Thursday, January 5, 2017

You Will Need Her in Motherhood

I had a handful of girlfriends growing up. But with two sisters and a cousin that was like a third sister I also enjoyed hanging out with the guys so besides my sisters and cousin my closest girlfriends growing up were my softball teammates, one in particular that I played with from the time I was ten years old.

I remember as we entered the dating age how often one of us would complain about different girlfriends being so obsessed with their new love they never made time for their friends anymore. Then though we stood up in each other's weddings, life got busy as we got older. We have husbands that are now suppose to be our best friends, careers we're working on building, homes to take care of, and just adult responsibilities. Then we added kids to our lives and the thought of making time and maintaining those relationships with the friends in our lives seemed impossible.

But, stop, ladies. You are going to need her- that friend you don't think you have time for anymore. Sure, she gets it that you're busy, that you're married now, that you have more responsibilities than you can keep up with now too, and that kids are your first priority now. But you still need her too. You'll need her when you're worried sick about your child in the middle of the night, and she's the one also awake with her babe and can talk you through the worry and anxiety. You'll need her when one little off the wall facebook post sounds the alarm bells and she's calling you, concerned and ready to listen to the loss of your latest pregnancy. You'll need her when you're both overwhelmed and frustrated that even as much as husbands try and do what they can, they just can't understand what it's like to be the mom and you'll laugh and cry together over a glass or a bottle or two of wine. You'll need her when the depression blues are feeling like they're swallowing you into the abyss and that late night phone call to her is the lifeline you didn't know you needed to pull you back to safety. 

They are your tribe, ladies. These are the girls that you can be yourself with, that you can let your guard down with, that will get you when no one else will. They will cheer you on and be happy for your successes when you're the allstar that you are, and they'll be there to listen and offer a shoulder to cry on when motherhood is taking you down. They are your village. Not the village to raise your kids, but the village that will support you in the highs and lows. They are the ones that will believe in your when no one else will. They know the best of  you, and they know the worst of you. But they love you judgment free in a time in your life when you feel more judged than middle school.  Life will get busy, life will get messy, but no matter what don't let them go.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 In the Rearview Mirror and the Road Ahead to 2017 and Beyond

Many in social media were ready to kick 2016 to the curb with all the celebrity lives it took. Though many of those were great people that deserve to be remembered and missed I did not know them personally. But 2016 was a year that took a lot of lives it seemed. My family lost the head of our family- my grandfather on my 35th birthday, and unfortunately I watched too many friends lose parents, cousins, and even nephews and grandsons unexpectedly. 2016 also gave me and many friends our third babies, and some their first and their seconds. The circle of life was very apparent this past year. It was a year of great joy and great sadness.

If there's anything we take from this I guess it's to remember how very fleeting and precious our time is with the ones we love and for ourselves in living the life we hope to live. So what do I hope for in 2017? When I looked back at my goal and aspirations for 2016, it was pretty simple- to find peace and contentment with where I'm at. Some days I succeeded at that goal; some days not so much. Some days I still get anxious worrying about this or that for the future or am too hard on myself for the things I didn't succeed at the way I planned. As always I'm a never ending work in progress. But as time does go on I get better at accepting my failures and imperfections with my successes. I know the tough moments are followed by great moments and everything is just a continued cycle of ups and downs in this life we live.

My dream of our completed family with baby Lincoln came true in 2016. We started our journey the summer of 2005 and 11 years later in 2016 so much that we envisioned was finally a reality. After so many years of being in transition as last year's post pointed out this past year in 2016, particularly the summer, did have its moments of peace and contentment with feeling like we finally arrived to the destination we were headed to so long ago.

Though I've found a place of contentment and satisfaction we can still have that and reach for more, can't we? On one hand we hear to always keep dreaming and pushing for new goals as we conquer old ones, but on the other hand we hear to find happiness and contentment with where we are and with what we have. Can we do both???

I do have goals and hopes for 2017. I am 10 pounds away from the initial 35 lb weight loss goal I made before I became pregnant with Lincoln so I will be pushing to say good bye to those 10 pounds and just keep the healthier habits of working out and eating better. There were only four weeks I didn't get in my 3-5 workouts a week in the past 8.5 months. I'm hoping for six or less weeks missed in the whole twelve month period of 2017.

It is looking like we will be taking that 10 year anniversary trip to Hawaii this summer though I'm a little anxious about leaving my babies for a whole week and flying so far away. My husband wants to take us on a long weekend getaway to either Vegas or New Orleans in the Fall for his 40th birthday too, so between these two trips with our annual camping and beach trips and trips to MO (4 planned!) and PA/NY (4 planned as well) we're traveling every month in 2017 but Feb and Sept and some months like June include two trips. So my continued dream of traveling and seeing new places looks hopeful with two new destinations. Of course I love keeping the family traditions of the beach, camping, and trips to grandparents going year after year for our kids, and it looks like we'll be carrying that over into 2017.

I  have paid writing opportunities in 2017 which I haven't had since all the $$ I've pretty much made from my writing came in 2014. I have my first book signing scheduled for the spring, I've received a promising email from the Huffington Post though I haven't received my login info to actually proceeded with publishing there so that's a bit discouraging at the moment, and I have a charity idea I'm hoping to pitch later this month as one of my initial goals with my writing income was for 20% of it to go to children's charities, primarily pediatric cancer. I have another book idea I'd like to make some progress on and maybe with a ten week summer vacation I will, but otherwise I'm very content to do my own thing at my own pace with my writing. It's always been a hobby I love and I don't want to ruin it by making it feel like work.

As for other things. My second starts kindergarten in 2017! Which I am super excited for and sad for all at the same time. I'm sad that she's so big already. I swear the second grew faster than the first. I can't imagine how fast the third is going to grow. She's so ready and excited to go to school with her sissy. She's a smart little girl like her big sister so I know academically she'll do well. She might be a little like her momma though and be my one to get in trouble every now and then for talking or being out of line, but overall I look for her to do really well and am excited for her school years to come for her. Two in school all day also frees up our pocketbook so after our weird shuffling of vehicles for the past ten years now that my husband got his ideal truck two years ago the plan is to get my mom SUV back later this summer. We should be able to start the second's college savings account too and we're doing okay so far with the first's, and hopefully build up our other savings accounts. Then my last hopeful financial goal for 2017 is to get new floors in my kitchen and bathrooms (with a new vanity).

As for goals when it comes to work? It's probably the interesting thing for 2017. I'll be finishing year 13 and beginning year 14 here in 2017. But I'm burnt out in so many ways. I've been in my current school system for 11 years now though. Though I doubt more and more every day that I can do this for 30 years I'd like in 2017 to attempt to switch school districts to the one here where we live; however, because they keep making cuts I'm not too hopeful on that actually happening and I'm unsure how much of an actual pay cut it is. Eliminating 2.5 hours of my day commuting would help some of my burn out probably. At least temporarily.  I think working in a different area may help for a bit too. But there are aspects of the job that will follow me no matter where I go so I'll apply but we'll have to see what comes of it.  I don't look for any drastic job and/or relocation changes in 2017, but the wheels of possibility have been turning in both our heads. Right now 2017 is another year towards our pensions, another year to build up more equity in both of our houses, and another year to save up money. However, in 2018 or 2019 we're going to reach the fork in the road though. One path will be to stay the course for the next 15 years to collect our full MD teaching pension in our 50s, raise our kids to adulthood in this small Maryland town that we do love, and find or build our dream home on some land here. The other path at the fork in the road is the unknown one. The one where we take a huge leap of faith. We leave our professions with our job security and financial stability and possibly the home and life we've built here to recreate our life as business owners with the restuarant my husband always wanted someday.

We've faced the challenges of change and the unknown before. We are no stranger to taking the risks- moving out here away from anyone and everything we had known to build our own life, becoming landlords and turning our home into a rental property, adding babies to our family (that's a scary unknown challenge of change for everyone, right????) with no family nearby for help. Here's the thing I've learned. It's always hard, incredibly stressful, almost always involves some tough moments of failure, but in the long run in the bigger picture it's always made our life better and been completely worth the scary moments and growing pains of change.

Knowing we are getting closer to that fork in the road excites and scares me all at the same time. Which would you do? Take the safe path or the riskier one? We are so blessed; we have so much and even though we've reached a point of contentment and conquered so much that we had hoped for do we stop? Do you accept and settle with the one area of your life lacking complete fulfillment because you have everything else you ever dreamed? Or do you look at your life and say I want it all- everything I envision, even as the vision changes and evolves, and I won't settle until I get it? Life is short. We only have so much time to do all the things we want to do, live all the lives we want to live.  Can we have contentment in the present yet look ahead to the future to the next dream to conquer?


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

To the Soon to Be Mom

My sister is about to have her first baby in a few months. Of course she has questions and concerns, one concern being about everyone from the nurses to probably even my sister, myself, and our mother all being pushy about how to do this motherhood thing. Here's my advice for her and any soon to be moms.

Everyone and their mother will have advice and an opinion for you on how to do this motherhood thing. Literally everyone, including people you don't know, are going to tell you how to mother your child. Everyone is going to have an opinion on how to feed your baby, how your baby should sleep, how you should sleep, how you should feel, about what coat your baby should be wearing, why your baby cries too much, why your baby doesn't cry enough, why something is wrong with your baby because it cries too much or doesn't cry enough. Imagine a nagging mother in law. Now imagine that times about a 100. That's what you're about to experience. You don't like people telling you what to do or judging how you do things? Thicken your skin now and get ready to be bossed around like never before.

Here's the deal. Some days you're going to rock this new mom thing and think "Forget those fools. I know exactly what I'm doing!" Then the next day maybe not so much. But honestly, here's the thing. Your baby isn't going to remember how many times you mess up this first year so it's all good. You will figure this out. What works for every other mom is not necessarily going to work for you.

Really when it comes down to it you just have to find your own way. Which will seem great and reassuring to hear one minute and terrifying the next because now that it's your kid you can parent all those ways you said you would when you watched from the sidelines, but other times it will be terrifying because well, no matter what you think you know or how you think you'll do things, those babies from day 1 have a mind of their own and some days you'll be begging someone to tell you what to do to just make that baby eat, sleep, poop, do whatever it is you want it to do.

As I said those babies have a mind of their own, and as much as everyone, maybe even you, will try to fit it into some typical mold, of what is typical for baby at such and such time, don't fret when the baby doesn't fit those molds.

Some days you will love this motherhood thing; other days you'll wonder what were you thinking. Some days you'll think you want a half dozen more, and other days the one will seem like half a dozen by itself. Just remember you'll be fine. You will know and do what's best for your baby and you, and it may not be what other people think is best. But, hey, it's your kid this time so you can do this motherhood thing however you want!


Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Rejections Behind the Acceptances

When I was a kid and first started to write the internet did not exist. Social media was over a decade away. I don't even really recall having a computer in our home until after I moved away to college so I did all my writing in little spiral notebooks or on loose leaf papers. I have journals that date back to the fourth grade still logged away in my fire proof safe and a box of six fictional stories I wrote between the ages of 10 and 14. I was terrified to let anyone read them. I let my sisters read a few and my best friend loved to read my journals that recounted real life as a kid growing up.

As I was exiting college not only was the internet now more of a normal thing but social media was born. I am quite fascinated with the tool social media has become for women. Social media has given women a stronger voice than ever I truly believe; it has given many a financial freedom that was never possible to the generation before as women promote and market consulting businesses from their homes. It gave me an audience for my writing.

Over the last few years I've watched women brand themselves for their interests, their communities, and for products that promote confident strong women. "With the rise of mass media throughout the 20th century, the popular image of women in America underwent a substantial change. From Marilyn Monroe to Kate Moss, the body shapes of the most admired models have remained consistently slimmer than that of the average American woman, representing a nearly impossible ideal. This has resulted in a severe rise in weight anxieties and negative body image among women and girls." (Women's Body Image and BMI...100 years in the Us  )Whereas in the 20th Century the mass media promoted the idea of what a strong confident woman in an unrealistic sense that left women with poor body image and low self esteem,  the every day 21st Century woman now has the voice to change that image. And we are! With our products-be it health and fitness programs, clothing, skincare, our worth as community members striving for a better place to raise children, and the list could go on.  You name it, ladies, here in the 21st century we are reshaping a better more powerful, confident image of the modern day woman for our daughters and the future.

However, being that voice on social media also comes with its moments of rejections. I've seen woman after woman put herself out there, but also encounter negativity and rejection for promoting that very idea of reshaping a society of more confident, strong women. I like to think of myself as one of these women who use social media to move forward in reshaping the image of the 21st century woman into a strong, confident woman that is beautiful inside and out and capable of anything she sets her mind to.

My choice of method has been my writing. Like so many other women that I've watched that brand themselves and use their voice to reshape the image of the 21st century woman I have faced my fair share of rejections. However, it's easy for me to hide the fact that there's a lot of rejection that goes on behind the scenes of the successful pieces of writing I share. Like many that promote something specific online I get criticized for using social media too much. I get criticized for being too blunt and honest, I get criticized for just being me as I know many others do as well when they passionately promote the things they care about. To be a voice is hard; to be quiet is much easier. But we also get thanked; people appreciate our honesty, there are people out there that appreciate our voice, and we do inspire other women to find their confidence, their strength, and chase change and their dreams. Our voices do matter and are making an impact.

Not only do I face the criticism from those that know me though, but just hobby writer or not, it also comes with lots of its own rejections from editors. I think I have submitted essays to four Chicken Soup for the Soul books. My essays have been accepted for two of the four. I couldn't be more excited to be a part of these two because they promote the very thing I've spent the last almost four years promoting with my writing: strong, confident women.

I also have my fourth essay about to be published next week with BellaOnline's Literary Magazine Mused. I first discovered Bellaonline when I stepped out of my shell to put my writing out there. They published my very first essay in their Fall 2012 Issue, rejected one, and have since published two more, before they'll publish this fourth one next week. Bellaonline's website motto is "Voice for Women" and at one time was the second largest women's website, and where I've watched several parenting and women websites fold over the years it's been around since 2007 shortly after the birth of social media. However, as much as the editors seem to like my nonfiction essays they pretty much fired me from writing a column for their website. Something wasn't quite a good fit I believe they said.

Writing as a voice for women is actually a pretty tough circle to break into. With sites like Scary Mommy, who though has rejected me a few times, has taken the time to send me a personal email response telling me they loved my piece but it wasn't quite original enough but to please send more, there are thousands of women writing away about the experiences of motherhood and being a woman in today's 21st century world. It's a fiercely competitive place to get your writing seen. Whether it's Chicken Soup, Bellaonline, or Scary Mommy my writing pieces are one in hundreds of pieces of writing speaking for women.

But it's okay I'll take my rejections with my acceptances. I know even if my reach is small it's still an important reach. It still spreads a message that women of today need to hear. It's part of the movement to promote stronger, more confident women for our 21st century world. To any other women out there, who faces the rejections with the successes, don't give up. Your voice does matter. People do hear you. You are making a difference. Go out there and be that powerful, confident woman that I know you can be!


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Living the Fairy Tale

As little girls we imagine our future adult married life as some version of the fairy tale we watch on Disney. There are days I'm on cloud nine and life does feel even better than the fairy tale.

Then the clock strikes midnight. Like every couple of hours. Sometimes it feels like every couple of minutes.

You look down and you're not in some beautiful wedding gown dancing the night away with that prince on your wedding. You're in sweat pants with a tiny hole in the butt you hope no one notices when you walk out to check the mail. Your shirt is covered in sweat because your "prince" thinks the house is too cold yet you're sweating your ass off in the sweltering heat of the house as you work  like Cinderella. There's some other crap on your shirt too. But  you're not sure if it's spit up, you missed your mouth earlier, or if possibly it literally is shit from the last diaper change???

The evil stepmother of the story. Come to find out it's you! At least the children may think you're the evil stepmother with the nagging of them to clean up after themselves, telling them to help out with this and that, and reminding them constantly to take care of their own damn stuff.

In the fairy tale we were suppose to be saved from our life of servitude around the house, but rather we realize we just signed our eternal sentence to household servitude for the rest of our life. More days than not our life resembles Cinderella's before the fairy tale wedding as we slave away over mess after mess.

Where is Prince Charming is this fairy tale life? Charming seems to have forgotten the meaning of charming. Because Prince Charming isn't so charming with the smelly bombs he so kindly leaves in the bathroom right before your longed for few minutes of a peaceful shower or the times he likes to trap your head under the blanket while he passes a little gas.

Sleeping together is literally maybe a good night's sleep with no kids in the bed kicking you in the back or putting their butt in your face or sleeping on fresh sheets that finally required emergency washing because a miniature offspring either peed the bed or threw up all over everyone in the middle of the night in which case you were both some warped version of the evil Stepmother and Cinderella all rolled into one.

Or let's be honest rather than kissing prince charming sometimes you catch yourself contemplating those memes that ask you how you would secretly kill your spouse. Not that you would but thinking it is just a way to have a safe place to put your anger.  The swooning is over; now he drives you so crazy you swear you see red. But then you know he's thinking the same thing and wonder what secret method he would use to take you out. So you think maybe if I tell him how I would do it, he'd tell me how he would do it. You know it'd be a fun date night conversation, right?

Until you finally get a night out alone and as you're drunker than you've ever been and feel like you're at death's door you think "Oh, my God, this is how he's going to do it! He drugged me!" He's taking me out before I can take him out!  So as you drunkenly accuse him of trying to "off" you, and turns out your date night was just a memorable disaster for the story books later. You realize maybe the fairy tale was really suppose to be a comedy.

Turns out the fairy tale isn't so glamorous most days. But you also know you wouldn't have ended up you without the influence of the other and when you're both on and on the same team and not trying to take each other out you really are better individually and as a team. Especially when you try to tackle those pesky villains---oh I mean children---- together.

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