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Archive for June, 2009

17 Years & Counting

Taken just one year ago this month.

This was taken exactly one year ago - the actual week we found out our invitro efforts worked and we were getting Cole. What a year it's been!

Happy Anniversary to us!  We’ve been reminiscing our wedding day 17 years ago today – how is that possible?  I still feel like I am at least in my twenties and here I find myself approaching 40.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

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postpartum

I know that my blog is called “The Art of Choosing Joy.”  I have taught a Big Picture Scrapbooking workshop with the same title.  But my month-long bout with postpartum has given me a reason to pause and really think about that phrase “choosing joy.”

In dealing with all of our challenges with regard to Jason’s health and lengthy recovery from his car accident 12 years ago, I learned what it meant to say that happiness is my choice.  True, we may not like our circumstances or situations but we still have the autonomy it takes to decide if we are going to feel joy within those circumstances.  I learned a long time ago that I don’t have to like hard things in order to be able to be happy within them.

So as I found myself hit a low about a month ago, I looked at my blog header and wondered, “Is it really true?  Do I have the choice to be happy?”  I knew that I wanted to feel better.  I wanted to feel like my old self – optimistic, positive, ready to tackle what was placed in front of me.  I wanted to have hope.  I wanted to do more than take naps and feel exhausted.  I wanted to feel something other than overwhelmed and unsure.

But for some reason, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t get there on my own.  Yes, I got help from a doctor.  He said, “I think you are going to pull out of this yourself.”  To which I responded…”I don’t think so.”  I know myself and I know what it took for me to simply see the doctor in the first place.  I had no desire to try and muddle through postpartum issues on my own for months.  I was ready for help.

I have never had to take medication for anxiety or depression of any kind and as I started the medicine I began to wonder how much a little pill really could do to help me.  Sure it would level me out like I needed it to, but what about the rest?  What about my role in this healing process?  Where did the idea of “choosing joy” fit into this scenario?

I have decided that this experience of postpartum depression is no different than any other difficult situation that we have gone through.  I had to choose that I was going to heal.  I had to choose that I was going to be happy.  I had to choose that I was going to do everything I could to put myself in a position to let the medication do it’s job.  I had to choose how I thought about things, what I did and how I lived my life in order to feel the best I possibly could as I made my way back to the real me.

Some of you might think that this comes naturally or automatically when a person is happy by nature.  But although I am a very positive person, it didn’t come naturally.  I had to work for my joy.  I had to make conscious decisions that I knew would help me feel better.  There was nothing accidental or automatic about pulling myself out of my postpartum pit.  Instead, my most effective weapon was living very deliberately and learning about yet another aspect of this idea of “the art of choosing joy.”

Joy is a choice.  I have always believed this to be true and after the last six weeks I am even more convinced of it.  I have the power to decide if I am going to be happy within my circumstances.   Some days may be harder than others and that’s ok.  There is a year or two of our lives that I wouldn’t mind erasing completely from my memory!  But the point is that we recognize that we have a say in how we feel.  We decide to fight back when the blues threaten to overwhelm us.  Our arsenal may be small and we might feel weak compared to the challenges we face but we have to do something to fight back, block out the negative influences and take control of our own happiness.

How did I do this?  I’ll tell you about my hands-on, real life strategies in my next post.  And in the meantime, recommit yourself to your role in “the art of choosing joy.”  I guarantee that you’ll be happy that you did.

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First of all, Happy Father’s Day to Jason – the first-time dad at our house!  He’s a natural in every sense of the word and Coleman is a lucky little munchkin to have him as his father (including his ability to think up crazy stunts and tricks involving children – like only a dad can do).  Thanks for all you do and are, Jas.  XOXO

carseat

I had a great week last week.  I feel fabulous and totally like my old self again – wait, maybe not like my old self because I have learned a lot of things having to deal with a month of postpartum issues.  So, I would say that I’m better than my old self.  I appreciate the encouragement – that makes such a difference when we are going through challenges in our lives.  Thank you.

With this in mind, I decided to pat myself on my back for getting through my postpartum fairly unscathed.  We all need to remember to celebrate our victories – no matter their size or scope of impact.  Consider putting this quote from our Big Picture Scrapbooking workshop “A Life Well Crafted” in a place that will remind you to pay attention to each triumph in your life, even if that means simply making it through another day.  And remember: when you print – unmark the “fit to page” setting to get the actual size of the image instead of a full-page version.

please click on image to download pdf

please click on image to download pdf

I’m back.  Healed, more aware of who I am and what I can do but all in all, better than ever before.  I can’t explain the gratitude I feel for being able to spot the signs of postpartum so quickly – within days, in fact.  By doing so I was able to change direction almost immediately and head back to the real me much faster than if I had let things linger.  I’m so grateful for that.

Thanks everyone!  Enjoy the download and take a minute to pat yourself on your back with me – and celebrate you!

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book journal

I am a book junkie.  I have an account on Goodreads.com.  I am organized by nature.  But although I love the idea of it,  I have had a hard time keeping track of my books on Goodreads.  I entered a whole slew of them in the beginning but haven’t been interested in keeping track after that.  I like to see what other people read but that’s about as far as it goes.

Instead, I find that I like keeping track of my books in composition journals instead.  I’m a margin-writer and underliner.  I love to mark up my books – whether they are novels or works of non-fiction – I appreciate a good turn-of-phrase or a particular line that speaks to me.  Maybe I find similarities in the author’s words to my own life.  Maybe what they write just makes me laugh or helps me remember a distant memory.  Whatever the reason, I keep a pencil handy when I read so I can underline a paragraph or phrase or write a note to myself in the margin.  Then I take each part I have marked and rewrite it in my current composition book called “Book Quotes.”

This series of journals probably tells more about me and what I think about, who I am and what I want to become than any other one thing in my space.  I find great joy in going back through the quotes I have listed or copied and pasted from my favorite books.  Even when I reread a book I find new insights and words that I hadn’t noticed before so I’ll list them in my journal and label it as a second or third reading of that book.  True, this handwritten accounting of my books is rudimentary at best.  Certainly not as efficient as cataloging everything on Goodreads.com.  But I like it.  It brings me joy to recopy each phrase in my own hand.  My book journals are a trusted and dear friend to me so I think I’ll just stick with them.

journal

I bring this up because I just finished another book by Sandra Dallas, The Chile Queen, and was transferring my marked-up quotes from the book to my journal this morning.  I’ll share one with you:

He was not an unhappy man.  Far from it.  He was a man of strong emotions, and he enjoyed life hugely.  (pg. 275)

Those are the kinds of things I underline.  I love the phrase “he enjoyed life hugely” and I want to be known as a person like that.  One of my favorite books written by Sandra Dallas is The Persian Pickle Club because of its witty, southern style with a flair for drama that heads the story in directions you don’t expect.  The Chile Queen had the same vibe for me and a great summer read.  That is, if you’re not opposed to quirky novels set in a whorehouse during the 1800s.  Take a look at Sandra Dallas and fall in love with her down-home way with words.  Then let me know what you think.  I love sharing a good read with friends!

And while we’re talking books, consider reading Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper before you see the movie.  It could be one of the most thought-provoking books I have read because of her amazing writing style as well as the topic she addresses.  I kept thinking, “What would I do if I were their mother?”

Enjoy!

sandra dallas

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Connections

Times have changed.  We live in a world where information is at our fingertips – literally.  We can Google our neighbors, our office coworkers or even the last person we met at a party and often find at least something about them on the internet.  Sometimes I feel like that is a bad thing – all this information just for the taking.  But more and more I have come to love the accessibility of people via cyberspace.

I have re-found many people on Facebook and love it when someone from my distant past wants to be my friend (such as my college roommate Jessica,  my high school friend Stephenie, or even my boss, Tad from the toy store I worked at during high school).  So it comes as no surprise that when I received a comment on my blog from my college friend, Jody that I was thrilled to know that she had found me after all these years.

jody

Jody & I at the Snowflake Ball

But it’s interesting how the people we are in our younger years manifests itself as we grow into adults.  Almost 20 years have passed since we were friends but as I clicked on Jody’s blog, I was immediately reminded of who Jody was when we were dating roommates at BYU.  She was fun and clever and a good friend.  She could sing like Snow White and was quick to laugh.  We carried out schemes like sneaking into the off-limits boys’ dorm after hours to plaster their room with some new joke or sign of our undying affection (of course no one would see us hauling a bed sheet full of balloons up the back stairs of the dorm).  Each of these outings could have that gotten us sent home from the largest private university with very high standards of conduct – all in the name of adventure.

heart attack

A Valentine's Day "Heart Attack" for our boyfriends

Jody made the best oatmeal cookies.  And she was the one who taught me that along with my standard grated cheese, milk and salt and pepper – add onion salt  to my scrambled eggs as the secret ingredient.  I have used that trick forever and am so proud of myself when people agree that they are the best scrambled eggs they’ve ever tasted.  So when I saw that Jody had compiled a blog of recipes, complete with photos and her unique brand of humor, I was assaulted with memories.  She is who she is.  Older.  Wiser.  More experienced.  But still the same Jody that I knew all those years ago.

Check out Jody’s blog here – I think that you foodies out there will especially love it.  She is quite the gourmet cook.  As for me, instead of tackling new recipes (not my favorite thing), I will probably visit her blog just to get a taste of Jody, my re-found friend.

And speaking of making distant connections, Jason and I are giving the keynote address at the Memory Works Retreat this week.  They have a fabulous thing going with monthly kits and great business opportunities.  Amber Crowell, who is the founder of Memory Works, married Kevin Crowell.  Kevin was my first “boyfriend” in junior high.  How’s that for reconnecting?

Kevin & I as partners in our junior high show choir

Kevin & I as partners in our junior high show choir

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Things are looking up at the Hall house.  This week was MUCH better than the last few weeks – I feel almost “normal.”  Still not pushing it or expecting too much from myself – just taking it easy and doing what I want to do each day.   I think that has helped a lot.

Thanks so much for your encouragement and kindness.

Cole's been helping to hold the bottle these days

Cole's been "helping" hold the bottle these days

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I’m sure you have been wondering why I have been strangely silent over the last few weeks.  Well, here’s the deal.  I am having postpartum issues.  True story.  A few weeks ago I had the flu and never seemed to really recover from it.  Instead, I felt like I was spiraling downward rapidly.

In all of our challenges over the years, I have never had this kind of experience before.  I am amazed at the reality of postpartum depression and how it feels to wonder if this person that you have become will be like this forever.  I was shocked by how quickly it snuck up on me – but grateful that I was able to recognize it quickly and get some help.

Jason has been wonderful.  I am so grateful he works at home as well so that I don’t feel quite so alone.  I am doing much better over the last few days but it’s been tricky for a few weeks.  I haven’t been able to accomplish much and that includes my blog.  But we’re moving forward.  I have strategies of how I have been doing that and will write about those later.  Today I mostly just wanted to give you a heads up as to what is going on and why there isn’t a download again this week.

But don’t worry!  Moving forward is what life is all about and so I’ll be back on track soon.  I really am doing better than I was a few weeks ago so I have hope that all will be well.  Little Cole has been my saving grace – but again, I’ll write about how later.  Thanks for all of your support, love, encouragement and care via cyberspace.

I’ll be back soon – you can count on it.  Here’s a photo for your viewing pleasure of Jason playing with the Cole-meister in the Bumbo.  (And for those of you wondering – we only have him up on the counter when we are right there hanging on to him so he is safe and sound – never fear!  It’s a great way for Jason to get on his level – face to face and grin to grin.)

bumbo

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