Work Work Work Work Work… 

Disclaimer: I am fully aware the choice to work or not is an incredible gift my family has. I do not discredit that nor take it lightly. I have great pride in being both a SAHM & Working mom. I respect all mothering choices and can assure you of my respect for whatever balance you’ve found for your life and family. The following post is my personal experience only and should not address in any way an opinion on anyone else’s parenting choices. Instead I hope you see this is about me finding myself and what balance works for MY life & family. Enjoy- XO

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Today: “I feel like I’m being… suffocated,” I lay down in the couch and burry my face in the pillow, surprisingly finding more air to breathe in the tiny space that should’ve trapped me… because I was alone. For a moment I was without anyone needing my attention to a nap or a snack or a change, and I was desperate for a moment again…

In March, I took a step I never planned and never could’ve ever seen myself plummeting in to. I went to work. I just wanted to help dig us out of some accumulated debt and bring my husband some ease, at first. 
I was still nursing Adi then, so the plan was to work in the evening when she wouldn’t need as much to eat and could take just one pumped bottle and I could feed her as soon as I get home. The plan seemed simple enough. Seth would come home from his office at the church in the evening a few days a week, and I would head to the restaurant to Host for a few hours, right before the girls would go to bed. I would still spend all day with them. It would give Seth a chance to step up and really solidify his bond with them on his own. No harm done.
I remember going in for the interview thinking it all felt very strange to me, like I was coming out of some sort of bomb shelter I’d been living in and seeing the world had all moved ahead 10 years without me…”What are your skills?” “What’s your availability?” “I see you haven’t worked in a few years..?” “You didn’t finish college?” Questions that rattled me and made me feel inferior and somehow irresponsible. Why hadn’t I said that I was an author and mother of two children and wife and youth leader and… whatever else I could’ve said to try to encapsulate “what I had to offer”? Why hadn’t I gone in knowing I had managed a doctor office on my own, and run a hotel desk, and been a nanny of 4 children, and now a mother (which we all know is the most daunting of any job to take on, really) and felt confident? Because I didn’t know at all what I could offer…
Anyway, I was easily given the job regardless of my doubts. My first day, Seth came home a little earlier than the agreed upon time to wish me luck. I felt foreign in my own skin and my polyester work pants. Something felt “off”. Everything I had spent over 2 years obsessing over: being an expert on all things breastfeeding, mastering nap schedules, deciding which child rearing camp I should take on the tactics of… seemed irrelevant. There was a shift that day, a small crack in the ground I had steadily made a foundation of my family on, staringback at me. I ignored it. I found myself excitedly getting in my car and turned on a playlist I had made just for the 20 minute drive alone. I got to do my hair, and wear makeup, and clean clothes, and jewelry, that no one would spit up on or try to mess with. There was a thrill to the freedom going to a job provided me, and I thirsted for it ever since.
Soon I became a waitress, better pay and hours. I started closing the restaurant regularly and making friends. I felt “at home”. 
On Friday’s, I would sing karaoke and the bar would applaud me. Filling my egotistical soul that constantly needed stroking. On night’s I would close I liked the control my job of checking others work provided me. It fed my need to be recognized, and I paraded it proudly. Though nothing I did was wrong, when everything in your life becomes about yourself… it will all be wrong. 
But at home, my girls grew anxious at my constant leaving. My husband and I passed like ships in the night as he would wake early to leave, return home just for me to leave, and I would slip into bed after him in the wee hours the next day. Adi weaned herself from nursing quickly. The girls went to bed most easily for Seth. He knew their schedules. My house was either neglected from me being exhausted or wiped cleaned by my equally tired husband. My daughters grew to annoy me in my state of sleeplessness. I would be frustrated at their lack of obedience to me… though why should they listen when they never knew when I would come and go? 
So why did I keep working? What drove me most were two things I am so ashamed to admit: money and freedom. 
No one pays you to clean up messes at home, but work does. No one pays me to be kind to my children, but work pays me to be kind to people. There’s never time to talk about my problems at home to my toddlers, but there’s other adults at work that listen. There’s no “me” time at home, but there is to and from work… work was easily replacing and consuming my life. And my whole world was suffering. The more I blossomed at my job, the more steadily my home life crept toward a downward spiral. 
When the girls weren’t with Seth while I worked, they were with one of their grandparents while Seth and I handled youth activities for his job, or being babysat while I worked events for my mothers business… and when they were with me I was too tired by my entire life to be my playful self with them. Everything they knew about who I was to them was fading. My temper grew like wildfire and my fuse was short. 
The week before I quit I remember taking Isla and Adi with me on a day trip with my siblings and parents to Pittsburg. We planned to got to the Zoo for sisters birthday and then to IKEA to pick up new lighting for my dining room. Isla had been taking my constant working especially hard. She would get angry at me all of the time for even putting her in the car, afraid I’d be dropping her off somewhere. She refused to listen to me and was becoming incredibly aggressive with me… punishing me for leaving her. It was her only way to communicate her emotions with me… and I wasn’t listening. Right before we got in my parents van for the drive I asked her to put her toys away. She didn’t listen and I picked her up. “WHAP!” Her fist met my nose with surprising force. Who was I to tell her what to do when I was never even around?
3 more times that day similar events happened. Until finally my own father had to give her a talking to because my face had had just about enough beatings for one day to rationally handle her outbursts. I was so embarrassed. My dad had to help me handle my toddler hitting me? My children pulled away when I held them? They didn’t listen… they didn’t know me. I had been absent. 
Where was their mother that nursed them? Coslept with them? Wore them all day around the house? Played peek-a-boo? Read to them? rocked them to sleep and tucked them in with too many kisses to count? 
She had been replaced with an irritable, sleep-deprived, selfish monster. I was unrecognizable.
The next week I gave my two week notice.
I was genuinely sad to leave my job. I’d made friends. I’d gotten to have alone time. I made good money. I’d gotten some debt paid off. I was good at my job. I felt rewarded and recognized and important. And in realizing what it was that made me sad about leaving, I realized I HAD to leave. What had happened to my priorities? Where was my family-my husband and daughters- on the list of things that mattered? Why did my self worth need to be stamped in what money I could bring in? Why wasn’t it measured by my children feeling safe and sure in what their life and routine was? Why wasn’t it measured by how I related to them? How they missed me? I was the one missing out… and everyone was suffering.
So I went home.
That’s where everything is supposed to mend itself, right? We should just be in rewind mode for a moment and then my life should fall into place again. Right? But it didn’t, of course. 
Isla still is figuring out that I’m not leaving the house when I put her down for a nap or bed… which means the 20 minutes of coaxing her screams are blood on my hands because of me. When Adi needs held 99.98% of the time because she doesn’t trust me when I walk out of the room… it reminds me that I wasn’t there. 

When Isla gets violent because she’s not used to me reprimanding her… it’s on me.
I carry guilt many days because I choose myself over everything else… though I know my girls are fine and it’s a phase and it will pass… I can’t help but consider that the phase would’ve never began were it not for me. 
But worst of all, I find myself occasionally angry. Angry that I left to do my own thing, but angrier because I miss it. Angry because my daughter fights me, but angrier because I don’t know how to communicate and I feel like I missed some major moments in her development where I would’ve picked up on how to handle it. Angry because my youngest weaned herself from nursing, and angrier that I didn’t grieve it ending but celebrated my extra freedom in her doing it so I could work more… Angry because I didn’t know who I was without my job or with it. Angry because I miss having me time and money that I could decide what to do with. Angry because it feels wrong to be angry. 
Everything has become about nap schedules, and snack time, and sorting the playroom, and folding onsies, and wiping noses & butts again… and I’m supposed to love it. I’m supposed to rejoice in what luck I have to even be a stay at home mom. I’m supposed to be thankful and excited about the role I get to play, and though I have many moments of peace and gratefulness I also feel emptiness. 
Though I often thought it was about my job or lack thereof, the truth is I feel suffocated not by staying home or working, but because I don’t always know my identity well enough to be at peace in whatever role I play. 
We’re still figuring out how this whole thing works again… my house is cleaner, my kids are happier, I spend time with my husband, and I am searching myself out again… I hope to unearth someone I could like. And in the settling dust of life slowing down, I think the best thing I can give my family now is myself.

A Loaded Question 

She stretches and her striped shirt moves. The outline of the smallest fist wriggles, just beneath the surface of her ever-growing bump, and plunges outward. Her hands instinctively move to it and rub it softly, absent-mindedly. She continues to speak to her other children, one in a high chair, and the other, with gold tufts of hair, sipping quietly at his juice box. She bends slowly, nearly precariously, thanks to her top heavy stature. The growing creature inside her, each day making her tasks a bit more exhausting. She looks tired, and yet peaceful. She is a seasoned vet to the world of parenting. Her tone is soft, her movements firm but gentle. She guides her children with kindness, though I hardly notice… my eyes fixated on her bump.

 

It seems to me, and my husband will nod fervently in agreement, that since learning of our first pregnancy years ago, we notice expectant mothers at every turn. Where once we had hardly noticed their presence, it seemed that were a pregnant woman to be seen, she would be by us.
 

Two children later, I watch her and wonder what I have missed out on. Her ease, and knowing smile at her soon-to-be born baby… I wish I had taken that in and felt that joy. But I cannot say so. Both my girls, the loveliest of surprises, were just that- surprises. With the knowledge in hand that we never thought we even could have children, both were complete shocks. And our second being conceived just a short 6 months following our eldest, we were too busy scratching our heads and holding then heaviest of black bags under our eyes to embrace the excitement.
 

But now, 13 months after my second child… I have begun to feel the itch. One I never thought I could know again. My youngest, Adi, was not exactly what I would call an “easy baby”. With colic weeks traced with my darkest hours of postpartum dealings, I vowed “never again“, easily.
 

 

But then I see a newborn sock gone unpacked away to the attic, lying lonely on my laundry room floor, and I quietly stow it away in my top drawer to peek at when I think I am alone.
 

But then I catch the glimpse of a newborn, being carried by what is clearly a first-time dad so unsure of himself, and the sweet baby yawns and he melts. I long to breathe in the sweet smell of her newness.
 

But then I replace the seat we brought both girls home from the hospital in, for a second toddler car seat, and I drive away from where it sits empty in my garage, and my heart has a pang… for it to be filled.
 

But then I see my youngest jumping in her crib, and I know she is ready for the toddler bed… and Isla for a regular twin bed… and a crib that will soon be taken apart and stowed away to collect dust and nothing else.
 

 

My house has scheduled naptimes, and a play room without baby swings and jumpers to trip over. My house has no more nights of trying to get the baby to latch or breast-pump bags to fill. My house has a ready and waiting potty chair to be mastered, and diapers that will no longer soon be needed.
 

My car has the perfect amount of seating for a family of four, and the perfect amount of people for the average vacation package to Disney (hint, hint, nudge, nudge). My life has a routine to it. I can go to a part-time job in the evening because I want to, or an overnight with my husband as just a couple.
 

My baby weight is gone, and then some! I can wear a swimsuit without wondering if I can nurse in it or if my baby bump is well supported enough to take the edge off my back. I can sleep on my stomach, go in a hot-tub, take extra strength midol and my migraine medication. White wine and I become close acquaintances again. I don’t have to worry about a birth plan or taking my prenatal.
 

 

But… sometimes the heart doesn’t care about everything we’ve finally gotten finished mastering… sometimes it remembers that new baby smell, the first smile, the daytime snuggles, the velvet skin… and I am at a cross road.
 

Not today, not tomorrow… maybe not next year…maybe never…
A part of me, in my womanhood, wonders if I ever there is a time again… there is a sweetness in life that is only known when a new life is within you and I wonder if ever I shall embrace it once more.
 

I know the headache and sleeplessness a baby brings. I know the endless changing, and nursing, and tiredness that it is. But I also know the bliss that a baby is, and I long ago forgot it in my busyness and exhaustion.
 

In my sadness and depression something went amiss in my experience with pregnancy. Its difficult to swallow that legitimacy, and repeat it aloud. But I know its truth.
 

There’s the financial battle, the child-spacing conundrum, the worry of jealousies among siblings, and change in routine… and something about the simple question “do you want another baby?” has become something else…
 

Underneath, we ask: “is it convenient?” or “is it reasonable?”, instead. There is wisdom in those wonderings, but also a loss of heart. So ask me “do I want to be pregnant again?” There is a part of me as a woman that can never let go of that longing. Ask me “do I want another baby?” There is a part of me that will never not want the chance to hold a sweet brand new thing for its first time in existence and want to give it everything is this world. Ask me “do I want any more children?” There is a piece that wants to hold my arms open and each space to be filled with a person that is my own flesh and love them so deeply that will never feel unwanted or abandoned.
 

But that is not what we are asked. So do I want a baby? YesNo. NoYes. No. Yes. NO. YES.
 

Ask me tomorrow. Ask my heart tomorrow.

6 Parenting Rules I Consistently Break & Survived

There are certain things society & honestly, even some expert opinion “rules” that just don’t work for myself or my kids… and I’m okay with it. And you should be okay with breaking whatever doesn’t work for you, too. Go ahead, be a rebel. Everyone will survive.

  1. We eat what we want…

 

I wish I could tell you we eat only organic vegan food choices, but that would be a bold face lie. We may not eat McDonald’s every night for dinner, but when I pass the golden arches my toddler has requested a smoothie once or twice. And I have happily indulged her. She munches on handfuls of berries, gulps down cheese sticks and carrots, nibbles on scrambled eggs and grilled chicken… and she also has had her share of donuts and lollipops. We balance salads and penny candy around here, and we are all the happier for it. I break the healthy eating rules sometimes, and surprisingly they have survived.

 

  1. Soothing…

 

When I wake up at 2 am to a crying infant, I nurse her to sleep. She drifts off happily in her milk coma, and order is restored. When my toddler wakes up from a nightmare I get in bed with her, make sure she has her “baby” and pacifier, and I wait for her to be calm. Sure, I believe in bedtimes and schedules, but when my girls are up crying I break all the rules about teaching them to calm themselves and I cosleep. Why? Because It’s good for my heart to hold them close, and they love for mama to be close. It’s simple. I know she can survive crying it out and sleeping in her own bed, but I WANT to hold her tight. I want to make their worlds right again. So I do. I gave Isla and Adi pacifiers the day they were born, and when THEY are ready they will give them up. Adi likes to be swaddled even at a year old, so I do it. Isla likes 3 blankets, so I do it. Isls slept with me perfectly for the first 6 months, and it brought my life a lot of peace. We soothe the girls in the ways they respond best to, and I’m not sorry for it. They are happy children most of the time, and I credit this to breaking all the rules on scheduling nursing, demanding the pacifier be tossed at 18 months, and leaving them to sort out their tears every night. We like structure, we do. But we like content and calm little girls more. I have two fairly good sleepers and daytime self-soothers, that I believe are a result of this. We broke the rules, and they’ve both survived.

 

  1. We’re naked…

 

My daughters HATE, I mean HATE to get dressed. And once dressed, my oldest HATES to be stuck in her clothing. That said, if you stop by our home unexpectedly, prepare yourself for a lot of nudity. Isla will be dressed one minute, and the next I find her stark naked with her clothing piled in the corner. I have given up wrestling them into tank tops and leggings, and why not? Wear what you want at your home. Be naked for all I care. More often than not they both sleep naked, too. Be comfortable has become the motto. And in the daytime Isla hardly even wears a diaper. And what I have come to find, is that in public they care not to undress. They know that our house and GiGi’s house are places to be themselves, and be naked. And I don’t mind. We break all the “getting dressed for the day” rules, and we have survived.

 

  1. I am not potty training…

 

When I was 18 months old, my mother says I found a pack of little girl panties and decided to put them on. From that day forward I never wore a diaper, and I potty trained myself. When Isla turned 18 months old, I bought a “potty” and read 27 different blogs on potty training in 3 days. Isla hated it, and we gave up in the first 5 hours after 4 accidents. I tried again right before she turned two. Turns out, she understands everything about potty’s. She has read childrens books themed around potty’s, has memorized the Daniel Tiger potty episode, tells me right before and after she does #1 or #2 in her diaper, and has been an audience for every trip I’ve made to the bathroom for the past 9 months. She even knows you wipe, flush, and wash after. But guess what? She’s not ready. She’s a smart kid, and we could probably force it. But you know what else? I don’t really care. I don’t. Aren’t there more things for my toddler and I to argue over? (Believe me, there are…) I don’t believe in bribing my child, personally, so until she wants to, we wait. I think it will happen. I don’t have a magical age set when the diaper’s will be “no more”. We’ve gotten close to going, and I celebrate those moments with her with lots of cheering. In my experience with Isla, she has a very strong will and is very independent. And when the time comes that she finally wants to go to the bathroom, she will. We have no drama, no tears, and no fights about it. The house is peaceful this way. And so far, we’ve survived.

 

  1. We watch TV…

 

I never planned for Isla and Adi to love Daniel Tiger more than life itself, but it happened. One day when I was very pregnant with Adi, and Isla was about 9 months old, I saw it on Netflix. And you know what? My child was hypnotized. We had a townhouse a small townhouse at the time, and I gated off the living room and let her play with her toys and watch Daniel Tiger pretty much that whole day. Why? Because I was freaking tired, guys, that’s the truth. I just need to sit and be still. And I owe you one, Daniel Tiger, for that, I do. After that day, Daniel could not be forsaken, however… Honestly, I know every freaking Daniel Tiger song by heart, an d I know what episode is playing even when I leave the room. I have Daniel Tiger apps on my phone, Seth’s phone, and both my parents phone’s. We even have 3 Daniel DVD’s that we bought when we drove 8 hour to Boston last winter to keep the peace. You know why? Because it’s honestly the only children’s show where the kids aren’t whiny and the parents’ parent well. And it’s just stinkin’ cute (or it was the first 6 times). So sometimes when mommy needs a little break, we watch Daniel. Or we leave it on in the background while we play in  the playroom, because we like the songs. And I will happily tell you that when I drive 9 hours to Michigan by myself this summer with two toddlers, I will be letting them watching Daniel DVD’s to their heart’s content. Do I believe in moderation ? Yes. Should I probably have more limits? Maybe. We don’t only sit inside staring mindlessly at Daniel every day, my kids don’t have tablets they are glued to, and they also love to read books…But we have also come to find there are worse things we could be watching, or I could also be fully insane without one second of break time when I am outnumbered at home daily… So we watch TV sometimes, and we’ve survived.

 

  1. We don’t mind the “dirt”…

 

When Isla was first born her pacifier fell on the floor, a lot. And people would pick it up for me, and hand it back. Guess what I did? I call it “lick-and-stick”. So I literally pick it up, lick it off, and stick it in. Happy baby, happy mama. She is now in her second year of life, and I haven’t once regretted the decision to not walk the pacifier to a sink somewhere and scrub it off first. She was soothed faster, and it saved me the search of trying to figure out where the closest mall restroom was. *Dusts hands off* I have done the same with my second child. At home, brace yourself for it, let them eat off the floor. I want to be clear, I do not serve the food to them on the floor… but somehow cheerios and goldfish and grapes land there and they eat them. I don’t freak out when things fall on the floor, that is not a surprising result when giving cut up pizza bites to a 1 year old. Duh. So if her older sister walks over and puts in her mouth, I will also not freak out. It’s their house, their germs, and no has ever died. We play in the garden and in the grass at grandma’s house. We wear our shoes, gasp, IN the house sometimes. Life happens guys, and I just roll with it. I don’t boil baby bottles, and I don’t mind when they share sippy cups with the little boy they play with every week in the church nursery. And we’ve survived.

Graduating…

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So much negativity has sadly been the highlight of the graduation this year at BAHS. This is not an addition to that. This is a celebration of what it should be about, what it IS about. Good luck class of 2016, you did it kids.

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I’m in line, and standing side by side with someone I don’t remember anymore. An obnoxiously yellow gown clings to my neck in the overheated gymnasium as I wait to march onstage. The air is filled with anticipation, and I can taste my sweat as it beads across my brow. I have long waited the moment for “pomp and circumstance” to accompany my triumphant exit from the hallowed halls of Bellwood Antis High School, but in this moment I care not for anything other than my ticket out of town. My shoes are too new and too tight for comfort. I walk hesitantly in them as someone’s voice carries on in the background reminding us what we are expected to do next. It is barely a hum, as my mind drifts on to what party I would go to after the ceremony and where my parents had said they’d be sitting in the audience. My all too awkward lace dress sticks to me under the starched gown. My father hated it. Looking back I can easily understand his position on it, but in that moment all I want is for everything to be perfect and then be over. I am irritable, and don’t capture the moment for my mind in any special way. The next hour or two pass in a blur, and I can’t recall what is supposed to be a huge life achievement. I am ready to be FINISHED.

I am sure someone spoke that day during the ceremony about dreams, life plans, accomplishing goals, and general “call to action” type clichés, but I don’t remember. All I recall is the waiting for it to be over, and walking out with a diploma to “Forever Young” remixed with Jay Z. Yeah, that happened.

 

 

Last Thursday, I sat in an all too familiar auditorium filled with excited parents and sib lings. Camera phones flashed, flower bouquets and breaths were held, and Kleenexes were in all the mother’s hands. The music started and out walked my not-so-little-anymore brother in a royal blue gown and cap behind someone in a gold gown that matched the one I wore years ago. He traced the aisles, and then up the stairs to his seat on stage. The ceremony begins. The student’s eyes glaze over. A speaker rises and reminds them to cherish life, and go out and make a difference. I see eyes roll, and someone snickers near the back. Someone yawns, a flash goes off from some proud parent’s camera, and a little kid is hushed in the waiting crowd.

 

I began to wonder, when was it we stopped believing in the dreams we have just be given permission to dream? When did the speech about “living life to the full” and “reaching for the stars” seem not only ridiculous, but impossible, or better yet… tired? When had the life been sucked out of this moment? What have we done to steal the joy and magic form dreaming?
The speaker this year read a verse about “putting away childish things”, and I wondered what exactly qualified under childish in this context? (To be exceedingly clear, he went on to give fantastic advice on living beyond childishness…) Was dreaming an adult thing, or a childish one? Was I supposed to be “realistic” as a full-fledged grownup now? Or was I supposed to still hold on to all the possibilities life could be? Which one was more childish? And when did we start putting our dreams away in drawers, only to be peeked at in the dark, when no one was watching us reminding us to “grow up”? The messages we receive are confusing at times like these: Be smart. Take risks. Save money. Travel the world. Meet the right person. Don’t fall in love right away. Wait to have children. Do it while you’re young. Get an education. Don’t take everything too seriously. Get a good job. Don’t settle. Dream. Set realistic goals. Stay healthy. Eat dessert first. WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO BE DOING????

 

I was one of those kids who liked a lot of different things and sort of shot without aim, wildly at whatever my dart could land on instead of finding the center dot. I wanted to be a journalist, and a singer, and a musical theater performer, a missionary, a fashion designer, and a neonatal surgeon, a lawyer, a cosmetologist, and a nurse, and probably an acrobat at some point. Dreaming is a romantic notion to me, but I also have an undeniable sense of duty that I cannot deny. I am the most reasonably realistic dreamer possible, an oxymoron, if you will. And I haven’t become one single thing I’ve ever dreamt I’d be by now.

I am fairly talented at a good many things, but never once have I mastered something and finished my dream. I have done a lot, traveled a lot, seen and experienced a LOT. But you reach a certain point in life when you wonder if it’s time to put away the “childish things” and pack away the suitcase of dreams.  There were things life demanded of me to “put away” for a time and rise up for my family. But was it okay to take my dreams out of their box and dust them off again? Was it okay to fantasize ab out them… or go so far as to consider trying one on? When exactly is the expiration date on those? After high school? College? Marriage? Kids? When am I supposed to start/stop dreaming and taking on the world??? WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO BE DOING????

 

I have spent years trying to figure out my niche. What is my spot in this world? Wife and mother? Karaoke singer? American Idol has-been? Wedding design assistant? Teenage missionary? Blogger and author? Waitress? Am I settling? Am I asking too much out of life? Am I not thinking big enough? Am I being ungrateful for my life by wondering if there’s more to me than there is to me? What is the childish option here? Where is the handbook on “adulting”??

 

I looked around as my baby brother sat on stage for his name to be called for his diploma, I was beaming with pride. I don’t know all of the answers for my life, but I knew when I watched him finishing his first real “life stepping stone”, I wanted to preserve his sense of wonder and hope for the future. Each 18 year old that walked across stage tasting their first sense of adulthood, I wanted to coat in anticipation  and optimism. To tell them that the secret is to keep… keep on dreaming.

And there it was, the light bulb. My ahh-hah moment, “keep on dreaming”. It’s been repeated for a reason. The dead horse has been beaten for a reason. Because for those of us that have lived a little longer, and seen a little more, we know that there should be no termination on dreaming. There’s no time’s up. Do it, believe it. What else are we living at all for? To pay bills and die? I refuse that. There’s more to you than you know. There’s more for me than this, even if “this” is a good and beautiful place to be. I’m not discontent; I’m a dreamer at heart. I think we all are. Awaken it in yourself again; be vulnerable enough in this scary world to try. There’s a reason the speeches we hear run together like a Groundhog Day movie dream, it’s worth repeating, friends. So thank you for every fluffy speech out there on life being worth living, pressing on, and hoping for amazing “impossible” things, we need to hear it. Listen up! Those are the things which bear worth hearing once more. Too much time is spent grounding us to sensible and practical ideas. Never surrender the marvel and the thrill of dreaming. Hold fast to them.

 

My cousin stood in my kitchen after graduation that evening, and said a very profound thing only in passing, in response to someone who’d just graduated commenting that “high school was the very hardest thing they ever lived through”… and he said, “well, you haven’t lived very long yet.” And he was right, and I say that in the most  delicate way I possibly can- you haven’t lived long yet, graduates. There’s still so much time and space for you. Do not give in yet to life’s constant demands and threats to make you oh-so ordinary.

Dare to dream.

And dream.

And dream.

Defeating Darkness

I have a fairly large home with 4 bedrooms in the upstairs. Isla had the nursery to herself for a long time, one room was used as a dressing room, the other for my sister during the time she lived with us, and one for my husband and I with a large closet we converted into a “mini-nursery” for Adi. When my sister moved out, I gave Isla her room, and put Adi into the nursery. Everyone was sleeping well most nights. Then my husband and I had this brilliant idea… to save money on air conditioning this summer, let’s have the girls share a room to be energy efficient. After all, it couldn’t be that difficult and cooling just two rooms would be well worth it. Right…

I’d wanted them to share for awhile anyhow to convert one room into a real master suite, and have a proper guest room. But I figured I would wait till the winter, when both girls were older. Honestly, I wasn’t worried about Isla. She’s nearly always been a good sleeper, going to bed at 7-7:30 PM and getting up at 7 AM without hardly ever waking in the night. She’s also a good napper, sleeping 2-3 hours solidly without fussing daily. And I can go in and check on her without her stirring. She is a rarity and a miracle, I know. Adi is a light sleeper, very temperamental, and needs rigid scheduling to get a good rest out of her. She was doing well, however, napping once from 9-10:30 AM, again from 1-2:30 PM, and then going to bed at 6:30 PM and waking maybe twice at night, but rising at 7 AM.

The day I decided to move Isla back in the nursery, I also realized Adi started standing in her crib during naps and bedtime. Of course, my husband handled everything seamlessly the first two nights while I was at work, it was as if the girls weren’t even bothered by the adjustment. But at naps, Adi refused sleep, for nearly 3 days in a row. So tonight, day three, I decided to put them to bed since I was home and Seth was at a meeting… and guess who is still awake at 8:45,  2 hours past her bedtime because she is JUMPING, literally jumping, in her crib? Adi is. Isla is sleeping perfectly in her bed, but Adi is, well… defeating me. E very ten minutes I relay her down. She cries, I hush her, she cries and jumps, I lay her down… over and over.I’ve tried crying it out, but it’s only me who knows how to stop the tears… I’m exhausted and drained. I have no more patience; my sympathy level is maxed out. Both girls decidedly began teething today, Isla threw up 4 times and spent the rest of the day mostly fussing, and Adi isn’t sleeping… but deep down, deeply buried is the knowledge that it’s not about any of those things that’s truly causing my tiredness of heart. No, the room sharing is my excuse to this feeling of defeat… it’s what tomorrow brings. And tomorrow, my husband goes away for the weekend…

And I am ashamed to admit it, but the truth is, I have anxiety like you can’t understand when he goes away and I am alone with the girls… I’m a stay at home 99% of the time, so it’s not that I can’t handle it… It’s that it takes me back to that week when Adi was just a month, and Isla about 16 months old. Adi was colic, Isla had separation anxiety, and I was barely myself in any sense hammered with postpartum PTSD and depression… I was barely keeping my head above water. I spent most of the week crying as often as Adi did… I don’t remember much else, except that it felt like it wouldn’t ever end and that it was hopeless. My sister lived with me still then, and her boyfriend visited most days. I owe my survival of hell week to them… they would hold Adi and soothe her as best they could so I could sleep for even an hour, a novelty I barely ever got back then. They would hold Adi as she screamed for hours, and check on me to try and keep me sane. I was not a good mother then… I know it. I was sick. And I wouldn’t admit it. But, either way, I wasn’t a good mother, and that week only amplified the truth of that.

 

I had been at my mom’s earlier today, wanting to visit and go over things for our business. I knew my sister wasn’t working and hoped she’d be home soon, and wanted to make brownies with her. I lay Adi down, hoping she’d sleep for a bit there and then would be slipped into her car seat later when I wanted to head home some time after her bedtime. But there would be no such luck. I had already preheated the oven, when Adi decidedly didn’t go to sleep. 20 minutes into her screaming and I knew it just wasn’t going to happen… I started to gather my things because when I saw my sister’s boyfriend standing at the counter, and I rarely see them now, observing my annoyance with the situation, it brought back a sea of emotions I hadn’t long since seen from those first few months after Adi was born. Everything I thought I’d beaten was suddenly staring me in the face. Fear, anxiety, sadness, nervousness, and so much more washed over me, an d I forgot how to tread water. It’s not his fault. They rescued me, and my children form who I was and the mess my life was in then… but in that moment of hearing Adi cry and seeing them around me, watching me frustrated, I felt like nothing had changed… I was still irritated and impatient, sad and ticked off that things weren’t “working” with Adi. Seeing them around me as this happened only made the fact that Seth was leaving tomorrow for a weekend seem so Déjà Vu and left me feeling deafeningly helpless to what was awaiting me for the next 3 days. Even though Adi probably wouldn’t spend all three days crying as she had spent that whole week crying last summer, I felt like I was about to relive a nightmare. It reminded me that I hadn’t beaten my mind or my postpartum troubles… I was the same girl, afraid and insane as I had been 10 months ago. And that wrecked me.

I sat on my bed at home tonight and sobbed. Because Adi wasn’t sleeping. Because the last night before my husband was leaving for the weekend he was spending at a meeting until late into the evening. Because I was embarrassed and feeling guilty for how I felt and responded in front of my sister and her boyfriend again, MONTHS after they had revived me the first time… Because I wanted to know WHEN I would stop having moments like this, where I felt the darkness pulling me down again? Sure, the darkness may call on me less often now, but it still comes. Irrationally, but it comes. And with it comes the fact that I have to face: I am not a good mother in the darkness. I am unkind, and not soft spoken. I’m angry and impatient, frustrated and easily provoked. I doubt myself, I doubt life. I do not bring any joy to my home… I am everything I work so so hard NOT to be, and I can ‘t escape it.

Tonight I feel defeated. This weekend for me, is filled with fears. Will my PTSD return? And even if it doesn’t, I won’t sleep (fear of the nightmares), I’ll panic (from the lonesomeness), and I will not be myself.

I sit, stomach churning, because I SHOULD be past this. Right? It’s supposed to be over now… I should be over it.

But I know I am not. When I think I’ve got the darkness handled and behind me, it is then I am reminded I’m only slightly stronger than before, but not done. I wonder if I will ever be… Because the darkness paints me in the least flattering light, and brings all of my ugliness to the surface so it can snarl at anything that remotely touches me… Everything a mother, THIS mother, wants to put behind her…

I must be strong, I must be fearless, I must rise up and say no to the maddening darkness, the question is: will I?

It’s about time. Time to try

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To hear more on my stpry with postpartum struggles read: Adeladie and The Aftermath

Book Exclusive!! “Whats The Big Deal?”

If you’ve read my book, you know there’s so much more in there than found just on my site alone. But for those of you who haven’t read it yet, I thought I’d give a sneak peek into a book exclusive chapter this week! Seeing all the sweet high school prom pictures, and preparations being made for graduations reminded me of this chapter I wrote back in January. So here it is, friends!

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“What’s The Big Deal?”

January 2016

I can never say no to my little brother. Even though a snow storm was eminent and I was out in my car with bald tires, I agreed to go to a high school basketball game with him. None of his friends could go and he didn’t want to sit alone or miss it, so I said I’d go. We drove my car home to drop off the girls to Seth so they could get to bed on time and I could still go to the game. He drove my car for me because I’m a weirdo who enjoys being driven around instead of doing the actual driving most of the time. We talked about everything, which is mostly what I liked about the evening because we drove over an hour altogether without interruptions so we could just catch up. I love when we have that time.

We got to the game and sat down in the parents section. I’d never sat there before at a high school game. Was I old enough to sit here? I certainly didn’t want to be that person that graduated years ago and still sits in the student section, but somehow this didn’t feel quite right either.

The team came out and warmed up and then the cheerleaders came in. One ran in waving her pompoms, others looked unsure of what to do, and others still seemed bored by the prospects of being there. But I couldn’t stop watching them. It took me back…

I remember the last time I was in that gym for a basketball game. It was 2011, and I was standing near center court in my cheer uniform. I had spent a ridiculous amount of time on getting my ponytail curled just right, and dusting on more than enough eye glitter to share with the whole squad to be quite honest. I remember fidgeting. I was nervous every single time I stepped out onto the floor to do a cheer. Would I remember the words? Would I be the one who wouldn’t remember her formation? What if I dropped someone? High school for me was filled with anxiety. I felt like every eye in the crowd was on me every single second of every single game.

 

The music began, the national anthem recording done by the school choir crackling through the speakers. I faced the flag. I couldn’t see anyone behind me now. But I thought back…

Every time I stood at center court for the anthem I felt like the student section was boring a gaping hole into my back. I wondered then, had anyone ever even noticed me standing there? Or were they all far less self consumed than I and actually saluting the flag during the song like you were meant to? I thought to myself about now that I was actually standing at the place closest to the flag, with my back turned to 99% of the crowd that if ever a time was that I should be noticed, it would more likely be now. And you know what? I actually didn’t care. I didn’t. Because being there suddenly didn’t matter the way it once had. I didn’t care what I looked like, or if I ran into someone I’d grown apart from over the years, or about being invited anywhere afterwards. I could just BE in the gym. That had never occurred before.

It was a huge, world stopping huge, deal to me at one time. It all was. Each game I wondered if I was noticed? Would I be talked about? Would I make a good impression? Would I stand out? Would I catch someone’s eye? It was a big deal. But it wasn’t anymore. It just stopped being so.

The anthem ended, and my brother and I sat down. I remember laughing to myself. I looked over at him and said “It’s funny how some things that were such a big deal, really don’t matter anymore. In high school, this was such a big deal,” I sneered.

And as soon as I’d said the words I wanted to swallow them again. Here I was, sitting at a game my brother didn’t want to miss and had invited me to, and I was basically saying that none of this would matter to him one day. Even if it rang a single note of truth, how insensitive of me. He was a senior in high school. Of course this was important to him now. Did he really need one more person raging on him about how this all would be for not in a few years? Like he hadn’t heard enough of that, I’m sure. He didn’t even wince, though, in any way that would’ve shown even a hint that me saying so bothered him. But it hit me. What did I say that for?

I read somewhere recently “celebrate the little things when they are little if you want to share in the big things when they are bigger, because to them it’s always been big things.”

Not to call my baby brother little or anything (he is almost 6 ft tall and training to be a Marine), but it is because we share these “little things” now that I think he’s willing to share some of the “bigger things” because, it has in fact all been big to him. He has told me things I believe no one else in the world knows. He can confide in me and trust me. And it is all thanks to the shared “small things” I have valued for him.

It hit me after saying such an annoying thing that I might do this once to my own girls. I might belittle their life and what they feel simply because I am past that place. We forget sometimes as we grow out of stages that what is now so obviously unimportant or monumental, was once what our sun rose and set on. We often say things like “it won’t matter years from now” as a comfort, but we forget that when we were in their shoes it was not so comforting. It is an unkindness to rob others from allowing them to feel fully whatever it is they are feeling because we know it doesn’t really matter in the scheme of life. But we must remember that in their life it is what really matters. It is not small mindedness. It is reality for them, as it once was for us.

I remember teenage breakups. Some well meaning fool would utter “it won’t hurt forever” or “you’re just a kid” or “you’ll get over it”… but it didn’t bring me out of my sadness or make me want to confide in them. No. Those I exposed my true feeling to were the ones that permitted me to feel, regardless of how big it was to their life, but because it was a big thing in my life.

I know now that what I wore to prom, who I sat with at lunch, and what class I had 8th period doesn’t affect me any longer… but there was a time when it was my whole world. It is okay to allow the next generation to feel all that we did, and allow them to know the weight of what we went through in their own way. We don’t have to announce fervently that “it’s no big deal” really. They will know soon enough. Let them be young. Let them feel. Let them embrace the enormity that is to them in their life at that time. We were once allowed this.

It is even more important for us as parents to do so. To allow our children to feel whatever heaviness they do out of any such “small thing” because to them it is everything. It doesn’t create drama queens, it creates a relationship. Be the one they can cry to over literal spilled milk, and you will get to be there when they need someone to cry about their breakup with. Listen when they tell you about being excluded at recess, because one day they’ll want to tell you about being excluded from their first high school party. Care when they tell you about losing their favorite stuffed animal, so that you can share in their loss of a friendship one day. Validate where they are at and the feelings they have, however far away it feels that you once might’ve felt that way. Don’t distance yourself from those feelings, allow them to surface and share in their hurts. It will bond you when they know that you can meet them where they are at.

Because for them, it’s all big things.

 

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If you enjoyed today’s post, be sure to purchase my book “The Blonde Mom Confessionals” from my publisher!! It’s on sale today!  Or find it on amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com!

Language Barrier

I bumped into a wall last night and immediately apologized. To a wall.

I said “I’m Sorry” after someone disapproved of what I did at work, even though it was exactly what my boss wanted, simply to avoid further confrontation. And a little out of guilt.

I apologize for things that aren’t my fault. I apologize whenever I get nervous. I apologize to fix things quickly. The words “I’m sorry” pour out of my mouth so often that I lose count.

But it is not only in myself where I have seen this pattern erupt from. In fact, most women I know have a habit of apologizing to place a band aid over any situation to solve it. Tell me you’ve never done this?

But what has become my band aid has also become meaningless to me when I hear the words “I’m sorry”, standing alone. Phrased by themselves, without any change from the party posing the phrase or any action to show remorse, has made them hollow words that do not heal. Overused and dried out words that do nothing for my bleeding soul. Isn’t there another answer?

 

As a mother of a two year old, there seems to be plenty to teach her to apologize for. Like having a melt down or a sour attitude, breaking things, hitting her sister, taking toys from other children, and on and on… But I have yet to say “Isla, you need to say ‘You’re sorry’”. Why is that?

Is it because I think my child is too good to plead for forgiveness? Or because I think she does nothing wrong? No. It’s neither. And it’s probably not for any other reason you may think.

 

My husband taught a lesson to a group of teenagers the other night about forgiveness and apologizing. And at the end he handed out letters with fill-in-the-blank spaces. It seemed like such a simple activity. He wanted us to think of someone in our lives that we have done wrong to and give it to them.

The letter had spaces that said things like, “I’m sorry that I hurt you by:____________________” and “I know that it was hurtful when I: _____________”. It went on to say, “In the future I will:_______________” and “I want to ask for your forgiveness:__________________,” and so forth. It did not have any spaces where we explained why we did what we did. It had no lines that allowed for an excuse over the offense we had done. It acknowledged what we had done, how it made the other person feel, what we would try to do in the future in place of this, and reminded them that they were valued, despite what we’d done.

As simple as it seems, when you don’t get to defend yourself in any way during an apology, it leaves you a wide open target. What if they reject you? What if they don’t accept it? What if they are still angry or hurt? What if they try to challenge you? But that is how a real apology is SUPPOSED to work.

My college professor said it best when he told me, “A proper apology goes like this: I’m sorry. I was wrong. You were right. I hope you can forgive me.” And in my experience, when I have said those exact words it has been difficult to swallow. Saying sorry on it’s own ISN’T enough. And a true apology excludes what and why we did what we did. Leaving out our excuses, and announcing a change to come.

And let me tell you, after I wrote the letter I had a hard time swallowing my pride and handing it over to someone who deserved my confession wrung out of all its pride. But I did it. And there was healing.

Driving home after that lesson, I thought to myself that this was something I wish I’d been taught as a child. What if I stopped saying “I’m sorry” all of the time, and the things that really hurt someone I spent time recognizing and handling properly. People don’t like to admit that they are delicate, but they are. And paper hearts are easy to tear in half, and even harder to tape back together… especially when served with a nod and a half-hearted “I’m sorry” only. It’s not enough.

 
So what can be done instead? My toddler surely can’t understand this yet. But demanding she say the words “I’m Sorry”, when she accidentally knocks her sister over or steals her toy, is also something she can’t understand. I’m asking her to quote a phrase she doesn’t value or even comprehend to cover up what she has done. It’s not healthy. It teaches her nothing except for what to say to excuse herself. And that just didn’t sit right with me.

Instead, I have a new thought process. And depending on my child’s age, I can adjust this. Even without using the phrase “I’m Sorry”, we can effectively apologize. For instance, when Isla ripped her sister’s toy away and walked off with it, leaving Adi crying, I never asked Isla to repeat a taught apologetic phrase. I brought her back to where she took the toy away from Adi and had her sit down with me in front of her sister. I asked her how she thought Adi felt when her toy was taken. I asked her to give it back. Isla had tears in her eyes when she realized how sad her sister was. She told me “she’s crying” and choked back her own tears. She gave her sister back the toy and gave her a hug (that was her idea). She understood what she had done, how it made the other person feel, AND she fixed it. She made no excuses. No one said “I’m Sorry”, because this was even better.

Isla is learning empathy. And before anyone says “I’m Sorry”, it is key that they have mastered empathy. Without it, apologies are empty.

As Isla grows, she will surely learn the phrase “I’m Sorry”, and she may even use it. I hope she’s never afraid to say it. But knowing that apologizing isn’t just about saying the words will make her a better friend, and person in general. Having compassion is far better than having a perfectly written speech. Isla will fail in life, hurt people, make mistakes, and do things she’ll wish she could undo. It’s important that she learns what will really allow her to be heard afterwards, and what will make the other person feel important and valued in those moments.

We don’t have it perfect, but I wish many times when I’ve been hurt someone would have just apologized properly. For my heart, and theirs, it would’ve made all the difference.

Don’t be afraid to change your language.

“You’re Toxic.”

It always starts small. In ways we don’t expect that will shape our children…

I heard the other day two women discussing a situation about their children and birthday parties. It basically boiled down to one mother believing everyone should be invited to the child’s birthday party based on the belief of inclusion of all; and the other mother favoring her child inviting only those children her child was close to. 
While I can see both sides to this argument, I felt that there was something much deeper going on that we were teaching our children in scenarios like these. Underneath the idea of “inclusion”, we teach our children to breed false, and possibly unhealthy, relationships under the guise of “equality”. However, all relationships in this life are NOT equal. 
Unfortunately, this not only sets them up for a warped view of the future, it also draws a blueprint for keeping toxic relationships alive based solely on niceties for years to come. At some point we began disregarding the laws of true friendship, and abandoned them for an idea of everyone just “getting along”. It is not only something I am not in favor of, but I will gladly back up my children in their rejection of such ridiculous ideals. It essentially had built a devaluing of self and places an importance on others feelings without any regard for caring for ones own protection in a world where that IS required, like it or not. There will be some people, I will have to agree with my children on the choice to be on guard from, and possibly excommunicate.
Hear me out. I do not believe in shunning people based on them not being similar or of same mindedness as I. I fully support being polite and kind to everyone. But, because I believe in that, it means I also place a severe level of importance on self-kindness. So what does that mean exactly for me, and for my children? It means that I don’t believe in pretend friendships. It means that I support having a group of TRUE friends and allowing yourself to exit relationships that don’t have value. The kind of “friendships” that are toxic, shouldn’t be forced on our children. 
For years I put up with friendships, romantic relationships, and otherwise, because it seemed like that’s what life required. That to be a “good person” I needed to forgive and forget any harm against me and allow those who continually did damage to reign in my life. I allowed it for years. Turning myself into a doormat. All in the name of “friendship”. But the truth was, so very many of those relationships were incredibly toxic. And the poison of those relationships spread throughout my whole life. I should’ve walked away from them. I should’ve felt like it was okay to stand up for myself and cut them out like an infectious wound… But instead I allowed them to fester and take over whole limbs of my livelihood. Eventually I had to not only chop them off, but also huge chunks of my life because there was nearly nothing left that they hadn’t crawled into and turned hideously unrecognizable from who I once was.
It is FAR more important to teach our children what to look for in a good friend, than to focus so much energy on accepting EVERYONE. I want to be very, very clear. In no way do I believe in putting down others or in creating a sense of superiority in my children . But it is a disservice to my girls to teach them that EVERYONE is a good friend. As it turns out, EVERYONE is not a safe and healthy person to be in a friendship, or any relationship with. Sometimes, in an effort to care for yourself and your heart, it is okay to say “no”. 
Don’t feel pressured to invite the girl who hurts your feelings constantly.

Don’t put up the person who makes you doubt yourself or your worth.

Don’t stand beside anyone who insults you or tears you down.

Don’t allow the person who speaks unkindly to you, or about you, to be a part of your life.

It is OKAY, more than okay, to say no.
Toxic people shouldn’t be rewarded for their damage by allowing them to creep deeper into our lives. And yet, this is often the opposite of what we teach our children.
We teach our children that the “bully” is often just jealous or had a difficult home life. And while I agree that that is often the case for “bullies” or “mean girls”, it’s no excuse. And it doesn’t mean we should allow our children to be subjected to those kinds of relationships. I will not sacrifice my daughters’ hearts and self-worth for the sake of anything. 
By all means, teach manners and thoughtfulness. Teach showing kindness to those that are different than us. Teach an open mindedness to others. But along with that, teach care for self, for your heart & feelings. Teach your children to feel empowered to choose only good friends. Friends that inspire, empower, and seek to build up one another. Or else, who are we teaching our children to have relationships with??
Even now, as a grown married woman with two children, I often second guess if I should allow someone who is unkind to me to be a part of my life… What sort of insanity is that?! It started somewhere… And I wonder what might be different for my children if they feel they have the power to choose who they allow themselves to be in relationship with.

I’m Talking Body.

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“We raise our little girls to view their bodies as projects to constantly be improved”…

Ouch.

I saw a video this morning about the objectification of women, and while it had some outstanding points about advertisements glamorizing women being beaten, sexually violated, and social media dangers, the quote above is what really caught me. And I wondered what I do, without even thinking, to subliminally pass this message on to my girls… that their bodies are meant to be “worked on” or “improved”. That they are to meet a certain standard, possibly even an inhuman and unattainable one. And let me tell you, it was a scary rabbit hole to travel down as I looked back over the past few months…

 

When my youngest daughter was born, I weighed more than I ever had in my whole life by… well, a lot. And you could tell. The more weight I put on, the more I ate because of my shame. And the more I ate in my shame, the more I weighed. It was a dark time for me while processing a nasty bout with Post Partum PTSD, and all I wanted was to eat everything in my cupboard and still wear a size 4… I ran my mind in circles trying to constantly watch what I ate, all while hiding away whenever I could to binge on junk food and swallow my feelings whole.

One day I woke up from that crazy cycle and decided it was time to be done with that. I sat on the floor of my dressing room and cried over a pair of jeans that I used to wear on my “bloated” days pre-babies, and wished I could even squeeze into those again… but they barely passed over my calves.

6 months, 70 lbs, and 10 sizes later, I not only fit in those jeans, but I gave them away because they fell to my feet when I put them on.I felt on top of the world. I was tinier than I had been at my wedding, I could run after my kids at the play ground without thinking about “sucking it in” or making sure my shirt wasn’t riding up. I felt like I could enjoy shopping for a dress to wear to all the weddings I was planning to attend this year. It was freeing! My husband was eating healthy alongside me and I felt like we were able to just relax again. It’s funny to think about how much the physical weight I had been toting around mentally weighed on me just as heavily. The anchor had been released.

 

But something I must admit, is that during the beginning of my weight loss journey, I often repeated a phrase to myself whenever I felt thirsty for a cheat meal: “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

Yikes.

What if my children had heard that? As if my 2 year old needs a complex about if she should enjoy her scoop of chocolate ice cream over wearing her tank top. She shouldn’t have to choose! She’s a kid! In this context it is easy for us to spot the ridiculousness. But shift the focus to an adult overweight woman, and we see this quote as inspirational to “keep me on track”. WTF.

Where on earth did I pick up THAT logic? Who had spoon fed me this idea about what I should be and how I should look. And who was I, in turn, shoveling this idea on to?

Here’s the other thing I didn’t tell you about spending so much energy loosing weight: it’s never ENOUGH. My original goal, the one I felt I’d never achieve, and if I ever arrived at I would thank God 20 times a day and never eat another cookie again for, was to loose 50 lbs. I reached it actually much easier than I’d ever imagined. And when I got there, I was disappointed.

WHERE was my thigh gap? WHERE were my perfectly carved cheekbones? WHERE was my toned tummy? I felt robbed. What on earth had I worked for. The scale read one message to me, and the mirror a totally different one.

Here’s the thing. I had two babies in 15 months. Guess what? I may be smaller than I’ve been in years, but the geography has changed. It wasn’t going to be what it had once been to be this weight. What I saw staring back in my very severely warped mirror was NOT what I envisioned a 50 pound weight loss would serve me.

So I lost 10 more. 60 lbs GONE. I was pre-wedding & baby weight now. My jean size was a single digit. It should have been a victory. And in many ways, it was… but it wasn’t enough.

10 more pounds disappeared. 70 lbs GONE. This is where I stand this morning. Is it enough?

 

Instagram would have you believe I am stunned by my appearance, and feeling superbly superior to other “#mom bods”. But I’ve been lying. It still doesn’t seem like enough. I have become the endless project to improve. I may be good, but certainly not good enough.

 

Let me be clear, I am PROUD that I no longer find excuses to leave the room and eat a candy bar alone in a bathroom stall just to tide me over in my depression. That I no longer scarf down barrels of food the moment I am alone to fill a bottomless pit in my life, a void I couldn’t seem to top off any other way… But I have to be honest enough to realize I have only replaced one addiction with another obsession. I have traded a cocaine for a cigarette.

I wonder, when will I feel a sense of arrival? That my body has reached the paramount of success? When will I feel like I can call myself “skinny”? When will it be that I can go a day without someone calling attention to my progress without feeling like I need to do “better tomorrow”? Because as healthy as my new diet was, my brain was still pretty sick… and I was just realizing it. Shadowed by my new physique, was a psyche in shambles. I was not well.

 

Then I saw a video today. I have always rolled my eyes when people have gotten up in arms about models being a certain size only, and magazines using thin girls as clothing hangers. I have long resided in the camp of siding with designers in that whoever they designed the clothing for, ought to be who they have wearing it.  Don’t throw anything at me, please. I realize this is a heavily unpopular opinion. But I have to say that I enjoy seeing beautiful people wearing the newly designed beautiful clothing. I am unkind to women that way, I suppose. I like opening a magazine or watching a fashion show and seeing attractive people sporting the clothing or whatever item they happen to be showcasing. I will openly tell you that I have a guilty pleasure for watching “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” and I have an E! app on my phone so I never miss an Oscar worthy gown… So when people have gotten upset about what kind of message it is sending women, I have scoffed. I was under the impression that if I always told myself, “she was photo shopped” or “that’s just how models look” or “that’s not real”, it somehow wouldn’t cloud my view of reality.That somehow I could escape the subliminal message I had actually been devouring since, probably, birth. I thought I was the one invincible mind, and that if you really felt pressure to change your looks on what a magazine showed you, that it was “personal” problem that I just didn’t have. I was above that sort of thinking.

I hate to admit that. I really do. But that’s what I believed for YEARS.

 

But now, I have two little girls. Two very impressionable little people echoing every word I say, and tracing their outlook on life based on how I illustrate it to them. Two healthy and beautiful little girls that ought to be celebrated for the shape they are. For the strength and health that their bodies have. Of course, we all see the reason for supporting that. We all can see the reason for telling them they are “beautiful just the way they are”… but I rarely have shown that. What am I telling them whenever I announce that I am now done with my “fat jeans” or when I scrunch my nose at old pictures of myself that look unflattering because you can see a “baby pooch”? Or when I whisper “suck it in” to myself as I try on a shirt?

I can preach all day long about self worth to their little ears, but what they will hear is they way I live

 

Look, I am NOT about throwing out every tube of lipstick in my bathroom, tossing the curling iron, or even cancelling my gym membership. I still plan to watch what I eat today, do my hair and makeup for date night with my husband, and do a victory dance the next time I drop another 5 pounds. BUT, I cannot let it run my life. I can’t let it define my worth as a person, as a woman. I will work out, do my hair, and have 1 cupcake instead of 3, because I WANT to, and not because I HAVE to in order to value myself. I am all for getting dolled up for a night out. I am also for wearing sweatpants to the grocery store. I am for wearing red lipstick, or going bare faced. I am for rocking out to 6 inch stilettos, and for sliding on a pair of TOMS. I am for doing you.

I am for being the best me, by realizing I am ALWAYS the best version of me. I was the best version at over 200 pounds, and I am my best version now.(Though I am just starting to believe this.) I am my best at 2 am with a baby nursing and my bangs standing up in bed head mode, and after a well done blowout. I am the best me without improvement. I am always the best me if I believe that I am. The focus must be shifted from “what else can I do?”, to seeing myself as flawless BEFORE I do a thing to myself each day.

You will still find me at the gym doing squats, and at H&M browsing for a the newest wrap dress… but not because I NEED it to make me good, but because I AM good and I WANT to. No more HAVE to, I am on a journey to love Tabi no matter what she appears as. I will teach my girls there is no “right way” to be themselves other than to be it. To love their bodies regardless of the pressures the world expels upon them. The world is terribly cruel place, and my home should be the one safe refuge from that sort of self-hate.

In THIS home, we will love our bodies. We will celebrate our bodies for what they are. We will finally have breathing room, and a space to rest in the peace of knowing our bodies, and even more so, our whole beings are good enough.

Daughters, you have arrived. No improvement needed. Be FREE.