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.


The Future in 12 months or less

Day 28 of 2017 and it's already been a year with some wonderful big changes. Like every year, I like I to "predict" what the future holds for the Hunt family.
This year looks a lot shorter, but I think that's a good thing. Less trouble to get into. ;)

1. Kindergarten- Cameron starts kindergarten this year. In fact, I'm pretty sure registration is next month.  What a weird stage to be in with a kid in elementary school.

2. Community Sports- I would love to get Cameron more involved in community sports, especially swimming before we go to Bear Lake again. She's had a small fear of water that I think some classes at the community center could help. With a little confidence, she will do so much better.

3. Emily will chat it up- Emily already talks a lot, but every week she seems to pick up more words and she's started to actually converse. Useful words she picked up recently include: Need help, poop, more, milk (which sounds more like mewt). More words will make it so much easier to take care of her.

4. Dave- Hard to say what's in store for Dave careerwise.  He feels like he's where he needs to be right now, but he's always looking for new opportunities. Not necessarily a promotion, either, but somewhere that he can learn more and be more valuable to the company.
He's been really active for the past two months and we've been trying to make healthier choices. He's starting to see some great things in his health. I hope this year he feel better and it continues in the way he hopes/wants.

5. Let's Go Out-  My biggest goal this year has nothing to do with losing weight or running a marathon. This year I really want to focus on my marriage. Not that we're struggling or fighting. It's hard when you both work full-time, especially when your schedules are split and you have young children, to maintain a connection.
We rely on babysitters during the week while we work, so it's sometimes hard to find a babysitter for weekend nights too. I've started to check in with the Young Women in the ward to start paying for babysitters. It's early stages. I haven't found anyone yet, but I'm optimistic. If we can get out more than once a month, I'll be thrilled.

6. Friends- 2016 was good and bad for friends, but 2017 looks really good. Reach out a little and it comes back around. It's all about action too. I learned that last year. You can't expect people to just show up and want to be your friend. If you want a relationship/friendship, you need to put the effort into it. I have great hopes. I believe in friendships both old/new. It's important to have community/tribe in your life. Especially when things go South, it's important to have people there to help/support you.

7. Finish It-  Here it is again. I'm pretty sure I've had this on my prediction post three years in a row to finish the book. This year I can do it for real.  I only have 1.5 point of view characters left. That's nothing. Last year I did 2.5 point of view characters, so really 2017 is mine for Project Torrent.
8. College Debt Be-Gone- Dave's college debt is almost gone and our financial goal this year is to finish it off. When we first were married, we had tons of debt between the two of us and six years later we're almost free of the big ones. Quick, knock on wood before one of our cars breaks down.

9. Work Venture- I see something new and/or different for me this year.  I constantly talk about how much I love my job.  I love the relationships I've built with the providers in my territory and making a difference with cancer research (even if it is kind of indirectly). It's given me a lot of purpose and joy to solve some of the insurance problems I run into.  Helping people is so important to do every day and I'm lucky I get paid to do it.  It's really wonderful and I have a hard time seeing myself doing anything else, but 2017 brought some unexpected changes in the past few weeks. Changes in our family needs (*cough* not pregnant) mean that my job may change.

10. Temple- Oh ya, I saved this church one for last so you can skip it if you aren't into it. Almost ten years ago, I made some less than stellar choices for a boy, a boy who dumped me pretty fast. I stepped away from the LDS church for a while and was pretty unhappy. I'm not going  to tell anyone what's right or wrong, I started going back to church because it made me happy. Man, it was hard. That's another topic for another time. I've been going to church pretty solid for about 8 years. Every year I say this is the year I make it to the temple. Saying and doing are different hings.  It's so terrifying after you have made very poor choices. It's frightening to sacrifice. It's terrifying to go alone. Even with repentance, those things helped me become who I am-even as a member and they aren't going to disappear. So even though I'm crazy scared and I feel super unworthy, I'm going to do my best to go inside this year.

2017 looks pretty scary in a couple of ways. There are a lot of uncertainties about the future, that I'll try to blog about as I go. I don't really know where my family or me will be at the end of the year. I hope the changes that look so scary bring more joy. I hope more than anything that I will feel happier this year. Isn't that the greatest hope for 2017?  More joy.


Ground Zero: 2017 Day One

It's 7:30 am on January 1st, 2017 and I have to write.
Yesterday Kevin Smith of "Clerks", "Saving Amy", etc. posted something really powerful to me. You can find it on his  here.
He notes that when he was 19 he received a note from someone who told him he would never be successful writing.
He kept the note as a reminder and one day he wrote a manuscript that changed his life.
At the end of the post he said that "no one can write your story but you".
Today, at ground zero, no one writes my story-but more than that. Inanimate objects don't write my story.
In this age of addiction and depression, I'm not alone when I say that sometimes it's easier to let someone or something write your story.
Drugs or alcohol don't write my story anymore. It doesn't control what I do every day or how I respond to my life.
Today I think of technology as my story writer (hypocritically of course). I think smart phones can control the way we connect to each other - or not connect. Text messages or Facebook posts instead of seeing people or having a real conversation.
Today and this year I'm putting the phone down more. My life needs to be more than browsing Facebook and Instagram. My kids need to see what's important and how to write their own story.
At the start of 2017, let's find our writer and replace it with the one who calls the shots.
Only you can write your story.