Lessons on Happiness

I learned a lot in the last few months about relationships, family, and living my life. It's funny. I feel like I turned thirty and I'm finally starting to understand life (at least a little bit).
Four months ago i quit my job to stay home with my kids. I'm lucky to stay in contact with one of my dear friends from Myriad, Courtney. We are the same age (I think) and we love books. We used to sit across the aisle and interrupt each other randomly to talk about books. I joined a book club with her so I get to see her at least once a month.
Courtney's had a rough go the last few years with her fixer-upper house, family, and job. She's incredibly sweet and works hard at everything.
I met up with her at book club on Monday. We spoke about the big changes in her life, mainly her promotion to Assistant Clinical Data Specialtist (or something). She deserves all good things that come to her and I really feel happy for her.
I came home feeling a little self-doubt. If I was at Myriad, would I have been promoted with Courtney? Could we be working together? I loved my job because I felt like I was good at it and I made a difference. I worked hard and I felt like our finances showed the hard work. Unless I donate plasma, I don't earn a cent, but I feel like I still work hard every day. I will not receive any type of promotion where I am now.
While talking with Dave about my doubts, he tried to reassure me, "You were promoted to something really vital and important to our family." Husbands, am I right? I didn't think he understood. He's valued in his job, he's financially compensated, and promoted easily. 
Who knew that Heath Ledger or whoever, would help me figure out the truth. I found this quote on Facebook and I don't know how true or if he even said it.

There's that light bulb. Are you happy?
Was I happy when I worked full time? Kind of, but only until I came home and faced everything I left behind in my search for recognition and money. 
Am I happy at home? YES! I love my "work" as a stay at home mom. I don't have to rush out of work to see my girls again. I get to actually handle the housework. Dishes, laundry, and dinner are pretty manageable every day-I could never say that while I was working full time. 
Happy will different from person to person and situations may make things more difficult. So maybe if I don't feel happy, I need to find the happy because that's the most important part. 


2018 Hopes, Goals, and Predictions

Every year I like to reflect on the past year in a list with photos. I try to be accurate and real about what life for our family looks like every year in highlights. At the beginning of the year I try to see what the next year will hold for my family. They aren't necessarily resolutions because they aren't things that require a year of commitment. Many years these predictions and hopes are easy because they are things Dave and I have planned or spoke about. This year my list starts a little different.

1. Be Awkward: Okay, that's not really what I mean, but it makes you laugh right? 2017 meant big changes in my social and community outlook. I'm home more and around the neighborhood more. In society and/or my neighborhood, you avoid talking with people you know at the grocery store or around town. I'm guilty of running down the next aisle or looking fast at my phone instead of waving or saying "hi". This year I want to face the awkward encounters at public places. I will embrace it and be friendly. My dad was a master at this. When I was a kid/high school, I was so embarrassed and would tug on him to leave the store. Alongside the embarrassment, I remember him looking cashiers in the eye and asking them about their families. I saw their faces and what it meant to be recognized beyond their job. I want to see people for who they are, step outside of myself. Every once in a while, this tumbler gets passed around and this year I'm inspired by it. So what if I'm awkward and I don't know what to say. 

2.Edits and Inquiries: Last year I finished my book. You know that super hero, super nerdy book mimicking Lost and Heroes? I will finish edits this year and hopefully send out some inquiries to some editors. I would love to get published and I have a long road to go from here full of rejection, but I will stay the course and do everything I can to achieve this dream. I don't know if it will actually get published this year. Editor review, contracts, and all that jazz. To be honest, I'm still not 100% sure I know where to go with it after I'm done editing. Yay for learning.

3. Write: I have ideas for two more books and a possible sequel to the previous book in my head. I will not finish another book. I know my process takes longer than the average writer, but little by little I'm improving and getting better at writing. I hope to start another book this year..

4. Run: Maybe. This year may grant me some extra time. I would love to get back into running and do another half marathon. Now I don't know if I'll do a half this year, but I would love to get back into running again in the fall. 

5. Preschool for Emily: I can't believe I am writing this. My baby will be in preschool this fall. It feels so weird. I don't really know what that will look like for her. Emily has so much energy and imagination. I'm not sure how she will respond to the structure and focus on letters, numbers, and colors. She doesn't have the interest in those things that Cami did.

6. No More Diapers: Emily can do it this year, right? I feel like she is so close to catching on to it, if she can find the right motivation. Even now, with limited motivation from us, she occassionally uses the potty. She'll catch it this year. I think she has to for pre-school...

7. Toddler Bed: Emily has a lot of big changes this year. I imagine about the time we start really tackling potty training, we'll move her into a toddler bed. I have a feeling we won't get as lucky as we did with Cami on this one. I hope the transition goes well. We're still a few months away, so it's hard to say at this point what it will look like. Experience says my little hurricane may not understand the containment of bedtime. 

8. 1st Grade: Cami starts first grade this fall. That's another weird thing to think about. She'll be gone at school all day long (*cheers*). Kindergarten is only 2.5 hours, so I'm excited to think of her really launching into her education. In addition to kindergarten, she may be starting the ALPS program through the district (Advanced Learning Program). If she passes their exams, she'll go to an accelerated school with focus on STEM  and hands on learning. She's a smart girl and I'm not worried about her. Really, either way it works. I want the best education for her, if that is in her current school or through ALPS, I'm confident she'll do the best she can.

9. Swimming: We took a break with Cami's swim lessons during school. Honestly, it's good because who knew that school would take so much of my, I mean her time. ;)  Emily turns 3 in April and then she will be able to take swimming lessons too. I think this summer we'll start both kids in swimming lessons. It will be so great for both of them. Cami really needs to find a way to be comfortable in the water and with water on her face. It might take a few years for her to be comfortable.

10. Fenced In: We've been in our house for just about six years and this is the year we're going to finally put in a fence (hopefully). We don't have the greatest next door neighbors. I think we'll probably end up springing for it on our own. I hope the fence helps reduce the noise from their side of the property too. We're the corner lot, so our bedroom window faces their garage. Every party, coming, going, and stalling sounds like it's in our bedroom. The fence will help that, right? Let me dream.

11. Dave Active: Dave has been really sticking to this workout thing with Shaun T/T25. He does two workouts these days instead of running. The air quality is horrible and running in the ice could be painful and disastrous. He's really dedicated to this program. It's good to see him feel better and be healthier. I see him continuing this. His self motivation exceeds my own this year. :D

12. Dave Work: Dave will work in his current position for a few more months. After that he goes back to a Help Desk Supervisor-type job for businesses. One thing I see with Dave is his constant search for exceeding in his career and knowledge. At this point, he probably doesn't see much changing, but I am sure he'll find some class or some job to expand his experience and knowledge. I love how hard it works to do better. 


2017: An Unexpected Year of Greatness

This year turned out very different than I expected. I can be a pretty negative person. It's easy for me to see the bad and hard things. I really wanted to be happier this year. A part of me never thought that would happen. I’ve spent a lot of years stressed out, depressed, and sad. At the end of 2016, I felt so defeated and at the end of my wits.  I needed 2017 to be better. Here I am at the end of 2017 and I feel legitimate joy. It’s been a year of ups and downs like every year, but there have been so many more ups than I cold have hoped for my family.

My home away from home for four years.
1. Quitting Time: I quit my job in September. The needs of my family and the stress of day-to-day life changed things pretty fast. It was a really scary move to go from two full-time incomes to one. Money gives me legit anxiety.  Even with two incomes, I would freak out if we spent more than $100 a week. Financially, it’s tighter, but not as bad as we expected. I wish I quit sooner. I stay home with Cami and Emily full time. It’s still work (UNPAID), but it’s given me peace of mind. The stress dropped from chaos level, to almost nothing. I can focus on the girls needs and not worry about using all my time off. I can do the things that bring me joy as a person. It’s been a really wonderful experience and I would never trade it for a lottery. There are things that matter more than money.

Legit happiness. 
2. Drugs: Remember that introduction section just a second ago about being sad and crazy? This year I faced it. I talked to my mom and checked out my family history. I'm not the first or the last in my family to face this. I went to my doctor in the Spring. It was time to try something else besides freaking out and crying in the shower. Two weeks a month I take anti-depressants. It’s literally the best choice I have made this year. I struggled with the choice because it felt like a weakness. Like once I start taking it, they will define and change me. They didn’t do any of that. If anything it was the opposite, it allowed me to come out of the dark shell and be me again. The hard, crazy things are manageable and I don’t hate my life. Medication isn’t for everyone, but it’s right for me right now.

Only two of them, the third is much larger
3. Book Club Love: I joined three book clubs this year. The main reason is because I love talking about books a lot. They kind of landed in my lap. My neighborhood church group started one, a coworker invited me to her church group’s book club, and a friend’s book club. I’ve only been twice, but it’s everything I hoped it would be. I don’t know if I will be able to do all three long term. It’s nice to find people who like the same things and connect of a book in common, a great way to gain friends without pressure. 

Every POV so far. Editing is rough, yo.
4. I Wrote a Book: Well, I finished it at least. The book has been in process for  12 years. A lot of writers will say to never publish it. They say that a book that takes that long probably isn’t worth it. I finished it though. With a lot of help from encouraging podcasts (Writing Excuses & The Dead Author’s Society),I did it. It’s still in a VERY rough draft stage with LOTS of filling in. I am almost half way through the edits right now. It feels so good to finish something that I've wanted and worked for. 

Josh (Dave's kind-of boss), Dave, and
some people from work that I don't know very well.
5.   Dave’s Career: Dave has applied for a Manager On Deck position three times. This year was his year to get what he’s been working for. It’s not a position that comes with a financial bump and it’s been a lot of work with long hours and responsibilities. The job is really great for his experience, education, and resumes building. He has really enjoyed the job. Verizon has been really good for Dave.

Isn't he handsome?
6. Healthy Dave: Dave will probably feel embarrassed by this part, but it’s more important to me than it seems on the surface. When Dave and I started dating, Dave was really active and consistent with his workouts. When we had kids, he put aside taking care of himself to be a dad. When I quit my job, Dave gained some time in the morning to focus on his health. He immediately started running again and also does T25 (a full hour of activity). He feels better than he has (in years probably). I want to keep him around for a while, so this increased activity and focus on health is an important part for the last couple of months.

Some of our favorite party games.
7. Board Games: Who includes board games in their year summary? I do. We love games! It's one of our favorite past times. Dave and I embraced our inner-game nerds. We bought quite a few games this year including Santorini, Pandemic Year One, Ultimate Werewolf, and Code Names. As long as Dave loses, we all win, and it’s great. ;) We just bought an expansion for Sheriff of Nottingham too (the normal game only plays 4-5 people and we often play games with two other couples). For Christmas we also received Betrayal at the House on the Hill and two expansions for One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Our New Year's Eve party always surrounds games. I'm so excited to play some new ones and enjoy some older ones with friends. 

Obviously not my real community.
8. Community: One of my favorite things about 2017 was building community. I like our neighborhood and church group a lot. I put out some roots this year. Set up more playdates for Cami, spent time walking with fellow moms to/from school, making friends, going to events (even if it seemed lame or I felt “tired”). Building community is something that was easier before cell-phones and social networking. It takes a village to raise children in this world and keep your own sanity. Building community brought new friends for my kids AND ME.

The first day ever of swimming.
Before the teacher made her put her
head underwater.
9. Cami Swims: Cami started swimming lessons in the summer. While she practiced basics, I spent the time stopping Emily from jumping into the pool (that girl has a death wish). We only took two classes before school started, but it was a good beginning experience to conquer her fear of the water. She struggles still with her face in the water, but we’re getting there.

Cute smiles
10. Kindergarten: This year was my first experience with public school as a parent. It’s different than I expected. Cami has a certain love of words and numbers.It's been interesting because of her interests. Kindergarten curriculum is about learning letters and sounds. Cami reads books. Her teacher has had a hard time adjusting the school work. The only real difference is in the books she sends home with Cami. Cami likes school most of the time. ;)

Smiling was not happening the day it happened
11. Broken Arm: Cami broke her arm this summer while playing on the swings. A push to high and she fell right out of her seat. The break was a buccal fracture in both her radius and her ulna by her wrist. Traumatizing for all involved. Dave and I have never broken a bone, so we were seriously out of our league with the Instacare visit and taking care of her.

Obviously not going potty here.
I'm not THAT mom.
12. Em and the Potty: After I quit, I also started potty-training Emily. Diapers were the most expensive part of living expenses so it was the most logical place to cut a financial corner. It’s been a rough road and we aren’t through the woods yet. She has good days and bad days. It’s okay, she’s only two and I feel like she’ll get it in the next few months.  We will give another big try next month. She’s catching on a little at a time. Hopefully soon we can toss diapers altogether. 

This is her face right after she causes
immense trouble.
13. Emily: Our youngest and last child turned two this year and it shows. We like to call her our adorable hurricane. She's very active and moves fast. She’s really great figuring out what she wants and how to get it. She talks up a storm and loves playing with Cami. Her favorite toys right now are PJ Masks, dolls, princesses, and ponies. The conversations she creates are adorable, “Hi, Cinderella. How are you?” “Good, how are you?” “Good, let’s go to sleep.”:D

The majority of the Tate family
crammed in an SUV for a hike.
Dave's family (EVERYONE)
14. Family Vacations: This year I feel like we did the impossible. Dave’s family (Hunt & Larsen) and my family had big vacations this year within two weeks of each other. Dave’s family was in St. George and my family was at Bear Lake. Both vacations turned out perfect. For me, it’s scary to go to vacations. It’s stressful and can bring issues (good and bad) up to the front. There was none! It was so wonderful to spend time with all of our families this summer. I came away from both wishing that we could do that every year.



Choices and Faith

This post is very close to my heart. I didn't want to post it because it's so personal, but my heart tells me I need to share this experience.
When I reached adulthood, I made a lot of choices. Good and bad documented in detail through this blog. I made some choices based on my gut and what I felt like doing. Some decisions I made with serious thought and sincere prayers with Heavenly Father. He answered my prayers with "yes" or "no" or "not right now". 
Years later I come back to these decisions and I don't understand them. I think about them and I feel a lot of doubt. Why did He tell me "yes", this is really hard and I don't know what I am doing. Or why did he say "no", things would be better if it was that way now. Or why did he say "not now", I was ready then and now I'll never be ready.
While showering or getting ready for the day, I think about these internal fights of mine with old decisions. If I should change them now. It's never too late to change. Being human means you can change and fix your life to become something you want. 
Saturday while straitening my hair, I was thinking about this and getting very mad. Fighting with yourself in a schizophrenic like way can feel so frustrating. Then it hits me like a hammer. "Those answers aren't wrong. They are right and eternally correct. Your choice here is to follow Heavenly Father's plan or not. It may be hard and lonely sometimes, but His answer for you is right. He'll take care of the situation. He'll take care of you. You just need to "go where He wants you to go" and it will be fine. 
Timeline doesn't matter to Heavenly Father when there is eternity. It's forever. In the spiritual plane, it's only seconds of life. Everything follows His will and plan. 
I'm 30 years old and I'm still learning about faith. Cami and I were reading the illustrated scriptures the other day and Alma is talking about faith. To illustrate it, I covered her eyes and I said something like, "Can you see me? You know I'm here because you can hear me and you can see me. You don't know what I'm doing, but you know I'll keep you safe and I'll take care of you because I'm your mom and I love you."
Well, I need to switch those words around a big and remember. Heavenly Father's got my back. I don't need to understand the plan, timeline, or His answers. I need to act on those answers with faith. It will work out. 


Vulnerable and Inadequate

One of my biggest weaknesses is self doubt. When I was a kid, I remember feeling hurt because I knew they would rather play with someone else besides me.
When I turned 12, it grew worse. Puberty worked a bad number on me and my appearance. I broke out in the worst way and I was tall and bigger boned. I felt ugly and stupid. I had really bad depression that year. I think the only thing that gave me peace that year was my English teacher. She embraced and encouraged me. 
In high school, it didn't go any better. I had a few acquaintances in different circles, but I didn't really feel at home in any of those groups. I liked rock music, but I didn't love heavy metal-so I didn't fit in with the punks/metal heads. I was smart, but not straight A's and freaking out with A minus- so the nerds with their Advanced Trig books or AP Chemistry wasn't for me. I was definitely not a cheerleader or in the popular crowd, I wasn't pretty enough or peppy enough. I've never felt more average in my life. Guys didn't look at me, unless I spoke to them. I didn't date until my Senior year and even then, I did the asking and planning. I'm sure they were humoring me and being nice.
In college, I threw myself into activities. Intramural cross country, adventure racing, country dancing (believe it or not). I dreamed big and let loose. I developed close friendships and dated some. It was huge, but time destroys dreams and beat on a person. 
After college I fell. I fell hard into a life that wasn't for me. A life of alcohol, parties, and poor decisions. I thought it was wonderful to let go and feel release. I never felt so relaxed and comfortable in my own skin, but people take advantage of that in a lot of ways. Those choices destroyed me and it took me a long time to build up Michelle' again. I'm still working on the foundation.
I have a family now: a husband and two girls. My time as a wife and mother diminished the feelings or worthlessness and self-depracation, but they are still there. Tonight I feeling inadequate again.  
I don't have a full time job anymore (outside of being a stay at home mom). I feel that loss in a big way of the financial support I provided our family. I made decent money at my job, but laundry and dishes feel like a poor substitute to the paychecks I once received. 
These days I donate plasma. It provides a few hundred a month and they have a daycare, so it doesn't feel like a strain on my family the way my job did. I miss making money and feeling like I could indulge on clothes and toys for the girls with whims. 
Church is a hard thing to talk about on this blog. I know there are readers who don't care of about my church stories or my struggles with the gospel, but that's a whole different piece of inadequacy. 
My calling is in Activity Days, specifically with 8-9 year old girls. I work hard coming up with ideas and ways to work on their tasks for achievement, but it's starting to wear on me. The activities are only one hour, but I lose their attention so quickly and they get frustrated with the crafts or plans I make. It's so discouraging to work hard and feel like they hate it. This week I tried to think of craft that would be fun so I wouldn't be the leader that just gave boring lectures. Instead of embracing the craft, the girls said it was too hard and frustrating. I watched their frustration and it hurt. I'm trying.
The past two nights have been very hard on my family. The girls have been sick. Cami has para-influenza or some sort of flu that's deep in her chest. It's developed into a croup-like cough that could last two weeks (according to the pediatrician). Emily had a bad stomach bug and couldn't keep anything down for longer than an hour. As a result, their nights have not been great. Last night Cami coughed and woke Emily up, who decided to sing for a long time. Emily would fall asleep and Cami would start coughing again. Emily did not take a nap today. She fought me on bedtime too. I feel exhausted. I need a break. Sometimes I feel like I'm not made to be a mom. Sometimes their screams and whines are hard. 
I dream of publication of a novel. I finished one this year and I have been editing it for some time. It's not amazing and will never be the next great American novel. I haven't submitted it anywhere yet (still editing), but I already hear the rejections. Rejection is part of creation, but I worry about the complete rejection. It will break me so much that after 10 plus years on this book. This piece of me that no one wants. Isn't that the way of everything of mine?
I still hate the way I look too. I look in the mirror and I don't see anyone worthwhile. 
i workout 6-7 days a week, but the fat still shows more than my strength. I see women around me who look gorgeous and refined. I feel so frumpy, like my body hangs loose around me like a deflated balloon, with lumps and stretched parts. Then there's my face with such wonderful skin prone to breakouts. I thought I would grow out of these things, but there they are staring me in the face. 
I guess I can't get rid of myself. If only my life was a slate that I could reset and recreate with more precision. This person I created in 30 years is someone so weak and broken. 


Surprising Bonus from a Skip Step

Sometimes when I'm walking downstairs I miss a step. You know that moment when your foot skims a step and you feel like you are going to die. I may be 30 years old and in decent health, but missing a step makes your life flash before your eyes and for a second you think, "This is how I go."

A month ago I made a huge, purposeful skip step in my life.  I quit my job to stay home, to be....a stay at home mom. The choice was a long time coming and quite a few things lined up that both forced and made it possible. This post is not about those things. 

I had a few expectations that came from quitting: organization, cleaner house, less madness and peace of mind. I found something that I didn't expect and something so priceless. I would never trade this outcome for a million dollars.

Cami, my oldest, is different. Many posts talk about her differences from other children in practically every way.  She doesn't show love in the typical child way.  Even as a baby, she would rather kick her legs on the couch or floor than cuddled. When she was in her toddler years, she didn't say 'I love you' often and hugs were rare. 

Within the first week home, I noticed a change in Cami. In one week, she came up to me 3 times for a hug (and not because she was hurt or sad). As a mom who worked so hard for her the last five years (almost six), that expression is something I've missed her whole life. A hug can say so much more than words.  

I didn't expect or plan on hugs, but it's better than all the money in the world.


Thinking out loud

I don't think I ever understood true faith until I stopped going to church and started to come back.
If you are born and raised in the church, I don't think you get it entirely.
Around nine years ago I started coming back. What they don't tell you is how much more faith you will need and how much you have to really want it to come back.
I know the other side. I know it's easy. I know that buzz and release that comes with a few drinks. All of that is a lot faster and sometimes I could almost tell myself that it felt better.
Real faith is coming to church not out of habit or because you have to. It's praying when your body feels beyond tired/broken.
It's paying tithing, even if it's only partial because you don't know how you will survive without that 10%.
Or sitting through countless Relief Society and Sunday School lessons where they tell you that your life was wrong. Where you feel different and rejected. Your voice is the voice of sin.
Faith is doing everything you can to feel the spirit, when your natural man constantly reminds you otherwise.
Faith is moving forward against opposition.