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If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my journey as a mom, it’s that I can’t do it alone. And it’s not enough just to have my husband’s help – even though I appreciate him and he is a huge support financially and emotionally.

I guess before Marie was born I really thought Spencer and I could handle it all on our own.

I’ve never been more wrong about anything.

I don’t want to spend too much time reminiscing about the details of Marie’s newborn phase. It was so much harder than I could have imagined beforehand. She was healthy, but I had breastfeeding challenges as well as a difficult physical recovery from birth. We made it through, thanks in large part to my mom and mother-in-law who frequently spent the night on weekends to help care for Marie in the night and give Spencer and I some longer stretches of sleep.

Once we made it through the newborn phase, the isolation of being a stay-at-home mom with a baby kicked in. I developed postpartum depression and anxiety, and probably even PTSD from the birth and newborn ordeal. I had nothing on my calendar anymore, and each day seemed to go on forever until my husband came home and I had someone else to talk to.

Yes, I should have sought counseling but I didn’t have health insurance and didn’t think we had the financial resources to pay for counseling out-of-pocket. But the thing that helped get me through was seeking out community. I realized I couldn’t spend so much time alone with my baby anymore, so I tried to engage with community in whatever ways were available to me. I went to:

  • library story times
  • mom & baby yoga
  • baby sign language class
  • mom writing group
  • MOPS

We moved back to my hometown so I could get more support from my family, and I found new sources of community here. We had another baby. Now, my first child is nearing age 4 and I’m still a stay-at-home mom, but I don’t feel isolated anymore. The days go by quickly. I’ve found community through my family, MOPS, church, and preschool. I’m busy chauffering Marie to preschool and play dates and working a few hours a week as a publicist for her choir.

My pastor said yesterday that community is messy, but it’s the only way. It’s so true. Relationships with other people can be challenging. We all have our sharp edges and annoying habits. When we seek community we’ll experience awkward moments, and sometimes rejection. But we’ll also find deep and meaningful relationships.

Recently I’ve had the experience of reconnecting with old friends from various stages of life – from grad school, college, high school and even elementary school. Even though several of these people I hadn’t seen for years – I still felt that we connected when we got together. Once you build a close connection with someone, you can often get it back even if you’ve been out of touch for awhile. So I think the reward of building real friendships is more than worth the possible risk of rejection. Quality friendships are priceless.

No mom is an island.

What are some ways that you’ve found community as a mom?

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If you’re a mom with young children and you’re looking for a community of other moms, consider checking out MOPS or your local chapter of Moms Club. Also, I thought that mom & baby yoga was pretty awesome.

 

 

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As you may know, we recently moved from Portland back to my hometown of Eugene. Although it was time for us to leave Portland, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to live there for seven years. Some of the things I will miss most about Portland are:

* The Zoo. Marie’s favorite place. We had a membership and were visiting quite frequently. When we first moved to Portland I even got to work at the zoo as a marketing intern. I even got to feed one of the elephants! Still I’m sure we will still visit the zoo several times a year.

* Restaurants. Portland has a great restaurant scene and we will miss some of our favorite spots including: Por Que No?, Lardo, Ken’s Artisan Pizza/Bakery, Grand Central Bakery, Screen Door, Pine St. Biscuits, Oaks Bottom Pub and the Belmont food carts. And the best margaritas ever at Nuestro Cocina.

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A spicy margarita from Portland’s Nuestro Cocina.

* Theophilus Church. For the past four years we had the chance to be a part of a new church that started in the Hawthorne neighborhood. It was great fun because we knew the pastors, AJ & Quinn, from when we’d lived in Eugene. AJ was even my husband’s roommate one year in college. We had the chance to watch the church grow from a small group of people meeting in a living room into a medium-sized church of 100 + attendees per Sunday. Prior to that we attended Imago Dei for three years, which I also loved for its great sermons, social activism and community of artists.

* Gorge hikes. Loved, loved, loved hiking in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. My favorite was the Eagle Creek hike even though the uneven terrain caused me to have a debilitating knee injury.

* Friends and family. Well it goes without saying that we will miss all our friends and family who still live in the Portland area. We had the chance to get to know a lot people during our 7 years in Portland, mainly through church and my master’s program at George Fox.

However, in spite of all that I am very excited to be here in Eugene because I strongly feel that this is God’s will for us at this time. And I’m finding that I appreciate Eugene so much more now than I ever did before. Here are some things I’m loving about Eugene right now:

* Lack of traffic. Compared to Portland and other big cities, Eugene basically doesn’t have traffic. I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was to me until I got here. I was having frequent anxiety attacks when driving around in Portland and that’s not really an issue for me here.

* Access to nature. Eugene is a smaller town so it is much easier to access nature. Rather than driving 30 + minutes to go hiking, I can drive 5 minutes to go hike Spencer’s Butte.

Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, one of my favorite hiking spots.

Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, one of my favorite hiking spots.

* More great restaurants. Eugene has a lot of great restaurants for a town of its size (approx. 150,000).  I will give a shout-out here to Anatolia, Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen, Taco Loco and Sweet Life. These are our old favorites and we’re excited to discover new favorites.

* Connecting with a new church. This is only the second week we’ve visited, so there’s a chance it may not become our new church home, but so far I’m very excited about University Fellowship Church. I’ve been enjoying the sermons and the worship and Marie has been tolerating her time in the toddler room. I love that the pastor also preaches on Sunday evenings at the Oregon State Penitentiary. Also I’ve been thinking that I really want to join a choir and this morning they announced they are putting together a Christmas choir. Basically it seems to me like a great fit. Although it meets in the gym of my old high school, which is slightly weird. But really it’s been so long since high school that it doesn’t bother me. Plus I have mostly positive memories of high school anyway.

* Family and friends. Yes, we have family and friends here too. In fact one of the main reasons I wanted to move back here was to be closer to my family. It’s been really great having my parents and grandmother so nearby. I’m also excited to have the chance to reconnect with some of my old friends here and to make new friends as well.

 

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After 7 years of marriage and almost 10 years of being in a relationship with my husband, I think I can articulate our main source of conflict: Household chores. Basically I am a Type A, Carpe Diem, task-oriented person. I often view life as a to-do list and I like to accomplish as much as possible. My husband is more laid back and likes to put off tasks that he finds unpleasant.

I think it is great that God brought us together because we can help balance each other out. I mean, who really wants to hang out with someone who always thinks of life a to-do list? It could be kind of annoying…which is probably why I don’t have that many friends (Haha, well actually I am blessed to have some very wonderful friends in spite of my character flaws). He can help me relax and I can help him focus and get things done. But it often becomes a source of conflict because I get stressed out when tasks are not completed. For the last four or so years my husband has often worked on weekend mornings, and I typically use Saturday mornings to do a lot of chores. I like getting things done at the beginning of the weekend so that I have the rest of the weekend free to have fun.

When my husband does have a weekend off, he usually likes to relax on Saturday mornings. This is understandable since his job is very physically demanding and he works a lot of hours. But it conflicts with my preferred way of doing things, so I often end up arguing with him tasks that need to be accomplished. Clearly getting into an argument is unproductive for various reasons. So, I’ve decided that if it’s important to my happiness to clean on Saturday morning, then I will clean on Saturday morning. My husband can and should relax if that’s what he wants to do. He does contribute around the house and I know he will continue to do so…it just may not always be on the exact time schedule that I prefer. That is okay. After 7 years I’ve realized, I would rather let it go than waste time and energy arguing about it. So perhaps I am a slow learner.

This is part of living in community. You don’t always get things done exactly the way you’d like them to be. If I lived alone, my mess would be my own and I could clean it when I wanted. I wouldn’t be wakened in the night by my daughter and I wouldn’t have to share my space with my husband’s golf clubs, wine collection and pool cue. (And he wouldn’t have to share his space with my book collection). But I would be lonely. Living in community is messy and complicated but I strongly believe that God’s intention for us is to live in community. I’m blessed to have my husband and our little daughter to live with. And now we also have my grandmother and my parents living within 5 minutes of us. Four generations of family. It goes so against the “I can do it myself” American spirit of individualism. But it seems just right. So as little Marie would say, “Amen.”

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhenry/121508919/”>Liz Henry</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

 

Dear former BFF,

I’m thankful for the years of friendship we had, even though it seems now that our friendship was only ever meant to be a temporary thing, and not a lifelong thing as my mom had been told in a dream so many years ago.  I still remember how, although you didn’t know me, you cheerfully invited me to your sixth birthday party, while we stood on the steps outside our school. I attended and we were all entertained by Sparkles the clown. My hippie parents were undoubtedly thrilled that I had befriended one of the only brown kids in school.

It’s easy for little children to make friends, isn’t it? We were so open then, not like we are now. I still remember the sleepovers, the Michael Jackson dance contests, the endless rounds of Monopoly. How we started a band in third grade and we really thought we might become famous, though none of us played an instrument. Then in fifth grade, I remember how I was going to a different middle school and you told me that you wanted to make sure we stayed friends.

In high school we were reunited. We got our first jobs together, conducting marketing surveys over the phone. Remember the weirdos who went through training with us? There was the guy who dropped a condom on the floor, looking at us while he slowly picked it up. And there was that other guy who called his mom to come pick him up next to the jail, “where he’d gotten bailed out that one time.” We only worked there for about a week.

I remember the New Year’s Eve trip to San Francisco with our other best friends, and the time our theater group shared a poster with Slick Rick. And in college, there was the time you stole a kazoo from my ex-boyfriend’s bathroom, and the time our drunk friend got locked in a dorm stairwell overnight. Most of all, I remember the laughter – no one could ever make me laugh like you could.

I’m sorry for the ways in which I failed you as a friend. I can think of a few, and you can probably think of more. Still, I don’t understand why you stopped returning my calls. As an only child, I’m one who hangs on to friendships, who doesn’t want to let them go, and so I’m almost always the last one to call. But it hurt the most when it was you. You were the best of friends, until suddenly you weren’t.

Nine years later, you’ve moved on, and so have I. I have other best friends – my husband, my daughter, my mom. I have lots of good friends from my new, adult life. I wish we could be friends again like we used to be, but time has changed us, and we can’t ever go back to that place where we stood, two first graders on the steps outside our elementary school, fulfilling MLK’s dream without even knowing.

Me with my new best friend.

Me and my new best friend.

I want to make new friends, but I’m too tired. Plus I forget how.

Probably the first step is to leave the apartment. Which I actually have been doing quite a bit lately. Mondays Baby Bear and I go to sign language class, Tuesdays to the library and on Wednesdays it’s yoga. We try to keep a busy schedule. Hence, I have not been updating my blog.

Going to these activities is great. They provide fun ways for Baby Bear and I to interact, and allow us both to see a little bit of the world. I’m feeling much happier than I did when we sat at home all the time.  However, I kind of wish I could make friends with some of the other moms in these classes.

But how to make friends? If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve never been great at making friends even in the best of situations. Maybe it has to do with being an only child. Or being really nerdy. Whatever. Either way, I’m just an extrovert wannabe.

This is not to say that I don’t have friends. I do. I have some wonderful friends. But it has taken years to make them.

I’ve read How to Win Friends and Influence People. It helped. I now have a general sense of how to converse at a dinner party. If you haven’t read it, the basic gist is: 1) smile 2) ask people lots of questions 3) remember their names 4) give compliments 5) never tell someone that they are wrong – even if they are.

Number 5 is kind of hard. Working on that one. All of them can be hard when you haven’t really slept much for 6 months, actually.

I have made one new friend lately. We’ve been spending a lot of time together. Some might say we’re even best friends. She’s not potty-trained yet, but she does have an amazing sense of humor. Her laugh can light up the whole room.

Me with friends — yes, I have them!