Hello, Second Trimester!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

This pregnancy has reached another milestone!  Baby Pardy #3 is officially 15 weeks old, and a good week into the second trimester.

You know what this means...GENDER PREDICTION TIME!  Cast your vote below and see if more people are thinking pink or blue for what's in this belly of mine.

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Very different than when I was pregnant with the girls.  I couldn't stand the smell of coffee with either of them, and this time around I indulge in one cup a day with total bliss.  I can also eat Mexican food without turning my stomach - something I truly missed when I had an aversion to it with both girls.

Carrying the same (as you can see).  Out in front, beach ball style, popping out early as ever before with plenty of questions regarding twins and miscalculated due dates.  (Sigh)

Hairy Legs:
Same - and yes, the amount of hair that grows on your legs is evidently an old wives predictor.

Same - breaking out same as ever, maybe slightly worse in the first trimester due to the oh-so-lovely hormone boost.

More nauseous in the first trimester than I was with the girls.  (Though the old wives tale says girls cause more nausea, so take that for what it's worth!)

So, there you have it.  Just a few more weeks until we find out and REVEAL if this baby is a boy or girl!  I'd love for you to vote and be part of the fun as we find out whether it's more tutus for us or if we'll be shopping for bow ties!  Hooray for Pardy baby #3!

Baby It's [Bitter] Cold Outside

Friday, February 20, 2015

We live in Nashville, TN.  "The South". A location known for its humidity in the summer and it's "Tender Tennessee Christmas" in the winter.

I've been duped.

This week was anything but tender to my thin, moved-here-from-California blood.  Granted, we don't live in New England where there are FEET of snow and ice piling up - I feel for them (no, I literally do, considering they must surely all be numb by now - I can NOT imagine).

We're going on our fifth "snow day" in a row here.  School has been canceled all week, I interned at the counseling center a few hours yesterday, but that's been it.  Otherwise, our world has consisted of adjusting the thermostat, layering sweatshirts, and cooking pantry creations I would otherwise deem inedible beyond these circumstances.

It's not been all bad.  Honestly, I LOVE a reason to be an introvert for a week.  I love to hunker down and hermit-it-out in front of Netflix and give myself permission to drink hot chocolate in bed while I start yet another episode of Parenthood (I'm new to the series, so no spoilers, please).

Meanwhile, my husband has braved the icy terrain of our yard with our two daughters, teaching them important life lessons like "don't lick the swing set" and "icicles are not for throwing".  Luckily, I had found two snowsuits at a consignment sale last year and I'm forever grateful I purchased them when I did, not knowing if they would ever get much use here.

As I handed my husband two giant cake pans to fashion into toddler-sleds, I became instantly overwhelmed by the thought that THIS is exactly what childhood memories are made of:  holed-up family time, getting creative and resourceful, resting in the comfort of home.  (Okay, maybe I've been watching too much Parenthood.)  Forced at-home days are the perfect remedy for the too-busy soul.

It's easy to get restless - not just on snow days, but in LIFE!  It's easy to think more about what I should be doing that what I get to be doing.  It's easy to look out the window and only see a stark world, dangerous and full of risks not worth taking.  Rest is necessary.  Down time and togetherness are essential.  And adventures never come without risks.  I too often overlook the importance of these things, and I'm grateful for the forced-homebodiness that was implemented into our family this week.

But, while it's been the coziest week ever, I'm also glad that spring is on the way.  (You are coming, aren't you spring?)

It's hard to find the balance of busy/productive/independent and rest/relaxation/together-time.  Ya feel me?  I love both, I need both, and I hope if this week has taught me anything it's to appreciate both for what they are and how they serve recursively in my life.  Too much of the one takes away from the other.

So, if you're climbing the walls ready to kick your kids out into the yard and actually looking forward to the next trip to the grocery store simply cause it means you'll get to leave the house - sit tight, hold on, and count your blessings like the tiny little snowflakes that they are - unique...beautiful...sometimes a mess.

Winter won't last forever.  We might as well make memories that will.

Fifty Shades of Reality: What's the big deal?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mary and John have begun a new relationship.  It's thrilling and unlike anything they've experienced with anyone before.  Mary has three teenagers from a previous marriage, and she's excited to finally have a hardworking, caring person in her life who shows interest in her needs and dreams.  He's kind to her kids and a great listener.  It isn't long before everyone moves in together and they start operating as a normal American family.

Mary is a pediatric nurse, a fine example to the community around her of a caring, nurturing person.  While she and John aren't married, their commitment to one another is bound by something they both find more significant than a marriage license:  a contractual agreement between a submissive and dominant partnership.

Every day when Mary gets home from her shift, she welcomes home her kids from school and then puts on a manacle that cuffs her wrists and neck together with chains.  John makes all her decisions for her.  What to wear, eat, and say.  How to cook, clean, and act.  When to sit, sleep, and breathe.  And Mary complies willingly, relieved to have checked her power at the door and have someone she trusts completely dictate her every move, in and out of the bedroom, but only within the confines of their home.

This is a true story (with minor details changed to protect identities.)

Mary and John were clients of a colleague of mine, a therapist who has expertise in paraphiliac disorders, including sadomasochism.  Here's the deal though - Mary and John didn't see a therapist because of their contractual arrangement, their sex life, or even their own relationship.  They sought counseling because they couldn't figure out why the three teenagers living in the home were suddenly acting out, rebelling, throwing tantrums, and causing disturbances in the everyday home life that they otherwise deemed functional.

Mary and John's story will never be a Hollywood movie.  It won't be the fantasy that housewives giggle over as they sip Chardonnay.  It's not the kind of thing that people wish they were part of...because it's the scary, shocking reality behind what a day-in-the-life-of-regular-people looks like when they try to combine coping mechanisms with sexual escapism and power imbalances.

I've put off writing this post.  I've hesitated a million times since writing the post on Fifty Shades of Marriage whether I would open up yet another conversation about something I sort of wish would just die out all together.  But, with Fifty Shades of Grey opening on Friday and the news that two sequels have already been confirmed, I can't just sit silent (nor has that ever been my strong suit).

Two things right off the bat that you can go ahead and use to discredit me:
I have not read the books.
I will not see the movie.

I open with that to clearly let you know up front that what I have to say has very little to do with convincing you to not go see the movie.  You're a grown up (I assume) and I want you to make an informed decision.  What you do with your time is up to you, I'll leave that at that.

What I want to do here is expose you to the fact that what you read and see on screen (even if limited to the onslaught of ads and promotional posters that this film has paraded) is extraordinarily worlds apart from the reality that this fantasy embodies.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know by now that the film centers around the intoxicating relationship of young, literature student Anastasia Steele and the provocative billionaire, Christian Grey.   Their love affair (and what all the buzz is about) develops into an erotic S&M contractual relationship.

Even from the trailers of the movie, you can tell that Ana and Christian's trysts look far different than the picture of Mary and John I painted earlier.  His hyper-cool bachelor pad, exquisite suits, and apparent "date night" of flying through the sky in a zillion-dollar-drone would make any gal swoon.  It's all so exotic and enticing, and the simple-girl-next-door in all of us can't help but want to be swept off our feet.

But this is no Cinderella story.

If you've read the books, you might have a fair idea of what S&M entails.  If you haven't, you might be sweating right now at the idea of it, or feeling a bit queasy about where this blog might be headed.  No worries, we're not diving into details.

While I haven't read the books, I am getting my Masters in Marriage & Family Therapy, and have therefore read plenty about sex therapy, sexuality, and the attachment/trauma disorders that follow.  While I'm no expert, I've talked to and been taught by experts who have revealed to me a whole new side to this "fantasy" that gets the media all weak in the knees. (Seriously, I can't even turn on the Today Show without seeing new clips of this film!)

One expert I've talked to is a recovering sex addict herself who now, years later, helps run one of the most successful sex addiction recovery clinics in the Nashville area.  I asked her specifically about Fifty Shades (which she hesitantly and with much accountability did read so that she could discuss it openly with her clients) and she admitted to it being a difficult task that surfaced many past sexual addiction triggers.

She pointed out that one of the critical dangers with sadomasochism is that it combines a story of trauma with an act of attachment.  This is not trust-building, people.  It's a way of teaching your mind and body that where you find pain is the same place you find security.  (Talk about risky business.)

If that's not disturbing enough, consider that this is the same psychological trauma that occurs when children are sexually or physically abused.  It's what happens when wives are beaten but can't leave their husbands.  It's a learned, ingrained connection that wrongly brings comfort where there should be giant red flags instead.  And you don't have to be a sex addict for this fantasy to affect you in this way.

Just because someone can function and/or willingly take part in something, doesn't make it healthy.

Mary and John eventually ended their relationship.  My colleague who counseled them told me that she's more recently seen two other couples in her office that have been affected by the repercussions of reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

In both instances, the wives were unhappy, they read the fantasy novel and "realized" their marriages were not living up to the unattainable man-takes-charge-of-everything expectations that the book set for them.  The wives had affairs, the marriages were destroyed, and no one was left more satisfied after all the dust settled.  While Fifty Shades didn't cause these women to make the choices they made, it certainly influenced them.

Will everyone who sees this movie ruin their relationship?  No.  But, if you're looking for a way to spice-up the bedroom or reconnect with your partner, there are incredibly far better, more effective strategies for doing so than spending $35 at the movies and leaving with the disappointment that your man is only a hardworking, loving father-of-your-children, who sometimes leaves the toilet seat up and not some six-packed, power stud who relieves you of all responsibilities.

I'm gonna say it.  It's just gross.  It's a distortion so fierce that it makes Pretty Woman look like a silly reality show in comparison.

The most worrisome part of it all is that it's a trend.  A fab.  A blockbuster, even.  A ubiquitous phenomenon that seems to be inescapable from our culture at the moment. Something that teenagers will go to dates and see.  Something that bored stay-at-home-moms of America will drag their embarrassed husbands to on Friday night and then fight all the way home because they can't get the unsettled feeling out of their guts that life feels unfair.

Fantasy is a reality-killer.  It's dangerous, merciless, and feels temporarily amazing.  (Key word, temporarily.)

Fifty Shades of your own reality can be so much more than any book or any movie could ever offer.

The tiny joys and triumphs of embedding trust and intimacy into a relationship are far more worthwhile and long-lasting than whatever momentary pleasure could offer.  Healthy, consistent, consensual sex in the confines of marriage motivates things like honesty, communication, encouragement, affection, and provision.  True trust-building requires developing a cycle in which both parties are respected, heard, loved, nurtured, and considered.  Last but not least, safety and the desire to protect are essential to the foundation of any healthy relationship.

Just imagine if all those dollars going to Fifty Shades of Grey this weekend were redirected to marriage retreats, couples counseling, or a date night where people actually held hands and stared into each others' eyes discussing hopes and dreams about a future together?  How would our children be affected if we all praised our spouses for who they are instead of moped around looking for opportunities to criticize them?

This Valentine's Day, I invite you to shed new light on the real S&M: sex and marriage.  Hold hands and talk openly about your joys and needs in your current relationship.  Put yourself in your spouse's shoes, listen to their hearts and pray for the strength and patience to meet them where they are.  Real connection starts with compassion and a willingness to join your spouse in their perspective.  Sex will naturally follow, and naturally motivate the desire for more connection.

It's not rocket science, but it ain't easy.  And even if you think your marriage is beyond the scope of the skills you currently have, you're answers don't lie beyond your grasp.  Friends, therapists, pastors - there are many resources you can seek out to take the steps towards a more satisfying life together.

It's time to step out of the shadows.  Don't be tempted by the Fifty Shades of grayness that society is dangling in front of us.  Hold hands, step into the light, and open yourself up to the possibility that your reality can outshine the fantasy you've been searching for.

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