Category Archives: marriage

our immigration story

We recently returned from a very un-planned trip to Boston. Essentially, due to some recent immigration policy changes, the UK government required us to submit our visa-renewal application from within the United States. Neither AJ’s company or we were prepared for this; therefore, we basically had a two-day notice to book our flights and get the heck out of the UK.

We’ve travelled quite a bit as a family, but never have we had to prepare in one day for an international, 7 hr flight, 5 hr time change kind of trip. We were all, “Hey kids, wanna go to Boston tomorrow?” and poor Tori thought we were moving there. “Are you going to miss your friends, Mommy?” she asked very quietly. “You know, when we move to America?” <Insert cracked heart here.>

As I printed out over 60 pages of application documents (printer courtesy of a dear London friend), news blurbs kept popping up, and all I could see were the words like “immigrants” and “border control” and “child refugees.” My heart wanted to stop and contemplate all of IT, but my head knew I needed to focus on the job at hand.

We boarded our plane and arrived in the US with no issues, other than that Anders was too short for the automated immigration photo-thingy upon arrival. (BTW, his passport/visa photos are The. Cutest. Ever.) We knew that, worst-case-scenario, our visas would expire while we were there, and the UK, for some reason, would not approve our renewal. And we’d be stuck in Boston indefinitely.

During our entire trip, my heart and head were in turmoil. Yes, we were stressed about the unknown. But in everything I did, my heart was feeling contradictory.

As the kids watched shows on the iPad and I read through Elle Décor on the plane, all I could think of were the thousands of people crammed into teeny boats with nothing but the clothes on their backs, trying to make their way across an ocean.

As we were escorted to the front of the line at the USCIS office, I was so grateful for not having to wait ages with my two young kids in the super-boring office. And my heart tugged as we passed non-American families with young children, waiting, looking as bored and cranky as we would have been.

As we were pulled aside to sit for 20 minutes in a “secure lounge” upon re-entry to the UK, (their systems hadn’t yet fully updated our status), I couldn’t help but think of the millions of families living in refugee camps, sometimes for decades.

And as I lay with my wide-awake, jet-lagged three-year-old son at 3:30am, my brain could not erase images of that tiny three-year-old body, limp and lifeless, washed ashore on a Turkish beach.

Were the last two weeks stressful? Yep, a type of stress we haven’t encountered before. Were the last two weeks exhausting? You bet. Were the last two weeks a strain on our marriage? Of course. But. Were they physically dangerous? Nope. Did they put us into major financial debt? No. Did they ever require that I put my children in a life-threatening situation? Of course not.

We’re back in the UK, after spending almost two weeks with family and friends. We have a five-year visa. And as small and cramped as our flat may have seemed before we left, it now feels quite adequate. We have a “long” walk to school in the morning, but now it doesn’t seem quite that bad, even in the rain.

AJ and I always try to look for God’s purpose in the events of our lives. Sometimes it’s really, really hard to see it. Often we can’t see it until well after the fact. But I do feel that perhaps God wanted to soften my heart toward the plight of others, and he used this “inconvenience” and “stress” as a means to do so. I’m still working through what it all means, and what I need to do next… I’m really not sure. When I figure it out, I’ll let you know. ;-)

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How I Knew It Was More Than “Just Hormones”: The difference between hormones and PPD, PART ONE

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From the time I was in 7th grade, I have heard people blaming behavior on hormones. I distinctly recall being in shop class and hearing a boy say to a girl, “What? Are you PMSing or something?”, probably because she had told him to stop doing some 12-year-old act like kicking her under the table.

I’m sure I’m not the only one whose siblings joked about PMS, or who heard boys and girls alike blame their own or others’ attitude on the menstrual cycle. It’s something, as a woman, I have heard almost my ENTIRE LIFE.  And, as a woman, I learned how to use it as an excuse. If I’m in a bad mood, I can say, “Oh, sorry, I’m just PMSing.” If I want to binge on chocolate chips, I can say “well, I’m PMSing, don’t judge me.” (Ahem, I’ll be honest, I said that just the other night…) :-)

Now, don’t get me wrong: I completely agree with science: hormones can and do have an effect on one’s attitude and behavior. It’s been proven many times over that a change in hormone levels can have a drastic impact on one’s outlook on life. Men and women may joke about PMS, but to most of us, it’s a very real thing and can be quite annoying.

imageSo. We’ve heard about hormones since we were kids. Now, as adults, enter: PREGNANCY. Holy Hormones, Batman! If there is ever a time to blame crazy emotional roller coasters on hormones, pregnancy is it. And quite legitimately. The hormone changes that occur in order to create a baby are intense. And after nine months of adjusting to those changes, you then have the baby, and your body changes AGAIN to produce milk and to adjust to not having a wee baby in your belly.

If you have ever been pregnant, had a baby, or lived with someone who falls into those categories, you know that often it is truly appropriate to say that hormone changes can make a person seem CRAZY! (I’ll be honest, when I was pregnant I cried like a baby to the opening scene of Star Trek. Not something I’d usually do, haha.)

When you [finally] give birth, you go through an emotional roller coaster of love, fear, exhaustion and excitement. Add crazy hormone changes to the mix and it’s quite a volatile time of life.

This is why it’s so very, very dangerously easy for women suffering from post-partum (or prenatal) depression to think, “Oh, it’s just the hormones.” Because, after all, we’ve been saying and hearing that our entire lives.

So. How did I know it was more than just hormones affecting me? To be honest, I didn’t. Not for a very long time. In hindsight, I now know I was suffering from post-partum depression after my FIRST child, and it never fully went away. It drastically increased during my second pregnancy (but, you know, “I’m just so hormonal…”) and came to a terrible climax when my son was about 8 weeks old. I didn’t seek medical help until a full month later.

In my next post, I’m going to share with you some things I’ve not shared with most people. I’m laying it all out in hopes that I might help even ONE person identify that it might be “more than just hormones.” It’s too long of a story to put in one post, so stay tuned for more very soon. Love you guys, and thanks for reading.

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To say or not to say… 7 ways to talk to someone struggling with depression

Offering advice is not the best thing to say to someone with depression!

Offering advice may not be the best thing to say to someone with depression! :)

I started this blog about two months ago. In that time, more than half a dozen women have approached me and told me that they, too, have struggled or are struggling with some form of true depression. I am so grateful that these women have felt comfortable enough with me to share this! It means a lot to me, and it is a big step for them.

I love hearing from people about the topics I write about!

What I find fascinating, though, are the silent ones. The people who I know are reading my blogs, and I know had no clue about my struggle with depression, and yet when I see them, make no mention of it.

I’m not offended by this; it’s just interesting. Why are people afraid to talk about depression, even when I have made it clear that I’m okay talking about it?

Perhaps they, like many people, don’t “believe” true depression exists. Or perhaps it’s just easier for them to ignore it.

OR, perhaps it’s because people feel unprepared or ill-equipped, fearing that they might say the wrong thing?

So I come to you today to equip you, to give you a few insights (based on my own personal experience) on how to talk to someone who has admitted they are struggling with depression! So read on, and fear not!

1. You cannot make someone’s depression worse or better. It’s not about you.

Find relief in this! It is not in your control. Depression is rooted solely in a person’s mind, either chemically or psychosomatically, or both. So, unless you’re telepathic, psychic, or a psychiatrist, you’re in the clear. :)

Therefore,

2. Do not say, “What can I do to make you feel better?” because, see #1.

DO say, “Want to talk about it?” And if they say no, say, “OK, please know I’m here to listen, and I promise to give no judgements or advice.”

3. Do not say, “Maybe you need to pray more.” Even the most devout person who truly believes in the healing power of Christ can suffer from depression. [More on this soon to come.]

4. Do not say, “Oh man, I know exactly how you feel.” Cause, well, you don’t. Even if you’ve struggled with depression before, you don’t know exactly how I feel!  (Even I have made the mistake of saying this before!)

DO say, “I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this. If you ever need to talk, I’m here for you.”

Do say, "I'm here if you need to talk."

Do say, “I’m here if you need to talk.”

5. Do not say, “I can’t believe I didn’t know about this; I’m such a bad friend/parent/sibling.” Because, again, it’s not about you! (No offense) :) I’m realizing that many, many people suffer from some form of depression and NEVER TELL ANYONE. If I haven’t even told my husband, why would I tell you? (Again, no offense!) :)

DO say, “I’m sorry you’ve been struggling with this for so long. I’ll be praying for you as you begin to work through it.”

6.  Do not say, “Think about all the wonderful things in your life!” One of the biggest feelings in depression is guilt. We know we have wonderful things in our lives. We KNOW it. And that makes us feel even worse because we can’t understand why we are depressed. It makes no sense.

Do say, “It is so great that you are finally talking about this! Hang in there, and fight the good fight.”

7.  Don’t say, “Let me know if you ever want to hang out.”  Because, honestly, we won’t ever let you know when we want to hang out. Because a huge symptom of depression is wanting to be alone.

Do say, “Let’s get together this week. I’m free Tuesday at 9:30, does that work for you?” Sometimes we NEED someone to take the reins and kick us out of our house. :) So making definitive plans can help!

Are you getting the gist? Basically, someone who is struggling with depression needs encouragement. Pure and simple. Encouragement to seek professional help, to talk about it, to continue in taking control of the situation.

And once they’ve started on that journey, they need more encouragement to keep it up, and congratulations for getting as far as they have!

I hope this helps even one of my readers to understand a little more about how to talk to a loved one suffering depression. It’s so complicated. Even my husband, to whom I confide everything, can’t fully understand what I’ve gone through. But he’s a huge support; he gives encouragement and congratulations, and that’s all that matters. :)

For some great links on dealing with depression in your life or a loved one’s life, see my resources page!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I play one on TV. The comments and opinions expressed in these articles are merely comments and opinions. Please seek professional medical advice before making any changes to the diet, exercise, or medication of yourself or your children.

Check Your Pockets!

So I was being a “good wife” and folding my husband’s just-out-of-the-washer-and-dryer gym shorts when I found his iPod. IN THE POCKET OF SAID SHORTS. Needless to say, the iPod is now dead. Gone. No longer able to let AJ tune in to ESPN while enjoying his daily run. SIGH.

If this had happened a year ago, I would have started crying at the helplessness of it all. This one incident would have caused me to question my ability to be a good wife, a good mother, a good ANYthing; if I can’t even check the pockets of the frigging LAUNDRY then how am I supposed to take care of my entire family?? Just one more example of what a failure I am… what’s the point of it all, anyway, if I’m just going to ruin everything I touch??

I’m sure this type of reaction either a) is familiar to you or, b) makes you say, “Whoa, that’s a little extreme, don’t you think?”

If you’ve ever dealt with depression on a personal level, those negative thoughts are imagefamiliar to you. All it takes is one incident to cause a huge downward spiral of self-loathing and hopelessness. In hindsight and with clarity, it’s ridiculous. But in the moment, to you, it’s oh, so real.

I’m writing about this because today, when I found that cursed iPod, I didn’t react that way. And that is A BIG DEAL! I’m trying to document the moments when my story turns from survival to victory so that one day, when my kids are old enough, they can know about my struggles and can be aware of their own.

Don’t get me wrong – I definitely had an “Are you SERIOUS?? Did this really just happen??” moment. I had thoughts of “ahhhh I didn’t check the pockets!” and “ahhhh he left it in his shorts!! In the laundry basket!”  and “why do they have to make these things so darn SMALL?!?!” But that’s where it ended, and oh, such sweet relief to have objectiveness of the situation.

A small triumph in a big world, but I thought it was worth sharing.  Have a happy Thursday, and don’t forget to check your pockets! :)

It’s not about the nail!

If you haven’t seen this, WATCH IT NOW! It’s really funny, and it hits home to anyone in a relationship.

Pretty funny video, huh! But… it also peeved me a little, and I couldn’t figure out why. I mean, AJ and I have read so many “marriage” books I can’t even count them. And I agree with what most of those books say: men often try to “fix” something when women just want to verbally process it.

This little video didn’t bother me too much until one day I made some comment about my [very extreme] stretch marks on my stomach.  Like, in the context of my daughter saying “mommy, your stomach is so squishy and striped!” and me saying, “yes, that is one of the permanent sacrifices I made for my kids, haha.”

AJ replied, “Well, I don’t know why you don’t just get a tummy tuck.” I looked at him. For a long time. And said, “yeah, well, maybe one day…”

And then my loving, sweet, faithful husband muttered as he walked away, “It’s not about the nail, it’s not about the nail.”

WHAT!?!?!?! IT’S NOT ABOUT THE NAIL?!?!? Did he REALLY just say that?!? Oh man. That really, um, shall I say ticked me off.  But why? I couldn’t quite place why  I got so irritated about that comment! I can see why he would say that; a tummy tuck would “solve” the “problem” of my stretch marks (sort of). But it still made my blood boil.

As usual, I didn’t launch into a huge argument, rather I stewed about it for several days (while of course glaring at him if he happened to be in my presence while said stewing was going on…) and I tried to internally process it.  I finally came to the conclusion that “It’s not about the nail” makes women look like stupid idiots who can’t solve problems and refuse to listen to good advice.

I can guarantee you that when they “complain” about a situation, most women (and I say most because I haven’t actually met all women) have indeed thought through almost every possible solution to the problem. They’ve run it through their heads and analyzed it from every perspective, and asked themselves the question “what if” a dozen times. They’ve considered their own emotions about the issue, but have also recognized the emotions of the other people involved. They don’t need any more opinions on how to “solve” their problem.  Not really. I venture that what they really might need is advice on how to manage their problem.

The pastor of our church recently made this distinction: “Not all problems need to be solved. Some need to be managed.”  It’s so true! Instead of telling me how to solve the problem, I need my husband to ask me why I have chosen NOT to solve the problem!

For instance, I have obviously considered how to “solve” the problem of my stretch marks. I’ve asked myself hundreds of questions, specifically concerning a “tummy tuck.”

I’ve decided that, for now, I do not want a tummy tuck. (OK, part of me does want a tummy tuck, who wouldn’t?!?) But, having grown up with self-image issues, it is a big priority to help my daughter love herself just as she is. And getting a tummy tuck might, just might, send the wrong impression. Now, when she’s in college or older, it might be a different story. But for now, my “problem” can’t be “solved.” It needs to be managed. I need to know how to handle the fact that I’ll never wear a two-piece again. That every time I look in the mirror I’ll see a stomach that has been literally torn up, all the way past my belly button. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to post a picture, haha!)

So guys, next time you think “It’s not about the nail” realize, of course it’s about the nail! But it’s might be more about how to manage the nail, because sometimes pulling the nail out will just leave a bloody mess! :)