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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Returning to Work after Having a Baby? Remember these 10 Truths

It's been a whirlwind, but I've officially been back to work full-time for the same length of time I was out for maternity leave.

Three months of role and departmental changes, pump-breaks, rushing out the door to get home before my kid goes to sleep.

I'm one of the lucky ones. Meaning that I have a community of support, a team I adore, understanding leadership and even a few mom friends who are in the cradle-trenches alongside me.

Even with these amazing assets stacked in my favor, it has still been a mentally and emotionally strenuous process. But, there have been a few things I've repeated to myself (and prayed) over and over again throughout the last few weeks.

Here are 10 truths to remember when returning to work after having a baby:

1. It will all get done.

This. This is where you'll learn to forgive yourself. If you've been incapable of grace in the past, now's a good time to practice showing it.

Sometimes you just need to turn off the computer, leave the dishes in the sink and get your little self into bed as early as you can because right now, self care doesn't mean wine in the bathtub: it means going to bed when you're tired.

Because the honest truth is that the work, the chores, the cleaning will always be there for you.

2. Your Work will seem easier

This is the good news. If you've just welcomed a new child into the world, you have just come out of the mentally and physically demanding season of the fourth trimester.

Here's the thing: that deadline or task that seems impossible? That intimidating meeting you have to lead? 

Cake-freakin'-walk. 

You've already been in the midst of one of the world's hardest job and one of life's biggest transitions – if you take an honest look at how you're living day-in-and-out, there's really nothing you can't handle.

3. Work will still be there when you get back

It was eight o'clock. I was nursing my son when my cell phone rang. It was someone asking a question that could've waited until I returned to my desk the next day. But I picked it up and immediately regretted how it flustered me while I held my child, straining to hear and communicate over his coos and cries.

"What would've happened if you hadn't answered the phone then?" A colleague asked me the next day.

I stopped. Nothing. Nothing would've happened if I hadn't answered the phone right then. I chose to be available. I chose to let the phone be an instrument I answer to.

The only one forcing me to sacrifice time with my son after hours was myself.

4. This is what top knots and dry shampoo were invented for

Repeat after me: Dove dry shampoo. Make it your best friend, it will save you so much time.

5. You probably don't have time to start your own business

Probably being the operative word.

I had three days left of maternity leave and I was desperately researching t-shirt printing and distributing.

"I know. I'll design t-shirts and sell them through my blog!"

Not a far-fetched idea, of course. But very far-fetched to think that I could somehow manifest enough funds through that enterprise to warrant working from home.
Pump the brakes, sister. 

Maybe some people are cut out for it, or truly have the capacity to create, market and distribute a product or service on their own while looking after an infant. But you are a unicorn human, and probably aren't reading this blog anyway.


6. You are literally not the same person you were before you left

You are stronger, leaner, resilient.

Lean into those changes, full force. What worked for you before – like showering in the morning, packing lunches every day and picking out an outfit seconds before your walk out the door – might not be feasible right now. It's a time to explore and maybe even reinvent and refresh your routines (or give them up all together!).

7. You're not alone (seriously)

You are not the first and only woman who has left their child in the hands of a caretaker to go back to work full-time. Women just like you have done it successfully for a very long time.

Of course no one could ever take your place or communicate with your child the way that you do. But your bond is strong, and those few weeks you showered your little one with love and snuggles are not easily forgotten.

Find a friend who knows the very real struggle. Share, talk, cry and support each other. What you're doing isn't easy. What makes it manageable is knowing that you're not the only one.

8. You're doing this for a reason

It helps to remember the big picture, especially when you arrive at your workplace on that first day. This season, going to work full-time, was the decision that was best for your family at this time.

And while you may be gone for 10 waking hours of the day, and you may not be the attending to his or her immediate needs, you're still providing for them long-term. Being concerned about the well-being of your child's future is good parenting in and of itself.

Don't let anyone tell you differently.

9. When they say "balance" they really mean "prioritize" 

I learned this in graduate school, and to be honest this may be a separate blog post for a later date. But, sometimes life isn't all about balance. Because balance implies that you're orchestrating all the things, on top of working and caring for a new child. 

Having the perfect balance of work, social lives, quality time and the quantifiable time spent tending to your child's practical needs, pet projects, cleaning and staying on top of laundry, sleep or downtime after a long day, you name it, simply isn't possible.

You have to make a point to prioritize what's truly important. Leave the balancing for the gymnasts. At least for now.

10. You might forget something, and that's okay

It's going to happen. You'll miss an email. You'll leave an important pumping piece at work or home. You'll leave your lunch on the kitchen counter. You'll forget a meeting time. You're not impervious to making mistakes.

Take a deep breath. Clear the slate. Hold your head up high. Everyone slips up now and again. It's how you recover from the mistakes that makes you stronger, wiser and an even more incredible example for your child to emulate. 

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

7 Things I Want My Friends to Know About Being a Working Mama

It's been 23 weeks since my little bundle has come into this world. And let me tell ya, it's been 23 weeks of refining work. On my heart, my soul, my boy, my pretty much everything.

And it's been desperately, wonderfully good.

The air is cool, here. Summer has officially kissed us goodbye and our scarves and sweatshirts are calling to us from our closets. Booties on. Pumpkin spice lattes as permanent, steaming extension of our hands.

Basic is as basic does, right?

(For the record, I hate the term "basic" -- if something is good it's good. Just me? Mmkay.)

The point is, the season is changing. And we are too. With the new season comes a new role, new thoughts, new feelings swirling around. Here's what I want my friends to know about being a working mama:

We're a little more fragile these days

Maybe it's the lack of sleep. Or the breast-feeding hormones. Or that we feel as though we're under scrutiny for the choices we make with our children. Or the fact that our bodies didn't bounce back the way we thought they would. 

Or the fact that a tiny human life is dependent upon us for everything.

But words cut a little deeper, somehow. What once were casual disagreements have the potential to start social wars.

Whatever the case, our hearts are a little more tender.

At the Same Time We Feel like We can Do anything

We send emails while we nurse. We come home from a 10-hour work day and pick up right where we left off: with laundry, with doctors appointments, with changing diapers and bath time.The mental load is real, and we carry it in our pump bags along with with what our work schedules need from us.

It's incredibly empowering. You truly don't know what you're capable of until you're pushed to your absolute limit and then asked to take 20 more steps forward. 

It's easy to feel left out

Whether at home, the office or in social circles, sometimes we may feel about 30 steps behind everyone else. If we're new at this whole motherhood enterprise, we may have made the mistake of thinking that life would settle back down and that everything would return to normal. 

But the truth is, having a baby, adding another human to your family, means life will never be the same. It's a powerful blessing that takes hold of your attention, your goals, your day-to-day. Things like nights out used to fold in easily to busy weeks.

Now they require more effort. Sometimes that effort is there. And sometimes, mama's just gotta fall asleep on the couch at 9:30 and call it a day.


I want you to come over, but I don't want to clean my house

Plain and simple. "Adult time," as a friend calls it, happens between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. If I have to choose between connecting with my husband and sweeping the kitchen floor, which do you think I'm going to choose? Which is more meaningful at the end of the day?

While it feels good to roll up your sleeves and have a job that has a finite start and end, I don't want to be ruled by what I should be doing. 

We don't mean to flock to our new mom friends

We maybe even made a mini note to ourselves when friends who had babies before us started disappearing from girls night (or disappearing all together) that would never be us.

We didn't know what we didn't know. Sometimes it's nice to have a confidant, a person in the trenches alongside you who you don't have to explain anything to, they just know.

That doesn't mean we value anyone in any other life stage any less. Pinky promise.

We're Trying to Balance being authentic without complaining 

Here's the thing: being a working mom isn't hard, but it's not easy.

Just like everything else with motherhood, there's a contradiction to everything. It's hard to find a line between being completely honest with how we're feeling while at the same time knowing that there are women out there just like us who would give anything to be where we are.

Because this season of life is completely wonderful, but like with any refining work, it's not without its challenges.  

You Can Do it, Too

Maybe we've been complaining too much. Maybe the media portrays working moms as frazzled, high-strung, frizzy haired messes. And maybe the stereotype fits us as snug as a pair of yoga pants. But however much you hear how difficult it is, know that if this is a step you want to take in your life ahead, we're totally here for you.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

We Are the Working Mothers

The light is dim.

You can barely make out the shape of his blue saucer eyes. It's five a.m. and your eyes beg for sleep, beg for "not yet," for a moment to lay your head back against the bed rest.

But this is your time, so you cradle him close. Determined not to let a minute drip by that you're not fully aware. Fully present.

After all, he could be asleep when you return tonight. So, you make the most. You make it matter by the dim blue hue of your cellphone flashlight.

We are the working mothers.

We're the mothers with master's degrees. With business meetings set on our Google calendar. Who wriggle into nursing bras beneath our blazers or uniforms every morning. Who listen to podcasts on our commutes - or revel in a few moments of silence before the emails ping! and the phones ring!

We kiss their cheeks and stroke their hair. We whisper "I love you," before grabbing our purses swelled with bills, trash, maybe a rogue lipstick tube that's lost its top.

We spend much more time hooked up to a pump than one ever should, balancing the humility with the necessity of it all.

We're nothing like the stereotype and yet, everything like it. Plunging head-first into scheduling and emails, because if we're not going to be with our child, we may as well commit.

We're told we can have it all. We just can't have all of it right now.

But right now is all we have.

So we spin, we fret, we plan, we huddle over salads - balsamic dripping from our chins -  and we work through it. We work through it all.

The feeling that we're doing a lot, but getting nothing done. The dreams. The plans. The guilt for having the dreams and the plans.

The fitness goals (because somehow, cruelly, even getting dressed becomes . The twenty emails we need to respond to.

And it all melds together in a Ramen soup of worry, doubt, fear, mess and yet, empowerment.

Because this tiny shape, these blue saucer eyes are a gift. And we are his mother.

We're his mother.

And somehow by grace, by coffee and by persistence, the work doesn't make us. We make it work.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

For When Parenthood Feels Like Fall

The trees are turning in Norfolk.

It's subtle at first: the once leafy, deep greens turn to a mojito-lime in the sky. Then sprigs of yellow. Then orange to red.

It happens somehow, somehow, somehow. Over time and all at once. 

I first noticed it on our walk to church yesterday morning. I pushed my son in his stroller across a small collection of leaves on the crooked sidewalk. I told him about the seasons changing, how he'll feel cool air soon, and how we'll see other colors on the leaves of our tree-friends.

"They're turning," I said to his little ears, going over the science of it all. He is a brilliant nearly five-month-old, of course, and already understood how it all worked.

I expect his thesis to be complete by the end of the week.

I cooed into his stroller, stroked his cheek and told him about how the chlorophyll lessens in the trees, how that exposes the color that lies beneath.

The color that's been there all along.

I let my mind play to where it normally goes - thinking about the future. What he'll be doing next year.

My foot went a little out of its way to crunch on a leaf, and I prayed that the wonder and delight of the season would spark awake in my boy. Looking forward, always forward, to when his tiny shoes will stomp on a leaf first out of curiosity, then again and again out of delight.

The trees are turning. And something, it seems, is turning within me.

The past few months of my son's precious life, there has been a lessening of something in my soul. Something like a rich-green selfishness; the kind that's born from not knowing any better or really having to.

The green that comes from a moderate life of caring for yourself, your health, your career, your social life: your, your, your.

But then the double pink line appears on the test. You get the sonogram. You tell your friends and family. Your belly swells with pride, joy and water weight.

Then. Bit-by-bit. Step-by-step. A part of you is multiplied and divided in two. And a new person is brought into the world.



And your temperate green leaves turn. To make way, for better, for worse. For what was there all along.

The baby cries for three hour straight. 

A sprig of red.

Your dishes, clothes, your very body and hair go unwashed.

A streak of yellow.

You divide your time, your talents, your gifts, your callings, your friendships and count it all second-place to this new little being.

Full-fire orange.

Parenthood, new parenthood, has a way of stripping us of the ways we keep ourselves together.

But without the unraveling. Without the questions. Without the anxiety, the rearranging schedules, the doctors appointments, the stroller-pushing, the trying-your-hardest and still coming up short... 

Without the grace. Without the needing other people to take the lead on parts of your life you didn't ever have to think twice about... 

There wouldn't be the extraordinary wisps of color and beauty in our world.

Somehow, somehow, somehow. Over time and all at once.

The color that's been there all along.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

29 Lessons for 29 Years

Once again we've come a full year. And what a full year it's been.

A few days ago, I celebrated my 29th birthday. The last year before I cross a decade-threshold our culture deems important and scary, though I don't know why.

Once you get through those swirling years of your early twenties - breaking the habit of treating your job like schoolwork, navigating friendships that are at best distant, dating the wrong people and spending the wrong money - the late-twenties, if you're lucky, can be a season of sophomoric confidence.

Which really is the most fun, isn't it?

This time last year, my child was still just a promise. A bright hope. The thought of him (I didn't even know he was a him at that point) was tethered together with anxieties large and small. Pointless and very, very verified. For the first time in my life I was nervous for the parts of life I didn't know to be nervous for.

Sound loopy? A little scattered? Yes, there's much of that, too.

This time last year I had a different job, we didn't know who our president was going to be, and the hardest part of my day was trying to get through it with one(ish) cup of coffee.

As I watch my child grow, I realize a lot can happen from week-to-week. A tiny human can realize the functionality of his hands (or what a great snack they can be), a properly timed sermon can turn your world upside-down.

For those moments, and the rest that have seemed to fizzle and pop over the last year - like champagne - here are 29 lessons I've learned for 29 years.

1. Gratefulness can repair a multitude of sins: selfishness, worry, fear, doubt, regret, jealousy. The minute we get after grateful in our lives, the minute we can truly start living fully.

2. If you spend more waking hours with your work colleagues than you do with your family, you better get to loving them, too.

3. Maternity leave is a gift. Even if you don't get paid for it, if you can, take the twelve weeks. You will never regret it.

4. If you're planning on returning to work and pumping after you've had a baby, register for all the pump parts. Bottles, flanges, the little yellow thingies (so descriptive, I know). All of it. Otherwise you will spend a small fortune on backup parts, or bottles to give to your caretaker.

5. Just because something -- a diaper change, an email, or a meeting -- isn't done the way you think it should be done doesn't mean that it isn't being done well. Step back. Shut up. And let someone else learn and grow.

6. If you genuinely need something, ask. It's always better to be frustrated with a "no" rather than a "never knew."


7. No matter how tired, how emotionally fatigued, how confused or strung out you are, you can always go one step further. You can make it through to the next day.

8. Having a baby is difficult. And the friends who have patiently made time and listen to struggles in the midst of their own pregnancies, new babies and all the life transitions that entails are the true MVPs.

9. Asking for help is not a sign of defeat or taking a shortcut. No one is keeping score, and no one benefits from making yourself a slave to the way you believe things should be done. It's a sign of maturity and wisdom when you can let go, recognize that someone else may have a better idea. And you should be secure enough in your own worth to step out of the spotlight for the common good.

10. Wear a blazer. It really does make a difference.

11. Stitch Fix is almost always worth the investment.

12. Just because you mute or unfriend someone on social media doesn't mean you're deleting them from your life. It's okay to remove people from your online world. Life outside the digital world goes on - and guess what? They likely won't even notice.

13. At one point or another, what you have is what you wished for. Try to remember that when you're tempted to look ahead or think that the grass is greener.


14. On a similar note, try to remember how badly you wanted the things in your life that you're mostly likely to complain about.

15. If you fall short, pray, breathe, ask for forgiveness if you need it (hint: you always need it), and get back up.

16. It's not a crime to say "I don't know."

17. If you're tired, angry, sad, stressed, annoyed, or hungry, drink a glass of water first.

18. Don't go to bed with makeup still on your face. You're officially too old to neglect your skin.

19. When you're listening to a friend, let a space of silence fall. Let them finish. Allow them the privilege of coming to their own conclusions.


20. Don't wait until you're skinny to chase after your dreams. Seriously. Don't wait for the better, thinner version of yourself to start working on your goals. If you want to be perfect before you begin, you'll never start.


21. Just like "there's room for everyone on the nice list," there's room for everyone to find success. Someone else's success does not equate to your failure.

22. Learn from the successes of others, of course. But more importantly, learn from their failures. And from their failures learn that their successes didn't come consecutively.

23. It helps to see the "nos" in your life: the rejected articles, the missed opportunities, as simply "not nows." Not as debilitating marks on your character, talent or your calling.

24. The same rule (23) applies to your pant size. Your value is not marked by a number on a tag. Sometimes that number might be higher than you're comfortable with inside your own skin. It doesn't make you a second-class human.

25. In a world full of hurt and hatred, don't be the sort of person who argues about how the dishwasher should be loaded.

26. If at all possible, in marriage, in friendships, in motherhood, in work and in your relationship with yourself: be where you said you'd be when you said you'd be there. Keeping your word is a lost art.

27. If you want to receive grace, first give it freely.

28. Operating anything out of anxiety or fear of losing control, in work, creativity or personal relationships, shows.

29. The world seems less hopeless the less time you spend reading Facebook comments.
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Monday, September 11, 2017

There's Gonna Be a Little Pee on the Wall

With all the warnings. With basic knowledge of physics (very basic), I should've known: 

You have to gird up when you're changing...well...anyone's diaper. Let alone a baby boy's.

Why?

Pee on the wall.

I don't know if it's maternal extinct, or a certain defiant look in his eye. But I can sense it coming. And it happens the minute my guard is down. When the blockade-diaper I placed, just so, shifts for a split-second. Any opportunity, any freedom, it seems, he takes.

Peace like a river. Joy like a fountain. Pee on the wall.

At first, it wasn't funny. Then again, nothing really is those first few weeks postpartum. Pee on the wall was usually the straw that broke this mama camel's back. Yet another battle to fight. Yet another brick on the tower of messes to clean up. Tear-inducing, yelling for my husband to, "please come quick! Red alert! Red alert!"

When all was said and done, wall de-peed, little one changed, I'd look back on my dual-income-no-kids glory days.

The days before pee on the wall.

I remembered my friends. My happy, well-rested friends. Feeling a little embittered that they're living glamorous lives full of guilt-free cocktail hours, leisurely Sunday afternoon naps, with (unless something went terribly wrong during said cocktail hours or naps) their lovely un-peed-on walls.

Then suddenly it became funny. No big deal. Nothing a Clorox wipe couldn't handle. Like outbursts in public, late-night feedings, or tears because you love a tiny human so much it's completely turned your world upside-down, it became clear:

There's gonna be a little pee on the wall.

Now that we're about four months into this parenthood journey, now that my diaper-changing efficiency has increased by about 80 percent, the absolutely unmanageable, stressful bits of life with a newborn became simply a new way of life.

Our wall-peeing child smiled at us. Started sleeping longer than two hour stretches at a time. Let a little time lapse between feedings. These tasks that were once exhausting and mentally draining on all fronts became a little easier, day by day.

And then the new challenges came into play.

Battles with my identity. Battles with guilt. The feeling of having to outrun a tidal wave, of keeping up appearances, of trying to prove that I'm the same woman: that motherhood hasn't stripped away some parts of me, has only added, multiplied.

While it's added a lot of wonderful parts of life – my son being my absolute favorite – it's added a few thoughts and shoulds that circle my head like a bathtub drain.

I should've known this. 

I shouldn't have said this. 

I took that the wrong way. 


I shouldn't have eaten that. 

I should be in bed. 

I should, I should, I should...

It seems that so far, doing this motherhood business without a few glitches in the day, without a few tears, without a few pee-on-the-wall instances is impossible. None of us will have a perfect day. A day without crying, losing tempers or losing our minds a little.

No matter how prepared for it, in life, in motherhood, to do it well is to do it imperfectly. Because, well, there's going to be a little pee on the wall.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On Confessing My White Privilege

I grew up in rural Mechanicsville, Virginia. Just outside of Richmond: the former capitol of the Civl War's Confederacy.

There's a high school in my county named for Robert E. Lee and Jeff Davis. Their mascot? The Confederates.

It's a small town known for an iconic windmill and its tomato exports. Lots of open space. Lots of cows and horses. A place of safety and assurance. A place where lot of people who look, act, talk and dress just like me.

Where the crime reports in the local paper are Jay Leno-level comical. Where you can submit pictures of you reading it in cities faraway and they'll print it.

I remember learning about the Civil Rights movement in that small town, in my second-grade class with my teacher, Mrs. Valleys. We watched humans, humans with real souls, real dreams, real talents and gifts, get bludgeoned with sticks like animals. We watched them tumble over from the force of a fire hose. The same water pressurized and sprayed to defeat literal fire was used to defeat the force of the fire in sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers.

It was unreal to me. It made my young stomach turn over and over. It made me ashamed. It made me feel guilty. To the point where one night at church there was an older man standing behind me in line waiting for dinner. His skin was a different color than mine. I knew him because I was friends with his daughter.

I bashfully asked him if he'd like to get in line in front of me.

His brow furrowed and he spoke from the back of his throat. "Why?"

I still remember how my cheeks flushed bright red from his tone. I was embarrassed: it was because I was just learning about my skin-toned safety net. No one in my family ever had to worry about being bludgeoned with a stick or shot over with a hose. His did.

My elementary school logic told me the least I could do was let him cut in front of me in the dinner line.

Those fuzzy black and white images from my second grade class are burned into my brain. Perhaps because I was so struck with the pure meanness of it all.

"But this was a very, very long time ago," I assured myself in that classroom with a white teacher and my white best friends. "People aren't actually like that anymore. No one here ACTUALLY feels that way. No one would ever judge someone based on the color of their skin."

And because I didn't see anyone drinking out of a separate water fountain or having to use a separate bathroom I carried that false narrative with me until, honestly, graduate school. I dated a boy (the nicest word I can manage to call him) who, (aside from repeatedly assaulting me physically and emotionally) used the N-word repeatedly.

Much worse, he believed in all of the ideals behind the word. He had an incredibly high opinion of himself. Worshiped himself. Used the Bible as a weapon to put himself ahead.

I couldn't believe it: a real-life bigot. Someone who actually thought he was better. Because he was white.

When I confronted him about his (twisted) beliefs he shrugged me off. Called me naive. I have no idea where he is in his life or what he's doing now. All I know is that he was in school to study counseling and I shudder to think of what sort of backwards guidance he's giving vulnerable clients now.

When I learned this about him, my eyes blossomed like the day they were in the second grade. These people exist. They're real. Disguised in clean-cut khakis and collared shirts. In policies. In historical figures we choose to exalt.

My privilege was to learn about racism second-hand. My privilege was never asking the question, "is it because I'm white?" My privilege was being so far removed from hatred that I could believe that it wasn't real. My privilege was to never feel threatened because of my appearance.

My privilege was to, by default and DNA, grow up on the wrong side of history.

The first step to changing is admitting you have a problem. But these privileges are not just my problem. They're my generation's problem. And the one before ours. And theirs. And theirs. And theirs.

Charlottesville. Virginia. United States of America: open, open, open your eyes. It's real. It's here. It's among us. Always has been. 

The images I've seen in the news lately haven't been fuzzy. Or black and white. Or in a second-grade classroom. They're crisp. They're in high definition. They're now and they're everywhere.





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Monday, August 7, 2017

Somewhere Only We Know

My sweet boy.

How can I express to you what these last few months have meant to me?You likely won't remember the 11 p.m., 1:30 a.m., 3:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. feedings of the first few weeks of your precious little life.

How when you cried it both broke my heart and made me laugh. Because your little world was falling apart. And you needed me. You needed us to be together.

But I will.

In the beginning, it seemed like this whole being-your-mom-thing was a lot easier when I was pregnant with you. When I knew exactly where you were at all times. When I knew you were eating enough. You came with me wherever I went without the clicks and snaps of a car seat or stroller. I could track your progress on my favorite pregnancy apps.

That time together we had was a place that only you and I will ever know – and I'll remember it always – but for all the hard work you are, I wouldn't turn back. I would only press forward. Because watching you grow is a joy. It's a gift. And it's full of the best surprises.

You likely won't remember how you didn't like to be put down.
How the only way to calm you down when you were crying was to pull you close to me and stroke your soft, chubby cheeks. How you looked up at me like I was your whole world when I fed you.

But I will.

You likely won't remember how my arms felt so much stronger with you in them. How I felt I could tear down a wall if something tried to hurt you. How keenly aware I became of smokers, loud noises, bumps on the highway or the sidewalk when we were out with the stroller.

You likely won't remember how your eyes followed me when daddy held you. How if I got up and walked away you looked at me like, "where do you think you're going, mom?" So cute.

You likely won't remember the first time you smiled at me when I came back into the room. How your face lit up in a way I'd never seen. This, after hours and hours and days and days of studying you and only you. Your habits. Your breaths. Your movement. The way you concentrate your tiny hands like they're the most fascinating things in the world (they are definitely in the top ten for me).

But I will.

You likely won't remember the first time I leave for the office, trying to convince myself to swallow down the lump in my throat. To put on red lipstick, hold my head high, carry in my breast pump and deal with it.

But I will.

You'll likely never know that I cried at my desk. Or that the hours seemed so slow compared to the ones I spent with you. Or that the choices your daddy and I are making right now are logically best for the family – but emotionally? They're the hardest. Most gut-wrenching.

But I will.

Because nothing absorbs me like you do, my sweet boy.You'll never know the woman I was before you came along. Boy, was she a whacky one.

Before she met you, she assumed that when it was time for her to return to work she'd find herself again. That this time together would be happy, fun, at at times awkward and hard. But that when it was time, she'd feel ready. She'd come charging in, ready to show the world what she was made of.

But your presence in my life unspooled me then wrung me up again. This time with you tucked in close to me.That's what motherhood does to a person. It makes you want to go back, back, back. To these places that only we know.

I'll forever come back to this place. Our first home together. The spot in the couch that is worn where I nursed you. Our very first 12 weeks together as a family. The place where you learned to roll over, hold up your own head, take baths (with a lot of help, of course).

And where I learned how to wrap myself in the identity of motherhood.

Where I learned that we can't really keep our children tucked safely in places only we know. We have to raise them up so they'll know more, do better, do wiser, incredible things.

But we'll remember the places only we know as we move forward. As quickly as everyone says time goes. I'll keep these memories, I'll keep this joy tucked into me.

I will.












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Friday, August 4, 2017

Summer 2017 Fabulous Finds


It's such a cliche. But honestly, where does the time go?


A year ago this month my husband and I discovered that we were pregnant. Now our little squirmy-worm is laying on his play mat beside me as I write this, looking up at an orange fish and having a one-sided conversation with it.

Cutest. Kid. Ever.

Since he's come to live with us, so much of my life and preferences have been overruled by diaper brands, wipes, burp rags and squeezing in some running time around the city (what I affectionately call my "postpart-run").

I put off a post like this because for the last few months I've been nothing short of completely irrelevant. (For real, the only news I gleaned was from what was parodied on SNL.)

Still, there are a few bits of my life that aren't completely baby proof. But I did throw in a few of my favorite mama essentials. Because, who knows?

What I'm Wearing

Here's what I wasn't anticipating after having a kid: hardly any of the clothing I own is nursing/pumping appropriate. At work and in my day-to-day pre-baby, I leaned toward wearing a lot of dresses that zip up the back. I spent a small fortune clothing myself in maternity wear. If I'd had the presence of mind I would've concentrated my money efforts on tops that would work after my little fellah came.

Que sera. Now I have to shop. Which happens to be one of my spiritual giftings.

For nursing, I tend to lean toward comfortable, soft, flowy tops and t-shirts. I am obsessed with all things Camp Light Apparel. I forgot how I stumbled upon them, though looking back it was probably through Instagram. I saw their "Grace Upon Grace" shirt in pink and I had to have it. 

Then they released this pullover and this coffee tumbler, and what can I say? They just hopped into my cart and now they're on the way to my house where I'm anxiously awaiting a happy mail day. 

I've also never stopped wearing this hat from All Good Things Co. since I bought it. And it just so happens as I write this that they're having a sale on all of their clothing items. You're so welcome.

My pet peeve is overly loud Christianese t-shirts. To me, they're just...corny. Why would I wear something Jesus-y when my soul is supposed to reflect Christ? Ya know? 

But these messages as just subtle and stylish enough. And if someone asked me what the slogan on my hat meant that would open up the potential for a conversation about my faith. I'd rather share my story than let my clothing speak for me. Just a preference.

And now: lipstick. Y'all. I have found the one my soul loves. 

The matte to end all mattes.

I've tried a multitude of stains, glosses, mattes and lipsticks through the years. While I love the color of so many of them, none of them felt great on my lips. But. This. Matte. It's staying power is pretty strong (in spite of my chronic lip-licking habit), the color's great and it feels awesome. I don't think I'm turning back ever.

What I'm Listening To 


Lara Casey's latest book Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life on audiobook, and I've really been enjoying it. She is such a breath of fresh, intentional air. I've been an admirer of hers from afar on Instagram over the last few months.

What I'm Reading

Should be titled: books that have changed my life and perspective.

Chasing Slow

I resisted this book so hard. Because the world didn't need another voice about saying no and self care. We get it. Women don't take care of themselves. Let's move on, shall we?

But this book is a treasure. Erin Loechner's writing style is smooth and smart. And hilarious. I ate up every word. It's my recommendation of the year.


The Magic of Motherhood


This book is the embodiment of "ah, I'm not alone." It's a collection of essays from moms. And it's really been such an encouragement. The author also has a podcast that I've been enjoying. They're smart, engaging, heart-wrenching stories.

Work. Pump. Repeat.


Another piece of hysterical literature for my breast-feeding mama's out there. So much anxiety as of late has centered on what my body can do for my baby: will it be enough?

This book has helped me understand that I'm not the first mom to return to work after having a baby. And I won't be the last. One of the best parts of motherhood is the community of fun, engaging, rock-star mamas it brings together. This read has been a delight.

What I'm Learning

That life, for all of its ups and downs is meant to be savored.

I thought that this season was something that I had to rise above. To keep ahead of. To outrun. I told myself that I was only allowed to concern myself with the day ahead and not get absorbed by the future.

But the truth is, if you don't think about the future, at least a little bit, while a baby is screaming in your face, you will lose yourself.

The baby will eventually stop crying. The baby will eventually start sleeping through the night. The baby will eventually start giving you more and more time in between feedings.

I'm learning to balance looking ahead while enjoying the spectacularity and wonders of the now. A lesson for life, I think.




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Monday, July 31, 2017

Searching for Soulful – Part One


Anyone else feel like they're walking through life in a daze? 

Looking forward to big events only to have them grow smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror? Or constantly flying from one season to the next like a trapeze artist? Letting go of one season to zip on to the next?

For so long, I've complained that my life has lacked focus. Not so much that I feel like I should be pouring my energy into achieving my goals, but that I'm just not fully paying attention. There should be more to life than laundry, cleaning, careers and appointments and Netflix subscriptions, shouldn't there?

There should be more to life than the physical. There should be more to life than entertaining yourself to death.

Years ago (maybe half a decade ago?) it seemed easier to live in the bevel of appreciation and purposefulness when I journaled every day. Pen to page. Left hand characteristically smudged with blue ink. 

I'll be honest, there is very little time for journaling these days. And I know that's a trite excuse: you get done the things that you make time for.

What I miss about journaling is the discipline of taking the time to remember the day you've lived. The good. The bad. The frustrating. The joyous.

Mostly, finding meaning, finding soulfulness, in the every day is what I miss about it.

The best thing about being a writer is deriving meaning out of an otherwise normal day. But if you can't remember the normal days, you're left with a sense of cloudiness. Like you're living whole life full-on in those moments before you have your morning coffee.

Perish the thought.

This series is an attempt to practice the art of being aware. Of having the discipline to not live a life in a swarm of distractions. As cliche as it sounds, enjoying the moment. Actually, forget enjoying it. I'd settle for simply being aware of the moment.

I'm on the search for soulful, and I hope you'll join me.


taking a seat

For all of the health benefits of breastfeeding (for mother and baby), there is a downfall for the extravert I wasn't aware of: isolation.

Don't get me wrong. I know my rights as a woman. I know I have the right to feed my child when and where I want. Covered. Uncovered. And I fully support women who do. 

Doesn't mean I'm comfortable with it, just yet. Further, it doesn't mean I expect others to be either.

One night last week I was with a group of friends at a dinner party when my little one began to get fussy. Like clockwork, it was time for a feeding. I excused myself to the next room, grabbed my wrap from the diaper bag, fighting back hot tears.

Yes, I was feeling a smidgen sorry for myself. I already felt so out of touch. Like the whole world is a part of an inside joke that I'm not in on.

Here I was, finally gaining my way back into the world, though still feeling like a sense of normalcy was torturously out of reach. As I began to focus on my little one, I pushed the feelings down.

This is motherhood, I thought. This is, in its own way, a tiny sacrifice.

Then a friend of mine left the dinner table and came to sit with me.

I don't remember what we talked about. But I remember her taking the purposeful walk to join me. To ask me about my week. To be in the quiet with muffled laughs and chatter playing in the next room.

Soulfulness is in the friendships that see and sense you.


folding laundry 


The clothes were still warm from the dryer.


I sat cross-legged on the floor and caught a glimpse of the time on my phone.


11:30 p.m. And with a potential 2:30 a.m. wake-up call to feed a restless two-month old, I should've been in bed.


My husband came into the room and could tell – maybe by the way my head hung over the laundry pile, or maybe he's just gotten the hang of the whole hormone-thing – that something wasn't quite right.


"What's wrong?" he asked, sitting down with me on the floor, beginning to fold the stack of clothes in front of us.


Then I confessed how I was fearful of returning to work after three months. I told him how I was dreading not being with our little one every day.


Fold.


How I didn't want to leave my heart behind and get swallowed up by expectations.


Stack.


Fearful because this would bring about change. Real change.


Sort.


The world wasn't stopping for our baby anymore. It's almost time to reintegrate. And I was scared. This wouldn't be like folding laundry. With compartments and order. This would be a much bigger mess.


I told him how I was anxious about stepping into a new role, all-the-while raising a kid. It seems, as of late, that everything is heightened. The stakes are higher.


"I'm just worried. Worried that I won't be enough here at home or the office. All I know is that our little one is worth it."


"Do you think you're worth it?" he said. The shadow of the hallway light painted clarity across his face.


Am I worth it? Am I worth grace? Am I worth a few slip ups and uncertainties? Am I worth permission to make mistakes? To still learn? To recover? To grow?


"You've been saying the last few years how you want to grow. How you want to nurture," he said. "Maybe this is it."


Soulfulness is being seen, known and encouraged.




running in the rain

Norfolk, Virginia is slated grey.

I grab my lime green rain jacket and lace up my hot pink running shoes before I head out the door.

Pounding my feet on the ground gives me a task with a start and end time. A mini-goal to achieve. Something to point at when I come to the end of the day. Something that warrants an "I did that."
Apart from the rain, the run is business as usual, tracing the same city loop I have for the last few months. Past the museum, over the bridge, past the cute cafe...


I lost myself in a podcast until I was interrupted by a sudden splash of cold water on my left foot. I looked down to see that the road had flooded.


I should've anticipated it. This part of the road floods all the time. Our city sits below sea level, after all. They're always talking about how it's sinking.


As it stood, I couldn't do my usual route. I had to turn back and wiggle my way through a neighborhood. Though I knew where I was, it was disorienting. Foreign. This wasn't going how I planned. I couldn't auto-pilot this run. I had to pay attention.



I had to follow a different route.

Soulfulness is pressing on when the world doesn't bend to our plans.
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The 4 Words Every New Mama Needs to Hear

Parenthood doesn't come with a driver's test. Or a job application.

A few months back, before the pregnancy, before the baby, basically a lifetime ago, a coworker and I had a sort of dumbfounded realization about parenthood:

"Anyone can do it," we laughed.

Anyone.

It takes a license to drive a car. A degree and four years of education at an acclaimed university (most of the time) to get a career.

But having a kid? It's not really something you need to ask permission for. Or get a degree in.

And if I'm being honest, throughout the first few weeks of motherhood, I wish that there were.

I didn't want anyone to tell me how it was going to be. The stubbornness in my heart and body prefers to fall and make mistakes and discoveries on my own.

But I found myself clinging back to those glory K-12 days. The days of supervision. The days of checks, balances and hand-holding.

The days of someone sitting closely and watching. Someone who knows the authoritative ins-and-outs. Someone to say with conviction: you're doing it right. You make the mark. Level one parenting achieved.

I have been blessed in so many ways. Countless ways. And lately, I've unturned another blessing in my life, having a community of new mothers. At work. At church. From college. From high school. You name it.

And between us we pass a phrase that has become catch-all balm for all the anxieties that creep into our thoughts, either by complete surprise during a late-night feeding or one we've seen coming toward us for weeks:


"You got this, mama."

It's a phrase, I'm learning, like a call and response. A code for, "I don't have the answers, but I'm here. I'm rooting for you. You're not alone."

It's used in a lot of contexts.

I'm burning out on breastfeeding.

You got this, mama.

My kid cries every day from three to seven p.m.

You got this, mama.

I've lost 20 pounds in an unhealthy way, because there never seems to be enough time to nourish my body in its most basic form.

You got this, mama.

My child has been in the NICU for days and all I want to do is hold him.

You got this, mama.

I feel guilty putting my kid down.

You got this, mama.

I'm deathly afraid I won't be able to provide nourishment for my child while I'm at work.

You got this, mama.

It's sort of like saying "bless you" after a sneeze. Or "I'll pray for you" after someone shares a difficult truth about their lives. Except it's so much more. I don't think it would be at all hyperbolic to name it for what it is – a battle cry for the fed-up, the run-down, nervous and incredibly joyful women we've watched ourselves become.

Growing week-by-week in a similar fashion to how we measure our children, into this strange, contradictory, topsy-turvy world of motherhood.

So, for those new mamas, like myself – or for anyone, really, towing the line of "I don't think I can do this anymore" – let me be among the people in your life to tell you that you can. You absolutely can.

You.

Got. 

This.
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