gardening, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, Uncategorized

raw and open

Eight years and a few months ago I told a friend that I couldn’t imagine being happier about life and more excited about my future. I felt amazing. I was in the first semester of Grad school, I had just moved into a new house, I had gone from being a couch potato to running races and practicing yoga regularly, I had a new job as the executive director of an organization that brought me joy, and I was in the beginning stages of a new relationship with the first man I ever loved. I felt like I was on top of the world.

Then, like a sledgehammer to the skull, we got the death sentence diagnosis for my dad. He was dying. That’s it. There was no hope given. They could help him live a couple more years, but cancer would kill him and it would kill him soon. My dad. The man who lived his life serving others and would literally talk about what he would be doing when he was 100. He enjoyed life so much that it was contagious to be around him. He had already had cancer twice before and would joke about it. “I don’t get sick, I just get cancer,” he would say with pride.

A church friend recently talked about a garden being the metaphor for our lives and God being the Master Gardener. I have taken this idea and used it to help myself work through this season of my life. As I have highs and lows with my literal garden, I see the parallels with my life. Before the diagnosis, my garden was lush and full of herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Heck, there were freaking butterflies and honeybees fluttering around. You get the picture?

My dad’s diagnosis was the first nasty weed. What followed was three years of watching my father struggle and hope and eventually die. My relationship of three years, the one that was supposed to last forever, died four months later. It was a relationship that might have lasted had it happened at a different time in my life, but sometimes grief has a way of killing things in its path. Three months after my relationship died, I  jumped into a summer fling with a man who I thought I knew and who I thought was an old friend, only to find out he was a complete stranger, was not at all who I thought he was, and I was left to face a pregnancy and eventually parenthood, alone. My lush happy garden slowly rotted and turned into a heaping compost as I blamed the Master Gardener and kicked him out.

Even moments before my daughter was born, I was sitting in the middle of my compost pile thinking the garden and life I once had would never happen again. I was admittedly, angry, hurt, defeated and hopeless. Then, the moment they put that baby girl on my chest and I saw those crystal blue eyes, a small but strong bud popped out of my heap of mush and began to bloom. Trying to keep this “bud” alive and blooming has required months of fighting a broken legal system, three years of pinching pennies and constantly worrying about money, learning how to ask and accept help, and inviting the “Master Gardener” back in.fullsizerender-3

A few days ago, in my actual garden, I spent the entire morning pulling up weeds, removing broken glass, ant hills, and dog poop, and pulling up dead tree trunks. It was the end of a weeks-long project that I was starting to think would take the rest of my life to complete. As I stood in the sun covered in sweat and dirt, I felt the most amazing satisfaction seeing the raw and open earth that I uncovered. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time. Aside from a single strand of purple Morning Glories, everything that had been there was now gone. I immediately started to cry. This garden was me.

My neighbors told me that this garden was once home to beautiful grass, vibrant rose bushes, and lush green trees. After years of trials and neglect, it became the weed covered trash-ridden lot that I purchased a few months ago. It was so bad that one of my neighbors suggested it was beyond repair and I should just fill it with concrete and call it a day. What it is teaching me, however, is that nothing and no one is past redemption. Like my garden, I reached a point in my life where I had to realize that in order for that one flower to grow and flourish, I would have to rip out all that was old, dig up the soil, remove the trash, and start again with new seeds. I would need expert advice and help with the hardest parts of the job. Most importantly, I had to stop focusing on what once was and what I thought it “should” look like. I have to accept what has happened, mourn any loss, and focus on each seed as new life grows and a whole new garden appears.

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Preggers

savor.

The following popped up in my Timehop today. It is from August 30, 2015. First of all, I cannot believe a year has gone by already. Bella starts her second year of school next week and I still remember the shock on her face when she took her first steps. I remember how she felt as a tiny infant snuggled up on my chest and sleeping on my belly. I still remember those first tiny kicks that I felt inside me. What a joy this journey has turned out to be. What a surprise it is to find out this little human chose me as her mother and I never realized just how much I needed her in my life. I only wish it would all slow down because I want to savor each of these moments for a little longer before they end up as yesterday.

I read this and I want to remember it and I know a lot of people can relate:

August 30, 2015, 10pm

I’m listening to Lumineers, packing up The last of Bella’s baby clothes, and crying. Tomorrow is the first full day of the first full week of school for her. School. This life goes way too fast. A month less than three years ago,  I found out she was coming into this world. Three years. That’s it. It seems like it was last week. I have learned so much about life and about myself in that time; definitely more than I ever learned in all 20 years of school. I have learned what I am capable of(and that it’s more than I ever imagined) I’ve learned what is truly important in life, and why love and forgiveness are way more valuable than any hatred or anger or. I’ve learned that money and things mean nothing in this life. I have learned to stop planning and just live. I have learned that chocolate hand prints on my wall are just as awesome as my art collection and that there isn’t a bad day in the world that can’t be cured by a toddler smiling ear to ear, yelling “mommy,” and running into your arms at the end of the day. I’ve learned that loving and supportive friends and family are a rare and priceless thing to have. I’ve learned to really give: my heartFullSizeRender (2), my money, my time, and that giving is the secret to why any of us are here in the first place. I’ve learned that having a child is a gift and should never be taken for granted. I’ve learned to give thanks for that gift endlessly. I’ve learned that being there for Your child and giving her your time means more to her than any toy or material thing you can give her. I’ve learned that even a two-year-old can show compassion and love beyond measure. And finally, I’ve learned that happiness is a choice, and when you choose it you realize that your life is suddenly easier and better than you ever knew it could be. So, thank you to all of you who have been and are a part of our life. Bella and I give thanks everyday for the people and love we have in our lives. We consider ourselves very lucky. The last three years have been the best and most exciting years of my life and I cannot wait to see what our future has in store for us.

And it’s all still true!

 

 

 

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Run Momma Run

Love thyself.

When I was pregnant, I took extra special care of my body. I quit smoking, quit drinking, cut way back on caffeine, walked regularly, drank tons of water, ate mostly organic, covered my skin in coconut and almond oil daily to avoid getting stretch marks, slept as much as possible, and listened to a lot of empowering and happy music. After Bella was born, I nursed for 22 months. I got back into running, ate even more organic and stayed away from processed foods. I only occasionally drank and when I did, it was minimal. I slept when I could and tried to keep a positive attitude despite some challenges that came with getting used to taking care of another human being. I lost all of my pregnancy weight plus some and felt amazing.

Today I visited a friend’s pool at a high end apartment complex. The majority of people at the pool, even moms, looked incredible, fit, and happy. I looked down at my body and saw a year and a half of weight gain from eating crap, drinking way too much, and not even attempting to run again. I looked at my hairy legs and my messy hair and realized I hadn’t even showered in two days. It was clear my skin hasn’t seen a drop of lotion in a long time, let alone be covered from head to toe in oil. I also can’t remember the last time I did yoga or just sat quietly to read a book or listen to Bach’s Cello Suite.

Why is it that so many mothers do this to ourselves? We take amazing care of ourselves while pregnant and nursing because we want to ensure a healthy baby. Then, as the child begins coloring our walls and peeing on our rugs, many of us begin to give up to some degree. I can’t even count the number of times I have heard fellow moms joke about how long it has been since they have been on a date, taken a shower, gone out with their spouses, or eaten something other than goldfish and macaroni. This morning my beautiful 3-year old daughter reminded me that the massive treadmill in our living room is there for me to use. She is clearly aware of the fact that I haven’t been on it in a while and thinks that it’s probably time. It suddenly occurred to me that this precious baby still needs me to take care of myself in order for me to take the best care of her as well. Just because sh13920434_10153856682582005_6364152617981029699_oe’s not in my body anymore doesn’t mean that body no longer needs some attention.

I often use the excuse that I just don’t have the time. I work full time and am a solo parent. Like just about every other parent, I am busy. However, in the last two years, I somehow found the time to watch the entire series of about 20 shows, drink at least 100 boxes of wine, and eat enough cheese to fill the Packers’ stadium. I clearly have the time. So, today I came home, did a massive clean of my house, showered, shaved my legs and pits, sat down with a cup of tea, turned on Bach, and began typing. One of the things I also used to do was write. I wrote all the time and it was fun and therapeutic. I have not been in a good emotional place in the last couple of years and if I was being completely honest, I would admit that they have been the hardest and darkest years to date. Writing is my art form. It is how I have always best expressed myself and how I have worked through the good and bad in life. Since I stopped writing, I felt less connected and less like myself.
So, here I am writing again. As I work towards getting back to healthy and figuring out how to find my abs between boxed wine and a block of cheese, I’m going to dust off the book I never finished and share my new adventure here with anyone who is interested. My goal for now is to drink less, run more, meditate and practice yoga, eat more things that don’t come in boxes, cans, or bags, and write, write, write. 

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Preggers

body.

This post is hard to write, but it is important to write. I have reached a milestone in my life and that is something worth talking about. We, as women, beat ourselves up. We abuse our bodies to get what we think is the perfect body. We are not happy no matter how hard we work. Yet, it has taken pregnancy for me to learn that what we have been given is already perfect. We make life and that is beyond any level of beauty we will find on the cover of a magazine or strutting down a runway. Embrace it ladies; every curve, line, and stretched piece of skin. It is gorgeous!

body pic

I have always hated my body. If it wasn’t my short wide feet, it was my crooked fingernail or round tummy. It was my thighs that got wider when I sat down and my hips that stuck out just a little too far. There is a birthmark above my left breast that looks like a small rash. There is a hair that grows on my chin and needs to be plucked. There are faded stretch marks on my hips and belly that came from a growth spurt in high school. There are freckles everywhere…..everywhere! My boobs are slightly uneven and my knees are permanently scarred from soccer. I have always looked in the mirror and hated what I saw.

To alter my body, I have spent thousands on diet pills, creams, books, tapes, and gym memberships. In high school and college, I took laxatives like candy. I have done three Master Cleanses. I have juiced without eating. I have fasted. I’ve done, South Beach, Atkins, Paleo, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, and even Deal-a-Meal. I have been vegetarian and vegan and carb free. I have gained weight and lost weight and been highly successful at both. Even at my lowest weight, I still found something wrong with my body. There was nothing that made me happy with myself. I experienced a sexual assault in my twenties that made me fuller of self-hatred and guilt.

As a result, it took me a long time to be open to love. I have tried my hardest to hide my body and not share it with anyone. I have lacked the confidence needed to fall into a close relationship. I was thirty before I felt comfortable enough with someone to be intimate. Even then, I still never felt quite right with myself.

Four years ago, my father was diagnosed with cancer and I was broken.  I felt totally helpless and useless and wanted to do anything I could to save him. I am not a doctor, so I turned to charity races. I began running and could not be stopped. I had never run a race in my life and started with a half marathon to raise money for cancer research. I was not able to save my dad through running, but I have completed 3 half marathons, two full marathons, a 10-miler, and some 5Ks here and there. Running has become my therapy and has created a total body transformation. However, I still looked in the mirror and was unhappy with what I saw. I still found myself angry when I just couldn’t run as fast as I wanted to or train as much as I wanted to. I blamed it on my deficient body.

The other day, I woke up. I looked down over my body and saw my little toes. They were beautiful. I saw my hips. They are spreading to get ready for my baby and they are perfectly rounded. I saw my thickening thighs: the thighs that are forming so that they can support my ever-growing belly. I saw my growing breasts that will nourish my child. I saw my ribs sticking out just below my blossoming breasts and just above my swelling belly. It was all covered in freckles, but it was totally gorgeous. I looked last at my belly. That place that I had worked so hard on to get flat and tight was now bubbled up and moving around. It was the home to a miraculous human life. This body that I have detested and tortured is making another body. It is creating a life that is different than any other life that has come before it. That, to me, is astounding. Suddenly, without pause, I loved my body. There was no longer anything to see but beauty.

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Preggers

preggers.

Are you drunk?

No. I’m Pregnant.

When you are pregnant, your sense of balance is off. So much so, that the doctor actually tells you not to ski, roller skate, or bike. I have avoided those things, but I still find myself running into walls, dropping things, and wobbling a bit.

Being pregnant is a funny thing. Suddenly, there is food I can’t eat that I am used to eating every day.  There are things that start happening to my body that I have no control over. My hormones are out of control: one minute I am happy as can be and the next I am crying uncontrollably and I’m not even sure why. All of these things are things I never really thought about. I have six nieces and nephews and countless friends with kids, but somehow I never really paid attention to what it was like to be pregnant. I really never thought I would be here in the first place, so I guess I never really thought it was that important. So, for those of you who have been wondering what it is like to be pregnant, here is a day in my life.tiny bump

I know what some of you are thinking: pregnancy means throwing up, eating all the time, gas, bloating, and weird cravings. I guess that is the experience for some women, but mine is different. I have to admit that so far, it has been kind of nice. I didn’t throw up except for one time when I switched vitamins. I don’t really have gas issues, I haven’t gained a whole lot of weight, I really don’t eat much more than I did before, and I haven’t really had any cravings for pickles or ice cream. In the beginning, when I was going through the worst of it, I only had fatigue and the taste of pennies in my mouth. Here is what it is like for me:

I wake up and wish I hadn’t. It usually happens way before my alarm goes off, so I start the morning a little irritated. Then, my little girl kicks and turns and I look down at my round belly and see it move. I enjoy this for a little while until I cannot wait any longer to go to the bathroom. Then, I head to the scale. Typically I am about the same as the day before. However, I will admit that in this last month, the scale has been slowly rising. I take a look in the mirror and see my strange new body. The boobs are a little larger, my veins are more pronounced, my thighs and hips are beginning to spread, there is a fuzz on my belly, and despite by bulging belly, my hip bones and ribs are protruding through my skin just enough that I can still remember the thin frame I had just a few months ago.

After my shower, I cover myself in lotion or oil. This is a very meticulous practice that I hope will help with the stretching. I am not afraid of stretch marks, but am doing what I can do avoid the post-prgnancy flabby belly. Then,  I take a look at my clothes and secretly wish I could just wear sweatpants, sneakers, and a hoodie all day. I do want to look somewhat professional, however, so I go to my small pile of maternity clothes and begin pulling the strange jeans or pants on up my legs and over my belly. I never thought I would be wearing jeans that touched my bra, but here I am. I the n go to my kitchen, make the first of only two cups of coffee I am allowed to ha all day, whip up a nice spinach shake, take my prenatal vitamins (gummies, no iron), drink some Kefir, and eat a bowl of iron rich cereal. After my one throwing up incident, I discovered the iron in my prenatals was making me feel sick. So, this has been my routine ever since. Grape Nut Flakes have been my new best friend.

Once I am at work, I get nice and comfy at my desk and stay that way until the leg cramps hit. I have no idea why, but if I sit too long, I get a strange cramp in my leg that comes out of nowhere.  This is the biggest nuisance in the last month. Throughout the day, I snack on things from time to time, drink large amounts of water, and feel slightly uncomfortable when people rub their hands all over my belly. I have never done this to someone else. I feel weird just reaching out and rubbing someone’s stomach. Yet, people I barely even know seem to feel like it is ok to just reach out and give a rub. I often imagine smacking these people and breaking their hands off, but so far, I just smile through the uncomfortable moment.

When I get home from work, I either go to my second job(a job I love but am afraid I won’t be able to do much longer), or I go home and crash. I try to walk the dog or get a little exercise, but I must admit I have mostly been lazy during this pregnancy. I also don’t cook much and typically get take out or microwave some vegan, organic, GMO free meal. To end the day, I put on a little music and watch my baby dance a bit before we both drift off to sleep.

So, if you wonder what it is like to be pregnant, it is actually kind of nice. I have this cool feeling that someone is always with me, I am fascinated with my changing body, and for the most part, I feel pretty amazing. Do I miss running, martinis, sushi, oysters, and energy drinks? Yes, I do, but they do seem a lot less important when you have a little one inside. I know I will have them again and I am pretty certain the sacrifice will be worth it the second I look in my daughter’s eyes. I will admit that, if given the chance, I think I would even like to do this again. Just don’t quote me on that until after I go through the birthing process.

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, Losing Dad, Preggers

My Silver Lining Playbook

 I am not perfect. I am broken. I am a mess. I make mistakes. Sometimes I make major mistakes. I hurt people. Sometimes I am a little crazy. The thing is, so are you. So are all of us. We are all human and there isn’t one of us made without flaws and who doesn’t make mistakes. We all have ugly parts, ugly things in our past, and maybe even in our present.  The best we can each do is to try our hardest and move on when we make mistakes.

I just watched a movie with one of my best friends called The Silver Lining Playbook. I am a single pregnant woman and my friend is going through a divorce. We went to high school together where we talked about our dreams for our future. We talked about meeting Mr. Right and marrying him and having a house and kids and being happy and healthy. Neither one of us ever dreamed we would be in the position we are in right now. We both trusted men that were not Mr. Right and are hurt as a result. This movie was something we both needed. In the movie, the two main characters have had bad things happen in their lives and they both respond by being just a little crazy. Still, they also both have positive outlooks on their futures and are striving to heal themselves so they can move on in their lives. They embrace their crazy and admit and accept it as part of who they are. They are both looking at the clouds and seeing the silver lining. They see the light coming through and make a plan in their life to clear the clouds.

I am alone with a baby on the way. I don’t know exactly what my living situation will look like. I don’t know how my work schedule or social schedule will look. I don’t know what it feels like to drop a newborn baby off at a daycare center. I don’t know what I’m going to do when my baby gets sick the first time. When she takes her first step and giggles for the first time, I wonder if I will be the only one who will be there to witness such an incredible event. I wonder if my daughter will resent me for being a working mother. I wonder what I will do the first time her school holds a “daddy and daughter” event. I wonder if her father will ever come around and be in her life. I wonder and then I stop. If I don’t stop, the craziness creeps in.

We cannot live our lives worrying about the “what ifs” and thinking about all of the worst-case scenarios. We cannot be afraid of everything that “could” happen. We can’t because that is not living. For three years I went to the hospital with my dad, saw the poisonous Chemo enter and destroy his body, and listen to the doctors say there was no cure. For three years the diagnosis never changed. I was going mad trying to figure out how to make it all stop so I wouldn’t face that inevitable day, but I had to have hope. For three years, I believed some kind of miracle would happen and my dad would live. It didn’t happen and the day came when I watched him take his last breath. Had I continued to worry about that moment and dwell on the fact that I was going to lose him, it still wouldn’t have prepared me to live through that moment any easier. If anything, having a blind hope that something amazing and wonderful would happen and I would never have to watch him die helped me get through each day.

Call me crazy. Tell me I am not facing reality. Tell me that my hopes will only hurt me. I don’t care. My silver lining playbook is my hope that something amazing will happen this time. I will drop my daughter off at daycare and it will be hard, but I will get through it. My daughter will have an audience the first time she giggles and walks. She will get sick and I will have someone with me helping me when she does. She will be proud of me for being an independent working woman. And, at some point, her father will show up. I believe that in my heart and I will be ok if that is not how things work out. I will no longer feel guilty for my mistakes and beat myself up for them. I won’t let others make me feel guilty either. From this point forward, I embrace my messy, ugly, crazy past and mistakes and I accept that they are part of me. From now on, I will look for the silver lining in everything and hope for these clouds in my life and my daughter’s life to clear so that we both may bask in the sun.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose Infinite hope.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Preggers

Ovaries

I recently learned that though my baby girl has 18 more weeks of growing until we get to meet her, she already has ovaries and they are already full of the eggs that will eventually be my descendants. Does anyone else see how awesome this is? I woke up this morning thinking I looked fat as I frowned at myself in the mirror. Of course I look fat! I am carrying around hundreds, possibly thousands, of people inside me. I have doctors and lawyers and teachers and probably the future president right there floating around my uterus! If I could, I would send them all a cocktail and let them have a party to celebrate their new existence.

Think of the influence I have right now. I need to make a playlist immediately so I can make sure they listen to good music and good books. I also need to start spending more money on food so I can spoil them a bit. After all, one of them will decide what home to put me in in the future and I would like to be on that one’s good side. I need to start schooling them on politics now to ensure none of them end up conservative. No offense if you happen to be one yourself, but a Republican just won’t survive in my family. We are a bunch of environmentally friendly, do-gooder, women’s rights, peace loving people.

Just when I thought I was alone, just when I got a little sad, I find out that generations of people are inside me. Call me crazy, but I am going to start talking to them all the next time I feel that loneliness creeping back in.

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