Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Litmus Test(s)


I don’t want to come across as someone who is taking her emotional temperature all of the time, but I know myself well enough to know that stress impacts the way (and which) things happen or don’t happen in my life.  I already know this about myself; I’ve had the experience before of seeing missing parts of my life gradually come back online.  So it’s been interesting to see what things are happening in my life now, what things are slowly coming back and what things still seem far away.  It feels like each of these is a litmus test showing more or less emotional stability in the moment.  (When I started writing this post I hoped that there was an elegant Latin-esque plural for litmus test, something like litmii test.  Instead it turns out that the plural is just litmus tests.  Meh.)

Here are some of the positive things I’ve noticed lately.  First, I can wash the dishes after dinner.  This may not sound like a big deal, but I’ve noticed an absolute correlation between my mental and emotional well-being and my ability to deal with the after dinner mess.  And finding myself cleaning up the dishes without feeling any frustration about it is a big deal in my world.

Another thing that’s come back online in the last few months is homemade bread.  Bread is another thing that disappeared after the triplets were born and didn’t reappear for many years.  When we were in the apartment here there was no space, literally or emotionally, for the effort of making bread.  In the first few months after we lived here it was still more than I could make myself do.  I think I finally ground my first batch of wheat here so that I could make loaves of bread as Christmas treats, and we’ve been eating homemade bread ever since.  This is a development that everyone has been happy about.

A big litmus test is piano lessons.  As soon as I started really working on the house last year in North Carolina, piano lessons were a thing of the past.  There was just not enough energy in my world to do everything that needed to be done and still teach those three piano lessons every week.  Fortunately for me a talented friend stepped in to fill that gap until we left, but since May the kids have been lesson-less.  I’d talked to a woman in our ward about giving the kids lessons here, but the lessons are so expensive that it was really more than we could afford even to have lessons twice a month instead of every week.  And then the semester ended and I started thinking about dropping out of our homeschool class on Fridays and within a week of stopping that I could tell that there was now “room” in my life to do piano with the kids again.  I was surprised at how excited I was to get started again.  I love hearing them practice and enjoy my one-on-one time with them every Friday morning.  After the first week I felt like announcing to the world: Houston, we have piano lessons!


There are still some things that are noticeably missing from my life.  There are NO flowers.  In fact not only are there no flowers, the flowers from the apartment are sitting dead in their pots on the end of our deck.  I’ve been so constantly overwhelmed by the house that the idea of doing anything with the plants (dead or alive) has been too much for me.  I’ve thought about this a lot—why is it that I had a balcony full of flowers in the apartment, but I can’t deal with them here?  I think it’s because Russ had already unpacked most of the stuff in the apartment before we got there, and what was there was finite.  I didn’t feel a ever-present pressing need to deal with everything that was in storage like I do now with everything in the garage.  I also think that in the apartment the flowers were an effort to bring some home into a place that really wasn’t my home, while here in the house I’ve been busy trying to make this my home.

There hasn’t been much sewing either, and right now while I’m trying to work on making Easter dresses and a blessing dress I can see that while I love sewing, it is typically not something I do while I’m stressed.  In the last 2 weeks I’ve made a lot of progress in putting things away in the sewing room (remembering not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough) and I finally feel like I can walk in there without getting a rash.  It’s a very small space, so a little bit of unpacking mess in there went a long way.  I’m hoping that at some point in the not too distant future I’ll find sewing a fun and relaxing way to use my spare time again—because we’re going to have a baby girl to sew for.

One last thing that hasn’t really made it back—bird feeders.  I had a little one at the apartment but it wasn’t positioned in a way that made it easy to watch.  And I just haven’t had the energy to think about getting any of them set up here, although we have unpacked a few.  But then I was at the hardware store the other day and I saw this beauty,


and just that fast, we were back in the bird business…let’s hope the birds like it.  (Russ was so surprised that those 4 screws cost $20.)


In the interest of transparency, I want to explain that any amount of emotional equilibrium I’ve achieved at this point in my life (i.e. first winter of our first year in Oregon) owes a lot to my daily doses of SAMe, 5HTP, and vitamin D.  It’s been a tough winter emotionally and I’m glad that I already had an idea of what would help me deal with depression thanks to 2.5 years of triplet post-partum depression.  I can’t imagine trying to live though this without any “chemical” help.  I don’t really know how to characterize my supplements—they’re not vitamins or minerals, they’re not prescription, I guess they’re not really chemical…whatever they are, I love them and I wouldn’t be surviving without them right now.


  1. I spent longer than I want to admit figuring out what you meant by 4 screws costing 20$ :). Bread is definitely one of my indicators, as is ironing (which I haven't done consistently since Marley was born!). I loved going back and reading the gardening post, and dreaming of a day when I can say those things. So thankful, as always, that you share your insights...

  2. So... still can't figure out the 4 screws for $20. :) I love that you're starting to add all of these things back into your life - don't you wish it didn't have to take so long though? Sending love!

  3. About the sewing room rash-yes. I have to decide every time I go in there whether I want to spend the small amount of time I have available actually sewing in a trashed room, or cleaning it up only to find my time's up and I have to go do something else. So maybe it helps to mention, maybe not, but at least you haven't got toddlers right now whose favorite activity is dumping drawers full of stuff on the floor and mixing the contents. People tell me I'll blink and this time will pass. If I blink they'll get away with something else before I can open my eyes...