I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman
~Helen Reddy (song: I Am Woman)
Today it begins! Every Friday I will highlight one woman I know to be a "strong woman". I believe we are here to learn from one another and be strengthened, so what better way to both learn from and celebrate a beautiful friend than a special blog post dedicated to her? I'll ask questions that I personally want to know, as well as questions I think others might be inspired by. There is no rhyme or reason to whom I pick when, but today I felt like my dear friend Amanda should be where I start.
I haven't seen Amanda in almost a decade. I had one brief year with her in college and was thankfully able to get back in touch through the glory of facebook. I am forever grateful. She is a powerhouse of strength, though she would never make that claim. A fantastic writer. A loyal friend. I am in love with her blog for the very reason that there is love on it. A love for life and love for her family is evident in every word. I often either weep at what she has written or laugh myself to tears. Thanks doll, for making me cry just about every day.
1. Your normal day: what does it look like? Like many out there that are blessed to be “domestic engineers”: arise, some form of exercise (though I haven’t been as consistent in pregnancy), breakfast, scripture (today it included a cast of Barbies as we role-played "The 10 Virgins"), family prayer (we call our family to prayer by singing “Let us gather in a circle and kneel in family prayer to thank our Heavenly Father for the blessings we all share.”), goodbyes to sweetheart, making myself somewhat presentable, household chores (done a bit more meticulously than normal right now since we're selling our home), homework, lunch, kindergarten, quiet time, creative time, dinner time, family time, story time, then - FINALLY - sweetheart time . . . you know the drill. The trick is to find Joy in what can easily become the mundane.
2. You've struggled with infertility (as I have), What are your most poignant memories of those moments, and what have you learned from that struggle? What did I learn? Oh gosh. I learned to not judge others. You never know what THEIR plan and/or preference is and how they may be struggling to accept the Father’s timing. I also learned to never take ANYTHING for granted. Enjoy every single moment and phase of each pregnancy and child because you may not experience that phase again.
3. One thing I love about you is your ability to find joy in the everyday happenings. HOW do you do it? Oh, I struggle with that just like everyone does, I suppose. Just last night I was in the biggest funk E-VER! But I DO find that when I try to identify the blessing in the moment - despite the frustration or heartache of the situation - I am better and HAPPIER for it.
Our family has done two things that have helped me focus on finding Joy in the moment:
1 – A gratitude journal we each contributed to with our children nearly every night before bedtime while attending graduate school. (examples from our list include: Wendy’s frosties, fireflies, medicine when your sick, father’s blessings, Indian food, Hallmark movies, picnics at Daddy’s school, dancing days)
2 – Regular contributions to a family blog that highlight the celebrations, heartaches, challenges and laughter of family life.
4. What has been your toughest moment or span of time as a mother? That one's easy (at least, thus far). A year-and-a-half ago, while in our last year of MBA school at Purdue and 7.5 months pregnant with our third child, my 3-year-old daughter became critically ill and we were told that the doctors would do their best but that Gracie's life was in serious danger. In that moment, our entire lives were turned upside down. All of the sudden, everything that seemed important (we were right in the middle of recruiting season and deciding where our family was going to settle), was not. Being together and with our daughter (thank you Ronald McDonald House), giving her and each other love and comfort and helping her heal became our #1.
The "healing process" spanned longer than we could have ever imagined. After a month in the Children’s Hospital (most of it in the ICU), we came home on I.V.'s with a home nurse and were quarantined for another 6 months. It was a dark and difficult period of our lives. One I hope to never relive. But I was able to experience light and hope through my faith, the prayers and support of family and friends, and through our gratitude for the life of our child.
5. What are your hobbies and is there anything you wish you had time to learn or keep putting off for a later date? I love to sing, though it is hard to find time to do anything more than the occasional church musical number. And I love to decorate. Someday, I'll turn my love into a business. But for now, "mankind is my business" (aka raising kind, gentle and confident children that love the Lord). And – finally – I love to experiment in the kitchen (though sometimes I’m more successful than others).
6. Your marriage appears to be rock solid. What do you do daily to maintain such a loving relationship with your spouse? My husband and I had to laugh when we read this because EVERY marriage has its up's and down's and takes a whole lotta work. But one thing I CAN say. To be "rock solid" simply means that your marriage is built upon THE ROCK. In other words, a joint belief in the one thing that IS constant in life - a belief in and relationship with a higher power. When your relationship is based on that your everyday interactions matter and nothing becomes insignificant. Do we mess up? Yes. Do we get annoyed? Yep. Do we think and reason differently? Heck yeah! But you both realize that you are accountable to God for your actions and treatment of one another. That - I'm convinced –makes all the difference.
7. How do you find balance in your life? Balance? What's that? HeeHee! Some days are better than others. But on the days when I fit in the essentials (prayer, scripture study, some kind of exercise, expressions of love for each member of my family, a little bit of "me" time, sweetheart time so we're not just "co-parents"), I feel better prepared for whatever the day throws me. And then – no matter what happens - I’m fully armored with the Lord’s power and perspective and am not alone.
8. You obviously come from a family of very strong women ie: your mother, grandmother. I remember our time in college when your grandmother was the General Relief Society President. How do you take their strength and example and incorporate it into your own role? I DO come from a long line of faithful, strong women. What have I learned from them? Do your best and trust that the Lord accepts your efforts. There are only so many hours in the day - Prioritize your life and live accordingly. The best gift you can give to your children is to let them know that their mommy and daddy adore one another. Keep mommy recharged because that's the best way to infuse JOY at home. Enjoy every phase of Life because you'll never be there again.
9. Most embarrassing moment? Ever. I have found that the older I get, the less I get embarrassed. However, recently our real estate agent was at our home, discussing an offer we had received. A few minutes later, we received a knock on our door. A stranger had found our 15-month son, walking in his diaper, up the street in the middle of a snowstorm (he LOVES to open the lever doors). I felt like such a loser mom. What do ya do? You gotta laugh.
10. Advice to any and all women out there? Be real. Be yourself while striving to be your BEST self. Accept what you and others have to bring to the table. Know that the Lord has a plan for you and you alone. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Laugh everyday with your spouse – in the end it’s you and him so continue strengthening your friendship and keep the spark alive! Keep investing and building yourself. It’s a great example to your children of self-improvement and is the only thing you have complete control of in the end.