. I once spent months painting a tree on someone’s wall and ceiling, sometimes spending hours just trying to capture the effect of light on bark…on one small section of the tree, that is. In some ways this tendency has been to my benefit. I have produced some pretty good works of art, I have always received very high marks for my writing, and on the occasions that I clean my house, I usually do a very thorough job (AKA I enter my bedroom planning to make the bed and end up spending the next couple hours doing my best to complete an extensive purging/organization project. Funny how that usually results in a bigger mess…maybe this shouldn’t be listed with the benefits…).

Anyway, the point I am taking a ridiculously long time to get to is that my perfectionism is directly tied to my procrastination. I cannot do something half-heartedly, or leave it “incomplete.” It has to meet my perception of what is acceptable. With certain, rather rigid standards in place for every given task, it can become somewhat daunting to tackle those tasks and be confident that I will measure up to my own requirements and be satisfied with the result. Thus…I haven’t blogged in a year…ish. In my defense, it is difficult for a perfectionist such as myself to see the blogs of so-called supermoms plastered all over social media, with their beautiful photography and clean, well-dressed children, gracefully decorated homes and delicious home-cooked meals, completed sewing projects and clever, DIY crafts. I have somehow convinced myself that my blog posts cannot be devoid of photos. Said blog posts must be a certain length, and they must be such polished pieces of writing that I could publish them as a sort of memoir. Every time the thought, “Hm…I should really update my blog…” has passed through my mind, this thought has also swiftly followed on its heels: “But that means I have to get the photos off the camera and upload them…where is the USB cord, again? I haven’t taken enough photos anyway…I haven’t even taken any pictures of our apartment! Do I have any recent photos of Gared? Oh well, I don’t have anything really interesting to write about as it is…” And you know what? The result is that instead of having the cute blog I imagine, I don’t have one at all. How’s that for letting perfectionism limit you, eh? I’ve had a lot of time over the past six months or so to think about this and other related faults in my thought process, and I’ve come to the conclusion that perfectionism is a very bad thing. Its root is pride, and rather than making sure I do things well, it keeps me from doing many things I would like to. At all.

So here’s to throwing off the chains! I’m writing a post. It has no photos. It doesn’t really detail anything that has happened since my last post. I’m not even going to read through it before I post it. And I can’t think of anything else really clever to say before I end it. So…there. The end.

Holly

P.S. Btw, I don’t have anything against those blogs or the women who post them. They are wonderful people and I admire their creativity, talent, and willingness to share their lives and activities with the rest of the world. Goodness knows my pinterest boards would be absolutely empty without them, and then I would have nothing to do and no reason to live. Just kidding. But seriously. Those gals are great.

Achy Breaky Heart

Those of my friends and family who know me well (or who happen to have ever strolled through a mall with me) will remember that I used to do something pretty weird—one among many weird things I do, actually. There was a particular over store which, every time we passed it, I would absolutely gush and drool and do other equally strange things. I never went inside. Not once. But even at fifteen years old, I would absolutely go bonkers every time I saw it. It was not the a-little-too-cute-for-my-age Aeropostale, or the ever popular and packed-with-younglings American Eagle, or the just-expensive-enough-to-drive-me-crazy Old Navy, or the dimly lit, perfumed corridors of Hollister—or even the highly-inappropriate-for-young-people-borderline-pornographic images of young men plastered in the windows of Abercrombie & Fitch that got me so excited. I could think of nothing more feminine, beautiful, graceful, dignified, or desirable than to wear an item of clothing from Motherhood Maternity. I remember telling my friends that I could not WAIT to be pregnant, just so I could shop there. To which they would respond with an awkward laugh or roll of the eyes.

I had no plans to accomplish that goal at the time, or any time soon, or without a wedding band on my finger. But there was just…something…about the women in there, the images of radiant, gently smiling women on the walls, the mannequins with their round, gracefully draped bellies that made me crave to be among the women privileged to pass through the doors of that place. Forget about the shirtless boy staring out with pursed lips from Abercrombie with his pants just high enough to still be considered clothed. I couldn’t care less about romance, or anything that might actually make it possible for me to shop at a maternity store. I just wanted to look like those women. I wanted to feel what they felt. I imagined that pregnancy must be the most transcendent and fulfilling thing that a woman could experience.

This went on for several years. My friends came to expect my strange behavior with every shopping trip. I even had the opportunity to live vicariously through my older sister when I took her shopping at Motherhood Maternity during her first pregnancy.

Then I graduated and moved to Utah to attend BYU. Babies and all things maternity instantly vanished. Yes, I saw pregnant women and students pushing strollers every so often on campus, but church meetings on Sunday were completely devoid of the babbling voices of babes I was so accustomed to hearing in Texas. There was no nursery. Or Primary. Or even youth. Just single adults living single adult lives completely consumed by three things: school, work, and socializing. I still got a tiny little thrill when I happened to cast my eyes on that shop at the mall, but sometimes I strolled right past without even glancing at it.

Then I went on a mission. Missionaries must follow very strict rules during their service, one of which is to avoid physical contact and being unsupervised with children. This is in an effort to protect missionaries from accusations of abuse, which has been known to happen in perfectly innocent situations simply as an opportunity to take advantage of the church and/or give it a bad reputation among people who are not members. I was very diligent as a missionary to follow all the rules we were given, and while I felt very blessed and satisfied for doing my duty while away, it resulted in an interesting and worrisome side effect when I returned home.

Children were suddenly very foreign and somewhat frightening to me. Instead of seeing soft cheeks, touchable curls, pudgy hands and adorable gurgling, I saw snot, drool, dirty diapers and other messes, offensive smells and ear-piercing screeches. Many of the girls I had served with in the mission field expressed that their first and foremost desire upon their return home was to hold a baby. I never said so, but instead of feeling relieved of my duty and excited to embrace my natural, motherly instinct, I wished that I still had an excuse to avoid contact with the little minions. I knew that not everyone absolutely loves children and that that is ok, but this new feeling of reluctance—perhaps even…disgust?—worried me and made me feel like there was something wrong with me.

I still saw children as innocent and precious and had a great amount of respect for mothers. I knew that I would eventually want my own family. I even found that I still looked forward to shopping at Motherhood Maternity one day, but I had absolutely no interest in the “Motherhood” part. I wanted what I saw as the glamor and “fun” of maternity, without the responsibility for or bother of the resulting child.

I hope my words do not offend anyone, but I must be candid, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only female on the planet to have felt this way—as evidenced by the growing number of women who choose never to have children. I understand the desire to maintain independence and not turn over control of one’s life and choices to another very small, very demanding person. I understand the desire for privacy. For adventure. For travel. For greater financial security. For time. For greater, grander, further educational pursuits. For a body that will not become a leased space (rent-free!). Not to say that parenthood guarantees that all these things will be forfeited, but I think most parents would say that some of these things must be sacrificed to some degree, for some time.

Dare I admit that these have been some my thoughts and feelings, even during my own pregnancy? When Gared and I decided to get married, I had already made a firm resolution to delay having a family for quite a while still—there were many good, worthwhile reasons to do so. We both still have a lot of schooling to finish, neither of us had a large pile of cash just waiting to be spent on children, and I was very attached to the idea of continuing to get to know this wonderful person I loved so much—without the intrusion of children. I had dreams of travel to the Pacific, Europe, South America. Creating memories, doing what our hearts desired, where we wanted, when we wanted, the sole focus of our attention on each other. That was the image I now embraced—not one of a frazzled woman trying to calm a screaming toddler.

But Gared did not share my dreams. At least, not in the same fashion or time frame. See, Gared had that thing that I had lost. When we passed a new mother and her baby in the grocery store, it was Gared whose face dissolved into that expression that told you his heart had just melted. It was he who smiled at the little one and whispered, “Look at her!” It was he who grinned indulgently at the toddler who looked wide-eyed at him over the back of a pew at church. It was he who seemed to find nothing more fun than to play with his nephew. It was he who saw soft cheeks, touchable curls, pudgy hands and adorable gurgling.

And in the end, I had to admit that I had another feeling. One that told me my plans were not the right ones—not right now. That my logic was not equal to what was in store for us. That this path was better, even if I could not see why or how—even if it scared me to death. Even if following it meant that the first time I walked through Motherhood Maternity for myself, it was not the experience I was expecting. I was disappointed to find that I had dreamed it up into something it’s not. It could not make my anxieties disappear. It’s just a store.

And now for something completely different. On top of these thoughts, on top of the strange mix of emotions that comes with pregnancy anyway—on top of the dreaded nausea, the fatigue, swelling, and general aches and pains—I have experienced an additional symptom the last few months.

I have a heart condition. It’s called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, after the three physicians who described it. I was diagnosed with this condition as a baby, but never really experienced any significant symptoms until late in highschool, when I went to the emergency room and had to be medicated intravenously to slow my heart rate. You can read all about it online if you’d like, but basically WPW (as it is most often referred to) results from faulty “wiring” in the heart. It is not something you “catch” and it is not hereditary. It’s one of those things that just happens sometimes when babies are developing, and it causes unusual electrical activity in the heart, the most common symptom of which is a rapid heart rate. Many people are asymptomatic and find that it causes them no real danger or discomfort.

Despite the episode in highschool, I was surprised a few months ago when I began to experience some uncomfortable symptoms of my condition. It took very little for my heart rate to suddenly leap in pace and pound hard, causing additional fatigue, shortness of breath, and a generally unsettled and anxious feeling. It frightened and exhausted me, making even simple tasks daunting at times. I have since learned that such symptoms are common in pregnant women, even those without a previous heart condition. No wonder, since there is not just one but two people relying on the beating of one heart. I have had very good care from my OB/GYN and a cardiologist during this time, and while I now have the comfort of knowing that neither I nor my baby is in danger, these symptoms have been a great challenge to me.

During a conversation with my mother a while ago, she reminded me that while I was at the emergency room that time in highschool, two men from church—two good family friends—came to the hospital to give me a Priesthood blessing. A common feature of such blessings is a pronouncement of healing or recovery. My mother reminded me that that was not a feature of my blessing. Although I was assured that no harm would come to me, I was not told that my condition would go away. And WPW does not go away. My parents and I were led to believe until now that I had “outgrown” this condition, but I know now that this can never be. There are treatments, and in some cases it is necessary to cauterize nerves in the heart to cure the condition—but only in cases where the irregular electrical activity is considered life-threatening. Mine is not such a case. And so…my heart will always be this way, and I can expect to experience these symptoms again in future pregnancies.

Ever the patient, nurturing spouse, Gared has often insisted on “bad heart days” that I stay in bed and not move a muscle. This has resulted in me having a lot of time. Time to ponder. Time to wonder. And of course I have wondered…”Why?” Though I am certainly grateful that my case is not life-threatening, it is at times discouraging to look forward to the coming years and know that I will live the rest of my life with these symptoms, which may or may not improve significantly after the baby is born. Will it limit what I am able to do? I have always noticed that I struggle to keep up with others in some activities—I lose my breath faster and find it difficult to develop the endurance and stamina I would like. Running, hiking, swimming—there are so many things I enjoy that have always proved difficult for me to do without discomfort and without frequent rest. And now that I understand my condition, there is a certain motivation to not try too hard—to not put more strain on my heart than is necessary. Though my cardiologist assures me that he sees nothing sinister, I can’t help but wonder if it is possible, and what it would take, to push my case from an innocent place to a dangerous one.

I do not wish to complain. In general I am very healthy. I am very blessed and feel I have much to be grateful for. But I have felt the need to find a place to let all these voices talking back in forth in my head have their say. Especially this one:

Our hearts can be faulty in many ways. How often have we read of one whose heart was “cold” or “stony” or “hard”—or one who had no heart at all? Wasn’t it the Grinch whose heart was two sizes too small? Wasn’t it, in part, the influence of a small child that made it grow? I believe there can be many reasons for even just one of the challenges we may face in life. One small thing can bring about a lot of change, or as this scripture puts it, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise” (Alma 37:6). This verse has also come to mind a lot lately: “…and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh…” (Ezekiel 11:19). Who knew that it was possible to have a spiritual heart transplant? To exchange a faulty heart for a whole one? And is it possible for it do be done through some small thing…or small person?

I do not know why I was born with a faulty heart, but perhaps when my heart beats extra hard and fast, I can remember that it’s for my little boy. Maybe when I see him for the first time, some of the fears, anxieties, and reluctance to change my heart feels will just melt away. Maybe it’s through motherhood, not maternity, that I’ll experience what I saw in the faces of the women in that store. Maybe the image of the frazzled mother is somewhat incomplete. Maybe there is something else she has that only motherhood can give. Maybe this little boy, who is already starting to change me, will give me a whole, new heart.

…And the floods came up…

I have to tell you a funny story.

So a few weeks ago Gared and I had probably slept in our new apartment a whopping three times. I was discovering that there was absolutely NOT enough storage space in the kitchen. The majority of our possessions were still in boxes scattered throughout the house and Gared’s phone and internet cords (necessary to his at-home job doing technical support for Verizon) stretched from the office down the hall to his desk in our bedroom because we couldn’t get the hookups in there to work (actually, those cords are STILL snaking down the hallway). And all the while it was the beginning of the month, the busiest time for the storage units, so I spent a lot of time filling out contracts, answering the phone, taking payments, making trips to the bank and the post office, etc. Life was busy and a little crazy.

On one particular morning I was taking some spare minutes to call and chat with my mother and tell her all about the move and the new job and the new ward and of course to pick her brain on how to make all our things fit in this new, small space. I could hear Gared in the next room talking to customers and was vaguely aware of occasional movements out of the bedroom to the restroom or the kitchen and back.

Promptly at 12:00 pm, when his first shift was completed, I heard Gared exit the bedroom and make a noise somewhat like a whoop. Or maybe a whimper. Or a squeal. As close as Gared ever gets to a scream, I guess. I assumed that he had crossed paths with a large spider or other insect (which are plentiful here), although in hindsight this was a silly idea, as this would not have been normal for him. Gared does not plaster himself to the wall when a creepy-crawly makes an appearance like I do. Two minutes later he came barreling into the office with eyes the size of saucers, gesturing wildly, stammering at me to get off the phone. A little peeved, I just gave him a look that said, “Whaaaaaat-uh?”Seemingly unable to put a sentence together, he grunted, gestured around, then glanced toward the ground and blurted, “LOOK!” I instinctively stood, expecting I don’t know what. I cast my eyes downward and saw…nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary. I looked back at him with cocked eyebrows. He was still sputtering and gesticulating wildly at the ground. I looked again, and this time I saw it. A dark stain surrounding the area where I had been sitting, chatting with my mother, unaware of the unwelcome guest creeping into the office all around me…

Water. Water. Water everywhere. I dashed through the office bathroom to the apartment, where the long hallway leading to the rest of our home was completely and entirely saturated, to the point that my weight on the carpet raised pools of water around my feet. I remember gasping, “Where is it COMING FROM??!!?” Gared’s response fell on deaf ears, as I was still too shocked at what I was seeing to really absorb anything else. I’m not sure what I said to my mother, but seconds later I had hung up and Gared was explaining that the toilet had been overflowing and he had shut it off. As I followed the path of destruction to our bedroom…the front entryway…the living room…I remember breathing an inward sigh of relief that it was just water, with none of the accompanying…unpleasantness…that is usually associated with plumbing. And then I turned, looked at my husband’s still-stunned face, and had a ridiculous urge to laugh. After the initial shock had passed and the knowledge that the rest of our day was now spoken for—to be spent cleaning up this mess—had sunk in, it seemed pointless to be upset about it. It also seemed unbearably ironic, to the point that I couldn’t help but appreciate the humor of the whole situation. To have JUST moved in, with all the newness and excitement and sparkle of opportunity that this place represented for us shining in our minds and hearts—and then to have THIS happen, when we’ve barely even begun emptying our boxes? It was too much.

We moved some boxes and furniture, made some quick calls to the previous manager (who now functions as our supervisor and go-to question-answerer), put up a sign on the office door, shut off the open sign, locked the whole place up, then made a mad dash to the local hardware store to get a shop-vac and some carpet fans. Gared then spent the rest of the day going over and over that carpet, attempting to draw out all the water possible—along with his wonderful sister Katrina, who was kind enough to come help us. I went back to the office and attempted to continue with business as usual.

In the end, the carpet dried. A few of our things got wet. One piece of furniture is irreparably damaged. But I do not mourn its loss—we have too little space for it anyway. Considering that Gared’s parents recently had a flood in their house as well—one that required ripping up the carpet and discarding the pad, as well as tearing out drywall and insulation—I feel considerably blessed that we got off so easy. And it’s still funny to me when I think about it, although poor Gared’s aching back and arms probably feel differently.

One thing I can tell you, though—my trust in toilets has been permanently shattered, and I will probably go charging to the bathroom to check the toilet whenever I hear it continuing to run after use, in every house I occupy from this point onward. Forever.

Topsy-turvy

It’s been long enough.

This poor blog is beginning to look like my journal. The one with sporadic entries every few months, always promising greater consistency in the future. Ha.

Well. This is what my life looked like one year ago today:

Residence: Provo, Utah—Campus Plaza Apartments, to be exact. I had lived there for about a year with my favorite roommate, my little sister, Emma. Although at this point she was just about to move in with her friend Jenna. Our apartment was directly over Slab Pizza, and I distinctly remember the pizza-dough smell the apartment had when we first moved in. And the awesome live jazz music every Friday night.

Work: BYU Independent Studies. I was an Instructional Design Assistant, which meant that I helped develop and edit BYU’s online courses. It was my favorite job ever in my entire life thus far. I worked there for a year and a half. I miss it!

Marital status: Single, but in an almost-year-long relationship with Gared. You all know who he is.

Classes at BYU: Getting ready to begin a new semester with 4 classes, studying Wildlife and Wildlands Conservation (with a minor in Editing).

Number of nieces and nephews: One nephew, David,  and one niece, Andrea. They were and are adorable.

Number of children: Zero, duh.

I remember at this point that I would usually talk to my mother once a week and, when she asked what was up, I could almost always begin my conversations with her in these exact words: “Oh, you know…work and school.”

Well. This is my life today:

Residence: Payson, Utah. It is 20-30 minutes south of Provo, and considerably smaller. While I suppose some might disagree with me, I have decided that the presence of a Walmart here means it is not totally rural, although it certainly feels that way sometimes. I lament the absence of a temple 5 minutes away, a Target and Ross, a mall, an abundance of familiar chain restaurants, a BYU Creamery, as well as my favorite grocery store, Sprouts. There IS a Costco in the next town north. That made me quite happy. What also made me happy is that, despite the absence of most of the things I’m used to having nearby…there is an absence of most of the things I’m used to having nearby. I kind of like the small-town feel. An old downtown with little shops and restaurants. Lots of open fields dotted with sheep or horses. Quaint little houses. Not to mention there is a beautiful Temple under construction nearby. It is nice to realize that all those other things in Provo, while convenient and enjoyable, are not necessary to my contentment (although finding out that I can still price-match Sprouts at the local Walmart is a definite joy).

Work: Apex Storage. Gared and I are the proud (and very blessed) new managers of a storage facility. We live in a small apartment attached to the office where I collect rent and sell contracts for our bright orange storage units. It is a lovely apartment with 10-foot ceilings, a dishwasher, central air, and a beautiful front-loading washer and dryer set—all things I lacked in Provo (72 degrees Fahrenheit never felt so good!).

Marital status: Married! Gared and I tied the knot on December 22 of last year. Here’s a photo of the blessed event:

We are quite happy. Life with Gared is fun, fulfilling, and turning out to be quite adventurous in its own way.
Classes at BYU: On hold. I won’t be taking ANY classes this fall, which almost feels like the strangest change yet. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be a drop-out. Completing my degree is just as important as ever, but I have learned an important lesson about adaptation. Sometimes there are many paths to the same destination, and one is just as good as another, or maybe even better than the one you’d originally planned.
Number of nieces and nephews: Four! I have gained two nephews in the last year, one (Peter) through my older sister, and another (Zane) through marriage.
Number of children: 0.79. We are expecting the arrival of a little boy in October. This is (and I suspect always will be) the biggest event in my life. I can’t even begin to fathom the way this little person will continue to change my life, but I anticipate that the changes will overwhelmingly be for the better. Yes, babies cost money. They tend to interrupt sleep patterns. They cry and poop. They take a lot of time, attention, sacrifice, and love. But I think that’s the best thing about them. They require us to think less about ourselves and more about what is most important. Gared and I are anxious, scared, excited, and absolutely delighted to be meeting our son—in less than two months! (At risk of jinxing myself into a 42-week pregnancy, I am going to predict that our little one will make his debut at the end of next month. There can’t POSSIBLY be enough room for him to stay in there any longer than that!)
That’s pretty much it. Life is topsy-turvy and yet pretty simple, when you really think about it. And it never ceases to amaze.