Thursday, October 24, 2013

What a week!

     Okay, okay.  So maybe I failed at the posting every day thing.  At least I posted more than I have for the last year, right?
     This week has been kind of crazy.  We had Louise's birthday party on Saturday (actual birthday on Sunday) at a park here in Evanston and it was freezing!  We figured we'd be safe to have it outside because we had been to that park days before and it was beautiful.  How wrong we were.  It was still fun for Louise to play with some of her friends from the ward, though.  Then we had cupcakes, opened gifts, went home and, after much deliberation, decided to open the rest of her presents.  She was kind of thrown off and grumpy all day, not used to having so much attention on her, so we decided we didn't really want to stretch it out into two days like we originally planned.  She's had a blast with her toys.  As I think I may have mentioned before, we got her a play kitchen for her main gift, her Nana (Justin's mom) got her a bunch of food, and my parents gave her some pots and pans and utensils to go with it.  My sister gave her Finding Nemo, possibly her favorite movie (and possibly the only one she's seen...).  She was so excited when she opened it, she just giggled. :)  And we got her a Tinkerbell doll and a wooden/magnetic paper doll.  We put her kitchen on the other side of the breakfast bar, so it's been so fun to see her play with the kitchen while we're in our kitchen.
     On Monday Justin had a phone call with the head of admissions at the University of Utah medical school.  We had been tossing around the idea of moving home for Justin to complete his premed classes, but we thought that for him to have the best chance of getting in to the UofU, the Northwestern name would be a big deal.  Bigger than Dixie, anyway.  Turns out it doesn't really matter all that much where you complete the courses, just that you do.  The man Justin talked to said the experiences and what you learn from them matter a lot more than big names and things, and that there's an independent program in southern Utah affiliated with SUU and DSU to help potential med students get needed and beneficial experiences that has a really great reputation and acceptance rate into medical school.  We wondered if it was all a little too good to be true, so we called our parents and talked it over, hoping that if there was a flaw in the plan, somebody would see it.  They couldn't come up with anything, either.  Needless to say, we're pretty stoked.  Chicago's great and all, but Dixie, here we come (now that we've decided to make more of an effort to be happy here...)!  In May...
     Then Monday night/Tuesday morning at 2 I was awakened by the sound of the fire alarm.  I waited for a minute, waiting for Justin to do something, then realized he was still asleep.  I woke him up and we got up.  In my house growing up, the alarms all went off when the batteries died, so my first instinct was to turn the dang things off before they woke up the neighbors and we got fined or something.  When that didn't work we decided we had better throw on some clothes and go get Louise, who miraculously hadn't woken up.  While I was getting her Justin poked his head out the door to see if he could see anything or anyone.  One of our neighbors saw him and ran into our apartment panicking about how he was trying to get out.  Poor guy.  I think he has anxiety problems as it is.  Anyway, we grabbed a disoriented Louise and all of us booked it down 7 flights of stairs in our pajamas and bare feet to join the rest of our complex in the courtyard.  Thanks to adrenaline I had no trouble at all with SPD pain running down the stairs (later that day I could barely walk, though).  We ended up going into the lobby of one of the other buildings to wait since it was so cold.  Most of the others at least had the sense to grab coats and shoes.  I guess we figured that since we were on the top floor and had already taken more time than we should have, we'd better just get a move on.  Nobody really had any idea what was going on.  Somebody said they had seen smoke on the 5th floor.  We only ended up being out there for about 45 minutes before they firemen told us we could go back in.  No fire.  On our way into the elevator, we passed some policemen interrogating a man from the 5th floor with no shoes on, and when we got up to our floor we saw his flip flops in the hall and a broken alcohol glass with blood on the wall.  A policewoman assured us all was well, so we went in to our apartment and locked the door, feeling our tightly wrapped security blanket fall off a little bit.  We got Louise back to sleep with surprisingly little trouble, then went to bed.  It took us a little (okay, a lot) longer to get back to sleep.  Justin kept playing different home invasion scenarios in his mind and I kept thinking about the fact that I'd FINALLY met some of our neighbors (side note: out of everyone that lives in this building, 7 floors with 8-10 apartments on each, there are only 3 other children.  4 total).  After we finally drifted off we were awakened again by the fire alarm at 6.  We were a little quicker this time, and actually got shoes, but as we were going to get Louise they turned off.  Again, miraculously, she didn't wake up.  Later that morning we found out that the man had been drunk and vandalized the building with the fire extinguishers on a few floors and had been arrested.  I'm still not sure what he was doing on our floor, though.  Crazy night.
     As I said, I could barely walk when we finally got up that morning, the pain was so excruciating, so Justin stayed home from his internship to help.  We were still super excited about the idea of moving home, so we were talking about it a lot that day and at some point it occurred to me that maybe I could go to cosmetology school while we were there.  I've always wanted to be a beautician.  I looked into it a little and made some calls.  After talking to all 4 cosmetology schools in St. George I pretty much settled on one.   It has a part time program that lasts two years, but the schedule would be such that I could be home with my girls all day, then go to class in the evening when Justin is home studying anyway, only missing about an hour of Louise and Cora's waking time 4 days a week.  After hearing that, I kind of decided I couldn't do it, but Justin said that he would support me 100%.  He said that it would be a really good example to our kids for a number of reasons.  So I started thinking more and more about it.  I cried at the thought of missing bedtime a few days a week.  I've only missed 2 bedtimes in Louise's entire life.  But, although it will be hard - extremely hard some days - and I'm sure sometimes I won't want to go, I really think this is the time to do it.  I think it will be very worth it.  It's always been my dream, and I won't really have another chance for 13 years.  This way, I can work out of my home to help us through medical school and I'll be one step closer to becoming an image consultant, if that's what I choose.  After making the tentative decision, I got super excited.  Elated, even.  It's almost all I can think about now.  Well, that and getting to meet little Cora Dixie in 2 months. :)  It feels so right and so perfect.  I think it may be one of the reasons we're being able to move home.  Too bad I have to wait 7 months to start.
     Then Wednesday we had Louise's 2 year check up.  It went well.  Louise is doing wonderfully developmentally and physically.  As far as percentages go, she's in the 92% for weight and off the charts for height. :)  Like father, like daughter.
     Like I said, it's been a crazy week.    

Friday, October 18, 2013

Committing Marriage-Part 2 of 2

I shared last time, in nearly its entirety, ways in which I've been able to show and share my commitment to Claire through unity in our daily activities. It isn't anything that's going to win me any awards in the public view, but I certainly feel better about myself and about our marriage on those days when we are able to give a hard pull and pull together. I'm reminded of the analogy given by Elder Boyd K. Packer, a superb educator and an Apostle of The Lord Jesus Christ, of a team of oxen. They're not the most glamorous animal to be compared to, it is true. Yet, the principle that they teach is one so simple, and yet so vital and appropriate that I can't help but draw upon it.  There are competitions in more rural parts of this country, where teams of oxen are pitted in contests of strength, given the challenge to successfully move increasingly weighted sleds a predetermined distance.  Elder Packer, describing this event, tells of the impressive strength and sheer enormity of some of these teams. Being somewhere along the scale between a cow and a bison, it seems easy to understand his wonder. He makes clear, however, that the most successful teams are not always the biggest and most obviously strongest specimens. Instead, the deciding factor between victory and defeat has to do with the unity of the animals as a team, often referred to simply as a yoke of oxen. The yoke is the large wooden harness, often carved from a single beam and custom-fitted to each individual animal. Unity is exhibited in the ability of the oxen to pull together simultaneously, as well as equal in strength. There is no room for either superstars or freeloaders in this arrangement. Because the yoke is a single piece for both, if both animals fail to push in balance of timing and strength, the late or shirking animal is thrown to its knees, bringing the other with it. 

I'm reminded of a random chick-flick where the protagonist makes the mistake of comparing his beloved to his horse's flanks or something similar, giving deep hurt and offense to his intended, in spite of his good intent and adoration. I hope that Claire will forgive me, for comparing the both of us to oxen. I must say, at this point, that Claire is my perfect match, perfectly completing my yoke. She matches me, pull for pull, in everything I do. In the past several months, I've been trying much harder to step into my role as the Priesthood holder in our home, trying to initiate family prayers, scripture study, home evenings, and all the rest of the things that we, as members of the Chirch of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, have been counseled to do in order to strengthen our family.  She supports me and sustains me through each initiation and decision. Our family has been so richly blessed because she is supportive of what I am trying to do.  

To a much more visible degree, Claire supports and lends her strength and labor to my goals as a provider and a professional.  I've decided, in the past two-and-a-half years, that I want to become a pediatrician. More than that, I want to become a triple-boarded pediatrician, meaning that I'll be board certified in Pediatrics, General Psychiatry, and Adolescent and Child Psychiatry.  It gets worse. I've also recently decided that I'm very interested in a combined MD/PhD program. Are you impressed with Claire's patience and dedication yet?  If not, let me break down what that means for us, in terms of time investment. 

I have another year yet until I complete my Masters degree here at Erikson. In that time, I need to also take a course each in College Algebra and General Biology. These prerequisites will enable me to get into the certificate program, ideally a year-long program, that will give me the necessary background in the hard sciences to perform well on the MCAT and apply to medical school.  Medical school is typically a four-year experience, but an MD/PhD program doubles that, adding four years of doctoral study in Neuroscience between Medical years 2 & 3. Eight years of medical study later, I'll be ready to move on to my residency. For General Pediatrics, this represents a three-year commitment to hands-on practice and learning; with the Triple-Board program I've got my eye on, it represents five.  15 years from now, I'll ideally be ready to practice. The only upside to all this is that, in the MD/PhD program, all tuition is waived and they provide a small living stipend, which means minimal student loan debt. A very thin silver lining to this immense and totally elective thunderhead brewing over our family's collective head. 

My point in detailing these plans is this: if Claire had any slightly different attitude about our marriage, our role as a team, and what that means for us in living our daily lives, this would not even be something I would have remotely ever considered.  There have been numerous conversations where I've wanted to look figuratively behind me at the load I've elected to move and say, "It's too big, I can't move it, and were both going to die trying for my foolishness."  It's been these same times that Claire takes opportunity to calmly and serenely whisper encouragement and reassurance to my troubled dumb-ox mind.  It's been due to her attitude of, "We CAN do this. It will take both of us, and it will certainly be no walk in the park, but together, we can move this load, and we can be the better for it."  My only consolation in undertaking this load is to know that there will come a day that we successfully reach the end-goal, and we will most definitely be the stronger for it. At that point, our sled will be empty again, and Claire can load it with whatever it is that she wishes at that point, and the process can begin again. 

My last words of this post will be this:  marriage is about commitment and unity. In purpose, in desire, in faith and in tenacity, we must be united. I thank The Lord that I have been blessed with such an incredible woman who is so committed to me, to our family, and to her testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been already and will continue to be richly blessed, because we share such unified opinion and intent in our marriage. We will give a long pull, a strong pull, and we will pull together. This is our marriage. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Day (in a loose, Biblical sense) 9: Committing Marriage- Part 1 of 2

I find it gruesomely fascinating to consider the popular view of marriage portrayed in movies and the lives of celebrities today. There is often meticulous attention paid to the details of what should happen when the marriage fails. There is little to nothing said about the details of ensuring that it doesn't fail. For some reason, the former perspective is regarded as being more practical or realistic than the latter. This post is to offer my humble perspective on this matter, in the form of my personal experience. 

I believe there are some who may have formed an unrealistic picture of my wife and what she chooses to accomplish in the course of a day, based on my previous posts. However, lest any come to resent her for seeming to accomplish more than is possible to the everyday woman, she is the first to confess her own imperfections and shortcomings. I must, however, preface my following words by saying first that I discussed the possible content of this post with Claire, and she supported it entirely. That being said, let me make clear a point that may not have been explicit in the previous posts. The experiences and examples that I gave of Claire are what she chooses to spend the majority of her time doing. They were not the accidental outcome of a random intersection of a mother-daughter dyad. Those practices and characteristics are conscious choices. As with all choices, there are consequences; in economics, they call it opportunity cost. It is the value of your forgone next-best-choice. For us, this has meant that meals are sometimes later than intended, dishes often pile up, and our house looks happily lived in. I'll be quick to say that this is not a criticism, nor is it a suggestion. It is, first and foremost, an opportunity. Not for Claire to become a better multi-tasker. Not for her to improve her prowess and acclaim as a mother by doing more in less time. No, this opportunity belongs to me. 

Reality is not what was portrayed in the 50's: there is no mother who cleans house in heels and pearls, laying out robe, pipe, paper, and slippers for her returning husband. (I wouldn't mind a pipe; I think they exude class and credibility. Mine would have to be custom, though. Maybe outfitted to blow bubbles...)  Claire is no exception. She is an exceptional mother.  In my opinion, the best I've ever seen. This does mean that there are some things which she does not have time to do in the course of her day. Enter me. I have my own apron. Not the flimsy, once-a-year "kiss the cook" variety for the annual outside barbecue where testosterone runs rampant. No, mine is sturdy, thick material, and is very familiar with much use. On days when Claire hasn't been able to fit in all that she wanted to, we dig in together to make things happen. It drives our little girl a bit crazy, to have us both working to clean up the house; she's very particular about her messes. I've seen her return an unused potty chair to the same spot on the floor repeatedly.  However, I think it is good for her to see both of her parents working together to accomplish a goal they both find desirable. We both enjoy a clean house. And it takes both of us, oftentimes, to keep it so. 

My point here is not to point out what a superb husband I am. Anyone who knows me knows the real truth to that, and those who don't, I assure you, I'm as flawed as they come. The point I wish to make is that setting and then achieving worthwhile goals for either or both parents is a joint venture. There is no way nor wisdom to go it alone in an institution initiated with the intent to have two become one.  I wonder if this isn't why marriages today so often fail. Marriage isn't a strategic pooling of assets to gain financial or social advantage. It's an expression of commitment to a person and an ideal. It means that, as couples take the time to counsel together and come to a decision on what is important to both of them, it becomes a joint goal and responsibility to assist the other person in achieving their goal. It's been said that we come to love those we serve. What better way to increase in love for someone than by helping them achieve their greatest potential and dream? 

It is ironic that, at this point, I must leave the telling of the other half of the story, the story of my better half's service to me, for tomorrow. Stay tuned; it makes my measly efforts look as significant as taking the lid off a pen. 

End of part 1.