Seven Years Ago Today…

Journal entry (back when I kept a daily journal…) December 11, 2010:

“I’m grateful for the many prayers that have been and are said on my behalf.  About 6pm tonight, I felt this incredible peace fill my soul and happiness commenced.  This week has been an emotional epoch. I had trouble eating (stress), random heartaches mingled with tears. I fasted and prayed all week long – on Friday I was offered a long term substitute teaching job for 9th grade biology for the school down the street from my house.”

That fall I began substitute teaching, all grades, trying to find my niche in education. That summer I had been rejected by the two medical schools I applied to (I know, looking back I want to shout, “you only applied to TWO schools Katie!!”) and felt like teaching was a good alternative to being a doctor.

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The 9th grade biology classes I was asked to teach were alternately full of smart-A high achievers (Tuesday/Thursday) and Monday/Wednesdays I was left with children who are mostly likely in jail today; sad, but the reality of life for some people.

That particular job was scaring me straight out of teaching. I would sit in my car after work and ask myself if I could come back the next day, my life felt like a nightmare.

The week of December 11th, 2010 – I left that high school and told them I would not be taking that job. (turns out the teacher I was taking over for had hypertension…I can’t imagine why…).

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Saturday evening, December 11, I took a friend with me to a birthday party. My expectations for anything were zero, I was obligatorily socializing and not staying home to map out my “okay, what’s next plan” for life.

Instantly, as I pulled up to the house, I spotted a white Honda Ridgeline plastered with surf stickers. A small voice whispered in my mind, “you know the driver of that vehicle.”

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As I’ve told the story before, I was technically in a relationship and not on the prowl but, I did look pretty cute. I still remember what I had on: yellow flats, black skinny jeans and a white Ocean Pacific sweater with colored stripes across the chest (a great thrift store find).

I went straight out to the pool where most of the people were gathering.

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It was totally like a scene from a movie: steam rising off the hot tub, people trickling into the party, mood lighting, I spot him twenty feet away, tanned, hunky blonde dude sitting at a table next to a laughing beautiful brunette acquaintance; except that I was totally thrilled for my beautiful brunette friend who obviously scored big. My second thought, “that’s the driver of the white truck.”

As of this day, I still can’t get my husband to tell me what he was really thinking.  The tanned, hunky blonde followed me the rest of the night.

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someone was being funny behind the camera!

And, well, he convinced me to marry him.

So now, I’m still wondering where life will take me. I still have nightmare moments where I ask myself if I can do this another day (hello, I have a 2, 3 and 5 year old and a husband who is in school, at work or doing homework). What I don’t have is a feeling like I missed an opportunity to be a teacher, or a doctor, or a whatever else I was planning for my life before a husband and children came along.

I’ll be honest, I never thought I was mean’t for motherhood or even marriage. It was the one thing I really had a hard time seeing myself being successful in doing. There was clarity in all my other dreams. Now, I get to experience things I didn’t know I could do.

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I didn’t know I’d be any good at taking photos. I didn’t know my five year old would randomly come up and give me hugs to tell me I was the best mom in the world on days I felt like a failure in life. I didn’t know my three year old would cuddle me every night and ask me to sing him 20+ songs before bed. I had no idea having a baby girl would turn me into complete goo. I had no idea that the man I married, who was a surf bum when we met (with his only goal in life: surf) would end up working and going to school for six years to support a growing family. I didn’t know we’d spend Saturday afternoons at the skatepark as a family.  I didn’t know my husband would pray with me and our children every night.

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I didn’t know.

Yet, somehow on a really emotionally draining week – seven years ago today – something told me that everything would be okay and I had reason to be happy.

 

 

 

 

Has it only been 11 days?

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Nona bought Wiley a belated birthday gift.

Wiley started Kindergarten 15 days ago. My in-laws came into town 14 days ago. My husband took his dad on a much needed kayak/camping trip – just the two of them – 13 days ago. I had to finish writing music (the piano music we decided on was written for a piano/viola and I wrote the harmony part I sang) for a duet I sang in church – 12 days ago. The Total Solar Eclipse seen from our backyard – 11 days – also said goodbye to my in-laws. My Aunt came into town from Austin, TX to see the eclipse, and stayed in town to visit with me for a day.  My middle child turned 3 years old – 10 days ago. Danny started school. My mother performed in a ballet – took kids down to my parents – had to see the mother perform. Racing home from my visit, to see mom on stage, to teach my Sunday School class….and so on…

All this time I’ve had to let some things slide. A grocery bag of un-openned birthday decorations still sit on my closet shelf.

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They love reading.

Tyler, turned three, had the best day of his life. I gave him everything he asked for that day, I didn’t give him everything I planned, I gave him what he asked for and that made him happy. He wanted birthday donuts – no cake. He wanted to watch Youtube videos (supervised by me) during school hours. He wanted a tricycle – which he rides daily around my living room and kitchen – and Tow-Mater/Lightening McQueen cars. Done and done. Time in the sandbox. Play in the tub. Seems kinda like I was a lame mom for his birthday this year, but the birthday boy got everything he asked for, so I’ll call it a win.

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Park time.

Four days after my in-laws returned home to the Houston, Texas area Hurricane Harvey hit.

I have been glued to social media – watching through the eyes of friends – heart sick – as my old neighborhoods, libraries I visited, restaurants I frequented, trails I used to walk – all flooded.

I’ve been uniting in prayer with friends and strangers for the comfort, healing and rebuilding of Houston, Texas. Just as the country united only four or five days earlier to watch the amazing beauty of the solar eclipse, so many people united once again during the chaos and damage that hurt millions “back home.”

My husband asked me if he should take this semester off from school (where he studies civil/environmental engineering in Missouri) to help clean up and restore his home. My husband was born and raised in Houston, Texas. We met in Spring, Texas. Married in the Houston LDS Temple. Lived in our first home two blocks north of the Temple. In his mind, after spending this summer as a storm water management engineering-intern for the City of Columbia, he felt like he could do a lot of good in the after math of Harvey. My response was, “you’re eight months from graduating with a degree – you can do a lot more good when that is completed, when you’re done, you can improve infrastructure not just in Houston, but anywhere in the world.” Right now, it would only increase our financial burden with him not in school and not working.

Danny will continue to do much good for everyday life as he finishes his degree. He will continue to do much good when he graduates.

I’ll do good here in the home.

So, I am continuing to pray for the aid (physical, financial and emotional) of those hurt by Harvey. In all the chaos of my life, I have not forgotten you or the other people suffering in the world.

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After day four of Kindergarten, Wiley fell asleep like this.

No matter what is happening in our own lives, God wants us to think about and serve others.

Life can wear you down, just stop and rest a bit, but just don’t quit.

Enjoying more fully the Light.

I read a story about post-partum depression today, it wasn’t a happy one, which reminded me that I haven’t updated the internet on the state of my health:  mind, body and soul.

It’s good news. [Sigh of relief]

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My baby boy.

I don’t really feel like talking about the depression, it’s part of my past now and I know that it could potentially be part of my future. For now I’m going to tell you what I’ve been doing, about what makes me happy.

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My oldest niece, the Mermaid. (side note, this was a candid shot, I caught her mid-imagination).

I needed more Family time, spouse time and time just for me.

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First, I called my mom and asked if she would pay for my gym membership. I knew that all the time away from the gym was one reason I was sad. I missed regular exercise!! I started making better choices with my food and I started pampering myself.

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Anyone who knows me, knows that when you think of me, you don’t necessarily think “cheapskate.” But, for years I have rarely paid for haircuts (ask a friend or sister to just cut it right over a trash can), I almost never go into a salon, I have never had a manicure and I only get pedicures once or twice a year (because if I didn’t, my entire foot would turn into a callus). I also never spent money on makeup, hair supplies or skincare.

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My sister, her husband and their sixth baby.

My skin care routine – up until this year – was usually going straight to bed without washing my face. Rinse face in morning or just wait till I took a shower…whenever that was.

Wearing makeup was usually reserved for Sundays and the makeup I did own was either purchased for me by a mother or sister or given to me by a sister or my mother (because it came as a free gift during a purchase)! I spent very little money in the hair, skincare and makeup department.

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Candid shots really are the best.

In the spring and summer of 2016 when I struggled with pink eye, I had to throw away all of the makeup I did own – which included some new and nice (gifted) things. In addition to throwing out all my makeup, I threw out all my bed pillows (nice, newer pillows I couldn’t afford to replace).

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We were also very broke when this happened.

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Somewhere between back to back pregnancies, a husband who was gone all the time for school and with church responsibilities, a four year old just barely potty training (read “three kids in diapers”) – I was feeling pretty haggard.

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My sister and her baby and she’s pregnant with her seventh! (how amazing is she?!)

Well, I discovered a multi-level marketing company that has amazing skin care and makeup. I knew I couldn’t afford to buy/wear good products unless I sold some. So, I signed up to distribute.

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Along the way, I started having fun with my life again and taking care of myself made me feel good.

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So, I’m going to the gym, taking care of my body, eating healthier and getting better sleep – now at bedtime, I don’t lay in bed trying to un-wind from a day that pulled and stretched me, I go to bed, I think of all the things I’m grateful for and all the things I can do better tomorrow.

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Then, I stop thinking and go to sleep.

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I started singing around the house more often, letting the messes sit later, snuggling with my babies a little longer.

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I decided that dates with my husband were worth the cost of a babysitter (again, where I tend to be cheap – “let’s just not get a baby sitter and stay in or take the kids with us.”

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These two never want their daddy out of their sight!

I re-took my Athletic Training exam (to re-certify) and was 23 points short of passing!! [I mean, I can’t be too sad, I’ve been out of practice 11 years!! With very little study time I squeezed in, I almost passed!! Yes, I’m taking it again].

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My mother in law fostered a love for the ocean in my husband, and here she is with her grandchildren (whiny and all).

My energy levels increased and the chemicals in my brain have found balance as I allowed for more positive thoughts.

I consciously made it a daily effort to push negative thinking away and only see the positive. I had let negative thoughts camp too long in my mind and I didn’t want to be sad anymore.

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Happiness had been my life before and I wanted that life back.

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I never stopped praying during my struggles. I never stopped hoping. I knew that change would come if I just kept trying.

God knew me, He had faith that I could overcome my circumstances and He has faith in you too. The tools are there, we just need to reach out. Ask for help and take steps to change.

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Those ‘gulls see food and in they swoop.

Postpartum depression is not an old friend, but foe. An enemy I may face in the coming years. But I have hope that my faith and past experience will help me defeat him again.

Disappointments still arrive, but I see the light and know that everything will work out.

Looking towards the light through depression.

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This morning, after a few hours of anxiety, everything changed and the sun started shining through my soul again.

The day began like any other, woke up started breakfast – except this time I turned on some LDS general conference talks while I prepared food.

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There are things I’ve always known, but today I understood them.

One speaker quoted Neal A. Maxwell,

“Certain forms of suffering, endured well, can actually be ennobling. …

“… Part of enduring well consists of being meek enough, amid our suffering, to learn from our relevant experiences. Rather than simply passing through these things, they must pass through us … in ways which sanctify [us].”

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I know I’ve sounded a bit like a broken record when it comes to trying to find the positive during difficult times, but I’ve passed through something that has given me new perspective on those who suffer depression throughout their life.

I have depression each time I’m pregnant…then I have had post-partum depression following the birth of each of my three children. So, beginning with my first pregnancy in late summer 2011 through, this month…I have constantly struggled [mightily] with things I didn’t quite understand for a long time.

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The first time, I didn’t even know why I felt the way I did.

I wasn’t disappointed in the idea of having a baby, I just didn’t feel joy or excitement about  anything. Things moms are supposed to feel.

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When I held my firstborn after delivery I was in love at first sigh. I couldn’t sleep I was so happy.

The pure excitement and joy that followed the next eight months was in a constant battle with depression. All the changes in my life added to six solid months of no sleep and then eating little – it’s no wonder my brain was off balance.

Just before my first turned one, I got pregnant a second time. Several weeks later I miscarried.  Six months following that, I was pregnant a third time and later gave birth to a second boy.

I love babies so much. Love them and yet…

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This girl is pure gold. I am so happy she came to me.

I constantly felt like I was going to snap in half and I cried all the time. My husband couldn’t fix anything.

My fourth pregnancy (and third child) was a complete surprise.

A tender mercy my last pregnancy didn’t make me feel sick physically, but mentally I was still fighting a mess.

I was vacuuming my carpets three times a day. Three.

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How did I manage to get along? I set my mind to face each day, to put one foot in front of the other and not give up, rest if I must, but not quit.

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So, today, with a morning full of anxiety I heard,  Elder Evan A Schmutz say,

“The purpose and mission of Jesus Christ included that He would “take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people,” “take upon him their infirmities,” and “succor his people according to their infirmities.”17

To fully receive these gifts our Savior has so freely offered, we all must learn that suffering in and of itself does not teach or grant to us anything of lasting value unless we deliberately become involved in the process of learning from our afflictions through the exercise of faith.

Then we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught: “There really is light at the end of the tunnel. It is the Light of the World, the Bright and Morning Star, the ‘light that is endless, that can never be darkened’ [Mosiah 16:9]. It is the very Son of God Himself.”20

We can take strength in knowing that all the hard experiences in this life are temporary; even the darkest nights turn into dawn for the faithful.

When all is finished and we have endured all things with faith in Jesus Christ, we have the promise that “God shall wipe away all [the] tears from [our] eyes.”21

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Something about hearing those words sent light through my heart. I hope that hearing those words will send light through your heart.

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I hope that we can all keep trying to be a little bit softer, a little bit kinder especially towards those things around us that we just don’t understand, yet.

Don’t give up, keep trying, you are loved. Things really aren’t as bad as they seem.

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Peace my friends.

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At 4 and a half our oldest decided to be fully potty trained and we are beyond thrilled. Anytime, anywhere.

I (Chris Traeger) Literally Can’t Get Stressed Anymore.

The perfect storm of stress was probably the main reason I went into the hospital two weeks ago (and missed my sisters bridal shower – sad face indeed) for pre-term labor.

I had a lot of friends, who have experienced pre-term labor, give me great comfort in knowing that things will be okay – EVEN if I have more days like that again.

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Living room turns into the climbing/jumping zone.

So much happening right now, I haven’t been making the time to write or take quality photos with my good camera, so you all will have to settle for the photos taken by my cell phone camera; which has been dropped far too many times.

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Party time – Excellent – woo hoo woo hoo!

My husband has been really busy – gone for long stretches – and with me having to rest more often…things get a bit messy (which leads to more stress…I’m still learning to let that thing called, “a mess” go… but I’ve been a struggle).

My husband did have a weekend free (or took the babies to do some work one day) while I drove to Tulsa to visit my Grandparents – sans children – Gramma was admitted to the hospital for another fall.

Enjoying a nice cafeteria meal.
Enjoying a nice cafeteria meal.

I spent the entire weekend with her in her hospital room.

I brought her 50th wedding anniversary album - she stared at every page for a long time - relearning things.
I brought her 50th wedding anniversary album – she stared at every page for a long time – relearning things.

Sometimes she forgot who I was, thinking I was a nurse, she would ask me questions about myself (that she already knew about me)…she was always embarrassed when she realized who I was.

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I called her 10 days after I returned home and she asked if I knew she had been in the hospital. I reminded her that I was there with her the whole weekend. She felt bad about forgetting.

I’m just glad she still knows who I am when I call.  I have three remaining Grandparents and they cause me tears every now and then.

The weekend after my trip to Tulsa, my mother came up for a brief visit (for a Midwifery conference) and she and I went out shopping one afternoon.

Dress needs to be hemmed, but it was the right color, lightweight and comfortable. Took longer to find the right earring than the dress!
My 60 yr old mother – whistle – Dress needs to be hemmed, but it was the right color, lightweight and comfortable. Took longer to find the right earring than the dress!

She needed to find a dress for my sisters wedding (In August. In Houston, Texas. Because people still get married in Houston in the summer – I did).

For my trouble of helping her spend money on new clothes and jewelry, she bought me some make-up. The fancy kind of make-up I’m too poor to buy myself.

He came out to be with me
He came out to be with me

Since my husband had Scout Camp the week before our trip to Texas, and I was slowly loosing my sanity, there were many nights where I let my sons stay up late.

Wish I could still sleep anywhere...
Wish I could still sleep anywhere…

I was too worn out to fight the bed time routine.

Our trip to Texas was a teary one…Grandparents weren’t feeling up to a visit on our way down, and I got a call that our dog got into some trouble at my parents. I’m not overly fond of my dog in the, “I cuddle with him every day,” but I love that Boy and I was quite upset that he got in a scrap.

So, I cried.

When we arrived at my sister’s house, I was so happy to see her. She too is pregnant (currently 36 weeks and has more hustle than I do!) and two pregnant sisters together is a great comfort. We ‘get’ each other.

Doing laundry and watching T Rock trying to walk.
Doing laundry and watching T Rock trying to walk.

We normally divide our time between Danny’s family and my sister’s home, but I – not feeling well – have kept mostly to my sisters house (where she and her kids have been a great help when I need to rest).

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Gregre and T

The day after my hospital visit, we drove out to spend time with Danny’s family.  My boys just love their grandparents and great-grands (on both sides).  Normally Papa gets all the love, but this trip Little T Rock was loving on Gregre.

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Later in the week, my sister’s family and mine drove out to Papa and Gregre’s for lunch and the kids were happy playing and running about.  It really is a little slice of heaven out on their property and Danny’s family are all Southern Hospitality.

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Last week my mother in law took some time off work to take me shopping! And my sister in law offered to watch my two boys.  My boys had so much fun playing at her home.

Wiley swimming with his cousin K.
Wiley swimming with his cousin K.

A few days after our shopping trip, we went back to have dinner at my sister in law’s and when we pulled up, Wiley recognized the front door and said, “yeah, this is the good house.”

We have to drag them out of that pool!
We have to drag them out of that pool!

It seriously makes my day that my children love their family like they do.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity.

Baby sister will live in her very first home come Friday when she and Jeremiah get married!!
Baby sister will live in her very first home come Friday when she and Jeremiah get married!! I do hope they landscape the heck outta that yard. 🙂

My baby sister gets married this Friday – last Friday, while she was at work – she and Jeremiah got the keys to their new home…which didn’t have electricity yet, but the family got them moved in (through 104 degree heat) anyway.

It was the day of the move, after spending so much time in the Texas heat, Danny said he wasn’t so sure about moving back to Texas…

So, uh, I have no idea what the future holds after graduation.

All his pants were dirty, so he is trying on some pink ones...don't tell anyone.
All his pants were dirty, so he is trying on some pink ones…don’t tell anyone.

I do know that we will have three children. 2 boys and 1 girl.

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