Catch the Moments

I decided to put my insomnia to good use today on this Thanksgiving morning. Was I frantically cooking turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes? No. Thankfully my mother-in-law is an excellent cook. I was catching up on my new favorite T.V show, This is Us. It turned out this was the Thanksgiving episode I had recorded a couple days ago. To say it moved me profoundly is an understatement. How a fictional show can portray such real life issues really astounds me. The characters and plot are nothing but perfectly beautiful; whether the scenes are heartwarming or heart wrenching, I’m hooked. Some shows make you laugh. Some shows may you cry. Some shows make you sit in numbness not asking you to feel or think anything at all. But this show is so much more. If you haven’t watched it, I invite you to my home to watch all the episodes recorded on my DVR! This particular episode inspired me to reflect on the beautiful chaos of life and my gratitude for it all.

Thankfulness. It’s what ties us together as humans and fills us with gratitude for all we’ve been blessed with. But it goes beyond that. It fills us with even deeper gratitude for all the sorrows, stress, chaos, and hardships we bared that have molded us into who we are and brought us to where we are today. Without it all, we wouldn’t have our complete story, filled with each chapter of our interesting and unique lives. Each of us has a different story unlike any other. Today I am thankful for it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly, for it’s the blend of it all that has me sitting here reflective and infinitely grateful.

Today I am thankful for my husband. He’s the most stubborn man I think I have ever met. He stands firm in what he believes in, and it takes a miracle to persuade that man or change his mind the slightest. He’s gruff yet soft. He has a kind and generous heart, and it fills his soul to give unexpectedly to those who are least expecting of gifts. He is hard working and reliable, rarely ever missing out on doing something he has promised to do. He likes organization, order, and plans, unlike his somewhat disorganized, forgetful, and spontaneous wife. He is a wonderful father, striving to start traditions with his children they will remember for all their days to come.

Today I am thankful for my daughter. She has inherited her dad’s eyes and lips along with his fierce strong willed nature and persistence. She doesn’t back down when she wants something bad enough, even if this will quickly cause gray hair for her mom and dad. She is fun, loud, vivacious, and the life of the party. She is friendly and warm, introducing herself to new people, asking them to be her friend. She is articulate at the young age of four and never ceases to entertain her parents with her witty one-liners and entertaining questions. She is the best snuggler, and 8:30 pm has become her mom’s absolute favorite part of the day, as that’s when she always wants a “tighter” snuggle.

Today I am thankful for my son. He is our very own toe-headed “Dennis the Menace” with his mischievous grin and ability to get into almost anything, regardless of the best of child-proofing efforts. He is wildly fast and loves all things “boy,” from cars to trucks to “choo choo” trains and airplanes. He loves his dad so much that it sometimes makes his mom jealous until she sits and watches them together, and her heart fills with such joy. He is loving and sensitive, giving slobbery kisses, bear hugs, and saying “wuv you” and “ary” (sorry) when he knows he’s in the wrong. He is our rainbow baby after our angel baby.

Today I am thankful for all my family and friends. The list would be a long and very full to name them all, but I hope each of them knows how much I care and love them, as I try to tell and show them every day.

Today I am thankful for my job and wonderful coworkers. The sense of teamwork is amazing sometimes, and they make me strive to be the best I can be.

Today I am thankful for my health and my family’s health. Life is so precious, and we never really know when our health could fail, so I try to appreciate our breathing lungs and beating hearts.

In This is Us, Olivia asks William, “How does it feel to be dying?” William thinks about it for a moment and poetically responds, “It feels like all these beautiful pieces of life are flying around me, and I’m trying to catch them…when my granddaughter falls asleep in my lap, I try to catch the feeling of her breathing…and when I make my son laugh, I try to catch the sound of him laughing, how it rolls up from his chest. But the pieces are moving faster now, and I can’t catch them all. I can feel them slipping through my fingertips. And soon where there used to be my granddaughter breathing and my son laughing, there will be nothing. I know it feels like you have all the time in the world, but you don’t. So stop playing it so cool. Catch the moments of your life while you’re young and quick because soon you will be old and slow, and there will be no more to catch. And when a nice boy who adores you offers you pie, say thank you.”

Today, my hope for you is that you take some time to catch the beautiful moments and eat that delicious pie.

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Mother of Two: Thoughts On Sleep Deprived Bliss

These thoughts have been swirling around in my sleep deprived brain for six weeks. I started putting them into words on the fourth day of my son’s life, but as many mothers of newborns can relate to, I’ve been consumed with this almost 13 pound human being and also with a wildly active toddler. Oh how our lives have changed so much once again. It’s not “my first rodeo,” this time, but I have come upon some reminders of the challenges posed to new (again) mommies. The very first reminders were of course the physical ones. The physical challenges alone zap a woman almost completely; I would venture to say that giving birth takes the same amount of energy as running a marathon without training, but I could be wrong. Regardless, I’ll just go with it so I feel very powerful and physically capable of anything! But let’s be real…it’s out-of-your-own-body painful (before the heavenly epidural)…the copious amount of blood afterwards, perhaps even for weeks (I apologize for this over-share)…the general soreness/cramping…sore boobs/nipples…just to name a few! But amazingly, women all around the world decide to do it again. Maybe the loss of these memories is nature’s way of promoting women to continue to procreate!

During my 31 hour labor with Violet, I vividly recall telling Jordan, “This will be our only child. I will never do this again….labor is a b****, and labor is for the birds…etc.” I had a surprisingly different experience with Charlie’s labor. It was much shorter (just under 6 hours), I felt more prepared mentally and physically, and I also very much respected the physician and appreciated the education he has provided throughout all my prenatal care. The only time I did not like him is when he made me wait for about 2 hours to get my epidural as the longest, most painful transition was from 3 cm to 4cm. That being said, although the Pitocin contractions were intense, they were shorter lived than with Vi’s labor, so thank God for that. Some women opt out of epidurals. First of all—WHY!?!? Secondly—are you gluttons for punishment!?!? Ok, I do respect your choice. And I also think you are super women with a much higher pain tolerance than me.

Since marrying Jordan, I’ve envisioned three children completing our family. If you would have asked me if this was still the plan about four weeks ago, I would have said, “no.” To be honest (and real again), the sleep deprivation hits me HARD. It affects my mood significantly, and I did experience some postpartum blues (debatable depression). In addition, challenges keeping up with Charlie’s need for milk made me guilty and inadequate (but these issues have since resolved). I have found that postpartum blues and depression are another topic women don’t often discuss openly. It’s more common than I had originally thought, so again, for the sake of relating and helping others feel less alone, I’ll talk about it. I’m incredibly thankful for helpful resources and village of family and friends to get me through that first month. The hormones quickly dive down like a steep roller coaster…the very same hormones that gradually increased and protected me and my mood during the pregnancy. Thankfully once they leveled off, I started feeling like myself again. Another helpful factor was learning Charlie’s “schedule” (if you can say babies that young have one), and I started taking advantage of his longer naps by napping with him at least once during the day. Then there’s coffee…that’s a necessity.

Despite the physical and emotional challenges that naturally follow a delivery, I am grateful to have a healthy chunky baby boy with a double chin and arm rolls. The baby scent, goat sounding cries, and first smiles are filling my days now. For the next month or so, I will savor those until I have to go back to a different “work” and adjust to working full-time with two children. But our rainbow is here shining brightly in our lives.

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Anticipating a Rainbow This Holiday Season

I have been thinking about this blog post for a while. Probably 9-10 months when I look back. I have been holding back for fear of the shoe dropping. I am two and a half weeks away from my second baby’s birth day, give or take. And I feel guilty for writing, “second,” as I vividly remember the second actually passed before getting the chance to be a “live” second. We await our rainbow. And there is still so much that could happen that I fear at times. I catch myself thinking of the “what ifs,” and have to distract myself in order to remain sane and carry on in this world….a world that is unpredictable, full of surprises, both good and bad.

I will always remember March 28th as the due date that came and was gone. And as December 19th approaches, I am filled with renewed hope while simultaneously reminded of that unpredictable world. But March 28th is also significant in the time this child was conceived. I do believe God works in mysterious ways.

As I near the end of this pregnancy, I feel full of blessings. So far, it’s been healthy and relatively uneventful. With my first pregnancy, I was of course very anxious in anticipation, wanting the day to come sooner than later. With this one, although I am still eager, I have a new appreciation and understanding of the importance of them staying settled and “cooking” as long as he/she needs. In the next few weeks I also plan to savor my last moments with Violet as my only child. That brings up even more mixed feelings for me, as I simply cannot fathom loving another little human as much as I love her. She has filled my life with such joy that how can any next act compare to that? But as many of my friends and family with more than one child say, our hearts have an infinite amount of love for each and every baby we are blessed with, and the heart actually seems to grow larger and larger. When I catch myself daydreaming of this soon arrival, I recall the very moment when Jordan was allowed the opportunity to be the first person to tell me that our child was a girl, as he placed her on my chest for first time. It was music to my ears and heart. I hope Jordan is given this same opportunity this next time, and I get to see him beam in pride. I also cannot wait to witness Violet as she becomes the older sibling—the one who will be his or her role model, mentor, confidant, but at times likely her enemy, nemesis, and antagonist…let’s be real.

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I do have do have much to be thankful for today and every day. My heart is filled with joy, love, and gratitude. Happy Holidays to all of you.

Resolve to Be Unresolved

It is the day. It is the one day which rolls around annually and inspires others to define a resolution. A resolution that will enable them to do something better…to be better. It is a fresh start. A reset button in our lives. Perhaps the goal is to work out X amount of days per week. Eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day. Drink 8 glasses of water. Cultivate gratitude. Smile more. Sleep 8 hours a night. Journal nightly. Save X amount of dollars per month. The list is endless. 

For the next few months, the health club memberships will be increasing exponentially. The gyms will be jam packed over lunch hours and during the after work rush. There will be more smiling faces and chipper attitudes, people pushing through disgruntled attitudes and hard days– “I will be happy, dang it. I will count my blessings.” 

But here’s the thing. After a few brief months of strict attention to these “new” objectives, they once again become tired and frustrated. Upon March, people might be extremely disappointed with themselves that they once again have an unresolved resolution hanging over their heads and weighing on their hearts. 

What if people resolved to be unresolved? Let’s just say we could accept that our lives have many reset buttons and fresh starts instead of that one single day that comes around every 365 days. What if we allowed ourselves to have numerous chances instead of one per year? Would it be OK to be more gentle with ourselves and realize that we are incredibly human and complex– that indulging in pizza and beer one night on March 2nd did not screw our last 8 weeks up but instead allowed us to be perfectly imperfect? 

What if we were OK with being less than perfect whatever day of the year it was? Do you think we would be happier in general? We are constantly evolving, so isn’t it fair to have countless fresh starts? 

Although I have many numerous resolutions myself in the past years, I have come to realize that it is extremely limiting and somewhat cliché. I risk sounding lazy, unambitious, or even “above” resolutions by saying this, but can’t self improvement be a constant process that does not just come around once a year? I am fully aware this is my idealistic self talking. Something much more profound tends to be evolving discoveries, consistent learning and growing that is more fluid– the moments in the next year that are not so much facts (numbers on a scale or dollar signs in the bank), but more “aha moments” that really shape who we are. Yes– one year, I weighed less than I do now. But I’ve gained much more than weight over the years. In that sense, wisdom, strength, and true personal growth are created in the unresolved. To “resolve” is to “to settle or find a solution, decide firmly on a course of action, or firm determination to do something.” Maybe it is essential to resolve to do X, Y, or Z, but perhaps we can allow ourselves to step outside the yearly resolution box and allow self improvement to be a more fluid process. This year, I resolve to be unresolved– to allow myself to have many reset opportunities and embrace not only 2nd chances, but third, forth, and maybe even fifth…all in 2014.  

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Do Your Thing

Do you ever keep something to yourself and only say it out loud once someone else utters the same words? Miscarriage. Divorce. Death. Depression. Guilt. Jealousy. Anger. Fantasies. Dreams.  Hopes. Failures. Stressors. I am quite certain the more positive words (or life events) roll off our tongues with ease. It’s the dark and painful ones that perhaps reside somewhere less obvious—maybe  hidden, waiting for a chance just to escape and be known. 

I find that something so powerful is the ability to relate with one another…to find common ground, grab a hold of it, and embrace the commonality throughout our journeys. Perhaps it’s a shared loss, similar upbringings, a common annoyance that is the mutual thorn in your side. Not to say that we should all live Stepford Wives’ & Husbands’ Lives in this Utopian World that are so similar it’s creepy and artificial…but to relate as humans with human-like problems or joys is to feel real. 

I have never really had a problem being real with someone. In fact, I have to rein it in sometimes when I find myself asking potentially intrusive questions. I would like to think that I am not socially inept, but rather I really want to know the person I am connecting with. Staying on the surface bores me, and I usually tend to want to go deeper.  My husband would probably attest that in my quest for common ground, I sometimes dig into the ground too deep or perhaps I find a little too late the sign that says, “Call before you dig.”  

A few weeks ago, I should have called before I dug. I asked a woman about her dating life after knowing her for approximately 30 minutes. Although she answered the question naturally and without hesitation, I immediately checked myself. Maybe she hates men, recently had a bad date, is recently divorced and grieving, or many more scenarios I did not think of in that 5 seconds it took for me to ask it.  And no, I wasn’t even drinking.  She easily shared a response, but I apologized for being too forth-right and a bit nosy. She told me not to worry, and ten minutes later, she asked, “Since you asked a personal question, I’ll ask you one…Would you like to have more kids?” 

She did not know that I had experienced a miscarriage just three months prior. How would she? So I respond that we really would like more and that I actually just experienced a miscarriage a few months ago. I could tell she felt embarrassed that she asked the question, but I shared with her that I was not offended and that I was doing well. She was digging deeper to get to know me, much like I had done ten minutes before. I appreciated that more than she knew.  Not that I let that unfortunate experience define me as a woman, nor did she let her divorce or dating mishaps define hers—but it was a loss for each of us that we both allowed ourselves to express, regardless if we knew each other for 30 minutes or 30 months. It was part of our stories.

I think it is important to be real. I do understand not everybody wears their hearts of their sleeves like me, nor are they as sappy, right Sis? Although my sister would probably be the first to admit that she just skims my blogs that are too mushy, she is also the first to say,

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Ok,  my sister. I’m discovering my “thing” must be to dig…to know…to relate…to connect…to love, to feel deeply…and while you can only tolerate a little teaspoon of sap, I will continue to bathe in it. 🙂

Sleep Baby Sleep

Sometimes the quiet, unpronounced moments are the ones that teach us the most. As I have recently shared on Facebook, I am thankful for Dolly Pardon’s Imagination Library. What an awesome program – encouraging children to develop a love for reading and learning early on, and making this easy for their parents to promote and practice.

I have also commented before how some of the most important things we learn in kinder garden. I am finding this is similarly true with children’s books. If we need a reminder of the basics, just pull out “Sleep Baby Sleep” by Maryann Cusimano Love. It is my new favorite, hands down. In fact, I bargain with Violet every night to read it. We can read “Where Is Spot” first as long as Mom can read “Sleep Baby Sleep” afterwards (compromise anyone?).

“Sleep baby, sleep, snuggled like a sheep. Be always like the lamb so mild, a kind and sweet and gentle child. Sleep baby, sleep.”

Having a tender heart is not a flaw, rather strength. Be kinder than necessary, and love with your whole heart.

“Rise baby, rise. Wipe the sleep from your eyes. Be like the chick that leaves her shell to toddle over field and dell.”

Get your rest and then work hard. It will pay off in the end. I promise.

“Soar baby, soar. The whole world you’ll explore. Fly like the goose who climbs and roams yet always knows his way back home. Soar baby, soar. “

Do not be afraid to try new things or take risks. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. But no matter what, I will be here for you.

“Laugh, baby, laugh. Frolic like the calf, nose tickled by the grass and rye, eyes twinkling at the beaming sky. Laugh, baby, laugh.”

Enjoy yourself. Let your hair down. Don’t take life too seriously.

“Look, baby, look, surprise in every nook. Be like the hawk who trusts her sight of canyons grand and feathers slight. Look, baby, look.”

Be open-minded, but also trust your intuition.

“Climb, baby, climb, one step at a time. Be like the cub who scales great trees to peer above the canopy. Climb, baby, climb.”

Do not underestimate yourself. No matter how big the dream is, if you truly want it, go for it. You will get there, one step at a time.

“Sail, baby, sail, calm in the windy gale. Be like the duck who paddles through the storm to glide in waves of blue. Sail, baby, sail.”

Practice grace under pressure. Allow your inner peace to guide you through life’s tough storms.

“Splash, baby, splash. Stand tall as the waves crash. Be always like the hound who dares to find adventure everywhere. Splash, baby splash.”

Be silly. Have fun. Set your own trends. Try new things.

“Grow, baby, grow. From our arms you’ll go, unfurling like a butterfly, cocoon opening to the sky. Grow, baby grow.”

Continue to evolve into this beautiful little human being. You never cease to amaze me.

“Hush, baby, hush. Growing can’t be rushed. Be always like the newborn foal with whispered wind songs in his soul. Hush, baby, hush.”

Don’t be in too much of a hurry to grow up. Although adulthood is appealing, many adults long for the simplicity of childhood. Trust me on this one.

“Shine, baby, shine, graceful child of mine. Be like the firefly who flows no matter how the darkness grows. Shine, baby, shine.”

Be who you are, confidently and with integrity. Don’t let others dim your light, no matter what.

“Peace, baby, peace. All your cares release. Be always like the snowy dove who spreads her wings and sings of love. Peace, baby, peace.”

Find what makes you truly at peace, and hold onto that wherever you go.

“Dream, baby, dream, rising like moonbeams. Be always like the dragonfly shimmering in the misty sky. Dream, baby, dream.”

Envision what would genuinely make you happy, and strive for it, my sweet girl.

“Sleep, baby, sleep. Our promises we’ll keep. Be the miracle you are, a wish come true on a shooting star. Sleep, baby sleep.”

Rest and rejuvenate, tucked comfortably in your bed tonight. I promise to love you for all you are and all you become. You really are a miracle—I know this for sure.

A World Shaken and Perspectives Altered

I think we all have pivotal moments in our lives which have a tendency to reshape our perspectives—the way we view ourselves, our lives, and the world around us. 

When I reflect on my life, but especially my adult life, I can vividly recall a handful of these times. I have shared the obvious positive ones—my wedding, marriage, and the birth of my daughter.  But recently I personally had two of these pivotal “moments” if you will. They were not actually moments, but events that slightly shook my world. I think about these as gentle shakes, not enough to knock me down and then kick me while I’m down there…but enough of a shake to grab me by shoulders, hold firmly, while forcing me to look at my life differently… a large dose of perspective. For those of you who have been forced to swallow a dose of perspective may agree that it can be hard to swallow, may even get stuck in your throat and cause heart burn, but ultimately know it will make you feel better and thus make you a better human being. Perhaps that pill can come in the form of tough love, bad luck, or natural consequences. 

I will start with the first. As I have written about in the last few months, the day I discovered I lost my (second) pregnancy was a day I will never forget, nor will I forget the day five days following when my body expelled the “products of conception.” I write “products of conception” for a few reasons: 1. This is the term the medical community uses to describe this biological event. And 2. It is somewhat difficult to describe what I witnessed as a “baby.” Truthfully, I felt it was shocking and gory. But in all reality, it was a baby that was just in formation a month prior…in development…with a beating heart. And it no longer was. So while “products of conception” sounds medical and technical, it is easier than calling it a baby. It makes it less personal, less sensitive….less painful. 

That entire experience did shake my world. It made me realize that I was not immune to tragedy or grief, and that it can happen to me and not just “other women.” It allowed me to read, to research, to blog, to reach out, to engage, and to relate. If writing has done one thing for me besides allowing self expression, it has allowed me to relate with others, which is  incredibly gratifying and fulfilling, even if what we are relating about is painful and difficult. 

 It taught me how fragile life is. Granted this little life was short lived from conception to death, but it was the loss of a dream and loss of a little person that could have been that compelled me to take a new perspective. As I expressed through Facebook on the 7th day of November in words of gratitude for the month, “Today I am thankful for the miracle of life. The intricate inner making of a baby blows my mind. Scientifically and biologically, everything has to be just so for a child to enter this world safely. I will never take this for granted again.” I know I have been thankful for my first born since the day she took her first breath, but if anything could make me even more thankful, this experience could. Although I would like to have more children, it showed me that my current family is not incomplete. In fact, it is bursting and full. If we did get blessed with a miracle again one day, then our hearts would expand even more to accommodating the growing love. But to be clear, it is full now on this very day, this very moment, and this very second. 

Then shortly after this pivotal event, I was gently shaken again. I had an argument with a lifelong friend. I initially thought it would be a falling out and yet another loss. I was preparing myself for the worse, just as I did when I was lying on the cold hard exam table in September. This “shaking” was a version of tough love that I normally do not respond well to. I have always been tender-hearted (to a point where I begged God for a little tougher of a heart), so when others communicated things in a way that was somewhat painful, I tended to internalize it and make it much more personal than necessary. Through this argument with this lifelong friend, I learned something about myself and about her. I learned what her “Achilles tendon” was…the part of her that was extremely sensitive and should be handled with the greatest of care. At the same time, I realized that although I always prided myself in being kind, respectful of others, and a high communicator, I did have times when I did not practice these traits. The “shaking” was a bit of a wakeup call, yet another dose of perspective that was hard to swallow but ultimately made me a better human being. Who knew that after almost 30 years, one could learn more about herself and her best friend? 

So although the last few months have been trying and difficult, I have a new found sense of inner strength. I have always heard the motto, “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness” and I can say that’s how I feel right about now. Granted there are times I am unkind, but I do plan to reflect on my actions and behaviors more closely so that I can be my best self. 

Today on this 10th day of November, I am thankful for those mild earthquakes in life that gently shake us and compel us to look at our world differently and to perhaps swallow a pill of perspective that will make us healthier in the long run.  Here’s to our health—mind, body, and spirit.