Guest Post: Kate’s Story, One Year Later

Last time I guest posted for That Wife, I wrote about the marvelous transformation that was taking place in my life. I had just joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If you haven’t read the first part of my conversion story, you can do that here, or over on my own blog. I mean it, go! Like all converts, I think my conversion story is uniquely beautiful.

Today, it has been just over a year since the day I became a member of the Church. Now that I’ve been a member of the Church for a year I’m not considered a “new” convert anymore, but I know I have plenty to learn. In this blog post I’d like to talk about the changes that have happened in my life since I joined the Church. In my last guest post I said that nothing about me or my life would change – and in that I was thankfully wrong.

When I joined the Church I was living in New York City, unemployed, kicking my addiction to caffeine, but still so happy and completely on fire about the Gospel. I knew that joining the Church was exactly what I needed to do and so I did it. I pushed all of my fears and concerns aside and just jumped right in. No one could have said anything to me during that time to make me think it was the wrong choice –  I know, because a lot of people tried.

My family and friends were astonished. They had never seen this coming. While most of my friends were supportive (after a few chats to make sure I wasn’t some brainwashed zombie/robot), a few were really hurtful in the way they expressed their concern, including one of my best friends. My mother was initially very against the whole thing but has, over time, gotten used to the idea. My father and brother haven’t said much.

After the first five months of being a member, I had no choice but to move back home to live with my parents. I was out of money and still hadn’t found a job. As much as I hated the idea, I was sitting in the Temple one night and felt an incredible peace about the whole thing wash over me. I knew it was the right choice.

I’d like to say that knowledge helped make the transition smooth and easy, but it was anything but. And I whined a lot. Coming home was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. No matter how good of a relationship you have with your parents, moving back in with them after 6 years on your own is never fun or easy. My parents and I are on good terms, but we have very different ideas about almost everything. My membership in the Church was a major change for them to adapt to – especially the fact that I don’t spend money on Sundays.

Still, time has worked wonders. Facing all of the difficulties has helped me realize how important it is to me to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I know where to turn when things get tough. There have been many tears in the past year, and I’ve spent a lot of time on my knees begging for help. All of this has strengthened me in ways I never thought possible. My best friend and I have grown closer as a result of our “disagreement” (for lack of a better word). My relationship with my parents has deepened and matured. I’ve learned what’s most important to me and what I’m willing to fight for.

This year hasn’t been all hard things though – don’t get me wrong. After a year of unemployment, I have a job that I absolutely love. I’ve been able to pay off my credit cards, and I’m looking forward to having some money in savings so I can move out of my parents house (hopefully for good this time).

As I briefly mentioned above, I have been able to go to the Temple (many times) to do baptisms and confirmations for the dead – an experience that I really treasure. There is nothing quite like stepping outside of the world and leaving all of your cares behind, even for a short time. The opportunity to be in such sacred space is something I love.

This year I am looking forward to going to the temple to receive my endowment. I don’t have a date set just yet, but I know it will happen sometime this summer. In the meantime, I’m preparing by studying my scriptures and reading almost anything I can get my hands on that will help me to be ready to make such sacred covenants. I will also take the Temple Preparation class offered at my ward beginning in a few weeks. My bishop gave me a really excellent book that I recommend to everyone, but most especially those who are endowed or preparing to be endowed.

Also during the past year I’ve had the opportunity to work with the sister missionaries as they teach the Gospel to people who are interested in learning about the Church. Doing this has strengthened my testimony of the Gospel and helped me see how profound an impact it can have on the lives it touches. I will always have a special place in my heart for full-time missionaries who give up 18-24 months of their lives to share the Gospel with people who might not have ever heard it.

Really and truly being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has helped me in more ways than I can ever express. In many ways I am still the same person I was over a year ago, but in just as many ways I am so much better. I have grown, not just in the Gospel, but in ways I never could have anticipated or expected. Most importantly I have figured out who I am and who I want to become. I have found happiness that I never even knew was possible.

I know that all of this is made possible through our Savior, even Jesus Christ, who loves us so much He gave up His life for us. He lives, and so does our Heavenly Father who knows us better than we even know ourselves. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true and that the Gospel has been fully restored. I know that without this knowledge, I wouldn’t be where I am today or even the person that I am today. I am so thankful for this knowledge.

I am happy to answer any questions that any of you might have about my conversion story. You’re welcome to come read more about everything that has happened in my life over at my own blog – and certainly to follow along with what happens next. It’s been an awesome ride so far and I know the future holds even more amazing things.

Guest Post: Marisa (now from Parenthetical Me!) on learning from friends’ pregnancies

“Can I write a guest post?” I emailed.I did a stupid thing and lost my blog name, and now I need your help in getting the word out that I still exist, that I still blog, that I miss my community of women.”

“Absolutely,” she replied. Such is the link between bloggers.

18 months ago my application to blog for Weddingbee was accepted (Mrs. Cheese here!). I can honestly say I had no idea what a rewarding and necessary experience blogging would become. I did know that, as a previously-married, not-sure-I-liked-being-engaged, didn’t-really-want-to-plan-a-wedding bride, I felt unrepresented in the wedding world. In a modern world, I thought, all of our experiences should be represented. Such is the magic of the internets!

When I drafted a guest post for you, her dear readers, I thought I’d do a quick “Top 5 Things I’ve Learned From My Friends’ Pregnancies” kind of post. It listed things like warning your husband never to say “Wow, you’re so… big!” to any woman for any reason and making it a point to visit friends’ newborns even though you feel it might be an imposition. (I’ve found my new-parent friends to be very happy to retain a link to their pre-baby world, especially in the isolating month after meeting the squee-worthy bundle of adorable-ness.  And I make sure to be honest and verbal about my love of their baby’s cute cheeks and sweet skin and overwhelming yumminess.  It helps.)

But the flippant list of things I’ve learned didn’t feel authentic, though they were all true.  What I’ve learned through my friends’ experiences has been much more than what not to say to them; it’s much, much more profound.

As a newlywed woman — and one who bonded with so many internet friends through her engagement experience — it seems all my friends are having kids. My husband and I, however, have only recently managed to talk about trying to conceive without giggling, so we’re about a year away from really trying. I am an innocent bystander (okay, okay, willing participant) in too many conversations about weight gain and expanding girth and the craziness that is childbirth.

But why? Why is it that so many of us know so little about the childbirth experience? I’ve been around kids my whole life (so I find myself explaining things to my husband — and friends, even the new parents! — all the time) but somehow managed to avoid much knowledge about childbirth.

I knew this: it would hurt, I’d want drugs, I was (am) scared, and the miracle of modern medicine would keep me (and my baby) safe.

Then Jenna posted this and I thought, “Hmmmm. I do believe I am ignorant and that just will not do.” I actually don’t mind realizing I’m ignorant (definition: not knowing) because not knowing is an easy problem to remedy.

So I started reading, a habit of mine that always prompts my husband to prepare for sentences to start (and often end) with, “A study just reported….”

Wide-eyed and slightly horrified, I read Ina May’s “Guide to Childbirth.”  Embarrassed (why? I don’t know!) and spellbound, I read Ricki Lake’s engrossing, “Your Best Birth.” And now, completely and absolutely freaking horrified (though for a different reason), I’m partway through “Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care.”

So here we are.  “What I’ve Learned From My Friends’ Pregnancies” is much less flippant and much more necessary, something I’ve come to expect from blogging in a community of smart and interested women.  Our conversations are deep, our topics important, and our connectedness necessary.  I have yet to find a situation that can’t be improved by reaching out to my network of female friends. Thank you all for being a part of that.

You ready?

What I’ve Learned From My Friends’ Pregnancies:

  1. Being pregnant can be joyous, stressful, fun, enjoyable, difficult to adjust to, perspective-changing, mind-boggling, exciting and fantastic. It’s neither all scary or all rainbows, but being prepared and present will help you get the most out of the experience.  Just like life.
  2. It is my job – as the child-bearing partner – to do the research, decide on a plan, and take a position. Unlike everything else in marriage, this experience is not one to be equitably shared.  My husband can neither imagine nor experience first-hand the magic that is having your body rearrange itself to expel another.  My body, my choices… with his input and comfort taken into account, of course.
  3. Research is never a bad thing. As I read, I imagine myself going on my first prenatal visits, armed to the teeth with knowledge and willing to back up my specific requests with evidence… and I cringe.  Literally.  Every time I imagine that path, my shoulders climb up to my ears, my body shrinks into a little ball, and my heart starts racing.  Then I remind myself: it is nobody’s primary job to act in my best interest but mine.
  4. Scary is not the same as wrong. I’ll be honest: with every childbirth book I read, I’m scared.  More accurately, despite continuing to read about childbirth, I’m scared.  Having a creature (a very cute one who will hopefully have my husband’s sense of humor and my cast iron stomach) emerge from one’s girly parts is a scary situation, and fear often causes one to leap willingly for anything that will assuage the knots in one’s stomach.  But women (and their bodies) are made for giving birth.  I have to keep reminding myself.
  5. We all need to support one another. It’s so easy to think we’re broken, or weird, or wrong, but in this experience above all others, it’s your body and therefore your choice.  We grow up in a world where modern medicine is a given.  We get sick, we take drugs – right?  Have a headache? Take a pill… not rehydrate, or back off on the caffeine, or get your eyeglass prescription adjusted.  So of course we don’t know much about what childbirth is like!  It becomes our responsibility, then, to support each others’ experiences – WHATEVER THEY MAY BE.  If you do the research and decide you want a c-section, that’s your call.  If you know you want an epidural and have read up on the risks, more power to you.  You want a homebirth?  You go, girl! (Yea, I totally know that expression is so 1990.)

So that’s where I stand in the childbirth wars: still sure it’ll hurt (although now I’m reading Hypnobirthing and maybe it doesn’t have to hurt?!?), not sure about the drugs, definitely scared, a lot less trusting of the medical community, and firmly on the side of informed decisions. I spent a lot of time blogging passionately in favor of finding myself, knowing myself, and choosing my marriage (while navigating through the wild and wonderful wedding planning world) and now it seems I’ve found another cause.

In another year or so, that is!

(Mantra: she who is still too squeamish to envision the possibilities – and wants to giggle and hide when faced with explicit descriptions – is not ready to TTC. She == Me, by the way.  If you’re squeamish and ready, have at it.)

In the meantime, I’ll be following Jenna’s journey and blogging about my own (like how reading about childbirth improved my sex life!) at Parenthetical Me.

Guest Post: Marriage and Money

Hey! I’m Sloane from, coming at you from bustling Mexico City. I am so honored to be guest blogging today on That Wife about a somewhat controversial topic….

The Arras

In a Latin wedding tradition, we passed the arras (coins) back and forth — a symbol of sharing our treasure.

This week, I stopped by sort of a fair-type situation and was approached by many persistent people offering services from free eye exams to insurance to a great price on cremation (yes, and embalming too, depending on your preference). One of the more persistent individuals who accosted me as I walked away from my eye exam (which I aced, by the by) was a bank representative. Confidently, I told him I already had an account with his bank.

But that was not enough. “Yes, you have an account, but do you have a CREDIT CARD???” I told him, equally confidently, that my husband had a credit card from the same bank, thinking to myself, “yes, we’re covered.”

“OK, your husband has one, but what about YOU?” I told him maybe I would get a card, too, on the same account as my husband.

“But don’t you want your own CREDIT? Don’t you want to feel INDEPENDENT?” I’m telling you, dude was persistent. And not in a good way. I felt like he was quickly moving from the realm of financial advice into the realm of marital advice.

I am going to confess something now. Although many, many people, including my own mama, have told me not to merge my finances 100% with my husband, I did it. That’s how we’re living, and although I know not everyone does that, I would not have it any other way.

To me, marriage is about two becoming one. How can you be one without sharing your material goods? I know, I know, everyone says it — “you never know what will happen!” But that is just a leap of faith I take as a spouse and I believe my marriage is the stronger for it.

When I married Francisco, I knew he was a trustworthy person, and he felt the same about me. It has always been spectacularly, obscenely easy for us to make decisions together, financial and otherwise. Some husbands don’t trust their wives’ budgeting ability, so they give them an “allowance” to pay for everything, each month. Overspent the allowance? Maybe you can get some more, maybe you’ll just have to figure it out. Some couples have their own accounts and a joint account. Some split everything right. down. the. middle. If that’s how they like it and that supports their marriage, fine.

Us, we transfer all our income into an account together, and spend, save and invest accordingly. We use the same credit card to make purchases, and so far no one has used the card to buy a yacht or a Ferrari or a pricey lapdance. We have a common understanding about consulting each other on big-ticket items, but so far, I can’t remember a time when one person shut another person down during one of those consultations.

I know more trials will come, but our system has already survived a layoff. When Fran was out of work, I was happy we were sharing everything. I did not want him to feel like he had to limit his spending because he was not bringing in income. We BOTH had to limit our spending, which we did cheerfully and as a team.

If one day, for any reason, I find myself out of a job or choosing to dedicate myself to something less lucrative, I will be relieved to feel that his money is OUR money and I don’t have to be ashamed to spend what I need to spend.

If one day one of us decides to start a business, it will be with OUR money and it will be OUR business. Will there be a lot of talking it through until both of us are satisfied? Absolutely. But that is good for our relationship as we seek to share everything and to be one in marriage.

So far we have been so blessed — the only tiny quibbles we’ve had about money have been mostly related to my excessive frugality. (I worked in journalism, people, I KNOW how to save money. I survived an entire week on less than $10 dollars once, and it felt GREAT!) For example, while Fran was out of a job, we moved from a partly furnished apartment into an unfurnished apartment. If it had been up to me, the TV would probably still be on the floor, and we would be lying on the floor, watching it. But thank God it was NOT just up to me, it was up to us. Francisco felt we could afford some furniture, even on a limited income. I let go of my bizarre wartime mentality and trusted him on that. We bought the furniture, it was fine, and now we have someplace to sit. And I learned something, which is that an austerity regime is not the appropriate reaction to every setback.

If we hadn’t decided to share everything, I might never have learned that. And I might be huddled on the floor eating Ramen and hot dogs right now.

Incidentally, Fran and I talked about it, and I may end up getting my own credit card. I already have some in the U.S. but maybe I DO need credit here in Mexico. Maybe someday we’ll have a house in my name, in his name or in both of our names, whichever gets us the best mortgage and tax benefits. Regardless, both of us will know it’s OUR house.

So maybe the guy was right, in a way. But it’s not about me feeling independent. We are 100% interdependent, and that is how we like it.

What about you?

Guest Post: Ten Months on the Steppe

Evelyn in Kazakhstan

Although my name has become somewhat popular for babies now, I grew up being called “Evil-Lynn” by my peers and receiving “compliments” from parents that had a favorite great-aunt with that name in a nursing home somewhere.

I’m one of “those” Mormon girls that got married and had a baby before my first anniversary, at which time I became a stay-at-home-mom.  Shortly after my year full of firsts, I had another huge first…  I flew across the world to live in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

After living abroad for a few months, I came across a comment by Jenna (with a link to That Wife) and checked out her blog.  I’m not exactly sure how the transition from reader to friend occurred, but it did, and it’s been fun.


My husband learned that he had received a research grant to Kazakhstan, a former-Soviet, Central Asian republic, a month before our baby was born.  In the four months that followed we received a number of reactions to our good news (horror, skepticism, and excitement—to name a few).  On September 12, 2008, with five checked bags, a checked stroller, and three carry-on bags, we boarded our plane, marking the beginning of ten months of life in a foreign land with a people who spoke a different language, lived a different life, and embraced a different culture than I had known all my life.

With so much uncertainty, many would assume I would be fearful, but I wasn’t.  Although I was going to a place that was new and very foreign to me, my husband had spent much of his adolescence, with his parents and siblings, in the very city where we were moving.  During the time his family lived in Almaty, Kazakhstan, a small congregation—called a branch—of our church had been formed.  Chris’ family was still in contact with many of the church members, so they knew we were coming and helped us find an apartment before we arrived.  I moved from one country to another, with a network of people ready to assist, welcome, and love me.

Having never traveled outside the continental United States (not even to Canada or Mexico), I experienced new things almost daily.

I ate and loved the diverse cuisine of Central Asian and Russian food:  dishes like plov (pilaf), shashlik (meat kabobs), manti (dumplings), bishbarmak (Kazakh national dish made of large, thick noodles and chunks of horse meat), pirozhky (little pies), Russian salads, pelmeni (meat-filled dumplings) and vareniki (potato, cottage cheese, or cherry-filled dumplings).  I had to adapt to cooking techniques that had few, if any short-cuts—much of what we ate was cut, prepared, and made completely from scratch.  I learned how to make traditional Central Asian and Russian food alongside Ta-tar, Ukrainian, Russian, Uighur and Kazakh friends, often without being able to communicate through spoken language.

Almaty has a population of 2 million, so I did as the urban locals did—walked everywhere and used public transportation, including trains, buses, marshrutkas (passenger vans used like buses), and gypsy cabs (taxi-transport from average drivers, i.e. paid hitchhiking).  I learned how to lay claim on a seat when traveling with my daughter and how to hold my own on the packed buses during rush hour when traveling by myself.

I saw Kazakh traditional homes on the steppe:  camel-felt, round tents called yurtas.

I bought our fruit and produce from street vendors who were well-acquainted and patient with my slow, halting Russian.

When our region’s hot water was turned off—for days—for maintenance and pipe cleaning, I boiled water on the stove for our cat baths.

I received constant advice from babushkas to put a hat on our baby’s head (regardless of outside temperature), bundle her up better, keep her away from open windows or drafts, etc.  For additional protection, they spat on her (a kind of ‘ptew, ‘ptew, ‘ptew they say over the child to protect them from an envious evil eye).

My days were filled with simple things, like focusing on my daughter, preparing meals, doing the laundry, reading, and taking long walks.

After returning from a family trip to see friends living in the small town on the Russian border and the capital, Astana, I learned the happy news that our dear friend and neighbor was expecting her second child.  I had the opportunity to learn about the Tajik tradition to provide meals for an expectant mother and her family for the first 12 weeks of her pregnancy.  I became a Tajik myself by trying to make larger meals and share them with her family so she wouldn’t have to cook.

During the ten months I spent in Kazakhstan, a Russian-speaking country, I had, at best, “survival”-quality Russian.  There were times I felt utterly isolated and lonely, and other times when I felt surrounded and nearly smothered with love and affection.  Regardless of my ability to understand the words being spoken, I had to trust my understanding of facial expressions, body language, and intonation.  This helped me to sometimes understand conversations and situations without a translation.

Jenna has mentioned their family’s hope to one day live in Poland.  If that happens, it seems there are already factors in place to help her make a successful transition.  First, Poland is TH’s home country, so he will be able to help Jenna adjust and acclimate to the change in country, culture, food, etc.  Also, his family will be there for support (even if they live a few hours away).  Second, the church may not be very large in Poland, but it is likely that Jenna will live in an area with a branch or ward congregation.  Jenna will be able to study out of the same manuals for Sunday School and Relief Society as she would anywhere else in the world.  The uniformity of lesson topics and church organization will be a source of stability and allow Jenna to understand the weekly church services and regular activities regardless of how quickly (or slowly) she learns Polish.

I have been back in the United States for nine months, almost as long as I was gone.  Returning to life “as usual” has been an easy thing to do: I go to the grocery store, drive a car, and have conversations with people who understand my words and where I am coming from.  But when all is said and done, I miss Kazakhstan.  I miss the slow life, the friends and community we left behind, and even some of the inconveniences of day-to-day living.  Kazakhstan became a part of me and, if I’m lucky, that will never change.

You can read more about Evelyn’s day-to-day life and lessons at her blog, Educating Evelyn.  If you are interested in past adventures (including posts from her time in Kazakhstan) you can read about them here.

Guest Post: Waiting

Janssen is a 24-year-old librarian in Boston, MA, where she blogs some about books and lots about non-book things at Everyday Reading. She and her husband are expecting their first child in July.

Before my husband, Bart, and I got married in August of 2005, I told him I wasn’t ready to have children right away. I knew he was really excited to have kids and would have been happy to have a honeymoon baby, if that’s what I wanted, so it was important to me that he knew I needed some time. I told him it might be up to five years before I was ready to have a baby.

Frankly, I didn’t anticipate it would be that long, but every year or so, when we’d discuss the possibility of trying to get pregnant, I felt completely unready and we’d postpone discussion of the topic for another six months. Our baby is due this July, one month and one day before our fifth wedding anniversary.

I certainly think that when to have children is an intensely personal decision and that there is no one right time for everyone (I am very grateful that my parents never said or insinuated any preference about our decision to wait), but I feel strongly that waiting several years has been a very positive experience for us for the following reasons:

  1. I am pretty ambitious and I think if I’d gotten pregnant right away and not had time to do more schooling or work for a while, I would have been fairly discontended about the whole situation. As it is, I’ve been able to complete both a bachelor and master’s degree and work full-time for several years since we got married. I think having had these experiences will help me feel happier about my new role in life since I won’t be feeling like I haven’t accomplished the things that have always been important to me.  
  2. I was only 19 when we got married (just a few weeks shy of 20), and while I (probably incorrectly) feel like I was plenty mature in many ways, I think I needed some time to grow up in other ways before throwing myself into motherhood. Not to mention that my biological clock wasn’t exactly ticking loudly at that point.
  3. Bart and I are both very independent and fairly stubborn people. At this point in our marriage, we are far better adjusted to working together and compromising than we were five years ago. Our vision of our lives and family is far more similar than it was when we first got married.
  4. Bart took a while to settle into his current career field (part of which included getting a master’s degree) and I’m unbelievably glad that he’s qualified and happy in his job now, a situation that simply didn’t exist for us two or three or four years ago.
  5. When we finally made the big leap to start trying to get pregnant, I was able to be really actually excited about it. It has been such a fun and joyful experience so far; I just do not think I would have felt this whole-heartedly happy about it if we’d gotten pregnant before I really wanted to.
  6. It has brought Bart and me closer together. Maybe this sounds funny, but there has been almost nothing Bart has done for me in the last five years of marriage that has meant as much to me as his absolute non-pushing on this issue. I knew, of course, that he was incredibly baby-hungry, and would have loved to have a baby a few years ago, but he has never made me feel like I was wrong to want to wait or that he was at all disappointed by my several years of resistence. Even when we finally agreed that we wanted to start trying, he assured me several times that if I wanted to change my mind and wait another year or two, he would be fine with that.

As I said, waiting or not waiting isn’t right for everyone – the timetable for your family is going to be different than mine and the reasons I wanted to wait and then not wait will hold no water with some of you. But for us, this was the right decision, and I couldn’t be happier that we’d waited or that we’ll have a baby daughter this summer.