Wednesday, December 21, 2016
As fate would have it, that wasn't completely unrealistic. Brooding preteen removed from this equation, of course--I'm not still holding onto any resentful thoughts toward my parents because I turned out pretty okay and have a strong sense of right vs. wrong. I have still retained my strong will, and I still speak my mind, though I kinda-sorta have a grasp on when to bite my tongue and when to speak up a little better than I had as a kid. (Hey, I said "kinda-sorta," right? I didn't claim to be an expert, HAHA!)
I've found myself in the role of a single parent, and I serve as both my daughter's sense of comfort and her reinforced conscience/disciplinarian. It's important for me to instill in my daughter a sense of right and wrong. But, it's even more important for me to be her friend through it all. I know a lot of people disagree with this stance, as is evident in the endless discipline advice I get from friends, family, and acquaintances alike.
(Seriously, guys, stop giving me advice. About anything. About everything. Especially about my child. I hate it. I would ask if I wanted it. I don't. Frankly, I'm sick of repeating myself on this front, too. Just stahp.)
Truth is, I know what I'm doing. My daughter doesn't have another parent to run to for comfort. Siblings either. She has me. I have to think very carefully about discipline, or I risk damaging the most secure human relationship my daughter has on this earth. Our trust and teamwork means absolutely everything and is our core mother-daughter value. I intend to never jeopardize that bond.
Someone once suggested to me that I fix my daughter's slower-than-mine pace and sense of time when we're getting ready for school and work in the mornings by locking her outside of the house in anything she could manage to clothe herself in in 5 minutes.
Let me be very clear: NEVER would I subject my child to such brutal humiliation. Discipline by humiliation is completely out of the question. I would absolutely risk every bit of trust she has in me to take care of her and help her through our differences if I made her feel humiliated, especially by something internalized and natural over which she has very little control.
Discipline by physical harm is completely out of the question, too. Discipline by silent treatment: no. Discipline by slave-style chores: no. Discipline by removing basic needs like a meal, clean and prepped clothing in the morning, etc...never ever.
I have never once laid a hand on my child, and I never intend to. I have never once purposely added the burden of shame to my child, and I don't plan to start now.
Discipline by words is plenty. Discipline by very small punishment (timeout or a prompted sincere apology) is enough.
As an only child (yes, she has a half-sister, but she lives as an only child in actual lifestyle articulation), and especially as the only child in a single-parent home, my daughter is critically sensitive to how I perceive her. If there is tension in our relationship, we both feel it. If Kimmy has even the slightest sense that I am disappointed in her actions, she is devastated. Absolutely shattered and torn to pieces.
This morning when I dropped her off at school, I learned that Kimmy had had 2 timeouts at school yesterday for sassy behavior to her teacher upon being corrected on something. While I deeply appreciate her strong will and ability to speak up for herself, there is a time and a place for such behavior, and it is not at school to her preschool teachers, whose judgment I trust. (When she's older and has a difference of opinion or fact with a teacher, then we'll talk. I remember the first time I corrected a teacher and was absolutely right in so doing...in 2nd grade.)
As her teacher was telling me what happened, Kimmy's entire posture changed. Her shoulders sunk. She turned her face from me. Huge crocodile tears welled up in her eyes instantly, and she bit her bottom lip. She was sobbing 15 seconds in. When I hugged her as I was leaving, she didn't want to let go. The thought of me being disappointed in her is just about too much for her to bear, and this is a consistent observation. That feeling is so shameful to her that just by her knowing I could potentially think badly of her, she wouldn't dare repeat a bad behavior.
We discuss bad behavior. We apologize when we get snippy or loud-mouthed with each other. I apologize constantly for getting impatient and raising my voice. I hold my daughter's hand. I tell her I love her. I hug her. I kiss her goodnight and good morning and goodbye for the day. I give leniency when leniency is due and can deepen our trust in each other. We forgive. We forget. We grow together.
This works for us. This process isn't broken. There is nothing to be fixed. Kimmy behaves exceptionally well for a child her age. She has a good heart and tries her hardest to make right decisions all the time. Best of all, she trusts me. She knows she can always come to her mother for any reason under the sun. She knows that I value her honesty. Some kids turn into snakes at age 4, but my daughter rarely even utters a lie. I intrinsically know that I am raising my daughter right. I'm not looking for a parenting overhaul.
So, please, leave me alone to discipline my child in the way that's best for her, for us, for our household, for our relationship. It's not your business. If there comes a time when I need to adjust, trust that I'm a grown-ass woman and can manage to do so just fine all on my own.
Kimmy and Mommy's house is peaceful, healthy, and happy. Is yours? #checkyourself
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
But I love people.
I love them. I want to base my whole career on people (human resources). I love how people are all different. I love how people make me laugh. I love how everyone brings something unique to the table. I love how people all have their own lens through which they see the world. I love how I have something to learn from every person on this earth.
Lately I'm obsessed with people who make me feel alive...people who set my spirit alight and make me see, think, and feel things I wouldn't all on my own.
Last night I got a text from someone I love hearing from, but someone whose work schedule and unique job keeps him off the grid for weeks at a time. This is someone I went to college with and worked with and was friends with, but was not super close with because we were pretty different. Over the past 5 years, we've each been on our own journeys of self-discovery and growing up, and our paths have somehow crossed again, this time with much more in common and a really cool blossoming friendship.
This is someone who gives me that alive feeling. (Yes, he's male; no, the point of this is not about a crush. This is about a person-to-person connection with someone who has a fervor for life. Lots of people make me feel alive like this, male or female, crush or no crush.) When this side of my mind/heart are ignited by a person, I find myself wanting to discuss every subject under the sun, travel more, listen to all the music ever made, write until my hand cramps and tempts me to switch hands, and never stop trying/learning new things.
There's a lot to be said for being passionate in this life. I think Roald Dahl worded it best:
Friday, October 14, 2016
Being wanderlust and all, I fantasize about being outside and on the go constantly. I spend 40 hours/week strapped to a desk, and though I love (adore, actually) my job and the people I work with, I still find myself dreaming of being out in the world as much as possible. It fuels me. I work to travel. Travel fuels my motivation at work. As soon as I get back from one adventure, I brainstorm my next. It's a cycle that I hope I never outgrow.
My entire childhood, we camped and hiked and played in creeks and roughed it in the great outdoors. Those were our vacations. (We even camped at Disney World!) It was overkill for me because I felt like I didn't have a say in those decisions--I was outdoorsy by birth and not by my own choice. I compensated by shunning the outdoors for many years of my young adult life and even tried to convince myself that I was a city girl.
These past few years that I've spent in deep introspection, though? I had an epiphany and found a gaping hole in my life: outside, fresh air, mountains, patches of earth few humans have ever trod, nature sounds, endless skies of stars and clouds. I would rather be away and separate from than included in any day of the week, any week of the year. I'm a mountain momma through and through. It's in my blood, deep down in the very cells of my being.
There is just something so thrilling and cathartic about conquering a trail, a mountain. For me, it's like I'm climbing over all the gunk in my brain to a place of serene mental clarity. Like when I'm so small--this teeny tiny cog in the great wheel of the planet--that I somehow become immense in power and assuredness. Flashy and grandiose? Nah, keep it. I am a speck out there in nature, but I am sure and steady and totally content.
The blisters, the screaming muscle groups, the sweat, the cool/sharp/humid/dry/hot air hitting my lungs, the soreness, the dull drone of too much uphill/downhill trekking all at once, the fact that I'm fairly certain I'm going to lose my left big toenail--none of it matters because what I'm chasing on that trail is so intrinsically worthwhile that it supercedes all the setbacks.
This summer I hiked to Rainbow Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's a relatively simple hike, though physically taxing. 2.7 miles up a mountain; 2.7 miles back down--about 3.5 hours in all. I hiked it all by myself at a time when I was desperate for some time to soul-search. My daughter was visiting her family in Pennsylvania, and I was all alone with a mess of thoughts to contend with and make sense of. I spent a handful of hours on the trail, but I took home heaping buckets of insight into myself, my life, where I want to go, what I want to see, the person I want to be. I stopped to take a swig of water from my Nalgene at one of several creek crossings, and I was so overwhelmed by my clarity against the sounds of birds in the trees, rustling leaves, and the trickling creek that I burst into tears. It's a feeling I can't even begin to describe. It may even sound stupid to anyone reading this, but I don't even care. It was so meaningful to me that I've thought of this hike--this exact moment--every time I've felt down in the dumps since then.
4 days ago, my dad and I hiked Rainbow Falls all the way up to the top of the mountain (Mt. LeConte), where we saw the sights from LeConte Lodge. Though it had only been 3 months since I was last on the trail, I felt like I was an entirely new person. The same path that was covered in fallen pinky-white rhododendron blooms just months before was now coated in a vibrant splay of purple, crimson, green, orange, and golden autumn leaves. The same change that I could feel within myself was literally visible on the ground beneath me...a blossoming to a prounounced deepening and maturation. It's amazing to me how nature mirrors the phases of our lives.
On this hike, I knew I would be tested. I recently made a vow to myself to always hike with the Ten Essentials, even on day hikes, so I had a pack of at least 10 lbs on the way up and 15 on the way down (I had some t-shirts and snacks we purchased at the top and newly refilled water bottle/bladder). I knew we would have at least a 13-mile day. I knew it would be unrelentingly uphill to the summit and just as steadily downhill on our return. I knew we would have a very full day and would be physically and mentally tired. Despite knowing what I was in for, there were still surprises and adrenaline rushes. That's something else deeply beautiful about being outdoors: you can be as prepared as all get out, and nature will still have unexpected fortunes in store for you.
All that being said, I reached my actual physical limit on this hike. I think better-quality boots would make a slight difference for me, but I can confidently say that for now, 16.5 miles is my limit. I think that's a pretty cool thing to know about myself. Maybe the AT is in my future as a section hike series, and I'll gladly accept that challenge if/when the time comes. But for now, I'll keep seeking out these day-hike mini adventures; they are enough.
Adventuring outside is no longer an option for me, but an absolute necessity to my being. Life, time, thought, perception, emotion, and expectation all take on completely different meaning when you're in an environment over which you have no control. And all the creature comforts like hot coffee, ice cold beer, cars, steamy showers, lotion, deodorant, mascara, warm socks, and dry clothes all take on different comfort when you return to them from the great unknown. This will never not be worth it.
Until next time, Mother Nature.
Friday, October 7, 2016
Kimmy and I have had a huge routine adjustment. We've transitioned from having our awesome babysitter and her 2 sons in our home every day to earlier mornings of getting ready for school and work together and rushing out the door. In addition to preschool, we've added in dance class (and an inevitable fast-food dinner) on Thursday nights. We don't get home until 5:30pm most days and 7:15pm on Thursdays. Dinner happens soon after we get home. Then it's bath, books, and bedtime with lights out at 8:00pm. We're exhausted. We're cranky. We have a hard time listening attentively. We lack patience with each other. There are lots of apologies. Days are long and full.
But we're happy.
Kimmy is learning so, so much at school. She knows all her letters and can count to 20 (higher with my help). She asks me to spell every word under the sun, and she's starting to read beginner sight words with repetition. We read all the time, and she's so very interested in it. I love watching the gears turn behind her eyes. Oh, and she gets a TON of playtime. I really love her school.
Our life is filled with book fairs, kids' birthday parties, stacks of preschool artwork, playdates with school friends, long Saturdays of errands, and a messy house we're never in, except to sleep.
I guess I didn't realize how quickly it would happen once Kimmy started school and new activities, but I'm finally making friends in this town. This has been my biggest challenge in Bloomington--since it's a college town, people come and go and move on to different states and places in their lives. It's hard to make and keep friends because before you blink, they're done with this town and off and away. I haven't clicked with anyone in a close friends type of way until now. It's such a relief! Our next door neighbor and her kids rock; we have a ton in common. I know a few dance moms. I know a handful of school moms. I don't feel so isolated anymore! It's really nice to have a few people who are in the same phase of life with me. The introduction and hand-shaking phase is awkward at first (just like networking, which I suck at), but the rewards are great. I'm really excited to ride this wave.
Anyway, I'm just thankful for this phase of motherhood. My heart has been wavering a bit lately between trying to pull me back home to WV (where my friends and family and the great outdoors are, but where jobs and good benefits and a liberal mentality are not) and staying here. Now that the dullest part of my life is filling out a bit, I think I'll stay awhile--at least until I'm done with grad school.
Bloomington will forever be the place I remember as my growing place, no matter where I end up. This is where I found myself again and where I chose to plant my feet firmly, even when the soil was slippery wet. One day I'll look back on these challenging few years and smile knowing that I got to a place where the stress isn't quite so heavy, all while taking it in stride. If I've got one thing going for me, it's grit.
Now if I could just find the time and motivation to get in shape. Or maybe that's in a season up ahead, too.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Sometimes I can't function in an out-loud fashion. I have these bouncing, fleeting, swirling thoughts that I need complete quiet to assess. I have to hole up and retreat inside myself and connect the bigger picture in my head. I'm always searching for profundity in all things, big and small. (There are actually a bunch of cool words for this phenomenon.) It's just my thing. I have been this way for as long as I can remember.
I holed up on Saturday.
When I go into myself like this, I just stop talking to my peeps for days on end. I avoid small talk at all costs (but let's be honest: I do this all the time because if I have nothing worthwhile to say or think that I'm responding to something that has no depth, I would rather not talk at all). It's like I can't come back out of my shell until I'm defragmented on the inside.
Until recently, I couldn't even put words to what this process is like, but here's my crack at a semi-articulate version. It's kind of like the 5 stages of grief as I weave back and forth through the different steps until I'm at resolution.
Step 1: Self-analysis. I like to see if I can boil traits and characteristics and flaws I have down to the events or people in my life that may have caused or shaped them. Basically I try to figure out why I am the way I am...why I do things, think things, and interpret things as I do.
Step 2: Complete radio silence. As little speaking as possible. Lots of reading. Lots of sleeping (well, as much as my hectic schedule will allow). Lots of calm and quiet surrounding my in-process thoughts.
Step 3: Synthesis. I start to think in essay-like structure about the dots I've been connecting, and then I write in my journal a lot. Though last night I couldn't find my journal ANYWHERE. I tore my house apart. I am so bummed. But I absolutely had to write in that moment to get clarity on a few things, so I made due with another notebook. It's amazing how cathartic it is to purge onto the page.
Step 4: Music. I go on a total music binge. I will stay awake hours past my bedtime to soak in as many tunes as possible in this phase. Last night I was up until 2:30am listening to Wild + Free on Spotify.
Step 5: Revamp. When I'm almost done cleaning up my insides, I start to goal-set and focus on a handful of very particular things. This week I've been hyper-focused on homework, clean eating, and drinking tons of water. My goal has been 1 gallon of water per day, and today will be the 3rd day in a row I've hit it. I tend to be kind of chronically dehydrated all the time (a bizarre holdover from my aversion to drinking water when I was pregnant with Kimmy), so it's good to feel hydrated and refreshed!
Once I'm revamped and in a groove, I re-join society.
Kinda weird, right? But it's me. Introvert through and through.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Men don't do this. Many men don't ever apologize, even if it's something big that they're clearly wrong about. I'm not saying we should never apologize or turn into assholes, but there has to be a limit. We're not indebted to society just by being female, yet I see these powerful, independent, wholly beautiful females continually caving to society's standard of being meek, demure, polite, quiet, subdued little creatures who are expected to not live their lives out loud when men are clearly not held to that same standard.
I think it's time we stop.
I'm my happiest me these days, and a large part of it has come from taking care of myself, especially mentally and emotionally. Yes, read between those lines: I've been putting myself first. I don't owe anyone anything, aside from owing my daughter a great childhood with a great mother...which in turn comes from me being a good, stable, happy person all on my own. And so we're right back to that mental and emotional health piece. See how that works?
I'm done feeling like my happiness comes from others. It comes from within me. I find it by paving my own way, following my heart, listening to my own head, and making my own damn mistakes--not from seeking out my next steps from other people.
Here is a list of things I've generally stopped apologizing for:
- my emotions--if I feel something, I am perfectly valid for feeling it
- missing someone's phone call
- not immediately responding to someone's text or IM
- speaking my mind or stating an opinion, whether it conflicts with someone else's or not
- how I spend my money
- where I choose to travel and when and with whom
- who I choose to talk to
- the clothes I wear
- what I eat
- what I drink
- my body/weight: I'm proud of this mom body because it's a freaking gold, chubby trophy of all the trials and tribulations I have endured over the last 5 years. It is what it is, and no one else is entitled to an opinion.
- my faith (okay, I've never apologized for this and never will, but I'm listing it anyway)
- the music I like
- laughing too loudly or too much
- crying, no matter the reason
- forgetting to tell someone something that they could just as easily have found out on their own
- not knowing if I want things like marriage, more kids, etc.
- my decision-making process on any topic under the sun
- not wearing makeup on any given day
- my timeline...for life, an activity, a goal, whatever
- the way I parent my daughter
- being good at something
It basically boils down to this: If you're a kind person with good intentions who generally does her best to treat people well and with respect, you've got nothing to apologize for. Your friends and family know you and know what you're all about--if they happen to disagree with something you do, you still don't have to apologize for it. Own it and prove them wrong! Do what makes you happy!
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Friday, August 5, 2016
I've finally decided that I just don't have the words to describe how much I love her, how proud I am of her, and how thankful I am to have her in my life, so I'm not even going to try to do it justice. A poem (the title of which was fueled by a hateful comment) [to spite the negativity in our lives] and some pictures will have to do!
Why is her hair always a mess?
ringlet rises up to meet the next big adventure.
|3 generations and 1 in the womb|
|The day I left to check into the hospital to have my girl|
|The picture that will forever make me feel the most beautiful|
|My sweet angel girl, 9 days old|
|Kimmy's 1st birthday!|
|Kimmy's 2nd birthday!|
|Kimmy's 3rd birthday--at Disney World!|
|Kimmy's 1st haircut on her birthday at WDW!|
|June 2016, camping with her momma|
|June 2016, West Beach of Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Park|
|June 2016, evening playtime with her momma|
Then there's the ghosting (or at least extreme pullback). Reciprocal communication becomes fewer and farther in between. Eventually I realize I'm the only one talking. Then for a brief moment, I hit the bottom of this weird, emotional pit before bouncing back.
I think this a single mom pattern/weakness: happening upon someone who is a good listener, getting wrapped up in that feeling and talking a lot, and then realizing retrospectively that you've shared too much and been too real, and the guy couldn't handle it. This solo parenting thing is a lonely gig. It feels so good to have someone to share thoughts with. But based on my [very limited] experience, I think guys just get confused and scared.
Single parents have lots of thoughts, limited sounding boards, a super high level of stress and responsibility, and like no free time. Oh, and the list of things to do never, ever ends. There is always something, and we are the only ones there to do it. Life never stops, and peaceful pauses are rare. That responsibility feeling rubs off, and I'm sure it's an unpleasant taste for a non-parent guy. I get it. I really do.
I guess the part of all this I need to continue to drill into my brain is what while Kimmy is a normal part of my life, she's not a normal part of any one of these guy's lives. They don't get it--or at least if they get it logically, they don't get it practically because they don't live it. They can't separate her from me and just take me for what I am. I can see how it's all a bit intimidating.
I'm just SO BUMMED about it.
I'm not daddy shopping for my daughter. I don't want to talk about my child all the time. (But let's be real: she's a part of my life, and she's going to come up from time to time.) I just want to feel like a normal 27-year-old woman sometimes. I want a person just for me when I'm entering into a fun, maybe-more-than-friends-one-day dialogue.
I just wish that guys wouldn't assume the worst and be so quick to slam that door. I'm worth the stress and the drama that follows me and the time it takes to get some face time with me. I'm worth it all. The man who takes the effort to discover that will be one lucky son of a gun.
Guys everywhere, take heed:
Do not ghost a woman. She can literally see that you saw that message. It has a time stamp. Say something. If you're not interested, if you're scared, if you're on different pages, if you're going away on vacation for 5 months, if you're just looking for a hook-up, whatever the reason is...
Be real. Be honest. Speak up and break things off.
That's what it means to be a man.
That's the respectful choice.
Sure, you may not feel you owe a woman anything, and, sure, that may even be true, depending on many factors. But at least cowboy up and give her some damn closure. Even if she reacts like a fool, she'll still respect your honesty a hell of a lot more than never hearing from you again, as if she's not worth the ounce of effort it takes to text a 1-sentence goodbye.
When women say all men are the same, this is the type of BS we're talking about--because y'all prove it time and time again. Quit being so damn disappointing and prove us wrong for once!
So this is where "extraordinary things" comes into play. When I land in this emotional pit, I think to myself, "How did I find myself here again?" Then I realize it. My story isn't over--not even close. I am fine. I'm alive and healthy. I still have my friends and my family and my passions. I still have my mind, full of art and depth and dreams and plans. I'm still me. I'm intact. I'm standing. I'm better off.
I will do, see, and experience extraordinary things in this lifetime, regardless of who comes in and out of my story. And I'm actually never more motivated to dive deeply into my passions than when I find myself here over and over and over.
Maybe one great love isn't for me in this life. Maybe these small glimpses of it are enough. I have my daughter through it all, so where has love really gone off to? Nowhere. It's present and constant.
Being in this place makes words flow out of me. It makes me spend more time with my daughter. I'm a better friend. I travel more. I appreciate all the real people in my life even more. I toughen the parts of me that need toughening and settle deeper into the parts of me that need to remain soft. I take a good, hard look at myself and deliberately examine my headspace. So thanks for that. You're actually doing me a favor.
Take me or leave me, but if you're going to ghost me, leave me the hell alone.
P.S. this post has been a draft for months. (I'm not happy with my first drafts lately, so I do a lot of slow crafting before I publish.) It's a culmination of experiences, not a passive-aggressive swing at any one dude. I'm in a really good place right now. If you're in my life, I hope you know we're good, too.
1. Getting my teeth knocked out on a clothing rack in a store. (Yes, I'm serious. This is fear #1. Clothes racks are at the exact height of my mouth, and I've had several near-toothless experiences. I even have nightmares about it. If I'm in a clothing section, my hand is over my mouth more often than not.)
2. Being 95 years old and not having done every single thing I want to do in this lifetime--but I tackle that fear head on every time I get outside and go adventuring.
3. Eye surgery and dental surgery. Terrified. Absolutely terrified. If I ever have to have either, I will most certainly have a massive panicky meltdown.
4. Finding a tick on my head. Being bitten by a tick? Not so much. The threat of Lyme Disease? Nope. But touching my scalp and finding that there's a tick on there the size of a big, bulgy gray-green grape sucking out my blood and whose head I may never extrude, thus forcing my body to absorb its ticky cranium? HORRIFIED. FRIGHTENED BEYOND BELIEF. If this ever happens, I will go straight to an urgent care clinic to get it handled, not even kidding. It would be the only thing keeping me from burning a hole in my own scalp to make sure that sucker died!
5. Being in another car accident. Ever since Kimmy and I got hit by that drugged-up driver in June, I have had some pretty intense anxiety issues. The sound of the crunching metal and the smell of the leaking radiator and airbag-deployment explosives haunt me day and night. I don't ever want to experience anything like that again.
6. Not death (because I know where I'm going), but the thought of me dying early and leaving all sorts of unfinished business in my daughter's/family's hands. I have a will, but that only does so much to settle the nerves, you know?
Annnnnd, that's all, folks!
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
In an effort to not be as hard on myself, yet still uphold all my standards and values, I have boiled all my goals down to one goal:
I want to be a better mother, daughter, friend, listener, achiever, dreamer, student, believer, writer, artist, learner, and adventurer. I never want to stop being better at those things. I will base decisions on that goal, and that will pave my way.
After 2 weeks away from my daughter and a weekend of her time being divided between other family and pet doggies, I felt overwhelmingly disconnected, both from my daughter and just from motherhood in general. Yesterday afternoon, I just thought to myself, "There was just an entire chunk of time where I have no clue how my daughter's life was. There was an entire chunk of time where I didn't get to be her mother." I vowed to be a better mother in our time together and really spend more quality time connecting with her.
Last night, I only used my phone to take a few photos and videos of Kimmy and to look up some silly prairie dog, elephant, and owl videos that she wanted to watch. Other than that, we just talked. It was the best evening I've had in a very long time.
I watched a little girl--who is almost a not-so-little girl about to turn 4--blossom from feeling uneasy about being back home and knowing she has a brand new pre-school routine coming up into my happy little talkative girl full of silly ideas, tons of jokes, and loads of creativity. She was so happy to be home and so happy to have my full attention.
We talked all about my travels while she was at her daddy's house. We went out and looked at the garden together. She had a fashion show and tried on her new school clothes for me. I showed her my trip pictures and surprised her with a few souvenirs. I bought myself a harmonica a few weeks ago and have been teaching myself the basics. She was deeply envious of my purchase and wanted to play it all the time, so what did I do when I saw a harmonica in a pretty blue case at the Biltmore toy store? I bought a harmonica!
We've started a Kimmy-Mommy harmonica band. Kimmy took right to it. She made up a song and consistently plays it over and over. I know anyone can pick up a harmonica and blow into it, but it's actually a tricky little instrument (you can't see where you're blowing and have to rely on muscle memory) that makes replicating a tune pretty hard unless you have a good feel for which of the 10 holes is which note. She's a natural.
After a very long and exhausting day and lots of evening playing, Kimmy got to sleep in Mommy's bed. We slept 10+ hours and woke up feeling wonderful.
I have actually not seen Kimmy so calm or happy in the morning in quite some time. I know the sleep had a lot to do with it, but I also think I was a better mother to her last night than I sometimes am.
It's so easy to get caught up in all the trillion things I need to do in a day that by the time I make it home after work, there's very little of me left to give. My daughter, as my only other household member, takes the brunt of that and sees the worst of me more than anyone, simply because she is there to witness it. It's one of many unfairnesses of single parenting: my child needs me most, but circumstance dictates that I have to be spread out thinly elsewhere before I can get back to her.
So, I want to be better for her. She deserves to see the best of me more than anyone in my life. She is my constant. Friends and dudes may come and go in the years to come, but I will always have my Kimmy. She deserves to always have me, too.
Monday, July 11, 2016
"What, specifically?" you ask. Well, lucky for you, I give you my bucket list:
All 50 states
Especially Alaska and Hawaii
Entire Pacific coast, especially Seattle
All the national parks I can possibly visit in one lifetime
Especially Yosemite and Yellowstone
Anywhere in Maine
Europe: Greece, France (again), Germany (again), Austria (again), Italy, Turkey, Russia, Iceland
Asia: Cambodia (again), India, China, Thailand, Japan, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam
Africa/Middle East: South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Israel
South America: Brazil, Chile, Peru
North America/Central America/Caribbean: Canada (BC), Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba
Anywhere else I ever have the opportunity to go
Prairie dog observation with Kimmy at Devil's Tower in Wyoming
Stay at Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya
Walk the entire Appalachian Trail (not necessarily in one stretch)
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Concert at Red Rocks
Kiss in the rain
Biltmore Estate tour (happening in less than 2 weeks!)
Run a 5K
Get a really fancy haircut
Impact another human life in a significantly profound way (because I have to throw in a super abstract one)
Buy another painting at Montmartre
Play slots at a casino
Re-learn German and eventually become fluent
Witness a child being born (not my own)
Every tropical fruit I've never tried
Tons of varieties of pasta (preferrably in Italy)
To be continued...
Sunday, July 10, 2016
My generation has severe Disney-movie syndrome.
There, I said it.
We want whirlwind romance, love that sweeps us off our feet, a soulmate, a perfect match, and effortless, everlasting bliss.
But that's not love, and that's not real.
Yet what do we do? (Girls especially.) We flail. We chase. We think that if we shine brightly enough and grab all the attention and be enough, that the perfect guy will notice us and not be able to get enough.
I'm so done with that! It's exhausting. If a man can't notice me dancing beautifully over here all by myself and simply being me, he's not the man for me.
I'm a catch, and the right man will know it. He'll be magnetized by my personality. I'll make him laugh so much. All my exuberance and over-the-top emotions and spontaneity will be right up his alley. I won't talk too much or feel too much or think too much: I'll be fine just as I am without censoring that. My depth will not intimidate him. I'll be the keeper of his secrets, fears, hopes, dreams, and every silly thought-in-passing because he'll know I'm a good listener and someone he can trust. He'll slow me down and balance me out and smooth my rough edges. We'll put in work in our love because it won't be the "happily ever after" of Disney films. It will be raw, fluid, real.
But I can't will it into existence by hooking any and every guy who could be good for me. It's so much better to be just me and not waste all that energy searching. And if that good guy doesn't exist, I won't cease being a catch. I'll be over here doing my own thing and enjoying life regardless.
Life is too, too good to waste day after day chasing after boys--or, worse, waiting to do all the things you would love to do for hope of the day that you could possibly, hypothetically have a man to do them with. Yeah, being single gets lonely, but it's so not worth it to replace that lonely with just anyone. I'd rather fill it up with all the books I've ever wanted to read. All the words I've ever wanted to pen. All the places I've ever wanted to go. All the friends I've never spent enough time with. If I'm gonna spend time chasing anything, it will be my daughter, my goals, my dreams, sunrises and sunsets, and every adventure that pops into my head.
How about more Disney princesses who are truly happy being authentically themselves, single or not? I'd love to see a generation of girls grow up with Disney heroines like that.
We're all catches, ladies. Don't ever settle.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
For those who don't know, my older sister Kim died in a terrible car accident in 2004.
It was movie-worthy--a real-life horror/drama. My parents were out of town in San Francisco, and it was the first time they had ever left us home alone. Kevin was at our grandma Gugs's house. It happened in the middle of the night. No one knew whether to wake Kevin or not. No one knew how to breathe or think or talk. Kim's boyfriend survived and probably faces mental trauma I can't even fathom. It was a nightmare. An actual nightmare, except we were all awake and alive and forced to live through it.
It shocked us all. It rocked all of our worlds. It shook up our whole small town.
High school turned into living hell for me. Fake people stuck out like sore thumbs. Pity was on everyone's faces constantly. People walked on eggshells around me at all times.
Home turned into an empty shell with 4 human souls doing all they could day in and day out just to survive in the huge void left in Kim's absence. We didn't talk. There was absolutely no laughter. "Home" really ceased to exist, as a structure at least. Everything became upended and meaningless.
Writing was my only escape. Plucking the words from my mind and putting them to paper was my lone distraction, my one place of solitude in the midst of all that had crumbled around me. Being able to write about Kim's death is the only thing that helped me trudge through my emotions those first few years and make sense of the most nonsensical event of all time.
It took me years and years to be okay. I missed dozens (at least 3 of them) of days of school my senior year of high school, simply because I was too emotionally exhausted to pry myself out of bed those days. I have absolutely no clue how I maintained my perfect GPA through school because everything I "learned" is a blur. The Board of Education threatened me with truancy, and I wrote an essay rebuttal telling them to suck it because my survival was more important than school. No exaggeration: I was literally just trying to survive day to day. There was no concept or fact or theorem in school that held any actual, tangible meaning in my life next to the earth-shattering trauma of losing my best friend in a single instant of time.
Moving away to college helped me heal even more, but it also opened new wounds. No one in college knew my sister. There was such discomfort in that reality. When new friends asked me how many siblings I had, my new answer became: "I have 2 older half-siblings, Rachel and Cody, and a younger brother, Kevin." I could never seem to force Kim's name to roll off my tongue in that answer. Instead, I replaced her name with a lump in my throat and choked-back tears and self-loathing for undermining her memory.
I didn't feel anyone was even deserving of knowing about Kim until around my junior year of college. I remember the night I finally opened up about her life and death with my closest group of guy friends and how relieved, terrified, and emotionally spent it made me feel to talk about her. I cried myself to sleep that night, both out of relief and deep, deep sadness.
The life event that healed me the most, though, would have to be my pregnancy with Kimmy and the way my world brightened with her in it. She filled up so many little rips and tears of my heart. She may never know the depth of the impact she had on me by simply existing, but I hope to always do my best to tell her and show her through everything I do in my journey of motherhood.
Kimmy is Kim made over in so many ways--more ways than I can even articulate. And not because I need her to be Kim made over, but because she just innately is so much like her. Her bravery. Curiosity. Kindness. The things that make her laugh. Facial expressions. Angelic singing voice. Zany sense of humor. Her old soul. She is my biggest blessing.
(Kimmy is also so very like my brother, especially these past 6 months or so. I am so happy she is helping me see all the ways I ever took Kevin for granted. In so many ways, Kim's death and the time we each spent grieving robbed us of years of time as brother and sister that we can never re-claim. But I think we are finally getting in a good space and making up for it. I am the luckiest sister to have my awesome brother. For all the times I never said it: I love you, Kuh-man. We're all we've got, and I don't mind it one bit.)
Overall, I'm pretty okay these days. I have found happiness and bliss. I live authentically. I find true joy in things many people would overlook time and time again. I still think of Kim all the time, but I only catch myself crying every now and then. Usually, I laugh and smile and consider it an honor to be the keeper of her memories. We have memories as sisters that no one else can ever touch, and she fills up places in my heart that no one can ever get into.
Kim was my very best friend in the entire world, and I know she would be so proud of me.
I miss her. I miss her cackley laugh, the way she made everything challenging seem easy and natural, the way our voices fit like puzzle pieces when we sang together, her very odd and hilarious sense of humor, her brave and adventurous spirit, her strange food pairings, her wit, her incredible depth and intelligence, the way she made me strive to be the best version of myself at all times, the wacky songs she was always making up, her terrible parking skills that she always needed me to help with, her inventive solutions to problems, her ability to empathize deeply with just about anyone, her amazing artistic talents, and just the way she saw the world.
I will never forget our adventures together, especially in Midelburg and camping and at the beach. I will never forget the way it felt to speak, many times without even uttering any words, to a person who never once doubted my integrity or character or abilities and who truly got me. I will never forget our sister slumber parties on Christmas Eve or taking shifts getting ready on school days and waking each other up when it was time to switch off in the bathroom. I will never forget laughing so hard that I felt I would never be able to stop, complete with coughing fits and pee and any other type of bodily function that sometimes follows laughter. I will never forget the elevation my heart floated up to when Kim and I sang together. I will never forget Seaweed & Starfish. I will never forget crying in front of someone who never made me feel ashamed. I will never forget "helping" her clean her room (AKA reading magazines for hours while she cleaned it herself). I will never forget spelling our names so fast it was nothing but a blur of sounds. I will never forget plucking our eyebrows together and making fun of each other when we messed up. I will never forget all the weird games we invented. I will never forget her stinky morning breath that smelled like pure death to me (though it was from her albuterol inhaler). I will never forget the 50 billion times she jumped out and scared me. I will never forget her twinkly brown eyes and sneaky smirk, always concealing some wild and wonderful plan for what's next. I will never forget the feeling of "home" with Kim in it.
Today would be Kim's 29th birthday. She died when she was 16. We're nearing the time when she will have been dead longer than she was alive.
But no one can ever, ever tell me that my sister's life was short or that it was meaningless or that she didn't exist or have purpose. Kim lived more fully in her 16 years than most people can live in 100, and that's a fact. There will never be another her. No one else will ever shape me like she has.
Thank you, Kim, for being the best sister and friend I could have ever hoped for. Thank you for loving me unconditionally and always having my back. Thank you for making me me.
I love you.
Friday, July 1, 2016
I spent years in a loveless, lifeless relationship, feeling underappreciated, unloved, unheard, unliked, and utterly alone. Sure, it started out great. Why else would I have stayed, right? But it morphed into something I hated, but blindly tolerated because it was one of the only "stable" things in my life at that point in time.
Most of 2013 consisted of me being unemployed and caring for an infant alone. I never slept, or I always slept--you could take your pick on any given day. My daughter was the only thing that made me truly happy. I watched a lot of TV. I sat through many "you may have depression if..." commercials that listed off symptom after symptom, most of which I had, but swiftly swept under the nearest rug.
Do you know how scary it is to lose your passion for basically every single thing you ever loved to do? Because I do. It leaves you in a constant state of questioning: Who am I, really? How did I become so uninteresting? Why don't I like doing things anymore? What am I going to do with this endless stretch of time in front of me? Why can't I feel anything? Nothing feels right, and nothing feels real. I'd rather feel everything than feel nothing. They're two completely different states of "raw," but I'd much rather be the bleeding kind of raw than the cauterized kind of raw.
If I had known how happy and free my life could become, I would have struck out on my own much sooner than I did.
Now, let's flip.
Do you know how amazing it is to re-discover old passions and completely new and different ones? It's mindblowingly awesome!
I love to cook. I love traveling. Music--I love music again! I joke. I talk on the phone. I laugh my ass off! I love to run (even if I'm terrible at it and really should call it jogging with some walking mixed in). I love nature: hiking, all types of birds and trees, thunderstorms, lightning bugs, twinkling stars, sitting by a campfire and just listening to everything out in the dark. I love to be by myself and just think. I love to be in a room full of people and observe their every move--it's stunning to watch people's eyes as they think and comprehend what's around them or what they're going through. I love trying new beer. I love gardening, even if I have no clue what I'm doing. I love, love, love art. I love to paint...watercolor or acrylic, canvas or paper. I'm even starting to sing again.
Healing is a pretty cool phenomenon.
I hope to never get stuck in unhappiness again and miss the beauty that's all around me. It's a good, good life.
Where in our culture did we become so backward and messed up that we are all conditioned to rely on others for our happiness, for our validation, for our self-worth?
Why are we not instead conditioned from childhood to be freely and fully ourselves and to only settle in with someone when he/she makes us feel wholey and completely okay being our true selves?
What is the actual purpose of comprimising who you innately are just to please another human being?
Why is one-on-one companionship the ultimate goal of society as a whole; is it not better to have a firm sense of self and a handful of the best friends you could ever hope to have?
What if fixing yourself first is the key to being companion-able in the first place?
What if you're single fo' life--are you happy with who you are as a person right here and now? Can you actually function on your own? Because you might be all you've got.
The older I get, the more comfortable I feel in my own skin. There is no feeling like it.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
There was another kid close to us, younger than Kimmy, who got her attention. While Kimmy observed the other kid, she got quiet. Some man or woman (honestly the details are a little foggy for me here, haha!) nearby saw the whole thing said something along the lines of, "Well, well, well...now you know what you need to keep her happy: another one!" Meaning another child. I just smiled and laughingly agreed while sharing "the look" with my grandma.
So let's break this down a little. Was this person trying to give me serious advice about my life or tell me that I needed ot go home and reproduce immediately to make my daughter behave better? No. Was this person trying to get into my personal business? No. It was an innocent remark. If anything, they were probably trying to relate to me as a fellow parent and say something pleasant that would help me realize that Kimmy's behavior was a little bad, but typical of a child her age and that they recognized me as her mom and wanted to say something to acknowledge that. It was definitely out of a place of friendliness being that we were in good ol' Tennessee, so I didn't think too far into it or take offense over the fact that, no, I'm not going to be poppin' out babies any time soon because I'm too busy being a mom and student and household manager all on my own for now. My main point with this backstory: it was an innocent remark that I didn't dwell on, but something that sparked a chain of thought within me.
Over the next several weeks, I caught myself thinking about my long-term goals a lot. Perhaps related to the this exchange, but more likely associated with the fact that I was taking midterms for b-school and had recently pinned down what my actual, real, live, solid career goals are. The future is looking really, really bright and stable! So, I've just been thinking about where I'll be and what I'll be doing in the future.
One lingering question has been "Will I have more children one day?"
For a while the answer was an unshakable, "YES! Of course I will. Why wouldn't I? I'll come across a man who treats me right one day, and we'll get married and have children. Plus, how could I be so selfish as to not give Kimmy a sibling?" While this may very well be the case, I can't and don't want to plan and bank on a future that I'm not in charge of. Who knows if I'll meet someone awesome one day? Who really cares? I'm happy right here and now. I don't need huge changes in my life to transform me to a happy state. While this scenario may enable me to still be happy, it doesn't define my ultimate happiness.
When I stumbled upon this stunning epiphany, a whole new possibility of thought opened up for me!
My answer transitioned into, "I would absolutely love to have more children one day and wouldn't be opposed to it, but I'm not forcing the issue. I have Kimmy, and she is everything I need."
Going even deeper into my non-need to have another child, there have been multiple pivotal events and circumstances around me and involving me recently that are pushing me toward other possibilities for my future:
1. Kimmy's going to be starting school in less than 2 years. This is huge. This means I won't need full-time childcare for her anymore. This means she'll be older and more self-sufficient: dressing herself, reading, writing, learning, forming her own thoughts and opinions, and becoming a big girl. This means we'll be out of the "baby" stage. My house can be cleaner. We can travel more. We can do more extra-curricular activities. Life will be just so much more flexible.
2. Babies are expensive, and not giving your child siblings does not make her "less than." Yes, Kimmy would love to have a sibling around full-time, but having vs. not having siblings doesn't set someone up for happiness or success in life. Only children also have extraordinarily fun childhoods and grow into extraordinarily awesome adults. Some of my very best friends are only children, and they missed out on nothing in their sibling-less upbringings. What's more, Kimmy now has a half-sibling. (And I didn't have to do a thing--ha!) I imagine Kimmy will grow to have a great relationship with her half-sibling, and I hope and pray that that is what happens. At the same time, how awesome will it be for Kimmy to get to come home to our house and have the quiet of her own home where she is the single child there? I think she's got it made whether or not that changes!
3. Back to a longer-term outcome of the more flexible life I speak of in #1 and the expensiveness factor of babies in #2, no further children gives me better projected financial health. Home ownership. Kimmy's college fund. Travel money. When I had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia and spend time with so many incredible and amazing girls who had been rescued from sex and labor trafficking, I was stricken with an overwhelming urge to help girls in need. Underpriviliged and at-risk girls, orphans, girls overcoming adversity, etc. There are so, so, so many children and young adults in this world who need someone to be there for them. If I'm focusing on adding to my own family or raising new infants I've birthed, I'm spending more time and money on me and my blood relatives. I'm not helping cure that spark in my heart that is so strong that I couldn't ever shake it if I tried. I have to do something else with my life. When Kimmy's older and can join me, even better. Maybe we'll even be a foster family or adoptive family one day. I don't know. But I know that I can show my love to children in so many other ways than just having more of my own.
[This has been a draft for a while as I've stewed and tried to think of more to add. I'm happy with this, though. In the words of the great Anne Lamott, "Perfectionism is the voice of the opressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft."]