Life and Love in Uganda

After Joseph and I were married we moved into his apartment. There is really no way to describe those first few days of marriage. The strangeness of someones else’s home suddenly becoming your own. Joseph made room on his shelves for my clothes even though we were only going to be there a few days. Sunday, the day after the wedding was spent mostly on church activities and visiting with his family. Monday morning we woke up in our little apartment, crawled out of bed and sat in our pj’s eating left over wedding cake and opening gifts from our reception.

Joseph left for work and I pulled out some tubs and started doing some much needed laundry. I could see the women in the houses next to ours watching me in my clumsy efforts to fill the jerry can repeatedly to fill the tubs. I started scrubbing the clothes and it wasn’t long before two girls from across the street came over and begged to help me.

With their help it wasn’t long before I had two full lines filled with our dripping wet but clean clothes. The girls didn’t stop there they used the cleanest of the remaining water to wash the floors in our house and finally to clean our porch. They were so friendly and we laughed and talked as we worked together. I gave them some treats from the box of things that I still had left from what I had brought with me from Utah and we visited, looked at pictures and talked until their mothers called for them from across the street.

The following morning Joseph woke me early to tell me he was leaving to go get a truck to help us move our things to our new apartment. Joseph’s apartment was not within a gated compound and he felt that it was safer for me to be inside a gate. He left and I started packing our things. I opened a drawer in a large cabinet that Joseph had and was met by three LARGE scurrying roaches. I screamed bloody murder and ran from the house almost tripping over my feet in my hurry to get away from them.

My neighbors say on their porches laughing. I could see that they were thinking, “crazy mazungu” but they didn’t say it. I had gotten to know the two families that shared a porch with Joseph and I during the time that we were dating. They were very kind and had known Joseph since he was a boy. About the time I bolted out the front door I was greeted by the missionaries looking for my husband. They took care of the roaches for me and when Joseph arrived with the truck they helped us load everything up and take it to our new apartment.

The next few days felt a little like living in one of my favorite pioneer era novels. I cleaned walls and floors, Joseph had an old cabinet whose glass top had broken that he was about the throw out. I had convinced him to keep it and I used a piece of plywood covered in laminate and nailed to the top as a counter top. I purchased a couple of basin’s from the market and asked Joseph to get the largest water jug he could find and put a spout on the bottom of it for me. He did and after propping it up on some bricks it fit perfectly over the basin and created a make shift sink. By leaving a couple of nails sticking out the sides of the cabinet I had hooks to hang hot pads, rags, and towels on.

I had found some sheets that we weren’t using and a little sewing kit with needles and thread that Joseph had and sewed some curtains using string and nails to string them up to serve as cupboard doors for our shelves. It would make a perfect cabinet to store our food. Sister Casperson, one of the Senior missionary couples had given me a cutting board, and several empty cookie containers that worked perfectly as canisters to store flour, beans, rice, and other food. I went shopping and filled our shelves so that I would be able to cook us dinner. I was pretty proud of my little kitchen!

Figuring out how to cook on the charcoal stove was a little harder. After several failed attempts at starting the coals on fire I went to knock on the neighbors door to ask for help. Her name was Josephine and she was very kind. She came and showed me how to melt a plastic bag and use the dripping plastic to start a fire, she showed me how to fan the coals until they began to turn white and then red. Finally the coals were hot enough and the smoke had stopped enough to put a pan of rice on to cook.

Charcoal StoveThe rice cooked surprisingly fast and when it was done I was at a loss as to how to turn the coals off. So I decided to boil some water, and when that still didn’t use up all the coals I decided to try my hand at making a cake. I had some fresh pineapple and I decided to make a pineapple cake. It was an old muffin recipe actually that my family had used a lot when I was growing up. I just poured it all into the one pan since I didn’t have a muffin tin and decided to call it cake. I filled the pan with the sweet pineapple filled batter and set the pan inside another pan as I had seen other women do. I put a lid on it and covered the lid with hot coals. I was surprised about twenty minutes later to see the golden brown top of the cake and smell the sweet goodness inside and know that i had baked my first cake over charcoal.

While it was cooking I chopped some vegetables that I had purchased at the market and made a makeshift african version of hawaiian haystacks. I think Joseph was surprised to come home and see that his wife actually did know how to cook something for his dinner. We piled our plate high and each took a fork and dug in. I don’t know why we did it that way that night but we somehow started a tradition of eating our dinner together off the same plate. After that day, Each night when I would cook we just filled one plate and always ate together. It was a time I will never forget!

 

 

Preparing for Baby

When I got pregnant it seemed so unreal to me. It seemed that nine months would take forever. Now, here I am at 35 weeks with just five more to go! I am more excited than ever about my baby boy. And now the preparations for him to join us have begun in earnest. I’ve been washing baby clothes and blankets and putting them in the drawer. I’ve been gathering diapers and all the other things that I will need to care for him.

Mom wearing Daddy's BYU shirt at 35 weeks.

Mom wearing Daddy’s BYU shirt at 35 weeks.

I’ve been preparing myself mentally and physically for the birth. And I’ve got to admit…I am almost as excited about the experience of birth as I am for the experience of having a baby. Call me crazy but I have been reading, watching videos and learning about everything childbirth related for a very long time. It’s made actually getting to experience pregnancy so much fun.

So here are a few things that surprised me.

1.) The term carrying a baby is a bit misleading. I kind of always imagined carrying a little baby around in my belly for nine months waiting for the day it would be born….NOT THE CASE. Your body is working hard, and you feel it! It’s not “carrying a baby” It’s creating a human. Its growing organs, bones, skin, developing brains, lungs and all kinds of abilities. It’s sustaining a heart beat, a digestive system, its providing blood, regulating temperature and a million other things. Your body literally becomes a factory! And its the most amazing thing ever!

2.) I had no idea how much work there was in preparing the body for delivery. I kind of thought that when it came time to have the baby that’s when the work began. I had no idea that bones are softening and moving, that ligaments are stretching, squeezing and accommodating, Every part of your body begins preparing for the delivery almost as soon as you get pregnant and you feel that too!

3.) I knew I would be excited and happy to be pregnant. I had no idea it would be so fulfilling, bring so much peace and contentment, that love would grow so quickly and not just for my baby. That the spirit of the baby would be so present and so real and that nothing in this world would be as important to me as he is.

Another thing I have been doing to prepare for this baby is baby showers! I honestly didn’t expect them to be this much fun. I’ve always felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable receiving gifts and having a party specifically for me. But this was actually kind of fun. One of the things that I enjoyed the most was a little activity that my sister Hannah put together for the shower.

Each person was given a piece of paper shaped like a onesie to write some advice for me as the mom. Everyone wrote wonderful things, but here are a few of my favorites.

From my sister Hannah here are just five of her ten pieces of really good advice. 1.) Don’t make me change his dirty diapers. I offer 3 times a week, that’s all. 2.) Keep some spare diapers, not for him, but for you because after kids, bladders just aren’t the same. 3.) stock up on chocolate 4.) Raise him with a musical background 5.) Don’t worry. He’ll be an awesome kid.

From a dear friend…When you want to cry, do it. remember you were meant to do this, so when you don’t know what to do, pray. It is His child too and He wants you to succeed.

From a sister that I have always looked up to…See the world through your child’s eyes, don’t expect to be a perfect parent.

From a loving mother, Always be a friend to Preston and listen to what he has to say, most of all enjoy him and give him lots of love.

From a sister with a 2 year old…If you don’t have a lot of patience you will learn to have it.

From a sister without any children, but who still gives really good advice. Remember Netflix can wait.

From Preston’s (biological grandma, not that it matters) Love Preston enough to have the courage to do what is best for him instead of what is easiest for you.

and last but not least from a niece whom I love like a daughter…Remember to do the same things you did with me. So pretty much love that baby as much as you love me!

They also were given a list to complete of hopes for Preston. People hoped many beautiful things for him such as…

I hope you love: hugs, your parents, your life, music, sleep, God above all else, safari animals, deeply, and unconditionally.

I hope you become: A strong man, a dreamer, confident and successful, a handsome dude, firm in your faith, and a big brother.

I hope you don’t: keep your mom awake all night (keeping my fingers crossed for this one!), give up when trials come, ever forget that I love you, forget to pray, run from failure, experience prejudice, feel hopeless, get left at the store, cry a lot, sell yourself short.

The list goes on with many beautiful and sometimes funny sentiments. It will be something fun to leave for Preston when he grows up.

And now, just got to keep this kid happy and relaxed until its time to be born. At this point we both feel like he is “running out of womb!”

 

My Husband

You know when people post those sappy I have the best husband in the world comments on Facebook? yeah this is going to be one of those. So if that’s not really your thing feel free to pass this one by. Last night my husband said some pretty sweet things to me and I wanted to save it somewhere. Since I haven’t really kept a journal anywhere since I started this blog I decided that I want to save that here, share it with any who care to read and also, I know that there are a number of people who have questioned why after only knowing him such a short time I was willing to change my life so dramatically and marry Joseph. This should answer that question.

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Last night as Joseph and I were skyping he saw a picture of one of my friends on Facebook. “You are prettier than she is” he admitted to me. I laughed, “well since I am your wife I’m sure glad you think so I told him”

“No,” he sounded a little defensive, “I’m not saying that because I’m your husband, I’m saying it because it’s true”

“Well, I’m not sure her husband would agree” I answered.

Then I fished a bit for further compliments…because well, I guess I’m just like that.

“So what if you met a girl who is prettier than I am?” I asked him

Of course the correct answer to this is “No one is prettier than you are!” and I would know that it was only half-true, and that he was only saying that because it was in fact the right answer.

But true to the Joseph that I know he didn’t give the right answer, he gave one much better. “well if she was prettier than you I would have to ask myself what she has to offer,” he said.

My feelings started to get hurt…

“I would ask myself, would she be as patient as you have been? Would she be as willing to be a mother? Would she be as supportive of me in my work, my callings, and my dreams? Would she be as good at planning and at conversation as you are? Would she love me and sacrifice for me the way you have. Would she love the Lord as purely as you do? and the answer would always be No.”

I started to interrupt but he stopped me.

“I was promised that I would receive a handmaid of the Lord, and that’s what I got a “hand-made” of the Lord, A girl who was molded and carefully prepared to be perfect for me.”

I wanted to cry. Once again he had given me the perfect answer to a dumb question.

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Communication is sometimes difficult. Cultural and language differences do play a part. Like the time I showed him an adorable little shirt that my sister bought for baby Preston. It said “Chicks dig Chubby Dudes” He didn’t even crack a smile. Don’t you think its cute? I asked,

“well, he responded it is cute. But I want our son to feel proud of himself.”

Or the time that my dad threatened to take me back and keep me as his daughter if Joseph didn’t hurry and come and Joseph thought he was serious.

Sometimes those things are funny, and sometimes through the misunderstanding we hurt each other.

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Joseph and I don’t have a perfect marriage. Before I got married I knew that married couples argued but I couldn’t imagine what there would ever be that I would argue with my husband over. I looked forward to finding out. And boy did I find out! I was surprised at how easy it is to get your feelings hurt when you love someone like you love a husband. I was surprised at how angry I would get over somewhat little things, how sometimes, I would be angry at him just because he wouldn’t get angry back!

It was hard for him to adjust to married life, to not being able to just do what he wanted when he wanted. There were times when I cooked dinner and waited in our empty house alone for hours while the dinner got cold and he didn’t show up. It was hard for me to adjust to someone else having an opinion that mattered, especially when that opinion differed from mine. Marriage is NOT easy.

There were even times when I wondered why I had gotten myself into this.

But I always remembered the answer to that question. It was because I KNEW that Joseph was a good man, who loved the Lord, who was always willing to change, who knew how to say I’m sorry, who was honest with me even when I wasn’t going to like it. I knew I could count on him to lead our family, I knew his devotion to me, to the gospel, and to our marriage was unshakable, I knew that he had similar ideals and standards that I did. I also knew that his dreams, his plans, and his path in life paralleled mine and that we would be better walking that path together than apart.

When I knew that Joseph loved me, I felt that if we married I would be marrying up. I would be marrying someone where I would be getting the better part of the deal. And the best part was that I knew he knew the worst things about me and that in spite of them he felt the same of me. I knew he felt that he was the one actually getting the better part of the bargain.

and so, when he showed he was ready to move forward, by asking me to marry him

and when I felt peace and contentment, trust and respect at the thought of a life with him.

I said yes.

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The worst swear word ever is the D word.

For some reason lately I have been really feeling the need to write about an intensely personal topic that I really haven’t written much about, anywhere. And then today I read this blog post and that need just increased.

http://www.designmom.com/2014/03/mental-health-update/#more-45245

I have had family members suffer with various mental health issues before and I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of it. I knew that depression wasn’t about mood. It wasn’t about “trying to be happy” I thought that I understood enough that I wouldn’t feel shame associated with a physical disease no different from Diabetes.

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But in the last couple of weeks as I have contemplated sharing my story I have felt all kinds of shame. I have wondered about who might possibly read it if I wrote about my experience and what they might think of me. I thought maybe if only strangers read it I would be ok with that. Or other times maybe if only family read it I would be ok with that, perhaps they would judge me less.

In the end I realized that I still feel shame in it. Which means that I still don’t fully “get” the significance of the illness that I suffered from.

Looking back I can see that I was depressed a good portion of my life. As I kid I thought about dying quite a lot. I thought about what a relief it would be to finish this life, I thought about lots of different way to die, to kill myself, and yes let’s be honest even on occasion killing others. Not that I ever wanted to but I thought about it more than is “normal.” I thought about how one might go about killing someone, or where you would hide the body etc.

About the time I was 15 something changed, the fog lifted and I felt differently. I felt alive.

Later when I was enrolling at UVU an instructor gave me a survey to fill out. One of the questions was how often do you think about suicide, sometimes, often or never. I chose sometimes. The instructor was shocked, she took me aside and explained that, that is not an ok answer. I thought it was normal. I told her that I hadn’t thought about it recently but that I had quite a lot as a kid. She made me promise that if I ever found myself thinking that way again that I would contact her.

Then in 2008 it came back. It started slowly at first. Little things like just feeling anxious and foggy. Then I started to feel like it would be a really nice feeling to die. Then one day I was at work, I was playing around with a razor blade and remembered that old lotion commercial from the 80′s where the woman writes the word dry on her arm with her fingernail.

I wrote it with the tip of the blade, thinking I was just lightly scratching, the same as I would if it was my finger nail. Then I went back to work and had the most peaceful productive couple of hours I had experienced in a long time. I was focused and driven, calm and my head seemed quiet. It wasn’t until several hours into it that I noticed something sticky on my arms and hands. It was blood. I didn’t even know that I had cut myself deep enough to bleed.

About a week later I was running across a parking lot in the rain. I slipped and fell and scratched my knee. It started to bleed. I was surprised that instead of feeling pain I felt an intense desire to see it continue to bleed, I wanted to keep bleeding until all the blood was drained from my body. I felt sad when it clotted and the bleeding stopped.

Thats when I discovered that one little slice, anywhere on my body would make the internal pain go away. I knew it was crazy. I was a psychology major! Just the last semester I had taken abnormal psychology and I knew what I was doing. And yet somehow it seemed different. The fact that it physically made me feel better somehow made it seem ok and even rational to me.

The cuts mostly stayed little and just deep enough to bleed enough to calm my head. I always cut where it wouldn’t show. But each cut helped less than the one before and soon I found myself crying hysterically each time I cut because I couldn’t get the same quick fix.

Then one day I was home alone. All my room mates were gone. I was eating an orange and I choked on it. Really truly choked where I couldn’t breathe at all. At one point I thought, this is it, this is how I am going to die. My reaction to that thought was relief and a little excitement. Then I suddenly coughed it up. I was so disappointed I tried not to let it happen but my body was fighting to breathe.

When I realized I wasn’t going to die I decided that if the disappointment that I felt was so deep and if it wouldn’t have been evil or wrong for me to die from choking and being happy about that would it be so wrong for me to make something happen that would cause me to die? At the time I couldn’t see the difference. And I thought even if it’s wrong I don’t think Heavenly Father would really punish me for wanting to stop feeling the way I was feeling. That night I tried to cut deep and in ways and places that I knew would end my life. But nothing seemed able to penetrate my skin that night.

Finally I gave up took a couple of sleeping pills and went to bed.

In the morning, I had a moment of clarity where I realized that it wasn’t normal or ok the way I was feeling and that I needed help. I remembered the promise I had made to my instructor. That day I tracked her down, told her what I was experiencing and she went with me that day to see a doctor.

The doctor started me on Lexepro and told me to expect at least two weeks before I noticed a difference. About a week later I noticed that I seemed calmer and that the noise in my head was quieting. Within another week the thoughts and desires for death were gone. I couldn’t believe that one little pill could change my thoughts completely. I started living again, paying bills, working, doing homework, all the things that I had let go.

Three glorious months went by before I crashed hard. This time the symptoms were far more intense, much more difficult to hide. I lost my job, and my family and many of my friends found out what I was going through. I went back to the doctor and she upped my dosage and added Abilify.

After that things went from bad to worse. The noise in my head went from utter chaos to loud distinguishable voices and personalities. My own voice, thoughts and opinions became almost non existant. I couldn’t even carry on a conversation because I didn’t know what I thought about what the other person was saying. All I wanted to do was sleep and I hoped that if I slept long enough I would sink down and just become a part of the mattress.

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When I started having seizures from the medication my mom got involved and she helped me get off all the medication. I moved to a quiet vacation home that my parents had, and spent my time doing yard work and painting and decorating the house. We focused on eating properly, drinking water, and getting the best nutritional supplements we could find.

Things started to get better. I started to feel more like myself. I still had panic attacks that felt like heart attacks occasionally. I still felt the need to cut, although I could distinguish between good ideas and bad ones now and resisted the urges.

One day out of no where I got a distinct impression. Just a thought really that came so clearly into my head that I knew I had to follow it. It said to revisit a cleansing diet that I had done for 6 weeks when I was 14 years old. I followed that impression within the week and was religious about my diet for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks I felt like I had climbed up out of a deep dark hole.

As time went on I felt more and more distance between me and that hole and every year I take six weeks out of the year and do my special diet. It just sort of jump-start for my body. It’s been a good three years, since I have even felt frightened by that black hole. Every so often I feel myself approach it, and I know that I need to eliminate some stress and do whatever it takes to move away from it again.

I feel so blessed that I found something that worked for me. It’s a struggle that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy and yet, in spite of the struggle that I know that it is, in spite of the fact that I certainly did not choose to experience that, I still feel shame, deep humiliating shame that tells me that there must be something “wrong” with me and if people only knew they would shut me up like a “crazy person.”

Medication works for some. It didn’t for me. But I found something that did and that’s what is important. Everyone needs a solution. Ignoring this problem won’t make it go away. So I would love to know…

What was your solution?

 

 

I am going to be Someone’s Mother!

I woke up early this morning. (Not something that happens to me, hardly ever!) And I couldn’t go back to sleep so I decided to write a few of my feelings about being a mother. Today makes 31 weeks for me and I find myself counting down and thinking in terms of how many weeks I have left instead of far I am. 9 weeks left and its starting to feel so real.

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30 weeks!

I’ve wanted a baby almost for as long as I can remember. I was 9 when my first baby sister was born. I was so excited. They brought her home from the hospital and my mom let me give her her first bath. She showed me how to steam the bathroom so that it was nice and warm, to check the bath water so that it was just the right temperature for her little body. she showed me how to hold her so that she would be comfortable during the experience. When I was finished I rubbed her little body down with lotion and dressed her in a little pink nightgown. And then I had to hand her off to Mother to be fed and put to bed.

I remember walking down the stairs that day and out to the yard. It was October and my sisters where out playing in a huge pile of leaves. I felt larger than life and overwhelmed by love. I decided right then in that moment that the greatest thing a woman could ever experience was to have a baby and I couldn’t wait to have mine. I sank down into the pile of leaves with my sisters and I told them that I would get married when i was 16 years old. (I knew that, was the earliest possible time that it was legal to be married) and that, I still had 7 years to wait and I didn’t know how I would make it.

When I turned 16, marriage was no where in sight but I did get another little blessing. My niece came into my life and gave me a taste of what it might feel like to be a mom. As I cared for her, got up with her during the night and rocked her until I felt my arms would fall off trying to get her to sleep I felt a swelling within me and a longing like I had never known before. I also felt a sense of peace and satisfaction that I had never known before and I believed that the most meaningful thing that I could ever do in my life would be to be a mother, to care for children, whether I had given birth to them myself or not.

My niece and I

My niece and I

The years continued to go by with marriage never presenting itself as a viable option. I got caught up in school and work and I loved what I was doing. I had great room mates, I was dating, I was having fun. Children started to annoy me a little. They were noisy, often smelly, and they NEVER seemed to stop moving. I loved the easy flow of work in the office, I loved the challenges and the deadlines. It wasn’t messy and chaotic like raising children. It was structured and fulfilling. I felt like a success. I worried that all those years of longing for children were gone and now  by the time I actually had them I wouldn’t want them anymore.

I went to visit an older sister one day. She had 10 children. Before I left her house all of her children got together and sang for me. They had beautiful voices, beautiful faces, but more than anything as I sat watching them, their voices melting perfectly together, the oldest looking somewhat bored and detached and the youngest, her face animated and alive with every word that she sang, I realized that these were human beings, 645 2these were people, lives that my sister had created! They would go on, they had their futures ahead of them! 794she was teaching them, raising them to be good upstanding people. Because of her they would experience all that life had to offer. I saw her love for them reflected in her eyes and I saw an unspeakable bond between mother and child and I KNEW that there was nothing, no work, no experience that I would ever have that would be more fulfilling than that of being a mother.800

But I worried it would never happen for me. That baby sister that I had bathed so carefully had grown up and was a woman now looking to get married herself.

Me with my two grown up, baby sisters.

Me with my two grown up, baby sisters.

I felt old and hopeless. My boyfriend had just broken up with me, and marriage seemed so far away. I went to bed one night sobbing and aching for what I thought I might never have. It wasn’t a new experience. I had done that many times over the 15 years I had been waiting for this blessing.

This night however, I dreamed a dream. It shook me, it was more real than anything. It was so special. I dreamed that my son came to me as a strapping young man. He held me while I cried, and encouraged me to hold on, to be patient. He promised he was coming and that it would all be worth the wait. He brought two others with him, but he was the one that really affected me. Whenever I had thought about being a mom I had imagined having a baby. I never imagined a boy taller than I am, handsome and strong. I never imagined him comforting me assuring me that all would be well. He was my hero and Oh I loved him like nothing I had ever experienced. When it came time for him to leave I begged him to stay, but he couldn’t. He promised that it was just around the corner and that I needed to hang on and be patient a little longer.

I woke aching to hold him.

Now, just about two years later I lay here in bed feeling a little body squirming and kicking inside. I feel love so real and tangible for the baby inside of me that I hold my belly loving the feel of having him so close and I cry with happiness. This boy and I who have faced this lonely pregnancy together will soon be going through the birth experience together as well. He has been my rock, my hero. His presence has brought so much peace. My son already feels to me somewhat like the man that I hope he will be one day.

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He is a human being. In about 9 more weeks, he will start his life. He will start his one chance at mortality. He will start making the decisions that will shape his eternity! Nine weeks! I feel overwhelmed that I am his mother. That I am responsible to give him everything he needs to be successful. That I am being entrusted with the fragileness of his new life, of his soul, fresh from heaven.

I feel overwhelmed with Joy that my time has finally come. That one day soon a little person will call me mom. He is the best reason for living that I have ever had, and for the first time in my life I feel that there is someone else that I could live for. That no matter what happened in my own life there was someone else who is more important than anyone or anything in this world. I would live for him, I would die for him. My little Preston has become the center of my universe and my heart is as full as my belly!

THIS is how it Should be.

I’ve been feeling sorry for myself lately. Feeling sorry about all the things that I DON”T have. For years now I have been watching my friends and seeing all the things, and opportunities that they have and feeling bad that I haven’t had the same. I had one room-mate who got to participate in all kinds of sports and extra activities throughout college and high school. I did high school alone in my bedroom without even a teacher. Even in college I was supporting myself, working, and couldn’t afford to do anything except just what I needed to do to graduate.

I wished I had, had the same opportunity that she had through those experiences.

I had another room-mate whose parents paid to put her through all of her schooling including graduate school so that she could just focus on classes and grades. She had time to cook meals, sit at home and read books just for fun, and had a nice relaxing schedule with out the stress of worrying about how she was going to make the rent or her car payment. She had money for nice clothes and all the extras.

I wished I had, had that. But I had to accept that my past was different from theirs. My family was different from theirs. And it was ok because I had things they didn’t have. I knew my way around a kitchen because I had done so much cooking when I lived at home. I knew what if felt like to have dozens of brothers and sisters that I would do just about anything for. I had experiences and memories that were different from theirs but no less meaningful. In fact I wouldn’t have traded them for the world.

Know one else got a family like mine.

Know one else got a family like mine.

My family knows how to play together.

My family knows how to play together.

But I thought my future would be different.

One by one I watched my friends get married. They each had the beautiful wedding dresses, were married in the temple, were greeted by cheering family and friends when they came out. They had beautiful receptions and romantic honeymoons. And I thought that one day I would have all of that too.

I imagined myself marrying a handsome, return missionary, with a degree, and a good job. I imagined settling into our own home and starting a family. I imagined Sunday dinner with the in-laws who would probably get on my nerves by being a little too involved in our lives. I imagined coming out of our bathroom one morning and announcing to my husband that we were expecting a baby and seeing the surprise and joy on his face. And it didn’t seem too far out there.

Then I fell in love and got married. I got married in Uganda. No one in my family was present and none of my friends were there. We were married in a chapel instead of the temple because that is the way it is done in Uganda. The wedding, the reception, everything was beautiful and I was so happy but it was nothing like I had imagined.

After the wedding we went back to Joseph’s apartment and he went back to work. There was no honeymoon, in fact in that first week it seemed I rarely saw him before 9 pm. Next thing I knew I was squatting in a dark dingy outhouse trying to pee into a tiny dirty cup while keeping a terrified eye on the many cockroaches by the light that the small crack in the door afforded. I prayed the test would be negative. Not because I didn’t want to be pregnant but because I didn’t want to find out in this way.

“Hey!” the doc shouted from the other room. “Do you guys want to know the results of the test?” Joseph and I stood by expectantly. “It’s negative, there is nothing there.” the doctor said callously. “Now where is my money?”

Joseph paid and we left.

We found out later that we were in fact pregnant and the situation surrounding that test was much better. As I became sick and then returned home to carry the baby and prepare for its birth here I started feeling really bad about all the things that I didn’t have.

I watched my friends with their husbands and it didn’t seem fair. As the pregnancy progressed and I heard the heart beat, saw the ultra sound all with out Joseph, I felt sorry for myself. When I continued to get bigger and the weeks went by one at a time and I realized that Joseph was going to miss all of it. I wanted to cry. When we passed our six month anniversary I felt cheated. I wanted to spend my first year of marriage with my husband. I wanted him to get to experience all these things with me and I wanted time with him before our baby was born. I see my pregnant friends resting and focusing on taking care of themselves and their babies, and I am doing 13 credits of school and working trying to support myself, prepare for our baby, pay visa fees, and plan for our future on my own.

When we were denied the visitors visa and I realized that I would give birth to this baby without him and might not see him in a very long time I felt abandoned and a little angry.

But today I don’t feel any of those things. I realized today that all those things are hard because I am comparing my circumstances to others. I am looking at what other people have and assuming that somehow I deserve the same things. I realized that it’s all part of a package. I can’t demand all the same things my friends had growing up without giving up my own upbringing. And I wouldn’t trade them for the world. All the financial support and extra curricular activities in the world would never match up to what my family gave me.

You can't replace family.

You can’t replace family.

And they mean the world to me.

And they mean the world to me.

I couldn't possibly trade any of it.

I couldn’t possibly trade any of it.

The path I am walking now with Joseph comes as a package as well. Our experiences in Uganda, the sweet love letters that my husband and I write to each other on a regular basis, the strength and experience we have gained from this separation, everything about our marriage and our lives together is ours. It all comes together, the good with the bad.

Joseph and i chose to start a life together.

Joseph and i chose to start a life together.

And when you stop looking at others and thinking about what SHOULD be. You can start to see the beauty of what IS. So when I do see my husband again, and have the opportunity to place our first-born child in his arms, I will know that this is OUR experience and that THIS is how it SHOULD be.

God Bless America

I love America, I always have. I love everything that it stands for. I love the stories of bravery and incredible integrity of those men and women who made America something to be proud of. I love the stories of courage and sacrifice from men and women who understood what it meant to be free both in terms of rights as well as responsibilities. I loved the stories of people who believed that they could stand up against tyranny and succeed. Even when that tyranny came from their own king and country.

I didn’t always appreciate every aspect of it, I didn’t always know just what it meant to have the freedom of the press and just how important that right was. I never really understood the significance of certain laws and rights that I took for granted.

Then I volunteered to spend three months in Uganda, working to help bring jobs, education and better living conditions to single women there and I started to see. I started to gain a deeper understanding of what my country stands for and what those rights means. Mostly I gained an understanding for how important the system is that keeps these rights in check, the systems of law and order that made my world a safe, mostly predictable place to live.

When during that time in Uganda I met and married a Ugandan man, my world changed and my understanding changed with it. Gaining a better understanding of the protections and the rights that I had as  US Citizen, seeing by contrast what his were in his own country scared me. When I returned back to the United States I sobbed when my feet finally touched the ground and I felt a certain peace and security that I had always taken for granted. There is security in knowing that there are laws and rights and resources to go to when laws are broken or questioned. I’ve always felt protected by the system.

We knew when we married that it wouldn’t be easy to get a visa for Joseph. We knew it would probably mean being separated for a time. We did everything we knew to prepare for that and to make it as simple as possible. We crossed every T and dotted every I. I learned more about the immigration laws and system than I ever thought was possible. We were prepared to follow the path, and work through the red tape. We were prepared to utilize every resource at our disposal but we knew that in the end it would be hard. We looked forward with a sigh of sadness and with great excitement to the day that Joseph would leave his own beloved country and become a citizen of the United States. In his words he would be stars and stripes all the way.

When we applied to the United States Embassy in Kampala for a visitors visa so that Joseph could be with me when our baby is born, we were hopeful. The law says that since we had a pending spouse visa it wold be assumed that Joseph intended to stay in the US. That was understandable. Who wouldn’t want to stay with their wife and new-born baby.  We were informed that it would be up to us to prove during an interview that he intended to return. This could be proved by providing documentation showing strong ties to Uganda. Things like family, work, owning property etc. could be used as proof that he would return.

We went to work gathering documents, showing that Joseph owns a business in Uganda, in fact he had just renewed his business license for another year, we gathered documents showing that he was the president of a non-profit organization that provides help for the disabled, we had documents showing that he was contracted to do work for a company for two months following his return to Uganda, he had a speaking engagement scheduled for after his return, he had exams and a letter from a dean at the University stating as much, vouching for his character and recommending that Joseph be given a visa. His entire family is still in Uganda. We were hopeful because we had all the evidence that one could ask for. I sent a letter of invitation and bank statements showing that we could support him while he was here, and just to be sure my parents sent the same as well.

Joseph paid the $160 fee (this amount could easily have paid three months rent for us in Uganda) and excitedly boarded a taxi for the three-hour journey to Kampala to the embassy for his appointment. This visitors visa would give us a chance to spend 90 days together at the time when I would need him most, it would give him a chance to be there when his first-born child, enters this world. It would allow him to hold his new-born son before he is already walking.

His interview lasted all of about 1 min.

The letter denying him the chance to visit had been drafted before he even arrived. You were unable to provide sufficient evidence that you intend to return to Uganda at the end of your visit… was the reason he was given. He protested that he wasn’t given a chance to prove it and was sternly told to leave the embassy NOW! He was told that there could be no appeal, but that he was welcome to reapply if he wanted, he could pay the fee again and see if they would treat him fairly the next time.

As he left the woman’s office he encountered another man in the waiting room ready to fight because he too had been denied a chance to visit his wife who was delivering their child in a months time. He talked to him, calming him down and explaining that fighting would get him nothing. And they left the embassy.

Joseph’s first interaction with the United States government shook his faith in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. He had always seen America as an example to be followed. Democracy, liberty and Freedom as something to aspire to. Now he saw them as predators, stealing from innocent Ugandan civilians their hard-earned money and their hope. He saw them as a land without concern for right or laws.

So, now we wait. we contemplate leaving America to find another country that will allow our little family to be together while we wait for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn in our favor. I console myself by knowing that I am not alone in this. How many soldiers wives, give birth alone, in the early days of our church how many missionaries left their wives pregnant and sick to go on missions only to return to a two-year old child and a wife stronger for having had to do so much on her own.

I tell myself these things and yet those women can also tell themselves that their husbands are doing it for a cause. For freedom, for liberty of our country and others, for the eternal welfare of a soul. I get to do it because someone had a bad day, or decided that they didn’t want to do an actual interview, and no one thought it was worth doing anything about. So when I am tired and sick, lying in bed alone aching for someone to rub my feet or help me up to go to the bathroom yet again, when I am lying in that bed holding my first child, my newborn son in my arms and marveling at the beauty of it all and the miracle of life I can console myself in the fact that my husband is 9000 miles away because someone didn’t want to take time to look at some papers and it will make me feel so much better.

I still love America. It will always be my home. I still sing our National Anthem and my eyes still fill with tears at the heartfelt passionate lyrics

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

In fact if anything I love her more. Because I see how fragile America is and how quickly all that was fought for can be lost. And I will pray that God WILL Bless America because she is my home that I love and she needs all the prayers she can get.

The_Prayer_at_Valley_Forge_by_Arnold_Friberg