Friday, October 9, 2015

...And how we put it back together

Last time I posted, I shared some intimate struggles that my husband and I had gone through in our marriage. I also promised that was only the beginning--that I would be back to share a more joyous post about the present of our relationship and how we restored the things that were broken.

I didn't plan on it being so long between posts, but life happens. It's been a bit busy here lately, but I digress.

I want to talk a bit about some of the things I learned during our difficult times; I want to share those things with anyone who wants to hear them, so that they may understand them without having to face the same trials that we did.

So here are the 5 things that I believe are the most important (but perhaps the hardest) lessons to learn for a healthy and happy marriage:

1. Your kids aren't #1
I'm starting with the toughest one. If you don't have kids, this doesn't apply to you now. But it may in the future. And it's better you understand it before ever going down that road. Here's the thing: As parents, we know that our kids really are our number one priority. We know that we love them more than anything in this world, that we would protect them at all costs, and that they fill a place in our hearts that nothing else can fill. But because they are our most prized possessions, we have to understand that doing the best for them doesn't always mean having our universe revolve around them.
My husband and I were married a year when we had our first son. We were young--21. And we were so naive. He worked a lot and we lived away from family and friends. I threw myself completely into motherhood and I quickly lost any and all identity that didn't involve mothering. Part of me begrudged my husband for not being completely taken over by parenthood like I was. But then again, I couldn't relinquish the control of the situation. I wanted his help, but I felt more confident and less guilty doing it all myself. I stopped taking care of myself in so many ways. It wasn't just that a baby takes up so much of your time and energy. I just forgot about and ignored anything else..including my husband. I know he missed me being the way I once was. And I felt so upset that I had given so much of myself away, but at the same time I felt it was what was required of me.
I pride myself on being a good mom. I adore my kids and I adore motherhood. But after 5 years of being nothing but a mom, of losing the desire to focus on myself, my ambitions, my husband or his needs, I realized that my kids needed a healthy mom. And the biggest gift that parents can give their kids is loving each other, cherishing their relationship, and teaching their children that life requires balance. After so long of being a certain way, our life had lost balance. And a year after marriage counseling and bearing all our truths with my husband, I still have a hard time learning how to be mom, wife, daughter, friend..Robin..all at once. But parents, it's imperative.
Remember, you and your spouse are the foundation for your children. You teach them how to love, how to forgive, and how to measure success. Do not be fooled. The nursery may be beautifully decorated, comfortable, and happily played in. But if the foundation is full of cracks, the house is still dangerously close to crumbling.

2. "Date" is a verb, not a noun
We've all heard that you have to make time for dates in a marriage, regardless of how busy we are. And this is true. But I think you can be on a date and still not dating each other. For a long time, my husband and I didn't have a lot of opportunities to date. He was gone a lot of the time and then after we had children, we didn't always have a lot of options for sitters. But when we did, we would do our best to go on dates. Looking back, I can remember dates that were very great--like a day spent at Busch Gardens together. And then I can remember dates that were simply awful--like a day or two of my children staying with my mom and us doing nothing but arguing. The difference is that we began to see date as a thing, rather than as something that we had to actively do. Anyone can go to dinner or a movie. But the outing itself, the time with each other, is not all that matters. Your time together will not work for you, you have to work for it. You have to talk to each other, to continue to learn from each other, to share new experiences, to be open, to re-experience the things that brought you together in the first place. Something that has always been important to us is humor and acting like kids together. When we were going through marriage counseling our counselor suggested that we do something that we remembered doing when we first fell in love. Robert said one of the first times he remembered knowing he loved me was when we went to see Wedding Crashers and laughed our butts off together. We fell in love with the funny sides of each other. So, last year we ordered in and dug Wedding Crashers out of the DVD cabinet. We enjoy racing go-karts or going to amusement parks together. We understand that we need to play together, to laugh, to explore. Spending time alone together isn't enough because it can often lead to expectations that aren't met. You can't put too much emphasis on the time itself; you have to emphasize what you do with that time. Date intentionally.

3. You are not in competition
I know, you're reading this and thinking "duh", but hear me out. I think a lot of us fall into this trap without even realizing it. I can tell you from experience that I have had times in my marriage where I felt jealous of my husband. I have measured myself against his accomplishments and felt that I couldn't add up. His military career and having children young has taken a toll on the amount of time it's taken me to reach my goals. And I believe that at points in our marriage, while I felt like "you get to be doing something", he was feeling like "it must be nice to not have to do anything". You see, what he has done in the military or how quickly he's been able to wrack up college credits or how likely he is to get a job right away after his military career does not negatively reflect on me. And my taking a little longer to get my college degrees and spending most of my time during the last six years being a stay-at-home mom cannot be viewed as inadequate or lazy by my hardworking husband. Because our end goal is the same. We both want the best for our family. We both want to be successful and to watch each other succeed. Regarding marriage, we often hear "you two are a team", and it is so true. You aren't just a team, you are force to be reckoned with. You have the opportunity to have support, a number one fan, a sounding board. You have the ability to be an inspiration. You are the definition of strength in numbers. Do not compare yourselves to one another. Stop feeling sorry for yourself or placing yourself on a pedestal and recognize that you two are working in unison toward a better life. Remember the goals of one another and do what it takes to help the other achieve them. If both parties are determined to live this way, there will be victory for you individually and as a couple/family.

4. Don't be afraid to fight
This sounds counter-intuitive, but it's not. You have to understand something: you cannot be in a thriving relationship and avoid disagreement altogether. You are separate people with separate feelings and separate mindsets. You will bump heads. You have to learn the proper way to fight. If not, your arguments will only bring hurt and fear and you will eventually do all in your power not to argue. But not arguing only means that your voice does not get heard. Your feelings are bottled up and they will eventually come out in all the wrong ways. It becomes an endless, negative cycle. So remember this: you will argue and that's okay. Just know that the goal of an argument is to understand each other and to come out on the other side doing what's best for your marriage. Not what's best for YOU or for HIM/HER, but what's best for your union as a couple. Never use an argument as a medium for belittling each other, for bringing up past hurts, or for making threats. Talk to each other with respect, regardless of the disagreement. Give each other space, if needed, but always revisit the issue. You cannot go through marriage hiding your true feelings. But you must use those feelings as motivation for the betterment of the marriage, which doesn't always mean that you're going to get your way. One person never wins an argument. You either both win, or you both lose. So do "pick your battles", but don't avoid conflict altogether. It will come back to bite you in the butt.

5. Grow together, not apart
Last but definitely not least. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that you should never have to change yourself for someone else. But it's impossible not to change, and it's irresponsible to refuse change when it's necessary. My husband and I got together when we were 17 years old. I just turned 28 a week ago. A decade, more than a third of my life, I have spent with him. Of course I have changed! And, *gasp*, some of those changes have been spurred by him and our marriage. We have both matured. We've changed our outlooks on life more than once, we've expanded our religious beliefs, our political beliefs, our perceptions of success and failure, our opinions on each other and our relationship. Refusing to make any changes for your spouse is not strong and independent, it's selfish and naive. Of course, you cannot compromise your values or your truest beliefs. You cannot bend until you break. But you must grow and you must understand that your spouse is an integral part of that growth. You will change, and you can either choose to use those changes to bring you closer together or allow those changes to tear you apart. Keep your eyes on each other--grow together, as a pair, as an institution. Because change is inevitable. It is the human experience--you will be malleable until the day you die. Embrace it together and enjoy watching your spouse become the finest version of him- or herself.

And there you have it. I realize it's long, as most of my posts are. And yet, there is so much more I could say. I feel like I've been given an extraordinary gift in learning these lessons and having the opportunity to implement them with the love of my life. We all know that marriage is a journey--take that twisty road with its dips and its mountains and learn to love it for exactly what it is.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

That time my marriage fell apart...

I'm not sure how to start this post. I know that it's going to be raw, it's going to be intimate, it's going to be difficult to read at times. But I also hope that it's going to be helpful. I hope that it's going to be encouraging. I hope that it's going to be the right amount of honesty and transparency, so that it becomes relatable and impactful.

I'd like to say I could jump right into the purpose of this post (and its sister post, yet to come) without any background, but I can't. As much as this is about the present and the future, it is very much about the past. Our history. My husband and I started dating when we were 17. The weekend after high school graduation, we moved in together. Within the next year, we bought a house together. Shortly thereafter, we were engaged to be married and my husband joined the Navy. Within months we were married and he was gone--off to become a sailor. A few short months later, we were back together and within days we were expecting our first son. Over the course of the next few years, we moved several times, faced three deployments, suffered a miscarriage, and had another son. We piled so much triumph and so much heartbreak into a very short span of time. It would have been impossible to go through all that without it having some effect on our relationship. Over time, the strain of normal marital conflicts became heightened by the somewhat abnormal situation we were in. For years at a time, he was either gone or we were preparing for him to leave. Neither one of us really had time to adjust to being parents, that is, not as a team. We were young, we were naive, we were struggling to keep our heads above water. He'd leave for awhile and when he came back there would be a period of confusion as we settled in. On some level it was like reliving the honeymoon phase over and over. On another level, it was like having an intruder come into your life and rearrange it, just when you thought you had it under control. Just as things began to even out, he'd be gone again and the process would start over. Issues arose between us--I want to say they were your typical issues that you deal with in becoming adults, parents, and learning to live in a life-long partnership. But those issues were never addressed. It seemed wrong to spend any time fighting when he was home, yet without addressing the issues, the distance between us grew and grew until even when he was home, we were miles apart.

In late 2013, he returned from his third and longest deployment. It was a whirlwind for us--we changed duty stations shortly thereafter. We were under a great deal of stress but we were trying to find our new normal. We were both trying to adjust--him to being back to the daily grind, to having two little boys constantly needing him and watching his every move, to being face-to-face with a wife that was overwhelmed and anxious--me to being hundreds of miles away from the family and friends I had at our last duty station, to trying to enjoy having my husband back but feeling terribly alone at the same time.
2014 was by far the most difficult year in our marriage. It seemed like everything that had been building up finally came to a head. He was angry. I was hurt. We were both confused. How had everything gotten so tangled up?
We had made up our minds--the other person was the enemy. We fought daily--big blow up fights. Screaming, someone was always storming out and driving off. I look back and I think about our sweet boys, what we put them through in those moments and I feel a knot in my stomach. We welcomed their daddy home and ushered them into a world of constant chaos. We both had our minds set on retribution. We knew that we weren't innocent, but the other person was definitely more responsible for the pain and discord in our marriage. We waited for each other to "come around" and while we waited, we drifted further and further apart.
I remember one day, I walked into the bathroom to put away a stack of towels and instead of placing them on the shelf, I stuck my face in them and sobbed. I felt, in that moment, that it was no longer a matter of "if", it was a matter of "when". I truly believed my marriage was over.
We'd talked it out a hundred times. I'd prayed. I'd called my mom crying at all hours of the day. I'd sought advice from friends. We even went to marriage counseling. What else could we do? It seemed damaged beyond repair.

One weekend in early November, my mom had taken the boys to give us some time to spend alone. Our date night ended with a huge argument, he left the house and I went to bed crying. The next day we didn't say a word to each other until late in the afternoon. I approached him and said we needed to talk. After talking a short period of time, we both came to the same conclusion: It was time to call it quits. We sat down and began to discuss a plan for the boys and for our finances. Most of that conversation is a blur to me, but I know at one point he said "Well, this is what we both want."
God, those words sounded so foreign. They felt numb and empty and at the same time they cut like a knife. I looked at my husband and said "Is this what you want? Not having you, not being together as a family..that's the last thing I want."
I don't know what it was about that moment but our relationship that had been so murky and muddy for months suddenly seemed crystal clear. We sat and cried together, we hugged, we put on our song and danced and cried some more.
Somewhere along the way we had forgotten that we were working toward the same goal. Somewhere we had forgotten that we were not competitors, but teammates. We were both so concerned with our own hurt feelings that our focus became on fixing the past rather than securing the future. We vowed in that moment that we weren't going to be those people anymore--we were going to hold on to what we had, we were going to fight like hell, and we were going to love more fiercely than we hurt.

We continued counseling and truly put all our efforts into it. We realized that until we were real with ourselves, we could never be real with each other. I'm not going to say it was easy but it was such worthy work. Within a matter of weeks, things were different. Now, some 9 months later, things are worlds apart from what they were last year. Our relationship is stronger and yet more tender than it has ever been. Our love for one another is easier and yet more intentional than it has been in years. I could not be happier and I'm actually thankful for the difficult times we faced. After being in a valley, the mountaintop seems that much more rewarding. I believe I know my husband better than I did before our hard times. I see more of him..I understand him better..I love him to the deepest depths of my heart.

I want to share with you all a bit of insight into how we turned our marriage around--some things I wish I would have known all along but am so very thankful to understand now. But, as you know, I can be long-winded and this is probably enough for one post. Lol.

Here you've seen the history and in my next post you will see the future. To be continued, my friends... :)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Ever-Changing Depth of Heartbreak

My husband and I were driving home last weekend from taking our boys to visit my mom. I honestly cannot remember what specific topic we were discussing at first, but I know it led to me then saying "You know, I'm always floored by how much different heartbreak becomes as you age. I feel like I was so naive as a teenager." To which he replied, "There are so many things I am still incredibly naive about."

It got me thinking. I recalled being a young girl--a little quirky, happy, friendly, kind of chubby. Awkward would be a good word to describe me. As most tween girls do, I had a crush (a few over the years) and I remember that beautiful, awful, heartsick feeling of knowing that a crush was all it would ever be.
Those feelings were real. I felt them often and I felt them deeply. I remember confiding in my best friend about this boy I liked well through high school. "He'd never go for me. I'm sure he'd pick any other girl in our class over me.", I'd say. I remember pouring out tears over my journal pages as I wrote about feelings that would probably stay between me, my best friend, and that little book. Trust me, I remember.

But looking back, I smile on those times a bit. I giggle at myself. I say to myself "If I had the confidence, I could have just told him I liked him and saved myself the years of trouble." I wonder if then, my heartbreak would have been over and I could have focused on more important things than boys.
The fact is, though, as an adult I've realized that heartbreak doesn't ever go away. It just changes.

I got married at 20 years old and I am now 27. Within weeks of being married, my husband left for boot camp. A little over a year after being married, we had our first son. Shortly after that, we faced our first deployment, then a second, a second baby, a third deployment.
I felt the heartbreak of being separated from my partner. I felt the pressure of being a "geographically single" mother. Heavy tears ran down my cheeks as I watched my toddler kiss pictures of my husband and ask for "more daddy".
Between our two sons, we lost a baby. I felt the emptiness of my heart overshadow the emptiness of my womb. I grieved the loss of a child that I knew nothing about. I packed away hopes and dreams and assumptions about that child's future.
I watched my husband come in and out of our lives, often feeling like a stranger for weeks after returning. By the time we got reacquainted, he'd be gone again. I'd ask myself "Is this normal? Will this ever end?" I felt completely lost.

During this seven years of official adulthood, I've seen people marry and divorce. I've watched as my friends experience years of infertility, countless miscarriages, and sending their babies off to Heaven after only hours on this Earth. I've seen friends fall upon hard financial circumstances and struggle to feed themselves and their children. I've seen my loved ones pass away. I've watched as my close family and friends struggle with health issues that leave them frail and discouraged. I've watched my friends put in countless hours searching for jobs, only to be told there are no openings. I've seen them struggle through school, only to be rewarded with thousands of dollars in debt. I've seen hopelessness. I've seen defeat.
I've seen heartbreak.

I once thought that heartbreak would end when I found someone to love me for life, when I had children, when I got degrees and jobs and felt accomplished. I thought adulthood equated serenity. Unfortunately, that isn't true.

I think back on the issues I faced as a teenage girl and think "If only that was it."  It's not to say that those days weren't difficult, and I know that some young people face much more difficulty in their lives than I ever have and probably ever will. The children who are bullied, the children who don't feel at home in their own bodies, the children who live in poverty, the children who live through abuse...I am not belittling their heart ache. I am not going to even assume that I could understand it or identify with it. Heartache is something they have seen all too much of, and unfortunately, adulthood will not bring a complete eradication of heartbreak.

So what, then? If heartbreak doesn't change, then what?
We change.
We realize that life is not easy, relationships take work, things go wrong and opportunities don't always knock down our doors. But we also realize that it's been years since we felt that first pang of heartache and we are still here. We are still going strong. We can still find beauty in life. We still smile. We still laugh. We're still happy people that only sometimes feel unhappy.

When I was 13 and experiencing unrequited love, it was the worst thing I could have felt at that time. And I got through it. I found my husband, we fell in love. We got married, had children, built a life together. We fell on hard times and we came out stronger. We spent months separated from each other and we remained faithful and committed. I experienced the loss of a baby and it was incredibly painful, but I ended up being blessed with my rainbow son and he brings me laughter every day. I watched my mother lose the man she loved, unexpectedly but she went on to find love again and become a wife again after being separated from my father for over 20 years. I watched my aunt be diagnosed with cancer, fight through chemo, and come out on the other side cancer free and empowered. I watched my brother battle a decade-long drug addiction, overcome it on his own and go on to meet his wife and be blessed with her two boys.
Look, heartbreak doesn't go away. It's always here with us. The depth of it changes over the years. We learn that things happen in adulthood that we didn't dream of happening when we were young and thought that we'd "have it all together" by the ages we are now.
But we also come to know that humans are resilient. We are much, much stronger than we ever give ourselves credit for. We grow and we choose to love each other. We choose to support each other because we know we need support. We face challenges with confidence because we are experienced victors. We can look fear, pain, and loss right in the eyes and say "You may knock me down, but you will not keep me down."
We begin to realize that these are the best of times; these are the worst of times and we make peace with that. Heartbreak is devastating. But there is nothing more powerful than overcoming it and realizing that there is nothing, nothing that you cannot make it through.

So no matter where you are in your life, I want you to understand two things:
1) Heartbreak is everlasting, ever-changing.
2) So are you.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Right Here

It's been a busy couple of weeks. My mom, the boys, and I were able to travel to Virginia to see my brother and visit with some friends. It was a long, draining trip but it was lovely being able to visit the place we called home for five years and to see my brother after the longest separation my mom and I have ever had from him.
That has nothing to do with this blog, honestly. But I said all that to say: The day before we left for VA I had taken my youngest son to day care while I took my oldest to an appointment. When I was picking him up, I saw a mother walking with her young son (he was probably 18 months). As they went through the entry way, she stopped to hold the door for another mother walking in. Her little one stopped and looked to his side, expecting to see her there, and when he didn't his lip began to quiver. She was a mere 2-3 feet behind him and with these simple words she calmed his fears: "I'm right here."

It hit me in that moment that those may be the three most underrated words in all of creation. How highly we hold that three-word phrase we all hold so dear: I love you. But I believe that "I'm right here" is right up there with its more popular three-word counterpart. Love is a tremendous thing, but love without presence lacks meaning.

I immediately thought about wanting to blog about what that mother said and why it was such an extraordinary thing. And I'm just now having the time to sit down and do just that.

How often have we said those words, or something similar, in our lives? How often have we heard them? When we have heard them, how often has it been exactly what we needed to hear?

I've always fancied myself someone with a good memory. I can remember things from when I was only a toddler. I started thinking back on times with my mother as a child. None stood out to me when she used that phrase with me as a little girl, but one thing that did stand out was how often she showed me that she was right by my side. Her presence, and the presence of others in my family, shines through to me more than anything else in my early years.

I started thinking about a time when I was a little older--my preteen days. I had my first crush, but of course I thought it was much more. I happened to be head-over-heels for one of my brother's friends, and after he had spent a weekend at our house, my tween girl feelings were just that much more amplified. However, I was wise beyond my years in the sense that I knew, deep down, that we'd never be together. And although it seems silly now, it killed me. I went to my best friend's house to spend the night (it was summer time) and she, too, had spent the weekend with someone she cared very deeply for. She is five years my senior, so her feelings and experiences were far more complex than that of an 11 or 12 year old girl, but the feeling of desperation of wanting something you can't have was the same. I remember walking into her room, without saying a word to her about how I was feeling or having any indication of how she was feeling. Before we started our normal routine of playing Nintendo and listening to No Doubt, we both just looked at each other and began to cry. Neither of us knew exactly why the other was crying, just yet, but we did know that we needed each other in that moment. We hugged and cried together. Finally, she broke the silence. "I'm here. I'm so sorry." We continued to cry for a few minutes, then dried it up and explained why we were both feeling so down. After getting it off our chests, we went on with our night of playing around, listening to music, and eating entirely too much ice cream. We had a good time. But I believe without each others' presence, we would have lingered in our sadness.

A few years later...a similar situation. I had broken up with my first real boyfriend after being together for over two years. I quickly started dating someone else, and because I was pretty new at the whole thing, I fell hard. He wasn't right for me. Everyone saw it as a fling. My two best guy friends strongly advised me against dating him. But, I thought it was love. He was 16 (a year younger than I was) and had a child. We worked together, and after only being "an item" for a couple of weeks, he met me in the parking lot at work and told me he was breaking up with me to try to make it work with his baby's mother. Good for him, really. But, at the time it hurt. I think it hurt worse than it should have because, like I said, I had fallen hard. I missed the security and companionship I had with my ex and I wanted to have that again. I felt really lonely. I remember leaving work early that night, much to my manager's chagrin, and calling my friend Kyle on the way home. "Meet me at my house, can you?" He could tell I was upset. He showed up at my doorstep with our other bestie, Daniel. I remember just looking at them and saying "Please don't say 'I told you so'" and bursting into tears. They immediately understood. Neither of them said they saw it coming, even though they both did. They just sat with me and said "Who needs him? We're here."

As I walked with my two sons to the van and my mind pushed that last memory aside, a new one came into view. I was in my car, at the top of the hill close to my home, off the side of the road. I realized I had just wrecked my car but was disoriented. I pulled out my cell phone and made a call to my mom. As soon as she answered, I said through my tears, "Mom, I need you." "Where are you?", she asked. I told her. "I'll be right there." And within 2 minutes, she was pulling up next to me. "I'm right here. It's okay, I'm here."

Another memory flashed in my mind. I was 21 years old, and after a long, hard labor I welcomed my first child into the world. I remember feeling like the weight of all the love in the world was placed in my arms when I first held him. I said "Hi, baby. You're here. You're finally here." Everything I had dreamed of was presented to me in that moment. He was right there and that was more than enough for me.

Driving home from day care, a few other memories popped into my mind. The times my husband was deployed--those first phone calls or video chats. The connections were always awful and he'd cut in and out. But I'd hear his voice on the line. "I'm here", he'd say and even if he was only there with me for a minute, it was enough to get me through the next few weeks we'd go without hearing each other's voices.
When I found out we had lost a baby between my two sons, and my husband was underway. A friend sat with me in the ER. "I'm so glad you're here.", I said.
When my second son was born, he came out without a heartbeat. He wasn't breathing. He lied purple and lifeless on the bed for what seemed like forever before they whisked him away to cut his cord and suction his lungs. When we finally heard his cry, I remember crying tears of joy myself and thinking "There it is! The cry I've been waiting for. He's here and he's okay."
When my brother was living with us and my husband was gone for deployments, workups, or duty days, I'd often wait up for my brother to get home and confess that I hated a house without a male presence. "Eh, I'm here.", he'd say, "No need to worry."
When my oldest would have a nightmare or my youngest would wake up hungry, I'd rush to their bedside and rub their backs. "Mommy's right here. I'm right here," I'd say as I picked them up and comforted them.
When my husband finally returned home from his last deployment after four extensions and I heard my boys yelling "Daddy's here! He's really here!!".

The words "I'm right here" may not seem like much when we first think about them. I'm sure we all hear them and say them daily. But when you think about the gravity of those words and the meaning behind them, a lot of things in life come into perspective. Isn't presence the most important thing we can give someone in this life? Love without presence is empty. Friendship without presence falls short. Relationships of any kind, without presence, cannot be influential or empowering.

Be there for the ones you love. Be present with God, with your children, your spouse, your parents, your family, and your friends. Revel in the times that someone has said those words to you, and proven to you that they mean it from the deepest parts of their soul. I never thought overhearing three little words in a scenario that I hear and experience quite often would take me for the ride it did, but I am so glad that it happened that way. Seeing that child go from scared to comforted in an instance was so poignant to me. Be that comfort for someone in your life and allow someone to comfort you in the same way. It's the every day things that often go unnoticed that tend to be the life-altering moments in our lives. <3 nbsp="" p="">

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

To You, Baby

Dear Baby,

I need you to know that I love you. I need you to know that I want you; I have always wanted you.

To me, you are not just some ideal number. You are not wishful thinking. You are more than a hope and bigger than a dream. You are abstract, but you are concrete. You are not living and breathing, yet. But I believe you are real--you exist somewhere out there in the universe. And you are mine.

I think about you often, Baby. I imagine my first knowledge of your presence and the joy that it would bring. I can nearly feel your tiny flutters inside my belly, the weight and the warmth of your body lying on my chest. I can see the smile on your Daddy's face when you enter the world, ready to prove to him that you were well worth any struggles that a bigger family may face. I can see that you are the apple of your big brothers' eyes. I can almost hear your tiny laughter and your big, hungry cry.

Baby, you are something that I have waited for all my life. When I dreamed of your brothers, I dreamed of you, too.
I want you for all your experiences. I want you for your newborn smell, your toddles, your first day of school, your first date, your teenage drama, your wedding day, and the grandchildren you will one day bless me with.
Baby, I long for it all.

I may not hold you in my arms, Baby, but I am holding you in my heart. Wherever you may be, a piece of me is there with you. One day, I hope that you will arrive with that piece, and I will feel the wholeness of knowing you are here.
Until then, Baby, I will be here. Searching, hoping, loving, wanting, and waiting.

Forever Yours,

Monday, January 12, 2015


This morning, as my oldest and I waited outside for the bus, I turned to him and said "Let me get your picture, Goob. You look so big and handsome today." And he did. And he does every day. But some days it takes me off guard.

I snapped the picture but behind his little smile I saw something deeper. "You okay, bub?", I asked. He began to tear up. He told me he didn't want to go to school. He said that school is "too long" and he just wanted to be here with me. Of course, as much as I wanted to say "Okay, lets just go back inside and snuggle", I needed to send him off to school. I gave him a big hug and looked at him face to face. "I will miss you too, sweetie. But you will have fun at school. And when you get home, I'll be here waiting." He hugged me tight as his bus rounded the corner and when it stopped and the doors opened, he turned to me with a smile and a wave. "I love you!" he yelled back, and off he went.

As I opened the door to come back inside, a small whimper met my ears. My little guy..standing with two stuffed animals wrapped in his arms and a tear in his eye. "I was missing you, mama."
He had woken up in the few minutes that I was out front with his brother and he'd felt scared and alone. I wrapped him in a hug and told him I was only putting Xander on the bus. "Mommy will never leave you alone. If I'm not inside, I'm right outside sending Goob off to school. Are you okay?"
"Now I'm okay," he answered. "I love you, mama."

Some days the gravity of how much they love me hits me and I can't explain the way it makes me feel. I know they won't be this little forever. Along the way, I'll make some mistakes. I'll upset them or let them down. New loves will develop in their lives. As they mature, their love for me and all things will mature and change.

But here--in the quiet of this still, gray morning--their love is the most indestructible, unwavering, devoted, and adoring that it will ever be.

They still say things like "I wish I could be stuck to you all day so I could just kiss you and hug you when I wanted to." and "I love you thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much" and "I don't know how to say it but I just love you, love you, love you."

And I am so honored. I can't describe how lucky I feel to be the mother of these two amazing boys and how completely enamored I am with them.
I want them to know that the way they love me now--fully, wholeheartedly, with all their energy and commitment--that is the way I have always and will always love them.

From the moments I knew they were forming inside of my body--I was thankful for them.
The first seconds they were placed on my chest, I felt the weight of a love heavier than any I had ever known.
I spent my nights holding them close. I smelled their little heads, kissed their little faces.
I held my breath with their first steps and their first times on their bikes.
I feel pride swell within with every milestone they achieve. My heart melts every time I see their personalities blossom and with each time I experience or witness the fullness of their kind hearts and giving souls. I sneak into their room each night and watch them sleeping, in awe at the beauty that my husband and I created. I take a deep breath, close my eyes and take it all in each time they snuggle close to me or sit in my lap and nuzzle their heads into my neck.

Right now, in this day and this year and this phase of our lives, I am privileged enough to have these two boys look at me like I have hung the moon.
I don't know how long that will last. But I do know that for me, they will always be my sun--the center of it all, the light of my life.
They will always be my everything and I will always feel like the luckiest woman in the world to belong to them, and to have been loved by them in such a precious and pure way.

Monday, January 5, 2015

And the word of the year is....


The new year is upon us. 2015--it's hard to believe. I've decided that this year, instead of making resolutions that I'm unlikely to follow through with, I'm going to give the year a theme and build on it. My theme for 2015 is to be content.

2014 was a very trying, exhausting, saddening year for me. I won't go into details but I will say I fought my own demons, faced trials in my marriage and family, and was met with some very big changes. I found myself feeling more hopeless and worthless than I had in a very long time. My anxiety and depression reached an all-time high and it seemed that trouble awaited around every corner. 2014 was just a culmination of so many years of things working their way into my life and my heart--negativity, frustration, disappointment.
I looked back on my life, namely on my adulthood, and realized that two emotions were prevalent: fear and guilt.
I have allowed these two emotions to control so much of my life and it's time that I regain control.

Despite the trials we faced this year, my little family came out of it with our heads above water and we're working to make ourselves even stronger than before.

I want this next year to be filled with love, laughter, and progress. I want this year to be filled with contentment.
Some people confuse contentment with complacency. That's not the case. You can be content with the goals you have set for yourself but achieving them still takes work. It's not always going to be a "sit back, relax, and take it all in" type of feeling. But, one thing that I know for sure--I want it to be a happy feeling.

I have so many things in my life to be happy about. So many. And yet, I've realized that I've not been experiencing all the happiness I can. I haven't allowed myself to. Some of that has been due to my anxiety and depression--which I'm working on--but some of it comes from insecurity and those two pesky emotions I talked about before: fear and guilt.

Fear of being rejected.
Fear of being abandoned.
Fear of not being worthy.
Fear of others' perceptions of me.
Guilt about not "adding up".
Guilt surrounding not being the best wife, the best mother, the best daughter, the best friend.
Guilt about wanting something for myself that others may not approve of.
Guilt about doing things differently; being myself.

I've spent many years of my life so worried about what other people think, what society says I should be doing, and what I might be messing up, that I've not allowed myself to truly enjoy the blessings I have in my life. And for that, I'm sorry. Because those of you who have been a blessing in my life deserve to be truly, fully appreciated.
How often do we let others dictate how we feel, what we do? How often do we follow through with something, knowing it will bring us no joy, simply because we feel constrained, obligated, or forced?
I'm not saying we should be totally selfish. We shouldn't ignore the needs of others. We shouldn't be so self-absorbed that we don't notice when someone could benefit from our time, our words, and our presence. But, we shouldn't be forced to tolerate negativity because we feel it's "just the way life goes."

I'm talking about allowing others opinions to influence your choice of career, how many kids you have, when you make big life decisions, who you marry, or what religion you practice. I'm talking about "going through the motions" every day because you feel you owe it to your family or your peers. I'm talking about beating yourself up with each mistake. I'm talking about setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and others and being torn apart when they aren't met. I'm talking about the constant feeling of competition--someone is always prettier, always a better mom, always smarter, always more advanced in their field, always richer. I'm talking about drudging through life doing everything you feel you have to do without stopping to think about what you want to do.

In 2015, I want to rid myself of all of that. If nothing more, I want to begin to make a more positive impact in my own life.

I just recently graduated college and you know the first thing I thought? "Well, now I have to go get a job in my field, I guess."
No true, genuine excitement. Now that it's here, and it's real, I wonder if this is even what I want to do with my life. I've always been smart. I had big dreams of double majors in psychology and poli sci. I wanted to run for Congress some day. I went straight into college, because that's what you do. But then, I got married and I had kids. And I realized life is much more than checking boxes off of some giant "must-do" list. My loved ones are my passion. Singing makes me happy. Writing fulfills me. And I honestly don't even really care for politics anymore. I realized that shortly into my college career, so I went with Psychology and then back to school for Substance Abuse Counseling. Substance abuse hits close to home for me and I love helping people so I could see this being something I enjoyed doing. But is it my passion? No. And now here I am...several years later. I've put what truly makes me happy on the back-burner to do something more tangible, something that will make me some money, a "real" career. I've got two college degrees, a whole lot of debt, and a commitment to something I'm not sure will ever make me feel fulfilled.
Why have I not tried to make anything of my writing? Fear. There it is again. Fear that I'd fail. Fear that I'd waste my time and then when I realized I couldn't make it, I'd have to scramble to find a "real career". Fear that people would look down on me. "Oh you're just a mom and an aspiring author?" I can just hear the contempt.

2015 is about being content. Content in my choices. Content in my abilities. Content in my discernment. Content in my love, in my relationships, in my own worth.
2015 is about not letting anything get in the way of my self-confidence. It's about being an awesome wife and an awesome mom and an awesome family member and friend---not based on certain accomplishments or comparisons but just because I am awesome. At least, my husband and kids and family and friends think so. And I'm going to stop trying to convince them otherwise.

2015 is not about fear, it's not about guilt, and it's not about proving something to everyone. There aren't resolutions to lose X pounds, to get a job paying X salary, to do X amount of new things. Sure, all those things would be wonderful. All those things can be goals. But if I set them, I want to be the dictator of what those mean for me. I'm freeing myself from doing things based solely on the idea of negative repercussions if I don't do them,

2015 is my year. I can feel it. I won't stand for it being anything other than mine. I have amazing people in my life, big dreams, talents, and a heart full of love. I won't squander those things anymore based on guilt and fear. I will be myself, I will own it. I will be content. 
And I invite you to do the same.

Happy New Year!