Tuesday, July 12, 2016

hear this prayer

It's been months since I posted. Months! My last post was just a couple days before the semester started, which seems fitting.

Teaching has been new and scary and exciting and rewarding. I'm a little sad this semester is ending, because getting to know a whole new class of students feels daunting. I love the ones I have so much! Of course, I'm also relieved to have that first semester checked off. I'm ready for a summer break. I went immediately (actually, there was a week or two of overlap) from being in the classroom to leading a classroom. It felt a bit like finishing a marathon and then being told that no, you don't get to sit and have a water break, you actually need to run another 5 miles. Complaining feels so silly, though! I graduated with a degree in Writing, scientifically proven to be the least useful degree (not based in fact, just my own guessing), and I did it with a job. A job in my field! It's all so good. I'm relieved and glad and excited about how much I loved teaching these last few months. I hoped I would love it this much.
Other than that, the big news around here is that David also graduated (MBA! Get it, dude!) and started a fancy new bank job. Clark (he goes by Clark now, isn't that strange?! But only at preschool! At home he's mostly Joony still...unless he says sternly "Mom, you do not call me Joony today. I am Clark.") finished his first year of preschool and turned four and is attending a musical day camp this week. He loves singing and performing and reminding me that Tina is a cat with a tail on her back and asking for a cup of orange juice and laughing hysterically whenever someone says "turd." He is the very best.
So things are good! The update is that life is normal, busy, good, overwhelming at times, wonderful, all of it. It's life. I'm still here! And these amazing pictures were taken by my photo gypsy goddess Kate during our fourth of July weekend in Rocky Point, Mexico. Like I said...life is so good.

Monday, March 28, 2016

rose colored

I'm coming down from the craziest time so far in my academic career. I submitted my thesis for review last week and just finished up my final traditional class--a Flash Fiction course--before graduation. For a week I was waiting to hear back about my thesis, which meant constant refreshing of my email inbox and re-reading the final product, wondering what someone seeing it for the first time would think.

The last few weeks have been a frenzy of writing and editing and formatting and nitpicking and agonizing over 80 pages of personal essays. It's been a funny mix of confidence and terror: I submitted my best work ever, so I felt very good about that. They can ask for edits, though, so I was trying to stay in a frame of mind where I could jump back into work if they needed me to.

So much of my work was done, I just wanted to relax into vacation mode! When I finally, finally (I'm being dramatic--it took less than a week) got the email with my final approval, no edits required, you're good to go, thesis status, I burst into tears. I knew I'd been anxious about graduating, but I really think in the minutes that followed I felt all of it at once and it was just...so much. It was a borderline panic attack rush of emotions, which was very strange because they were positive emotions, but all just so overwhelming.

Now that March is winding down, I'm starting to finally relax from the creative and physical exhaustion. For a long time it all felt like too much. I remember thinking that I truly didn't have anything more to give to this process. But of course, I did it! And that is so exciting.

And so now, officially, I am done. DONE. I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing. Two years ago this felt like a very, very faraway dream. Even though my whole life has been rearranged around this program for the last eighteen months, saying it still feels pretty surreal. Adding to the craziness? Three days before I submitted my thesis, I was offered a teaching job at BYUI. It's a position I applied for before I even started my graduate program. My application had stayed on file and they just happened to contact me right before graduation. I'll be teaching a Writing class (online!) at my beloved alma matter and I'm so excited I could dance (have danced) (am probably currently dancing).

It's been an overwhelming time in my life. Overwhelming and so, so happy.

What's next? Prepping to teach this class. Tinkering in my garden. Reading books just for fun. Baking projects. Maybe a blog post every week? I don't know, I'm just dreaming here!

Saturday, February 13, 2016


Joony dropped his nap.

He's almost four (FOUR!), so it's a totally normal time for him to drop the mid-day snooze, but that doesn't mean I'm cool as a cucumber about it. At all. I've only got one more month of school and it would have just been really super convenient if he'd held onto the nap for a couple more weeks. But this is parenting, right? He didn't and I'm all flustered about it. I really depended on that 2-3 hour chunk in the middle of the day. I'd make lunch, watch an episode of dumb TV, and then buckle down on some homework. I think we both also needed the break from one another.

The last few days it's been an all-out war. A bribing, yelling, sweet-talking, door slamming bloodbath. Finally today I've started to shift my focus from him sleeping to him playing quietly in his room for an hour or so. It hasn't been pretty. He's alternated between playing happily and body slamming the door while screaming "Mom! You makin' me so frustrated and so angry! Why you lock my door!" By the end of the day, I'm fried. I feel picked on and tired and grumpy with the person I love most, which I hate feeling.

The universe smiled kindly on me, though, and several good things happened in the last couple days. Over and over again I had to stop to appreciate that something really nice had happened, and actually, the really nice things were far outweighing the bad. Why is it so much easier to focus on the one frustrating thing instead of the great things?  So now, here's a list of the great things that happened in the last couple days:

1. I got am encouraging work email! I've started writing stories for Mode.com as a little side gig and they liked a bunch of my February title pitches. That was so cool.
2. Passion Planner featured me as their Planner Crush Wednesday! I love my planner. You can find my planner posts on Instagram under #bransplans.
3. I got to help out in Joony's classroom with their Thursday Valentine's Day party. It was so fun to see him doing all their classroom songs and prayers and routines. He's grown so much from being at preschool.
4. I ordered myself a pizza and took a bath with a Lush bomb while David was at a basketball game. Alone in my house. Treat yo self 2016!
4. My visiting teacher texted out of the blue that she was bringing me dinner. Just because she is a really sweet person. Can you imagine? And it was a heart-shaped pizza. Cutest!
5. I got a really encouraging email from my department head about my thesis progress. Even though I knew it already, it was comforting to hear that it's normal to feel discouraged along with a reminder to relax and trust that inspiration will come. And it has! It has and it will and my thesis will be so good.
6. David surprised me with a big, fat, sexy date night. My parents took Joon for the night and we went to a fancy resort in Scottsdale for dinner AND A GONDOLA RIDE. What even is this life?!
7. My BFF Shpitty sent me a Sprinkles gift card for Galentine's Day. Girlfriends never stop being one of the biggest sources of happiness in my whole life.

Honestly, when it's listed out like this, I feel like such a dummy for thinking naps dropped was the worst thing in the world. My life is so filled with light and happiness and people looking out for me, I can handle it. Any of it. All of it! LET'S DO THIS, JOONY! And midterms, too...come at me!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

find a way to break through

Today I'm talking about...birth control. But only sort of! More than that I want to talk about depression and health and how I'm learning to take charge of all of those things in my own life.

I spent two years on the pill, which triggered crazy mood swings. Over and over I went in to talk to my doctor and they would tell me I was just adjusting to life as a newlywed, I was stressed with school, that there was no way it was affecting me so drastically as my dosage was so low. So I stayed on it until we started trying to get pregnant. I noticed a marked difference after going off the pill. The time that we spent trying to get pregnant and the 10 months of my pregnancy were the most emotionally stable of my marriage, even though that seems so backwards! David couldn't stop saying how relaxed I was, how much like myself I seemed again. I felt calm and in control for the first time in two years despite the ups and downs of trying to get and then being pregnant.

Six weeks after Joony was born I went in to discuss birth control options with my OB. I was interested in the IUD but nervous about the Mirena since it was still hormonal and I had reacted so badly to the pill. He assured me that there was no way the progesterone in the Mirena could affect me emotionally. So I went with it despite a bad gut feeling.

Over the next 3.5 years, I went back in to my doctor several different times because I was struggling so badly with depression and worried it was linked to my birth control. Every time they waved my concerns away and told me there was no way it was. They blamed the mood swings, anxiety, and soul-crushing depression on the adjustment to being a new mother, then the adjustment of weaning, until finally there was no adjustment to blame it on and they said I was just depressed and anxious. Every time they talked to me for 15-20 minutes and prescribed an anti-depressant. I tried to take the pills but couldn't ever decide if the side effects were worse than the mental instability.

Finally, a few months ago, I decided that enough was enough. My bad days were outnumbering the good ones. I had almost no ability to cope with even the most minor of disappointments, which would send me spiraling into either numbing depression or frantic panic attacks.  My cycles were irregular and frequent.  In short, my birth control wasn't working for me. My thinking was that anxiety and depression were things I had, but my birth control was making them worse. I decided I needed to get my IUD out and see where my mental health was at, then figure out the next steps in treating it.

I hadn't yet found an OB in Arizona, so I started researching and calling around and asking for recommendations. My criteria was simple: I wanted someone who would listen to me. I see doctors because they know more than I do, but I also live inside my body and my brain. I know what's normal for me, and I wanted someone who would trust me when I said I was unhealthy. I finally made an appointment and went in shaking and nervous, prepared to fight and argue and advocate for myself.

The minute I told my new doctor that I was worried the IUD was triggering anxiety and depression, even though my previous OB had told me time and time again there was no way it could be, he interrupted me and seemed almost annoyed. "I don't understand why they would tell you that. It's a hormonal IUD. Even with a small dosage there's a chance it's affecting you. The only was to know for sure it to take it out and see how you do!" I almost started crying right there in my paper gown on the exam table. Just that little bit of validation felt so freeing.

I had the IUD removed four weeks ago and I haven't had a single bad day since. I was told it could take a while for all of the progesterone to get out of my system, so I guess it could be attributed to a placebo effect, but this length of time without a breakdown hasn't happened in over a year. Like I said, my bad days had begun to outnumber my good ones. Every night when David got home from work he would ask me tentatively, "How are you doing today?" A week or so after my appointment I laughed and teased him about it. "What are you expecting when you ask me that?!" He pointed out that before, most nights I would burst into tears or tell him I was struggling to keep it together. I hadn't even realized. I truly feel like I've been lifted from a fog.

The Mirena IUD is not a terrible birth control option. If you do well with hormonal birth control, and SO many people do, that's great! It was wonderful to not have to think about contraception day to day. That wasn't the case for me, and looking back now, I feel angry and betrayed by my doctors in Idaho who told me over and over again that I didn't know what I was talking about. I wish I had stood up for myself sooner. I wish I had been more proactive about taking control of my mental and reproductive health. I wish I'd been able to spend the first 3.5 years of my son's life as the happy, mellow person I've been consistently for the last month. If your doctor is brushing off serious concerns, I hope you'll get a second opinion. I hope you'll find someone who listens carefully to what you're dealing with and then talks with you, not at you, to find the best course of action.

I feel so excited and free by my new ability to cope with the simple ins and outs of the every day. I understand that mental illnesses are complex, heartbreaking, impossible things to reconcile. It's not usually a simple solution. I don't think that my struggle is completely over forever, but I do think I've found a very key trigger for what I was dealing with. And that's really exciting.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Making: Piano music. Badly, and only sometimes when I have the time, but I got a piano for Christmas and I'm loving dusting off those old skills.
Cooking: Very little. Between being sick and trying to hammer out a thesis, my cooking energy level is non-existent.
Drinking: Diet Coke with limes like always, DUH.
Reading: Mainly Flash Fiction Forward...the textbook for my Flash Fiction class.
Wanting: All the new glasses! I want pink frames and half frames and clear frames and my prescription is so crazy that they always cost a fortune.
Looking: forward to this weekend, when I'm driving to Salt Lake to see some of my very favorite people...one of whom is getting MARRIED on Saturday!
Eating: Trader Joe's cheesecake. On my 9th day of being sick, the day after David came home from 5 days in Georgia, I went to Trader Joe's and saw that sucker and thought "Yes. I've earned this."
Wishing: Arizona winter could last forever. It's cool and sometimes drizzly but sometimes quite warm. I could live like this forever.
Enjoying: David being home! Nothing like your husband leaving for 5 days to make you appreciate parenting (and living) as a team.
Loving: the Neko Atsume app. Am I the last person to this party? You get a virtual yard to fill with toys and food and cats come to visit. They thank you with fish, which you use to buy more food and toys. It's like Tomagotchi for iPhones.

Hoping: I'm able to make it out to Missouri for my graduation in May. I'm checking flight prices on the daily over here. I want to go so bad!
Needing: A "Stay in your bed FOR REAL" solution for Clark, Homeboy has gotten pretty creative with reasons to pop his head out at naptime. "I dust need to do a poot, mom, okay?"
Smelling: Nothing. I've had bronchitis for almost 2 weeks and I haven't smelled a thing the entire time.
Feeling: Better. Finally. The bronchitis I mentioned above really kicked my butt, though.
Wearing: A jacket! In Arizona it's been in the 40s a couple days and it's felt so good to pull a warm jacket on.
Watching: Happy Endings! I'm watching it on Hulu. I've heard it mentioned in passing before, but now that I'm watching it, how was I not watching it?! I swear everyone makes an appearance at some point in that show. Will I rewatch from the beginning as soon as I finish it? Maybe.
Bookmarking: All the random 90's movie and TV people I love over on my Tumblr.

Pot template snagged from Bridget

Monday, February 1, 2016

like lightning in a bottle

Tonight I went to Starbucks, got a coconut milk hot chocolate (holycrapsogood), and sat down to write. The perfect storm of dim lighting, chilly weather outside, and a week-long need to sit and create all combined and I was able to float up into that magical artist trance. My fingers moved and moved and my brain was buzzing and all time and outside influence had no meaning. It was meditative and peaceful and I felt so alive in the middle of it all. That is who I am. I'm a writer, and I'm prioritizing my life right now around this thing that I need to be doing. I drove home with my mind buzzing with all these feelings about figuring out how to be a mom, which is a thing but not the only thing that I am, and a student and a writer. It's hard to assign the right words when it's all a jumble of thoughts and emotion. But I wanted to record my thoughts at this specific time in my life, less than two months away from my master's degree, about motherhood and school and making it all happen.
In my church education for women is, in my experience, labeled as something that's good because "Someday your husband might not be able to work! So you should be prepared! But motherhood is the first and most important thing!" Those are all true statements, but they don't really cover this other huge aspect. For me, education (and I don't just mean formal education here) is all about realizing and developing talents and passions, finding the ways that we as unique individuals can best contribute to the world. I finished my bachelor's degree before I had my son and chose to go back even while he's little. I wanted to talk about that, about passion and drive and sacrifice and loving both my field of study and my family and pursuing both of those at the same time.
School for me is all about making sacrifices. I want this so badly that I decided to give up nap times and date nights and Netflix after bedtime for this dream. I've never doubted that it's worth it, something more than a few people have expressed surprise over. If I didn't want this with my whole soul, it wouldn't be worth the sacrifice. I decided to do this thing early in 2014 and I haven't looked back--no ifs, just when. I hope this doesn't sound obnoxious. I'm not trying to brag here, only to say that this level of wanting is what has made it worth it to balance motherhood and school. When I hear someone say they're not going for what they want, I hear that they actually don't want it enough to sacrifice to make it happen. And I think that's great! It's a wonderful thing to identify and honor limits. It would be stupid to divert attention from your family for something you're not wholly invested in. I'm wholly invested in this MFA, though, and I want it enough to figure out how to be a good mom while I'm also figuring out how to write a thesis. Right now my life feels full and busy, but it's with my beautiful son and my work as a writer. I love both of those things so completely that I just know I can find a way to work it all out. I feel so lucky to get to be both of these things. There was a time in my life when both motherhood and an MFA felt like faraway dreams that I only heard about other people doing. To be in the thick of it in my own life is so good it's overwhelming at times.

So now I'm off to dive back into my thesis! How are there only two more months left in this?

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Historically, January has been a very transitional month for our family.

In 2015, we decided to move to Arizona and we pulled it off in about a month. A month! Job quit, Rexburg house listed for rent, Mesa lease signed, one month. My most vivid memory of that time is seeing this little blue house on Craigslist and knowing in my stomach that we would be living here. It hit me like a semi truck: that's going to be our house. We're leaving Idaho.

In 2014, we were closing on our first house, a beautiful townhome in Rexburg. Looking at these pictures made me so sad because I miss that house so much! It was perfect for us. I can still remember so clearly the excitement of walking through that clean, empty space and imagining it as our home.

In 2013, we were handing the keys over to the new owner of our little business, a clothing store called Panache that we opened all the way back in 2008 (just a month after we got married!). I remember walking into a Wells Fargo in Rigby, Idaho to close out our merchant checking account. I crunched through the snow back out to my car with tears streaming down my face. I wasn't sad, it just felt very, very surreal to close that chapter of our lives.

And now it's January 2016. The huge thing on my horizon is my MFA, which I'll be getting in March. March! This January feels transitional because I'm starting my very last quarter of school, probably ever. An MFA in Writing is a terminal degree, so unless I decide to pursue a Lit PhD or something (never say never!...but probably never), this is it. I'm trying to hit the ground running with my thesis, which will be a sizable collection of personal essays. This quarter will be a lot of writing and revising. It feels good to be embracing the transition...and to not be moving, ohmygoodness.