Monday, February 28, 2011

Brittany Bedelia


You remember those children's books about Amelia Bedelia? She was the crazy, mishap ridden maid who always seemed to do everything wrong or backwards...

I loved Amelia Bedelia. She was a good friend to me during my Kindergarten years. You see, my mom was amazing and took lots of extra time with me before I started school. By the time Kindergarten came around, I had a 3rd grade reading level. I still did the required worksheets, but things that generally took the other kids 20 minutes took me about 3 to 5 to complete. My teacher had a special aid who would take me to the library and help me pick out books.

I spent many an afternoon with Ms. Amelia Bedelia, laughing at her kooky antics.

Lately, I've been feeling more like Amelia Bedelia than the woman who had a third grade reading level in Kindergarten.

I've just been such a dunce lately.

I forget appointments that I have written down or in my phone, I write down dates incorrectly so I think I have an appointment on one day when its really another...

I'm Amelia Bedelia who dresses the turkey by putting a cute little sweater on it and some bows on the legs....

This wouldn't bother me, we all have our moments, but it has been bleeding over into too many important things...
Allow me to elaborate:

Two weeks ago, I was sitting in my education class. The teacher wrote the dates that the test was going to be posted on the board and began to talk about what to expect. In my brain, the dates just didn't register correctly. For some reason, I thought they were the following week, which is what I wrote in my notes: "Test Opens Wednesday Next Week!!!!" (Notice, even extra exclamation points.) I logged on to take said test- it had been the week before...I was horrified.

So, here I sit, waiting to hear back from the teacher about whether or not she will throw me a bone and let me take the test even though I missed it...

I just can't win!

The worst is the days that I know I'm forgetting something that I do religiously, and I just can't put my finger on it until too late. Take today for example:

I finished my Orchestration test and was super hungry. I started up the hill for lunch. The whole while I walked I was thinking, "I never get to go home for lunch on Monday, what am I forgetting? I know its something important." I got home, made a Cup o Noodles and sat at my kitchen table thinking...going over my schedule again and again...I knew it was something that I did religiously every Monday, but what could it be?

The realization hit me like a ton of bricks....I had forgotten my rehearsal with my accompanist. It was 11:58, it was supposed to begin at noon...not enough time to get back down the hill and have a productive rehearsal....I would be atleast 10 minutes late...and 10 lost minutes in a 30 minute rehearsal can be quite a bit of work lost.

I feverishly grabbed my phone and texted Carol...bless that woman. She totally understood and rescheduled...enter me feeling like a fumbling Amelia Bedelia for forgetting...

Then again, I guess the amazing thing about Amelia Bedelia is that she doesn't realize she is a bumbling fumbling mess, everyone else does, just not her...

I just wish I could be blissfully oblivious to my forgetful, less than graceful moments over the last 2 weeks. I don't know what is causing them, but I am ready to feel normal again.

Hugs and loves until next time (with dressed turkeys even!)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

One of THOSE days

Have you ever had one of those days where you are grumpy and you just can't put your finger on why, you are overly emotional and you can't put your finger on it?

Well, for me, that has been today.

The morning was actually okay. Jeff and I woke up early, snuggled a bit, showered and started getting ready...

But then, it started.

I turned on the television and found a "Sunday Appropriate" show to watch as I got ready for church. Then, the volume on the television started to annoy me. It was just so darn loud! I checked the volume level, it was only at a 15, which on our television is barely a quarter as loud as it can go. Jeff complained he couldn't hear it, grabbed the remote and turned it up...


Then we headed out to the car to go to church.

The stairs that come from the top of the hill where the door to our apartment is were completely covered in a sheet of slick, thick ice. I complained to Jeff and told him we should call our manager to complain. I started ranting about the fact that the sidewalks haven't been cleaned yet, and the lament for the spring we almost had began to fill my heart. I am so sick of cold and snow, I want the sun, I want warmth, I want to be able to go lay on a blanket outside and take a nap, soaking it all in...and the hope of that was brutally torn from me on Thursday.

I got in the car and apologized to Jeff. "Why are you apologizing?" he asked.

"I'm super grumpy and its just really frustrating because I have no reason to be frustrated. I'm just sorry you have to see it."

It was then that the tears started wanting to well up. I willed them away. I was NOT going to cry on Sunday because I was grumpy. What a silly reason to cry.

We got to church, we sat in the pew. One of the Elders that was blessing the sacrament came and asked Jeff to pass the sacrament. The tears came again. I just wanted Jeff to sit with me and snuggle me. I was overcome with the love I have for my husband. I willed them away. I think Jeff sensed what I was feeling. He stayed and sat with me until the 2nd counselor of our Bishopric got up to begin the meeting. He even hesitated to go sit with the other Elders that had been asked to pass the sacrament.

The opening hymn began. I looked down at the hymn book...uh oh...cloudy vision....I had an inkling that I knew why I was grumpy and emotional this morning, and why the television seemed so loud...I tried to shrug it off...I still had primary to get through.

Jeff came back to sit with me in the pew after the sacrament was passed. He put his arms around me and held me tight. I snuggled up against him and breathed him in. I told him that I felt like crying and I didn't know why. Emotions were welling and I didn't know which one was causing the verge of waterworks. I just took some deep breaths and focused on trying to find things to take my mind off of the tears...and the cloudy vision.

Sacrament was over and it was time to head into Primary. I play the piano for them. I sat and opened the Children's Songbook. I have just gotten into the habit of playing whatever I open it to...the song was Daddy's Homecoming...I started to play it , and the emotions came back. Tears welled up, and I almost couldn't hold them back. Jeff came and sat with me. He put his arms around me.

"Do you want me to stay here with you?" Jeff asked.

I quietly continued to play, fighting back the tears as I played one song after another. Overcome with emotions for different reasons as I played. Jeff sat and rubbed my back. He whispered in my ear. "I love you." Of course, that brought the desire for tears again...

Finally, he quietly asked again, "Do you want me to stay with me?"

I feebly answered, "Yes. Please." So grateful for this wonderful man who was so concerned about me and wanted to stay with me to support me.

Jeff sat with me for a while, then all of a sudden, he was gone. I wasn't sure where he had gone. Right after Primary officially opened, and the prayer was said by one of those sweet, confident little children, Jeff sneaked back in the room and grabbed his coat. He whispered in my ear that because today was a Ward Audit he couldn't stay with me like he wanted to. (he's the finance clerk of our ward, meaning he handles all the tithing money that people pay and issues reimbursement checks to people who have purchased things for church activities out of their own pockets) He asked if I would be okay.

Again, I feebly answered yes. I'd already been on the verge of tears all morning, I didn't think that him being there would help keep me from crying.

I watched as the children in the Primary participated. This month, our Sunbeams have been giving scriptures and talks. It has been so fun to watch these little 3 year old balls of energy get up and excitedly repeat the words of scriptures and talks as their parents whisper them in their ears. Today's talk was especially poignant for me. The little girl smiled the whole time. She spoke very quietly, and all of the children immediately quieted down to hear what she had to say. She beamed with pride as she finished her talk about The Plan of Happiness and her mom rubbed her little back and told her what a good job she'd done. The tears again crept up as she reached up to give her mom a hug before she left to go to Sunday School. She quietly took her seat and then, the coup de grat, the thing that about sent me over the edge, her little friend that always sits next to her patted her shoulder, and put her arm around her and said, "You did so good!" They then shifted and sat, with arms linked, and tried to be reverent for the rest of the Primary meeting.

During the Sharing Time, they shared a BINGO sheet (we played BINGO with ideas for things that would make Jesus happy and bring us closer to him). I don't think they really understood the concept of BINGO, but they sat quietly with their crayons and took turns coloring the pictures on the BINGO sheet. They didn't even know to be excited when their teacher realized they had a Blackout, they just happily went on coloring with each other. I thought of how grateful I am for my true, and good friends...tears bubbled, but I held them in.

Finally, came the thing that pushed me over the edge. I hid behind the piano as I cried because it touched my heart.

The Sunbeam teachers are a young couple that have to bring their youngest daughter with them to class. She isn't quite old enough for the nursery yet. As the kids were excitedly shouting BINGO and getting really into the game, I noticed out of the corner of my eye this sweet little toddler pushing a chair over towards her daddy. He looked down at her and sweetly asked, "What are you doing?" She kept pushing the chair and turned it and bumped his leg. He moved his leg and she pushed the chair up close to him. She stepped up on the chair and looked at her daddy like a conquering hero. He smiled mischievously at her and pushed his forehead to hers. She then reached her arms out and threw them around his neck. She gave him a great big hug and a kiss. He looked so surprised. I was so touched by this genuine action of love by this little girl who is barely 15 months old at the most. She wanted to hug her daddy so badly that she pushed a chair that was bigger than her over to him to do it. The tears began to flow. I watched as she pushed the chair back to where it had been and then ran back to her daddy. He pulled her into his lap and continued to help the Sunbeams try to play BINGO.

Like I said earlier, I hid behind the piano. I ducked down and quickly dried the tears that had fallen. It was almost time for music time and I had to be able to play.

Music time about that time, so did the lovely black spots that I started seeing. I knew now that I was in trouble. Cloudy vision, leading to black spots....A migraine was coming, and it was going to be a doozy.

In the end, I guess it explains my overemotional state, my grumpy attitude in the morning. I shook it off, and started praying that I would be able to make it through singing time before the pain started.

Jeff sneaked back into the room just as primary was ending. I was playing the postlude and the first twinges of a pounding head started to radiate over my skull. Jeff asked if I was okay. I tearily told him I was getting a migraine. He grabbed my giant church bag, and my hand and led me out of the church and to our car.

He tried to make me lunch, but alas the Cup O' Noodles just didn't want to soften. I laughed as he handed me a cup of still crunchy noodles. He got flustered and apologized. I just laughed and told him it was fine. Then, as I sat eating my noodles, the nausea started to overcome me. I asked Jeff if we could turn off all the lights and close the blinds. He agreed. He looked at the clock and realized he needed to head back to the church for the audit. He nervously grabbed his jacket, I asked him for some Tums, he grabbed them. Kissed me, asked if I was going to be alright and with my weak assurances I would be fine, he slowly tore himself away and walked out the door.

So...that leaves me where I am now...I took a pill for my migraine, the pain is gone, but I can still feel the pressure in my head, and I'm still nauseous. I found an old favorite movie of mine on the Television. Major Payne is on...every time I laugh or giggle I feel the pressure build to the point that its almost painful again...which makes me want to cry.

Isn't it so funny how life can deal us the bitter and the sweet at the same time? I have been so touched by so many little things today in my weakened, overly emotional state. I have found so many reasons to be grateful for the beautiful, crazy wonderful thing that is my life...and I have found many reasons to be excited and yearn for the future....all the while, waiting for something horrible that I knew was coming...but it made me so much more grateful for the little things I was able to enjoy...even if I was ready to cry the whole time.

Well, darlings, I think I am going to say something that you won't hear very often...I am grateful for migraines. Without this migraine today, who knows if I would have been as touched by the beautiful things I was able to see and experience.

After the trial cometh the blessing.

(Migraine-less) Hugs and loves until next time darlings!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Educational Insomnia

I thought I'd learned my lesson the last time that I posted something political on my blog, but alas...

The frustration and sadness that accompany the decision today by the Idaho State Legislature have caused me to lose sleep. I just can't seem to keep my mind from racing about it.

Let me preface this by saying, I know that the members of the State Legislature are trying to have Idaho's best interest at heart, and they voted the way they felt was best; however, in this case, I believe they were truly wrong, and I hope that they don't realize it after it is too late.

Today the Idaho State Legislature voted "Yes" on two of State Superintendent Tom Luna's Education Reform bills. I will tell you what these two bills do in a nutshell...and why I believe they are bad for Idaho. Please note, this is simply my own opinion, and I don't harbor ill feelings towards anyone who feels differently.

In a nutshell, these two bills basically take away any rights the teachers of our state had through the teachers' union. In essence, they make the teachers' union obsolete, because bargaining to keep your job and having an opportunity to for your rights as a teacher are basically being denied. The bills also have taken away a teacher's right to tenure. In other words, if you are a teacher who starts to get "expensive" i.e. you have a master's degree in your field and are in the higher income bracket for teachers, the school district can simply fire you for being too expensive...there will be no meeting to discuss what can be done, no opportunity for you to bargain with the district to keep your job- it doesn't matter how many years you've'll be in other words, someone like me, with a master's degree basically has no hope of finding or keeping a teaching job in the state of Idaho because, with massive cuts to education funding, few districts could afford to keep me...add to that the fact that I am working to be a music teacher and its definitive that I would be "over educated" and "too expensive". Never mind the work that I've done, never mind the fact that I am knowledgeable...forget what I can teach the children, I am too expensive, I'm not worth it....

These bills also institute "merit pay". Basically, this means that a teacher is rewarded if their students are doing well. Sounds all fine and dandy, right? Wrong! Base salary is going to stay the same, and the merit pay will mostly be based off of standardized test scores. Which leaves music and other arts educators out in the cold because there are no standardized tests for the arts. My friend, who is a teacher, informed me that merit pay can also be awarded by administrative decision....well, I guess that leaves some hope for the poor, lowly music teacher, drama teacher, or art teacher, but imagine the headache for the administrator?

Let's imagine why it would be a headache for an administrator. My friend works in a school where a group of students could see 3 teachers a year in any given core subject...if that group of students does well in standardized testing, who gets the merit pay? How does the administrator give merit pay and not make it seem like he or she is playing favorites? The merit pay idea basically creates an extra level of politics and competition amongst the teachers that work for that administrator. It also effectively ends the sharing of teaching ideas and tips...if you are barely making enough to be considered above the poverty line, you want to do everything you can to increase your chances of having a little extra cash...why would a teacher want to share ideas or help a teacher who is struggling with a group of students or a single student in particular if it means that they could be giving that teacher a leg up in the competition. Seems to me that this idea is counter intuitive.
Learning is best in an environment where ideas can be shared freely. Imagine what students will be missing out on because teachers don't want to share with each other. Imagine the poor administrator trying to keep his or her faculty together and on the same page. In effort to avoid appearances of playing favorites, I could imagine many administrators becoming aloof and not being as able and willing to help teachers when they have issues with students or parents. Who then will step in? The teachers' union? They've already basically lost any and all power to fight for the teachers. so many people this is a bad word. People think of strikes and underhanded, sneaky tactics so that people can get what they want...well, if the Idaho teachers' union was that underhanded and sneaky, the state legislature wouldn't have been successful in passing a massive budget cut to education last year. Many good teachers lost their jobs and were forced to relocate, I had several friends that were victims of the "last hired, first fired" mentality when school districts couldn't pass levies to keep them on as staff...and in all this, yes, I worry about the suffering of the teachers, but what about students?

I know the State Legislature voted with the best interest of the state in mind; however, its a reflection of the times we live in. Everyone wants a "quick fix" and instant gratification. These education reform bills are essentially a "quick fix" to the problem that arose out of hacking the education budget last year at about this time. Unfortunately, at least in my experience, the quick fix isn't the best route. It may solve our problems now, but it could possibly create even bigger problems. Allow me to elaborate:

Our children are the future of our community and state. Without a quality education, how can they ever be expected to be productive and fruitful members of society? The passing of the two bills today, known as the "Anti-Teacher Bills", basically sends the message that we as a state don't care about the quality of their education. These bills basically send teachers with extended education and experience to other states because they can make more money and will have more protection. Yes, there may be that chosen few who stick it out, but what is left for them? With the passing of the "merit pay" notion, it seems to me that what little semblance of creativity they had left in the classroom will be gone, replaced by the need to teach children how to memorize instead of how to reason and think critically for themselves. Its been proven that information simply memorized for a test is forgotten unless there is something for the students to attach the information to.

Let me give you an example, by the end of 2nd grade, I could write a complete paragraph, using the correct punctuation given the rules I had been taught. My nephew, who is in 3rd grade, can barely write a complete sentence and freezes up when asked if he can do more because the teacher, unfortunately, has to focus so much on the rules of punctuation she doesn't have time to teach the reasoning or application that go along with them. I'm not blaming her, I'm blaming the system...I'm not blaming the state of Idaho, I'm blaming No Child Left Behind...but with the bills passing today, I fear that what little creativity is left in the classrooms of my nieces and nephews will fizzle away.

The rest of the Education Reform bill is a doozy, it is still currently being debated in the state legislature... one suggestion made by the bill is that we cut kindergarten, an initiative that unfortunately, school district 25 in Pocatello is having to seriously consider unless a levy passes, with one elementary school that performs poorly on the ISATS across the board(a school that is populated mostly with children who live below the poverty line), and the state budget cuts to education, this is their reality and what it comes down to...but to think that it may be cut across the board in all school districts is saddening and maddening.

Other suggestions include consolidating Idaho's 119 school districts in just 41 school districts...I can see how this would save money, but in the end it would cause entire schools to close down, causing more teachers to lose their jobs, and making classroom sizes even BIGGER...right now many students are already working in classrooms that have 35 to 40 students in them (when I was in school, a room of 20 to 25 students was large)...imagine how hard it would be to get the attention of a teacher in a classroom of 50 students... It also would require high school students to take 2 online courses, again, eliminating teacher jobs...and sending state tax money to Virginia, which is where the online courses that are being required are based out of...not only does it require these 2 courses, but it penalizes the schools by cutting their budgets for "fractional attendance"... many of the high schools are barely operating on what little money they have now. The biggest question that arises from this requirement of online courses is: Where will students get the computers? Well, our tax dollars are going to pay for them ladies and gentleman, using the money that will apparently be "saved" by cutting teacher jobs and the "fractional attendance" policy.

But more problems arise. 38% of the students in Idaho live below the poverty line. You can't expect or require the parents of these students to have wireless internet in their houses (which is required to take these classes because you need a large enough bandwidth to support the class programs). How do you expect these students to take these classes? Well, I guess the school will have to begin supplying wireless where are they supposed to get the money for it with their budgets being cut because of the "fractional attendance" that is required of all the students?

The other big problem is this: Many students that have take online courses to try to get ahead before the next school year will tell you that online courses are a joke. They are either extremely poorly paced and almost impossible to keep up with, let alone understand, or are ridiculously easy (Online P.E. anyone?) Many Idaho students are already finding it almost impossible to graduate high school as it is with the addition of required minimum scores on ISAT tests and increasing the number of credits required to graduate...if you make them take a class where they have no help and will have trouble keeping up, you just set them up to fail. TEACHERS teach students, computers don't. You can't ask a computer a question. Yes, there are "teachers" for these online classes, but as my younger sister can tell you from experience, they are notoriously difficult to contact, and when you finally do, you have to very precisely word your question, or they can't help you, because they don't have your paper right in front of their face so they can see where you've started to get lost like a living, breathing, hard working teacher can.

In all, the rest of this bill that is being debated holds on the line 1000-2000 Idaho teacher's jobs, and our childrens' futures.

I can already see the result coming from the 2 bills that passed today. I can see good teachers leaving Idaho in droves because they will get more respect and better pay somewhere else.

If the rest of the bill passes, 1000-2000 people will be out of jobs. Idaho's unemployment rate will increase, more people will leave the state to find work (namely teachers) and Idaho will again be lacking tax money to pay the bills,and because the word "taxes" is such a dirty word, the education budget will be cut again and the vicious cycle will continue.

I can also see parents either leaving the state so that their children can have a better education (because some people care enough that they would do that), I can see parents taking their children out of public schools and placing them in private schools and charter schools, which do not receive state funding, and because they don't send their kids to public schools, they don't have to pay education taxes, and again, the public system will suffer. I can see more parents opting to home school their children, again, if their kids are not in the system, they don't have to pay to support it... What I basically see is the beginning of the end of public education, and that makes me sad.

Maybe I'm being dramatic. Maybe you're reading this and saying to yourself, "Oh Brittany, you're making a mountain out of a mole hill." But I don't think I am. I know plenty of teachers, and I know that the majority of them have said they will leave the state if the rest of the education reform passes. What are we left with? When there are no teachers left, who will teach the children who have parents that can't afford private school or dues for a charter school?

Yes, there will likely always be teachers, but I can see them being so beaten down and so tired of politics that they just won't care anymore...and that makes me sad. I am a product of public education. Yes, my mother did a lot of work with me. I was blessed to have a mother who stayed at home, who had patience to teach me things. However, if it weren't for some amazing teachers, I wouldn't be half of what I am today.

When you put teachers last, you put students last, its just that simple. Students are a product of their education. If they don't have teachers guiding them and helping them along the way, how can we expect them to be successful? If this education reform plan is supposed to help students, I would like to see how. I can't see how firing good teachers and taking away their right to bargain for their jobs and wages is drives good teachers away. I don't see how eliminating Kindergarten will make things better? Who will take the time to teach kids the alphabet and how to write and about numbers? Parents? In today's day and age the majority of households have two working parents, or one hard working single parent. They rely on grandma and grandpa and daycare. They can't afford preschool, or a private kindergarten class, they barely make ends meat as it is. I can see a group of illiterate children entering 1st grade. Of course, there are always exceptions, but without kindergarten, 1st grade learning targets will likely be placed lower, meaning the following grades will have to set their targets lower or children will be lost. I can't see how setting them up so they are already behind is helpful.

I don't see how forcing kids to take online classes is going to enrich them and make them will make a better bottom line for Apple computers, the company working with Tom Luna on the bill, the company who has "generously" agreed to give the state of Idaho a discount on laptops....

But I digress...I'm allowing myself to wander onto a topic that makes me severely irritated with how the government in this country is run, and I don't want to go there...

All I can say is I am frustrated. I am frustrated because, in spite of massive outcries of disdain for these bills, they still passed. I am frustrated because I worry for my friends, my nieces, and my nephews.

When my husband and I heard the news tonight, he looked at me and said, "Well, that's it. We are definitely NOT staying in Idaho now." It kind of makes me sad. I was raised here. Except for graduate school, I have lived here my whole life in various cities and little towns. I would love to finish my teaching credentials and give back to a community that has given me so much...but, unfortunately, I am not ashamed to say that I know what I'm worth. I deserve to have rights, and I deserve to be proud of my education level rather than nervous or scared about it. I deserve to not have a fear of being fired because I'm too "expensive" to keep on staff. I would deserve to have tenure if I stayed at a school long enough for it to be warranted. Some people argue that tenure gives bad teachers a way to keep their jobs in spite of complaints and misdeeds; however, there are so many wonderful and devoted teachers who deserve tenure. Should we punish the majority because of a few cases of the opposite?

Jeff and I have also in the last few weeks made some important decisions for our childrens' futures. I suppose announcement of those decisions will be for another post. At almost 1 AM , sleep, like an old friend, has decided to visit me.

Again, I don't mean to offend anyone. I know everyone has their own viewpoints on such subjects,and maybe I am being a drama queen. But I know so many good teachers being negatively affected by everything that is going on, and I hate to think of what will happen to the students that depend on them.

Hugs and loves (and hopefully a better tomorrow) until next time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Baby Blues

I'm feeling a lot more confident now, and have been able to move past the emotions I was feeling a few weeks ago...confident enough that I felt like I should share my thoughts and feelings with my friends and the world...

So, let me tell you a little story darlings.

In the middle of December, after about a month of marriage, Jeff and I made a tough decision. After lots of prayer and meditation, we decided that I should go off of the birth control pills that I was on. There were some very good reasons for this decision: 1) I could only be on one type of birth control pill that was only 75% effective to begin with because of my history of migraine headaches 2) They were super expensive and most importantly 3) they were making me super duper sick. I'd been on them since the beginning of October and I had noticed premenstrual symptoms that I had never experienced before taking over my body and making me sick and they made me extremely irritable. I am always very good at keeping my cool, but I found myself needing to count to 3 or 10 more often than I normally do. I guess there is a 4) we had prayed about it, and knowing that we both want a large family, and taking into account my age, we decided we needed to start sooner rather than later so that I didn't have to be pregnant every year for the next 8 years...

Fast forward to the middle of January. Out of the blue all I could stomach, all I wanted to eat was oranges. Oranges for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We couldn't keep them in the house. Jeff started to really notice my orange fetish after it had been going on for like a week. Being super smart,and being Jeff, he said, "I wonder if your pregnant?" I of course brushed it off. I am a firm believer that cravings tell us that our body is lacking something, so, as long as you don't overdo it, giving in to cravings or finding healthy alternatives to cravings isn't such a bad thing. I figured that maybe I was getting sick and my body was trying to ward it off with extra vitamin C. Vitamin C also gives you extra energy, so I wondered if my crazy schedule was partially to blame. Oranges are healthy, and I wasn't giving in all the time to the craving, so I figured I would be fine.

About a week before I was supposed to have my period, I started feeling severely nauseous all day long. I didn't want to eat anything at all, I seemed to get heartburn no matter what I ate, or I would have to lie down because I would feel like I was going to yak all over everyone and everything around me. I even stayed home from class being severely sick. Now, it wasn't only Jeff wondering if I was pregnant, I had friends that were urging me to take a test...I did. The Wednesday before my period was supposed to start. It was negative. I chalked the nausea off to the hormonal effects of coming of the pill and tried to move on...

but then, my period didn't come...

a day late, I think I went to the bathroom every hour to check if it had hadn't

two days late, we went to Idaho Falls, I talked to my sister who is an OBGYN nurse...she said to wait until I was atleast a week late and then take a test.

three days late, four days late...

The days dragged on, and with every day friends were checking, "Have you taken a test yet?" I would have to say no and explain what my sister had told me. Jeff would ask, "Are you bleeding yet?" I would shake my head no...

The whole while, I kept telling myself that I wasn't going to believe anything until I saw a positive pregnancy test...

By the time I was getting to five and six days late, I started making peace with it. Although, when I would talk to friends, I would say that I wasn't going to believe anything or confirm or deny pregnancy until I had clear and indisputable evidence...

Day 7... I had gone to bed the night before making peace with the fact that I was pregnant...I hadn't voiced it out loud...but I had accepted it. I woke up early to use the bathroom...and there it was... the red streak that killed all the dreams I'd dreamed up the night before...all the dreams I had started thinking about as the days had progressed but put aside...I felt...defeated.

I went back to bed. I laid down and buried my head in my pillow for a while. Jeff moved and put his arm around me. I told him that I had started my period. He was silent and held me. While I had been telling him I wasn't ready to believe it, he knew that I had been building up hope, little by little as the week had progressed. He instinctively knew how heartbroken I was...

I have to backtrack a little further for you to understand why I was feeling heartbroken..

When I was 17, discovered two grapefruit sized cysts on both of my ovaries (that's 4 cysts the size of grapefruits) and a slight case of endometriosis. Doctors did surgery to remove the cysts and lasered off the endometriosis that they found. I was advised that getting pregnant may be challenging for me...of course, I was frustrated and heartbroken by that diagnosis. When I was little and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up my answer shifted back and forth between a super star singer and a mom. I had always just figured it would be a part of the plan for me, and now I had to process this difficult information at a young age.

a few years later, I was diagnosed with insulin resistance and was told by other doctors that my previous diagnosis may be false, as the cysts and endometriosis could have actually been caused by my body's incapability of processing sugars.

I cried when I told Jeff this information as we were discussing the idea of coming off birth control in the beginning of January. Since that second diagnosis, I have always wanted to believe it was true, but had that fear in the back of my head that the first diagnosis would hold, and I would have a difficult time conceiving children... Jeff simply had me pull out my patriarchal blessing and he pulled out his. We read of the promises made to us about children and family. More importantly, Jeff noted that I was promised a posterity...which means I will have children in this life. I took comfort from these words, and the promises God has made to me. I resolved that I would put it in God's hands.

Getting back to the present story...Jeff knows me so well. He knew I was heartbroken, and he knew why...doubt had crept back into my head...wondering which diagnosis was the right diagnosis...will I be able to conceive? will I ever get to be a mom?

Jeff held me, I cried a little. He went to take a shower, I laid on the bed and sobbed uncontrollably. I hate crying in front of him sometimes. I don't like appearing weak, and I don't like making him worry about me. I just had to cry it out. Jeff got out of the shower and snuggled with me on the bed. He offered to stay home from class. I told him to do what he thought was best. He decided to go. I stayed home. I tried to get ready for my first class, but realized I was an emotional wreck. I would start crying every 5 minutes or so, and just when I thought I had regained my composure I would cry again...

I stayed home from my morning class. I knew I just couldn't make it. I knew I just needed time to feel sad. I needed time to grieve for all the things I thought I was about to receive.

It was almost time for me to leave to go to choir. Jeff texted me and said he wanted to talk. He asked if there was any way I could skip choir...there wasn't. I had opera rehearsal and showing up for one and not the other would just look unprofessional. I was worried. I wondered if Jeff was mad (you can't tell in a text) but he wouldn't tell me why he wanted to talk, just that we needed to. I offered to walk down to the building where his class was so we could talk,but he said he wasn't there...I asked him where he response...

about 5 minutes later, my white knight burst through the door with a dozen red roses. He handed them to me and said, " Here, these are just because you are so awesome. These are for being you."

I was a sobbing mess again after that. I found out that my dear, sweet husband had left class early with the help of a friend and had gone to purchase me the beautiful flowers. He had wanted me to skip class all day so that I could just go and enjoy the day with him doing whatever it was I wanted to do. I wanted to skip class at that moment more than I had ever wanted to skip class before in my life... I sat an sniffled on his shoulder, while he held me. He asked me how I was feeling. I am so blessed to have married such a thoughtful, wonderful man. In that moment, I think my heart grew 3 sizes. I was no longer weeping tears of longing and sadness, but tears of joy and gratitude. Gratitude for a loving Heavenly Father who blessed me to meet and marry the most perfect man for me on the planet.

I couldn't skip class...Responsible Brittany always wins the battle...but going to class was precisely what I needed. The Ancient Greeks believed that music was the vehicle of catharsis, the ability to purge ourselves of excess emotions and negativity. Even though I wanted to be at home or on the town with my wonderful husband, smelling the beautiful roses he had brought home, I gained a deeper gratitude for what it is that I get to do every day. My friends were so gracious and thoughtful as I was telling them quietly and candidly about the events of the morning. I am so blessed with so many wonderful people who love me and care about me.

Opera rehearsal was wonderful. I love that music can take you anywhere you want to go, and can make you capable of feeling whatever it is you need to feel in a safe environment. It was exactly what I needed. I felt needed. I felt special. I felt loved.

My husband came to pick me up after opera rehearsal without me even asking. He was outside waiting in the car when I left the music building. It was a pleasant surprise. He then whisked me away to Jamba Juice for a smoothie and then we went to The Outer Limits...its an arcade, mini golf, laser tag, and pizza place here in Pocatello. We actually went on a good night. We got a two for one deal with mini golf and both of us got to play for a whopping $ golf was fun. It took me back to my childhood when my dad used to let us get off the golf cart at the 18th green and he would let us have putting practice. He would give us pointers and teach us how to hold the club. There is something so comforting about nostalgia...

We also bought $10 worth of tokens and played arcade games. They had this mini bowling game that was a riot, and I actually beat Jeff at the race car (or should I say race boat) game...Jeff got to play a shooting game and we both got to go crazy shooting hoops. It was so nice to just have a night to enjoy my husband and have every reason I love him highlighted. We were fun, we were random,we were crazy, and I couldn't have asked for a better end to a day that had started not so well...

We got enough tickets so that we both could get a prize. We decided to get the same thing, a Fun Dip candy...we sat in a booth and ate our candy and talked. The smell of the pizza at The Outer Limits was almost too much for us. We looked at a menu, but it was super expensive. Jeff and I decided to be thrifty. We stopped and got some Pomegranite 7up and a Digiorno Pizza. We went home, cooked the pizza, and watched Shirley Temple movies for the rest of the night.

The beginning of the day may have been horrible and heartbreaking, but I ended the day with so much happiness and a heart full of love. Heavenly Father answers our prayers, I know it. All morning I had been praying for help to change my attitude, for help to get out of the little black rain clouds that had been covering my head. My prayer was answered and I received way more than I thought I would. God is truly an awesome God.

Okay, in retrospect, I know, many of you are thinking that we've only been married for 3 months...and believe me, we are both aware of that fact. We are in no hurry to start our family, we are just putting when we start building our family into God's hands and hoping for the best. I know that when the time is right, we will be blessed with children somehow. I know that for now there are still things that I need to do and things that Jeff needs to do, and God knows that too. We will continue having faith and continue trusting in His will. Would it have been a blessing to be pregnant, absolutely, and I would have welcomed the challenge that opening a new chapter in my life would bring. I also know, that there is Someone who knows what is best for me, and I need to put my faith in His will.

Now, a few weeks out, I am feeling stronger and am trying to be more aware of the opportunities I am being blessed with on a regular basis. I have the opportunity to be an awesome wife to my amazing and sweet husband. I will never be able to repay him for the kindness and selfless love that he showed to me that horrible day a few weeks ago, but I can always try. I can try to be the best wife I can be, I can try to be more aware of his needs, and I can look for opportunities to bless his life the way he has blessed mine.

I have also been blessed with the wonderful opportunity to be back at Idaho State University working with amazing people and friends who inspire me every day. One of my friends told me today that they heard me in my lesson and they thought at first it was a youtube recording of a professional and then they realized it was me... another friends said that they had been having a horrible day, but then they saw me and I gave them a hug so they were all better now.. these things made me feel so special. I don't profess to be the best or perfect at what I do, but it is so nice to be recognized by and have the love of those around me. They drive me to be better and encourage me when I feel like I have nothing left to give. I am blessed to have all of these wonderful artists in my life and hope that I give back to them what they give to me.

I'm still working on defeating the doubt. I know I will have a family, but for some reason, the doubt is still there, whispering in the back of my head. I try to beat it back. I read my patriarchal blessing whenever I start feeling discouraged. Jeff and I want a large family, Heavenly Father knows this, and he will find a way to bless us so that it will happen. I think of Jeff holding me in his arms and telling me that he loves me, and that whether we have a gaggle of biological or adopted kids, it doesn't matter to him. I have faith in the plan, its just hard to keep walking in the dark waiting for the light to get turned on.

We just take it one step at a time, slowly, trusting the One that leads us to the ultimate end and goal.

I have faith. I can do hard things. More importantly, I am not alone and I know that things will all be alright because I am trying to do what is right. God blesses and tries those that he loves. I am being polished and refined in the refiner's fire. Until I'm polished, I am going to enjoy the process. So far, His plan has been better than anything I could have come up with on my own anyway.

Hugs and loves until next time darlings.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Playing with Bricks...

Okay...not the red, square kind...

We're talking basketballs people.

Tonight I had some fun watching my husband play good old church basketball...

As I watched him and the rest of our Elder's Quorum play, I couldn't help but notice how different church basketball has become from what I grew up watching when my dad played it back in the day.

It was so funny to me that my husband's team was kicking some patooty, but they didn't care if they won or lost, they were just out for a good time. The other team seemed to care a little more about winning. One team member in particular kind of reminded me why the church did away with the old basketball system in the first place...he was so upset, and mad that his team was losing. I have to wonder if it was made worse by the fact that you could obviously tell that my husbands team couldn't care less what what on the score board...

I guess I need to tell a story so that you can appreciate how different the game has become. Tonight, the Elders played two halves of the game at 20 minutes a piece with a 5 minute half time. They would sub out at 5 minute intervals to make sure everyone got some playtime...

and now...Ahhh...time for a Brittany flashback....are ya'll ready for this?

Back in the day...

Church basketball was HUGE!!!!!!!!!!!

Wrap your mind around this... the Elders Quorum of each ward would organize their team. They actually had team practice once a week, and then they would play one game a week. Each team had official team colors that they chose, and a team name. Each Elder's Quorum in the stake had to pick a person to referee for their team. That's right, they had ref's...tonight my husband's team, along with the other team called their own fouls....

These referees knew the rules of the game, and how to ref...and the men played by the REAL basketball rules...we're talking actually TAKING foul shots..we're talking 4 twelve minute quarters with a 20 minute halftime...

And the players were HARD CORE...

They even announced the starting line up over the mic and everyone cheered as they ran through a tunnel of people...just like in College or the NBA...

My dad actually blew out his knee at a church ball ended his church ball career...that was a sad day...I witnessed my first broken nose at a church ball game...Hyperextended elbows, fingers, etc. were common place, fists could actually fly at a church basketball game... the men played hard and the crowds cheered even harder!

We always came to the games and cheered my dad and his team on to glory...wearing team colors...some people even painted their faces.

The men played through a bracket, much like they do for March basically had to beat every other team in your stake to make it to citywide finals and play all the teams that had made it from the other stakes..

My dad's team was super hard core, they practiced twice a week..and they were good...

Atleast they were good in my childhood brain...

I can still remember Earl Sorensen in his short shorts, with his basketball sweatband around his head yelling "BRICK" every time someone from another team tried to make a shot...I remember my dad wrestling people for the ball...

I remember the crowds! Man, there were always wives and children shouting, hooting, and cheering their teams on to glory.

My older sister and I were the "unofficial" cheerleaders for the 32nd Ward Kings of Zion....We were super cool. I remember sitting on the stage with Amber making up cheers and screaming BRICK when the other team would try to make foul shots (yes, we were THOSE kids...)

It really is so different now. Tonight, I was the only wife there cheering my husband on to fact, I was the only person there that wasn't playing PERIOD...I ended up being the score keeper, so I felt a little stifled. I wanted to cheer, hoot, and holler for my husband and my new Kings of the 3rd ward, but alas, I didn't feel it would make the other team feel all that great knowing that their score keeper was cheering for the other side..

There were two little girls from my ward there. They had come to "watch" their dads...but decided it was much more fun to pretend they were in a jungle.(Enter cute moment of the day...little Bronte came up to me and said. "Hello Sister Nielson, we are playing like we're in a jungle...isn't that neat?!" and from the back of the seating area I hear Chloe yelling, "SISTER NIELSON!!!!!!!! YAY!" she then went back to making lion sounds- I'm assuming it was a lion, but I can't be completely sure) You could hear random animal sounds coming from the back of the seating area every once in a while, it did give me a giggle every now and again and cause me to ruminate on the wonders of a child's imagination...but that is for another blog post.

The room was so empty...I understand why the church ended the old system of doing things. They worried that it was getting too competitive and it was becoming an insurance liability...I get it...I understand you don't want to exactly foster competitive natures and bad blood between the wards of your stakes...but there was another element to church basketball that has been lost...

We've lost the family involvement. No one comes to cheer because the men have begun to see it as an extra activity to give them some exercise, a chance to get out of the house and socialize with their ward brothers...but it could be so much more than used to be so much more than that.

Even if he couldn't land a shot in the game, my dad was a BIG hero to me every time I watched him run onto the court. I loved going to games and being a part of the excitement, and it was a good thing for our family I think...It was good because our dad had his moment to be a hero to all of us, and we were all working together for a common cheer and support our dad in something he did outside the home for cheer and support our ward family. Because of church basketball, I knew the name of EVERY Elder's Quorum member in my ward, because of church basketball I knew that my Bishop was a normal guy who just happened to have a huge responsibility, because of church basketball I was able to witness first hand the importance of teamwork and how much fun it could be when your ward worked together for a common cause.

In the end, I guess the fraternal socialization is still going on. The bretheren of the ward still get a chance to socialize and exercise, which I suppose was the main intent of the church in the first place when they started organizing basketball leagues.

I suppose change is inevitable. But its fun to look back and think about how things used to be "way back when..."

Hugs and loves until March Madness...LOL