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!

 

 

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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?