Tuesday, January 26, 2010

If There's One Thing I've Learned...

(It gets me every time -- increasingly so the older Betsy grows.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ask, And Ye Shall Receive.

Does anyone remember the one part of my probably-very-boring-post a while back where I said I loved family history, and loved getting to know these people, but what I wouldn't give for a picture? Well, as Betsy would say, Ta-da! I'm telling you, these ancestors of mine really know how to come through for a girl. It might not be the highest quality, but it's mine. They are mine.

Permission to Grieve

I spent a great part of 2009 mentally working through a bunch of emotional junk related to my miscarriage, or more accurately, my miscarriage and my fertility struggles. From time to time, I'd try holding down conversations about it. While others nodded their heads and politely chimed in at the right times, I was left still alone, wondering if anybody ever really got that same feeling I did. This was hardly their fault; I didn't feel like I'd really adequately expressed the whole of my experience to anyone -- so not only was it isolating, but it was also inexpressible.

Many months were spent with murky questions, unable to even express how I was feeling, let alone why. The conclusions I came to are still very preliminary, but it seems we restrict ourselves from experiencing pain when we feel our experience hasn't earned that right.

I deemed myself wimpy and overly emotional when I felt sorrow for the miscarriage, especially the further out we got from it. After all, I hadn't been terribly far along; I already had a child; I hadn't had to work and pray with all my might to achieve the pregnancy like I had with Betsy. It failed to meet an unspoken but very real Criteria of Pain. Earlier on, I'd felt guilt for the depth of my sorrow as I struggled with conceiving Betsy. Some women never had the joy of experiencing marriage at all; some women didn't have a uterus; some married too old to have children, and some even lost children to death. Knowing all of the trials other women had -- trials that were much more painful than my own -- there was a sort of silent obligation to bear up my burden cheerfully. (We all know I didn't really live up to it, but that's another story.)

Whether the emotion be grief, frustration, discouragement, sorrow, or even something the likes of hostility, it must be acknowledged. It must be worked through. We must ask penetrating questions of ourselves, and beyond that, we must mend ourselves, inside and out. There is a difference between trying to control an emotion and trying to ignore it. Healing comes in its own time, and in its own way, but it always comes through the same channel, which is the Savior. When we try to sidestep healing by invalidating, minimizing, or ignoring the emotion, it festers, just as an untreated wound would. It irritates; it itches; it incites pain and is more prone to another injury. Further, when serious internal wounds like broken bones are not properly dressed, it often heals incorrectly and incompletely, leaving the capability of that limb permanently compromised.

This analogy could be taken further, of course, but I think I've been on my soapbox plenty for the month of January, thank you very much. I promise to put it away, at least for a while.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ruminations on Time, and the Lord's Mighty Craigslist Powers

I'm pretty down-to-earth. Others might call it pessimistic, but I say my outlook is just a good dose of honesty and reality. Given this Mickellian outlook, I think I've handled this current time of under-employment most admirably. That doesn't mean I haven't occasionally whined -- let's be honest -- but those pouting sessions are due to shallow impatience. I just haven't felt that profound fear/worry/angst that so often overwhemed me other days on other issues.

I think part of that is because I have seen, with my own two eyes, the Lord pour blessings upon blessings on my sweet husband (and myself) to such an extent that whining really does feel a bit juvenile. (Too bad that isn't always enough to stop me!)

Also, I think it's because past experience has taught me how to be a little more comfortable in this strange element of time. I know it exists differently in heaven, and I think I might have grasped it a bit better. It's interesting, this concept that just because something isn't present right now in this moment of time, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. A lack of seeing is not the same as a lack of existence. And if something is mine, truly mine, seeing it doesn't make it more real, and not seeing it doesn't make it less real.

So, as Scott and I have been promised by more than one priesthood blessing, we will have a bright and blessed future. And really, I don't think that any sort of temporal blessing that will really change my life as drastically as I imagine. I guess if I know things are going to work out as well as we've been promised they will, all the anxiety is needless. Irrelevant. A promise from God is about as good of an assurance as one can possibly ask for.

If I don't need to spend the energy worrying, I suppose I could spend a bit of it counting my blessings. After all, we do have a few of them piling up. Not only did we get to spend Christmas with both his family and mine, but we have a beautiful daughter and another on the way -- blessings which so eclipse most others it's difficult to think of them sharing space in this little list! Still, I'm quite thankful for the Learning Tower we secured while in Washington for a mere $40 (!) Betsy loves watching me chop, and I find more ways to involve her in meal preparations every week. (Minor note: it has been a challenge to try to keep her away from bread dough and raw meat. But still sooooo worth it.) And as that was my treat, the Lord also blessed us with a special treat that Scott has been ogling for years: a Shelf Reliance. Some rich family in SLC put theirs on Craigslist for $100. It was the largest of all the SR kits, and had acutally never been used. They'd set it up, planned on using it, then bought a (fake) tree at an after-Christmas clearance and needed to get rid of the SR super-fast so they had a spot in the garage for said tree.

We figure we got the Learning Tower for less than 1/3 of its cost brand-new, and about the same for the Shelf Reliance. It's interesting to see so many beautiful blessings fall into place. And these are just the really big ones! We've had many smaller blessings come our way, all of them so personalized to our interests and values as a family that it leaves me with a conviction ever more powerful that the Lord is not only in my life, but loves my life. He sends small packages of affection, little reminders that he is seeing to my needs even when it's not in a terribly conventional way. A job isn't the only way to be provided for, and frankly, it's much easier to be reminded of his care when I am more dependent on him. I think a part of me will miss this season, miss the ease with which we can see the Lord's hand.

On another note, I am inclined to believe there's a possiblity that a few of these blessings are the result of our genealogical efforts as well. I do so love these ancestors, and some of them really love me back. I have wondered if, from time to time, one of them doesn't try to arrange something like this to help out in their own little way.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

musty books & white gloves

Besides passing the time being pregnant, (!) I also occasionally do stuff. Sometimes cook. Sometimes clean. Sometimes visit old cemeteries and talk to headstones. That's what I did in Seattle, where some of them were related to me. Well, the headstone itself wasn't related, but it was about as close as I could get. Wanted to get.

The information we unearthed (figuratively speaking... oh, I've been married too long) at the cemetery quickly raised more questions than it answered, such as: how can a woman, dead for three months, be deemed the mother in a birth certificate; and is Lillian Manchini also Lillie Costantino? That would mean she divorced Angelo...?

So, during the days when my in-laws were cozily enjoying the afterglow of Christmas day, I quickly found myself at the Puget Sound Archives sorting through old books and shussshhhing my daughter. Not quite the experience I'm sure Scott had in mind when he contemplated nine days off of work, but he was a true gentleman about the whole thing -- quite patient with his daughter, and very generous with his wife. (And visa-versa.)

I'd never been to archives before, and while I'm not sure such a place is typically described as thrilling, I can think of no more fitting word. Scott and I have been the family history teachers in our ward for 8 or 9 months now, and I've learned quite a bit about it. But something about putting on white gloves to scour huge, old, handwritten books is moving. Even when one of the things you're looking up is actually your great-grandparents' divorce.

There's always been a huge hole in our family history; my dad's father left the home when he was just four years old, and little is consequently known about that man's parents or sibling(s). I had no idea how much of an impact it all made in my life until I started working on finding these people. It took me utterly aback to feel such a powerful yearning to know them.

But the greater surprise has been the discovery that I do know them. I find I have bits of intuition, layered in documents and an understanding of Italian culture, and surprise myself by how often this intuition ends up being right. I find they are very involved in this process, in their own way. And you can't help but get a feel for someone when they've been looking over your shoulder and nudging you along for months.

There's still many more leads to pursue, a few mysteries yet to be solved, and countless names to be found. But while it will always be delightful, I have ceased being shocked when something falls into place in just the right way. The work I'm doing matters, and while the factor of chance are ever present in this world, there are unseen people working just as passionately as I am, perhaps even more so. And it's been a joy to get to know them. I just wish I had a few photographs.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baby Sissah

Christmas this year typified years past in many respects: same sweet house, full of family; same looooong drive there, this time with a few more pit stops than usual; and same guest room we managed to secure last time, because we were then pregnant with Betsy. (What with beds being so rare, being pregnant is totally the way to go.) So, being the careful planners we are, and knowing we'd be up in Washington for Christmas, we decided to get me knocked up.

Totally worth it, p.s.

I am now twenty-twoish (threeish?) weeks along and can do a stunning impression of an octogenarian. Okay, maybe not, but it feels that way. Oooooh, it feels that way. I am generally not one to whine about a pregnancy -- they're too hard to come by for that -- so I guess it's best to say I can tell my body felt the toll of Betsy the first time around.

Just one or two days before the gender ultrasound, Betsy was playing with her baby doll. I took it from her and put her up to her high chair, asking her if she wanted to have a baby at our house. We'd been mentioning baby brothers and sisters at our house a few times, but I was still shocked when, after a moment of obvious thought, she announced, quite decidedly, "baby sissah." Scott was out of town at the time and missed out on her sweet moment (which repeated itself about a dozen times before I finally got her to bed that night) but she was more than happy to make similar announcements when he got home. Once I even tried to trick her into saying brother, but she would have none of it. Sissah it would be.

Lo and behold, we're having a girl.

Please excuse my right arm, as it was feeling a little camera shy. And also, I generally look much larger than this. I have no idea how wearing two shirts can possibly make me look smaller, but it is my magic shirt, and for its miracles I shall love it till the day I die.

We hadn't announced it to anyone in Scott's family except his parents and Kammie, who couldn't make it up, but Katie had seen us in November and had her suspicions. Still, the Weeds and the Tippets were thoroughly surprised. It was fun to have a little surprise to look forward to telling everyone. It also made this stage of the pregnancy feel different from the miscarriage I had back in April of last year. (Yes, miscarriage. Don't feel bad if I didn't tell you... we're still friends... I just kept it all pretty quiet.)

It was a wonderful Christmas and Betsy got the hang of "penants" pretty quickly, happily opening hers and generally playing with everyone else's. (Dang Momma didn't want to open the puzzles and such just to lose pieces before returning home!) The Lord generously blessed us with a wonderful family and a delightful holiday. And a bonus gift coming in May!