A Refreshing Summer Bucket List

It’s that time again!  Our local weather keeps teasing us with hot days that make it clear that summer is just around the corner!  I’m depending on my Summer Bucket List more than ever this year, as my children have reached a whole new level of fighting that I am certain will send me to the loony-bin if I don’t have a clear plan of attack.  That clear plan of attack comes in the form of my Refreshing Summer Bucket List. Continue reading

Simple Ways to Lift Another

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted something on this blog.  I apologize for my absence, but life has been full.  Well, it’s been mostly full, and partially lazy.  Full in the sense that my youngest was in the hospital with RSV around the time of my last post at the same time my family was in town, then we headed down to Southern California to attend my BFF’s wedding, and then we returned home to prepare for two separate milestone birthdays for my two eldest.  Lazy in the sense that I have managed to make my daily naps a priority.  My two youngest will only allow this to happen for so much longer, so I feel a duty to myself to embrace any opportunity to sleep.  When I haven’t been sleeping, nor tending to my kiddos, I’ve been wondering what I could do for myself to feel more fulfilled in my daily life. Continue reading

Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 5 of 5)

The conclusion of my Mental Illness Awareness Series is centered around thoughts and lessons I have learned in the time since the previously shared manuscript was written, which was two years ago.  I wanted to touch on some feelings regarding my mental illness, my continued struggle with needing medication, the added benefits I’ve enjoyed from a changed diet and exercise, and the importance of finding the right therapist. Continue reading

Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 4 of 5)

Welcome back for Part 4 of my Mental Illness Awareness Series.  Today I am sharing the final portion of the manuscript, which you can get background information on at the beginning of my Part 1 post.  As explained in Part 2,  this was originally written for women with Christian beliefs, particularly Latter-day Saint women.  My hope is that you will find this post helpful regardless of your religious background.

I have not made any changes to the original manuscript, which was completed two years ago, making my battle with mental illness close to ten years now.  It’s hard to believe I have struggled with this for so long, but each year I have greater insight.  I look forward to sharing my current feelings next week, as a follow-up to this final portion of the manuscript. Continue reading

Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 3 of 5)

If you’re just now joining me, as I share this five-part series outlining my journey with mental illness, please check out the more detailed information about this series in the beginning of the Part 1 and Part 2 posts.  Seeing as how I did not edit the original version of the manuscript in any way before posting here, the blog that I reference towards the end of this post is in regards to this blog, First You Must Begin. Continue reading

Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 2 of 5)

Today I am sharing part two of my Mental Illness Awareness Series, which is the continuation of my journey with mental illness.  Background information can be found in my previous post from this series.  The short story is that the following is taken from my portion of  an unpublished manuscript that was designed to bring increased understanding of mental illness. Continue reading

Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 1 of 5)

A couple of years ago, I had a friend approach me about contributing to a book she was writing.  The purpose of her book was to bring increased understanding and awareness to the topic of mental illness.  As she began to write it, she felt impressed to include other women she knew who suffered various degrees of mental illness.  Having been open with her about my battle with mental illness, she invited me to contribute to her book.  Unfortunately, that book has not been picked up yet.  However, feeling passionate about the purpose of her book, and the cause as a whole, I have decided to share my portion of the manuscript here.  My part was designed to comprise an entire chapter, which seems a bit much to process in one blog post.  As a result, I am breaking my part of the manuscript into a five-part series.  The first four posts will make up the chapter as it was written nearly two years ago.  The fifth, and final, post will comprise my added insight that I have received since that time.  Being that I have been diagnosed with having Bipolar II disorder, this series will wrap up on March 30th, which has been set aside as World Bipolar Day.  I recently learned that this day was chosen because it is Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday, and it was believed that he probably had a bipolar disorder.  Being that my mental illness was not first diagnosed as Bipolar II disorder, I felt it better to refer to this series as Mental Illness Awareness.  I am all too familiar with a broad spectrum of mental illness symptoms.  So, without further ado, I share with you my Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 1 of 5)…

Mental Illness Awareness

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My husband will tell you that my battle with depression began the moment that I learned my mom had Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer.  While this news shattered my childish belief that my family was somehow exempt from tragedy, I consider that a time when devastating circumstances merely had a negative impact on my customarily cheerful outlook.  I believe my true battle with depression began the first few days following the birth of my eldest child, Abigail.  That’s when I began to notice the crippling effects of depression in my daily life.

Abigail arrived six weeks and one day early.  We were, of course, completely caught off guard.  Her early arrival came unexpected with no reason or cause.  Every mother has a dynamic birth story; mine was comprised of confusion, excitement, fear, and anticipation.  In less than 24 hours, I had gone from questioning the authenticity of each contraction to delivering my baby girl after four pushes and several failed attempts to slow down her premature birth.  The moment I first heard Abigail cry out, I felt like I could take on the world.  Giving birth was the most natural high I had ever experienced.  It was everything after that point that didn’t live up to my dreams and expectations of childbearing.  In my mind, she was supposed to be cleaned, wrapped, and laid sweetly in my arms.  Instead she was poked, prodded, and then briefly held next to me for one quick picture and a peck on the cheek before being whisked away to the NICU.

It was three days before I even had the chance to hold my sweet baby girl.  Even then, she was so fully wrapped in cords, intubation tubing, and padding that it hardly felt like we were connected.  Of course, she still melted my heart in a million ways.  She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  In the moment, everything felt so surreal that it wasn’t until later that I realized how gypped and jaded I felt over the whole affair.  I grew up with this idea of childbirth being a painful process that melted away the moment you held your baby.  But I didn’t get to hold my baby the moment she was born.  Instead, following her delivery, I sat alone in a hospital room waiting for my epidural to wear off so I could be cleared to see my daughter in the NICU.  I thought, “This is not how it was supposed to go.”

First Hold

Around the two-week mark, Abigail finally joined us at home.  That was when I started to notice that I didn’t feel like myself anymore.  Motherhood will certainly change you, but this felt different.  I felt isolated and numb.   The feelings of joy and zest that were once commonplace in my life were few and far between.  Everything began to wear on me.  I started to shut down.  It got to the point that my brain couldn’t even process what it should be doing, let alone trying to complete such a task.  I saved any ounce of energy I had for the needs of Abigail’s survival alone.  To make matters worse, she was both colicky and dealing with acid reflux.  I spent the larger portion of my day feeling defeated.  I became jealous of my husband who got to leave for work.  Then, upon his return home, I would be resentful of the smiles he would instantly receive from our baby girl.  Again, I thought, “This is not how it was supposed to be.”

Before Abigail had even turned one month old, my husband saw the situation for what it was and knew I needed help.  I was losing ground fast.  At the time, he worked close to home and was able to come home for lunch.  He left in the morning and gave me ONE chore to complete before his return for lunch.  Just one.

We had a baby bottle warmer – one of those things that first-time moms think they can’t live without.  The water inside needed to be changed.  My one chore was to dump the water out and fill the cup back up.  I didn’t have to clean it.  I didn’t have to do any special treatment to it.  I had to dump the water out and fill it back up.  Guess what?  I DID IT!  I felt a brief moment of excitement having actually completed a task.  My husband was so proud of me.  He sincerely congratulated me and I enjoyed the satisfaction that came from that moment.  This is what my life had come to.  Prior to Abigail’s birth, I was successfully working full-time as an assistant to the CIO of a mortgage lending company and now dumping out water had become a great accomplishment.

As I sat in my 6-week follow-up appointment, my doctor asked me how I was feeling emotionally.  I was so ignorant to the idea of postpartum depression (PPD) that I hadn’t even considered it at that point.  Upon hearing his words, I began to cry.  This whole time, I had figured it was just “baby blues” – those short-lived feelings of emotional instability that most moms feel after childbirth as their hormones adjust to non-pregnancy.  My understanding was that PPD was designated for those who were so miserable they wanted to harm their babies.  That was not me.  I loved and adored my baby girl, even though our connection felt strained.  Though, admittedly, I almost walked out on her one time just to stop from hearing the endless colicky crying.  It was my emotional state that was the issue.  It was my lack of desire to do anything.  It was my realization that I was not finding joy in any of my usual activities nor was I accomplishing the basic daily tasks.  I used to be so upbeat and cheerful that my brother would joke, “Have a bad day, Sara.  It builds character.”  Based on his belief, I gained more character in the first few months of my daughter’s life than the twenty-five years prior combined.  I had postpartum depression.

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Check back here next Wednesday for Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 2 of 5)

Sad Day

Today is kind of sad for me.  I’ve made the decision to say goodbye to my web server, which was WordPress.org, and transfer back to WordPress.com.  The saddest part is that I was so confident that I would no longer use WordPress.com, that I had ditched my firstyoumustbegin.com.wordpress.com name and now the .com portion has to be spelled out.  This may not make much sense, as you can still get to my site by typing in ‘firstyoumustbegin.com’ because I DO still own the .com website.  It just ends up looking lame once you get to the wordpress.com site.  I made the choice for financial reasons.  It’s time to start saving money instead of losing money.

I think this transfer will require my current followers to re-subscribe via email in the sidebar.  I apologize for the inconvenience.

I do hope you’ll stick around as I work to beautify the website and continue my efforts to offer inspirational content.

In the meantime, I’m going to let go of my disappointment and focus on the rich blessing of my family!

Chore Board for Kids

Huzzah!  Remember my last post?  How I said I had three items on my Task List that I had begun to ignore, as they had been on there for so long?  Well, guess what?  I did one of them this week!  I was so thrilled with finally accomplishing it that I’m sharing it as my First Friday Find!  A while ago, I saw this idea for a chore board for kids presented in different ways on Pinterest, and I finally got around to completing my version!

Chore Board for Kids

Let me start by saying, I hesitate to give my children money for chores.  Both my husband and I try to instill in our children that they are not entitled to any money by helping around the home.  We want our children to know that some things get done simply out of respect for their living area and things.  So, making any sort of system that created an allowance based on chores was a hard sell for us.  However, I can understand how they might like opportunities to make money.  That is why I created a chore board for them that includes tasks above and beyond the other chores that are expected of them as part of our family.  As their part in sharing the load in our home, my two eldest are responsible for doing the following without rewards: clearing the table, sweeping under the table, emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, cleaning up toys/books/clothes/crafts/etc, bringing laundry down, putting laundry away, and more.  As my boys grows older, their load of responsibilities will increase.  I may ask more or less of my children than most, I don’t know.  But, for now, this is working in our home.

With my daughters getting older though, their abilities to help around the home have increased.  As a result, our chore board for kids is FINALLY going to come to pass.  I have 8 clothespins on our chore board.  The current list of chores include: dusting upstairs ($.50), dusting downstairs ($.50), vacuuming upstairs ($1), vacuuming downstairs ($1), cleaning downstairs bathroom ($1), cleaning upstairs bathroom ($1), washing windows in our TV room ($1), and parent’s choice ($1).  I put cleaning specifications on the chore tags to avoid any shortcuts being taken.  I also noted that on “parent’s choice” it may involve more than one chore to earn $1.  This may not seem like much money, but, again, they have a responsibility to be a contributing part of our family first and foremost.

In an effort to keep some sort of order to this system, I have a few plans in mind.  First, they will need my approval of their work before they receive the money.  Second, I am going to ask that they write their name on the back of the paper so that I can keep track over a longer period of who is doing what in our home.  If it turns out that washing the windows is the coveted chore, I don’t want to find that one of my daughters is always snagging that chore first.  So, to be fair, they can’t do the same chore twice in a row.  Lastly, I plan to refill the money in the chart every two weeks.  This will slow down the rate at which they try to earn money and keep my husband and I from going broke.  I can see my second oldest dusting every single day, if it meant more money.  She actually enjoys that chore.

Chore Board for Kids WIP

As for the making of the chore board for kids, it was really quite simple.  I picked up a decorative piece of wood at Hobby Lobby and used some paint, clothespins, and tacky glue that I had from home and VOILA!  I wanted to come up with a catchy title at the top, as I still regretted not putting “Seeking Sole Mate” at the top of my Lost Socks craft.  So, while many other websites called their system “Work for Hire,” I settled on, “Earn more by doing a chore.”  I love how my eldest questioned where I got the line from, not believing that I was capable of such creativity.  I managed to paint the letters freehand with the printed version as my guide.  You can see by the picture that I had a change of heart during my creation from sizing down on WAY TOO big a font to switching out the word “make” for “earn.”

Chore Board for kids back

Once the craft itself was complete, I picked up Sawtooth Hangers from Hobby Lobby, snack size bags from Target, grabbed some small bills, and typed up the chores on card-stock paper for durability.  Once I finished it, I couldn’t wait to hang it in our laundry room/mudroom over their filing bin.  That hanging filing bin was another lifesaver in our home.  I was so sick of seeing the girls papers and random drawings on scrap papers, that I finally made them in charge of deciding what papers and drawings were worth keeping in their designated space.  That may sound heartless, but my second eldest is notorious for writing made-up song lyrics, menu items, directions for x-y-z, and more.  The clutter adds up fast.

2016-02-03 21.33.50

So, there you have it!  This month’s First Friday Find is a combination of finding a morsel of my mojo and sharing a crafty find I stumbled upon years ago, but only recently made a reality.  I know my kids are especially grateful that the chore board for kids is complete, and not just something I keep promising them will be implemented at an undetermined date.  Here’s to my hired help making my life a little easier.

Press Forward

I have become a bit of a recluse lately, which has left me with far less inspiring experiences to share and a bit of a curmudgeon attitude.  I have a list of things I would like to get done, but no motivation to do them.  I have a list of activities that would usually make me happy with little desire to pursue them.  I feel like I have this unquenchable thirst with my life right now.  There’s nothing “wrong,” except for maybe me.  I’m definitely unsatisfied with me.  It’s not a self-loathing kind of dissatisfied, it’s more of a stir-crazy dissatisfied.  The kind of dissatisfaction that makes you want to shake yourself and say, “Snap out of it! We got a life to live!”  Maybe that’s why a scripture that was referenced in church today struck me more than usual.  As the scripture from the Book of Mormon was first read over the pulpit, the only words that I heard were, “press forward.”

Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.   – 2Nephi 31:30

You know those moments where someone says something that’s so simple you can hardly believe you didn’t piece it together before?  I can think of one such moment off the top of my head, which happens to be another scriptural reference, this time from the Holy Bible.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.    -Matthew 7:24-27

I remember someone once teaching from this scripture and pointing out that the storm comes upon both people.  It doesn’t say that the wise man doesn’t get a storm because he built his house upon a rock, his home simply remains standing regardless of the storm.  Well, duh, Sara, obviously.  Not so obvious for me, back in the day.  I somehow managed to skip the significance of the storm coming upon each of us regardless of our desire to follow Christ.  Though, I was certainly aware that I was not living a trial-free life.  It was just one of those moments where it opened up a greater understanding between the scriptures and my daily life.

Well, that was the case again today.  When the speakers referenced the “press forward” scripture, they each focused on the significance of those words.  They pointed out that pressing forward implies opposition.  Well, duh, Sara, obviously.  But I needed to hear it broken down in that way.  I needed to hear that it’s not just about being steadfast in Christ, or having a perfect brightness of hope, or a love of God and of all men (though these are important).  Sometimes it’s about pressing forward.  It’s about pressing forward so that you can do all those other things that are asked of you.  It’s about standing up against opposition in all parts of your life.  Ironically, the thing that is standing in the way of me, as of late, is me.

Press Forward

I need to push back on myself.  I need to force myself to do something that will edify me or those around me, even if I just feel bored with it all.  Honestly, I have this list of things To-Do on my Task List app where I’ve started to ignore the first three items on the list.  They’ve been on there so long that I don’t even acknowledge them as things that need completing.  It’s pathetic.  But it’s not just about items on my To-Do list, it’s about living life to the fullest.  I need to press forward against all the many ways that I am holding myself back.

Coincidentally, as I was looking on my website for other posts where I mentioned the beauty of said Task List app, I found mention of it within my post Six Ways to Get Motivated.  I’ve been steadily accomplishing items #5 and #6, but it’s time to amp up my game on the first four ways to improve my efforts in pressing forward.

As always, I would love feedback from your personal experiences.  What motivates you to press forward against the opposition in your life, whatever it may be?  I know, for me, managing to complete a post (I have several unfinished ones in my queue) has actually lifted my spirits this evening.  It may be a small accomplishment, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless.