Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pet Peeves

As a teacher, one thing I have discovered that has made my relationship with my students better and more productive is to tell them my pet peeves.  Each teacher (read: person) is so different, so best to let my kiddos know the things that drive me bonkers.  The students respond well and understand because they, too, have pet peeves of their own.

Recently, I read an article online or in a magazine (or God knows where) about taking care of ourselves the way we take care of our toddlers.  For example, I know if Ayla hasn't had a good nap, she's likely to have a meltdown.  For many of us, we have our own needs that must be met before we are worth two poops to anyone else.  Naps, a close watch on our blood sugar, a moment to unwind...whatever.

Here are some of my pet peeves...
1. People who type in all caps, in text lingo, or with words such as "dat, grl, whatvr, imna."  It just hurts my brain and pisses me off to be frank.  I know too many intelligent people who, through their typing, come across as though they have an IQ at least 20 points lower than average.
2. Babies improperly fastened in their car seats.  At this point, I realize that even though research states that rear facing babies are 500% safer in a car, people are going to do what they are going to do.  At least make sure your child's chest clip is in the right place, that the straps on their harness are not twisted, and that they straps are pulled so snugly that you cannot pinch any excess belt between your fingers.  Otherwise, I figure people might as well just start driving with their babies in their laps...
3. People who don't know when to stop with a joke.  I think it is great to be able to laugh at one's self, but when a person has had enough of being the butt of a joke, let it go.
4. Most drivers.  I am so sick of being cut off by assholes that are in such a rush to beat me to the red light 100 yards away.  You know what buddy, go for it.  But when I'm in the slow lane and you cut me off-you're going to get a big thumbs up from me for being SO AWESOME.  I also love people who don't use their turn signals and drive with wildly dangerous, unsecured loads in the back of their trucks.  Don't even get me started on trucks.  Just because you have testicles hanging from your hitch and wheels the size of my SUV doesn't mean you're cool.  In fact, I know that you're most likely a tool with a lack of brains and common courtesy.
5. People who touch your pregnant belly and/or infant.  And while I'm at it, how about people who ask you how you're feeling when you're pregnant.  Don't reply with a simple "Tired" because their voice will mimic Darth Vader as they reply, "You think you're tired now?  JUST YOU WAIT!" as if you've offended them by getting pregnant and admitting being tired even though you have a tiny human sucking everything in your body from your memory to your lunch to your bladder function!
6. People who are constantly trying to one up those around them.  For some people, they have to know everything, be best friends with everyone, and have the best of everything.  Whatever.

Things I need to function properly...
1. Sleep.  I need either a very good night's sleep (7-8 hours ideally) or I need a power nap to make it through the day without biting someone's face off.
2. Chapstick.  If my lips are dry, I can't focus on anything else.
3. Clean feet.  I can be in desperate need of a shower, but if my feet are clean, I feel 100 times better.  Nothing worse than dirty feet!
4. Affection.  Once I read that in order to maintain optimal health, people need on average a total of 8 hugs a day.  People who know me know I'm a hugger, perhaps for the aforementioned reason.
5. Positivity.  For the upcoming year, I hope to surround myself with positive people.  Now, I don't mean people who are constantly spewing sunshine and pooping rainbows.  I just mean that I'd prefer to be surrounded by people who don't "woe is me" and make excuses for everything in their life.  I want to be inspired the people around me to take action, be better, claim my happiness and make changes where they need to be made.

Give the people in your life a break-tell them what you need and what your pet peeves are.  Treat yourself with the care and sensitivity you would a temperamental two-year old.  Thank me later.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sharing Our Babies & Mama's Little Love Bird

This afternoon, Ayla and I met up with our good friends Amanda, Ivan, and Ezra.  The really cool thing about Ezra is that he's just a couple weeks younger than Ayla.  I still remember the day I got a Facebook IM from Amanda telling me that she was also pregnant and also due in June (my due date was June 2).  Amanda and I met through a mutual friend, Brandy, whom I worked with at Starbucks.   Our friendship blossomed as we attended a church group called Immersed together.  I always thought she was pretty awesome, and even though she's younger than me, I always looked up to her in many ways.

As life and time would have it, we eventually grew apart.  She moved up North with her husband, as he pursued further education.  Well, I guess God works in funny ways for both of us to end up pregnant at the same time.  Of course, her pregnancy was planned and mine wasn't, but there was no mistake.  These babies were the perfect gift for each of our little families.  

Throughout my pregnancy, Amanda would send me sweet text messages and facebook messages, encouraging me and requesting preggo pics.  Being encouraged during my pregnancy meant more than she could've known.  I had a hard time during my pregnancy for a number of reasons, and I only really confided in my mom, my sister, my best friend Ette, and Brandon, along with a counselor to whom I'm quite grateful for.

Before I knew it, Ayla Day was upon us.  Amanda cheered me on the whole way, and after I had Ayla she sent me sweet messages of encouragement and compliments on my beautiful baby (as did all of my amazing friends and family).  Then, I stalked her Facebook to wait for the arrival of her little guy.  We decided since our kiddos couldn't play dress up and Barbie together, we'd just have to arrange a marriage early.  I was so excited to see she'd had a healthy baby boy, the perfect unexpected combination of her and her husband.  With bated breath, I waited to see what they'd decide on for a name, and when they chose Ezra, I was so happy for them.  I had a feeling about that name, and I myself even really liked it for boys (boy names=nightmare...another day, another blog).

Ayla and Ezra met at quite a young age over the summer of 2009, then they visited again around Thanksgiving time. Throughout Ayla's growing and aging, Amanda would never forget Ayla's "monthaversaries" as she so aptly coined them.  Like clockwork, I'd get a text saying, "Wow, time flies!  Happy ___ monthaversary" or something equally sweet.  I can't quite keep up with it as well as she can, but I sure try to,

We were super excited to have some play dates with Amanda and Ezra while they were here over the summer for an internship Ivan had the chance to do.  It was so neat watching the babies turn one-to be a part of each other's little bitty's day.

Now, here we are and the babies are 19-months and near 19-months.  We had a blast at B&N chasing the babies (note to self: weight loss plan involves chasing toddler through public places, phew!), having the babies chase each other, and trying to fit in conversation in between all the running.  I was so excited to hear Ezra tell me all his fun new words like 'big truck' and all the names of his friends at 'kool (school).  I feel like even though they are far away, I get to share a little piece of his growing up because we're going through it together.  I'm very thankful for a friendship that once faded away to be brought back together.

Speaking of sweet babies, my little daughter just gets funnier and sassier by the day, I swear!  On Christmas, her favorite thing to say was, "Hep me!" to get us to assist in expediting the unwrapping process.  She's currently enjoying pushing her baby around in the stroller her Oma got her alternating with trying to hunt down the packing peanuts that she takes joy in smashing into tiny bits, which we frantically clean up so Oscar the vomiting dog doesn't get to them.  She does this sweet little "Aww" noise when she hugs you; of course, a lot of the time she says "No!" and just runs away, waiting to be chased.  She says "sick" because she was sick last week, and she really enjoyed the amoxicillian that fixed her right up.  A bit on the dramatic side, she sometimes says, "Ow.  Boo boo," while pointing to her finger or another random spot.  Her temper tantrums are full-blown, with her falling to the ground, which I must say usually cracks me up.  We have a lot of talks about what is nice and not nice, and she's learned a lot about saying "Sorry" when she does something in the not nice category.  Sometimes, she picks up a purse or bag, puts it over her shoulder, comes and gives me a kiss, and says, "Bye!" like she's big and grown and ready for the big, bad world out there.  In addition to knowing how old she is and the city she lives, she knows the name of her Ti-Ti ("Leck" for Lexi) and Oma ("Daby" for Gaby) and gpa ("Tom" for, well, Tom).  She knows Mama's name and Papa's name, and sometimes she remembers Nana's name, but sometimes she just calls Nana "Mo Mo" (Nana's dog's name, Molly) because Jennifer is a hard one!

Tonight, I went to check in on her and make sure her blanket wasn't over her head, which she likes to do often to make me panic, even to this day.  No blanket on the head, but sure enough, she'd peeled her socks off.  It's been FREEZING here!  I picked her up and sat down in the rocker to put the socks back on.  She layed her head down on me, and she just snoozed so sweetly and softly.  It isn't often that I get to just snuggle up to her without her quickly taking off to go explore and destroy.  When I put her in her crib, she looked at me, fighting to keep her eyes open, like she just wanted to see her Mama.  When Oscar knocked down the baby gate, she started crying, "Mama, Mama," but I soothed her tears right away, as she started to fall back asleep with a tear in the corner of her eye.  I had to wipe it away because I hate to see her cry out of fright or pain.  

It makes me feel so special, so important to be her mom.  That feeling must be what keeps all us hard-working moms going, even when the "me" time and sleep time is slim to none.  That sweet look in my daughter's eyes when she is so tired, but she loves me so much she just wants to look in my eyes to tell me all the things she doesn't know how to say yet.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Vulnerability/Dirty laundry pt. 2

I was recently looking at my blog stats, and to this day Dirty Laundry remains my most popular blog post.  I was wondering what about it made it so interesting to readers.  I finally decided it must be that I was willing to put it out there-the gritty, ugly truth.  Like most people, I like to keep those kind of unspeakable things to myself, but I don't know what purpose it serves except for upholding an image-who or what people think I am.  People should care about me, flaws, catastrophic mistakes, and all.  The struggles I've faced and the errors I've made only make me human, no more or no less than who I really am. More often than not, I think that we don't like admitting our own misguided choices because we still don't forgive ourselves for them.  We say we've moved on, but I think many of us carry those things around with us.  Perhaps by airing our dirty laundry, we can move on.

All of these mistakes are years and years and years past, but I still have trouble letting go and forgiving myself, even though some of the people closest to me already have.

In my life, I have been involved with people who were not available.  Some were emotionally unavailable, while others were making their own misguided choices.  Although I have never cheated on someone I was in a relationship with, I've been on the other side.  There is no excuse for such a choice, but it is one I made more than once.  I made it out of wanting to be loved, out of wanting to be validated, and it caused me a lot of turmoil and grief.  I've many times had the feeling that my payback will come.  It has caused me to struggle with trusting others to be faithful, which perhaps is my payback for my poor decisions.  I wish that I could've written a letter to myself in the past from my own future.  Maybe I would have made the same mistakes anyway and missed some valuable lessons, after all do we take the advice of those around us who have made mistakes they want us to avoid?

Another mistake I have made that haunts me is the anger and bitterness and hatefulness I dished out to the people I love the most.   From age 12-19, I struggled the most with my RSD.  It completely transformed me.  I suffered so greatly, and I felt like no one really understood me.  One Christmas, I could not move.  I couldn't open presents, hell, I couldn't even open my eyes.  I actually remember crying out, begging God to take me home.  I didn't think I could survive the pain of that day to see the dawn of another.  Many times, I lashed out at my family: my mom, my sister-10 years my junior, my brother, and my dad.  Mostly, my mom and my sister.  The worst part of that is that they were the ones that were by my side the most.  My mom spent sleepless nights telling me stories of my childhood to distract my mind from the pain.  And I'll never forget that my (then) 3 year old sister held my hand as I prepared for an onslaught of painful nerve blocks (injections in the spine/back muscles), she looked at me and said, "You can squeeze as hard as you want."  The amazing thing is that I got my life back, and even though I still have my bitchy moments, I have an awesome and close relationship with both my mom and my brilliant little 16-year-old sister.  

There are a few people in my life who know everything about me, good and bad.  They still love me.  I am glad they've given me such forgiveness and grace.  So I guess I put these things out there for the world to see because I know that everyone has those mistakes, big and small.  I know that the people who matter will still love me, and the ones that don't really matter will weed themselves out by disowning me or writing me off because they are perfect and equipped to judge me and look down on me, even though I am not the sum of my mistakes.  I'm a new woman today, and I strive to be better each day of my life.  Perhaps perfection isn't the point.  Maybe it is the striving to be the best and kindest version of ourselves.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Giving liberates the soul of the giver." -Maya Angelou

Yesterday, as I was headed to the veterinarian with my diarrhea-vomiting dog, I was talking with my mom on the phone.  She proceeded to tell me that her good friend Z (not her real name) had called in tears, telling my mom that she had lost her brother earlier that morning.  He had just come to visit with her earlier in the month.  He suffered a heart attack, but he came out of the surgery and appeared to be making a recovery.  Then, he coded and died.

My mom has often told me about the strength, guts, and kindness that Z has had throughout her life, even through the hardest of times.  I've actually met Z and her daughter, and they are just the loveliest people.  Sadly, Z lost her job (where my mom used to work with her) earlier this year.  She didn't deserve to lose her job-she got laid off not based on her work or years in the company.  She lost her job because she (much like myself) stands up and says something when she sees that things are not going the way they should.  A whistle blower.  

I got to thinking about the whole situation, and it made me think of The Bloggess who wrote recently about a chain of generosity that stemmed from a generosity of her own.  She gave away 20 gift cards to people who commented on her blog with an explanation of why this year they are not able to provide gifts for Christmas for their families.  Everyone was so touched, that people started donating their own money to help commenter #21, #35, and so on.  (I highly recommend you read the full story).

My friends are very kind, generous, lovely, warm, and overall amazing individuals.  So I thought, "Why don't I put Z's story out there and see if anyone can give."  Sure enough, I started getting responses.  Christmas and the holiday season is a very stressful and tight time for many families, so I am amazed to say that the people in my life (and people that know them) have contributed $120...and that's just the cash in my hands, not including the cash people have "pledged" so to speak that I am still working on getting from them. 

How incredible!  I absolutely love that people who don't know Z (and probably never will even meet her) were able to give so generously from their hearts.  People empathize with her situation, can put themselves in it, and can be grateful for their own ability to give-even if only a 'meager' $5-$10.  Let me tell you, it adds up.  Every little bit counts.

There are few things in my life that bring me the joy and satisfaction that I get out of helping people, standing up for people, and giving in any way I can.  If I ever became wealthy, my joy would be in giving most of that fortune away.  But that isn't likely, but that won't stop me from giving all that I can.  My time, my ear, my money, my possessions.

A local school was recently collecting items for their students for the holidays.  One student was requesting hygiene products.  You know me with my couponing, I got a couple of everything from razors to shampoo to toothpaste together and made sure it got to the school.  How it broke my heart to find out that the recipient of this gift is actually homeless...I gave a good amount, but I would have emptied my stash of products if I'd known the extent of this youngster's struggle.  And that's all they asked for...just the bare necessities that most of us take soooooooooooooooooooooooo for granted.  

People can be mean, nasty, cruel, and hateful.  I believe that most people are really good though.  I think we could all stand to hear more good news.  My family and friends have benefited from the kindness of strangers, and I know we're not the only ones. Those little, seemingly insignificant acts of generosity...they save people.  They take people from the brink of despair and utter hopelessness, and they save them.  The brilliant thing is that I think by giving, it saves us just as much, if not more.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


A determination.  Although resolution is described as a noun, I find it to be more of a verb because no matter what you resolve to do, the first step is taking action.

I resolve to do many things throughout the year, however I am not among the many who are against new year's resolutions.  In fact, I like the chance to reflect and plan ahead.  I am a to-do list maker.

For 2011, I resolve...
1. To adopt a livable eating and exercise habit.  I had one in my old life, the one before I was a mom and a full-time teacher, and now it is time for find a new one.
2. Begin serving my purpose.  I have many passions and talents, and I'd like my life to use those talents including the kind of work I do.  I know I am not fulfilling my purpose.  I really enjoy teaching, but I know it isn't my final destination.  I need to live a passionate life.
3. Declutter.  Get rid of the mess and muss and stick to the basics.  I am well on my way with my decluttering measures I've begun implementing.
4. Read more books for pleasure.  The TV has taken over, but until lately, I forgot how much pleasure I get out of reading books (esp in a series) that I can't put down.
5. Enjoy Ayla's remaining baby-hood...she's growing so fast, and I just want to savor the moments, document them through writing and photographs, and truly enjoy the little person she is.
6. Family nights.  I want to spend more time having our families come together-Brandon's and mine-because we always enjoy each other so shouldn't be limited to certain occasions such as bdays and holidays.
7. Grow my friendships, old and new.
8. Walk my dogs more (because they get very little or no walking, as shameful as it is to admit...)
9. Complete some of my many unfinished projects.
10. Get married and get that order!

Merry Christmas to all...and start thinking about those resolutions, for those of you who find meaning in resolving like I do.  Please share in a comment below!  


Monday, December 20, 2010

Stuff, things, junk.

I have too much stuff.  My house has stuff here, there, everywhere.  I want to take all of it and put it in a garbage bag and call it a day.  My new couch is piled with stuff, our end tables, our entertainment shelving unit.  The totes full of Christmas stuff are piled high.  Our eckbunk (German corner table/bench) is covered in crap half the time.  Mail-bills and junk.  Clothes-clean and dirty.  Shoes, toys, work stuff.  Dust bunnies.  It is seriously driving me crazy.

When we bought this house, I thought of all the room we'd have.  Our office is bursting at the seams with boxes from Brandon's past and some things from mine as well.  Thank God for my mom who hasn't thrown all my stuff away in my old bedroom at home.  I don't know where I can put it!

My closet is a graveyard for clothes I'll never wear again due to size or fashion issues. Pregnancy has rendered my shoe collection useless, now a half size too small.

We have a sandpit of a backyard, which I wish we could afford to replace and install a sprinkler system to keep lush and green for our baby to play in.  

Our fence is being replaced a slat at a time, as soon as the dogs destroy one or weather warps yet another piece.

Our kitchen floor is a lovely terrazzo, which we can't find anyone who can clean up and make look lovely, so it needs to be covered.  I simply can't stand looking at it anymore-so unfinished and ugly.

I am grateful to have the things we need--and want, and I am going to be even happier when I rid the house of many of the things that we don't need!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things we don't talk about: religion.

Ayla Marley has started showing me how she folds her hands so sweetly and says "amen."  Her Aunt Danni (who watches her) says a blessing over the food before the kiddos eat.  It is so sweet, so precious, so wonderful to see her do that.

I feel like I let her down.  Isn't a mother supposed to teach her daughter how to pray?

Religion.  Faith.  God.

I grew up talking about God and having faith.  I went through changes and doubts in my faith, especially when I got sick.  I studied different religions in college.  My own faith/religion/etc. has changed so much over the years.  At times, I've been very conservative and close-minded to very liberal and reckless.  The pendulum has swung both ways-to each extreme and in the middle at times.

Now, I'm not sure what I can say about my faith.  I believe in God, and I believe Jesus is our savior.  However, I have so many questions.  I find myself having a lot of problems with religion.

During the time period when I was regularly attending a local church (that shall remain nameless), much of the preaching and teaching was very anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-flawed humans.  Rather than being filled with love and excitement, I was thinking and behaving in such a judgmental manner.  So often, we hear that we are not meant to judge others, yet here it was happening in front of my eyes.  I suppose this kind of thinking and believing is considered "righteous judgment" or "by the book," but I do not believe that God wants me to judge the lives of others.  I do not feel that gay people are living with their backs turned to God and constantly indulging in sin that is worse than most adults who indulge in premarital sex.  I do not feel that someone who has an abortion is a murderer who should be shamed.  It hurt me so much to be a part of all of that, so I had to walk away.  It was literally poisoning my spirit.  It was hurting me more than it was helping me.  

Then comes the issue of being "equally yolked" in a relationship.  Brandon and I do not share the same viewpoints, but we both have faith of our own and have journeyed through this faith throughout our lives.  Does the fact that we have different perspectives mean that we aren't meant to be together?  That we are somehow doomed to fail?  I've worried because, again, in the back of my mind there is the voice of Pastor Judgey and every other religious leader like him/her in the back of my mind. Brandon said to me that it is just like people that think that because he's black [mixed] and I'm white we are doomed to fail-that we are too different.  Do people have to be at the same point on the same path in two very different spiritual journeys to have a happy marriage?

We have no conflict in how we plan to raise Ayla.  We respect each others' wishes and have common goals for how we want her to grow up.  I think the biggest disagreement we've had about her is when we should get her ears pierced (I'm ready, but her daddy says she's 'perfect the way she is').

I know there is something missing right now.  I think that it is comfort in living my life and believing in the way my heart says, rather than the way I'm being told to.  That feeling is horrible, and it has distanced me from God at times.  Every church I've been to has had very nice people, but the facades and people portraying a perfect unbroken life do not strengthen me.  I think that people being honest in their struggles and brokenness helps people grow more so than an image of perfect that we are far from.  I can't be a part of something where I feel like being anything other than the genuine me is desired.  I do the best I can.  I love people, but I also hurt the people I love.  I make lose my temper; I flip people off when I'm driving and they act like a jackass.  I need me, who I am right now and who I want to be, along with the people I love (whether they are gay, have had abortions, or are lost on their own journeys) to be accepted and welcomed.  Because me, who I am, and the people I love, who they are-God loves us no matter what people decide God feels for us.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"So Sally can wait..."

Oh my goodness, I love Pandora.  I've been listening to it each evening on my laptop whilst I check Facebook, e-mail, and various whatnots.  I put in the title of the song "Bad Day" (the Fuel version, not the Powter guy), and every song that comes on is full of nostalgia and emotion for me.  Love it!

Originally I was going to title this blog something entirely different, and now I can't even remember what it was except that it was entirely negative, not because I'm feeling entirely negative, but because of the content I had in mind for tonight's blog.

Over the weekend, I tried on wedding dresses for the 2nd time, and even though it started as a total failure, fate had a hand in things.  Just as we were getting ready to go to IKEA for surely some shopping success, a girl came in and tried on a dress that I've been eyeing via internet for some time now.  Of course, my mom told me I must try it on, and I took the timing of it all to be my sign to actually give it a go, even though it was not more cost effective, despite my hoping.  Perfect.  The one.  You just know and all that yadda yadda.

Many of my wonderful friends have taken the time lately to tell me how beautiful I am "inside and out."  Isn't that code for "you're ugly but really nice"?  Playing...  But that is how I often take it, and that leads to the question.

Why do we (women, men, humans) have such a poor sense of self-worth?

Introspection can often be a strength of mine, which at times is an asset and other times just overwhelming.  I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about my utter distaste for my appearance, and I've gone down many avenues and drawn many conclusions.

As a 10-year-old pre-adolescent, my strawberry blonde hair was all the way down to my behind.  It was lighter than it is now, perhaps due to a combination of youth and sunshine?  For some reason, I was always a ready target for the 'mean girls' at my school.  No matter how hard I tried or how tirelessly my mom worked on finding me stylish-read: name brand-clothes by hunting garage sales and store sales, the girls still gave me hell about how I looked.  My hair was an especially easy target.  They called me "hippie" and "carrot-top."  My snarky reply to the carrot-top comment is that the top of a carrot is actually green (think about a carrot fresh out of the ground).  I was too short.  I was too smart.  I wasn't good enough by the standards set by the social hierarchy.  When I was in 5th grade, the queen bee of the school basically had a group of her friends call me to threaten to beat me up for no reason.  Because I was a goodie-goodie, I took it to heart when kids called me "Damn-ber."  Associating my name with a cuss word was awful as a little girl around 6 or 7 years old.  

I'll never forget when I decided to chop all my hair off over Christmas break the winter approaching my 11th birthday.  I loved the change, but when I returned to school everyone asked why I would cut my hair.  Don't get me wrong, I cut it for me, but all I could think is what happened to the tormenting comments over my hair length?

Middle school was of course full of hormones and confusion, and then came the whole ordeal of my injury which led to me having RSD.  What a f-cked up mess that was.  

Fast-forward to high school.  I was either too skinny from being sick from the injections I had to give myself for pain control or I was too fat from my body's reaction to the many steroid infused nerve blocks I had to get in order to survive.  Literally, I counted on those nerve blocks to give me enough solace to function long enough to keep my muscles from totally atrophying or enough relief from the pain to keep me from killing myself.  Of course, amidst all of that, I was still trying to fit in.  Luckily, I had a boyfriend that ended up being one of my best friends through high school, and he saw everything in me that no one else seemed to see.  A beautiful, smart, awesome girl unfortunate in the circumstance of her illness.  Having someone see you for you is an amazing gift and perhaps gave me more self worth than anything had in so many years.

When I moved to Florida, I was so depressed and overate myself from 115 lbs to 150.  Through months of overexercising and under eating and not eating, I eventually lost the weight.  Although the path there was unhealthy, I eventually adopted a
great lifestyle of eating well and exercising daily both aerobically and strength training.

Of course life happens and things, as well as habits, change.  Throughout my early 20s, I met guys who liked me enough to have me around, but not enough to actually love me or value me.  

So of course, why would anyone wonder why our self worth suffers?  I know that my story is not unique-I know many wonderful people in my life who have suffered many of the same fates.  The bullying, the rejection, the battle with eating, and so many more things...

That leads to the question of: how do we undo the years of negativity that have taken their toll on our image of ourselves?

I don't know.  Even now, I struggle with the soft, squishy body left behind after baby.  I don't find or make the time to put on my makeup, fix my hair (unless a ponytail counts), and I don't have clothes that fit to fashion a wardrobe worth looking at.  

As the new year approaches, I am thinking about ways that I can change my life, from self worth and beyond.

Some ideas:
1. Put on makeup everyday, even if it is just a swipe of mascara or blush.
2. De-clutter my house (a totally different blog entry for another day...)
3. Continue using myfitnesspal and getting into a routine of working out both formally (exercise bike) and informally (walking the dogs).
4. ...

My heart breaks at the young people we've lost who couldn't take another day of their tormentors attacks.  The lives lost over hateful, hurtful words and actions.  I am grateful that I came out on the other side.  It gets better.  It really does.  Once you come out the other side, you find people that love you and value you.  And while you're in the thick of bullying or harassment, hold tight to the people that already do-your family.

Friday, December 10, 2010

November 23, 2007

Note from the author: I wrote this blog a little over 3 years ago, and I felt like sharing it...what a great thing to be able to look back upon. 

Ever since I was a very little girl, not even older than 3 or 4, I have had a strong gut belief that 23 would be a pivotal point in life.  I could never place my thumb on how or why I would feel that way, yet the feeling only grew stronger as I aged.  Shortly after my 23rd birthday, better known as the Wilson Wedding or "21 again, again," I reflected upon and doubted this instinct that I've always had.
Nothing seemed too terribly thrilling as I ushered in the new year and new age.  Coffee slinging and interning were what my existence was measured by for the first 4 months of 2007.  Certainly, those experiences shaped me and affected me, and I will carry those with me always as they were far more significant than I could've realized at the time, though I was aware that they weren't without purpose. 
Graduation came on May 5th, and I figured, "Ah ha!  Of course!  Graduation is a life-changing experience; surely this is what that instinct has been all about?"  Graduation was wonderful, despite the natural ability I have to turn any celebratory event in my own life into a bit of a stressor.  I cannot imagine a better day than the one I had with the ones I love and had worked hard alongside for the last two years.  Completion is not what I expected it to be.  In ways, it was rather anti-climactic.  But it was important.
Around the same time I graduated, a (then) dear friend of mine invited me to come teach with her in Guatemala.  In that moment, I hardly considered it a possibility, but somehow all the pieces fell into place for the trip to be a reality.  Obstacles were certainly there, especially in regards to obtaining my passport in this "crisis" time of production. 
Shortly before my trip to Guatemala, I made a pilgrimage of sorts to my hometown.  Admittedly, this trip caused me far more anxiety than my first international trip.  Home of my childhood, many years of joy and suffering, and lots of unfinished feelings and business made me nauseous for at least a week prior to my trip.  Yet, it went beautifully.  There was not a single problem to be had.  I accomplished everything I'd hope for...and more.  The connections I was afraid would vanish upon my leaving and with my absence were still there.  That kind of love is enduring, deeply satisfying, even if not visited on a day-to-day basis.  My belief is that all those years and bonds built were to strengthen me, to give my soul the nourishment it would need to become the woman I am.  Family, food, friends, and finality were the whirlwind of a week I had in Des Moines.
Guatemala was tremendous, shaping, and telling of both myself and the relationships in my life.  Expressing what that trip meant to me is something my words have yet to accomplish.
I also faced relationship changes during the spring and summer of my 23.   My dear friend moved away, breaking a bit of my heart off, only to return later to the place that truly is home.  Realizing how deeply I love my friends and how terrible I am at goodbyes was an important part of my year, a grand reflection of many "leavings" I experienced in the two years prior to. 
My faith was tested and broken and challenged and tested in the weeks upon my return home, with a degree and no career in sight.  In the end, after much prayer and anxiousness, I believe that I ended up exactly where I was meant to be.  My first year teaching has exhausted and drained me in ways I didn't think existed; I am challenged daily to show patience and tough love and composure, even when I completely disagree with certain aspects of my professional field.  There is no doubt that I am settled on what I won't be doing for my master's, which is something I'd hoped to discover in this break from higher education (one taken with great reluctance).
So, as the year progressed, there were more and more evidences that 23 is indeed, a pivotal point in my life.  And I'm not even finished.
In early October, Justin and Katie invited me out to play, something I hadn't done since beginning my career.  We decided to meander around during Friday Fest, taking a moment away from the usual Sun Shoppe hanging.  Not the usual for us, to say the least.  After collecting condoms from the "condom fairies," we decided to head back to the shoppe.  But first, I exchanged glances with a familiar face, though one I'd only seen once in person before, over a year ago.  There was a hesistation, but we exchanged hellos and I was the lucky recipient of two beer tickets, which I passed on to some random person as I exited Friday Fest.  Still, the gesture was nice, and I was pleased to be recognized and greeted with a "You look great!"
A few messages later, I found myself sitting side-by-side with Brandon, eating burritos and truly enjoying the many detours of our conversations.  A movie.  A beer.  An invitation to Oktoberfest that weekend.  My supportive best friend and her boyfriend accompanied me, full well knowing that I've been so out of the dating loop I'd back out, just as I'd almost done right before our first "hang" session.  Several Tuesdays (and Saturdays), dinners, drinks, and kisses later, here I find myself.  I am so in love, it terrifies me and lights me up at the same time.  The fact that I am joined in love by such a wonderful man makes me feel alive in ways I haven't felt before.  He is nothing I expected and absolutely everything I've ever hoped for.  The future is nerve-wracking, exciting, but most of all promising.  I couldn't ask for more.
Because here I am.  23.  Blessed by a God that not only loves me, but a God that tells me I am "honored in His sight."  My family is my foundation, my tireless cheerleader.  My true friends are patient and encouraging, and they never leave my side, especially not when the times are toughest.  I have a career that breaks me, but that also uses the gifts I've been given...and my classroom neighbors are a safe place to break down and cry (sob) or laugh (hysterically).  I have a boyfriend who feels like the home I've longed for, and I do not doubt him when he says I am what he wants and needs.  He proves it to me day in and day out. 
I am thankful that God has made me privy to the reasons why I always believed that 23 would be so significant.  Moreover, I am grateful that I have been given the chance to experience this year with more inner peace and less physical suffering than any other year I've lived in the last 11 years.  Yet, I still experience enough suffering to keep me humble and connect me to the sufferings of my savior.  I never got that.  It took me over 10 years, but I am no longer angry.  I get it.  I don't like it...but I get it.
Twenty-three is only the beginning.  Thank you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"It's a nice day for a white wedding..."

White wedding?  Who do we think we are kidding, anyway? 

The Monday morning that Brandon and I found out we were going to be parents, I told him, "Do not propose to me while I'm pregnant."  We'd talked about marriage, but I was adamantly against the idea of getting married while knocked up.  We weren't going to fool God or anyone with that, plus to me it took away my idea of what a wedding and proposal should be.  Of course, there was no way we could've planned or afforded a wedding (or ring, for that matter).

Now, here we are engaged and planning an October 8th wedding.  I don't know how we are going to pay for it.  I literally have no clue.  We don't want to do a destination wedding.  We don't want to put it off any longer.  I don't want to do a separate wedding/reception.  

Part of me really, really wants the wedding with the dress, the heartfelt ceremony, the celebration of our family becoming "official."  The other part of me just wants to be married to Brandon.  I want to have his name and share my daughter's last name.  I want to call him my husband and not just be saying it to avoid the "weirdness" people have about us being the "bastard family."  (By the way, this is a running joke...not meant to be offensive) 

I just don't know how we are going to do it.  We hardly make ends meet, so how are we going to afford to do a wedding?  Our venue is reasonably priced, and we are hoping our dream caterer turns out to be as amazing as she seems.  Right now, I am trying to talk myself out of my dream dress thanks to its $850 price tag (even though it is breathtaking and flattering and perfect on me).

The other part of me that wants to run away and get hitched at the local courthouse is my weight. I want to be fit and healthy and beautiful the way I used to be.  I dread having photos taken and my self-esteem about the way I look is at an all-time low.  That comes from years of extreme bullying and harrassment on top of 18 months carrying around this baby weight.  But I digress...those are two other blog subjects entirely.

My hope and wish is that somehow the dream we have of having our wedding, our big day with the family and friends we love will be able to come true.  We have lots of budget trimming ideas and DIY ideas and a rustic theme and style we love that should make the prices manageable (aside from the usual cost of photography, food, etc...) enough to celebrate the way we want to.

Our family is small, and we just want to celebrate the fact that we are committed to spending our life building and nurturing this little family we've created.  We hope to grow our family, too, but we want to be husband and wife (not just "partners" as we are now called, since boyfriend/girlfriend sounds so juvenile and apparently "partners" is the P.C. term that stretches across all committed-but unrecognized by society-relationships).

Here's to hoping that this time next year I'll be writing of the success and joy we had bringing our family together in an official, amazing way.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Don't judge a book by her cover

Over the past eight years living in the Sunshine State, I've gained wonderful friends, people who I consider to be like family to me.  Every time I learn something new about my friends, I often think about all the things they don't know about me either.  Finding out new things and gaining new insights to the people I care about is like opening a gift.  So here are the things you probably didn't know about me...

1. As a child, I was a part of a group of baton twirlers called the Amerikettes.  
2. When I was 10, I DJed for a kids radio station, having the chance to meet Jodi Sweetin from Full House and having a 1-on-1 interview with teen sensation Zachary Ty Bryan from Home Improvement.  I always liked him so much more than that JTT guy.
3. One of my passions as a teenager was black and white photography.  Using SLRs to shoot and actually developing my own film and printing my own pictures was so cathartic.  I was featured in art shows at my high school.  I entered art shows and placed regularly.  For a period of time, I aspired to create a portfolio and study at the Art Institute of Colorado.
4. Another one of my loves was writing.  I wrote angsty teenage poetry (who didn't, right?) and short stories.  I journaled and blogged.
5. When my brother, Denny, graduate from high school, we went skydiving.  About 6 months later, we went again for Danielle's birthday.
6. The summer before I got hired for my teaching position, I spent a month teaching 1st through 6th grade at El Shaddai school in Guatemala City.
7. My mom and I attended the symphony frequently throughout my time as a violinist.  I saw the Manhattan String Quartet, Anne Akiko, and Joshua Bell.  I got to meet Anne Akiko and Joshua Bell.  What a wonderful experience!
8. Oil painting was a hobby of mine, and I took classes from Bob Ross instructors.  My parents have several of my paintings at their house, alongside the paintings of my mother and the paintings of her mother.  
9. Throughout elementary school, I spent my summers involved in Gifted & Talented summer school, which I LOVED!  I took French, a drawing class, photography, drama, among others...
10. After missing almost 2 of my 4 years in high school due to being so sick with my RSD, I still managed to graduate in the top 10% of my class.  I graduated from BCC with honors and a Citizen Scholar award for community service.  I graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCF and was .10 away from graduating Cum Laude. 
11. My favorite flower is a daffodil.
12. I was a candy striper at the hospital as a young teen.
13. Even though working at coffee shops was exhausting, I absolutely loved being a part of peoples' days.  Talking to people and sharing the experience of life is one of my favorite things to do.  I make friends on flights, in line at Walmart, and pretty much anywhere I can.
14. My hair has been its natural shade of red for the last 4 years, but before then it has been dyed every shade of red.  I've done it with lots of blonde highlights, and once after a terrible breakup, I dyed it brown.
15. My photos are in the gym at BCC Palm Bay demonstrating proper stretching techniques.  I worked out daily and was in the best shape of my life.  I secretly want to go in and take a photo of those photos because I am so proud, even if slightly embarrassed that I'm poster sized!

Who would've thought all those pages would be inside my book?

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Making of a Mama

There are some things in life that I feel uncertain about, such as career choices and what purpose I am supposed to be fulfilling.  Most of the time, I have a feeling that my career is not the finite, end-all-be-all of who I am "going to be" when "I grow up."

One thing I am certain of is that I always wanted to be a mom, for as far back as I can remember.  Not once did this desire waiver of the many years of my life, selfish teenage years included.  Year after year, I struggled to find someone to love who would love me back, and even when I found Brandon, it was not without many challenges ahead.  All around me, I watched girls become mothers.  Some of them were literally just that-young girls, that despite my love for them as people, were not yet ready to become mothers.  For some of them, motherhood was the best thing that could have happened.  It helped shape them into the people they were, hidden under layers of other "stuff."  Others I've watched continue their selfish journey through life, putting their own needs and desires far above what their children need and want and deserve in life.  I don't mean material things, either.

By no means am I claiming to be a perfect mom or even a great mom...

My own mom has set an awesome example for me of what a great mom is and what she does.  She's loved me unconditionally, forgiven me always, been openly imperfect, and she knows me better than anyone.  Part of what she gave up when she became my mom was getting a college education.  Instead, she spent my whole life growing up working two jobs. She ran a state-certified in-home daycare, and she worked a couple nights a week and a couple shifts a weekend as a supervisor at our local K-Mart.  My mom knew everyone in town, and there wasn't a person she ran into that didn't truly enjoy seeing her and talking to her.  She has that same affect to this day.  Watching her handle several babies at a time, or toddlers, or a mix of both taught me so much about how to handle the growing minds and bodies and personalities of little ones.  In fact, many of the things I learned from her carry over not only into my own parenting, but into the kind of teacher I am.  If I could give her my college degree, she would be the most amazing teacher out there, far better than I am without a doubt.

Besides my mom, there have been many other things that I shaped the mother I've become. Having RSD has been one of them.  Most of my teenage years were spent just trying to survive.  There are more RSD suffers in the U.S. today than both AIDS and breast cancer combined.  However, many patients get misdiagnosed (often with fibromyalgia) or treated like a mental case.  For many, this illness is crippling to the point of becoming wheelchair bound.  Some RSD patients take their own life or spend their lives in the fog of pain medication that still doesn't ease their suffering.  I lost my dream of becoming a concert violinist to RSD.  Friends.  My identity.  I doubted that I would ever be self sufficient or that I'd find someone who could love me, broken and sick.  Beyond that, I doubted that I would ever actually get to become a mom, the one thing I really wanted.

Having RSD has literally changed my brain, my central nervous system.  One effect of having RSD is suffering the emotional side affects such as depression and anxiety.  This certainly was a catalyst for my post-partum depression.  I thought things that no mother wants to think or even admit.  I was so afraid of anything happening to Ayla that I began to worry that I would hurt her.  I never wanted to hurt her, but I was just so terrified and all the stories I've ever heard about mothers with PPD flooded my mind, tormenting me.  Just for having those thoughts, I felt like a worthless mother, a failure, undeserving of such a perfect, wonderful, beautiful child.  Month after month, I tried to fix myself, an impossibility for anyone who has truly suffered the devastating affects of PPD or post partum anxiety.  I would hold Ayla hour after hour, never wanting to put her down out of the guilt I felt.  Putting her in the swing so I could nap or relax for awhile meant my failure as a mother.

Getting help was the best thing I did.  To this day, I still take a low dose of Zoloft, and I can't say that I don't ever feel that dark cloud creeping up on me.  But I am well; I can manage even with the pressures of my job, financial struggles, and all those other fun adult things.

The struggles I have gone through in life have made me a mother full of compassion and understanding.  For Ayla, I want her to have the wonderful health I was robbed of. But I am so grateful that I get to be an active participant in her life.  I get to read her stories and play with her.  My physical problems don't keep me from being able to pick up my own daughter.  10 years ago, I could hardly carry a bag of groceries.  My desire to be a mom and the blessing that I have of actually getting able to be a mom make me so appreciative.  

Most parents will understand what I say when I tell you that my daughter takes my breath away.  She is the most perfect, amazing little human being I've ever met.  When she says "Mama, mama, mama" when I'm outside her line of vision, I know how important I am (even though she wants nothing more than to confirm visually that I'm still there-haha) to this little person.  She learns so much from me.  We read and talk a lot.  She teaches me about life, reminds me of the magic and wonder that we adults sometimes forget.

Being a good mom, great mom, or "perfect" mom isn't something I strive for.  What I want is to be Ayla's mom.  We are growing together, and I am still becoming the person and mom I am meant to be.  I don't think I have it all right, but I know that I am making the best, most heartfelt and educated decisions I can for her.  I don't want to become a certain kind of mom so much as I want to become the mother my children need.  

Someday, when Ayla is a grown woman and facing the challenges of life, I hope that she knows I am there for her and behind in her in everything she does.  

Someday, when I'm gone, I hope Ayla can say that she knows the woman her mother was, just like I know the woman my mother is.  

Someday, I hope that by my example, Ayla will become the kind of mother her children need.  I hope that in becoming a mother herself, she will realize on some level just how much she means to me.  

Not much I know for sure, but I know for sure I was meant to be Ayla's mama.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Acronyms and things we say.

Do people actually talk anymore?  How often do we have meaningful conversations?

I started to think of all this when I realized how much of my adult life has been inundated with acronyms.  First of all, teaching is full of them.  NCLB. AYP. PDP. PMP. IEP. RTI. ESE. ELL. FCAT. SAT. ACT. FELE. SAE. CYA (okay, I just threw that last one in there...) I think the premise behind something matters far more than the words we use to describe it, but then again, that's just me and my wild, radical ideas.

Then, enter the world of new mommy message boards.  You've got CDing, BFing, BTDT, FF, ERF, FF, and so on and so forth.  The lingo used is enough to make a hormonal pregnant lady run for the hills screaming!

Add in texting and IMing, with its LOLing (who really actually means LOL when they say it?), BRB, AFK, TTYL, G2G, ILY...

DVD, SCUBA, MP3...I should write a song!! What gobbilty gook!

We update our Facebooks and Twitters for everything from the thrilling fact that we are doing laundry to play-by-plays of our labor (thank God for that epidural)!  I'm not complaining or claiming innocence in these matters-I love facebook and the ability to share all the wonderful moments in life with people near and far.  Sometimes, I just think it all becomes a little impersonal.  

I want to sit among my friends and family and colleagues and have meaningful, productive, memorable conversations...

Unfortunately, it is time to unwind and wrap up for the evening, so I will leave you with this.