the online world and the physical world.

I’ve been taking some time off social media. Every few months I’ll do a social media fast and each time I feel less and less inclined to come back. I question why I spend time on social media anyway. Why I feel the need to share what I’m doing, seeing, feeling, thinking, breathing with strangers.

There is nothing wrong with sharing. In fact, I think sharing is an essential part of relationships and building a trusting community, but I’ve been questioning why I feel the need to share online, as opposed to with my immediate circle I physically see or talk to on a day to day basis. There is beauty in the online world. It’s an incredible experience being able to both share and be inspired by people all over the world. But I feel like, as a millennial, I’ve missed out on some organic conversations and experiences because I’m so used to having these conversations and experiences online.

I’ve always found New York’s subway system to be an incredibly inspiring place. There are lots of people zoned out on their phones, of course, but there are also the entertainers, people reading newspapers or books, journaling, or even talking to the stranger next to them. Life on the subway exists as it did before everyone had a cell phone in their hand and I love this. I loved that about when I lived in New York. So much of my 20s was spent with my head in my phone, scrolling mindlessly through social media, that I fear how much I missed.

This holds especially true now, with my daughter in the picture. I absolutely refuse to miss a second of her life because I’m scrolling online. I also don’t want her to remember me as someone with her head in her phone. I want her to remember me for actually doing stuff. Reading books, writing, trying new recipes, painting, gardening, going on a hike, creating a beautiful photo shoot, volunteering, talking to my neighbors, going on road trips, traveling the world. Soon she will start to imitate me. I want her to imitate what’s real, not what’s online.

I also wonder the long term effects on kids whose entire lives have been broadcasted online. It’s one thing for me to show my life to the world on Instagram, but it’s another thing for me to show my daughter’s life to the world on Instagram. She is her own person with thoughts and feelings and even though she doesn’t know it yet, she has consent. I don’t feel it’s right for me to share every detail of her life online without her permission. If I did this, I wonder what she would look back and think about it? Would she be embarrassed? Would she feel exposed? Would she feel misinterpreted? I don’t entirely know but I feel like this is what I might feel if my childhood and teen years had been posted all over social media by my parents.

I’ve also seen kids acting up as soon as a phone is around or not around. On Instagram, I see stories of these little girls who are playing and in their own world, and as soon as they notice their parent is filming them, they start posing like models in Vogue. It’s heartbreaking and something I definitely don’t want my daughter to do. And then, of course, the child who acts up because they don’t know how to sit still for 5 minutes without an iPad in front of their face. I’m not trying to be judgmental here. Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done and sometimes you will do anything just to have 5 minutes of peace and quiet. I totally get it. My point here is more that sometimes I can’t even sit still for 5 minutes without scrolling through my phone. If I can’t do it, my daughter sure won’t be able to, and so the behavior change has to start with me.

It’s refreshing not being on Instagram (and I’m only referring to Instagram because I haven’t had Facebook or Twitter for a few years). Occasionally, I will log back on and it feels like information overload. It’s also been freeing for me to do stuff for the sake of doing stuff as opposed to doing something so I can share it online. It’s allowed me to get back into some old hobbies, not so that I can share it with anyone, but because these hobbies make me happy and bring joy to my life. Reading more, lettering, I even started to sew. I’m not doing these things to become anyone. I’m doing them because I enjoy them.

I was sharing too much before and it was causing the things I love to lose their significance. Things had to look perfect as opposed to real and that is just not me. What’s real is being right here, with my words, where things are quiet and I’m not competing with the thousands of images people are scrolling through. Sometimes Instagram feels like an auditorium full of people each shouting to try and get the attention of the stage performer. Look at me! That’s not where I thrive. I’d rather shrink into a hole with 1 or 2 friends and whisper secrets in the dark. And I’m not saying everyone online is shouting but there are a lot who are and so it’s hard to find the quiet ones now.

I want physical community. Late night conversations in my living room with a few friends, a few drinks, some music playing in the background and perhaps a few books laying on the floor. We talk endlessly into the night about our interests, beliefs, insecurities and love lives. We’re vulnerable and we’re honest and sometimes we disagree but we learn so much and we eventually get to the point where we can barely keep our eyes open and so we say our goodnights and we each head home and we lay our heads on our pillows and our hearts are full.

I want to sit on my back patio with a friend or two and talk about how crazy mom life is while our kids run around in the backyard laughing. I want to cook together. I want to eat together. I want to go swimming and hiking and hold hands because I don’t know how to ice skate even though I love ice skating. I want to kiss more. I want to hug more. I want to go to the drive in theatre and throw popcorn at people from the backseat. I want Row to learn the stars in the sky and the names of the clouds and that you can cut an earthworm in half and each half will still live. I want her to grow her own vegetables and write her own books and build her own playhouse.

I want everything that is real and here and now.

enjoying the now

Today, during my photo shoot, I looked down and realized I had avocado all over my sweater. I took my sweater off and then realized I had pasta sauce all over my t-shirt. Later, at Costco, a woman stopped me to hand me back my child’s missing sock. I have 31 unread text messages (sorry to anyone reading this who I haven’t texted back–my daughter is finally napping and I just need a few moments of me time to decompress). Now, her pajamas are on the living room floor. I need to clean the kitchen for literally the third time today (and my husband has already cleaned it, too). And my goddamn pants that I finally fit into post-partum stopped fitting me today.

But I am so happy. I wouldn’t change any of this, for anything.

It’s this messy and complex life that I love because while none of it is Instagram perfect, it’s filled with love and intention. It’s a life that is lived in, fully, each one of us stretching out on an unmade bed. The sun shines down upon us; other days, it is misting; others, it feels like hail. There’s no perfect way of living this life but it’s whole and it’s real and it’s the only way worth living.

happy 8 months

8 whole months. 9 full moons. It was also a Sunday when you first came into my arms. Sunday, my favorite day of the week.

You still reach your arms out to the side the same way as when you first met my chest. For as much as I wish that you were a cuddly baby, I love your openness to the world. Even when I’m holding you in my arms, you turn your body out to see what is in front of you. You love to look around and observe. You love people. You love experiences and getting out and there isn’t a single food you don’t like so far. 

You’ve given me magic. The magic I slowly started losing as I’ve gotten older has returned because of you. Sometimes, I wish I could have met you sooner, but any change of circumstance may not have given me you. And it is you whom I adore.

We’re a little family of three and though this number is small, the two of you make my world feel bigger and brighter than I’ve ever known. 

I’ve been searching for you my entire life. I didn’t know who the who was, but I now know it’s you. For love is all I’ve ever longed for, and love is exactly what you are. 

You are so beautiful. So beautiful. So smart, so strong, already, so independent. You are calm and quiet and playful and smitten. When your dad picks you up, your eyes light up greater than I’ve ever seen and you look so happy and proud. On top of the world. Completely in love. 

Last night when you woke up crying, I picked you up and held you against my chest. You laid your head down on my shoulder and I rocked you. It’s the first time you’ve ever let me do that (besides when you were a sleepy newborn). It was just us. Your quiet body against mine, safe and secure. Whole.

I love you my little Row Adelaide.

Resolutions

I didn’t make any “physical” new years resolutions this year (exercise more, stop eating sweets, read this many books, do this every day, etc). I’ve learned that when I make those types of resolutions, they last a month, if I’m lucky, and then the rest of the year is a free for all.

Instead, I made some mental resolutions. I read an article a few weeks ago that said while physical resolutions rarely stick, mental ones do. It got me thinking, how will I change my actions if I haven’t changed my heart and mind? It’s a mental shift that’s going to influence my actions, and so those are the types of resolutions I’m focusing on instead. Things like, focus on what I’m grateful for, be okay with not pleasing people, learn to say no, set boundaries, have more confidence, have more empathy, be intentional. Little goals inside of myself that I think, with time and practice, will start to feel more natural to me and then will influence my actual actions. There’s no way in hell I’m going to lose baby weight and work out every morning until I actually believe I am worth it, I am important and that I am happy with any “flaws” on my body because it gave me my daughter. The mental shift will be what inspires me to create the physical goal, because it will be something I want to do and truly believe in, not something I feel obligated to achieve.

A big one for me is to stop being a people pleaser. I’ve been trying to figure out where this desire to please people (thus jeopardizing myself) comes from. Where did it start? Why and when did I start only finding value in myself by pleasing people? I’ve written about this before, but I think being a ballet dancer partly caused this. When you stare at yourself in the mirror 15 to 20 hours a week for half of your life, seeing exactly how you look and move and are presenting yourself to others in order to please them, it affects you. When you’re taught to have a “stage face” and sell a certain mood and act to an audience, you start doing things for them and not for you . I was taught how to perform and I’ve seen myself perform in more areas than just through dance.

Maybe it’s being a woman. I know it’s partly from being a woman, but focusing on any wrong done to me is useless, so I don’t dwell on it. Instead, I’ve worked on standing up to any sexism I encounter. It’s much more empowering.

Maybe it’s from being a pastor’s kid and having an entire congregation judge my actions (and my family’s actions) but not their own actions. I think we all do this, though, myself included.

Truthfully, I’m less concerned about the why’s. I don’t believe I am a victim and we all have things that happen to us that bring positive or negative energy into our life. It’s what we do with that energy that is important.

And besides, maybe it’s that I simply love people. I love connection. I love relationships. I want people to be happy and I want to help make them happy. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as I’m caring for my own happiness, too.

You know what they say on an airplane about putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others with their oxygen mask?

I guess this is what I’m doing. Learning to care and stand up for myself, first, so that I can then help those around me care and stand up for themselves.

I’ve prayed over and over and over for my daughter to be confident, to always stand up for herself, to not care about pleasing people or what they think about her, to say no and not feel the need to justify herself. And then I realized, I’m praying these things over her because they’re things I struggle with myself. How will I ever teach her these things if I don’t first practice them?

And so that is what I’m doing instead.

My grandmother.

I’m not sure how much longer she has left.

Yesterday, she had another stroke. My mom caught her.

Last year, almost to the day, no one caught her. She spent the next few months in the hospital and it’s only by a miracle that she’s still here. That and her crazy determination.

My relationship with her is complicated. She’s a complicated person.
But she’s determined. Oh, so, determined.

And she’s hilarious. She can have an entire room crying from laughter in a matter of seconds. When her and my mom really get going, grab the popcorn and sit back. The two of them together is one of my favorite things to witness.

I imagine in her younger days, if her and I were the same age, we would probably be friends. She might intimidate me a bit–her vivaciousness, charisma, unfiltered opinion–but I think she’d probably encourage me. Perhaps not vocally, but with her personality. Her determination would inspire me to be louder and more unfiltered in moments that I’ve been quiet.

She’s loyal. She can also hold a grudge like nobody’s business. I used to think I was nothing like my grandma, but I see those two characteristics in myself now, the latter being one I’m working through so it doesn’t one day become the existence of my old age.

She shows her love through food. I have eaten so much food at her house. Beanie-weenies with cornbread, biscuits and gravy, spaghetti and meatballs, tacos, fried chicken…all of these which I have eaten at 8am when she’s knocked on my door first thing in the morning because there is a plate of spaghetti and meatballs ready for me.

Last winter was really challenging after she fell. The damage done to her brain came out in painful ways. Salt on old wounds. Words you must forgive again because you realize time is fleeting. Family is fleeting.

I don’t know if Row will meet her before she goes. It’s a painful realization I’m wrestling with, one that is heightened because I know how much my grandma means to my mom. We are each four daughters, three mothers, two grandmothers and one great-grandmother, tied together through blood, tradition, time and memories.

I hope she can find peace inside of her. Her fear of death is real. It’s real to us, too. Real because it’s inevitable. We know it’s coming. We can’t stop it. We can’t protect her. We can’t give any of us a different fate.

And so I ask for peace.

Amen.

2019!

And just like that, she started clapping her hands!

Eric got her out of bed this morning and when he brought her into our bedroom, she saw me and started waving her hands in a circular motion, kind of like she was using a jump rope. We both laughed at the weird new dance move she was doing until I realized what she was doing.

Yesterday, I was clapping my hands for her. She was mesmerized and would stare with her mouth wide open. Today, she is clapping her own hands.

It was like that a few weeks ago, too, when I spent an entire day saying dada dada dada to her. The next morning, when Row was supposed to be having a nap, we checked her baby monitor and sure enough, she was in her crib saying dadadadada! Eric immediately ran to her room, overjoyed, and got her out bed. Together they came out saying dadadada.

A few days ago, my dad, Eric and I all sat around Row saying mama. She hasn’t said it yet, but every time we say it to her, she stares intensely at our mouths and mimics what our lips are doing with her own.

I suppose that’s what this new year will be like. Lots of newness that to some seem little, but to us are huge.

2018, a reflection.

Today is the last day of my daughter’s birth year. This makes me sad, though not fully, because since becoming a mother, there’s hardly any time to process what’s going on. It all goes by so quickly, everyone says that, I know, because it’s true. This year will always remain a time capsule of one of the hardest (or perhaps just stressful) and best years of my life. A difficult pregnancy, career hardship, moving, buying a home, having a baby, the fourth trimester (which deserves way more discussion), learning to become a parent, learning to still be a wife and not just a parent. It’s all been complex and all been so beautiful.

And so, while after today, I will no longer have access to this year, still, I am ready.

As I mourn no longer having a newborn, each day becomes bigger and brighter, as I realize Row is just beginning to develop her personality. This is beyond exciting. Right now, our world together has been very tiny, but as she grows, I grow, and we discover how big and beautiful not only this world is, but how big and beautiful she is. Each day, she laughs more than she has ever laughed in her entire life. What a wonderful experience, to laugh more than you have ever laughed before. This happens, every single day. She is so happy. As am I.

What do I want for 2019?

Honestly, I already have everything I want. So much of my life before Row was defined by success that no longer holds much value to me. Yes, I still have my personal goals, but I don’t feel the need to broadcast any of this to the world anymore. Before, I shared online because I wanted these special moments to live beyond just me and perhaps inspire someone else in the world. Now, everything in my life feels so sacred that I simply want to keep it for myself. Any sharing is done with those directly around me: family, friends, strangers, the tangible. And here, too, I suppose, but this places feels sacred, too. My personal, quiet, little corner of the Internet.

Perhaps that’s what I want: the here and now. Having a daughter has made me painfully aware of time. It made me cry when I dropped my dad off at the airport yesterday, not knowing when I’ll see him again. It’s made me aware of my grandparents and how much time they have left. It’s made me wonder how much time I have left. I’ve always thought about this, but having a child shifts everything into focus. Suddenly I’m eating well, trying/wanting to exercise more, training myself how to think more positive thoughts, having goals and purpose each day, anything I can to be healthy for her in order to experience every bit of her for as long as I possibly can.

None of this is meant to be sad, though, for as sad as I am to leave 2018, I know 2019 is filled with entirely new wonder. I can’t stop any of what is happening, but I can be fully here to embrace it and dive head first into it.

Unsolvable.

Nothing can prepare you for parenthood. Nothing.

I knew this before. I had been told this before and I believed it but I didn’t understand it until my daughter was born.

Nothing is as sweet as the first time you meet your child. Nothing. Nothing can prepare you for this moment either.

We are four months in. It feels like I met her just yesterday and yet, I (and my husband) know her better than anyone else on this planet, including herself. There’s something incredibly special about that. 

Four months in and it was at three months I finally realized I cannot solve motherhood. Up until that point, that is what I had been trying to do: master a plan. Cause and effect. No, not entirely. Not with motherhood. Unless you mean that the effect will vary greatly, regardless of whether it’s the same cause or not. 

It’s beautiful, being a mother, but nothing, truly, could have ever prepared me for this journey. It comes in waves. Waves of feeling like I’ve got this to waves of feeling utterly desperate, confused and full of self-doubt and guilt. It’s a mix of the highest highs–hearing her first bouts of laughter and having tears run down my eyes from how beautiful she sounds–to the lowest of lows–seeing actual pain in her eyes or postpartum depression. 

Motherhood is entirely unsolvable which makes it beautiful and mysterious and the craziest, hardest thing I have ever done. I have to offer myself grace, over and over again, because I will never get this right. 

And sometimes I just have to stop, stop the thoughts or the folding of laundry and just sit with her and see things from her perspective. Things are new and exciting and bright. We took her to a kids activity at the library yesterday and my daughter, the one who is so quiet and hardly makes a peep (ever), was the loudest one there. All of the babies quieted down for story time and Row, seeing all of these tiny humans just like her, was squealing and chatting and screaming in complete joy. The quiet one became loud and expressive.

So at the end of the day, when I’m so tired I can barely form a sentence, or in the early morning, where I have to force my eyes open and my body out of bed to pick up her stirring body, I am reminded of love. Love that circles between her and I. Love that circles between my husband and I. Love that I should offer a stranger more often. Love that I should show those hardest to love.

Perhaps it’s not only motherhood that’s unsolvable, perhaps it’s life. 

And that’s okay. 

You + I. 

We float through this life together. We fall, we bruise, we laugh, we cry, we kiss, we cuddle, we wonder why and how things could ever be this way.

And that’s okay.

You + I. We’re all in this together.

There was a season in my 20s where I didn’t want any children. I realized, later, this was due to fear. Fear of all the things that could go wrong by bringing a child into this world. Fear of my own personal failure as a human and potential mother. Fear of war and hate and sadness and climate change. But one day things changed, and suddenly I wanted you more than anything I have ever wanted before. For many moons, I prayed you into existence, but now I see your existence was always going to happen, it was simply when time would allow me to meet you. You came, and the fear from before is just as real today as it has ever been, except when you arrived in my arms, with you, you brought a greater love than I have ever known to exist before. I open your door, slowly, quietly, as to not wake you and I see you there, swinging, peacefully, eyes closed, head turned to the right, swaying back and forth in your rocker, wrapped in your grey sweater. You don’t know the fear I know, nor do you care. And that’s what’s so beautiful. You are spring and a garden of pink and white lilies, a lavender tree and forget-me-nots. Rhododendrons, azaleas, and dahlias. You are fresh and you are pure and live life to its absolute fullest. Maybe the love I have for you is a reflection of the love God has for me. Maybe the way you see the world is how it was always meant to be. And so, on a day like this, when I have a list of things to do that runs further than any river, maybe it’s okay that I stop every now and then and write out these thoughts so I always remember this sweet, glistening time. You’ve changed me and buried so many of my fears. I see my aging skin and I notice more wrinkles around my eyes and I just don’t care anymore because those wrinkles around my eyes are from how big you make me smile. I love you, Row. One day you’ll be big like me and I don’t know if you will ever know or see me the way I know and see you now. But I hope you always see things as pure and honest and true because that’s you.

I kiss your belly button because it’s how we used to be connected as one entity and now when I nurse you, I feel as if we are one again. I cannot explain it except that when I sit down (or stand) to nurse you, I literally feel a wave of anxiety sucked out of me. It’s a physical feeling that comes from my back and out of my chest and I feel as if I am floating. It’s euphoria. You do that to me, my love. It’s you. You release the burden of the world on my back and show me how life is meant to be. You are the sweetest thing.

 

I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked down at you with tears running down my face but a smile as wide as the sky, to tell you how important you are and that what you say and do matters. I question everything I do now, absolutely everything, because I know you are watching. You are absorbing everything and your mere existence has brought to light every insecurity I have and made me look it in the face and cast it out. I wish I had done these things sooner but I didn’t value myself the way I value you; now I see that to value myself teaches you how to value yourself, too. I don’t ever want you to feel the shame I’ve felt. You are perfect. You are exactly who you are meant to be. 

 

I am the same person I was before you were born, and yet, since the day you were born, I will never be the same.