What Rexburg taught me

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a gypsy.

I counted yesterday, and conservatively, I’ve moved 26 times in 29 years.

But for the last 10 years, Rexburg has been my home.

I left for a mission in Montana and a couple internships in Florida and Salt Lake, but Idaho has been my home base all through that time, making it the longest I’ve lived somewhere consecutively.

And a week ago, I left it all behind.

December 16, 2017
As Eric and I stood inside our empty, immaculately scrubbed apartment, I felt the emotion of the last 10 years brewing inside of me. But it all bubbled over when Eric held me in his arms and said something so simple and beautiful.

“I loved coming home to you here.”

I knew he meant apartment 2803. That’s where we brought home our babies, started a non-profit organization, laughed, cried and grew up. It’s where Eric spent countless hours into the night typing out complicated Excel assignments, and where I spent countless days rocking and singing to my little ones.

It’s where we put together our first crib and where I ironed Eric’s robes for graduation.

Yet his sweet sentiment described so perfectly how I felt about my time in Rexburg.

November 2007
When I started school at BYU-Idaho in September 2007, I had no idea what I was in store for.

I hated everything about the Podunk town I had found myself in, dreaming for the skylines of bigger cities and promise I felt they held for me.

I remember thinking and (probably saying) I didn’t want Rexburg to change me. Into what, I wasn’t sure, but whatever it was, boy was I resistant.

In the next almost six years that followed, I began on a transformative journey of faith. I’d always heard your 20s described as the “decade of decisions,” but had no idea how true the sentiment was.

I started as a theatre education (ha!) major, switched to psychology for a hot minute and ended up in the communication department.

I dated and loved an embarrassing amount of boys named Eric.

I saw dozens of roommates move in and out, each one an amazing woman who taught me so much about how to be a better person. Some of whom, have become lifelong, eternal friends.

I experienced nearly every alcohol-free college cliché, including sliding down the door crying after breaking up with a boyfriend, discovering 36 (approximately) different ways to eat Ramen, donating plasma and laughing until my sides threatened to bust and tears streamed down my face at 2 in the morning.

Fall 2011
My feelings about that frigidly cold Idaho town were slowly changing.

I recognized it one summer I visited my family in Arizona and referred to Rexburg as “home.”

Maybe that’s why when a boy named Eric Whitlock swept me off my feet during his first semester and my last in 2013, it wasn’t hard to decide that Rexburg was where we needed to be for just a little longer.

November 2014
The backend of my time in Idaho was spent married to my best friend.

We had so many wonderful and challenging experiences there. Mostly, we made our whole life in Rexburg “home.”

We made an incredible group of friends, learned about hard work and balance. We learned the value of the temple in our marriage and the importance of marital courtship.

June 23, 2015
So many places in Rexburg have become sacred ground to us. The hospital rooms where we met Link and Bellamy; the restaurant we got engaged in; the nameless street in Sugar City where we cried together for the first time; those long drives against a backdrop of wheat fields and potato farms where we held hands and tried to take on the world together one problem at a time.

The truth is, Rexburg is not where I wanted to be all those years ago. But it took me to every place I wanted and so desperately needed to go.

And as I’ve contemplated my time in my favorite spot of Idaho over the last few weeks, I’ve realized that’s the lesson.

What Rexburg taught me is simple: Faith.

Spring 2014
Though the lessons themselves felt anything but simple, I now see that each one was designed to strengthen my faith in Christ. My experiences at BYU-Idaho both as a student and later as a faculty member were absolutely priceless. If you are considering BYU-Idaho in your future, I emphatically encourage you to pursue your options there.

As I drove away through the snowy streets of Rexburg for the last time, a profound hope washed over me.

“Oh, how I hope Rexburg has changed me.”

I hope that as we start our next chapter in an admittedly more desirable climate, our new friends, family and acquaintances will come to know Rexburg a little bit through us. I hope we can show them our faith, our efforts to be kind, Christian people.

I hope we can show them why hard work and family matters most to us.

But I hope, most of all, they can come to know how much their Savior loves them.

Because that’s what Rexburg taught us.




You too? I love you.


Today I couldn’t help but smile as my daughter clapped as she watched Moana.
“Yea, Moana!” she said over and over.
Moana had just come across the boats hidden deep within her island, revealing her people’s past as great voyagers, adventurers.
Moana is brave and empowering.
I was proud my daughter has such a strong role model.
Then I hopped on Facebook.
Now I’m clapping. Clapping for my brave and empowering sisters and brothers who are coming forward with two simple words:
Their impact, however, has been anything but simple.
I’ve been sad all day. Sad to discover how deeply such great evil has touched so many people I love so dearly.
My jaw has dropped again and again as unassuming, amazing, wonderful women are coming forward about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault.
But my rollercoaster of emotions whipped me into another feeling entirely. Shame.
No, I haven’t been a victim of sexual assault.
Harassment? That’s a different story. And while I know there are millions of stories that are far worse and more painful than mine, sadly, sexual harassment and assault is a spectrum.
What I have learned today, thanks to empowering female friends, is the fact that even the smallest space on the spectrum, like mine, is too much.
Nearly 10 years ago I worked in the child care of a local gym. I started noticing one particular father dropping off his children 20 to 30 minutes before closing. It suddenly became a pattern. I always closed, and he was always there when I was uncomfortably alone.
He became more and more friendly, often getting way too close to me. While he never laid a finger on me, other than what he perceived to be “friendly touching,” a touch on the arm, for example, the warning sirens were blaring in my head.
Having survived other forms of abuse in my childhood, I’ve always been hypersensitive to how people, especially men, interact with me. The red flags were clear and I told my bosses, both men, about the situation.
You’re a good looking girl, they told me. What do you expect?
This type of response to my concerns of a sexual predator were followed with inappropriate jokes, most of which, I was the butt of. Every night after this until I returned to college was terrifying. Walking to my car alone was enough to send me into a panic attack. I would pretend to talk on my phone all the way to my car, and try to steady my breathing once I was behind a locked door.
A year later, I was working in a restaurant in Disney World. I once again became the object of some unwanted attention from another employee. I put up with it for weeks; the leering, the unnecessary physical contact, the crude remarks. That same siren got louder and louder in my head until I finally told my boss, again, a man.
Now my boss was a good, good man. I respected him greatly. But his response to this situation has been eye-opening to me.
Once a formal complaint was made, the offender and myself were called out during work (I know people noticed) and taken to a private room in another part of the park. There, in front of my offender and boss, I had to recall the advances and their effect on me. It was my word against these two men. I walked away feeling stupid, embarrassed and sick of having two pairs of eyes rolled at me with each concern I expressed.
Though this man was told to avoid contact with me, it did little to calm my nerves.
I walked away from both of these experiences feeling like I was the problem.
Was I trying to cause drama? Was I looking for attention? Was I trying to deal with the trauma from my childhood in an unhealthy way? I was worried that I was creating a pattern of unhealthy behavior and I swore I would never say anything again no matter what happened.
Mercifully, nothing more did happen.
And then today I started feeling that same yucky feeling I had nearly a decade ago as I read heartbreaking confessions from so many loved ones.
I felt unworthy to add my voice to the #metoo movement. Because I believe in it deeply. I want to be an advocate for anyone that has ever felt uncomfortable at the advances of another, ever felt small or voiceless.
“But I wasn’t raped…” I thought. “I wasn’t even assaulted.”
But that’s not the question. The question is when is too much too much?
All of it. Any experience, great or small with sexual harassment or sexual assault is too much. If you don’t believe me, scroll through the thousands of posts today on social media that declare otherwise.
While I know my experiences pale in comparison, they have taught me a great deal.
How different my view on sexual assault and harassment would be if my bosses had taken me seriously. Or even acted like they took me seriously. What if instead of rolling their eyes, they had chosen empathy and shown a commitment to stamp out this inappropriate behavior in any form? I want to live in that world.
View More: http://annachristinephoto.pass.us/whitlock
So ladies, I sit here clapping for you. I am in awe of your bravery. As women, we have to support each other. We have to speak up and speak out when unwanted attention and advances come our way.
And men, we need you, too. Please, continue to (as so many already do) stand with us as your equals rather than your objects. I am so grateful to the literally thousands of good men I know who would stand shoulder to shoulder with me in this in a heartbeat. You are incredible.
The plea for solidarity goes for all victims, regardless of gender or experience. Any experience on the spectrum is unacceptable.
Because I think again of my innocent, pure little girl, clapping for her hero, Moana. I hope she never experiences this horrific spectrum.
And heaven forbid she does, I hope she’ll have an army of brave men and women clapping for her so she can have the courage to be as strong as each of you.

Can everyone just shut up about breastfeeding?

I’ve about had it.

Can we all just collectively agree that parenting is hard. Any aspect of it. Motherhood, fatherhood, pregnancy, infertility – all of it. It is HARD.

But my goodness, if we don’t make it harder for each other than we need to.

I came across a Facebook post earlier today that talked about how women aren’t “lucky” to be able to breastfeed, they are just more determined and stubborn than you. While this wasn’t the exact wording, this was the clear message.

I walked away feeling like the only difference between moms that breastfeed and moms that don’t is their sheer desire to give their baby what’s best.

I call a big, fat, hearty load of B.S.

If this is how you feel about breastfeeding, that is so great for you. I’m so glad you are such a strong, awesome mom.

If this is NOT how you feel, I say to you: Girl, I freaking get you.


Breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It is so awesome and in some ways magical. It’s empowering and beautiful. But it has caused mental strain in a way that few other things in my life have.

And frankly no one ever talks about this.

Instead, it’s this horrible culture of mom-shaming and comparison. And I’ve had about enough of it. Why do people even feel the need to comment about it anyway? (and ironically, here I am blogging about it…)

I tried nursing my daughter for one agonizing month. And after feeling like someone had viciously taken a cheese grater to my nipples for weeks on end, I called it quits. I pumped exclusively for five months then switched to formula.

I’m awesome. Bellamy is awesome. End of story.

With Lincoln, it was an entirely different experience. He was a champion nurser. It was almost effortless from day one. I will say that I was very *gasp* lucky to have a baby that nursed so well, especially after such a challenging experience with Bellamy.

But around 5 months in, Link was on some heavy duty antibiotics for a UTI and developed thrush. Guess who also got thrush? This mama. If you’ve never experienced thrush in your boobies while nursing, praise everything. That was the most painful experience of my life, including childbirth. I tried to stick it out as long as I could, screaming in pain during pumping sessions, but finally, it was too much.

I also started a medication around the same time that was not safe to take while breastfeeding, so Link is now exclusively on formula.

I’m awesome. Lincoln is awesome. End of story.

Mother is best 

Both times, ending breastfeeding broke my heart. It was an agonizing experience for me. But both times, I knew it was the right call.

You see, our culture puts an emphasis on mothers sacrificing anything and everything for their babies to an unhealthy extent.

I am here to say that sometimes, you are just lucky to have a baby that nurses well. Sometimes, it’s because you have fought through literal sweat, blood and tears to keep nursing. Sometimes formula is the very best choice for you and for baby.

You’ve heard that breast is best. You’ve heard that fed is best.

I’m here to say that mother knows best. Don’t let anyone tell you that you just didn’t try hard enough. Don’t let them tell you that if only you had been more selfless things would be easier.

In fact, don’t let them tell you ANYTHING about how you should breastfeed. That is your decision to make.

Take care of you

One of the big reasons I stopped nursing Bellamy was because of my struggle with postpartum depression. I was a brand new mom, trying to balance a new baby, a new role as a mother and the crippling emotional pain that comes for a lot of women with postpartum.

Nursing was just one more challenge. I am ashamed to admit this, but in my very distressed state, as nursing became more and more frustrating, it started creating a wedge between Bellamy and me. I was angry at her. I once swore at my precious newborn in broken frustration, then wept in bitter shame.

I was having a hard enough time being kind to myself, I didn’t need one more reason to spin thoughts into such negative lies.

So I started pumping instead. For my own sanity. And you know what, it was hard. But it helped me be a better version of myself, which made me a better mom.


Women don’t talk enough about making choices to help themselves. This was a choice for me. And frankly, I believe it was a selfless one. Choosing to love and take care of myself always blesses my family, and this was no exception.

Stop it 

It’s not our place to judge other mothers. Most women will struggle with their parenting decisions without the help of a poorly timed or thought out comment. Let’s not make it worse for great moms who are trying just as hard as you.

Stop the criticizing. Stop the judging. Just stop talking about breastfeeding!

Instead, offer up useful, helpful conversations, like “What are you doing to take care of yourself, mama?” “This is a stressful time, can I bring you a meal?” “Let’s go to lunch!”

All of these are so much better and healthier (for everyone) than a passive aggressive conversation, comment or social media post about breastfeeding. Or co-sleeping. Or homeschooling vs. public schooling. Or any decision someone other than you makes.

Just be good to each other.

Because my sweet, darling kids are making me crazy enough as is. Chances are, yours are, too. Let’s help each other through the insanity, rather than into it.



The love that was missing from my marriage

I don’t know if it was because of my unrealistic expectations on marriage or the hundreds of romantic comedies I’d watched in the quarter of a century I lived before marriage, but I wasn’t prepared to be a wife. I wasn’t prepared for marriage.

Not the romantic, annoying, yucky love stuff. I was pretty good at that, as evidenced by my social media. I’m still sorry for every obnoxious selfie Eric and I shared for the first two years of our marriage. I’m still just as obsessed with my husband and now we’ve added two babes to the mix who are squishy, sassy bundles of pure joy.


I love my family. I love my marriage. I love my life.

What was missing from the equation for quite a while was a love for myself.

Specifically, in my new role as a wife and later, a mother.

It was like being doused with a bucket of cold water the other day when I came across a friend’s Instagram post. Sonja was married a little under a year ago, and posted some raw thoughts on how she had felt so lost since being married. Of course she was happy, ridiculously so, but still, something was off.

I felt every word that she wrote so deeply. I too struggled with depression after getting married. Even more so when I was pregnant and after the birth of both of my babies.

It’s hard. Change in any form is hard.

I spent years, 25 to be exact, trying to figure out who the heck I was. I spent thousands of dollars on schooling. I invested countless hours in creating a social scene and a niche in that scene. I made friends who shaped my interests and personality. I spent 18 months serving a mission, carving out yet another piece of myself. I developed hobbies and passions, including my beloved blog.

Then poof.

Suddenly, all of that was put on hold for a minute and my sole focus was on this amazing man who had waltzed into my life. I’m not ashamed of my tunnel vision. I was in love. It happens.

While we were dating I was swept away in the fantasy of it all. It was a magical, nearly perfect time of life for me.


When the fairy dust settled after our wedding and honeymoon — spoiler alert — life kept happening. And suddenly, I had to try to make pieces of my old life, my old self, fit into this new life. It was awkward to say the least. My husband was amazing in every way. I just felt…off.

Eric worked two jobs, often late into the night. I was working as a writer for the Deseret News. I enjoyed my work. I loved seeing Eric when I could. We had lots of Harry Potter marathons and went out to eat often so I could avoid cooking us dinner at 11 pm.

I was happy, but…

There was always that big, fat, bootylicious BUT in the back of my mind.

I felt like I was out of place in my own life. It was awful. And no one prepared me for it.

I struggled like this for quite awhile. Hindsight has given me the words. But during the thick of it all, it just felt uncomfortable. Like I was lost, but didn’t know what I was really looking for.

I’ve learned since then; I was looking for myself. At least a familiar version of her.

Because you see, I had it all wrong.

I learned at an early age that you are responsible for your own happiness. Rather than placing a deadline on your happiness, like “I’ll be happy when I graduate,” or “I could be happy if I just had a boyfriend,” I always tried to be happy exactly as I was.

What that gave me was a lot of time to develop things I loved about myself.


I value my education deeply. I became a journalist after college and worked for a few different newspapers. I blogged, and wrote columns for a local news organization. I now teach journalism at BYU-Idaho.


I valued my mission. It taught me a love of people, a love of teaching and an unshakable faith in and love of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

School, friends, hobbies, mission, everything I had filled my life with before marriage and motherhood had made me who I was. I knew that God had directed me to all of those things before I married Eric and before Bellamy and Lincoln came along.

One day, during a total emotional breakdown about motherhood, the Spirit taught me a very important lesson.


If God had led me to all of these wonderful things, my education, my career, my blog, my hobbies, it was for a purpose. And that purpose didn’t suddenly evaporate once I became a wife and mother.

All of those things about me were a part of me, and still needed to be a part of me.

Rather than creating a new version of myself, this revelation allowed me to rise from the ashes of my single life, a better, more complete version of myself. It helped me to love myself.

Instead of dropping everything I loved outside of my family to support a husband and raise children, I could use everything that I had developed in myself FOR my family. I didn’t suddenly stop being me and loving the things I loved.

It helped me to understand God’s plan for my life a bit more. I knew that as a mother I could teach my children the importance of education by continuing my own. I could teach them the value of work by balancing a job along with my motherhood. I could teach them the truths of our faith as I strive to live them each day.

My past is what will make me a better wife, a better mother. My past is what has led me to my family now. I can’t simply abandon it.

Back to my friend Sonja. She gave some wise advice about redefining her life. She’s absolutely right. I find that I am still redefining my life as I cling gratefully to the best parts of my past that has given me such a wonderful present.

Now I know that everyone’s path is different. So please, don’t compare yours to mine. Instead, be you unapologetically. You are what your family needs. You are what your children need. Become the best version of yourself.

Because you deserve the best.

Check out Sonja’s blog, The Joubert Den, where she blogs about life, marriage, faith and fashion.

When goodness needs help

I am livid.

Anger, instead of my heart, is what pumped the blood through my body.

It’s because my heart broke as I read and watched (warning, there’s a lot of language) accounts of the events that have transpired in and because of Charlottesville these last few days.

Maybe you feel the same anger, too.

Continue reading “When goodness needs help”

An accidental vacation

I recently wrote about my desires to live more intentionally. Well, sometimes life offers you a chance for spontaneity and you have to take it.

Such was the case for the Whitlock Family {Accidental} Summer Vacation 2017.

Last Wednesday I decided to take our kids to visit my mom. I had gotten off the phone with her early that morning and told Eric, “I need to go to Utah today.” He thought I was crazy agreed and rearranged a few things at work so he could come too while I packed up our car for a couple days in Utah.

On the way there, we heard the news that Eric’s sister’s water had just broken and she was having her sweet baby girl, Eden. We joked about going to Arizona after our time in Utah.

Eric and I looked at each other.

“Why don’t we?” I said.

Continue reading “An accidental vacation”

Arrows out: a birthday wish

Today is my 29th birthday. As I have reflected on my 20s these past couple days I’ve been filled with so much gratitude. The last 10 years of my life have been filled with many changes and life-altering decisions. Your 20s are often referred to as the “decade of decisions,” to which I shout a resounding AMEN.


Eight years ago I was living in Orlando and heard Elder Jeffery R. Holland, an apostle of the Lord, Jesus Christ in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, give an inspired talk. I sat on the stage in the very back of a very crowded church building. I could barely see him standing at the podium. But his words pierced me to my heart. He spoke about service and compared it to a tithe on our lives. If we lived to the age of 100, he said, that meant 10 years were dedicated in service to the Lord.

Continue reading “Arrows out: a birthday wish”