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The pursuit of happiness

April 27, 2017

Trying to sell our house may well be one of the most uncomfortable situations we’ve ever chosen to put ourselves through. We just never expected it to be this hard with the way this market has been and with the amount of work we’ve done to update this home. We are not naive to real estate – Ronnie used to be a real estate agent and we’ve seen every episode of every buying and selling and flipping show ever on HGTV. We listed with an experienced and successful agent late last Summer and through the Fall, with very little traffic and only a few that showed interest but ended up choosing something else. Our entire neighborhood was slow during that time (I follow everything on the market over here with email alerts), but when we saw houses selling in a matter of days in February, we decided to list ourselves and take advantage of the hot streak. But that was mid-March and here we are, almost May, with no offers. We get little bites now and then, but the people most interested usually aren’t ready to buy or would rather be on the other side of the State Line. It’s somewhat baffling when we see what sells quickly and often at higher price points than ours. We’re beginning to wonder if there’s a curse, or maybe we are just blind.

The toughest part is the feeling of temporary living. We packed up a ton of stuff to de-clutter (which, makes me breathe easier too so maybe that stuff will just stay in storage!), but due to needing to be ready for showings, we never feel like we can just relax. On evenings that we don’t pick up after ourselves, it feels really stressful, like what if someone calls and wants to come see the house tomorrow morning? It’s always a thought in the back of my mind when I’m in a hurry, multitasking and not doing household chores, but sometimes you don’t want to live like a model home. You want to actually LIVE and not just clean! There are things that we don’t do now purely because it’s not worth the mess, and I don’t like not having that freedom to just be us in our own home. Not for this long!

And it’s such a vulnerable, personal thing to have people constantly coming into your home and basically judging you. If they don’t like something, or don’t love the house enough to make an offer, I take every one of those rejections personally. I try not to, and I know I shouldn’t, but this is our home, a place we’ve worked hard to make nice, so any negative feedback just feels like an insult. Homes are so personal! But that thinking has also lead me down another path – I’ve learned that I don’t want to be defined by my material belongings. This whole home selling thing and trying to figure out what we want in our next home and the things we truly value in this life has got me really anti-materialism. I know that our family and our quality of life is so much more than the size of our home and the finishes in it. That’s up to us to define and no one else. You don’t like our lack of landscaping and far from pristine lawn? Well, let me tell you about the fun things we did and the memories we made playing in the yard with the girls or sitting on the patio enjoying cocktails together instead of doing yard work. You don’t find the musky scent of two giant dogs refreshing? Well let me tell you about all the puppy snuggles on the couch and lazy Sunday naps we’ve shared with our beloved furry family members. There’s so much more to life than this house, our cars, our clothes, our bank accounts.

When this house finally sells, we are dreaming of a simpler life. One that might be on the outskirts of town with some acreage to hike and hunt on. Or maybe it’s a small lake community. Whatever it is, we want our next home to be an escape to nature and away from the stress of modern life. While we aren’t going all hipster-tiny-house-family, we do want something small and functional, but at this point we aren’t picky. Something we can pay off soon that isn’t a financial burden. We are focusing on the life we want to create for us and our girls. Simpler, more natural, more intentional. Fresh air and time and space to breathe.

In the meantime, until this house sells, I just tell myself that our future home isn’t ready for us yet, and the perfect future homeowner of this place isn’t ready yet either. There’s a plan, that’s on different timing than I prefer, but in the end, it will be the perfect timing. So we live one day at a time, learning lessons to stay in the present and not get too carried away with the future. Isn’t that how we should be living every day, no matter our circumstances? Isn’t being truly present and having gratitude in the current moment where we find real joy? Dear God, I’m listening.

This moment in time

March 14, 2017

My daughters – so alike and so different. And changing so fast. I see the Facebook Memories from 1 year ago to 5 years ago and I’m transported to another world. Even one year ago and I cannot believe how much has changed. So I need to document these things, before they are distant memories again, or worse, before I forget.

Skyler – “The Sweet One,” since the birth of your sister and contrast with her personality, this is your current nickname. You have such a kind and giving soul. Catholic school was seemingly made for you as you take to heart the lessons taught by Jesus. Lately some of the girls at school have been teasing you to the point of tears, and when our first reaction as pissed off parents is to tell you to stand up for yourself and dish it back, you immediately point out that “Jesus said to turn the other cheek.” But when we come back with “but the Bible also said an eye for an eye,” you respond “makes the whole world blind.” Ugh, I love your innocence and heart of gold! I wish I could protect it forever. You have your fair share of fire, too. You are still a sore loser and have learned not to play anything you can’t do well at. Watching you jump up and down to celebrate shooting a basket at a game gives me so much pride and joy. And your learning to love reading and have already started to notice how it makes you better at writing. You read a book and then decide to write a book. I love watching the wheels turn and seeing that spark ignite in you. Sometimes I think with your artistry and your writing and your faith, you are like a mini-me. But you got that spunk – sense of humor and quick-temper from your Daddy. I hope and pray all these qualities are never squelched – whether by peer pressure or lack of self confidence or idiot teacher. I want you to embrace these gifts that are uniquely you and use them to power your future without a doubt in your mind. You are such an amazing gift to this world.

Layla – “The Crazy One,” who keeps us on our toes and makes us question our parenting abilities that we thought were on point after your sweet sister was so easy and so good. You’ve challenged us since before you were born. Your name means “dark beauty” or “intoxication with wine,” which is SO fitting. You are like a crazy little drunk person and you drive me to drink! We like to joke that you are our little boy, the into-everything, always-moving, eat-anything-on-the-floor, accident-prone type. And you are all hot or cold – there’s rarely anything in between. If you are holding something you shouldn’t have and we take it and tell you no, you act like your heart has been broken into a thousand pieces, and you run to the other parent for consoling. You love to smile and say hi to strangers, but you’ve been fussing in nearly every car ride ever since we brought you home from the hospital. I finally figured out the other day that if I gave you a bag of veggie straws to snack on in the car, you didn’t complain. Go figure, tubby likes to eat! Which lately, I can’t feed you enough. Even though you don’t want much while it’s mealtime in your high chair, you are constantly pointing at our food, eyeballing whatever anyone else has, even if it’s the same thing you had that you threw on the floor or fed to the dogs. Or you’re in the pantry looking for a snack there or just pointing and whining at the kitchen for SOMETHING. It’s never enough! And bananas, speaking of never enough, there are never enough bananas in a day for you. You are a monkey. Right now, you’ve learned to shake your head “yes” with a big grin to almost any question we ask you, even if you have no idea what we are talking about. And you love to help out by carrying your dirty diaper to the trashcan and closing the lid once you’ve tossed it. You march around the house, pumping just one arm in determination, as you move from one task to another. But God forbid I leave the room, even if you were playing contently by yourself. You are Momma’s Girl for sure, even though when I’m gone you think your Daddy is the coolest. You used to adore your Big Sis, but now that you’ve got some independence, you are showing her some sass. You squeal in protest if she tries to pick you up, and you hit her in the face if she gets in your space. The best is how you kick her nonstop from your carseat all the way to drop her off from school. You can’t help but be obnoxious. You are very much the personality of your father, and it’s adorable. I am exhausted by you but yet pray that time will slow down so we can keep you adorable and hilarious for a little longer.

Both of you girls are so amazing and so different. I pray we continue to learn how to help you both continue to grow into your true selves and that we can protect you from those people and things that try to dim your light. You are both such wonderful gifts to this world.

Things that matter

February 17, 2017

I shouldn’t even be taking the time to write this. I should be working, or studying, or cleaning, or showering. But I haven’t written in several weeks and I’m so sick of doing all the “have to’s” and not having any time or energy left to do the “want to’s,” so damn it I’m writing.

My Badass book said something about how when things finally click for you and you decide that thing that you really want to go for (your calling I guess), and you’re all Gung ho and moving in that direction, Murphy’s Law or maybe it’s Satan tries to get in the way and create obstacles that feel like a sign that maybe you made the wrong decision and should go back to playing it safe. And it feels like that’s exactly what’s happening. My job has been unfulfilling for quite some time and I finally figured out I wanted to go back to school for psychology.  About a month ago I signed up for a class to get started meeting the prerequisites of a Master’s program, was getting up early to make quiet time and exercise for myself a priority, and was all Positive Polly since I had it figured out. Nothing was stopping me. And then yet another person from our department quit (I think that makes 5 in the last 6 months or so?) with no sign of backfilling any of those positions in sight. My own team is half the size it was a year ago but responsible for more work. So when I should be studying a subject I enjoy and spending time with my family, I’m working nights and weekends to do even more unfulfilling work. I’m staying up really late to do work and not getting much sleep and thus not waking up early for probably the most important time of the day, my “me time.” I stopped going for walks with my coworkers in the afternoons because we all just have too much to do. Now and then I have a discussion or meeting that involves building relationships or collaboration or conflict resolution and those things get me really excited and motivated (hence why I want to study psychology) and I have hope that I can impact things that matter at work. But then I get quickly buried in the mundane  work work work that clients are actually paying for and I never have time to do the good stuff. Complete opposite the direction I want to be going and it’s making me super cranky.

On top of the above, I made goals this year to connect with friends and family more and I feel like that’s just silly right now. One of my best friends is fighting cancer and I feel like I can barely keep up with her. What’s funny is SHE feels guilty that she’s been so busy fighting cancer that she hasn’t kept up with me – how ridiculous is that?!?! I don’t answer calls or texts from people because I’m in the middle of work. My kids are growing up at lightning speed and right now and I don’t feel like I can just relax and enjoy them. My husband and I haven’t been on a date since sometime in December and we’ve been unable to secure a babysitter successfully for awhile. In this kind of situation I used to take a day off work just so we could have a day date while the girls are at school/daycare, but if I did that right now it would just guarantee I’d be in the office the following Saturday.

There’s a glimmer of hope that something at work will change soon and I’ll get some balance back, but I don’t know how long that will take and I don’t know how long I can take this. The morale across the team is so low, every day I come in wondering who will be resigning next and how much more work we’re going to have to figure out how to shoulder. I cry almost every night when everyone goes to bed and I’m stuck with writing reports and insights for stuff that in reality JUST. DOESN’T. MATTER! I’ve looked around at other job openings in the city but there’s nothing that I care to make the effort for. It all just seems like more of the same. One thing I’ve learned and realized through this is how my coworkers and I have built up some great friendships and at least we have each other, right? Misery loves company. But for real we are encouraging each other and helping each other and trying to become better people through this, and I don’t want to leave that for some place new. I hold out hope that things will get better where I’m at.

I don’t really know how to end this post. Normally I try to wrap things up positively or whatever but I’m just here. It’s where I’m at. And I should get back to working or taking care of my sick kid, since I’m doing both on this beautiful Friday.

So emo

January 27, 2017

Now that Trump has taken office and got busy right away doing things, I find myself incredibly emotional. And probably not in the way that a lot of people are. I’m emotional about all the emotion that I’m hearing about at work and seeing on Facebook. There is SO much anger and angst. Empathy is a strength of mine but right now it feels like a weakness as I soak up all the feels of those around me. It’s overwhelming and I’m seriously considering taking a break from Facebook for awhile because I need to filter the outside emotions out so I can actually feel myself for a bit.

But then I feel guilty if I turn off Facebook, turn off the news, put on my headphones and ignore people talking about things. Does that make me an ostrich with my head in the sand? Does that make me part of the problem as a someone with white privilege that can just turn it off and ignore what’s going on in the world and be fine? When I shut all that out, I see and hear my daughters and husband right in front of me, and the only thing that really matters is them. I focus on us, and doing whatever it is that helps us become better people while enjoying life as much as possible. Half the problems in this country I think are the end result of the fall of family values, so my current job of trying to turn out offspring that are decent and smart people isn’t a walk in the park and has some nobility to it. On top of it I spend time bettering myself – right now it’s studying and learning about child development in the class I’m taking, so someday I can be more impactful in my career and make a positive difference in this world. Is that so wrong?

I’ve made a goal this year to be more present – does that mean present in the lives of my nearest and dearest and my own self, or present in the community and the world and the apparent strife that’s unraveling? Sometimes I wonder if any of that “out there” is even real – I don’t actually see it or experience it in everyday life. The “issues” aren’t big issues to me. Again, there goes my white privilege in assuming everything is fine because it’s fine with me and my circle. Maybe I’m living in the Truman Show or the Matrix or part of a simulation experiment ran by higher beings.

But then when I decide to get out of my bubble and try to pay attention to what’s going on out there I get overwhelmed with the search for truth. I don’t know what or who to believe anymore when I look through the news on various issues. That empathy thing comes into play again as I find myself identifying with both sides of most every issue that everyone is so upset about and I again feel guilty that I can’t truly side with anyone. Like no matter which way I think, it must be wrong if so many people can feel so strongly the other way. I struggle to piece together the facts when everyone reporting has an agenda. I find myself with paralysis by analysis and then panic that I can’t figure out the answer in order to even form an educated opinion on the situations at hand. It seems so clear to everyone out there but I just can’t accept everything as it is. It’s one part conspiracy theory that there is way more to this than anyone on either side realizes, and the other part that I default to believing that everyone really has goodness in their heart and means well. My faith leads me to think “WWJD” and I think the answers get simple but no one out there is trying to do anything simple!

It’s exhausting and confusing. Nothing is black or white. I can’t stand labels and restrictive thought. I just want peace and joy for myself, my loved ones, and everyone in the whole wide world. I wish everyone would take a chill pill, love themselves and each other and those they don’t agree with, and rather than resting on their laurels and assuming things are fine or running around hands in the air spreading fear, recognize that things aren’t perfect and never will be, and then decide what part they can play to make this world a better place. I mentioned previously that I want to be more active in a charitable way from now on, especially with my time and talents. And I’m going back to school to study psychology and counselling in hopes that I can apply that knowledge and skills to have a more positive influence on those around me and hopefully work that into a more fulfilling career. I know I have so much good to give this world so I’ve gotta get busy giving it in whatever way I can NOW.

So if I seem distracted, MIA from social media, playing the devil’s advocate, crying in a corner, obsessed with my family, or just plain enjoying life, it’s just me trying to figure out this maze. I’m just doing my best and can forget the rest! Thanks Tony Horton. Lame Beachbody joke. If you know, you know. Nevermind.

Signed,

Pollyanna

 

Girl Power

January 23, 2017

Yesterday was the Women’s March, where millions of women (and men and even children) across the country gathered to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.” I didn’t go, but was invited by a friend since we had made lunch plans yesterday and she was thinking about it. I’m not much of an activist or political person, so it’s not really my cup of tea to do something like that, but I did noodle on it for a bit, thinking maybe it would be cool to get out of my comfort zone and be a part of something big like that. I’m a woman, I think women are awesome. But I’ve never identified with the title “nasty woman” – and I worried there might be a lot of that kind of vindictiveness out there and that didn’t sound unifying or empowering to me. And I really just preferred to catch up with my friend since we hadn’t seen each other or talked for a couple years. Selfishness won and I had a wonderful lunch with my friend.

I am truly impressed by the numbers that showed up and the aerial photos of the events around the country. It is awe-inspiring to see those kinds of numbers gather for a cause. I’m happy for the people that went – I know several that did, and I hope they were encouraged and empowered by the event, and I hope that anyone who would attempt to suppress human rights received the message loud and clear. But I also heard some things that discouraged me. There’s a lot of talk about diversity, but the march organizers removed a pro-life feminist group from their sponsors.  The Women’s March website quotes Audre Lorde saying “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” So why exclude a group that has a different and broader definition of human rights than you? That seems counterproductive and narrow-minded. The Washington Post also reported that the event was mostly white women. Why were there not more women of color out there taking a stand? Is it because they don’t feel empowered, they don’t have the means, they don’t feel safe, they don’t care, or something else? For such a diverse country, I would’ve hoped to see more diversity at this event. One way or another, it shows there are problems that need dealt with.

My biggest question/hope is – what will those millions of marchers do next? If yesterday’s march inspired you (whether you were present or not), or if you were one of the people that felt it an unecessary display of activism, what if next month we organized a Women’s Community Day? What if everyone who marched and those who believe there are injustices in society then chose a cause within our community that we would physically serve for a few hours on a Saturday next month? Can you imagine the amazing impact millions of women could directly have on our communities by volunteering in one single day? There probably wouldn’t be dramatic aerial photos to commemorate the impact, but I bet the ripple effect would be more permanent and far-reaching. I’m encouraged by the Women’s March website that now lays out an action plan. It doesn’t detail the whole plan, but begins with writing letters to local legislators about causes important to you. I think that’s an okay start, but I hope there is a focus on the actual impact each woman can make, rather than relying on the decisions of politicians. I have very little faith in them. It’s so important that we get busy impacting the world around us, rather than talking about it and what other people are doing to mess it up. Women are capable of amazing things; Men are too so it doesn’t have to be about just women but I think that if millions of women want to get out and march, then at a minimum we’ve got that many people that should be willing to go do something now.

I’m at a point in my life where I really want to make a difference. I want my energy to be spent making a positive impact on those around me. I’m trying to figure out what that means for me career-wise, and I’m trying and learning to be a great wife and mother at home so my family is better for having me. It’s a bumpy and exhausting ride, but I know there is more outside my family and my work, and there is a world that is hurting. Other than praying, giving money regularly to a couple charities that are important to me, and trying to be a nice person, I want to branch out more and I’m trying to figure out how I want to do that. I found a great website called Volunteer Match that helps you search for opportunities in your community by various categories. So I have a goal this year to get out of my bubble and really do something. Hopefully I can include the family in that too but I’m not going to let that limit me. I challenge anyone reading this to do the same – whatever cause is dear to you or just find one. Use your time for something bigger than yourself. Less talk, more action. We are capable of SO much good.

“She’s Everything I Never New I Always Wanted”

January 12, 2017

These days I’m caught in the guilty, contradicting feeling of pining my workdays away, anticipating Layla’s smile when I pick her up from daycare, and then subsequently wishing for bedtime to hurry up and get here once we walk in the door. I dread the morning and evening rush, yet know it’s such a limited time with my girls and hope to somehow make quality time out of those hurried, stressful minutes. Because I no longer see the baby in my 9-year-old, and the baby-ness has begun to fade in my 14-month-old as she’s toddling around the house, babbling and gesturing in conversation, surprising us almost daily with new developments. Her chunky butt and thick thighs have shaped up, and I miss her dimpled booty.

I never thought twice about how fast time went with Skyler when she was little. It just happened. And I DO remember praying to survive various difficult phases and wishing for the next phase. But now, having a mature and independent older child has shown me such a contrast, making it crystal clear just how quickly they grow up, teaching  me to take a breath and try to be present in as many moments and phases as possible during Layla’s littleness. I can’t stop snuggling her, I don’t hesitate to bring her a bottle and rock her back to sleep at 2 am, and I honestly enjoy diaper changes. But despite my best attempts to be present in these moments and not wish away the phases, they just seem to keep escaping me.

I feel guilty about my obsession with Layla – I don’t remember if I was this obsessed with Skyler but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t. Maybe it’s the difference of breastfeeding one but not the other? Could our bond really be that different? Don’t get me wrong – I adore Skyler and enjoyed her as a baby – she was much easier and sweeter than Layla too. So maybe it’s that Skyler is so much older and more independent – she’s becoming her own person and needs me much less. I’ve forgotten the feelings of affection toward that squishy little innocent goofball who’s now become a smart, creative, sometimes snobby kid that knows right from wrong and tests me more than she should. Maybe that evolution is just running it’s course and that’s a good thing because someday she will leave the house and maybe then I won’t be so heartbroken? Maybe it’s just that my love for her is changing – it’s a love that has been wounded as her innocence slowly fades. It’s a love that is less about affection, and more about respect and concern for the person she is becoming.

But there is another difference about Layla. She is the one that almost never was. She is a symbol of healing to Ronnie’s and my relationship after some really hard times. And she herself had hard times and healing her first weeks of life. She almost died one night. Skyler’s heart struggles are already a distant memory – her own scar is so faded it’s almost unnoticeable. And so maybe my fear of letting Layla grow up comes from never wanting to forget how far we’ve come, and how far both girls have come. The more time that goes by, the darkness of the past seems to lighten, which should be celebrated. But I fear to ever forget the tests of faith, the lessons learned, or take anything for granted. I know there’s plenty more life to live, with wonderful things in each phase, but the baby phase – it’s a special one, for sure. I’m so thankful I got the chance to do it again.

How I’m Dealing With Depression

January 2, 2017

Whomp whomp. As I make efforts to be more authentic and open, this topic is one that is tough to share since I like to be in control and give off the impression that I’ve got my shizz together. But a few months ago, I came to the conclusion that I was dealing with mild to moderate depression. I was constantly tired, bummed out, couldn’t get excited about anything and had zero motivation to do anything. I looked forward to sleep way too much and dreaded getting out of bed. I honestly didn’t feel much emotion at all, kind of just blank and empty. If I did feel something, it was annoyance, frustration, longing or sadness. Sometimes, painful memories from the past seemed to bubble up out of nowhere and nag me. Despite my long list of blessings and short list of actual problems, I struggled to find and keep joy – it was so brief and far between. I prayed for God to pull me out of the muck.

I did not go to the doctor about it; I just self-diagnosed, which is, of course, not at all recommended. But I’m smart, self-aware, proud and stubborn, and think I know more about myself than someone I see for 15 minutes once a year. I didn’t feel so bad that I couldn’t function or that I was a danger to myself or loved ones, and I didn’t want something as concrete as a diagnosis on my medical records or a prescription to take. But I knew I was in a place that I couldn’t stay or things might get bad eventually. My distrust of the conventional medical establishment and knowledge that health is not just a random physiological brain imbalance, but rather the compound effect of environment, stress, nutrition, activity, spirituality, and emotions, lead me on my own little research project/experiment and these are the things I discovered and took action with. I want to share the progress/success I’m having in hopes that it helps or inspires someone who may be struggling with similar issues.

  • A few years ago after my nutrition studies, I geeked out with a fantastic book called The Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried. It has a symptom-based questionnaire that helps women identify which hormones they might be having issues with, and then discusses the how/why and some specific nutrition and lifestyle adjustments to make, as well as how to talk to a doctor if more advanced testing and medication might be needed. Since the last two years were pretty hormone-driven for me to grow a baby and breastfeed a baby, I figured this might be a good place to start. The quiz results showed I had all the indicators of low estrogen and low cortisol. Guess what – these hormones are major regulators of mood and energy! Of the nutrition/supplements she recommended, I chose the following to start including in my daily diet and routine:
    • High dose Vitamin C – 1,000 – 2,000 mg/day
    • Vitamin B Complex
    • Vitamin E – 200 IU/day
    • Panax Ginseng – 200 mg/day
    • Herbal blend of St. John’s Wort, Black Cohosh, and Hops – I quit this after a couple weeks as I felt increased anxiety like I’d drank way too much coffee. Those feeling subsided immediately after I quit taking this. Herbs are no joke!
    • 1 serving of flax seed and maca powder in daily smoothies
    • Organic whole soy (I chose edamame since it’s an easy snack) once weekly
  • With a push from a friend, I scheduled a therapy session, which was huge in understanding and accepting where I was at and how I was feeling, and taking some solid steps from a mental/spiritual perspective to righting my ship.
  • Essential oils for aromatherapy – I’ve got a blend from Vibrant Blue Oils called Uplift that smells amazing. I try to wear it daily as perfume. I also read that clary sage is helpful for estrogen regulation and frankincense for mood, so I’m rubbing a blend of those with jojoba oil on the tops of my feet daily, if I remember. Supposedly that’s a thing (the tops of feet). I’m skeptical of rubbing oil on the top of my feet, but there are stranger things I could be doing, and it’s not hurting anything! Also, a little frankincense in my hair after washing – that’s a good way to smell real nice!
  • I watched a bunch of TEDTalks. I went to Youtube to listen to Brene Brown’s talk on vulnerability, which I had heard a couple years ago. I found myself meandering through the suggested videos in the sidebar and came across a talk from a KU professor on how depression is a disease of civilization. If you think you might be depressed, or know that you are depressed, I highly recommend giving a yourself a few minutes to watch this and possibly gain some new perspective. It made so much sense, totally jived with my holistic approach to things, and reminded me I really needed to get moving. I have not been committed to regular and consistent exercise in a long time, and it was even harder for me to make myself do when I was feeling all Woe-Is-Me. But when the professor said that just 30 minutes of brisk walking three times per week was more effective at improving brain chemistry than any prescription anti-depressant on the market, it was a wake-up call. I didn’t have to go kill myself at CrossFit every day to feel better – the kind of movement I needed was so attainable. Dare I say easy? So I committed to movement. Daily if possible – of whatever variety floats my boat and works with my schedule that day. Walk, hike, workout video, CrossFit, run, yoga, stretch…fun!
  • I got a planner. Like a bound paper calendar/to-do list thing, and motivated myself with some colorful gel pens to use in it. With all the apps and online organization products available today, I couldn’t get into any of them. It was overwhelming and I just couldn’t make myself stick with any of it. And as I try to be more conscious of setting my phone down and being more present in life, using an app seemed to go against that. What I love about this planner and several others I looked at is that it’s more than just a schedule/task organizer. It focuses on goal setting in four areas: personal, work, relationship, and family/friends. It has a journal component for gratitude and regular self reflection. It forces me to think bigger and deeper than just my to-do list and to be more intentional with my daily life. Because I also know that I need daily spiritual/devotional time, I’ve decided to start my daily planning time with prayer/scripture-reading first to set the tone.I’m just a few days in, but I’m already thinking where has this been all my life? I hope this is a new practice I can keep.
  • I’m reading You Are a Badass, which was a total accident – like I wasn’t planning to read anything but it was a gift with great timing. Or maybe, it wasn’t an accident. This very book quoted Einstein saying “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”  One action item I’ve taken from this book so far is to do more of the things that make me happy. I realized while reading that I love learning and thinking, and I need regular input like a good non-fiction book to keep the wheels turning and providing inspiration, so I’ve also got a half dozen more inspirational/self-help/health-related books on my reading list this year.  Another thing is my enjoyment of writing/blogging, so I’ve set some goals to get back on this thing regularly and share my journey through words again.

So how’s it going, you ask? Is it working? While I’m only a couple months into these steps and some are just barely in the works yet, I can say that the last month or so I’ve felt like a different person. A better person, a dare-I-say happy person? And I’ve got some new dreams stirring in my brain, keeping me up at night in a good way. I’m scared that writing/sharing this is going to jinx me because maybe it’s too soon and it’s all just placebo effect or honeymoon period or things I won’t be able to maintain for the long run. But for now, I’m celebrating. And I’m appreciating myself again and all that goes with this crazy life.

 

 

To 2016 – it’s been real…

December 30, 2016

A lot of people are pissed about 2016, with the election of Donald Trump as president and so many celebrities dying. While those things are a bummer, they didn’t really shape my year as none of those people have much impact on my life. But 2016 was a funky year for me. Not one of my favorites, but yet there are some very favorite memories. It’s been a soul-searching year as I’ve spent much of it in the consuming haze of motherhood to an infant (and 9-year-old), which was a total shock to my system and any sense of self I once had. I do feel like the fog is starting to clear, and I look forward to 2017 as a year to get my mojo back. So, how can I recount 2016? I’ll answer the same questions I borrowed from another blog many years ago. If I can even remember anything from this whirlwind…

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before? I breastfed a baby.  I went to Nashville with Ronnie (had a blast), saw several country concerts, got a compound bow and am learning the sport of archery. Attempted to sell our house while living in it (unsuccessful in 2016 and so.much.work.). Roasted a turkey and provided Thanksgiving dinner.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don’t recall making any resolutions last year other than survive. Maybe to breastfeed as long as possible – I’m very proud of myself for sticking it out as long as I did. I exceeded my own expectations and it was a very rewarding experience. I’m so very thankful it worked out as it was such a rough start with Layla’s health and inability to nurse, but we got it figured out! This year I resolve to be more active, but be creative about what that means and not give myself a hard time when it means something different than earning PR’s at CrossFit. We are gearing up to start hiking as a family – literally, we picked up a backpack carrier for Layla on Craigslist and Skyler and I got hiking boots for Christmas. Weather permitting we go on our first hike this weekend to close out 2016. I’ve also brought walking shoes to keep at work so I can get out for fresh air and walks a couple times a week. I can’t make it to CrossFit in the evenings much these days as Layla goes to bed so early and I would miss her after being gone at work all day. And though the garage is well equipped for weightlifting and CrossFit workouts, I find it so difficult to get motivated without others to workout with and hold me accountable. Plus, it’s too hot or cold for two seasons of the year. So I signed up for Beachbody On Demand so I can access a variety of workout videos online when I need some intensity and coach Tony Horton telling me what to do so I don’t dilly dally through a workout. I’m excited to have this variety and especially to get outside with the walking and hiking!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My buddy Jamie had her second. My other friend and coworker Brie also had her second.

4. Did anyone close to you die? No, but a few weeks ago I thought I would be writing that my Grandma Kelley passed away as her health took an unexpected nosedive, like organs-shutting-down-call-the-family-to-come-say-goodbye kind of thing, but she miraculously stabilized and recovered enough to have her previously replaced aortic valve replaced again, and she’s already at home recovering from that ordeal. I’m really hoping we can make it to Florida in June next year to see her!

5. What countries did you visit? Ronnie and I made it back to Mexico for my girl Lindsay’s wedding. It was a much needed getaway and relaxing fun time. I may have way overdone the rum or tequila the night of the wedding and spent the entire next day in my cold, dark hotel room surviving on potato chips and sips of water rather than enjoying the tropical paradise, but it still seems worth it for letting loose and dancing the night away!

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016? Direction/goals/purpose outside of just being a mom. Yes, motherhood is noble and so important, but I know I have more to offer the world than just my children. I also hope to have a smaller, more manageable house.

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Probably March 3 (our trip to Nashville) or September 28 (our trip to Mexico). Our vacations/escape from reality.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? I think breastfeeding.

9. What was your biggest failure? Not taking care of myself – physically and spiritually. I feel like a chubby, frumpy shadow of my real self. Hoping 2017 will melt away the fluff and haze of mommy-hood and I will find more balance in all areas of my life.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I felt under the weather many more times this year than in previous years, I’m sure due to not making my own self-care as high priority, and dealing with another person’s germ-y slobber and poop and snot on a daily basis.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Probably plane tickets and/or concert tickets. I much prefer memories over material things.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Skyler – she is just an amazing big sister. I’ve leaned on her so much to help while I’m busy with little sis. And they are still so in love with each other. It makes my heart so happy and Skyler still says joyfully “I can’t believe I have a little sister now!” And she’s just so smart and creative and funny. She amazes me on a regular basis.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? No one specifically, but the way America handled this election year and the results. There’s been a lot of hate spewed unnecessarily and a lot of untruths spread irresponsibly. People just lack the ability to disagree respectfully anymore. The negativity that came out of this election really bothered me and I was ashamed of people.

14. Where did most of your money go? Hospital bills, daycare, tuition, home improvement projects.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Vacations. Dates with Ronnie. Layla finally sleeping through the night.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016? Any song by Brothers Osborne.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? happier
b) thinner or fatter? same
c) richer or poorer? poorer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Exercise and sharing my feelings.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Being hard on myself and worrying about things unnecessarily, bottling all my anxiety up and getting grumpy!

20. How did you spend Christmas? The usual handful of events with various extensions of the family around town.

21. Did you fall in love in 2016? I fall in love with my husband and daughters on a regular basis.

22. What was your favorite TV program? any home improvement show I guess. I’m still not really into TV and wouldn’t be sad if we didn’t have one, other than when I need Mickey Mouse to babysit Layla at his Clubhouse…

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No.

24. What was the best book you read? I haven’t read much, but I’ve started a couple books – It’s Okay to Laugh: (Crying Is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort. This one had me in tears and laughter on the flight home from Mexico. It’s just the memoirs of a girl about my age and the crap she’s been through – very raw and sad and funny and real. The other is You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. My coworker got me a 2017 desk calendar based on this book and then the book showed up  in my stocking. I’m loving it so far.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? Enjoying country concerts with my husband.

26. What did you want and get? My baby to sleep through the night. It might have taken her 9 months, but she’s got it down pretty well. Now I look forward to teething and sicknesses only because they wake her up at night and she needs snuggles to go back to sleep. I jump at that chance to rock her to sleep!

27. What did you want and not get? To sell this house and find a smaller one.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? I barely remember things we’ve watched. We watched the first 3 Divergent series movies and those were really good. And Rogue One, being Star Wars and all – it was surprisingly great.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 37. I went to work that day, but Ronnie made reservations at Rye that evening for us and some great friends and we had such a wonderful time over dinner and drinks.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Less financial stress, more exercise.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016? Leggings – nothing else fits.

32. What kept you sane? Sleep. And my hubby making dates for us so we could escape being parents on a regular basis.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? With my soul-searching as the year winds down I’m fascinated with Brene Brown – I kinda just want her job. Her books are on my reading list for next year!

34. What political issue stirred you the most? The election, duh.

35. Who did you miss? My girl Lindsay moved to Clovis, New Mexico. It’s so far and not the easiest to fly to. Thankfully we have instant messaging!

36. Who was the best new person you met? There isn’t a single person that’s made a huge impression, but we met some great new people on the Mexico wedding trip that I hope our paths will cross with again.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016. The contrast in age of my daughters has helped me not to wish away the exhausting times with an infant. Though I gain freedom as they grow to be independent, for now I’m clinging to the baby snuggles, even with all the stress they bring.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. For Layla: “In the still of the night, I held you, held you tight, cause I love, love you so, promise I’ll never, let you go, in the still of the night.”

Here’s to 2017!

I’m an Upper Middle Class White Girl and I Need Therapy

December 8, 2016

So I went to see my therapist yesterday. Yes, I see a therapist, and I feel like that is hard to admit. Like I’m weak or crazy since my life looks fine. But my therapist is truly a Godsend and I’m so thankful to have realized this kind of service. I wish I could go once or twice a month on the reg to help me stay focused and ease my scattered brain, but I don’t have that kind of money. She was recommended to me by a friend a couple years ago when I was dealing with some crap. I met with her several times throughout that year and then hadn’t talked with her since very early in my pregnancy with Layla when I was struggling with the emotions of that very unexpected life change. So it had been a spell and we had a lot of catching up to do!

What prompted the appointment after so long and during a time when life seems pretty even keel? We have no extraordinary challenges right now and are just kind of going with the flow day by day (knock on wood, throw some salt over my left shoulder, do a rain dance, etc!). But despite that, I haven’t been happy. Plain and simple. And I don’t mean I’m not grateful for the life I have – there is SO much to be thankful for especially after all the hurdles we’ve been through. But I’ve been down in the dumps for a couple months and unable to shake the gloom, so my friend literally wired me money via Paypal for the sole purpose of paying for me to go talk to my therapist. I guess she was tired of my negativity? Ha – just kidding girl – you just knew what I needed!

What I love about my therapist is she understands where I’m at in an uncanny way. After I explain my concerns, she tells it back to me like a beautiful broken reflection. I see myself and my feelings through objective but understanding eyes, and I can immediately give grace to myself for where I’m at. Even if that was the end of the appointment, with no advice or action items, her recounting of my current state allows me to accept where I am and love myself for it. My guilt and feelings of weakness disappear as I see myself the way she does. But then she probes further and gives me action items. And I love a clear to-do list!

So I’m at a place where I’m re-evaluating my values (huh?). She gave me a massive list of “values” – things like Spirituality, Wisdom, Achievement, Health, Financial Stability, etc. (there’s like a thousand in the list). She asked me to quickly highlight everything that resonated with me, and then to go back through the highlighted list and really think on the values that best represented the things I aspire to lead my life with. The things that I want, rather than the things that I’m currently doing, and narrow the list to around 5. She said it sounds like I’ve been letting life lead me, rather than leading my life with my values. I need to identify my values, the things that help me protect them, and the things that interfere with them, so I can hit the reset button and begin making decisions again with my values in mind. I’m looking forward to this exploration and new practice, though already fear failure. The biggest cause of my gloom is putting everything else before myself – and selflessness is a virtue. And Responsibility is a value, one on the very top of my list. So the struggle to be true to myself and balance everything else is conflicting and very very real. But I’m up for the challenge and excited to find my way out of this funk.

As I think about publishing this post I feel guilty. I feel guilty as a well-to-do white girl living in the safety of the Midwest. Like that gratitude thing should be what I focus on and to quit my bitching, put a smile on my face and go out and do some good in this world with my resources and be happy about it. There are people in way worse scenarios that have real things to be sad about – they deserve to be sad and I don’t. But that’s the hard part about sharing my feelings publicly like this – I don’t share everything. There are some really dark things that I don’t share, so my story and the feelings that I express are disjointed and lack context to people that may read this not knowing. There are very few that really know me and the things I’ve been through. Could things be worse? Yes, but I’ve been through more bad things than I ever would have chosen, and have to accept that it’s okay to grieve about those things. It’s just a reminder that everyone has their own unique experience in life, and it’s all relative to each person. Everyone has a low point (or several) and we don’t always know what those are, nor can we understand how it affects another person. The human brain and soul are fascinating things in how they handle the ups and downs of the unique lives they captain. But we can choose to respond to others with empathy and kindness, in hopes that we don’t negatively impact their situation, and maybe even become the positive thing that helps boost them to a better place. As cliche as it is, you never know what another person is going through, and we can all learn to not judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.

I am Pro-Life, but it’s complicated.

October 22, 2016

My first memories of “abortion” are from my early elementary school years at my family’s central Arkansas Bible church. Let the stereotypical assumptions flow after that introduction. But seriously, I recall seeing pamphlets with graphic photos of bloody trash bags of dead babies. I’m sure I asked my parents or maybe they showed them to me and explained what the picket line we were going to participate in was about. I was horrified and sad that this kind of thing could happen, and my little 7 or 8 year old self was proudly “pro-life.” I helped create posters with colorful magic markers to hold streetside in front of the capitol maybe? I don’t remember the locations but I’ve stood in a few abortion demonstrations as a young child. Maybe even in junior high – that was probably the last one I remember, with my church youth group here in Overland Park, Kansas, on 95th Street between the cross streets Lowell and Craig. How I remember those details, you got me? It was just a busy street in a residential area, near some churches (though not ours), and not in front of a clinic or government building, but I digress.

Over the years I’ve heard all the buzzword arguments on both sides. And while my views on lots of traditionally conservative issues have changed in many regards, I still haven’t heard a good answer to explain “when life begins” if it doesn’t begin at conception. Maybe the argument of “when life is viable outside the womb” works, except that as technology and medicine continue to advance, so does minimum. I think the earliest born surviving preemie was born at just under 22 weeks gestation, and the viability chance for fetuses continues to increase. When you combine that with the idea of “cloning” science, it doesn’t seem impossible that the two sciences could meet someday and a baby could be conceived and gestated with no living human womb at all. Seems creepy, but possible in some matter of years. So that argument of “when life begins” seems like it could be a moving target.

Where things get really gray for me are the cases that get thrown around a LOT in the media and politics, that everyone gets so up in arms about – the right to abortion in cases of rape or the mother’s health or birth defects. And I think each of these scenarios has so many shades of gray. A woman who is raped has been damaged physically, emotionally, mentally, and possibly spiritually. I haven’t been through it but have only imagined the pain and trauma. And if that horrific event wasn’t just over at the time, but that evil attacker left a part of themselves inside your body to join with part of your body and create a new creature that you would be responsible for the rest of your life, always reminded of that event, even that face. What if that child was the spitting image of their father? Could they be loved? Would that hurt and anger be taken out on that child? What if the evil in the father’s heart was genetic? And pregnancy and childbirth is hard and uncomfortable and hormonal – would there be any healing to hope for in those 9 months? Those are only a few of the thoughts that I’ve considered in that sad scenario. So I can completely understand and feel no judgement for anyone that could choose to terminate that pregnancy and attempt to move on. However, I know and truly believe that God can make beauty from ashes. If a victim had faith, I think there is a way (and I’m sure this has happened in real life) to turn this tragedy and pain into something amazing. God can provide healing in amazing ways, whether through blessing a family that wanted to adopt, or building a beautiful mother/child relationship with the victim, even if they started in unlikely and evil ways. So I believe there is hope for those that would choose life – to take that chance on the new creature inside them and put that baby’s life ahead of their own pain. I’m not saying which one is right or wrong, but I believe there is healing either way, and a lot would depend on the spirituality and support system of the victim.

The mother’s health argument – I haven’t done a lot of thinking about, honestly because I have this idea in my mind that modern medicine can figure that one out in most cases that it seems a very rare decision for anyone to have to make. And I think the stats support that, it’s not really an argument people should be resting their laurels on because it just isn’t applicable to many people. But the case of birth defects was recently illuminated for me. But let’s start at the beginning of my views on this first. I generally do not believe that viable genetic abnormalities should be reason to terminate a pregnancy. The idea that “I just don’t want a child with known health problems” just doesn’t jive with me. That in and of itself sounds selfish and slippery. I agree, it could be devastating news and completely change the vision you have for your future family. But people are doing it, and they have found so much joy in it. And that argument seems similar to and dangerous to the “when does life begin” question. What constitutes a birth defect that is acceptable for abortion? Is it one that you don’t feel mentally or emotionally prepared for? Is it one that you can’t afford to pay for the resulting medical services? Is it one where the child has a chance of dying anyway? How big of a chance? What about the child’s “quality of life” with their condition? Who’s standards do we use to determine when it’s okay? And what heavy combination of answers to these questions makes one scenario okay but one scenario wrong? These are the questions that I can’t answer. Today I read two heartbreaking stories/articles that got me really thinking about this late-term abortion issue (and I’m referring to that now because I’ve recently learned that late-term abortion really only applies to these unique medical situations, rather than some selfish woman who decided last minute that she didn’t want her baby). First was about a couple who learned mid-pregnancy that their much-loved and much-anticipated baby could absolutely not survive outside the womb. It would be stillborn, but they had to carry the child full term and deliver her, knowing this devastating outcome for the entire second half of the pregnancy. Second was a similar case, but this baby could survive, albeit with an extreme condition that was likely to cause a painful, vegetable-like existence. I read both these stories and fought tears. Tears for the parents and the heartbreak they felt and the guilt they felt with even considering their choices. I felt tears for these unborn souls, who would never fully know their loving parents. I felt compassion and understanding, and sadness that laws made these already difficult situations even more difficult and painful. It gave me new perspective on this issue. Though I still don’t know the answer for them – what should be legal and what shouldn’t. I think in the first scenario, a baby with zero viability should not be made to be carried. That seems downright cruel and ridiculous. The second story has a lot more gray, as the mother describes. I can’t blame her either way, and she would carry her decision with a certain pain no matter which way she chose. And that baby never had to know pain and suffering.

But despite all these feelings, the thing I’ve also learned is that these situations make up something like less than 3% of abortions that take place in the United States today. The vast majority are unplanned pregnancies terminated in the very early weeks. There are hundreds of reasons why an unplanned pregnancy is inconvenient, and I can empathize with not wanting this circumstance or this change in my life plans. But, the women in these circumstances knew it could be a possibility. The evolutionary purpose of sex is to reproduce. I believe it’s the responsibility of the people who chose to have sex to accept parenthood as a possible outcome of that, whether or not they used birth control. That’s not a super fun way to look at it, and I know that sounds really lame and old school, but that’s how I see it. Our culture has made a huge deal out of sex, glorifying it and promoting sexual freedom, but not appropriately emphasizing that sex causes children (for heterosexuals, that is)! The Pro-Choice movement is so adamant about women’s health and women’s control over their own body. I 100% support that. Women should be able to choose when and with whom they have sex, and they should have access to affordable preventive birth control and the education to use it the most effectively. But, once they have become pregnant, it is no longer just their body that they are making health decisions for. There is a new body; a new person in this equation, I believe, since I haven’t yet been convinced when life begins if not at conception. And that person’s health is now the responsibility of the parents. Yes, unfortunately, if unplanned, most of the time the women take the brunt of the responsibility, if not all of it. But those are the risks taken if choosing to have sex with someone and either or both of you doesn’t yet have the desire to be a parent. There has to be some acceptance of responsibility at that point, not once a new life has been created.

This last scenario is where Pro-Lifers need to focus their efforts in discussions and legislation. Why does abortion have to be an all-encompassing, all or nothing law? If we could make some concessions in certain areas to not put well-meaning parents through unnecessary heartbreak and fear of judgement, maybe be open to lovingly and empathetically discussing abortion as a legal alternative for rape victims. Let’s look at addressing this very small percentage of abortion cases with compassion. But then focus on re-educating today’s young men and women about responsibility with their sex lives – not just about the risk of catching and spreading STD’s, but about the “risk” of parenthood. And then, for those who find themselves with unwanted pregnancies, let’s flow some legit resources there way. Healthcare, adoption resources, support networks and groups. For those that keep their baby, help with childcare, education and employment. Legal resources to help maintain responsibility for BOTH parents. Parenting classes and support groups. I know these things exist, but are more often charitable organizations rather than government-funded. And abortion is so much financially cheaper and logistically easier than these things. But THIS is where the argument needs to be, and the most lives could be saved. As long as Pro-Lifers and the politicians running on that platform continue to use scare tactics about partial-birth and late-term abortion to make Pro-Choicers out to be evil baby killers, and as long as Pro-Choicers stop using “for the health of the mother” as a reason to keep abortion legal, there can never be any sort of progress on this legislation that really promotes the health and safety of women and their unborn children.

I’m sure some of my thoughts here are unpopular with both sides of the coin, but it’s so emotional and it’s something I’ve considered a lot and asked God about plenty of times. I’ve said before I never really had a desire to be a mom. And my second child was very much unplanned and inconvenient in ways not many realize. I hated being pregnant and being a mother is DAMN HARD. And I’ve got it easy compared to many that are faced with unplanned pregnancies, so I get it. But I also know the blessing my children are, and the ways they’ve expanded my soul in such positive ways, and what they’ve taught me about joy and love. Things and feelings I never would have known without their arrival into this world. This issue has been weighing on me heavily this week since the presidential debate where some disturbing buzzwords were thrown around. I laid awake the other night feeling so emotional and confused that I had to get some words out to try and make some sense of the issue.  I still don’t know the answer, but I do know there needs to be more understanding, less judging, and as always, more love.