Journeying Into Womanhood Part Two

*Hi! If this is your first time reading my thoughts it is worth noting that this particular post is a continuation of a previous post! While probably not completely necessary, I recommend going back to THIS post before continuing*

So. If as woman, we need each other, if we truly need the tribe, then why do we go to such great lengths to compete?

Have you ever stopped to wonder: what do we win by having the nice bag, big house, new car, huge diamond? Does the brand name clothes, fresh mani pedi, perfectly kept hair really say anything about who you are deep inside? Seriously, think about it. Every single one of those things are status symbols. And I’m not so sure that chasing these things does our souls any true good, aside from the way our hairdressers really are underpaid therapists, and nail salons are platforms for our beloved girls day. My point is this… It’s worth digging deep, right here right now, and asking yourself who the heck you’re trying to impress?

These are the thoughts that hit me like a ton of bricks those few years ago. Why would it make me feel crappy to not have a big house or two cars? Why was I letting the joy and accomplishments of my friends secretly resonate with me as a failure on my end? Especially when the reality was that I had so much to celebrate? I soon realized how toxic my desires were, and I had to cut the chord between them and my happiness. I had to see that I was good and loveable just as I was right then. Not as I could or might be.

*Disclaimer: having or desiring material things does not, in my opinion, automatically mean that you are disillusioned or that you need to feel guilty for your accomplishments. It’s just important to me to realize that having these things is not the end all be all. And definitely does not inherently make anyone a better woman.

Sisterhood

Here’s what I think. Sisterhood is everything. And your sisters aren’t just connected to you by blood, they are every single woman you cross life paths with. Whether it be for years, or for minutes. Forgetting this doesn’t benefit any of us. Remembering it allows for healing and real change.

Remembering it allows you to walk down to the mailbox or go to Target without that fear we all know we have: what if I see someone I know. Remembering it frees you from the way your mind spirals when your girlfriend asks you to do something you definitely don’t want to do (alternatively it allows you to happily say yes when you truly want to). Remembering it broadens your world in a way that is unmistakable.

Even if you wholeheartedly disagree with almost every part of a certain woman, you can recognize something in her. If you can’t, you probably need to look again.

We are all so incredibly different and none of us will ever walk the same path, but we still have this huge thing in common. It’s our womanhood. When you allow yourself to look past the differences in our paths, when you look past the imperfections… when you look at another woman and see her as someone who is like you even when she’s not, you will you find yourself able to become a “tribe” member, inherently. You will realize that not one of us is living in a fairy tale. You will find yourself unable to judge other women for the things that make them human, and especially things that are related to their body type or style. Because you can see how the “perfect woman” is a standard that certainly no woman created.

Coming to terms with inherent sisterhood has allowed for me to hold less ill will toward women who have hurt me in one way or another, or who I have grown apart from. While we may no longer have the connection we once had, or maybe one of us needed to create a boundary for whatever reason, there’s no need to be mad or hold negativity regarding them because like me, they are just doing their best on the path laid in front of them.

Collective Truth

Our attempts to be the perfect version of ourselves in order to fit in is truthfully just an ideal that’s been allowed to live for much too long. And personally, I’m over all of that. There’s still so much to unpack and reassess when it comes to my womanhood, but I know for sure, without a doubt that I believe in women. I’ve seen the way they can overcome abusive relationships and turn around and help other women out of similar situations. I have watched them find sobriety and spend their days at a women’s homeless shelter to pray over the women there. I have seen them fight for their lives against diseases, and go on to provide support and comfort to others who walk that path after them. I have seen them look into their pasts and instead of drowning in the sorrow, they become warriors who will stop at nothing to change the narrative that was their life. I have seen them be cast aside by the very men who made vows about life and death, and find themselves finally able to do the things that set their heart on fire. This is what we are capable of, this is the truth of women.

I’ve had them offer me their bags, hold the door, offer me their seat once they notice the roundness of my belly. I’ve had them tell me I’m doing great, when they notice that familiar look cross my face. I’ve had them encourage me when I express doubt about my competence, about my mothering, about my abilities to express myself as a writer.

In a lot of those instances the very women who, in those moments, leveled with me as a sister, they were strangers to me. That is why I believe in women. And it’s exactly why I find seeing women hate their bodies and belittle themselves for being human, particularly excruciating – we are so much more than that!

It’s because of other women that I find myself inspired every day to do the work of really getting to know myself. It’s because of this that I have faith in my mothering at all. Because I believe in the true ways of women, so I am able to believe in myself.

And friends, I hope that you do too.

Journeying Into Womanhood

When did you become a woman? It’s common across many cultures to link our first menstruation with womanhood. Some cultures consider the crossover to happen around our 15/16 birthday. For some it’s when they move out of their parents home. And for others they feel that sense of metamorphosis (okay that’s the biggest word I’ll ever use here) when they get married, buy a house, or have a baby. But when did you feel it?

Identity

For me, it was honestly none of those. To be completely transparent, I didn’t start connecting to the identity of “woman” or conceptualizing the value of that identity until somewhere between 23 and 25. Before that I still connected more with girl (even after I had a child). Before 25-ish, I was still in a mindset of worrying how I appeared to others. I was strung out on the thought of growing up and what it meant to do so. I held on to beliefs I had about myself, who I was supposed to be, and my “role” like they were life or death. Some of those stories were true, some not so much. Some are still revealing themselves (go figure, the older I get the more deeply rooted they are). Stories revolving around what a good or bad woman looks like. Stories about how I should relate to the women around me. It’s often hard and confusing because we have to deal with the way we saw the women growing up treating each other, the way we saw men treat those women, the way society as a whole treats women, and the way we have been treated as a woman. But in digging through those stories I found myself beginning to truly walk into my own womanhood.

It’s one thing to own your identity, but it’s another to even know what that identity is at all. Part of allowing myself to know who I am, had a lot to do with discovering what I felt about women in general. Did I really think that I needed to shrink my size, or grow my hair, to be beautiful? Did I really think that I needed to have a career to be a good role model for my children? Did I really believe that anything outside of my character was directly correlated to my womanhood?

Magic

What I have discovered is this: I believe that women have the capability to be magic, even in our worst moments. I believe this because it is often during our hard moments where we get the nudge we need to step it up. It is in those moments that we get to see that we are worthy of love even when we “mess up.” Somehow, despite our failures, we still manage to spread warmth and nurture those who are around us. Somehow, despite our internal battles, we still manage to be the safe space. I have been making an effort to no longer allow myself to feel guilt over things I cannot change or control, but when those feelings surface anyway (hey, I’m still human) I look at what it could really mean. Do I feel guilty because I could do better? Or do I feel guilty for not being or thinking like everyone else? For “messing up”? There’s a huge difference there, right? Because the truth is that I’m not less of a woman when I mess up or find myself doing things differently.

I think we have spent a lot of time- I’m talking hundreds of years – being way too hard on ourselves. We all know that nearly every facet of being a woman is double edged. Our sexuality (or lack thereof), our parenting style, our career goals, who we marry, how we get married, where we live, what we do or don’t eat, the clothes we wear, how or if we exercise… the list goes on and on. And if you don’t fall in line with the ideal that you identify most with, you’re kicked out of the club or denied entry all together. But by who? Other women? Or by you? Could it be possible that when you don’t fall in line, you are actually stepping right into your own magic?

Tribehood

I also believe that women thrive together, but we have been led to believe that we are in competition. Realizing this was a huge part of owning my particular version of womanhood. Looking back I can see so many times that I favored competition over authenticity. I deeply believe we raise girls to compete for marriage, and male attention… but on top of that we have begun to teach them to compete for female attention.

What I mean is that many of us walk through spaces wanting to be seen in a certain way by the women around us. We either want their adoration, or we just want them to see us as a woman who belongs. We want them to see us as a certain kind of wife, a “fun” mom, a loving sister or daughter, a loyal friend, a good woman. We want to be seen as one of them.

This is why we hide our failures, or as is the trend these days -broadcast them widely. We want to be seen. Not only do we want it, but I truly think that we need it. And I think our need for that is both intuitive and instinctual. I think today’s obsession with competition is simply a twisted way that many of us try to find our tribe, or try to convince ourselves we don’t need one (these are the “I don’t get along with other women” or “I’m not like other women”- women). If you look back in our history as a species you can find incredible amounts of evidence of the ways in which women gravitated toward each other. “The tribe” was so much more than a catch phrase, or a way to sell something, it was an actual way of life. Women helping women day in and day out to do what needed to be done. Women just being there for each other for the sake of it.

As social media pushes us further into isolation, you can see the pushback… from women. About once a week I see women post something like “in need of friends!” in the local military wives Facebook group I’m part of. In the breastfeeding group it looks like “I love my baby and husband but I feel so lonely, is this normal?” (Hint: yes, but no). And if you follow literally any multi level marketing ladies, you’ll hear them say something like “the products are great but it’s the WOMEN I love.” It’s the women. We need each other. More than we need coffee. More than we need a clean house. More than we need a vacation.

*This post is a two part post. Part 2 will be available next week.

8 Things That Change in Your Relationship AFTER Kids

With another little life joining our family soon I have found myself looking back. Back at all those tender sweet moments that you get to experience when you have a newborn to snuggle. Back at the prideful moment of introducing this new tiny person to people you love. Back at the awe of childbirth (and the pain and straight up terror that we endure as we straddle the line of this world and the next). Back at the exhaustion of those first few months. And back at the way you find yourself in your rawest form, and at the way that adding to your family flips the dynamics on its head.

I’m sure you’ve heard that having children changes things. And it’s true. While it changes your heart, soul, and body… it also shifts the way you relate to the people around you. And if you happen to be part of a duo when you become a parent… well… yeah, things change.

I will say the first time is definitely the hardest, but honestly it’s pretty likely that you will experience these things each time you have a baby. The following is a list of the things you can expect to change, the good, and the bad… and how to deal.

The Bathroom is Now a Hideout

You might as well hear it right out of the gate. Your bathroom will actually become your new sanctuary. If there is no man cave for dad, and no reading nook for mom then congratulations… you both get to share this new found oasis. Bathroom breaks suddenly last a minimum of 20 minutes. That shower you’ve been neglecting for the past 5 days… you may find yourself shedding a couple of tears during the hour you spend in there because it feels so good. Unless you’re hiding or showering while no one else is home… if you do that, you’ll just have anxiety attacks due to what I call “phantom crying” which is basically when you swear your kids are crying, but they end up being totally fine.

How to Deal: Take care of that oasis. Hire help to have it deep cleaned (this is my plan this time around) or clean it yourself as often as needed so that the space is enjoyable… candles, soft towels, and comfy rugs. Treat it like the retreat it is. Got room for a mini fridge in there? I honestly would support having one stocked with some water, mini wine’s, and sweet treats.

Physical Intimacy Is Put on Hold

You may be thinking that people blow this one out of proportion. I hate to say it, but they don’t. When you hear that your friends with kids aren’t hitting the sack as much as they used to, you may feel sorry for them. How can they live like that? Well. There’s a time and place for all things.

Truth is… When you have just added a baby, it takes time for your body to even desire anything other than rest and nutrients. The good new is that eventually, things level out. But during those first few years of growing your family you’ll find that sleep often wins over knockin’ boots. And the times it doesn’t is only because someone is babysitting… or you’re doing it with mild anxiety attacks because AHEM phantom crying happens during this too.

How to Deal: Have patience with yourself… and your partner. This phase shouldn’t last forever, but if it starts to feel like it is lasting longer than you hoped, communication is key. The phantom crying may not fade, but one day you’ll find that you are ready, totally ready, for intimacy again, I promise.

All You Talk About Is the Kids

I’m sure you have noticed the way in which people with children tend to flood your social media feeds with ALL. THINGS. CHILDREN. Myself included. Once you have a child in your life, you tend to find yourself consumed by their every little move. When they’re born, you literally find yourself excited by their bowel movements (this is true, ask any parent). The first year of their little lives is stuffed with “firsts” – actually, every year is filled with firsts. So it’s no surprise that in the same way your social media presence takes a sharp turn in kidsville, so does your relationship. I’ve heard of couples having to actually make a rule saying that when they have date nights, they cannot bring up their children. If you don’t have kids you’re probably scoffing right now at the entire premise of it… but seriously, kids have a way of eating up all of your extra brain space.

How to Deal: Think back to the old you. What were you into? Try to find those common interests that you shared with your partner and bring them back to life. If those things truly do not peak your interest anymore, start watching Game of Thrones together (or Grey’s Anatomy if that’s more your style), and voila – you have something that ISN’T your kid to talk about. You’re welcome.

You Turn Into a Rude Version of Yourself

We all know manners are viewed as one of the most important things we teach our children and yet… you can still end up not having a firm grasp on yours. This is because while those first few months after adding a new member to your family are filled with a few very excruciatingly simple things (feed the kids, wash the kids, potty the kids) – you still might find yourself in a bit of a fog. And with that, you might find yourself a bit snappy. The question “how was your day?” may suddenly send you over the edge. You’ll have moments where even the voice inside of your head asks you why you’re being such a brat.

How to Deal: Most of the times I have found myself being sassy or even down right rude, what I really needed was to ask for help. When it comes to parenting we often think that we know best, and we may start to feel that way toward our partner too. It’s wrong, and it’s limiting. You need to be able to depend on each other and speaking up when you need help is the best way to foster that.

You Will See Your Partner in a New Light

This could go either way. You’ll either see your partner (or the co parent) level up… or not. If they rise to the occasion there is a good chance you will actually find yourself falling deeper in love with them, or at least finding a deeper sense of respect that you may not have had before. Parenting is one of those things that does tend to bring out the best and worst parts of us (some of us find that we are a little more selfish than we expected, or maybe we don’t handle stress as easily as we thought)… and so sometimes a person doesn’t rise to the occasion the way we hope. This can be emotionally shattering, to say the least. But realizing this can be a great way for you to step into your own power, and many times people find themselves able to finally walk away from a toxic situation, inspired to find a partner able to provide consistency and love to not only themselves but also their children.

How to Deal: If you find yourself looking at your partner with big ol heart eyes, you better say it! That moment when your partner is rocking your baby to sleep, or teaching your big kid a new skill… those are the moments that need to be spoken on, because just like you, your partner could be feeling so many different emotions, and what appears easy could be anything but. So let them know how much joy seeing them be a good parent brings you!

If you happen to find that you are underwhelmed by what you’re seeing… I think it’s important to say something in those moments too. No one is a mind reader. It’s not your job to parent your children AND your children’s other parent… but it is your job to advocate for your child. Find a way to have the conversation in as civilized of a manner as possible, state your expectations and your boundaries. If they can’t meet them, it may be time to consider other alternatives (like counseling, or legal advice).

You Think More About the Future

When you have a child placed into your arms and life, all of a sudden your future plans start to shift. You both used to live day to day, making sure you had enough for rent, brunch, and booze. You saved your pennies for vacation getaways, and hardly ever thought about how good your medical insurance actually was. But now you’re consumed by thoughts of “what if’s.” The things that could happen in the future keep you awake. Things like living wills, life insurance, and college tuition start to be real factors.

How to Deal: Stay calm and save on! Truthfully, I come from the school of thought that the kids will be alright and that what it boils down to is teaching them what you can while you’re still around to do it. But life insurance is always a good idea.

You Experience True Joy

I bet you both thought you were happy, just the two of you, right? You were! You totally were. Another school of thought I totally connect with is that not everyone is meant to be a parent. Some of us have genetic factors to consider, some of us have deeply rooted beliefs about overpopulation, and some of us flat out just don’t have the desire to do it. If that’s you, you’ll receive no judgment from me because I don’t think having kids is the end all be all.

But if you do choose to be a breeder, like me, I can almost guarantee that you will look back and say something like “I can’t believe I ever lived without this level of happiness.” Parenting is so hard, even harder if you have a child that isn’t “perfect” – but still their smiles, their innocence, and the laughter they bring you both is on another level. Before kids I couldn’t imagine actually laying my life down on the line for anyone, but now I would gladly do it, for a child (not just my own!) You’ll find that the love you have for your little ones is greater than the love you have for your partner, because it’s different. It’s instinctual. If you asked your partner, they would probably say the same. It’s the kid over you, every time.

How to Deal: This is part of the magic of parenthood, in my opinion. Finding something that brings such a special kind of love into your life is one of the most amazing experiences this world can offer. There’s no need to allow yourself to be consumed with jealousy or resentment. Instead, allow yourself to bask in the truth that your children are well loved by both of you, and that their best interest will be looked after even in your absence.

Seeing Your Partner Makes Your Day

Here is my favorite thing about bringing a child into your dynamic. All of a sudden, what was once a commonplace moment of your day: seeing each other at the end of your day. Is the best part of your day. When the kids are tiny, this is the moment you get to catch a break, take that shower, or just have some much needed conversation where you don’t use your baby voice. When the kids are older you get to revel in this moment, because you will see how excited they are to see your partner, and it’s everything.

How to deal: This is another one of those things that needs to be spoken on. If you know that you’re sitting there watching the clock waiting for your missing puzzle piece, then do your best to make that known, often. And try not to let the excitement of possible alone time turn you into that rude person we talked about before!

So there you have it! These are the things that I have found change since my husband and I started bringing children into our little world. Although, there’s probably way more… what did I miss?

Addressing the “Highlight Reel”

I often see people talking about how insanely annoying it is that others only share what they consider “the highlight reel,” meaning they only ever share the good stuff in their life, and that leads to others feeling down about their life not measuring up. I definitely do believe that we have a comparison problem, particularly with the generation I am a part of. What I’m not sure about is that asking others to not share their happy moments is the solution.

Here’s what is true, for me, at least.

I spent years and years not allowing myself to be content, and thus found myself not feeling true happiness. I would look around me and feel some envy, some sadness, and I found that it was hard for me to just be there in the moment of my own reality. When I first became a mom, I struggled greatly with letting go of who I thought I was, who I thought I wanted to become, and the fact that I felt lonely as hell in motherhood and adulthood. Being in a committed relationship, getting married, having kids, living a quiet mostly sober life… for me, started pretty early. Everyone around me was doing the complete opposite.

Truthfully, it wasn’t that I had no one to talk to, it’s just that explaining the loneliness of motherhood and the pressure of adulthood is only something that a person can understand when they do it. It’s like explaining the pain of childbirth. It hurts – but it’s awesome. That’s what motherhood and adulthood and all of the other growing up shit we all have to do is like. It is dual natured. And because it’s so confusing to put into words, especially if no one else can help you find them, it took me some time to realize that things were hard because they were hard, but also because I refused to stop making them so hard.

But one day, probably around the time our second babe was born, I realized how much I was letting the hardness of life cause me to become disillusioned and distant from who I ultimately wanted to be, rather than letting it help me grow. I found that somewhere along the way I had stopped believing that I really deserved my happiness. I can vividly remember writing in a journal how sometimes I felt like none of my life was actually supposed to be mine.

All of a sudden, in the blink of an eye I realized that I had everything to be happy and thankful for, and that my kids deserved for me to get my shit together and to stop pushing blame outside of myself. What they deserved was for me to start being right there with them. I realized that my sole job in life (for right now) was just that.

What I really wanted was to be happy in the small quiet moments. I wanted that happiness to come from within. I wanted to commit myself to contentment (which is something I know many people don’t want to feel- but I really just want to be happy with what I have and where I am no matter what) and I wanted to commit myself to finding and seeing the beauty that is freely given on this journey that is life. Bad things happen all the time, they will happen to me, and to you, but there are still beautiful things happening too. I wanted that to be my story.

I also knew I had to actively do something to change. This was big for me because it was during a time when I was parenting alone a lot, and knew I would need to be strong for the next year (when I would parent alone for an entire year straight). I knew I needed to learn to not let loneliness and sadness take me from my children.

So I started reframing. I started opening my heart and my throat. I started writing more, because I truly cannot let something go until I say it or write it (it’s just how I operate as a human). If something was objectively pretty, I made myself see it. I went back and made myself read up on childhood development (something I am still obsessed with) and stopped allowing myself to feel drained by the needs of my children, so that way when they were “out of control” I could stay in control and be what they needed; their mom. But I also did the work in confronting my true feelings, I started actually telling my husband when I was in a mood, when I needed a break, when I desperately needed quiet or for him to just do x,y,z for me. I stopped believing he could read my mind. (Dear everyone, NO ONE can read your mind.)

Does it shock you that I didn’t always do those things? The me I am now has been such a work in progress friends. I used to be the queen of walls, the queen of never crying or showing my emotion openly, the queen of never asking for help. Opening my mouth and saying what I wanted and needed in the moment I wanted or needed it started way more recently than I would care to admit, if I’m keeping it real. I was on this earth for years and years before I realized I was being too strong (stubborn, actually) for no reason.

None of this happened over night. All of it is STILL a work in progress.

I’m not perfect, and I’m still not *her* – the woman I want to be, quite yet. But I have learned to let go of those things that made it so hard for me to allow real life happiness to flourish. I have learned that guilt is a sign I need to do better or apologize, not constantly reprimand myself for something that makes me human like raising my voice with my children. I have learned that sadness is a sign that I need to be honest about how I really feel. I have learned that loneliness, for me, is often times very rooted in insecurity. The more I allow myself to see and feel those things, the happier I became. And so now, even if I do have a bad day or moment, they are no longer magnified or thought of as defining. Because I know they pass and and that ultimately they don’t matter, unless I make them. Instead, what I have decided to magnify are the things that pass but DO matter, regardless.

I’m not over here having only good moments, I’m just over here forcing myself to take note of the moments. The ones that will flash before me in my final moments; and I just know that not a single one of those quickly flashing moments will be: that one time I yelled at my kids for taking too long to get dressed. Or one of the times I was crying and panicked during my first post partum experience. Or the time I smacked my child’s hand as a reaction to them hitting me. It’ll more likely be that time that I peed on myself laughing at my tiny petite little daughter letting out a fart that would rival a mans. Or one of the many times I saw my children connect and comfort each other. Or the way their faces light up when they’ve been separated from one of their parents, even when it’s only been an hour.

I want others to know that I don’t share good or happy things because they are the only things I experience. I still struggle with anxious thoughts. I still go through life dealing with doubt and fear, and constantly attempting to re-wire my brain so that I’m not stuck in falsehoods. I definitely still struggle with feeling comfortable with allowing my voice to be a voice that is heard.

It’s just that now I have accepted these parts of myself, and have decided to share the happy stuff too, because I worked really hard to feel it, and because I want to spread those moments of happiness as far as I can, for anyone else who needs a little joy.

And because one day I won’t be here, and my kids won’t get to see what I see as it flashes, but they WILL be able to go back and hopefully look at this blog, or my social media accounts, and they’ll see me. The real me, who was truly happy with what she had.

Things I NEED My Children to Know

I don’t want to give them everything, I want them to know how to be happy with just enough. I don’t want to fill them with soul crushing standards, I want them to know that it’s okay to be multi-faceted. I don’t want them to think they always have to be happy, I want them to know that it’s okay to not feel like laughing (especially when the joke wasn’t funny).

I want them to know it’s okay to not look perfect, and that it’s okay to not have or do what everyone else has or does. It’s okay to choose to let small things roll off your shoulders for the sake of your own sanity, or to say no and not feel bad about it.

I want them to know that how they feel matters, and that it’s also completely within their control to decide to act or not act on that. I want them to know that NO ONE, not even me, gets to decide who they are.

I want them to know how to forgive themselves when they desperately need to. I want them to know that when they see others enjoying massive success, that it does not diminish their own success, and that those people are still human, and they too, cannot possibly be perfect, even if it looks that way.

I don’t want them to hold bad days against themselves, I want them to know in their heart of hearts that everyone, even the people who swear they don’t, has bad days, and that everyone, even them, deserves gentleness on those days.

I don’t want them to waste precious time hating their body, I want them to know that their body is just a vessel. It could be slimmer, it could be stronger, it could be a million other things, but it would not change WHO they are. I don’t want them to mistake a persons attractiveness (or what they may see as a lack thereof) as an indicator of personality traits – I want them to know that nothing could be further from true. I want them to know that a person can be a super model and still be a really rude and demeaning person, and that a person can be “average” or “ugly”, and still be the kindest soul on earth.

And I want them to know that when it comes to me, their mom, there is no perfection here, so they don’t need to bother trying be just like me, they can instead be just like them, and know that I will still love them.

A Fun Weekend in San Diego

A couple of weekends ago we were able to check off two of our San Diego Bucket List items AND do some of it with some of our close friends who stopped in from Florida on their way to Mexico.

I think one of the best parts of our current duty station is that we are in a city lots of people don’t mind visiting before they head out on (or home from) their vacations. It’s kind of hard to resist sunny San Diego, and Southern California in general, if I do say so myself. Since we do tend to move around every few years, I forced myself to sit down one day and create a “bucket list” a few months ago. A list of things I want to do, or see, before we inevitably have to leave a place with so much to offer. As luck would have it we were able to check two items off of that list in one weekend!

The first stop was at The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. If you live in SoCal, or follow anyone on social media who does live here, you’ve probably seen your fair share of pictures from this field, which is open in the Spring (typically early March- mid May). While we were there we joked about creating a new Instagram focused on taking pictures of people who were clearly there to take pictures for their Instagrams- this place was crawling with people creating “content.” To be honest, it’s totally understandable, it’s a beautiful place, with so much to offer. Aside from the fields, there was also green houses, multiple gardens to walk through, wagon rides, delicious treats, and a stamp hunt, as well as an awesome play ground for the kids to play in. We particularly enjoyed letting the littles lead us through the Sweet Pea Maze – which by the way, is one of the best mazes I’ve walked through.

The girls had a blast, which isn’t hard to do with these two particular friends of ours. We didn’t walk all the way down the field, but where we did go was outrageously pretty. From the top of the fields you can see the ocean, another reminder of how unique San Diego truly is.

Our second bucket list item was visiting The San Diego Zoo Safari Park. On this particular weekend they were running and irresistible promo for their Día Del Nino celebration; all children were free with the entry of a paid adult. My husband gets in free to most museums and zoos around here, so we only had to buy ONE ticket (which I had a groupon for). Our hometown heroes had a flight to catch so we weren’t able to do this with them, but luckily we have great neighbors with a daughter the same age as our big girl, so we all went together!

The Safari Park is the sister of the San Diego Zoo, and it’s settled on 1800 acres. Half of that is set aside as protected native habitat. The cool thing about the Safari Park is that they give real space to the animals in their care. So while you aren’t as close to the animals as you could be at the San Diego Zoo, the views are breathtaking, and you get a lot of walking in. At the Safari Park you have the option to purchase “Safari’s” some of which get you much closer to the animals, others are experiences like zip lining.If you’re ever in San Diego and looking for something to spend an entire day doing, the Safari Park is a great option if you’ve got some money to spend and a love of animals.

Now that these two items are checked off of the list we’ve only got a few more left to go:

  • Take the “Coaster” (train line) north.
  • Disneyland
  • Visit San Francisco
  • Visit Joshua Tree
  • Visit Salvation Mountain
  • Cabin at Big Bear
  • See the Redwoods
  • Visit LA for food trucks and museums
  • Yosemite Half dome

Considering I’m pregnant this summer, getting the majority of these done seems like an elusive goal, so we’ll see what actually gets done. I’d be happy with getting at least half done I think.

For all my fellow California people (or if you’ve visited!) is there anything I missed? Or anything on the list that isn’t “worth” the hassle of getting there? Do you have a bucket list for the place where you live? With this “lifestyle” we tend to know a lot of people in literally all corners of the world, so I may be able to help you create one if you want!

When Life Has Different Plans

For the past year or so, we have been debating whether or not to add another baby to our family. One of us had been team “not completely convinced” while the other was team “maybe“.

Maybe. Because I could see our lives with just two, but I could also see it with three.

Maybe. Because I loved the idea of our youngest being a big sister, but also really enjoyed the idea of possibly getting to start a career with the degree I busted my ass for, and never used.

Maybe. Because for some reason something was telling me “one more” and I hated ignoring that, but understood why “no more” could also be a good path for us.

For the majority of these discussions between us, I had an IUD. But as many may or may not know, it wasn’t exactly working out for me anymore. It was definitely doing what it was designed to do, but I’m a very physically sensitive person (as in I KNOW my body) so for me, there was a little bit more going on than I preferred. I made the executive decision that birth control was no longer going to be solely my arena. If my husband ever seriously found himself on team no, then maybe we should consider a vasectomy. So after two years, out came the IUD. Until we made a decision either way, we chose to just “be careful”.

Friends. Being careful is not a way to prevent a baby, even if there are no “slips.” Before I could get a period after getting the IUD out, I was pregnant. I spent about a week wondering (and googling- let’s be real) exactly when I would get my first IUD-free period before the nausea settled in. I genuinely thought I was experiencing the dreaded “mirena crash” as my body began to rapidly change. But on my third day of that all day queasy feeling, as I stood in the shower, I kind of just knew… my period was not coming.

It’s funny, because even though I knew that we both had actively been a part of the creation of this baby, I still felt confused, and shocked at how it happened. Thoughts and emotion flooded my brain within seconds, all before even taking a test. I considered not mentioning it until I knew for sure, but quickly changed my mind, I didn’t want to feel that sense of confusion and shock by myself any longer than I had to.

I went down stairs, and sitting on the edge of my husbands chair said “I know this doesn’t make sense,” – because it didn’t, “but I think I need to get a pregnancy test.”

My husband seemed doubtful (because like I said- HOW?) but he trusted me. We talked about if we were scared, and both decided we weren’t. Took a trip to good ol’ Target and then while he went to go grab some lunch for us, I stayed home with the girls, and took the test. After peeing on the test, I glanced at it and could see the plus sign immediately starting to form, but thought it could be the lighting tricking me, so I set it down on the counter and forced myself to wait the few minutes as instructed.

Two minutes later, I picked it up and saw it clear as day. No trick of the light, no wild imagination. For a second, I considered crying, but instead, I started laughing.

This is the stuff that life is all about right? We think we have a plan, we think we know what’s next, but we genuinely have no idea how things are going to go. The hand we played in our third child feels kind of minimal, to the point that for a few weeks, until I saw the ultrasound, I kind of didn’t really believe it.

As time moved forward, I experienced the worst all day nausea, and uncomfortable bloating, headaches, and exhaustion. It can be hard to see the light when your body is putting you through the ringer, but I also believe my body needed to do these things for me to believe and trust that there was truly another life inside of me. It hasn’t been a walk in the park this time around, but I know how fleeting this time is, and I’m starting to move into the space of enjoying this part of the journey. Along with that, how it happened has started to become less important, as the technicalities of being a family of five has started to take center stage. I’m scared of being “outnumbered,” I worry about the inevitability of roles changing, I stress over the idea of splitting myself even further.

As before, I know these worries will all fade out as our little one joins our family, but hey, I’m pregnant! I can’t help it!

For those who are into pregnancy announcements, here’s a little video I made of my husband and the girls reactions to the news. We truly appreciate all the love we hace received since announcing our big surprise! If there’s anything you’d like to see me post about regarding pregnancy, feel free to comment and let me know!

On Taking Things Personal

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the way in which we are wired to take things personal. It’s something I have been trying hard to move away from. In almost all of our relationships and experiences we are likely participating in the “single player” function. When we are functioning in that mode, we are so often stuck in our own heads, and likely believe that all of what is happening around us, including the actions, thoughts, and feelings of others – particularly has to do with us.

It’s almost so instinctual that I’ll even hear myself doing it toward our children! Scary, but true. I’m sure other parents kind of know what I’m talking about here – if they act up while we are out, there are times I am tempted to take it to heart, and very personal, thinking to myself “why can’t they just behave for 5 minutes while we are in the store?” If they wake up in the middle of the night and wake me, for a split second I am tempted to think “come on. they know I’m tired, why would they wake me up!” – but in reality their little minds do not think that way. All they know is they heard a sound, woke up, and are pretty sure there’s an effing monster under their bed (even though their bed has no room under it for a monster to lurk- not comfortably at least). In the moment of the hard crap, it’s almost instinctive to think that what my children are doing is in direct correlation to me.

The truth is this: what others say, do, think, or feel (or lack thereof) has little to do with us and everything to do with them. Yes, even children. Even children have needs and wants particular to themselves (who knew?!) because they are actual little people who are having their OWN experiences.

Because so many of us are living as the center of our world, it can be so hard to remember that the people around us are experiencing situations in a completely unique way, and their way can be similar or completely opposite to how we are experiencing it. It can be hard to remember this, especially when someone hurts you. Or when someone breaks your trust. Or when someone does something that (in your humble opinion) would obviously cause a reaction in you. “Why would they do that? They KNEW it would hurt me.” Maybe they did know, maybe they didn’t.

Here’s the thing, well, a couple of things. ONE: it’s entirely too taxing to try to guess why anyone does anything- because life is 100% subjective and our paths and journeys are exclusive. A difficult thing to come to terms with, but important, nonetheless. And TWO: it’s not your place to figure out someone’s motives, and it won’t bring you peace. This can be crazy hard to come to terms with when you feel like you need to “say something” to someone so they can know what you think. But the truth is, what you think about someone else’s choices only needs to be said when that person asks you. (Of course, if you’re dealing with a dangerous situation of any form, you should say or do what you need to keep yourself and loved ones safe- what I am talking about here are general opinions.)

I think this is essentially why it’s so important to know your personal boundaries, and to take care of yourself. Honor how you feel, listen to what your body is saying to you, always. No one can feel things for you, no one can change anything in your life except for you. What a powerful gift. Knowing this makes you free from having to wonder about the meaning of anyone else’s actions. Knowing this allows you to start to come face to face with the fact that you are responsible for you. And not for “them”. This is something I am mindful of teaching my children, because while circumstances may be what they are, my children are still wholly responsible for their actions (which have consequences, good or bad).

I one hundred percent believe in the idea that Life does not happen to you it happens for you. So YOU can learn what you need to learn. All of this is true for others, too. Even when I deeply resent their choices.

Here’s the takeaway, the most important part in all of this: when you come face to face with adversity or trials in relationships, or even just someone being a little too sassy, you can rest assured that the only part of the equation that you are responsible for and the only part you can actively control is your part of it. How you react, what you do, or say. You get to make the choice for yourself: am I going to react? Or am I going to use some self control? There is so much power in what we decide.

I’ve been struggling with this a little bit lately regarding certain situations in my personal life, obviously I enjoy sharing my point of view, so it can be hard to keep my mouth shut when it comes to certain situations… which is why I decided to write this here. If anyone else struggles with taking things personal from time to time, just know, I hear you wholeheartedly, and you do have a choice.

Don’t Be Perfect

I know you’re tempted to. I know you want to do it all. I know you want to show up at all the things looking your best. I know you want to have a home cooked HEALTHY meal on the table every night at the perfect dinner time – not too early, not too late. I know you want to make sure you exercise enough, sleep enough, and keep your house clean enough. I know you’re desperate to show up at your kids games, practices, lunches, field trips. I know you want to be the perfect spouse. The perfect friend. The perfect family member. I know how you think “hypothetically, it’s not too hard.” And I know how you feel when another day passes and you find you didn’t do it all.

But, all of this, it’s not necessary.

Having little eyes looking up to me, I know how important it is to be the best version of myself I can be. It’s not a weight carried lightly by me. I’m internally motivated by the thought of how my children will remember me. How they will remember our lives together. It is a driving force in many moments. These thoughts are often where my patience is born. But with that, there is another truth that must be acknowledged. My children still need to see me mess up. They need to bear witness to my failures. They need to see me as a human with real flaws, real emotions, so that they don’t feel as though they need to hide theirs. So they don’t feel the need to measure up. They need to hear me apologize when I’m wrong, just as they need to see me stand my ground when I am passionate about something. They need to see my strength, and they need to see my weakness.

And it’s not just the little ones in our lives who benefit from this. I really do believe that this is important for anyone around us to see. It is essential to remember that perfection is an illusion, and when you decide to show up as you are, you end up holding space for others to do so as well. Don’t apologize for the messy house, you live there. Don’t feel the need to always have your makeup on, or wear your best clothes, you deserve to be comfortable.

Being perfect means there’s a specific standard. If you’re feeling that pressure – in any situation – take a minute to think of whose standard of perfection it is. Ask if it’s truly even your standard. And then ask yourself what the benefit of reaching that standard actually is. If mastering the juggle is what will bring true joy and happiness to the short existence we are all blessed with, by all means, pursue perfection. But if sometimes it feels like you’re wasting energy and minutes worrying about how you appear, or what someone else thinks, then it is officially time to consider this truth:

Your instinct is not wrong.

Have you found ways to ditch the need to be perfect? How did you do it? I love to hear back from those who support my writing so let me know in the comments or any other way that feels right!

Paying Homage.

Today my Facebook reminded me via its handy dandy memories tool that prior to sharing my personal thoughts and experiences here, I first did it there. Around this time last year, and for the first time, I publicly shared a piece of writing. That piece of writing is still one I love and I think it does deserve a place here. If you’ve never read it before, or if it stirs something new for you, by all means leave a comment and let me know!

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I wrote this yesterday after reading and internalizing posts where others expressed confusion, contempt, and even some disgust. I hope it can shed some light on the “why” that so many seemed to call for. I dedicate it to my mother, my grandmothers, and the other admirable women of color I am blessed to call family. To the wonderful women I have gained through marriage. To my girlfriends, who have exemplified strength in so many different ways. To my high school drama teacher who set the foundation of my own sense of womanhood through her example. To the important men in my life who have never made me personally feel anything other than loved and supported. But mostly, this is for my children.

Marched.

Here in the United States there is no guaranteed paid maternity leave.

So, I marched.

I personally know women who were physically, mentally, and emotionally abused by men they loved deeply.

So, I marched.

Once, I saw a mother lose temporary custody of her children because her abusive husband convinced her to let him see them after he had recently tried to kill himself in front of them.

So, I marched.

I know a woman who spent years in the same job field that her husband would much later join, and hardly made more than him at the time he entered the work force.

So, I marched.

I remember being sexualized at the age of thirteen by men twice my age, and seeing it happen to friends as well.

So, I marched.

When my husband was out to sea, I became highly paranoid that the alcoholic who lived below us would one day snap and try to hurt me because my kids were loud.

So, I marched.

When he was deployed, I hid knives in each room of my house, I kept a panic button next to my bed, and sometimes slept with the key to our gun box on a lanyard around my neck. So, I marched.

I know women, myself included, who have been made to think they are not as worthy as other women because of outward appearances.

So, I marched.

I know of women who were date raped, but never reported it.

So, I marched.

Once, one of my husband’s higher ranked coworkers told him I would need to pause my career for his to succeed, and he wasn’t wrong about that.

So, I marched.

When I was interning as a new mom, there was no where for me to pump breastmilk, I had to do it in the bathroom.

So, I marched.

When I go out with my daughters, people always mention how we better have a gun in the house.

So, I marched.

I marched. I marched. I marched. At one point I cried. And then I marched.