Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When You Know It's Worth It, But It's Still Hard

In a time of year when I should be feeling beyond motivated to set resolutions for the new year, I'm feeling a little lackluster in the dreaming department.

During a season when I should be feeling grateful and counting my blessings, I find that once they're counted, I might feel content for the next ten minutes or so, but then the doubt and anxiety and uncertainty creep back in to their usual nesting places.

(And trust me, I make myself count my blessings on a daily basis. It's one of my coping mechanisms, apparently.)

So what's my deal?

Well, here's the Great Truth I've come to after thinking about this for months on end:

Just because something is worth it in the end, that doesn't mean it won't be hard to go through it.

Just because something is what your wiser self knows you need, doesn't mean that it's something your childish, immature self is going to be okay with all the time.

I was talking to Matt the other day about how it seems that I don't dream much anymore. Perhaps it's because so many of our dreams didn't come to fruition (like becoming a bajillionaire by the time we were 30, naturally), or perhaps it's just because my child seems to have been on a napping boycott for about three months now, but my mind doesn't delve into the realm of possibility so much, anymore---

It's usually stuck instead on, "Wow, I have a messy apartment that I really should clean and a child that's super whiny that probably needs to be bundled up and taken outside because we're both going stir crazy and oh yeah, I haven't eaten any real food in 6 hours or even gone to the bathroom for that matter, so I probably should get on that."

The fact is (and we all know this, deep down) is that to get anything of value, something must be sacrificed. It's the Law of the Harvest---you reap what you sow---but of course, you actually have to put in the work and the sweat and the tears to actually be able to harvest something.

Knowing something is going to be worth it in the end though, doesn't necessarily make it easier to go through.
It just makes you more willing to push through it.

I can apply this to so much in my life right now.

I know I need to stay at a healthy weight for both my health and my sanity, but that doesn't mean that I'm loving going out for a run or out to an exercise class when I'm already exhausted from the day or when I'd rather stay home and watch more episodes of Gilmore Girls or when it's bat-crap-crazy-cold outside.

I know that it's better for us to wait to buy a house until we have more of a down payment and our financial situation is more stable, but it doesn't mean that I don't get frustrated living in an apartment that is absolutely jam-packed with stuff (despite all my years of decluttering) and with no yard to escape to.

I know that stay-at-home-motherhood (or being a mom, period) is absolutely the best thing for me to do right now, but it doesn't mean that I don't get tired of having a little shadow dump out every last thing that can be dumped out and then whine for an hour straight and then refuse to go down for a nap.

Of course, these things are worth it in the end--staying healthy, being fiscally responsible, being a parent.

But it doesn't make the sacrifice any easier when you're going through it.

And that's really all I have to say today about it---

I don't have any brilliant words of wisdom that will make it all better, that will make you not want to tear your hair out because you're now in the fourth week straight of dealing with the insurance marketplace, and they still can't freaking verify your income, and you just have a feeling that it's all going to end badly...

But all I can say is that my wiser self has been around long enough that she knows that it really is all worth it, in the end.

So I just need to hang in there.


Monday, November 28, 2016

(Black & White) Scenes From a Thanksgiving Weekend

I fully intended to do a Thanksgiving post on the actual holiday (or shortly thereafter)--I had packed up the laptop (okay, I'd asked Matt to pack up the laptop), I'd made sure my camera cord was in the case to transfer pictures, and we had plenty of gaps of time without anything planned that would have allowed for it.

But instead, I watched way too many episodes of Gilmore Girls (only five more seasons to go before I can watch the new ones, ha ha), finished a book (The Light Between Oceans--my heart is still recovering, thanks for asking), spent a lot of time with Matt's family (mine was out of town), and passed many an hour solo just thinking about things. About life. About my dreams for the future. About the past, and how time changes things. About how even though this isn't where I thought we'd be right now in life, how I'm still so grateful for everything we have.

So today, you get a photo-and-brain dump of our weekend.

(And in black and white too, because everything looks better in black and white.)

Here we go.

Thanksgiving Day
It's so funny to me how absolutely different each Thanksgiving is from year to year. We never seem to know who exactly we'll be seeing or what exactly will be happening or what exactly we'll remember. 

This year, we spent Thanksgiving not just with Matt's family (we do the on year/off year thing for Thanksgiving between the two families), but with most of his extended family on his Dad's side, too. Every time we get together with them, I am reminded anew of the dire need to make a family tree with photos and names so that this can finally be the year that I get everyone straight and in the correct family in my mind.

It's still a work in progress.
(Should I even admit that after five and a half years of marriage? What a slacker I am!) 

Fun with the In-Laws  (Pictionary, in this case)

Just one of the many kinds of impromptu things going down at the Meidell house anytime people gather together.

Raven Gets Another Haircut (& has another meltdown)
My sister-in-law Katie, an experienced cutter-of-hair, had brought Oreos to bribe Raven into submission (a wise move, considering her distinctly unsure-slash-slightly-negative impression of the whole haircutting business the last time around). And for awhile it totally worked...until we moved Raven around to the other side of the sink. Who knew that such a simple act like switching directions would cause such a complete and utter meltdown?ˊ
 Now we know.

Family Pictures at the Capitol Building

In the beginning of our marriage, Matt and I used to have his mom take some pictures of us right around Thanksgiving so we could have some shots of the two of us together that weren't just taken by a stranger or by one of our hands extended out as far as it could reach. (Click here for some outtakes and here for our real card from 2013 and here and here for ones from 2012.)

Well, we apparently stopped doing that when I was pregnant and then for Raven's first Thanksgiving the year after, but I missed the tradition and wanted to remedy that this year. So on the day when we were scheduled to go to the Capitol building to get family pictures with Matt's whole extended family anyway, we ended up having my mother-in-law get some of just the three of us (and then we took a ton ourselves too of the other spouse with Raven). 

Be prepared over the next three weeks or so to be bombarded with the family in black as I share some of the (several hundred) images we took.

Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful!

P.S. Even though it sounds all sorts of cliché, I just wanted to say that I am so grateful to all you readers out there--it has been nothing short of incredible how many people I've been able to connect with because of this little blog that I started way back when, and you all make it worth coming back to the blank page, week after week. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Getting Dressed Every Day: The Struggle is Real

I've talked before about how I used to kinda sorta judge stay-at-home moms who stayed in their sweats all day and talked about how it was such a struggle to get dressed. At the time, I was a full-time teacher who needed to dress somewhat professionally every weekday, so it was no problem for me to put some effort into what I looked like every day.

Plus, I was also going through a bit of a "style revolution" at the time (mostly thanks to my reading WAAAAAY too many fashion blogs and magazines), and I enjoyed coming up with different clothing combinations and pushing my style comfort limit just a little more day by day.

When I became pregnant with Raven, my love of style and getting dressed in "real clothes" every day started to seriously wane by the end of the second trimester. I was quickly outgrowing every piece of clothing I had (AND that I'd bought for the pregnancy), and seemingly every piece of clothing I put on my body felt uncomfortable. One of the (many) reasons I looked forward to giving birth already was so that I could finally stop feeling like a stuffed sausage in everything I put on.

Well, the postpartum body blues hit me harder than I thought they would (mostly because the weight didn't come off as fast as I thought it would, despite my best efforts, and also because the AI disease diagnosis seriously threw a wrench in EVERYTHING to do with my body image due to the weight retention of the medication).

All of this is to say that even though I was still teaching at the time, the zest for getting ready every day had all but disappeared, and even though I still forced myself to do it, I hardly ever put in one iota more of effort than I absolutely had to (which translated to me looking pretty frumpy a lot of the time).

And now, being a full-time SAHM, my attitude towards getting dressed unfortunately hasn't changed too much. I consider it a serious accomplishment if I am dressed and ready for the day before noon (and on some days, it's a serious accomplishment if I get ready at all), and I feel like I rarely put serious effort into what I look like.

Part of that reluctance to get dressed is because we don't leave the house that often (and there are usually about half the days in the week when we don't leave the apartment or apartment complex's grassy area at all).  The other reluctance comes because I still haven't found pants that are truly very comfortable since giving birth that actually look good. Sure, I've bought myself about four pairs of pants postpartum, but none seem to fit right and about half aren't really too comfortable at all.

So the self-defeating thinking that starts creeping in when I get ready and feel like I don't look as good as I used to anyway makes the whole thing feels rather futile, and I stop getting ready for the day, which only feeds the beast that says that I'm just not as attractive as I used to be.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my new year's resolutions for next year. (I mean, of course I have--this is me we're talking about here). And after reading an interview with a blogger I've long admired about some of her philosophies about mothering, I felt a bit convicted--

When asked what advice she would give to new moms (she's a mom of four), she said:

Our culture will tell her she can sit in her sweatpants all day watching TV, forgetting to brush her teeth, and letting Elmo babysit, (those things all have their time and place – believe me!) but I’d tell her that motherhood can and should be an intentional position of leadership. Being a mom is like being a guide. We show our kids what to value, where to spend their time, and how to take care of themselves and their surroundings by what we model. Yes, motherhood will be all of things people tell you it is – messy, full of mistakes, and selfless – but after you’ve gone to the bathroom and had a good cry about that, tell yourself that it is not an excuse to just survive every day. Create good, intentional habits in your home. These don’t have to be Pinterest-mom-perfect. I’m talking a Word document with some chores printed out and stuck to the refrigerator. Or a ritual of nightly prayers with your kids. Or family dinners (we love pancake night!) at 6. But be intentional.

I felt a big smack in the face--

How much of my mothering since staying at home had seemed like "just surviving"? And how much had staying in pajamas all day and not bothering to take care of myself half the time contributed to that feeling?
I've been thinking a lot lately about that. About what being intentional looks like for me.

And I realized that I want my daughter to take care of herself--to take pride in her appearance every day (not in a vain way, naturally, but in a "I know my value and I want to put my best face forward" kind of way).

But how on earth will she learn to do that if I don't model it first?

So it looks like one of my new year's resolutions for 2017 will be about getting dressed every day, in real clothes, in an intentional way (and earlier than noon).

It seems silly, really.

But I think it's what I need now, funnily enough.

Other moms---do you struggle getting dressed every day? How do you beat back the tendency to just lounge in sweats or yoga pants all day? Do you even try?

All thoughts welcome here!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Our Smallest Friendsgiving Ever

We almost didn't do Friendsgiving this year.

(And, really, it's not like we were under *too* much pressure to do anything of the sort since we've only done it for the past two years, not like for our whole married life or something like that.)

This weekend before the actual holiday (which is when we've always done it before) was busy, full of prepping for our church's Primary program, doing a baby shower and photo shoot with that awesome couple on the left up there (who are expecting their first child any day now), and editing editing editing photos any spare moment I could so that I can finish up all my shoots before the holidays hit in full force.

 Some shots from our shoot on Saturday (my very first maternity shoot ever!)

It wasn't until less than a week before the actual day we set for it that we invited people over, and we had originally intended to just have a simple dinner and play some games and not even call it Friendsgiving.

But apparently I can't be trusted to go into a store the week before Thanksgiving without buying a turkey of some kind and then calling my mom for that cranberry salad recipe she's been making for years and then planning to whip up a big batch of homemade crescent rolls (naturally), so Friendsgiving it was.

And last night, when our few friends showed up with their dishes to share and their new games to try out, and we stayed up WAAAAY too late playing Andrew's zombie game (Dead of Winter) and eating pumpkin cheesecake, and we talked about the Owens's new baby coming up and Andrew's programming work (which none of us understands), and Harry Potter and the goodness of caramelized sweet potatoes and all the extra church meetings we were accidentally missing out on, it just hit me that this, this right here--this gathering and sharing and laughing and connecting--is why Matt and I do crazy things like plan a Friendsgiving for one of the busiest weekends of the year and why we're willing to literally spend almost every spare second in the 24 hours leading up to it cooking and cleaning and primping and prepping.

Because it's all worth it.

And because it's fun to see how it changes from year to year.

And because you never know where life is going to take your friends over the next 12 months, so you need to spend time with them while they still live by you.

And because you realize that while friendships might be a little different from when you were a kid just because of all the other responsibilities heaped upon you, you realize that the core elements of friendship--love and generosity and thoughtfulness and loyalty and trust--never change. You realize that you've picked some good friends when the Owens bring sweet potatoes because they know Andrew doesn't like mashed potatoes, and when Andrew brings mashed potatoes because he knows everyone else loves them.

And because whether you have only 5 people (like this year) or 11 (like we happened to have the last two years), it's always worth getting together with those people who only live two blocks away but who you want to see more of and sharing some turkey and some mashed potatoes and some almond punch.

So thank you, friends, for a wonderful (albeit last-minute Friendsgiving). Thank you for being a part of our life.

And thank you to our many, many friends who do not live nearby but who we nevertheless consider our dear friends, no matter where life has led you---

We wished you could have been there.

For last year's Friendsgiving, click here.
For the one we held two years ago, click here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Raven in the Snow

 Her first glimpse at the snow this morning
Last winter, Raven was too young to appreciate the snow too much, so we didn't take her outside hardly at all.

This year, we were actually kind of excited for the first snow--we were excited to see her reaction to this strange cold white phenomenon that had coated her little world overnight.

We didn't bother with getting her changed out of her pajamas---

We just threw some boots on (which work perfectly over her footie p.j.'s because the shoes are slightly too big for her still), pulled her little pink coat out of the closet, and set out, her "wubby" tucked firmly into the crook of her arm and the curl of her fist.

We convinced her to reach out and touch it, to take it all in with her eyes, to scoop it up with the tops of her shoes as we trekked across the unmarked canvas of whitest white.

The face below brought to you be an inch and a half of accumulated snow under her boots, making her walk tall and awkward 
(with the boots only accumulating more with each step)

I'm not sure she knows how to feel about it, after just one little excursion out.

Then again, 30 years in, and I'm not sure how I feel about it half the time, either.

 But it was a beautiful way to start a Thursday all the same.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

An Autoimmune Disease Update


So Tuesday isn't my normal posting day, but I've made a special exception this week because I wanted to point you all towards a special guest post I did today for Stay Gold Autumn, one that's been in the works now for several months.

As longtime readers of my blog will know, I've been struggling with a rare autoimmune disease called dermatomyositis (sounds fake, doesn't it?!) for nearly two years now. Recently, Autumn (the lovely lady behind Stay Gold Autumn) was also diagnosed with an AI disease, and she's doing a special series from various bloggers who are dealing with (or who have dealt with) autoimmune diseases. And I'm so honored that she chose me to be one of the first to share!

So, make sure you click on over to her blog for the guest post!

After I sent Autumn my post, I suddenly realized something----

It's been a LONG time since I've done a proper update about my disease here on The Blog. In fact, the last legit update on the "status" of my disease was all the way back in March, with a brief side mention of the fact that I was still dealing with the side effects of the medication I'm on in a post I wrote in August.

Other than that, nada.

So, I felt like today was as good of a time as any to tell you all some exciting news---


I had a doctor's appointment a few weeks ago, and even though my doctor said it looked like I was "basically" in remission, there was still the faintest trace of a patch of red skin on my back that he wanted to be "sure" we got rid of as much as possible. So he extended my time taking methotrexate to be one month longer than we'd thought after the last appointment.

While this is definitely Big News (on so many fronts), it also comes with a nice little side dish of anxiety and worry--

What if, when I go off the medication, I experience another flare-up of the disease?

I mean, it's taken me a year and four months after a proper diagnosis and subsequent treatment to come this far---

What if within weeks of going off, I'm right back at square one?

These are the dark thoughts that occasionally circle around my head at night.

However, I can't live my life in fear or stress out about what may or may not happen. I just have to go forward, hoping for the best, and then deal with whatever comes up, when it comes up.

*But if everyone wants to keep their fingers crossed for me and say a few extra prayers in my behalf, I definitely won't complain!*

The fact is, this autoimmune disease has definitely set my life even further off course than it had been set off before. Already, Matt and I had been dealing with our total change in life plans when he didn't get into physical therapy school for the second year in a row, and then we were adjusting to being new parents. When the diagnosis hit, well, it was almost like we threw up our hands and just decided that we'd better stop planning anything, anymore.

That doesn't mean it's been easy though, even with the surrender of our life plan.

I've been fairly open with people that while I'm on methotrexate, Matt and I cannot try to have another baby. And these past few months, when seemingly everyone I know who had a baby around the same time as I did (and many, many who had babies afterwards) is already pregnant again, I have caught the tiniest glimpse of what it must be like for those women struggling with infertility.

And my heart aches for them.

Because now I understand just a little more---I understand that it's frustrating to have so much out of your control, to try and do so much right to take care of your health and your body and still struggle, to never know when (or if) what you want will ever be given to you.

The doctor has warned me that if (when?) I get pregnant again, it might trigger the exact same response in my body as last time (aka, my autoimmune disease rearing its ugly head).

But at least next time, I'll be more prepared. I'll know what's coming. I'll be able to start taking action sooner (although all medications that I've taken and know are successful will be totally off-limits if I get pregnant).

So it's still a little scary. It's definitely a lot of uncertainty.

But we'll deal with it, one step at a time.

For more posts on my autoimmune disease:
That Time Last Week When I Was Diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disease
She Ain't Heavy, But I Can't Carry Her
When Life Doesn't Go According to Plan
What It Takes to Not Gain Weight on Prednisone
Why I'm Doing an Elimination Diet During the Holidays
Oh, Happy News!

Monday, November 14, 2016

5 Happy Things From the Weekend

Considering that the past month's worth of weekends have been almost nothing but stressful, it was pretty amazing to have a weekend where the stress level was back down to normal (which is borderline low-ish).

Here are five happy things from our weekend:

1. The photo shoot I did with my sister and her family went as smoothly as it ever has (and this is the third or fourth shoot I've done of them), and we had TONS of great images to choose from. Although the picture above might not be the one that captured everyone smiling, it still is one I totally love, thanks to the dramatic lighting from the setting sun and the unusual height formation of its subjects.

Even though photo shoots will probably never cease to make me nervous, I love that with each one, I am continually pushing myself to improve and experiment and just embrace whatever comes out of it.

2. I almost always show up to photo shoots 15-30 minutes early to scout out locations, and this time, I was lucky enough to have Matt and Raven with me. Not only did Matt help me find some of my favorite backdrops for the shoot, but Raven got in some time with her cousins AND we were able to squeeze in some pretty awesome pictures of just us before it started.

(If you want to see more from our mini pre-shoot, you can check out my Instagram @torriemeidell)

3.  Okay, last happy thing about photography---I've still been participating in the online Coursera digital photography class (that I'm auditing for free), and it just seems to have been exactly what I needed to keep my creative mojo flowing. The course has been all about photo composition, which is something that I *thought* I knew quite a bit about before. Well, much to my (happy) surprise, there was a TON of stuff I just wasn't thinking of before (and a few concepts I'd never even heard of!) when I was composing my images, and it's given me a totally new set of tools and concepts to work with.

I have a feeling that when I sit down to make my resolutions for the year 2017, photography goals might be at the top of the list.

4. I have *finally* started to feel motivation to start running regularly again. Ever since the half marathon at the end of August, I've only been averaging about one run a week, and I knew that I was going to have to find a motivation other than a race and other than weight loss to get me going again.

Well, apparently all I need to do to start running again is read Runner's World regularly (which I'd been letting sit, piled and forgotten, in the magazine rack in my bathroom). Ever since I started reading from at least one of the various issues daily, I've felt all the old love and passion I have for running start trickling back, and I'm pleased to report that I ran last Friday AND this morning AND I have solid plans to run two more times this week, which will mean that I'm back on my normal running schedule again.

*Fingers crossed I can keep this motivation going!* I really have needed the boost that only seems to come from hard cardio.

 5. For the first time since I set myself a goal to read 50 books in a year (as an adult) five years ago, I am finally within striking distance of hitting it.

Granted, to hit it, I would need to finish two books a week for the rest of the year, which is a pace that I only was able to keep up during the first part of summer this year.

But still---I'm going to still try and go for it anyway, just to see how close I can get. Why not, eh?

If you'd like to see what I've read so far this year, click on the "Reading List" tab at the top of the blog or check me out on Goodreads.

***It must be noted that I don't count audiobooks towards my total of books read. If I did, I would basically have hit my goal already since I listen to the Harry Potter series on repeat (literally) all year.

What are some happy things from your weekend?

Friday, November 11, 2016

10 on 10 (a day late again)

It's been an exhausting month.

Between the physical strain of taking on those storage sheds as a second job and the financial strain of a huge unexpected car repair and the mental and social strain of an election that has brought out some of the worst in so many, I'm just done.

So I'm trying to take it a little easy over here. I finally hunkered down and got ALL the dishes washed yesterday (something that--embarrassingly--hadn't been done in about a week because I kept letting the dishes that were too big for the dishwasher just sit out for days and days). I've recommitted myself to being more careful in my use of social media, since every time I get on lately, it just seems to bring on the tension headaches and the anxiety all over again. And last night, as Matt drove with his parents up to Idaho to retrieve our now-functioning vehicle ($1400 later...), I popped some popcorn and Raven and I sat down to watch The Little Mermaid instead of me trying my darnedest to do the usual and avoid screen time as much as I can while she's awake.

But one thing that was so good was for me to go through these pictures from the last month and remind myself of all the happy, non-stressful times (because there were SO MANY!). It was good to remember that despite all the craziness both in our personal sphere and in the national sphere, we still carved out time to go feed the ducks and play in the rain and enjoy this autumn weather that's magically just lingering on, seemingly forever.

So, in no particular order, here are ten things from the last month:

1// Raven and Matt, in hoodies, in the rain. I didn't know how she would react to the rain (since she hasn't been out in it very much before), but as long as her hands and feet stay more or less dry, she seems to hardly notice (and even enjoy it!).

2// That moment right before Mom realized what she was holding.

3// Feeding the ducks never gets old.

4// Because that picture on top makes me laugh, the picture in the middle makes me smile, and the bottom picture makes my heart explode a little bit because she's growing up so fast.

 5// We have finally gotten to the point where this is actually enjoyable for her (most of the time, anyway).

6// Showing off her Sunday best. She started going to nursery at church this last month, and she generally couldn't be more happy about it.

7// Our continued determination to spend quality time outside every day has been saving my life (or rather, my sanity) lately. I hope these perfect fall days stay embedded in my memory forever.

8// Because those little feet. And also, books books books, all the time.

9// Double pigtail loops and playing in the leaves.

10// Glad someone at least was enjoying the constant state of clutter and chaos the house was in as we prepped for our massive yard sale.

And, as always, a few bonus pics:

And a bonus video of Raven trying to copy her daddy as he stretches. (You can just hear me trying not to laugh...)

I did it in black and white because the colors were garish and made it harder to see

I know life is just going to get busier and busier as the holidays roll around, but here's hoping that I remember to take the time to appreciate those small moments every day that make life--in all its craziness--worth living and worth loving.

Have a happy Friday, friends! Hope you enjoy your weekend.

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