Wednesday, June 29, 2016

For better or worse

Photo Cred: Lauren Michelle, Chiaro Photography 
When we get married and say, "I do", we're saying a big fat yes to the unknown.  Yeah, we have our plans and our blueprints, but we don't have any idea of the future that lies ahead, the questions we'll have to answer, the problems we'll have to face.  And it's usually when we walk into an inconvenient part of the Grander Plan that we become frail in carrying out our vows.

There will be those who, with a speck of luck and a dose of grace, have their plans line up with God's, but there will also be those who face the blunt and often harsh reality of the unexpected.  And will have to learn how to cope, adapt, and move forward.

Never did I think that Tim and I would get a taste of the 'for worse' part of our vows in our first few years of marriage.   I'm not sure why, life doesn't stop for anything, I know that.  I guess when I thought of the 'just married' and newlywed years, I thought double incomes, convenience, travel, and date nights.  The struggles that followed our settling down in our first California apartment were the typical newlywed struggles, I suppose - hard budgeting for new baby, new furniture, finding ourselves as husband and wife, who deals with bills and all that.  It was difficult, but I'm grateful for when and where we started our family and the struggles that came with it.  Those times threw us together and formed a resilient team and prepared us, I'm sure, for the harder times.

No, neither Tim nor I received some catastrophic physical diagnosis, but I was formally diagnosed with anxiety and depression.  And that mental health diagnosis has been no easy pill to swallow for either of us.  For nearly the entirety of our marriage, we've gone back and forth on how we can best cope, adapt, and move forward in the wake of that very unwanted, very unwelcome case of mental illness.  And we've struggled, individually and as a team.  Tim's had to learn to understand something that doesn't make sense, I've admittedly and unfortunately, at times, taken my shame and anger at my illness out on him.  But more than we've struggled, we've fought for our unity as a couple and our family's well-being. Tim's rearranged work schedules to take me to therapy sessions, he's packed up 6-month-old Ella and taken me to the ER at 3:30AM for what we found out was only a panic attack, he's - on some days - had to play Mr. Mom when I've been overcome with anxiety-induced depression.  He's reminded me to do my breathing exercises and has made exercising achievable by watching the kids.  He's said, "it's going to be okay" and "you're okay" more than either of us probably thought he would in our first few years as husband and wife.  As for me?  I've checked (tried to) my shame at the door morning after morning, reassured myself my dignity doesn't lie in my ability to do the grocery shopping on my own or not, sacrificed my mental well being for a healthy pregnancy, and have fought my mind each day in attempts to wholly show up for my husband and kids.

I'm aware of the toll mental battles can have on relationships, on marriages.  It's one of the top driving forces behind my not wanting to rest until I found healing.  And, just recently, less than a month ago, I started to feel some healing.  Many ER visits, 2 doctors, a couple medicines, and 3 therapists later, I've begun to feel collected, at peace.  And it's because of Tim's unwavering support and unconditional love that I've made it through to this other side.  After beginning to feel this way, I thanked him for sticking by me, that I didn't know I was depressed until I wasn't and therefore didn't know how it was affecting those around me, and expressed gratitude for taking mental illness seriously.

By now, we've learned agreeing to spend life together means agreeing to our collected and individual highs and lows.  And there will certainly be more lows ahead.  But, on this day of remembering our first "I do", I can't help but to fall to my knees and thank God for placing a guy next to me who's encouraged me to keep fighting and has never failed in picking me up.

Happy Anniversary to my guy, my partner, to the man who keeps saying, "I do" over and over.

Here's to this 'high' of our lives.  Here's to us.  Here's to you.

Our first anniversary post, our second.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Peace and gratitude

These 2...couldn't miss the opportunity for a few pictures when they were lookin' so cute!
A few weeks ago, Tim and I were sitting on the couch talking about my current treatment for anxiety. Fed up with my lack of independence, I told him my goal was to drive over a bridge by myself, that that's the kind of healing I wanted to achieve.  Earlier this week I drove downtown and then over the Columbia River by myself without having to pull over, without fear or panic.  As ordinary as this sounds, it was monumental and the victory set the tone for the rest of the week.  I was at peace and full of gratitude, and I soared through the rest of the week soaking up my regained independence.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Is this normal?

I fight first and foremost for myself because I deserve to enjoy a life freely, but I equally fight for my husband and my kids.  I put all my effort in making sure I don't pass my anxieties onto them, and I'm happy and grateful I'm one step closer to healing.
In the weeks leading up to our California trip, something wasn't right.  I had had two panic attacks in three days during which I tried convincing Tim I needed to go to the ER (we've been a handful of times for panic attacks, so he knows how to handle the situation).  My chest seemed to be in a constant state of tightness which deceived me into thinking I was always on the edge of a heart attack,  I was winded easily, my heart went through bouts of racing, I was exhausted all the time, and irritable.  It felt like my mind had been throwing me around, it was outracing me.  And it didn't matter what I did to catch up, I was coming in second.

A few days before our trip to San Diego, I sat on the couch, head in my hands, thinking I'll do anything, anything not to feel this way.  And at that moment I knew I'd go to my follow up doctor's appointment after we got back from our trip and ask for a medication for my anxiety.  For me, looking into a medication isn't an easy decision.  There can be side effects, the medicine might not be the right one, the dosage often needs tweaking.  A prescription meant traveling down another daunting path that wasn't guaranteed to bring solutions and peace.  But after reaching that I'll do anything moment, and realizing my anxiety went from crippling to paralyzing, I knew it was the right thing to do.  My anxiety had taken over my mind and body and was seeping into my marriage and therefore, my kids.  It was time to acknowledge I needed more help than I was able to give myself.

I went to the doctor in a similar state that I did when I first walked out of the doctor's with a prescription for anxiety about a year and a half ago - discouraged, defeated, but hopeful and, somewhere in the back of mind, determined.  In some past appointments, I've sugarcoated my symptoms, my current state, which isn't a good idea, I know.  But talking about mental health with anyone is hard.  And I as candid as I try to be in these posts, it isn't easy to admit how capable my anxiety is of taking over my whole being.  But in this appointment, I put any embarrassment aside and let honesty reign in telling him my mind was losing control and I didn't know what to do anymore to get back in control.  Telling me my anxiety sounds a bit more biological and less situational, he handed me a medicine and assured me my body would begin to feel better, that my body was out of sorts and hurting because my "control center" was so out of sorts.

When I began to feel the effects of the medicine, I thought, is this what normal feels like?  No trembling with fear while walking through the grocery store?  No wanting to shrivel during every social interaction?  No feeling of racing uphill through the day?  Irritability down?  Happy?  Energy up?  No chest pain, stomach in knots?  No questioning every little thing?  My mind began to feel calm and at rest.  And I so wish I could adequately describe what that felt like.  My husband told me I smiled more and I noted that I cuddled my kids more.  I began to notice such a change I couldn't help but to look back and question.  If I had found this doctor who recommended this medicine years ago, would I have better performed at school, at work?  Would some friendships that fizzled out still be strong? What opportunites would I have said 'yes' to that I instead turned down?  Knowing that kind of questioning leads no where and acknowledging the past is in the past, I leered myself away from that road but I couldn't help but to be sad for all the times my anxiety took control.

My path to healing seems to have become a bit clearer, but the work isn't over and all uncertainty hasn't faded.  It's been proven that overcoming anxiety is most successful when a treatment plan involves therapy and a medication.  So a fourth therapist is likely to be in my future, workouts are still a must, a balance of social life and work is needed.  A medicine is an aid to a big picture treatment plan.  But for now, to say I'm grateful for feeling this peace is the understatement of my life.  To know that I've walked through life feeling a way I didn't need to be feeling is near crushing and heartbreaking.  And if I've learned one thing in recent months, it's sometimes the brain needs help, real help.

I'm not advocating for anyone who suffers from anxiety to jump on a medication.  Sometimes, it is as simple as incorporating a regimented workout plan into your routine to keep your anxiety at bay, but sometimes we need more.  And I'm beyond grateful to have found my 'more' that will aid me along in my healing and will allow me to live freely in the process.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Father's Day Weekend

I wanted to give Tim a great weekend.  Especially recently, my anxiety roller coaster ride has affected him nearly as much as it's affected me, so I wanted to be able to put everything aside, have fun, and celebrate the great dad he is to our kids.  This included a homemade lasagna, a gift, some family time, and something outdoorsy, which turned out being an impromptu trip to Mt. St. Helens.  We ended up having a wonderful time celebrating what Ella called, "Dada's Day."

I can take another post to go on about how beautiful Washington is, but I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Thanks, Dad

My Grandpa on the left (RIP), one-year-old Kaitlin in the middle, Dear Ole Dad on the right.
Father's Day weekend is upon us and while I usually reserve the post leading into this weekend to talk  about my dear, sweet husband (see Sunday Instagram post for that), I thought I'd take a minute and reflect on my own dad.  I've been thinking about him a lot lately and this lesson he taught me when I was young.

Now that I have kids of my own, I've thought about how I'd like to raise them -- habits, lifestyles, etc. And at the core of my hopes for them is they are kind and stay kind.  Like, really kind.  The type of kind that smiles at strangers and asks the clerks rolling the grocery carts in the store how they're doing, the type of kind that does good deeds unasked and without reward, that really hears people, that really sees people, and is unafraid to go against the grain to be kind.

This is thanks to my dad, that I want this for my kids, that I've thought about it at all.  If I had to describe my dad in a few words, I guess I'd say he really sees people.  And it doesn't matter who you are.  If you're a breathing soul, you have Chet's attention, you're guaranteed a smile, an inquiry about how you're doing, and (if you're a Detroiter) a small conversation on the Tigers' season.

I haven't always appreciated this quality about him.  Actually, when I was a teenager I thought it was annoying.  I'd run an errand with him expecting a quick trip and my expectations would be quickly squashed as he stood there and chatted with the greeter at Meijer.  When I was 14, The Extreme Makeover Home Edition crew came to our city to remodel a home to accommodate a family with special needs.  My middle school self waited with a good friend for Ty Pennington to come over and sign our shirts, the ultimate point as to why we stood there for so long.  The Pistons had just won the championship and this called for a photo-op with the home renovating celebrity.  So Ty was taken away, we gave up, and we never got our autograph.  My dad came home later that night and mentioned he walked over the remodel house to "check it out."  He was gone for so long because "the guy in charge was handing out pizza boxes to pass around to people and chatted for a bit."  So my dad helped.  Of course.

Wait, what his name, Dad?

Ty, I think?  


Yes, I waited for I'm not sure how long to get a peak of a celebrity in real life, and my dad casually chatted with him not knowing who he was and it wouldn't have mattered if he did.

These are just a couple of memories, stories in a treasure chest full of reminders of my dad's kindness and humanity toward people.  As a wife and mom, I hope to follow in his footsteps and teach my kids that a person's a person no matter how small.  And like my dad, I hope to not have to sit down and formally teach them this lesson, but rather to spend a lifetime of teaching them through example.

Thanks, Dad.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

California dreamin'

Our trip began with a 2AM wake up call, a friendly cab driver, and anything and everything that made our littles feel comfy and safe.

Security lines were short and the flight was smooth so we landed with peaceful minds, but our caffeine and pastry intake was severely low.  After piling into our giant Kia Sorrento rental, we immediately headed here.  Our home away from home away from home.  This place will forever be more than coffee.  Tim and I spent a holiday morning or 2 (one of which I was in labor for) here.  They sent Tim home with congratulatory treats when they got word of Ella's arrival.  We were excited to go back, partly for the food but mostly for the company, but, in thinking that might be a little weird, I thought maybe they wouldn't recognize us or something.  We found our way into the long lunch line and were almost immediately greeted with a "HEY!" from behind the counter.  The owner came running out, noted our growing family, and chatted with us.  Our trip was off to a sweet and nostalgic start.

It was just me and the kids the first couple days in San Diego.  And, prior to leaving Washington, I was ridden with anxiety.  My anxiety has flared dramatically in the past couple months, so I went into this trip thinking I was truly incapable of making it through those first days without panic.  Tim worked during the day and had a business meeting at night, but I made it through and I made it through well.  We went swimming, shopping, we played, went on walks, and I packed everyone up and drove in the city I previously could not drive in.  Those 2 days were full of huge victories, (more on that later in the week.)

As our hectic first 48 hours came to a close, the kids and I met up with my college bestie and one of my dearest friends. After not seeing each other in over a year, sitting outside a froyo shop was all we needed for the perfect time.

A reunion of course wouldn't be complete without pizza, drinks, and dessert.  We ended our stay in San Diego with an evening out and hit the 5 to LA.

It was finally time to party!  The wedding was here, and it was beautiful as was the bride.  I attempted to hide my watering eyes but failed.  There's something so wonderful about watching a friend get married.  I've known Lauren since we were freshmen in college and she's always been a genuine and authentic friend.  I've always appreciated her friendship as she's helped me to grow and has been steadfast in keeping in touch.  She's a gem and I was overwhelmed with happiness for her.  (How did I manage not getting a picture with her!?)

Our kids, mostly Ella, were all about this party.  Ella danced with strangers, ate (more than) her fair share of cake.  A spent time with his Godparents.  We drank, we danced, caught up with friends, and celebrated the newlyweds!

Sunday was our last day in California, and it was our day to relax.  Exhausted, we spent a good portion of the afternoon asleep in the hotel.  Disjointed routines and disrupted sleeping schedules weren't going to keep us from meeting up with our good friends, though!  So we were off to chat over, you guessed it, froyo.

Yes.  This is how we closed out our trip to SoCal.  A 10PM trip to In 'n Out.  Oh, cheeseburger, protein style with grilled onions, how I've missed you so!

And then, way too soon, we were back on our flight home.  This trip was one of those trips, the kind you leave thinking a little differently, reflecting on your many blessings.  I got on the Portland bound plane feeling a little more capable than I did when I left.  I hadn't yet achieved what I did with the kids in San Diego at home in Portland.  And it was a big deal.  I also couldn't help but think what a blessing it is to have some roots in California.  My honesty will come out in saying I don't think I could ever live there, but I also couldn't go without visiting. People we love live there, Tim and I met there, Ella was born there, it's where we started our family.  A piece of hearts will always belong to San Diego.

Monday, June 6, 2016

From the weekend

It was a hot one!  Like hot.  98, 101 degrees.  So we spent too much money on frozen beverages and treats, and I snapped too many pictures with the temp filter.  I love that kind of heat (in moderation and when I'm not pregnant) so we made sure to soak up some sun.  We had conversations that involved things like where do you think we'll do our grocery shopping in Michigan? and what coffee shop will we become regulars at?  More moving details were finalized, great news was received.

And we closed out our weekend in the pews, on our knees, thanking God for this shower of blessings.

(On to get ready for our California trip! *so.much.excitement*)


Friday, June 3, 2016

A week in pictures

What a bazaar week.  It was full of high highs and low lows.  One day we were confirming our U Haul reservation to move to Michigan and the next I was telling Tim to call 911.

On Wednesday, after treating Ella out for her stellar behavior, I had chosen to workout after I hadn't eaten in over 3 hours (I know, never again) which brought on the worst hypoglycemic episode I've ever had.  Experiencing those symptoms led me to panic which brought on all the those familiar panic attack feelings.  I've been to the ER multiple times at this point due to anxiety, but every time a panic attack hits, all knowledge and past lessons learned go out the door.  I breathed deeply, did what I needed to do to bring my sugar up, all of it, but I'm not sure how many times I told Tim I think I need to go to the hospital.  He walked me through it, and we all made it out on the other side but not without the overall heightened feeling of anxiety which has made want to up and bail on our upcoming trip to San Diego, not get behind the wheel, and not workout.

The fight continues.  I'll leave it on a high note saying I couldn't be more grateful for my supportive husband.  Those situations seem impossible and he makes them feel a little less so.

Now I'll leave you with cute pictures of my babies.

Ella enjoying her well deserved treat.


One of my new favorite dinners.  Mango tilapia on rice with black beans and avocado and sunflower salad.

After bath time fun.  Ella needed to cover Archie with the towel, too.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A new home

A reflection of our normal day-to-day.  (This picture was taken by Francis and Louise at the end of our family shoot - meaning we got a little nutso.)
Family life in 2016.  It can be complex.  Does the dad work?  Does the mom work?  Do both have to work to make ends meet?  What about childcare?  The cost?  Do we live around loved ones who would be willing to watch our kids for a lower rate?  What about student loan debt?  Do we want to pay the minimum payments for 10 years or do we want to budget our butts off to pay them off in 5? How does that effect saving for and buying a house?  And then there's considering what the couple, kids, and the family as a whole need to be happy and to thrive.

These questions have been dictating our lifestyle since we've been married.  Every situation we've been in, we've re-evaluated how our current circumstances are working for us as a couple and as a family and the conversation usually begins with what can we do better or what can we change to reach our goals?  And as burdensome as these questions have often been, I love that Tim and I ask ourselves these questions, that we're goal-oriented, and that being comfortable with floating has never been an option for us.  We work hard to try and tackle life from the offensive line, not the defensive.

We recently had this familiar conversation once again when our lease was coming to an end.   And the conversation ended with moving to Michigan it is.  For a hundred different reasons, some private and others more obvious like life is pretty cheap there.  We love the Pacific Northwest, and I'm happy we had to opportunity to live here for a brief while.  To say Washington State is beautiful is to not do it justice; the purple mountain skyline provides a calmness to the land that I know I'll never find anywhere else.  And that makes me sad.  But we need more.  As a young and new family of 4, we need more.  We need friends, a community, and the ability to save for the future.

Maybe it would be different if it were just Tim and I.  We'd have our jobs, we'd have our date nights, and where we lived probably wouldn't matter much.  But when staying connected with your spouse involves finding and budgeting for a babysitter, the statement it takes a village begins to ring true. Maybe we'll live here again one day, when we've outgrown our just-getting-by-as-newlyweds phase and the kids are older, the student loans are lesser.  Or maybe we'll one day end up in South Dakota. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised as I've learned a lesson of true flexibility and the whole never say never thing in our first few years of marriage.

But for now, back to the 313 (or more accurately, 248) we go.  And I'm excited.  For those who know me, this isn't a surprise.  I have a burning, one-of-a-kind love for my home state of Michigan and I'm excited to share it with my family.  I'm excited to take my kids to the beloved cider mills, I'm excited to share my kids with my best friends who I consider my sisters, and I'm excited to be able to make date nights with my husband a part of our regular schedule.

I've never appreciated that place, those people more than I do now.  Being away for 7 years has been wonderful and challenging, and I'm happy I had the chance to once leave the nest.  It gave me perspective and exposed me to more than my comfortable bubble of what I knew. I'm happy Tim and I started our family where and when we did.  It wasn't the least bit easy but it drew us closer as a couple (#TeamLochner) and, not clouded by others opinions, we figured out who we are and who we want to be as a family.  These past years have yielded so much joy and even more growth but I was served a hard hand of just how lonely and grueling life can be when you're not a part of a community. So while many may see moving back to your hometown a failure or a setback, I see it as a huge success and a goal reached.  A step in the right direction for our family, I'm eager to see what the next few years will bring - hopefully a whole lot of Blue Moon ice cream, Wings and Tigers games, and Sanders hot fudge.

We're comin' back at you, Detroit.  And I can't wait to be back.

(Find our post on moving to Washington, here.)