Tag Archives: happy

Choosing Happy

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. 

~Eleanor Roosevelt~

Happiness is a direction, not a place.

~Sydney J. Harris~

Think about those quotes for a few minutes, letting their truth sink deep into your psyche. Sip your coffee, tea, juice, or water, and let it wash over you.

What do they say to you? How do they feel in your heart?

It is difficult to remember, in the depth of depression, that happiness is not a goal nor is it a place. It is instead, a by-product of life and more in the journey than in the destination. All too often, we focus on reaching a final ‘state’ and forget that our ‘states’ are instead fluid and are pulled with the ebb and flow of life.

I’ve written before about whether happiness is a choice. I did not believe happiness was a choice until I finally chose it. You see, happiness does not equal a constant cheerful demeanor. Happiness doesn’t mean everything is giggles and confetti.

Happiness, to me, is flowing with what life throws at you. It is knowing what to do when things turn negative, it is taking care of yourself in the midst of the whirlwind. Happiness is realizing that life happens and the majority of it is how you choose to react to it.

Let’s take, for example, a young woman in a grocery store. She’s in a rush to grab a few last minute items to cook dinner for her boyfriend. She runs around the store, grabbing the items, and goes to the front. All the self-checkout lanes are taken and she is left with choosing between two open registers with cashiers. One has a young mother with three children and a very full cart while the other one has an elderly woman with not much in her cart. The young woman chooses the aisle with the elderly woman. But the elderly woman is very chatty with the cashier and very slow with her wallet. She also decides she doesn’t want to purchase a few of the limited items in her cart so the young woman has to wait for a manager to come over and do a return. By this time, there’s someone in line behind her so she’s stuck and can’t go anywhere.

This young woman would have every right to be frustrated and angry. Instead, she takes a deep breath and enjoys the few moments of peace this has granted her in between her very busy job and the busy rush of cooking ahead of her. She looks around the store and notices the colours of balloons floating above displays for an upcoming holiday, she listens to the children in the aisle next to her giggle and play with each other as their mother manages getting all the groceries on the conveyer belt.

We have a choice in the way we respond to external stimuli. One of the most popular things I hear people with disabilities or mental health challenges say is that they may have x,y, or z, but x,y, or z doesn’t have them. It truly is the best way to view things because when x,y, or z doesn’t have you, it doesn’t have power over your mind which means you know how to handle it.

And as we children of the 80’s remember, knowing is half the battle.

Wordless Wednesdays – Happy Kitty

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Meet our cat. She is all sorts of hilarious. At our old place, she was not a happy cat. But here, because we are able to open the windows and keep the blinds open, even at night, she’s able to do what she was born to do – be a cat. Enjoy the fresh air and keep an eye on things, especially at night. These are a few shots I snagged of her last night during a rare moment of her hanging out in the window. She usually sits on a table we have right next to the window for her.

I call these “Happy”.

(And yeah, yeah, yeah… I know, this isn’t wordless. But really, are any of these things every truly wordless?)

I’m linking up with 5 Minutes for Mom today. Go check out some other “Wordless” Wednesdays. 😉

Confessions of a Cleft Palate Mama

As an active blogger and Social Media participant, I choose to live my life out loud. In choosing to live my life in this manner, I open myself and my life up for comments and questions. Sometimes, these comments and questions hurt. Sometimes they are meant to cut. Other times, they are not meant to hurt but are instead posed with the best of intentions. The latter often catch me off guard. Such a situation occurred this past week. Instead of dashing off a quick and angry response, I called a friend and nearly ended up in tears as I described the situation to him. I let it sit over night as I thought about the best way to respond. Then I took to Twitter to vent about the situation. Once I took to Twitter, I realized I was not alone in my very justified reaction to the inquiry. Instead of a private response, I choose to handle this in a public manner. There are many other mothers of children with birth defects in this world and all of us battle the same thing deep down inside. All of us are consumed by guilt.

The birth of my second daughter at 35 weeks and 5 days occurred 42 hours after my first contraction. I pushed twice and her screams filled the air of the delivery room instantly as she emerged into my nurse’s waiting arms. Placed on my chest, she continued to scream and writhe about as most newborns do. At first glance, she appeared healthy. All fingers, all toes, you know, the important stuff. When she screamed however, her mouth gaped at the top where her palate should have been. I blinked and tried to check but blamed it on exhaustion. I tried to latch her onto my breast to nurse but it didn’t work. After several tries, on and off, her screaming, me almost in tears, we requested the Lactation Consultant.

The Lactation consultant came in, slipped on gloves, and swiped our 30 minute old daughter’s mouth. “She’s got a cleft.” A swarm of activity buzzed about our room and suddenly there I was, alone, in bed, freshly delivered and still numb from the epidural. No one to talk to, no one to explain to me what was going on. The thoughts started. I knew of a cleft. I knew it meant something was missing. But I didn’t know the cause. I didn’t know why. Then I thought. I thought some more. What had I done wrong?

Early in my pregnancy, I was unable to take prenatal vitamins because they induced severe nausea. Forced to choose between taking the vitamins or not eating, I chose to not take the vitamins. I even tried taking them at night but it was a no go. My depression from the birth of our first daughter also played into the decision to not discuss this nausea at length with my OB. Nausea continued well into the 6th month of my pregnancies. By the 6th month, though, I still was not taking my prenatals. In my depression delusional mind, I even wondered if it would truly affect my growing child’s well-being.

At six months pregnant, however, even if I HAD taken my prenatals, it wouldn’t have mattered. Most clefts form between 4-6 weeks, well before a woman is even aware of her pregnancy. Many clefts are even impossible to link to a specific cause. Our daughter’s specific cleft, a bilateral complete cleft of both hard and soft palate (meaning essentially, she had NO PALATE whatsover), was associated with a condition called Pierre Robin Sequence (pronounced Pea-air Roh-ban). Her jaw was also recessed, her tiny tongue was floppy, and her airway was narrow. In the 1920’s, PRS babies had a slim chance of survival. Today, however, the rate of survival is very high and surgery is available to correct these issues.

I was asked, several times, by several doctors, if I had taken my prenatal vitamins. I lied. Yes, I know I shouldn’t have lied. I should have been honest. But between depression, PTSD, and the guilt now whirring around in my head, rational behaviour escaped me. My partner didn’t even know I hadn’t taken my prenatals until I confessed while in labor with our son. (Hell of a time to confess, huh?)

Bottom line: I BLAMED MYSELF FOR MY DAUGHTER’S CLEFT.

Yes, rationally I know now I am not to blame. There is no family history of cleft. No associated genetic syndrome along with her PRS. It formed well before I could have done anything about it and even Mothers who take folic acid religiously still have a risk of giving birth to a child with a cleft. I know clefts are nearly impossible to see on a standard u/s unless you are looking for them specifically. Intellectually, rationally, I know all of this. and yet, the guilt consumes me. She grew inside me. She grew imperfectly. Logically I am to blame. If she is imperfect, there is something wrong with me. I failed my daughter before she was even born. I failed at motherhood a second time before I even held her. I FAILED.

Mothers of children with birth defects, with special needs know what I am talking about. We feel this every day. We fight like hell to not let this guilt eat at us. We fight against stigma, misinformation, judgment, and ignorance. We live with the stares, with the internal guilt which threatens to rip us apart every second of the day. We ferociously fight for our children so they may have a chance to live a normal life. A life of which they are completely worthy.

My daughter is nearly 6 years old now. She is beautiful. She is intelligent. She is determined, obstinate, and full of perseverance. She is happy. She is thriving. She is PERFECT. She is LOVED.

It doesn’t matter what I did or didn’t do all those years ago. I cannot go back in time to change anything which happened. Even if I could, I would not want to go back in time to do so. Because if I did, I wouldn’t have a daughter who has taught me more than anyone else in my life about the importance of hanging in there, fighting for even the simplest things (like speech, breathing, and eating), or that the most important thing in life is to be happy and keep others laughing right along with you.

Writer’s Block sucks

Maybe it was my kids being sick for over a month this summer.

Maybe it was struggling to finally celebrate and enjoy my new life with my family (once they were healed).

Maybe it’s having to process the whole Otty Sanchez thing.

Regardless, I’ve been struggling lately to write about anything Postpartum related. And I mean REALLY struggling.

School started a few weeks ago, my husband started a new job, and I’ve been the family chauffeur to boot. In the middle of the day, I now have time to myself with just Cameron. We’ve been laughing, bonding, and just getting a kick out of getting to really know each other. He’s 20 months old now, walking, learning new words, and developing a really hilarious sense of humor while he’s at it. His favorite thing? To walk around in circles whilst screeching “wheeeeee!” almost at the top of his lungs. Second favorite is watching Mama make the cross-eyed and tongue stuck out funny face. His laugh instantly warms the room!

So forgive me for leaving you hanging – I’ve been enjoying the truly important things in my life – my kids, my husband, and just life in general.

I promise I haven’t forgotten about you!

Happy to be back!

I had an absolutely wonderful weekend and am thrilled to report that I stayed away from the internet and my computer all weekend long.

It was difficult and I really did have withdrawals – the worst being first thing in the morning when I took the dogs out – because I usually check my email on my PDA while I’m outside with them so I have a general idea of what my tasks are for the day.

I’ll post a more detailed account later as the girls are in the floor playing and I want to get down there with them.

For those of you who pledged for the weekend or are planning to donate and didn’t post, the grand total stands at $40. I probably got a total of eight hours of sleep this weekend and well, it just wouldn’t be fair to make you pay for time I was asleep and guaranteed NOT to get on the internet, now would it? After all, the hard part was while I was awake… and let me just say that I am GLAD to be out of that daggum closet. The flashlight faded pretty quickly and I ate the keyboard. 😉

At least I didn’t spontaneously combust!

Continuation of the Cameron Saga

I have good news and even better news but first we have to take a detour through bad news valley.

Last Thursday, the pediatrician phoned to let us know that the thyroid portion of the PKU newborn screen had come back abnormal. She wanted us in her office that afternoon to speak with us and get additional tests completed to rule out congenital hypothyroidism. The rush was because the longer Congenital hypythyroidism goes untreated, the higher the risk of mental developmental delays and other delays.

We went in and she explained to us the tests and we also checked his weight. In a little under two weeks, he went from 12lbs 7oz all the way up to 14lbs 1oz!! The lab was next door and he had his blood drawn. Then we waited.

Three of the five tests came back with normal results by the next morning. I cried.

This past Tuesday I took him for his original weight check appointment (he gained another 8oz by the way!) and the ped had the other two results. They too were normal. The endocrinologist does not need to see him and we go back in three weeks to follow up.

We are no longer breastfeeding and he is completely on formula. After everything i went through with Charlotte and my PPD, I know my limits and pumping or troubleshooting why nursing wasn’t working is beyond my scope this time around. He did nurse yesterday morning and I will continue to let him nurse as I need him to or as he wants to until my supply has ceased. Even when I’m giving him a bottle we are cuddly and have eye contact. It doesn’t matter what goes into his stomach or how it gets there. All that matters is that we’re thriving, happy, and healthy.

We are all of those and so much more!

Sharing the Journey with Ben Murphy

GQ or Maxim just not cutting it for you now that Junior’s arrived?

Then you may want to check out thefatherlife.com where Ben Murphy is one of the founding fathers. Yeah, I said it – FATHER. This totally hip online magazine is rockin’ to it’s own beat and marching along for modern dads daring to stay hip and balancing fatherhood. The Father Life is a mixture of fatherhood advice, life advice, and everything in between (including a couple of awesome articles by Shoshana Bennett on PPD just because folks in the forums were talking about it)

Ben Murphy, Ben Martin, Ben Loux, and Ryan Marshall are the brains behind this wonderful site and I came across it while searching for worthy and intelligent content on the web for fathers. So very impressed with what I saw, I emailed Ben (Murphy) for an interivew and here we are! I know, I know, June is over. It’s July. Trust me, you’ll be glad you read about this and I guarantee you’ll be emailing your husbands to tell them to check out this awesome site!

Tell me about The Father Life. What would a dad walk away with after reading your magazine?

Well, TheFatherLife.com is a men’s magazine created with dads in mind. When I became a father I noticed pretty quickly that all the men’s magazines on the market were for the bachelor set, while the parenting magazines were largely geared towards mothers. It blew my mind that there were no men’s magazines out there geared towards dads… so I got a couple of friends together and we created one!

Our magazine is all online (www.thefatherlife.com), all free, and updated with new articles every week. It’s designed for today’s modern dads who are every bit as involved with their families as they are with their careers and hobbies. A lot of these guys are family men who are also executives. They are also at-home-dads who’ve left the career ladder to spend time with their kids… So, our content is pretty well-rounded. Obviously, there’s a lot of fathering content, but it’s balanced by everything from sports, cars, and investing, to food, fashion, and music.

I want our readers to walk away from TheFatherLife.com encouraged to press on in this new ‘Fatherhood 2.0′ life that’s becoming the norm now for a lot of guys. It used to be that fathers brought home a paycheck and that was it… today’s fathers are turning that model on its head. As one of our readers put it to us a while back, “The Father Life is for guys who work hard, play hard, and father hard.”
How did The Father Life come to fruition?

It was really just seeing a huge void in the marketplace for good fathering media content — and thinking that we could in some way address it. We really started out to create the magazine that we wish was out there on the newsstands. And that is still our aim.  We figure that there are millions of other dads out there as well experiencing the same thing — and they’d probably be interested in a magazine like this!

The whole process has really evolved. I have a background in design and media, including some online magazine experience. So, I knew it was easy to do this in concept. I brought along my friend Ryan Marshall who has an extensive background in web design and my friend Ben Loux who has a background in Finance and Corporate Compliance. It helped that all three of us saw this need for fathering media. We’re all around 30 years old with careers and young families, so we have a lot in common. And we all knew each other from back in college so it was a really good fit.

The three of us started TheFatherLife.com as a quarterly publication so that we could fit it into our schedules. But it’s grown from there to where we’re currently publishing a number of new articles every week. That’s due in large part to how well-received the magazine has been as well as to bringing on Ben Martin, our Editor-In-Chief, last fall. He’s been able to focus solely on developing content and has done an absolutely tremendous job!

The newly updated version of our site is rolling out this August and will have a similar feel, but will allow us to really expand the reach of what we’re doing exponentially. I’m really excited about it! We’ll be posting new content almost daily when that site rolls out.

The success of the magazine has really been from our readership and from the writers who contribute content. The magazine exists on reader-generated content and it’s really been amazing! And our readers are incredible providing their feedback and ideas to help the magazine evolve…
Share with us how you approach fatherhood with your own family.

My wife and I have two young daughters and I’m really just focused on enjoying it. That’s easy to say in a vacuum – harder to execute in the whirlwind of every day life, but I just love my family and love the family life. Having kids puts everything else in perspective… It really is what sparked TheFatherLife.com.
In an interview at www.fatherville.com, you were asked to come up with one word to describe parenting and you responded “Marvelous Chaos.” Share with us what Marvelous Chaos means!

Things are crazy and never quite what you expect — and yet somehow everything falls in place and it’s more wondrous than you could have anticipated… it’s a joy of the unexpected that comes from having kids around.

I want to commend you on your Postpartum Depression articles by Shoshana Bennett as it is important for fathers to understand how they can help their partners during such a difficult time. Have you had any personal experience with Postpartum Depression or known anyone who has? If so, what were your feelings about the situation and what advice would you give to a father currently facing a similar situation?

I’ll be up front that I haven’t personally had interaction with postpartum, but the advice I would give is to be as supportive as you can… and get advice from other guys who have been in the same situation.

The thing I love about the Postpartum articles is that they’re one of the best examples of our readers shaping the content of the magazine. During a 6 month period we were seeing forum posts and receiving emails from guys who were saying, “this postpartum thing is crazy and I want to be supportive of my wife, but I don’t know where to start!” And so those articles emerged entirely from that dialogue.

If you could tell us about one of the most joyous moments you’ve experienced as a father, what would it be?

I think it’s when my kids are just lost in the moment and truly happy… the satisfaction of knowing that you somehow created a context in which they are just loving life and you are privileged to be there and enjoy that moment with them. I guess that’s a pretty abstract answer, but I hope it makes sense…

On the flip side, share with us one of the most challenging moments as a father.

I’m the type of guy who wants to do a lot of things and do them all well… I’m very ambitious and take pride in how I execute things. So, with a family, I don’t have time for everything and I have to set limits. Prioritizing my time for family and limiting my other interests is challenging. I assume all fathers go through this, and I think it’s just a time in one’s life when you start to finally figure out who you are and what’s worthwhile to you. My family comes first.

We all know we need to take some time for ourselves to keep our sanity and sense of self hanging around. What are some of the things you do to keep your sense of self and not lose yourself in your roles as a father and husband?

I’m an artist and I still work on my artwork whenever I make the time (www.benmurphyonline.com – be warned, it’s edgy). I also love outdoor sports and do as much trail running and mountain biking as I can. I like naps too; naps are wonderful!

But you’re right – as great as being a dad is, you can’t give yourself over to it entirely or you lose your sense of self. The same can be said for a career or anything else really. In the end, taking care of yourself helps you take care of those around you. And we try to encourage guys to still be themselves along with being great dads. We say, “Yes, It is possible to be a great guy AND a great dad!” And I hope that our content helps dads accomplish that…
Do you feel fathers are largely ignored by the media at large?

I don’t know – I wouldn’t say ignored. The media is driven by “what’s hot right now” and I’m not sure if fathering has been as hip until now… I feel that TheFatherLife.com is hitting at a time when the whole idea of a “dad demographic” is just starting to gain traction. And in a lot of ways TheFatherLife.com is and will be in the midst of shaping the new (and improved, I hope) perception of dads in popular culture. There are a lot of wonderful emerging dad blogs out there now as well as baby products for fathers (www.diaperdude.com is a good example) — that wasn’t true just a decade ago. A lot has really changed with the internet, and perhaps that’s driven some of this shift. I’m certainly noticing a lot more fathering content now in the media and I think it will continue to grow and improve.

Last but not least, if you had a chance to give an expecting father (new or experienced) just one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

To enjoy it. Just enjoy it. You only get to do it once, so make the most of it.