Adulting and Friendships Are Hard.

Talking about this subject and being able to adequately put my thoughts onto paper is difficult. I have talked to a lot of my mom friends, and several friends who are married but do not yet have children and sorta reached out for as many perspectives on this subject as I could within my little network. This is what we talked about, what we brainstormed together and the conclusion that my heart eventually came to in order to move forward. 

The Magic Of Childhood Friendships. 

Oh how nice it was to be so free and innocent, to be friends with everyone with the only concern being were we all going to wear matching colors the next time we got together and did we have enough sidewalk chalk. Those days have long passed and one by one each friend grew up and went to different colleges, took different jobs, moved to follow their future spouses or just went their separate ways. Slowly but surely there was less texting, less communication, and eventually people who I spent all of my spare time with became just “Someone I used to know.”. 

If you are lucky this transition will happen gradually. Each step you take away from each other is filled with celebrations and cheers for the next big achievement you’ve both been waiting for. There may be a bittersweet feeling knowing you are growing apart, but you will always be friends. Time will pass and it will be years since you’ve talked. Families grow, homes are made, careers change and just like that you’ve all moved on. You all grew up. If you have lost friends in your lifetime I hope with all of my soul you lost them this gracefully. 

Not All Friendships Are Forever

Not all friendships end that way. Sometimes they end leaving behind a trail of confusion, anger, and so much that was left unsaid. Regardless of the memories made or the adventures you planned that will only ever be hypothetical, there is a part of you that is just broken and confused. How did we end up here? We used to do everything together. How much time and energy are you supposed to put into maintaining a relationship that only drains you? When is enough enough? 

It takes two to make a friendship work. It takes two to put in effort. It takes grace, understanding, and forgiveness. But sometimes…It’s just time to call it. Is that fair? Not always. Is it going to hurt like hell? Yep. But there comes a point in life where you need to truly find the self respect you deserve, know your worth and stand up for yourself and your mental health. 

I encourage you to fight for that. Fight for your mental health. Fight for the goals you have set out to achieve. Fight for your family. Fight for children. 

No, not all friendships will last forever. That’s okay. I truly believe that the people that come into your life are there for a reason. Every relationship you have, no matter how small, will shape you into the person that makes you who you are. Set out to be the best possible version of yourself. Sometimes that means outgrowing people. Sometimes that means that your life is going a completely different direction than where your friend’s life is going. GIRL, THAT IS OKAY! 

Accepting New Seasons and New Friendships

I have noticed that for me it is easier to maintain friendships with people who are walking a similar lifestyle to mine. When my husband and I were first married he worked second shift so that he could continue college courses full time. So we never saw each other. I had a LOT of free time and it was easy for me to drop everything to meet for coffee, have an impromptu dinner date and babysit. I did so much babysitting. Though I thoroughly enjoyed that season of my life I was desperate to get into the season where I actually saw my husband during the week. When that season came for us my free time shifted towards my spouse. So, I changed the status quo, and I lost a couple friends. But I gained my husband. 

I would like to think I have not changed much over the years, but I know that is not true. Now that I am thinking about it, Oh my gosh I am so happy I have changed. Huge events in life seem to be where the most change takes place. Cancer took a family member and threatened another, my perspective on what is important changed and I started my interest in photography. I got married and started my happily ever after, my focus shifted towards being a wife and supporting my husband through finishing college. We got pregnant and then suffered a miscarriage, I fell into a pretty deep depression that took months for me to come out of, while I was recovering depression my father almost died from legionella. Time passed and we got pregnant with our rainbow baby, my entire world changed. 

From the moment our daughter was placed in my arms I vowed to myself and to my family that I would always put my mental health at the forefront of my priorities, for a couple reasons. I never wanted to return to the darkness that is depression. I am so fortunate to have made it to the other side, but I don’t ever want to go back. I have a husband and daughter who need me in their lives and I want to be there for all of the things with them! 

You Don’t Owe Anyone Else an Explanation For Your Priorities. 

Another mom I follow on Instagram with the handle @HonestlyMommy shared a post this week that resonated with my soul and I had to share with you. You do not have to explain or defend your choices to anyone. You do what is best for your family, for your kids, for yourself. Honestly, everyone else will deal. Or they won’t. That is not on you. You are not responsible for anyone else’s sunshine. It is not on you to fix anyone else’s demons that they are fighting. Their story is not your story. 

One song that comes to mind and is played on the regular in my home is Kacey Musgraves “Biscuits”. If you’ve never heard it I encourage you to do so now. But the lyric that I run through my head on repeat is this:

Pouring salt in my sugar won’t make yours any sweeter
Pissing in my yard ain’t gonna make yours any greener
And I wouldn’t know about the rocks in your shoes
So I’ll just do me and, honey, you can just do you
So hoe your own row, yeah raise your own babies
Smoke your own smoke and grow your own daisies
Mend your own fences and own your own crazy
Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy

You Won’t Be Everyone’s Cup of Tea.

The sooner you realize that even with the best intentions there will always be someone who just doesn’t like you, the better off you will be. Accept that you cannot change anyone else’s opinion of you but you can control how you see yourself. Remember that they are just that, opinions. They do not define you. Accept that you are not everyone’s cup of tea, and keep striving to be the sexy shot of whiskey you are! Or whatever type of drink you prefer. 

The point is, you do you. Know that you are not alone even though momming can sometimes be the loneliest thing you do. Friends come and go. But the impression that you leave on your children will last a lifetime. Choose who you want to invest your time in wisely. 

Personally, I have struggled with friendships. But there has been a pattern that only recently I have seen. When my personal or professional life moves closure to my goal a friendship falls apart. That doesn’t mean that that person failed me. That doesn’t mean they are wrong and I am right. It means that a season of my life has ended and a new one is beginning. Some friendships have ended when I changed jobs, others ended when I got married, and a few more fell apart after I miscarried and then had my daughter. Every single one of them has added to the person I am today and I will be forever grateful for the memories. 

Why Should I Choose Joy?

I am a relatively happy individual. I have a very bubbly personality and even though I am introverted by nature I can easily make friends and find common ground with a stranger pretty quickly. It gives my husband anxiety when we go out and the random person sitting next to me and I become besties because we are wearing the same shoes. Or the day the female sheriff and I had a twenty minute conversation about how women need to be more uplifting to each other while we were in line at Chic Fil A. When I walked away and rejoined my family I was asked, “Did you know her?” to my response, “No, but I liked the way she did her makeup so I compliment her on it. Now we are best friends.” Even though I can be outgoing and happy I am not always joyful. What’s the difference?

I am not an expert by any means on this topic, nor do I believe that my advice is perfect for everyone, but my goal here is to be transparent about how life’s struggles and situations can truly affect your inner peace and joy, how i have navigated through and why I believe that actively choosing joy can not only change my life, but the lives of those in my home and who I come in contact with.

Why is it important to choose joy?

You have been given one life, one go ’round on this earth so why not do your very best to make the most of it and truly live life to the fullest? This does not mean hardships, trials or even tragedy will not touch your life, but what it means is that in spite of all of those things you are doing your very best to rise above them because you know your life is more than the hardships, more than the bad day, or week, or month, or year. If you are a wife or mother or if becoming a wife or mother are things you want in the future you have a responsibility not only for yourself but for them to be the best you can possibly be. 

Who are you choosing to be joyful for?

Choose to have a joyful soul for yourself first. I know, I know putting yourself first in anything is so much easier said than done. Especially if you have kids. We’ve been taught from a young age to put others before yourself, take care of them like you want to be taken care of, give, give, give of yourself for others. Yes, I want you to continue to serve others, check on your neighbor, volunteer, give to the poor, and obviously take care of your family. But you truly cannot be a servant to others if you are beyond empty and your soul is weary. It is so hard to serve when your heart feels like it is being crushed by depression, anxiety, fear, worry and stress. Girl you have to get your head and heart right in order to be there for others when they need you most. 

When you get yourself right and joyful, (notice I didn’t say happy, because happiness and joyfulness are actually not the same thing.) You can start to pour out that joyfulness to your husband, to your children, to your neighbor and to your friends. When your heart is joyful you are creating an environment for your family to also be joyful! When you have a family unit that practices choosing joy together, oh, that is a beautiful thing! 

What does that look like for you?

Choosing joy is going to look different to everyone. Everyone is living different lives in different homes and in different environments so choosing joy will also be different. This is a glimpse of what it looks like for me. It may be similar for you, or this may seem hooky duke, and that’s okay. Choosing joy is me daily actually writing down at least five things I am grateful for, every single day. Today my five things were 1. Warmer weather in Ohio 2. Sunshine 3.My Daughter waking up in a happy mood 4.My husband and I getting some alone time together 5. I get the privilege of having a weekend even during quarantine. Write them down, share them with your husband and kids, be vocal about the things in your life that you are excited about and grateful that they are there. No matter how small. I write mine down in my Rachel Hollis Start Today Journal, but seriously you could use any notebook, or wipe off board. 

Another way I actively practice “choosing joy” is when life gets hard, I get anxious, or my patience is running thin. Take a step back. Either physically and or mentally walk away from life and take 5. Give yourself five minutes to refocus, adjust your mental state, and take some deep breaths. Remember, Happiness and Joy are not the same thing. You can have a joyful heart and now be somersaulting through your house with happiness. Take the time you need to focus on what is important, what your goals are for the day or the next five minutes even and adjust your mindset. 

Why comparing lives is ruining your joy.

If you read this post, this point is the most important to take to heart. STOP COMPARING. Stop comparing your job, your home, your kids, your spouse, your yard, your clothes, your skin, your hair, your body….to anyone else’s. You my dear are the only one living your life in your body. No one else will live the experiences you will live through. Your kid is not going to be like anyone else’s kid. Will you find similarities and relatable topics between your life and your friends? Yes. Can you celebrate their accomplishments without boasting your own? Can you look at the bigger house your cousin has or the better job  your brother has and celebrate them without belittling your own? Comparing will only bring jealousy, boastfulness, misery, discontent, or arrogance. None of which are healthy or productive attitudes to have. You are the only one living your story and living your life. Celebrate and be grateful for where you are right now, and be motivated to set goals for where you want to go, without comparing yourself to someone else’s goals or life. 

Does location help or hinder a joyful soul?

For me? Yes! I am someone who thrives when the sun is shining and I can spend time outside. I love hiking, biking, running, or just sitting on the patio with some lemonade and the sun beating down on me. It is easier for me to be positive and joyful when my environment reflects joyfulness. When the weather is cold and overcast and I am forced to stay inside I feel a little bit trapped and my heart can quickly grow anxious and find discontentment with where I am and where I am going. So to counteract that I have slowly been making my home one that brings me joy. We are currently house hunting and living in an apartment with our daughter, 80lb dog, and the two of us. We often feel like we are on top of each other’s space. When you feel physically cramped it can be easy to let that feeling of discontentment creep into your mind and heart. Since I love outdoors, I have brought plants into my home, I have added some of my photos to the walls, and made my environment one that genuinely brings me joy. Sometimes that just means making sure the laundry is off the floor and put away, or the kitchen is clean and organized. Simple changes like that to your environment can make it easy to be joyful and not so stressed out. 

What do you do when you just don’t want to?

I feel this question in my soul. What if you just need to cry it out? What if you have held it together but that last bill that just arrived in the mail is the final straw to tip you over the edge? You lived through the tragedy now you need reminders of the whole thing with a bill? What if you just cannot handle one more parent teacher conference where you feel shamed that you worked 60 hours this week instead of giving every moment you had to him. What do you do when you just cannot handle one more person announcing their pregnancy when it is month 13 for you to get a negative test? What do you do when for the love of God how this is happening to you and you have been handed more than you can take and you just don’t understand how you can choose joy let alone find a glimpse of it in your life right now? 

Girl…First of all…You are not alone here. This life is so damn hard sometimes. Like, cancer, miscarriage, infertility, abuse, loss, abandoned, lonely, depressing, overwhelimgly hard. How do you choose joy in the face of trauma? How do you carry on for your family when you are fighting demons in your head? How do you choose joy when you just can’t?

You give yourself grace. You pour, dump, throw your life into God’s hands and pray that you can learn to trust that His story for you has meaning and is going to be okay. You give yourself the space you need from toxic relationships, from verbally abusive friends or family, from judgemental people who seem to have it all together even though you know deep down they are just as messed up as you.

Give yourself time. Time to heal, to fight, to grow, to learn and to accept that you may never know why the hell you are walking through is happening to you, but you know it will eventually end you are stronger than this circumstance. You, are not alone.  

Forgive yourself of the past. You cannot change what you did when you were 16, 21, or 33. You can change who you are and what you do today. You can learn from your past and if you need to promise yourself never to go back to that. Aggressively go after your goals. Encourage those who are where you once were and forgive often. 

In conclusion…

The phrase “Choosing Joy” sounds like an adventure that will be filled with rainbows and waterfalls and content toddlers when in reality choosing joy can be more like a warzone accompanied with ugly crying, hiding in your bathroom eating ice cream in the tub and so many tears. Honestly, that is all part of the journey friend. Those days will happen. Hopefully they come in a rarity but they will happen. And that’s okay. Give yourself grace. Take time when you need it. Ask for help, and fight for the things that mean the most to you. Hunt for the things you are grateful for every day and actively embrace the moments where you find joy. 


Her Name Means “Life”

(Trigger Warning)
Today I am mourning, and celebrating my child’s next milestone like a crazy person who should probably be sedated. These are moments that I wasn’t sure I would ever get the chance to have, and now I am here and praying they slow down. Or at the very least that I never take them for granted. My baby is growing, and learning, and changing, and truly finding her voice. And growls, and squeals, and animal noises that we have not figured out what animal they belong to quite yet.

This is a weird time of year for me. It has been weird for the last three years. Three years ago, almost to the day I found out that I was pregnant with our first child. We were terrified. We were ecstatic. We were pregnant. We were going to have the first grandchild on both sides of our families and we could not wait to tell everyone.

We decided since mother’s day was just around the corner we were going to surprise both of our mothers with “Grandma” themed gifts. No one has ever called them that before and we got to give them that gift. I had three gifts picked out, and waiting in my cart to purchase. I had seen my family twice before our appointment and almost burst trying to keep it a secret. But it was just a few weeks away so it would be worth it. Side note, hiding daily vomiting from family and friends is a lot harder than it sounds. My boss knew about the pregnancy before almost anyone else. Then life took us down the hardest road we have ever been on together.

We went to our first ultrasound appointment. The technician was so calm, so sweet, so excited for us. Then she started asking us so many questions. Then she left the room. We have never done this before. We didn’t think anything of how she handled herself as warning signs as to what was coming next. Our doctor came in and sat down on the other side of the very yellow room with photos of perfect families, and babies all over the walls. She folded her hands on her lap and said the sentence that forever changed my life. “There is no heartbeat”.

My heart stopped. My head started spinning. The room was all of a sudden a suffocating box. She was wrong. She had to be wrong. This was not happening. Michael slid is arm around my back and rested his hand on my hands that were now white knuckled on my lap. He saw me crumbling before I even realized I was in pieces.

We were given hope that I was just earlier than we expected and I had to wait one week to come back and do blood work and another ultrasound. But after waiting the longest 7 days of my life we returned. Our doctor did the ultrasound this time. She was somber. She was quiet. She was warning of the outcome. Then she told us what deep down we already knew to be true. We were losing the baby.

We did eventually tell our families what was going on. We chose to be open about what was happening to us and what we were going through. We had an outpouring of love, shared tears, and support. We also had crass comments that were meant in the best intentions but fell oh so short. Unfortunately we waited weeks for the baby to leave on their own but they were definitely filled with my stubborn genes and refused to leave. So we had a D&C scheduled, because you know, losing a baby wasn’t bad enough now we got to be temporarily hospitalized with a surgical team that just looked at you with sad eyes and came and prayed over you and everyone just kept apologizing for your loss. Over the next three weeks five people in my life shared their news and announced that they were pregnant. Two of which were family members. One on my side of the family. One on his side of the family.

So much was taken away from us three years ago. And as our daughter grows we are learning more and more of what we truly lost in 2017. If we had not lost our first baby we wouldn’t have our Zoe. The little spitfire that is the zest of our lives. We choose joy. Always. But regardless, this time of the year is hard for me. It always will be. My emotions are all over the place, and I still miss the tiny nugget we only had for a couple months.

All of that back story to say this. . . when our daughter reaches new milestones we celebrate. We cheer. We rejoice that she is happy, healthy and full of joy. We also mourn the life we lost and the milestones we never got the chance to celebrate. When I look at Zoe I truly see the rainbow that from the moment there were two pink lines with her life, she started healing my heart in a way I never thought would be possible. I never thought I would find joy again. Not like this. Zoe’s name means “life”. She truly brought life back into our world. Life that is loud, and messy, and full of new achievements and milestones.

Through it all. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.

Toddler In A Box…

In an earlier life of mine I used to teach Early Childhood Education. I ran a classroom of children who were 18 months old to 24 months old for a few years, and then spent the rest of my years in education in a classroom with 14 toddlers ranging in age from 2 years to 3 years old. I LOVED IT. I loved the none stop movement that happened all day both physically and mentally. I loved learning how kids learned and how their brains were developing and why they were in the stage of behavior they were in. During those years of helping other parents learn how their child’s brain worked, and why they were acting out, or why they are constantly licking the wall really prepared me for motherhood. But in some situations there are still no explanation why your child does what they do, and sometimes they just like to lick the wall. Yes that was an actual situation that the parents and I spent over a month trying to get their child to stop licking walls. It was only ever walls though.

My Husband and I got a sound bar and I turned the box into a school bus for my class.

How has this helped me in parenting my own child? Does my background mean I know all the answers and never struggle? Does this mean my kid does all of the arts and crafts and has every sensory toy in the world and I am the most patient when it comes to handling a tantrum? Haha. Oh man. I made myself laugh there for a moment. Truth be told, yes. My background does help me understand my child better than if I never taught her current age group. Do I still struggle? YES. Do we do art time? Sometimes, but not every day or even every week. Does she have the proper learning toys like I had in my classroom? Some of them, but oh gosh not anywhere close to what my kids in my classroom had. Am I a mom boss when it comes to dealing with behavioral issues like tantrums? *sighs* no. Because I am human. But I do have some tips and advice to help get you through the tantrums, and the days where you just want to pull every last hair from your head, and scream on the top of your lungs on the back porch. (I do recommend that at least one time in your life. It is so soothing, and the neighbors will get a good laugh. Plus,who cares what they think anyway!)

Your child will never fit into a box.

Okay well not literally speaking because of course your child can fit into an actual box. Speaking of actual boxes, save that thought we will come back to that. Your kiddo is not going to be like Amy’s kids. They are not going to be like your sisters kid, your neighbors kid, or even like your other kids. Each and every child is truly unique and has their own ways of learning, growing, understanding the world around them and how they need to be loved. Just like you are not 100% like anyone else. That didn’t start when you were in high school, that starts right now. When they are tiny little humans discovering the huge world that they are pretty new to. This is hard advice to follow and I often find myself trapped by this one. Stop comparing your child to someone else’s. Just stop. Comparing will only bring on questions and worry or boasting and none of that is good. But Timmy in his class can say full and clear sentences already! Cool for Timmy! Is Timmy your kid? No? Than all you need to do is move on. If you are bff’s with his mom and she gets excited about his new milestone, be excited with her, and move on. It does not need to go any further than that.

Well, she fits into some boxes!

My mini me has always and will always do things on her own terms and in her own timing. Heck she came into the world that way. Two weeks early to the day and oh my gosh in her own way. It’s a long story that I will share at another time, but my point is that she is her own person. For the longest time she was in the 80th percentile on all of the charts at each doctors visit. Then one day she was in the 20th. She took longer to roll over, to crawl, to walk, to “untuck” her thumbs and to speak. Around the time she was six months old I started signing to her. Sign language is an amazing way to teach your kids how to communicate what they want and need at an early age. Their little brains can do sign language long before speech is in the picture for communicating. And isn’t that half the battle when they are so young? That you are just trying to figure out what they want or need?

Communicating with a Tiny Dictator.

“JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT!” Have you ever said that to one of your kids? No? Yeah, cool, cool, cool, me neither. I am totally cool, calm and collected all of the time and never get frustrated that I don’t understand what “dat dat dat” and pointing means. So in all seriousness yeah, I get a little crazy sometimes trying to decipher what she wants from me. She is trying so hard to talk to me, but does not have the sign, or the words to communicate it properly for me to understand. If my frustration grows so does hers. So how do we solve this before it becomes a problem?

Teaching Zoe signs became so much more important to us after she was diagnosed with asthma. We immediately started working with her for signs for her inhaler and when she needed help breathing. Believe me though, the first time she came up to me and signed “Help – Inhaler” my heart just broke. It was the saddest thing I had ever seen, but I was able to help her better, faster, because she could communicate with me that something was wrong.

If your little one is under a year old I strongly, strongly, STRONGLY recommend you start simple sign language in your home. Like I said, I started signing “More”, “Help”, “Please”, Thank You”, “Milk”, “Eat”, and a handful of others when our daughter was six months old. I had a couple people in my life that witnessed me signing words to my baby looking at me like I had lost my gourd and probably should be admitted for a psych evaluation, but a few months later, when my little human started asking me for things with her hands and I understood her needs there was more amazement than judgment. “She can sign what she wants?” Uhm, Yes. Because I have been working for months teaching her these things. It does take time, but the payout it so worth it.

Update Toys Regularly.

No, I do not mean go buy new toys all of the time. I mean rotate the toys you already have. If you are anything like me your little human now has more possessions than you do, and they are like what? 3 years old?

This is something I did every week while I was teaching. Granted I had an entire walk in closet with toys, puzzles, are supplies, motor skill activities, etc. But you can rotate out toys even if you don’t have a lot of toys to rotate. There are some key groups of toys and activities you should try to keep at their reach, if they want to play with it that is up to them. These are the groups I have Zoe’s toys sorted into. 1- Books. 2 – Cars / Transportation toys. 3 – Stuffed Animals / baby Dolls. 4 – Puzzles / activity boards. 5 – Art Supplies (Paint is not in this group that is at her reach on the regular. We use crayons, stickers and markers. Painting is for special art with mommy or daddy supervision.) 6 – Counting / Color activities.

I switch out her books seasonally. Her larger motor skill toys like her fisher price ride on scooter, ball pit, or tunnel I switch out every couple weeks. Her other activities I try to switch out every month.

Every time I switch out toys I wait until she is down for a nap, so when she comes downstairs it is like a new world to discover. If she new I took toys away and hid them in the closet she may not be super happy with me, and if that is a battle you can avoid, do that! 🙂 Make life easier on yourself mama!

Let Them Get Messy.

I know. You just bathed them, cleaned the house, finally finished laundry, got their toys cleaned up for the 100th time today…Now I am asking you to let them get messy? I promise you I am not crazy.

There is a time for playing messy, and this may not be every day, or every week for you. We do a messy day once a week. Let me explain what I mean by “messy”. We do messy art, messy crafts, messy activities like playing in mud, or painting, or playing with shaving cream and food coloring, or “helping mommy bake”.

This has nothing to do with her toys in the living room. This is when we choose the activity, prepare her by either stripping down to a diaper ( If it is warm enough ) and let her learn. Some kids don’t get messy at all and hate this. I had a few students that I really had to encourage to touch something slimy, or use their fingers to paint. Don’t ever force a child to get messy if they aren’t feeling it, but encourage them by showing them it won’t hurt them.

Easy Entertainment.

You do not need rooms filled with brand new toys to entertain little minds. Have you had an amazon delivery in the past week? Of course you have. Save that box. One afternoon set it on the floor of the play room with a handful of markers, crayons and stickers and walk away. That box will be a rocket ship, or a cave, or a jungle gym.

Grab items from your kitchen and let them play with them for the day. Every now and then the most prized possessions of my child is a spatula and a giant mixing bowl from Ikea. Throw in some measuring cups and you have hours of entertainment that you can just wash later.

Mommy Time Outs.

This is the bit of advice I will leave you with today. Give yourself a break. When you feel your blood pressure rising, or your patience really really slipping. Walk away. Make a better choice. For yourself, and for your kids.

While teaching I could not obviously leave my classroom to give myself a break because well, then the children would build some robot that destroys the building while left unattended. If I couldn’t have a sub come in for a minute I would go sit in the corner by the door where time out was for my classroom. I could still see every inch of my room and what was going on, but I would put myself in timeout. I will never forget a student once asked me what I was doing there, and I told him “Miss Sarah needs a time out”. With the most confused look on his face he continued with “Did you bite someone?”. No, as it turns out I didn’t bite anyone, but I needed a mental break.

Know that what you are doing, raising little humans that will one day be contributing adults to their communities, you are doing good work. You are doing HARD work. Give yourself grace. Know that you are not alone, and when you need a break, and if you are able to “tap out”, take the time you need to catch your breath before going back into the chaos!

The Chaos Is So Entirely Worth It!

Choosing Joy During Chaos.

I sit in my dimly lit living room with the sliding glass door open and the sound of the rain hitting the pavement calming my exhausted soul and weary mind. Plus the second glass of pinot grigio (my drink of choice) is helping. I am what they call a pluviophile. A lover of rain. My heart skips a little beat when the scheduled forecast has rain and thunderstorms within them. For some reason the rain calms me and gives my mind a break from the chaos.

Deep Creek Lake, Maryland 2017

Unfortuneatley there seems to be more uncertainty in the world with each new day than there are answers. And although I have no idea what tomorrow holds for me, and my family, for my siblings who work in the medical field and police officers, the front line, my siblings with extensive medical needs and a father who is high risk, with a daughter who is high risk. I am forcing myself every single day to choose joy when I could refuse to face the day. To choose joy when I miss my family. To choose joy when traditions are altered for the safety of others. To choose joy when my house looks like a shaken up snow globe, but instead of snow it is dirty toddler close, a sink full of dirty dishes and toys that trail behind my toddler who kept herself busy while I worked. I choose joy.

Note the messy living room, clean laundry she was “helping me” with, and the chaos.

The phrase is not new, but what does that look like? What does that mean to choose joy? Oh, for me it looks like an unmade bed, a messy bathroom, a somewhat put together mama with the anxiety level matched only by a chicken with their head cut off. But I assure you I am still smiling! I am healthy, my husband is healthy, and despite an asthmatic child who is apparently allergic to springtime nature like her mother, she is healthy. So I smile.

Today is a day that many across the globe celebrate with family and friends. A day where some honor traditions of pretty dresses and Sunday morning church services followed by way too much chocolate. For me Easter is an amazing day where I get to celebrate my Lord’s victory over sin. Victory over death itself, and salvation. Traditions for my husband and I are spending time with family, eating way too much food, and his ornery spirit stealing his younger siblings Easter eggs while they run frustrated over the yard looking for them while he giggles. Today we still got dressed up even though it was just to humor mommy for a couple pictures, we did it! Don’t be fooled though. We were all changed into comfortable clothes about 20 minutes after we shot this.

We didn’t have the day we had planned. We haven’t had the days we planned for the last several weeks now. Michael and I have learned more so now than ever to roll with the chaos that is our lives right now. We do our best to keep Zoe on a schedule that is normal for her. But nothing about this is normal. Michael and I both work from home and the three of us being under one roof 24/7 is not normal. But we are figuring it out.

This isn’t our plan, this isn’t in anyone’s plans, but we choose joy anyways. We give each other breaks as we need them. Taking turns keeping an eye on Zoe while the other has a work call or deadline to meet. We laugh a little bit more watching Zoe’s brain expand as she discovers the world and new abilities. We are showing each other grace. We are showing our daughter grace. We are giving ourselves grace.

We have started saying what we are thankful for daily, to each other and to our daughter. Verbalizing the things we are grateful for and the blessing we have that others would give anything to have. We are together.

We choose joy. It’s a choice. It does not come naturally. It is a conscious decision to think positively instead of being swallowed by fear and anxiety. That is something I want my daughter to see in me. That when life gets hard, we keep going. We keep getting up. We keep moving forward. Together.

Easter, 2020

It Will Get Better Tomorrow…

I keep thinking…”Tomorrow will be easier, tomorrow will be better.” But then tomorrow comes with new chaos and anxieties that I did not expect and it’s not easier, it’s not better…and I am barely holding it together with a toddler crawling on me at every minute of the day and night. ( AND YES, I know I will miss the days she is this little, and needed me every second of every day, but damn this is hard.)

I did not feel this overwhelmed the week we brought her daughter home, and I had a punctured spinal chord with a headache that made it that I could not even hold her to feed her because my back and arms would seize up and I would almost drop her.

THAT was easier.

There is no playbook for this, living life during a pandemic. There is no road map to guide you through working from home while your toddler is begging for your attention, you cant ask siri for the answer. What we have are educated guesses, and praying that we guessed right. I dont have it together. I am struggling. Every. Single. Day. And I am an introvert.

Guys this is hard.

But that’s okay. Because I keep getting up. I keep doing my absolute best under the circumstances.

We are thankful for our home. We are thankful that we both have our jobs. We are thankful for the essential personal making great sacrifices for us at home. We are thankful we are together. We will get to the other side of this.

Im saying “No” so that I can Say “Yes” to her.

I am learning to say “No” to invitations that take me away from her. Im learning to say “No” to situations that will only bring anxiety and stress to my life. Im teaching myself that its okay to stay home. Its okay if you say “No” to all of the extra stuff, especially around the chaos of the holidays in order to say “yes” to being there for my daughter. 

This means I’ll miss out on activities and events that I may have loved attending. I wont be there for everyone in my life the same way that I was before her. That means my name may start to disappear from invite lists. But that is okay. Life doesn’t stay the same. You grow. You move. You get married. You change jobs. You have kids. You change, hopefully for the better. Right now my job, my priority, my INCREDIBLE privilege and blessing is saying “Yes” to my family and my daughter and my mental health. 

I worked hard to bring this tiny little human into the world. Im going to give her EVERYTHING I possibly can, and especially in this season of life I want that to be the best of me. Not the leftovers. I LOVE YOU sweet girl

Get Yourself a Village

You can do this! You can be a wife, and a mother and follow a career for yourself. You can accomplish the dreams and goals you have had for yourself since for years. But you can’t do it alone. That is something I have learned, and am continuing to learn the hard way. Accepting help does not mean you are failing. Accepting help means you understand that you are building a bigger life for your family than you can do on your own. Or you may just need your sister to watch the kids so you can sleep for an hour. And that is okay.

Our Jenny / Day Care Provider

Get yourself a village. As it turns out your village may not just appear on your doorstep the week you bring your baby home. But for some they may, and for those mama’s, Thank your village, and thank them often. Remember those who showed up for you when you needed it most so that you can do your best to show up for them when they need it most.

For some of us, the village that’s helping raise your family changes from month to month. It may be the day care provider who would honestly take your child as her own in a heartbeat so that you can work 40 hours a week and know that your child is being loved on and taken care of while you work. It may be a family member babysitting for free so that you and your husband can go on a MUCH needed date and not panic about how much you are paying a sitter per hour while you are out. Sometimes it is talking to my sister in law who is knee deep in diapers and dirty bottles too and letting me know I am not alone.

My village is an ever changing group of women and a few men that show up in different ways at different times that help me stay grounded, let me vent, bring me bottles of wine, share words of encouragement, assure me I am not failing my family, and giving me a does of reality when I need it.

Ladies, this is not an easy thing you are doing. For those of you who have been forced to do this alone and don’t have family, don’t have a partner, who don’t have the childcare of your dreams…I encourage you to aggressively search for women to build a village with. Find a support group, get into a Facebook group or Bible Study of women on a journey similar to yours. If you can afford it, take the day off and take care of you! Get your hair done, get your nails done, or go get a two hour long massage. And enjoy it!

I am so incredibly lucky to have a huge support system in place to lift me up, take care of my child while I’m gone, and encourage me to go after my dreams…. all of them. I could not do this on my own. Sometimes that is still hard for me to admit. Sometimes life really does a great job reminded me when I am hiding in the bathroom with the door closed with a glass of wine and tears running down my face. ASK FOR HELP. That does not make you weak, or mean you are failing.

The hardest part of my job is traveling. In the industry I am in there are several events a year all over the United States that we travel to in order to cover the event for our audience. This means me being gone for 3-4 days at a time. That is a long time to me to be away from my daughter. Some of the trips have come after long bouts of sleepless nights and a teething baby, and three nights in a King Sized bed alone mean I get some much needed real nights of sleep. And oh those nights are so welcomed! But some of the trips mean panic attacks and sleepless nights worried about if my working is forever damaging my daughter. There is no in between in my head.

I am reminded often by the other working moms in my life that I am showing her that you can go after your dreams and have a family. You can be a successful women in the workforce AND have a family. That does not mean you are not making sacrifices daily, but oh they are so worth it.

What we are building takes a VILLAGE. Your village won’t look like my village, or Linda’s or Carries. Heck it may look more like a circus with a few too many animals, but make it your own, embrace it and ask them for help.

I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

(Full disclosure: I could fill seven pages worth of photos of my village. There are so many people to thank for loving me and my family the way they do.)