Connection.

Can any of us relate?

Or do we each feel as if we’re orbiting in our own galaxy?

Are our galaxies at all the same?

Or are there hot and cold suns, dark and bright stars, soft and hard planets?

Do we all wish to be understood?

Or do we just want to be seen?

Is being understood the same as being seen?

Or do we often feel gazed upon, but never understood?

Do we find light in other universes?

Do we find another planet and hold their hand?

Whose sun do we then orbit around?

Are we science experiments or can we choose our own path?

Is the stardust in my soul the same as yours?

Or are we all just floating here in outer space?

Earth-side.

I remember that morning so clearly. It was a little after five in the morning and after having taken a few different pregnancy tests, all of which said positive, I woke your dad to tell him you were here.

I remember the exact part of the I5 your dad and I were driving when we agreed upon your name, Row.

And I remember standing on golden colored leaves in the pouring rain with your dad when we opened the ultrasound envelope revealing you were a girl. It was the same park we had walked many times, getting lost in the deep woods before emerging onto the ocean path. The deep woods where he and I walked hand in hand, some days arguing, other days dreaming, many days laughing and countless conversations of when you’d finally arrive.

You have always been wanted. We wanted you for a very a long time.

And then you grew and my belly grew. At night time you’d start kicking and your dad and I would each have our hands on my belly, hoping to catch your next move.

We took you to France and next, to Italy. We drove through Death Valley and hiked across sand dunes. Your dad went to South Africa and made a knife from the earth’s dust. We celebrated your great grandma’s 90th. We bought you a house. There were so many wonderful things we did while you were in my belly, but none of them were as sweet as experiencing you.

You arrived just after midnight and I will never forget grabbing your sweet body and pulling you to my chest. The world had both stopped and just began. Your birth not only meant your arrival but I too was born as your mother, as was your dad. It was in those first few moments of having your little ear rest against my chest, that the air became so fresh, it was as if I was breathing for the first time, too. Your soft, silk-like head that fit perfectly into my hand. Your tiny chest and belly that laid against my chest and belly. Your little toes, your fingers, the fuzz on your ears, your puffy eyes and cheeks, your long legs. You were perfection. You were heaven. You were the moment I had been waiting for, my entire life.

Today, you have been earth-side for as long as you were in my belly. You still are our heaven. You are absolutely divine. You are forever what binds the three of us all together and there is truly nothing that makes me happier than this thought, for you and your dad are my favorite humans ever. Ever.

You’ve made me a better person. You’ve given me joy. You’ve taught me the importance of time and how special each and every moment is. You’ve helped me come out of my head. You’ve helped me stand up for myself. You’ve made me more confident.

All of these things you’ve changed in me, simply by being you.

Right now, you love to laugh. You love to chat. You love when people chat with you. At restaurants, you love to sit backwards in your highchair so you can chat with whomever is sitting behind us. You have sparkly eyes. Even strangers will come up to us and tell us that you have sparkly eyes. You have chipmunk cheeks and the most beautiful smile. You are brave and you are fearless. You pull yourself up onto things to see what else you can reach. You don’t care if you’ll fall or if it’s dangerous. You just trust. You are determined but you are also very accepting. When I’m making breakfast, you crawl across the kitchen floor and tug on my pant legs until I pick you up. Sometimes you use my pant legs to try and stand up. It makes me so happy to feel your little tug and to look down and see my wide-eyed-wonder baby looking up at me. You scream when dad comes into the room. You absolutely cannot handle his presence. You explode with excitement and crawl as fast as you can to him. You sing in the bath and grunt when we put you into pajamas and you fall asleep quickly, with Moon, your little doll from “dada.”

You are my Moon. My Jupiter. My forever star in the sky.

I will do everything I possibly can to give you happiness, to show you love, to protect you. I will always want you in my arms but instead, I will teach you to walk, and then run, and then ride a bike, so you can explore the ends of the earth and see how beautiful this planet is. And I will always be with you, whether here, or in the sky, or a phone call away, or sleeping next to you in bed. I simply cannot exist without you and perhaps that’s the most beautiful part of this all. God has given me you and so my existence will forever remain intertwined with you and your beautiful spirit. You came from my body out of more than just science but from magic and creation and the fact that Someone who loves you even more than I love you has been waiting for you to come earth-side since the dawn of time. You are my Everything and the greatest honor of my life is being your mother. Right now, we get to be here amongst the flowers and I will treasure each and every one of these days. You are my flower. My rose. My sunshine. My fortress. My little baby girl, I love you.

I love you so, Row.

38 weeks and 6 days out.

38 weeks and 6 days out.

38 weeks and 4 days in (hours before my water broke).

38 weeks and 4 days in (hours before my water broke).

38 weeks and 6 days out.

38 weeks and 6 days out.

Born at 38 weeks and 6 days . Day 1.

Born at 38 weeks and 6 days . Day 1.

To surrender.

I think, sometimes, there is this idea that to surrender is to give up and to give up is to fail. Maybe it’s the “American dream,” where we are taught to chase our dreams no matter what the cost and that only once we achieve our dreams will we be successful and worth it. Any other option is a failure.

And so it’s perhaps ironic, that in my life, I’ve experienced the exact opposite.

In surrendering, I’ve seen myself come back to life.
In surrendering, I’ve seen the things I’ve worked so hard to achieve and the things I’ve desired for so long, finally, come into fruition.

I didn’t give up in any of these situations either. I let go of control. For it was control that was actually producing defeat in my life.

I look back at relationships I was in and how hard I tried to make them work, when clearly they were out of my control and it was for the absolute best that I let go. I was so much happier once I let go. And then the right person did show up.

I look back at jobs I was trying to make work because staying seemed like the logical thing to do, but I had ran its course, and by letting go and moving on, other opportunities finally opened up. Opportunities bigger than I could have imagined. Opportunities that I would have missed had I stayed in those jobs.

I look back at times in my life where I felt “safe,” only to realize this safety was inhibiting me. I was no longer reaching my fullest potential, that is, until I finally let go.
Bought the plane ticket.
Moved to a new city jobless.
Took a chance on love again.
Spent all of my savings to travel and was still able to buy a house 6 months later.
Had a baby when they told me I couldn’t.
Worked for my dream company.

Things like that, where I just finally said, okay, I’m done trying to control this situation. Clearly, it is beyond my control. Sometimes this meant biting the bullet and just doing it even though I had been paralyzed by fear. Other times this meant letting go. Surrendering. Entirely. To the Universe.

And then, the Universe spoke back.
As it always has.

Sometimes in the *exact* way I had wanted things to go. Other times, the Universe answered back in a way I couldn’t have fathomed, thankfully, because this new way was so much better.

I know not everyone believes in God and I get why it may make more sense not to believe in God, but none of us can deny energy. So often, the energy we put out, is the energy we receive back. The desires we put out into the Universe are still heard, somehow, in some mysterious way, and these answers float back to us in ways I believe are more than just coincidence. There is something greater than us. A collective force. Billions of galaxies. Time. Gravity. Weightlessness. There is something greater than us that once we surrender to it, it usually comes back to us in the most magical, breathtaking way.

It’s a daily decision that requires a great amount of faith.
It’s a daily decision that once trusted, becomes the most freeing thing.

Surrender.

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.