Saturday, November 19, 2011

a change from change

Whew. Now that that's all off my chest, I want you to know that it's not all somber pondering around here in the Cosby house. There's still plenty of laughing, chasing, hiding, seeking, tickling, and watching buses out the window. Here are a few particularly awesome moments from the last month or so.

1.) I went to a lecture given by Esther Duflo on MIT's Poverty Action Lab which uses scientific methodology (double blind studies, randomized evaluations, variable and control groups) to figure out what works and what doesn't in helping people out of poverty. It was, in a word, fascinating.

The goal of the center is to make sure that whatever funds and programs are available to alleviate poverty are both A) founded on research and B) actually working.

I got to re-experience the excitement of the scientific method when applied to real life. It's certainly disappointing when a great idea doesn't really work out (for instance, she said they found that micro-finance does get women more money and more business, but it's not getting them significantly greater political or social freedoms or their children much more education). But when it does, or when you can figure out a way to make it work, you are changing peoples lives for the better. And that is awesome.

She works in South Asia so most of her examples were about teaching farmers in India about fertilizer and how best to incentivize them to buy it. But she also talked about mosquito nets and vaccines. One of my favorite points was one she made near the end. She reminded us that it's real people we're talking about and while it is important to have science backing your actions, you should act (then evaluate, and act again, better this time). Many people and policy makers she talks to want to wait for more and more information and she said she needs to remind them sometimes, "If we want to help people, they need to be alive for us to help them. So lets get them food and vaccines, and then work from there."

I left inspired. I'm now reading Half the Sky and I'm waiting for Duflo's book to come in at the library.

2.) We ate dinner. Together. I made chicken tikka masala (double the recipe so I could freeze some) and naan. I ate a ton. I have realized lately that warm, creamy, spicy Indian food on naan is my ultimate comfort food. Sam didn't have to rush off to homework so we all just sat and ate and talked about the Joy School Halloween party that happened that morning and laughed ourselves silly at our crazy boy Levi. He loves to laugh. Here's more evidence. And I love that Anna is talking to the camera; she was so excited about Halloween this year.

I love how Levi sucks his stomach in in this next video

And here he's playing peek-a-boo and smashes his face into the curtain

3.) The leaves! Here's the view from my window about mid-October. It got even more beautiful about a week later.

4.) We made a house. Anna was driving me crazy one night, so I broke out the glue gun and raided the recycle bin. We cut and glued and taped and then painted. Since then, on various days it's been completely painted, given a garage and stairs, and adorned with googly eyes and mini pom poms. Anna puts her doll house family and furniture inside and talks about how incredible her house is. It has a garage! And stairs! And a back yard! We have the same dreams...

5.) Sam got a perfect score on his homework in his hardest class 3 weeks running. Here's a typical evening-time view of Sam.

I don't know which of us will be happier when he's done with this class. (Just for a little perspective, if you went to BYU, Sam is taking the equivalent of 24 credit hours of graduate level courses. Remember how the limit was 18 as an undergrad? Yeah, just some food for thought... And he still manages to be a great Dad!)

6.) The kids. I am way over my head at this stage. Anna is... contrary. It's so hard to find things to motivate her. She swings from silly, brilliant, and creative to mind-blowingly annoying, whiny, dependent, and dramatic. I can hardly keep up. And Levi desperately wants to communicate- he's getting better and trying new words- but he can still get pretty frustrated. I moved his nap up by half an hour and that's been a world of help. He is, as my father-in-law sagely puts it, at the age of no reason where he must have whatever anyone else is having, and must have things exactly the way he wants it, except when he doesn't and is the happiest, cutest little creature on earth.

a little self-portrait I found on the camera

So life, it's good. We live simply and are happiest when we're all together, supporting each other. I think we all feel safest and most at ease here at home, which is as it should be. There are always improvements to be made and we're all working to make them. But we have a happy little family and we love it.

P.S. Does this post actually have more pictures of Levi than Anna? That may be a first...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

change (part 4)

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

This section, which I anticipate will be the last, has certainly been the hardest to write. I’ve sat down several times and nothing I’ve written seems right. I suspect it’s because I’m in the midst of it. Some days when I sit down I’m hopeful and eager while other days are more discouraging.

I’ve been seeing a counselor at the MIT medical center for the last 7 or 8 weeks. It’s free here which gave me the will to finally pick up the phone and call someone for help. I can't tell you how much I’ve appreciated having someone to talk to about my situation who isn’t really invested in the outcome. With my counselor, I’ve talked a lot about my support network and have realized just how much I need friends to talk to, people to appreciate me, and time to myself.

However, what I really long for is the ability to be at peace with my current situation, and I mean that in a moment-to-moment way, and not just in a big-picture way (though that would be nice, too). I’ve been wanting to learn some tools to let go of the frustration and anger that seem to haunt my interactions with my children, and the self-deprecating internal dialogue that tells me I’m not good enough. We’ve spent a little time talking about this, but I remember expressing this desire to her and her response was, “Isn’t that what we all want?” with the tone of “Sorry, can't help you there.”

But unlike my therapist, I know this kind of peace and contentment is possible because of grace. Paul said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:11-13) Isn’t that beautiful? Through times of struggle and times of power, through emptiness and fullness, through abundance and want, we can find contentment through the grace of Jesus Christ. It is a gift freely given that I must learn to accept.

The Savior has promised me that if I will seek His help, He has the power to change me. He promised, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27) Though finding peace is now my weakness, it can become my strength. I will be able to share that peace with others, especially my children, all through grace.

But how do I find that grace? How do I let it permeate my thoughts to forgive rather than to punish myself? How do I stand firm through the waves of abundance and emptiness, joy and loneliness? It will not be easy. It may even be the hardest thing I ever do. D. Todd Christofferson said, “It would mock the Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part. Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts (see 2 Nephi 25:23). Perhaps as much as praying for mercy, we should pray for time and opportunity to work and strive and overcome. Surely the Lord smiles upon one who desires to come to judgment worthily, who resolutely labors day by day to replace weakness with strength. … real Linkchange may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving. Divine forgiveness and healing flow quite naturally to such a soul, for indeed “virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; [and] mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own” (D&C 88:40).”

I am ready to be diligent. I have been praying for the strength to strive and overcome. I have fasted and prayed. Today, after these efforts, I was given a place to start. Paul wrote, “Be careful for nothing (meaning, don’t worry so much); but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Through prayer and gratitude, I will begin to seek the peace of God. I will not and can not understand it, but it will keep my heart and mind grounded in my Savior instead of in my worry and self-doubt.

I want to finish this with something I wrote in my journal a few months ago. It’s back to the topic of motherhood and finding myself within it:

“Motherhood is the most important aspect of my life. Everything I do for the rest of my life will be affected by the fact that I am a mother. I would guess that any woman who has been a mother—even just for a few minutes—would agree that motherhood changes everything in your life. Even things that seemingly have nothing to do with my role as a mother are affected by what I have learned as a mother. Motherhood changes you. It makes you stronger and weaker, more confident and more vulnerable; it plays with time, stretching and compressing it; it brightens and darkens the world around you. When you become a mother you are given new eyes, new hands, and a new heart which you can never trade back.

And yet they are still my eyes, my hands, and my heart. Though motherhood will always be a defining part of my life, it will not define my life. I am more than a mother, and that more part of me makes me a better mother.”

What I’m working and hoping and praying for is that while I seek that more part of myself, I will be given the peace to share the joys that I find with my children. I hope that they will see my love for myself and know that my love for them is simply an extension of that since they are part of who I am. I hope they will learn how to accept their mistakes, forgive themselves, and try again as they watch me struggle to make this change.

Tonight, thankfully, I’m feeling hopeful. That serene feeling that washed over me in a tiny kickboxing class in the basement is here again, and I’m hoping it will stay.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

why MIT is cool

Want to know whether or not my laundry is done? Just check here.