We are as we Become


No book, class, or person on earth could have prepared me for motherhood. I could have spent my whole adolescences studying how to be a mother and still wouldn’t be proficient enough. It’s a role you can only truly learn and understand by being.

I am three kids, and just over seven years, into motherhood. I am nowhere near knowing all there is to being a great mother. They say your firstborn is the “guinea pig”. This is true in a lot of aspects, but each child is a guinea pig in regards to learning how to mother. Every child comes with different characteristics and traits. This makes motherhood the most evolving role I have or will ever have.

It’s hard trying to become someone while needing to be that someone at the same time. In nearly all other roles, we study then become. The role of a mother is opposite: we are as we become. Each day I am having to become a mother I have never been before, because I am mothering to children who are changing each day. This role has provided me the miraculous blessings of becoming; becoming better, becoming stronger, becoming a mother.

All or Nothing, just do Something


Years ago we lived on a half of an acre in Idaho. We planted our first garden while living there. It was big, but definitely not beautiful. Beauty wasn’t the goal though, having it produce was.

It did produce. We had a pretty good harvest and I was able to even do some canning with what we grew. This small success gave me the desire to have a green thumb.

We moved the following summer for my husband to pursue graduate school and no longer had a yard to plant a garden. My desire to develop a green thumb was not able to be fulfilled.

Upon moving to California, one of my needs was to have a yard. Not only did I want to plant a garden but I wanted an outdoor area for my kids to play. Luckily, we were able to rent a home with a decent yard. For the last three years my kids have enjoyed it but having a garden has never come to fruition. That is until now.


This year we finally planted a garden! It is far from the size of our first garden but it is something.

What kept us from planting a garden for three years?

We had the all or nothing approach.

We knew it was impossible to have a garden the size of our first one so we chose to do nothing at all. Instead of planting and being able to harvest something we had nothing. We deprived ourselves of the fun of gardening and the excitement of reaping.

How often do we take this approach in life?

I’m guilty of it a lot. I believe it tends to be found in perfectionists. Though I would not consider myself a perfectionist, I definitely set high standards. Sometimes those standards are so high I resort to not even trying at all, just as I did with not planting a garden.

What I realized once the steps were taken (the real credit goes to my husband) to having a garden is: doing something can bring as much happiness as doing it all.


I’m sure we will not have the same reaping as we did with our first garden but we are able to experience the joy of gardening again. Hopefully the difference will be made up in getting to share the experience with our children this time. It has been fulfilling to see their excitement and helping them develop green thumbs in the process.

It’s not too often we get to have all we want but there’s usually a way to find how to have something. That something can become all we really need.

Endurance isn’t about crossing a finish line


In 2008 I started training for my first marathon. About half way through my training I developed shin splints. I was discouraged but ran through the pain, hoping it would subside. Unfortunately, the pain didn’t go away and only became worse. It got to the point I couldn’t even walk. I reluctantly decided to stop training and not pursue the race.

At the time I became frustrated and hopeless. What was to be something I worked towards and looked forward to, became no longer a possibility. I didn’t let my discouragement keep me from doing anything at all though. I began incorporating different workouts.

In 2011, after the birth and first year of my little boy’s life, I decided to re-pursue marathon training. We had then moved to Kansas and it was summer. Mid-westerners know this means hot and humid. The one perk was there were miles of paved trails.

On my long distance days I would wake at four in the morning, to try to beat the sun and heat. I ran through beautiful lush scenery. The scenery was not the only change in my training though, my muscles had become stronger as well. 

During my first training my muscles were not able to endure long distances, causing my tibia bones to start taking the shock. During my second training I learned three fundamentals about muscle strength with running. These fundamentals can also be applied to enduring hard circumstances in life.

First- Take a break. Having a break provides time for recovery. Initially I was forced to stop running but then it was by choice. During my recovery my frustrations turned into realizations and I found clarity, not only in running, but with life. 

Second- Learn from experience and conditioning. My first training was unsuccessful but it provided my muscles exposure to long distance. Each experience, even failure, can be used for good.

Third- Find new methods to become stronger. Not being able to run provided me the opportunity to try new workouts like; HIIT, Tabata, and Yoga. These exercises made it possible for me to stay conditioned and, ultimately, increased my muscle strength. Strength is found through gaining knowledge and insight.

With increased strength it provided me the ability to successfully train for my first marathon. The training was rigorous and challenging. There were still moments of pain but my muscles were capable of enduring. Crossing the finish line of my first marathon was rewarding, but the greatest reward was the strength I gained during the training.

What I learned in a day in Haiti


Recently I went on a cruise with family to Royal Caribbean’s private beach in Haiti. For most of the day I relaxed on a lounge chair enjoying the tropical paradise. While doing so I watched the locals try to sell souvenirs and dote on tourists for tips. What really struck me was watching them clean the water of trash and debris with, what appeared to be, homemade baskets. Though it was far from a true representation of Haiti’s economic state, it opened my eyes to a lifestyle far from the one I live. I began to feel guilty for my differing circumstances.

Surely they must be disheartened to spend their life cleaning up after our luxuriousness. I was surprised to learn, from them, they are happy and grateful we come to vacation because it provides them opportunities for a better life.


Finding happiness in life is just as obtainable for them as it is for me because their focus is not on their circumstance but rather on improving their life and the lives of their loved ones. They focus on becoming better.

All to often, I allow my happiness to be dictated by where I am. Residing in a self-indulgent, instant-gratification society I find myself focusing on what I don’t have. I do this so much I found myself comparing the Haitian’s lifestyle to my own. What I should be focusing on is what I can do. No matter where I am; literally and figuratively in life, focusing on becoming better will always bring the most happiness.

Sorrow begets Joy

poulsen family pictures with I am Michelle Gifford Photography-16
photo: @iammichellegifford

It wasn’t too long ago I was experiencing disappointment after disappointment. In the midst of great sorrow, I was hit with a very strong impression to try for another baby. My first thought was, “that’s a sure way to throw me over the edge to insanity”. In fact, I was certain it would only cause me more misery. Guess what? It did . . . temporarily.

Why, when I chose to act on an impression, was I then given more anguish? Seems unfair, right?

It wasn’t unfair though. Hindsight, I actually received more than I gave. Sure, at the time I felt I couldn’t give anymore; I didn’t think I could physically be pushed any further. What I received were important life truths. The greatest truth being: when I give more than I think is even possible the reward becomes even that much greater.

Despite my miserable pregnancy, and still having many of those same disappointments present today, joy has been added to my life through Gracie. It’s not hard to see why, her smile is contagious.

Joy cannot be experienced without sorrow. Likewise, joy cannot be achieved alone. We are here on earth to help each other feel joy. Gracie came into my life when I needed her. She is just one of the many people who have fulfilled my needs and blessed my life with joy.