Saturday, June 15, 2019

Here I am again

I've done a lot of living since I wrote last. There has been stress and tears, good and bad. Lots and lots of change. Death and birth (literal and figurative). Lots of adjustment. I was so crippled by anxiety and obligations that I never felt relaxed (or awake) enough to spill words onto a page for the last almost 2 years.

It's kind of shocking looking back on this last stretch of time and seeing the journey. My daughter is almost 7. I've gotten 2 promotions and (finally) 2 master's degrees. I've fallen deeper in love and gotten engaged and married to the love of my life. Our wedding was my dream wedding, complete with lots of family and all of my very best friends. I've met some big professional goals. My husband (!) and I went on an amazing Hawaiian honeymoon and made beautiful memories.

I know where I'm going, and I certainly know where I've been. The times I felt hopeless and overwhelmed seem so temporary in the rear view. The times I yearned for one single friend where I lived are just a memory. I feel like I have people now.

I also have time. A seemingly endless stretch of time. It's the greatest luxury of all. I'm done with school! I don't spend my work days dreading the million things I have to do in the evenings now. I don't spend my evenings agonizing over readings and exams and lectures and papers and notes. Instead, I stress over how I can possibly fill all the time.

So this morning, the first morning I've really been able to fully relax since the whirlwind of the last month (graduation, wedding, honeymoon, new job, etc.), I took myself on a coffee date and did some much-needed thinking. Here's what I thought:

"Self, what are we going to do all summer? What do we want life to be now that life can just be? What do we want to look back and see a whole lot more of the next time we're sitting in this seat?"

And here are all the things I came up with:
• Playing with Kimmy as much as she wants
• Reading: anything and everything
• Music: anything and everything
• Painting: watercolor journal, canvas
• Gardening: grab the weeds and get dirty
• Hiking on weekends
• Walking in the evenings
• One purposeful workout every week (can include gardening or hiking)
• Writing: journal, blog, poetry, letters to Kimmy
• Mindfulness: coffee/tea, one thought at a time
• Church: just go and be open
• Cooking: plan ahead, try new recipes
• Traveling as much as possible

I have lived on lists over the past few years: lists of times and dates and obligations in my planner, lists of tasks on post-it notes, lists of memory jogs and random groceries we're out of on my notes app. Lists have been the glue holding my brain together. So it's quite fitting that I make a list of what I envision for my life.

It's going to be a transition, maybe the biggest one ever. Less phone time and deleting some apps that have helped me suppress swirling thoughts and be mindless when I needed to. More purposeful time spent doing real things and tackling thoughts head-on. Time spent learning how to play with my daughter now that I really can spend time doing a lot of that. Maybe I'll even pull out my stack of cookbooks and post-it flags and go to town marking recipes to try.

All I can say for sure is that I'm going to give it my best shot and go after my best life. I've made it to a place where I can breathe, and I plan to breathe in every experience I can track down.

More later,
Kelsey Ann Pierce Gregory (!!!)

Friday, September 15, 2017


Back in July when Brice and I went to Colorado, his mom was telling me/us about how someone once asked her to describe each of her children with one word. I thought that was so cool, the idea of boiling down your child's entire massive personality and being into just one word. I've been continually trying to think of the word I would use for Kimmy ever since then, and it has truly taken me this long to decide what that word is.


Kimmy is brave.

In the days and weeks after little miss was born, I spent countless hours going over all the dreams I have for her in her life. How I want her to feel about herself, how I want her to be able to look back on her childhood, how I will love her and support her no matter who she turns out to become. One thing I wished deeply for her was to have a stress-free and care-free childhood.

Unfortunately, fate would have it that she didn't fully get either of those things to the extent that I hoped. Life in a single-parent home whisked her away to a reality of having to sense adult stress far too young. I remember shortly after we moved into our own house when she was 2 that feeling of insecurity she woke up with each morning and went to bed with each night. "Mommy, will we live here now, just Kimmy and Mommy?" "Who will come watch me tomorrow?" "Where will I be tomorrow?" "Do I have to go to my daddy's this weekend?" "Will you always come get me after I visit?" The fear of the unknown unsettled her. She didn't understand the back and forth between households for visitation.

But do you know what she did? Instead of losing her footing, instead of turning into a tantrum-throwing, behavioral and emotional hot mess, she took every piece of new information and just rolled with it. "Okay, I like Kimmy and Mommy's house." "I'm excited to see Brooke tomorrow." "I'll miss you, Momma. Can't wait til you pick me up."

She is like that with everything. Give her the answers to her questions of the unknown, and she intrinsically equips herself for the ride ahead.

When we're at a restaurant, and I challenge her to order for herself when the server asks me what she wants to eat, she rehearses with me and does it. That huge grin on her face afterward is amazing to see!

When she marched into kindergarten on the first day with not a tear in her eye, despite her nervous tummy that morning, and waved bye to me: brave as can be.

When a pipe burst in our townhouse this winter, and we had to pack a bag and stay in an apartment unit across the street for a week, not a complaint was uttered. She thought of it as a fun adventure.

When we go somewhere new or try something new, she stomps trepidation with curiosity.

Flexible and resilient are reactions, and she executes those reactions flawlessly. But brave is who she is. She doesn't choose to be that way; she just is.

Kimmy on superhero day at school

I love my brave little adventurer. It's still eerie to me that I no longer have a toddler, but I'm so excited to watch her grow into big-girl Kimmy Jarae.


P.S. She loves school, and it makes me so happy. I am a big ol' worrywart about these things, you know.

P.P.S. Thanks for the inspiration, Vicki!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

I'm not afraid of your life

This is sappy, but whatever. Move your little eyes someplace else if you don't wanna read it. Brice and I are in love, and I don't care who knows it.

I knew he was perfect for me almost instantly. We were just magnetized. People tell you you'll just know, and I guess they're right. I never believed in soulmates, true love, my knight in shining armor, any of it. But then there he was, and he was all of it in one very real, very amazing person. Finally, someone who can keep up with me and can handle my zest for life!

He continues to do and say wonderful things that both reaffirm my initial impression of him and deepen my admiration, just totally without even trying. He is 100% himself, and I appreciate 100% of who that is. I told him he makes me want to write, and here I am writing.

And so you know, I have his permission; I'm not goin' rogue here. Brice is a super private and modest person, and he would never brag about himself. I want all my friends and family to see just how great he is, though, especially since he hasn't gotten to meet any of y'all yet, so I'm gonna give you a little feel for how he treats me.

I can talk to him about anything, and he doesn't shy away from the tough stuff. Instead, he says things like this:

"I'm not afraid of your life, Kelsey. I will be there through every stressful thing, and we'll go through all of it together."

Those are swooning words. That hit me right in the feels. This is by far the most meaningful, powerful thing any person on this earth has ever said to me. "I accept all your baggage and chaos and your insane amount of stress," basically. I have a pretty strong fear of abandonment when the going gets rough,  I guess, because my life is full of little fires that I'm constantly putting out, and I'm often completely frazzled and overwhelmed.

But even more powerful than hearing those words is experiencing how it feels when Brice stands behind them and proves that he's there, steady and strong, willing to listen, willing to help me through it (even when I don't even know how to ask for or accept help). I don't know how he does it, but he doesn't even falter. I mean, have y'all met me? I talk a lot. But there he is...even through all the screenshots I send him of annoying conversations with toxic people and huge essay-length texts venting about everything on my mind. I send a lot of texts (our count is 1,615 of them since August 4th when this month's phone bill started over). Nope, doesn't even phase him.

He just accepts me and all that I come with.

I've been missing him big time since Colorado last month, and he and Kimmy both talk to me about how they're itching to meet each other. So I decided Kimmy and I needed a little weekend getaway to San Antonio to make this happen!

"Kimmy and I are coming to visit you in Texas later this month, Brice!"
"I'm so excited! Does she need a car seat while she's here?"

Yep, his first thought once we locked down plans was my daughter's safety...whether Kimmy would be safe in the car while we're there and what he could do to make sure she was.

He also bought her a birthday present. He also talks to her on video chat and texts emojis with her and sends her silly snaps and includes her in all our conversations about what the future looks like. He also makes me laugh and calms me down and calls me beautiful and talks nerdy to me (hah!). He is a good, good man. He makes my heart happy. I am so thankful I found him.

To be continued.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017


Yesterday was my Kimmy Jarae's 5th birthday. She's 5! I really can't believe it. I am shocked that my little toddler got replaced by a big kid.

She had school yesterday (her 3rd day of kindergarten), but I still tried to make her day as special as I could. She got to wear her new My Little Pony (current obsession) shirt with Rainbow Dash on it. I gave her Starbursts for breakfast (well, pre-breakfast, since we're cashing in on the $1.10 breakfasts at school). I sent cupcakes and flowers and a balloon to her school (judge me all you want, but my child is not spoiled by material things. So I went all out for her birthday). After school, we ran to the grocery store and then came home to make dinner together.

We made gumbo. Kimmy's been begging to try gumbo for months. She loves okra, and when she learned that it's a key ingredient in Tiana's dish in Princess and the Frog, she latched onto the idea of making it for dinner sometime. We got tons of fresh veggies from the farmers' market this weekend, including the okra mother lode, so we were all set for gumbo cookin'. I thought her birthday was the perfect occasion!

I love being a mom, and I know I'm a pretty good one. One thing I seriously struggle with, though, is active listening. I'm so exhausted in the evenings and overwhelmed with managing a routine, cleaning, getting everything ready for the next day, doing homework, keeping some semblance of a social life, and getting enough sleep, that I generally do a terrible job listening, being patient, sticking to one task at a time, and sitting down to spend relaxing time with my Kimmy-girl instead of bouncing around the house like a pinball. I catch myself saying, "Mmhmm. Oh, that's great," to many of the things Kimmy tells me (or tries to tell me) in the evenings. I have horrible mommy guilt over it, and I resent single parenting for making it my reality. I'm the only person Kimmy has to talk to, and I ruin it a lot by being so lacking in energy. I'm just spread so thin that there is no way I can hit the evening portion of our day with a full battery. I get really down about it.

So last night I put my phone down and spent some real quality time with my baby. We (mostly she) talked, and I listened. She took me by surprise several times throughout the evening! I was so astonished at how much she knows and has been learning lately. Even the way she forms sentences's like she's a grown-up trapped in that little girly-girl frame.

While we were prepping our veggies for cooking, I was dicing an onion. When I moved on to the garlic, Kimmy said, "I already know what that knife move is called, Mommy." I said, "Oh, you do? What?" "Mincing." I literally had no clue she knew that! She said she learned it from Princess and the Frog when Prince Naveen is mincing mushrooms. And then she helped me mince.

Next, she started munching on a green pepper--a favorite snack of my brother's when he was Kimmy's age. She said she loved it, and I told her she was awesome and brave to always try new foods.

The evening was interspersed with random friends and family members calling and sending messages to wish her a happy birthday like Nana and Papple and Nate and Brice, but we still got to talk to each other a lot. Probably my favorite part was when we were sitting at the bar together just digging into our bowls of gumbo when she finally opened up to me about how school was going. I've barely heard a peep about school since the first day, and it had me kind of worried.

We had a nice heart to heart about her class and teacher, her new best friend Averi who sits at the table next to her, how it takes time to learn new names and make new friends, how her school is pretty big compared to my grade school and how I think she's showing a lot of courage by not being intimidated by being around so many people. She told me her favorite part of school is that she's going to learn to read, and her least favorite part is not having nap time. (Cue the mommy guilt for her having to go to Latch-Key before and after school while her momma goes to work, which makes for 10-hour days.)

We finished up our evening with blackberries sprinkled with sugar, and I got my 5-year-old sidekick into bed only about a half hour late.

Kimmy's final thought before bed? "I have a question. What if we could swim in clouds?" She might be growing up quickly, but that mind of hers is still wild, innocent, free, and full of dreams. I love her so.

Parenting never feels better than when you're connected with your kiddo without distractions. My favorite ways to get there with Kimmy are camping, vacationing, and cooking. I need to make a point of it more often! But what would parenting be without lots of mini failures, right? I need grace. Lots and lots of grace. We've made it to age 5 with smiles on our faces, and we can make it much farther!

I love you, Kimmy Jarae-jee Jay-jee Jarae.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Let's talk about long-distance relationships

So I'm about a month into being "officially" in a relationship with the most wonderful man. He just happens to live 1,156 miles away from me, which comes with its fair share of speculation from some of the people in our lives. I don't know what their biggest fears/concerns are. Maybe that one of us has ulterior motives and is using the other or maybe that we're caught up in some artificial/lusty feelings or maybe that we're moving too fast or maybe that it's just not possible for us to overcome the distance and get to the same zip code long enough to be a long-term thing.

Well, I'm here to squash all that, so let's talk about long-distance relationships.

This year I have put myself out into the universe and entered the pool of eligible bachelorettes out on the dating field after several years of purposeful singleness and taking care of my daughter, myself, and the peace of our household. In that time, I have been on dates (or some version of that) with 8 dudes prior to Brice, and in the past couple years, I've talked to about quadruple that amount. (Side note: I have introduced Kimmy to like none of these guys, but I can't wait for her to meet Brice!)

My first point is this: there is no one like my boyfriend. No one. I've talked to enough dudes to know. Even the guys I've thought were the real deal turned out to either be duds (excuse the language, but this is colloquially known as being a fuckboy), a terribly incompatible match, on some whole other time-frame than me, or just terrified of commitment. Landing with these guys over and over again made me discover exactly what I want and deserve. So when that man materialized right in front of my eyes, you bet your ass I grabbed his hand and jumped!

Are we moving too fast? No. Honestly, I don't understand how anyone could think this. The distance forces us to crawl. We don't get to go out on dates every night or cuddle on the couch and watch movies together or hug or kiss or laugh together (sad face!) or anything that involves us being in the same proximity as each other. We spend a month at a time apart, book-ended by a long weekend spent together. So for all the spaces in-between, we spend our time talking...putting every single piece of information out on the table, getting to know every last thing about each other, and clinging onto each word. We memorize each other's minds, hearts, anxieties, fears, hopes, dreams, and goals. We text and talk on the phone and video chat and send silly snaps.

We talk about the tough stuff that many couples don't get to until much farther in their relationships: what ticks us off, what stresses us out, what we regret from our past, finances, credit scores, failures, our deepest insecurities, things we want to do and see but have maybe never felt supported enough to delve into. We take the time to learn how each other feels loved most, how to make the other one laugh, how to spot a bad day/mood and how to make it better. We make the best of what we have right here and now. There is no pressure, no tension. We're right on the same page. Our pace is perfect.

I say all this not because I feel like I need to justify my life choices to anyone, but to show that this is not a relationship I just randomly hopped into with no prior thought--and the same from his perspective. I have hoped and prayed for this man for years, and he's been looking for me for awhile, too. Please don't worry about us because we've got this!

Brice and I are serious about each other. This is real life. This is not a drill. This is not a game to us. Being together is not a band-aid fix for an issue in either of our lives. We are two grown, independent adults who are each individually and mutually choosing to be together. And I think I speak for both of us when I say that we definitely wouldn't put ourselves through the torture of being 6 states apart for a while if there wasn't something very real and very awesome between us. Yes, we met on the internet: a perfectly valid way of forming a human connection in the year 2017. The two of us knew our feelings were real long before we ever met in person, and meeting just solidified and deepened all that. And you want to know the best part? We have a plan to end the distance. Because when you love somebody, time and space do not matter. Love will win, and it will bring two hearts beating out of their chests for each other together.

For the most part, though, we've got a whole lot of supportive people in our corner. I think they really get us, and that support feels really, really good. (Thanks, y'all!)

But for any haters/doubters: even *if* we're both bat-shit crazy and our two very grounded selves both somehow have zero grip on reality and have imagined this whole love thing, whoop-de-freaking-do. That's for us to discover on our own, not to be told about by you.

We all have this one short life. And we're just two imperfect souls living ours the best way we know how.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fall for the guy

Fall for the guy who will do anything to get to you, who never forgets to text you back, who is genuinely excited to be in your life.

Fall for the guy who never lets a day go by without telling you you're beautiful.

Fall for the guy who listens without judgment.

Fall for the guy whose hugs feel like sunshine and rainbows.

Fall for the guy who loves his family and can't wait to meet yours too (including your daughter).

Fall for the guy who can stop time when he kisses you, who makes everything slow and easy when he's around.

Fall for the guy who acknowledges, loves, and respects your independence, but who speaks directly to your love language and steps right in and helps with the overwhelming stuff anyway (like cleaning your biggest pet peeve: gritty kitchen floors) without ever expecting anything in return.

Fall for the guy who calls you, even though he kind of hates talking on the phone.

Fall for the guy who never once makes you feel ashamed when you write him an entire novel of all the things that are on your mind.

Fall for the guy who will put all his fears in the back of his mind to chase happiness with you.

Fall for the guy who drives your accidentally drunk self home, hands you a glass of water, feeds you an amazing meal he's cooked, listens to your random conversation topics, tucks you in, and then kisses your forehead right before you fall asleep.

Fall for the guy who responds to, "Want to go on an adventure?" with "I'll go anywhere with you."

Fall for the guy who holds your hand every chance he gets.

Fall for the guy who looks at all your flaws dead-on and still chooses you anyway.

Fall for the guy who makes you laugh, who makes you try new things, who makes you settle more deeply into yourself with confidence.

Fall for the guy who's not embarrassed to show you off to his friends and who says sweet things no matter who's within earshot.

Fall for the guy who cooks and brings you a plate of dinner and sits with you as you spaz out over an accounting quiz for a few hours of your life.

Fall for the guy whose actions and words consistently tell you exactly where you stand.

Fall for the guy who is calm and steady in all the ways you are not, yet accepts you just the way you are.

When you find him, he'll be exactly what you deserve, exactly what you've waited for, exactly what people have pleaded with you to know has always existed in the vastness of humankind. He'll leave you standing in breathless wonderment trying to figure out how you ever thought anyone else measured up.

WAIT FOR HIM, LADIES. He is real, and he is somewhere looking for you too.

BG + KP <3

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Do things that scare you (single momma travel edition)

One of my proudest accomplishments to date was when I took my daughter to Disney World for her 3rd birthday, just me and her. Gobs of people tried to talk me out of it, friends and family alike. But it was something I felt like I just needed to do for us, and I'm so glad I listened to myself. I learned many, many things on that trip, the biggest of which was that I absolutely can handle taking my daughter somewhere all on my own, all while managing uncertainties and having a whole lot of fun! It was the pivotal experience of my single parenting journey, and it made me realize that I am more than capable.

That was in August 2015. Since then, I've made it a goal of mine to jump at any opportunity to travel with Kimmy. We've been camping together, to King's Island, to zoos, to Disney on Ice, to state parks, to Amish Country, and we just got back from Chicago last night. It's extremely scary and intimidating to take her on trips by myself, but I know the rewards are well worth the stress of overcoming that fear.

Are these trips easy? No. They strain our budget, they push my stress through the roof, and I have to consciously quell my endlessly nagging anxieties the whole time we're on a vacation. Like, seriously the entire time. A lot of little things make me a nervous wreck when I'm responsible for another human being: public transportation, crossing the street, airport security lines, whether or not my kid has peed and pooped recently, whether she's well hydrated, how much money is in my checking account at this exact moment in time, how much cash I have, where the nearest ATM is, whether there will be errors in any of our reservations, whether I have forgotten anything I need, etc., etc., etc. Last year on vacation, we were hit by an intoxicated driver and landed with a completely totaled car before we even made it to our hotel! So, yeah. Not easy at all. There is always some unforeseen circumstance a blink of the eye away that can throw a wrench in the most carefully laid plans.

Are these types of trips fun, though? Heckkkk yes! It feels SO GOOD to get one-on-one quality time with my mini me. It's the perfect opportunity for both of us to get an attitude adjustment, to reset our behaviors, to break out of our monotonous routines, to make new memories, to just get out of the house, and to talk about things heart to heart. I love our girl time, and I will chase these small getaways with her any chance I get.

This past vacation to Chicago, in particular, really helped us get grounded. We had a long year, month, and week leading up to this trip with tons of changes and long, tired days. Kimmy just finished up her school year on Friday, so we headed to the airport right after that. I was stressed about having just finished the end of my grad school term and probably not earning a letter grade that reflects the depth of what I actually took away from the class knowledge-wise. We just really needed to get away, and so we did!

I've found that the best trick to traveling with my daughter is not planning everything out. Of course, I made our lodging reservation and made sure all our transportation was planned out. But other than that, I only had 2 things planned going into this trip: a day at the zoo on day one and tickets to see Aladdin the musical on day two. That left us with a wide open schedule to be sure to have plenty of time to enjoy each other, instead of having all our time blocked off to do activity after activity for the sake of having a full itinerary. This also left room for Kimmy to make choices and feel like she had a say in what we were doing, not just be forced to do whatever I had planned for us. It really helped us be a team!

Also, we were mega broke this trip. But you know what? We had an absolute blast! Did we come home with a suitcase full of souvenirs? Nope. I actually can't think of a single souvenir we bought, unless you count the $1 balloon art flower we got on a street corner or our big bags of Garrett's popcorn. But we took lots of pictures and made a whole lot of memories! A tour guide during a trip to Europe in college once said, "Take pictures with your eyes and with your heart--those will be your best memories," and it's so true. I mean, I took pictures with my phone, too, but they just serve to reinforce all the things I saw and experienced. I don't look back and think, "Oh, I really love this one thing I bought in Europe." Instead, I think, "That Nuremberg Easter market was one of the neatest experiences of my life," "or that sunset view of Paris from the steps of Sacre-Coeur Basilica changed my life completely" or "the way my sisters in Cambodia hugged me still makes me feel warm inside." I value experiences so much more deeply than things, and I think Kimmy would tell you the same. She didn't even ask for anything in Chicago, except to show me some things she liked in the Disney Store that she would love it if she got for her birthday in August. She asked for a boat ride and a fresh-squeezed lemonade and to go splash in the water fountains in Millennium Park.

We walked about 28 miles over the long weekend, and little miss didn't complain a single time about being tired or hot. Not one time. How strong and grown up is she?! I was so proud! We ate free hostel breakfast and peanut butter sandwiches and hot dogs and cotton candy and ice cream and only one sit-down restaurant meal (deep dish pizza). We painted our nails and watched cartoons. We window shopped and played in the parks and got free Minions tattoos. We chased geese, had a picnic, rode a boat taxi, and walked down along the river and all along the Lakefront Trail. We gawked at the enormity of Buckingham Fountain--twice. We met friends at the zoo and made new friends at the Old Navy coloring table and at Millennium Park. We saw an amazing musical and had vending machine snacks for dinner afterwards because it was a Sunday, and I forgot everything would close early (oops). We went in shops just to ride the escalators. We got caught in a summer downpour and got so soaked we had to go in Walgreens to buy paper towels and dry ourselves off. We went to a museum we could get into for free with our WonderLab membership here. We talked and danced and soaked it all in. We even made up our own vacation theme song! It was an amazing trip.

So, anyway, my point is this...

ALL PARENTS EVERYWHERE (especially my fellow beautiful and amazing superhero single mommas who might lack the confidence to take the plunge or who might deal with an overabundance of unsolicited advice to the contrary from people who don't have a clue what it's like to walk in our shoes): GRAB YOUR KID(S) AND GO. Go anywhere. For a few days, for a week, overnight, doesn't matter. Pick a place and get in your car, on a plane, train, or boat. Just go. Go an hour away and stay in a hotel and watch TV, order pizza, and swim in the hotel pool. Get in the car and drive until you get to somewhere that seems like a good destination. Go a few towns over and spend the day there. Eat McDonald's or sandwiches or granola bars and apples for every meal if that's all you can afford. Stay on a friend's couch or an Airbnb or hostel. Go camping and sleep in a tent. Sleep in a rest area in your car for all I care--just go! Whatever you're scared of is minuscule in comparison to the lessons and memories you can find when you travel.

Lastly: if your fear is a person whispering in your ear that it's unsafe and foolish to travel with your child(ren), don't listen to them. Listen to you. Use your head and your street smarts. You know how to keep your kid safe. You know how your kid will react to any number of situations, which will help you choose where to take them. You know what you're capable of--and even if you don't, go somewhere anyway because you'll certainly find out. You'll never thrive under the dark cloud of pessimistic and paranoid advice. Go chase your sunshine!

More later.