Friday, October 3, 2014

The 5 most awkward situations for LDS missionaries

You'll never forget the feeling that swept over you as you opened that oversized white envelope containing the location where you would spend the next 18 months or 2 years as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

You'll also never forget saying goodbye to your friends, family and significant other — you know, the one who swore she'd write you daily and be waiting in white when you returned.

How about the MTC orange juice you drank against the advice of your siblings and district? Yeah, you aren't forgetting that any time soon.

While missions provide memorable spiritual events, they're also petri dishes for some of the most awkward situations mankind has ever experienced. Luckily for you, we're here to let you relive those hair-raising, cheek-flushing moments.

1. The meal that requires two blessings

Whether you served in a foreign country or in a retirement community in Sun City, Arizona (hypothetically speaking), you were exposed to a myriad of frightening foods. Let's elaborate.

The coveted dinner calendar made its way through Relief Society and the sweet sister in charge of it carefully hands it over after church. You try and remain cool, but nothing hides the fact that this calendar contains 30 free meals — no cooking on your part and typically no cleanup required because the members don't want to "burden" you. You show up. They feed you. You leave. It's glorious. 

Until your eyes fall on next Tuesday's family. "Sister Jones, 6 p.m." Both you and your companion swap nervous glances.

"Last time she pulled the half-opened Ranch dressing bottle out of the cupboard, and it was expired by two years," you say. "Yeah, well I pulled a hair out of my mouth when she wasn't looking," your companion adds. Part of Monday-night planning is dedicated to your emergency escape routes, tight appointments sandwiched around dinner to avoid staying for dessert — or staying for seconds, for that matter. You are sure to wear dark slacks or a skirt with deep pockets in case a tuck-and-chuck is required, and have a hefty lunch so desperate times do not call for desperate measures come 6 p.m.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

2. The naked door approach

It seems a bit uncanny that other human beings find it totally normal to answer the door regardless of their current activity. Maybe they answer the door while on the phone — sure, that's awkward. Interrupting the family dinner? A bit uncomfortable. But answering the door to two wholesome, naive missionaries while in the buff just isn't acceptable — not by any means, in any country or under any circumstances.

If you're one of the lucky ones, it's your companion's turn to do the door approach and, thanks to the angle of the door frame and your impeccable positioning, your focus is turned on your companion and you're protected from the ghastly scene. No actual door approach occurs since your companion goes into some sort of a coma, and you two slowly back away as if nothing ever happened. "When we get to the mailbox, run," you whisper slyly.

3. The setup

Nothing says awkward like an "assertive" parent trying to set you up with his or her son or daughter. Dinner appointments feel more like PPIs, and before long, you've succumbed to the pressure of looking through pictures of some hot young single adult at their first semester at BYU. How touching. You nod in agreement as Mom and Dad brag about their little darling or athletic hunk and what cute babies you two would have. Suddenly your mental kite is a thousand miles away from the work as you stare at the photos you're holding. "Focus, focus, focus," you repeat in your mind. "Here's their address. They'd love to write you."

Hook, line and sinker.

4. Nursing nightmares

If you served in South America, it's safe to say toddlers pulling down their mother's shirt in the middle of a lesson was a daily occurrence.

And for that, we say we're sorry.

5. "The boo"

For those unfamiliar with "the boo," lets refer back to No. 1 on the list: every decision (eating expired food) comes with consequences ("the boo"). It's happened to all of us despite our every effort to erase, forget or deny. It's sneaky, unpredictable and unprecedented. It never sleeps, has no regard for location and doesn't adhere to social cues.

Teaching a lesson and there's only one bathroom available — with no fan? Good luck with that, pal.

On foot in the middle of Mexico, 45 minutes from your adobe house? Let us pray.

When it knocks, you answer — whether you mean to or not. 

If you've stumbled upon this article and you have know idea what a door approach means or what a mission is, here's an explanation. And here's more about the church I served my mission for.

Monday, September 22, 2014

No more babies! No, more babies

Now that you're pregnant, eating for two seems super fun — until the very thought of food makes you double over. And that Pinterest-inspired nursery you've been planning to recreate probably won't happen when you realize you only have enough energy to brush your teeth and go back to bed.
While every woman vies for the picture-perfect pregnancy, here's a more realistic look at the highs and lows of the best/worst 10 months of your life, starting with the fact that pregnancies are indeed 10 months because you're pregnant before you take a test — don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
The first-trimester stinks — literally.
You know the scene. Your husband decides he wants to cook a hot dog on the stove in your stuffy two-bedroom apartment. He suggests you go in the other room because it’s probably going to smell, but you’re already two steps ahead of him as you dart off the couch. The problem is, though, your central air conditioning is three steps ahead and within seconds, the very air you breathe is dense with Oscar Mayer poison. There’s no turning back. With your face parallel to the floor and (hopefully) over your closest ceramic friend, you let the world and your husband know just what you thought of that hot dog — and really anything edible. “I hate food! I hate you and this will be our only baby!”
Because really — who wants to throw up for 20 weeks?
Those first kicks
With a handful of “cute” maternity clothes and a baby bump that no longer looks like you over-ate that last holiday weekend, hot dogs and hormones are looking pretty good right now. Then cloud nine escalates into cloud one thousand when you feel that little miracle move inside of you for the first time. “This time I know it wasn’t gas. The baby is moving!”
Overwhelmed with joy, you retract your previous declaration and assure your husband this babe can have a few more siblings.
The home stretch(mark)
Soon the fluttering kicks turn into nudges, acrobatics and eventually a CrossFit tournament you did not sign up for. Getting comfortable sleep is a thing of the past as you spend hours loathing your snoozing husband and his totally easy life. Stretch marks decide to show up late in the game, just when you thought there was a chance of looking like those svelte pregnant bloggers you follow on Instagram (you know who I’m talking about). Suddenly Bella’s birthing scene in the Twilight saga doesn’t seem all that bad if it means the baby could just get the heck out of you.
“He will be an only child,” you mutter repeatedly at 3 a.m.
Textbook labor
If you’re anything like me, you drew the lucky number on the day of your delivery. The Sochi Winter Olympics downhill skiing serenaded you through two hours of contractions. You progressed quickly and got your epidural. You rested, became friends with the nurses, wrote in your journal and called your sisters and parents on FaceTime. Around 4 a.m. the nurse tells you it’s go time, and two pushes later — bam. Your son is here.
“A dozen more!” you exclaim.
Those first six weeks of you-know-what
It doesn’t matter how many books you read, what fads are in right now or what Facebook moms swear by — nothing can prepare you for those first six weeks. You better buckle up tight. Hormones trump the world’s largest roller coaster, sleeping in 30-minute increments is suddenly normal — as is catching spitup with your bare hands — and that belly you came to love now looks and feels like Sunday's leftover dough. Oh, and let's not get started on the nursing, a.k.a. midcentury torture brought to you by a 9-pound barracuda named Griffin.
But then …
Before long he’s figured out his days and nights, and three-hour stretches of sleep make you feel like you could conquer the world. And then one day he smiles. He finds your eyes and follows you when you leave the room. He hears your voice while your friend is holding him and he swivels that fuzzy head till he finds you. He laughs at that high-pitched "mom voice" you swore you’d never do, and his tiny fingers squeeze your pinkie when you feed him. You quietly lay your sleeping angel in his crib only to feel him grab your shirt collar as if to say, “Snuggle me a little longer, please.”
OK. You win. I’ll take a million more. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Next time your doctor is running behind schedule

I had an epiphany.

Tonight Jake is working a 30-hour shift at the children’s hospital, so I spent an hour making dinner and 25 minutes of driving so we could enjoy a homemade meal together. Our meals are usually anywhere from 30 seconds to 25 minutes. Tops. 

I waited on the bottom floor of the hospital for him to come jogging down the stairs like he usually does, anticipating our meager dinner and few quiet moments in the resident’s lounge, updates on my day and details about his.  

Five minutes pass. Then 10. Sure enough, 45 minutes pass and my hot salmon dinner is no longer warm — and neither is my mood. Eventually Jake comes rushing down the stairs only to tell me he’s so sorry, but we can’t eat dinner together tonight. I had to hand over the meal and jet. 

His young patient was out of surgery and not quite stable yet. He couldn’t waste any time and needed to get back to his room.

Duh. He was late for our classy hospital dinner because he was dealing with a sick child who needed him. Lots of children, actually. And worried parents.

For a moment, I had forgotten. I was only concerned about my time, my comfort, my needs and my meal.

I was grumpy that I had to wait, only to be turned away. And I bet you, too, get impatient when you wait in a doctor’s office. How dare the doctor make us wait, right? He’s just “in it for my money,” anyway. He’s out to get me.  

Fallacy. (No one seems to consider how much medical school costs. And how many years it takes to get out of debt. Personal message me if you’d like details. And our W2.)

Doctors put other’s kids before their own. They miss dinners with their pregnant wives, anniversaries, birthdays, sports events and baptisms. They commit to putting their needs second, working thousands of hours, studying for a million more — not to mention the lack of sleep and emotional toll of deaths and child abuse.

You may be waiting an extra 30 minutes for your appointment, and that’s got to be frustrating. I can’t speak for all doctors, but from what I’ve witnessed firsthand on the inside, the majority are doing their very best to give every patient the attention and care they need.

We may never know what struggles the child and parents are having in the appointment before our own, or what cold dinner waits on the doctor's table at home. 

So let's lighten up a bit. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

An attempted allergy shot that changed our lives forever

I haven’t written in exactly 30 weeks.

Fear of jinxing my pregnancy maybe. Or a bit of irony considering the last gut-wrenching entry.

On June 11, I woke up feeling like I wanted to rip my Kleenex-abused face off and cut down every tree in Oklahoma. I’ve never experienced allergies like I have in this pollen-ridden state. Jake suggested I call my doctor and get an allergy shot since I’d be spending a week in the “mountains” for Young Women’s camp — like a spiritual retreat filled with hundreds of girls, bugs, pranks and late-night stories.

Since my own Doc. P didn’t have to work until 12:30 that day, I convinced him to come with my to my appointment because I am in love with my family practice doctor. It was time my two bffs met each other. We drove separately since he’d have to leave immediately after. (Good man, eh? Tagged along just for me.)

After my two favorite doctors finished making small chat, we discussed getting a shot. Per my usual the last 12 months I said, “But if I’m pregnant by chance, can I still get the shot? I mean, I’m two days late.” Usually by that point I’ve taken three tests, but up until now I’d only taken one. Like a script she said, “Well no, if you’re pregnant you can’t get the shot. We’d better do a urine test.”

She and I have been through this before. She looks me in the eyes and repeats, “It’s a God thing. When it’s supposed to happen, it will. I promise.” Deep down we both know it will be negative but instead of bursting my bubble, she lets me take the test. I usually go “tinkle” (as Mama Willie still says) in the cup only to find out it’s negative. So this time I told her, “If it’s negative, please don’t tell me. Just come in with the needle for my shot and pretend I never took the test.”

Almost in tears I retreated to the bathroom. Nervous, anxious, doubtful — I felt it all. Yes, there were even “signs” right then that indicated I was starting — to the point where I set the cup down and decided not to subject myself to another letdown. After a minute of mental ping pong, I changed my mind and peed, just in case.

I moseyed back to the room and took my place on the scrunchy paper, prepared to drop my pants and get my shot. Jake and I talked about the pictures of Ireland on the wall and how cool I was that I went there. Obviously. Then the doctor walked in: “Sorry, Brooke, (cue meltdown) but you won’t be getting your shot today — you’re pregnant.” (Instant switch from meltdown to shock.)

Tears welled up from 13 months of waiting barreled down my face. And his. And hers. After she grabbed me for a hug, I buried myself into Jake’s chest with my hands over my mouth, sobbing like our future newborn. She quickly left the room and told us to take our time. 

After having those sacred minutes to ourselves, we walked out of the room with much bigger smiles than when we entered. And at the end of the hallway were two nurses and our doctor — waiting to congratulate us with our positive pregnancy in a bag to take home. 

Now I’m sitting here in Jake’s OSU sweatshirt and Christmas pajama pants, just five weeks and five days away from meeting Baby P. It’s been a crazy eight months and I am still in shock that I'm even pregnant.

I can’t explain what a tender mercy that was, to find out like we did. I had taken so many tests in the bathroom, usually with Jake gone, expecting to find out the news that way. But to have someone come into a room and announce it to both of us was so special. And exciting. 

And the funniest part? I haven’t even had any allergies since.

One of his excited faces. In case you couldn't tell.

His forced excited face upon my request. In case (ahem) you couldn't tell. 

My favorite take-home prize from any doctor's appointment I've ever had. 

Just after the news. Crossing my fingers Baby P looks just like him. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Broken promises and candybars

I commit to the same thing every month. And if my math is correct, I’ve made that same promise 12 times in a row.

And yet I fail every time.

You see, on about day 27 or 28 of every month, I wake up early in the morning and drive to the Dollar General. Usually I’m still in my pajamas, but today I wore jean shorts and actually put on a bra. The odds of us taking pictures and a video were high because I was convinced this month would be different.

I left the door open to the bathroom as I completed my routine pee, excitedly chatting with Jake who was on the couch. But within a few seconds, I knew this would not be the month. Sounds of crinkling plastic caught Jake’s attention and he asked what else I bought at the store.

“Well, they’re mini Snickers bars. They’re celebratory or condolences. And I guess today they’re condolences.”

And then came memorized-promise No. 13: “I refuse to do this to myself in July. I will not subject myself to this disappointment. I will not take a pregnancy test unless I have missed my period by more than a week.”

I’m amazed at the human heart — the ability to be so incredibly discouraged one day and 100 percent hopeful a few weeks later. It’s quite the vicious cycle, actually. The promise to avoid the test is usually made during full-fledged vulnerability — pants down on the toilet, negative test in hand with tears on my cheeks. But somehow, against all odds, I find myself in that same (hopeful) position every month.

My promise today feels firm — I can’t handle this emotional setback next month. (But if we’re going to be realistic, I know over the course of the next 30 days, my spirit will revive itself and my mind will do a little convincing. “This is it! This is your month.”)

“Just don’t think about it. If you don’t think about it, it will work,” they say. Why don’t you give it a try: Don’t picture a pink elephant. Avoid it at all costs. Ignore the fact that the women in your family have pink elephants, that your friends have them, that social media news feeds flood your thoughts with ultrasounds and videos of pink elephants, and that you're Primary president over 120 of them. Oh, and avoid talking about it, too, even though your husband is a doctor for pink elephants.

Now stop focusing on it ... and you’ll get one of your own!


Unless you’ve struggled with infertility, it's hard to relate. How can you not think about it? And why does "not thinking about" mean you'll get one? (Hate to break it to you — thinking about it doesn't affect the rate sperm swim or eggs drop, nor the timing they connect.) 

Sure, I apply the Atonement. I have a solid understanding of trials and faith. I’m not ignoring the fact that Doc. P and I have had sacred spiritual experiences and answers from Heavenly Father. I hold those moments very dear and we both know children will eventually come.

We just don’t know when. Until then, I suspect many more broken promises, trips to Dollar General and binge eating.

Four down and two to go. Err — make that five. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Our would-be baby

We lost our babe a year ago —
Our 9.5-week miracle.
Just when I think my heart has healed,
Strings in my gut — they pull.

A blood clot here, some cramping there.
“It’s normal,” they did say.
But in my heart, I knew it well —
That second day of May.

I climbed in bed, where doom did lie.
I tried to sleep it off.
But I knew deep down, this was the end,
Our baby’s growth had stopped.

In that lonesome, restless night,
Bold words filled my mind.
A blessing I got, two weeks before.
It made sense — I did find.

Atonement: you will come to know
Deeper than you do now.”
“Of course,” I thought, “The Lord — he knew!”
On my knees, then, did I bow.

I knew the moment I’d stand up,
Gravity would take its toll.
Signs of miscarriage would stain my pants.
That blood … how it would roll.

And sure enough, at 6 a.m.,
I got the courage to stand.
And right on cue, our lives did change.
The pain, by no means, bland.

My dear Jake leapt from the bed.
To my rescue, he did come.
Cleaned me up and got me dressed.
(Where did this boy hail from?)

Tears in our eyes, fear in our hearts.
The hospital we did go.
Doc said, “Maybe not — lets double check.”
In reality, truth bestowed.

Twelve months have passed and still no babe.
When will this trial end?
Just when I think I’ve overcome —
I’m barely on the mend.

The Lord was right. I have learned —
Plenty about His Son.
I’ll be frank — it’s not been fun.

Highs and lows, trust fluctuates …
Not perfect, still in pain.
Is he disappointed — did I fail my test?
Was this trial all in vain?

I hope, in time, I can see more light —
The plan He has in store.
But I can’t deny, I know his plan
These trials, these tests — there’ll be more.

For I agreed in the pre-earth life,
To receive a body, and such.
Hardships and loss I knew would come,
In quantity, though, how much?

Our dreams were dammed, our plans, they changed —
My mind … oh how it churned.
That day so real, that pain so strong.
In my memory it is burned.

In my sweats with eyes swollen red,
I relive the memory today.
With high hopes that years from now,
I’ll understand that third day of May.

*On a lighter note, "Parks and Recreation" nailed it. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Here he is: Doc. P. in all his glory. Thank goodness my scenarios rarely follow through — his legs survive another day.