The wife of Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, didn't have many career options.

The wife of Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater, didn’t have many career options. Photo credit: Alice Evans

 

It seems that people in my generation, commonly known as Millennials, have some confusion over this issue of finding their “calling.” And really, can you blame us? We’ve grown up in an era of unprecedented opportunities. We’ve all been told since we were little that we could be anything we wanted when we grew up — if we just believed in ourselves and worked hard enough. Here, have some fairy dust to go along with that thought.

So, do you want to be a politician, a scientist, an artist, a lawyer, or a surgeon? An astronaut, a marine biologist, or a kindergarten teacher? The problem with too many choices is that it’s overwhelming. Our limited brains can’t handle an unlimited number of options. It can be hard enough to choose whether to make spaghetti or tacos for dinner.

It’s also unrealistic to say that we have unlimited career options. Professional athlete is out reach for most of us, I think. Yet many people are lucky enough to have a variety of options. My dad had a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and later decided to get his master’s in Computer Science and became a computer programmer. My friend Holly had a degree in Romance Languages and 6 years later is in the midst of physical therapy school. Her husband was a landscape architect and is now a middle school teacher. So we do have options, and we can even change career paths if we choose.

I’ve done a lot of praying, reading and general soul-searching about my calling over the years. I want to live a meaningful life — I believe there are specific reasons I’m alive and I don’t want to miss out on those reasons.  Here’s what I’ve come to believe about the topic of finding your calling.

Your calling is about more than paid work. Some important aspects of your life-calling involve your relationship to others. If you’re married, being a loving and supportive spouse is a significant part of your calling. Likewise, if you’re a parent, you’re called to be a great one. And we’re all called to be loving and supportive friends to different people at different times.

You have more than one right choice. If life were a test, it would be an essay test, and not a multiple choice one. I believe if you genuinely desire to do something meaningful with your life — then you will. It’s not really as complicated as we make it out to be.

Work is still work. Even if you are lucky enough to make a living pursuing your calling, it’s still work. There will still be moments when you won’t want to do it. You will still have to interact with difficult people, and complete boring tasks.

Examine your talents, passions, and opportunities. We all have specific talents and passions and I believe God wants us to use them to help others. My husband is a talented landscape designer, and he knew he wanted to pursue landscape architecture since he was a little boy. He hasn’t been able to work in the design field for the last 6 years because of the recession, but it’s my belief that he will get back to it — when the opportunity becomes available.

My soul-searching has led me to discover that  — as unfeminist as this sounds — being a great mother and wife is a huge part of my calling. Perhaps the most important part. But I also know that it’s not my entire calling, because I have a passion to do more. I know that writing is part of my calling because I just can’t stop writing. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 5-years-old. I’ve loved all my freelance writing and editing jobs even when I had to write about horribly boring topics.

Will writing turn out to be the bulk of my paid work, or more of a creative outlet? Or will I go back to being a classroom teacher? There are lots of things about teaching that I love, and some things that are challenging. We’ll have to wait and see what opportunities arise…

Have you found your calling? What is it?

Are doctors the best advocates for our wellbeing?

Are doctors always the best advocates for our wellbeing?

I’ve found that doctors generally don’t like to be questioned. And it would be easier if I could just unquestioningly follow their advice, but over the years I’ve discovered that I am the best advocate for my health and my child’s health. For example, a doctor once tried to prescribe me an anti-malaria medication that included psychosis as a potential side effect — and then belittled me when I asked him to instead prescribe me a different medication that had only minor side effects. Or, when I told my ob/gyn that I didn’t want to be induced (unless absolutely necessary) because Pitocin is known to cause more painful contractions — he blatantly lied to me and said that wasn’t true.

That being said, I would have gone ahead and vaccinated my daughter on the regular schedule, but my husband and I took a newborn care class where some parents were raising questions about vaccinations. For example, why is the Hep B vaccine given to all newborns? Babies need it if mom is Hep B positive, and it’s a good idea if any other close family is Hep B positive, but it’s a fairly rare, bloodborne disease. Our newborn care teacher recommended The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears for more information on vaccines.

I ended up following Dr. Sears suggested alternative vaccine schedule, with a few variations. I felt more comfortable with this than the recommended schedule because it spaces out the vaccines, so my daughter didn’t have to get as many shots at once. I was concerned that giving her so many shots at one time might be hard on her immune system. The official CDC schedule gives a 2-month-old 6 vaccines in one visit.

Here are the first few months of the Dr. Sears Alternative Schedule:

2 months (well-child visit)  DTaP, Rotavirus
3 months (shot-only visit)  Pc, HIB
4 months (well-child)  DTaP, Rotavirus
5 months (shot-only) Pc, HIB
6 months (well) DTaP, Rotavirus
7 months (shot) Pc, HIB

Some challenges I found with the alternative vaccination schedule are that:

It’s confusing. You will have to tell the pediatrician which shots you want at each visit. You have to know the schedule you are following and advocate for it. If you’re not paying close attention, your child may end up missing some vaccines for longer than you’d planned.

It’s time-consuming. Breaking the vaccine schedule up means more visits to the doctor. I took my daughter to the pediatrician once a month for shots for her first 7 months.

Some doctors really don’t like it. I chose a pediatrician who was comfortable with an alternative schedule, and he even suggested delaying MMR further until my daughter’s immune system was more mature. However some pediatricians are unwilling to deter from the official vaccine schedule.

So, will I follow an alternative vaccine schedule with our next child? Probably. Here’s why:

It feels safer to me.* I do realize that most children follow the official schedule without ramifications. I also think that if I were a doctor or public health official I would advocate for people to follow the official schedule. It’s in the best interest of public health for vaccination rates to be as high as possible — and the easiest way for that to happen is for people to follow the official vaccine schedule. But I don’t want to take risks with my child. So for me that means making sure she gets all the required vaccines, yet spacing them out. One of my reasons for being extra cautious is that I have a lot of allergies, some of them life-threatening, which means my daughter has a higher chance of developing allergies. She might be at a higher risk of having an allergic reaction to a vaccine, or perhaps too many vaccines at once might mess with her immune system and increase her risk of allergies. Who knows? I think the immune system is pretty complicated and we don’t understand it very well.

I also know that the vaccine-autism link is basically considered an urban legend by many. But after reading the Dr. Sears book, he says there have been court cases where families received settlements after evidence was found that a vaccination did trigger autism in their child. The catch? They were not allowed to use the word “autism.” I also have a close friend whose brother has autism — and the family has always been convinced that it was triggered by a vaccine.

If you want more information on alternative vaccine schedules, I recommend reading The Vaccine Book and talking with your child’s pediatrician. We did make some changes to Dr. Sears Alternative Schedule, such as delaying MMR further and giving Hep A much sooner.

*Please don’t sue me, this is just my opinion. The CDC and most pediatricians will tell you that the official vaccine schedule is perfectly safe.

Have you followed an alternative vaccine schedule with your child? Would you do the same again?

Photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

In an effort to get back into the practice of expressing gratitude, here are a few things I’m feeling thankful for this week.

Preschool. My daughter just started 2-year-old preschool last week, and it seems to be going well. It feels so good to have a few hours a week free to focus on housecleaning, errands, writing, etc. while she’s in school. Also I’m excited for us to get to know some other families since we still don’t know many people in town.

The trampoline gym. Cheap entertainment and exercise for the little one! A nice variation from visiting a park.

A whirlwind of motion at Bounce Trampoline Gym.

A whirlwind of motion at Bounce Trampoline Gym.

Fall. I love the change of seasons, the anticipation of fall holidays, and the general business of this season. I really enjoy being involved in lots of activities and many activities start up again in the fall.

Old friends. There’s something so wonderful and comforting about friendships that you’ve had for years. I’ve had the chance to connect with several long-term friends this week. That always makes me happy.

What are you grateful for today?

Ducks don't worry about the ideal time to start a family.

Ducks don’t worry about the ideal time to start a family. They just have lots of cute babies.

Having a child is, ahem, a major life change. Some times of life are obviously less-than-ideal for becoming a parent — like when you’re still in high school. But is there a best time to have a baby? And how do you know when that is?

My daughter was born when I was 28 and my husband was 29. We were among the first of our friends to become parents. Now that I’m approaching 31, parenting is becoming the new normal among our circle of acquaintances. That biological clock just becomes harder to resist, I guess.

We had several reasons for choosing to start our family when we did. We had already been married for 5 years when I became pregnant, so we felt like we’d had plenty of childless years together to develop our relationship. I also had finished my master’s degree and had several years of professional work experience, so I figured it would be possible to rebound from taking time off. I wanted to have my first child before age 30, because that reduces a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. We thought we might want 3 children, and I wanted 3 years between each child, so that would allow me to finish having babies before age 35 (at 35 you become an “elderly” pregnant woman — ability to conceive and sustain a pregnancy drops significantly). In many ways, 28 seemed like the perfect age to become a mom.

On the other hand, we hadn’t reached the financial goals I had expected to reach by 28. We didn’t own a house or have disposable income. In fact, we lived in a small 2-bedroom apartment with no dishwasher and one bedroom functionally unusable due to severe mold problems. So, that was not ideal. But we told ourselves: Our financial situation could change on a dime! God will provide! We’ll find a way!

So how did things turn out? Our finances have not improved. It’s been challenging. Still, we’ve managed to get by, remain debt-free, and even move to a new apartment with a dishwasher and 2 functional bedrooms.

In some ways, it definitely would have been easier to wait to have a child until we were older and (theoretically!) had more money. Or it might have been easier to have a child when I was 23 and had more energy. Don’t underestimate the enormous amount of energy required to care for a young child.

Really, there is no perfect time to have a child, and the best time will vary from couple to couple. If you’re considering whether now is a good time to start a family, you may want to ask yourself the following questions to help you evaluate the situation:

– Am I in a stable monogamous relationship? Would my partner make a good parent?

– Do I need more time to get to know my significant other before adding a baby to the mix?

– Do my partner or I have any addictions or serious emotional problems we should work on before becoming parents?

– Am I willing to sacrifice my waistline, sleep, personal life, career goals? (Yes, you can continue to have a successful career and be a parent, but often one parent’s career does go on the backburner for awhile…)

I asked my husband what he thought about this, and he said, “Don’t ask questions. If you want to have a baby you should. Nothing’s ever going to be perfect.” So there’s a perspective from someone who’s not a Type A personality.

If you’re a parent, how old were you when you had your first child? Would you have rather been older or younger if you could have done things differently?

Though camping is a popular summer activity in the lovely state of Oregon, it had been three years since my last camping trip. Why? Because I became a mother. For the last two summers, camping wasn’t on my radar, even though I admired the adventurous spirit of the woman in my postpartum yoga class who took her newborn camping in Yellowstone. My parents have always been adventurous as well, and they took me camping the first summer after I was born (end result: a trip to the ER after I toddled over to the campfire grate and gashed my forehead).

I still thought it might be a few years before we took MJ camping, but my husband thought we needed a cheap weekend getaway and suggested we give it a try for one night. Which is how we found ourselves camping on Labor Day weekend at Honeyman State Park on the Oregon Coast. Honeyman is a massive campground, so we spent the evening in close proximity to several hundred other families and their (exceptionally well-behaved) dogs.

We prepared MJ for this trip by watching an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood where he goes camping in his backyard. She was very excited to play in the tent.

Climbing into our tent.

Climbing into our tent.

Tent silly times.

Tent silly times.

The tent kept her entertained for quite awhile. We grabbed some pizza for dinner in Florence, followed by blackberry ice cream in Old Town. Then back to our tent for more play time and a campfire. I was fairly terrified of open flames around a 2-year-old, but she sat in my lap and watched the fire for about 5 minutes before heading back to the tent.

Overall, camping with MJ was an astounding success! She had fun and there were no trips to the emergency room. Hurray! She did get scared when I turned off the flashlight at bedtime and she realized it was not a game and we were actually going to sleep in the tent. And then there was the moment when she woke up in the still silence of 3 am and started screaming at the top of her lungs. Spencer had left to use the bathroom and I began to panic as I thought of the several hundred other families nearby. “Please stop, please stop,” I whispered. After about 5 minutes Spencer came back and had the presence of mind to hold her and soothe her, and she fell back asleep. Sorry camping neighbors! She doesn’t normally do that.

The next day she would tell the story this way: “I was screaming and Mama said ‘Stop! Stop!’ And then Dada feel me better.”

Aside from the tent, I think MJ’s favorite part of our trip was playing at the beach. This was her third trip to the beach this year, and she loves the ocean. I have to hold her hand so she doesn’t jump in and get completely soaked.

My future marine biologist explores the surf.

My future marine biologist explores the surf.

Have you gone camping with a toddler or infant? How was your experience?

I’ve quit Facebook before. After I graduated college in 2006, I got married, decided I didn’t need to stay superficially connected to such a large number of acquaintances, and canceled my Facebook account. But over the next few years, Facebook transformed from a college social network to a worldwide phenomenon. In grad school, I realized I was missing out on social invites that were happening via Facebook (or then again…maybe people just didn’t want to invite me). So, in 2009 I rejoined the world of online social networking.

Have there been positives to having a Facebook account? Sure. I started getting invited to a lot more events and attending many of them. (And then I became a mom). One former close friend who I’d lost touch with did contact me on Facebook and we ended up getting together once when she was in town. Sometimes I’ve enjoyed sharing photos and updates from my life and getting responses. And it can be a convenient online scrapbook.

But mostly I try to avoid looking at Facebook. Because, keeping in line with some psychological studies, looking at Facebook does not tend to improve my mood. Rather, my reaction to other people’s status updates usually falls into one of the following categories:

1) Jealousy. Admit it, you know what I’m talking about. People post about highlights from their weeks, their summers, their years. And Facebook posts the highlights of their highlights at the top of your News Feed. It makes me think, why is everyone else’s life so much fun than mine? Or hey, why wasn’t I invited to that party? Or, Wow, that’s great that your 6-week-old sleeps through the night. Congrats.

On this topic, one of my writing buddies wisely said, “Don’t compare your inner world to someone else’s outer world.” Meaning, someone’s life might look great on social media but you don’t know what that person is thinking and feeling. And if I just posted all the highlights of my summer online, my life might seem more than fun than it really is on a day-to-day basis. Weekend trips to Portland, the beach, a toddler-free hike at Tamolitch Falls, a visit to the Wildlife Safari. Or I could go back in time and throw in some of my life highlights if I really wanted to skew reality and make others jealous.

Look at that! A giraffe right outside our car window! My life is exciting!

Look at that! A giraffe right outside our car window! My life is exciting!

2) Annoyance. Sometimes status updates are just annoying. Thankfully, I rarely see annoying political posts, because I’ve hid the few people who are obnoxious about politics. My annoyance is more along the lines of: Glad I could find out about your important life event via your FB status update! (This is reserved for former close friends, members of my wedding party, etc., not random co-workers or people I used to go to church with).

Though, undoubtedly to me the most annoying person on Facebook is The Narcissist. Need I elaborate? I’m sure you have at least one, if not many, Narcissists within your social media circle. The friend who posts just a few too many selfies, always in a bit too perfect lighting, always with a bit too perfect of a pose. The Narcissist would not, as I have done, post of photo of herself holding her newborn baby after staying up all night in labor — wearing no makeup and not having showered for several days. The Narcissist would however post several shirtless photos of himself that nicely highlighted his washboard abs. If you are The Narcissist, I doubt that you recognize yourself in these words. But if you do recognize yourself here then I would say to you a) Maybe there’s more to life than being really really ridiculously good-looking but also b) Congrats! Recognizing you have a problem is the first step to getting better. Then again, maybe I’m just jealous that I don’t photograph well.

3) Who is that person? Most of my Facebook friends are people I only vaguely know. Malcolm Gladwell wrote that the human brain is only designed to handle a community of about 150 people, and only about a dozen close relationships. So even if I have more than 300 Facebook friends, my brain cannot really keep track of more than 150 of those relationships. And is it healthy to keep so many random acquaintances in our online community? Like, do I need to read updates about someone I met once 5 years ago?

Am I just a cranky, anti-social depressive? Perhaps. But I do enjoy talking to people about the interesting things happening in their lives. I’ll even look at your vacation photos if we hang out in person. It’s all just a bit overwhelming, impersonal, and out-of-context when I look at my Facebook News Feed. I have a hope that if I get rid of Facebook, I may put more effort into connecting with friends directly via phone, e-mail and hanging out.

What do you think about Facebook? Do you enjoy using it? Did you cancel your account years ago and feel that your life is better without it? Or is it a necessary evil?

 

 

Well I’m having a bit of a rough day, so I figure a good way to lift my spirits is to do something nice for someone else and send out some virtual hugs. I’m thankful to Teresa from Motherhood: The Journey of a New Mom for nominating me for a Liebster Award. This came at the exact moment I was lamenting to my husband that my blog was not as successful as I would like it to be and maybe wasn’t worth the time commitment. So thanks Teresa for giving me a little bit of encouragement when I was needing it! It’s always nice to hear that someone has read and appreciated my blog.

I would like to go through the official steps of accepting the award (writing 11 facts about myself, answering 11 questions, thinking of 11 questions for other bloggers to answer, nominating 11 blogs with less than 200 followers), but realistically I don’t think I’ll get around to it. But I will take a moment to answer 3 of Teresa’s questions and send out virtual hugs to 3 bloggers whose work I enjoy.

3 Questions:

1. What made you start a blog? I started this blog because I have always loved to write and had some extra time since becoming a stay-at-home mom. I also wanted to document my experiences as a mommy.

2. Coffee or tea? Tea for sure. If you’re ever in Portland, be sure to visit my favorite tea shop, Tea Chai Te.

3. How did you choose your child’s name? I think names are very important! knew that I wanted Joy to be part of her name, because I want her to be a joyful person, and we agreed on that as her middle name. I chose Marie for her first name because Marie is my middle name as well as my mom’s, also for the biblical name Mary.

Virtual Hugs:

So in lieu of passing on the Liebster Award, I’m giving virtual hugs to several bloggers whose work I enjoy! You guys are fabulous!  Be sure to check out these great blogs.

1. Lemon and Mayonaise (lemonandmayonaise.com): This is an excellent blog for discovering eclectic music. Also this blog has a nice aesthetic.

2. Two Oregonians (twooregonians.com): An around-the-world travel blog with amazing photos. I was happy to have the opportunity to live vicariously through Ted and Bethany’s travels. Start with Peru and work your way back around to Oregon.

3. The Ten Thousand Hour Mama (tenthousandhourmama.com): Another great Oregon-based mama blog about the ups and downs of parenting an infant.

What’s a blog that you’ve enjoyed and would recommend to others?

 

 

 

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