Women Are The Future

Today is International Women’s Day, and I’ve struggled to find the words to adequately convey what I’m thinking today. I am a woman and a mother of a strong, independent little girl who will grow up to be a formidable and fierce woman.

The world she’s being raise in will call her bossy or rude or a bitch when she stands her ground and demands that her voice be heard.

Boys and men will tell her to smile more and think she owes them something.

Bosses will underestimate her. Teachers will pass over her. Co-workers will y’all over and dismiss her.

All because she’s a woman. But the loss is theirs because I can already see the forces colliding inside her. Strength. Sense of self. Power. Leadership. Creativity. Dominance.

My daughter, like every girl I know, is far more than a cute face with a pretty dress and a bow. She’s more than a daughter. More than a sister. More than any label anyone slaps on her.

Women are the life force of this planet. They’re the calm before, during, and after the storms.

Women and girls are the future, and it will take each and every one of us to ensure that all of our voices are heard.

Getting Back to Me

For the past year, I’ve been attempting to balance working motherhood, marriage, reading, launching a Bookstagram, and writing and querying.

I wrote four full manuscripts. I read 120 books. I lost my patience, my temper, and at times, my mind. I stopped taking care of myself. My hair? Hot mess. My makeup? Huh, what’s that? My nails? Anxiety chewed a hole through my hands.

Nothing was or is balanced. The scales will never be perfect and that’s okay. What isn’t okay is that I completely let my health and self-care slip into the void.

I’m proud of the writing I did and the progress I made (12 manuscript requests and counting, let’s not talk about the rejections that piled up as well). I’m not to my goal yet, but I am closer.

I absolutely love the Bookstagram community I’ve joined. I’ve made some amazing friends there too—writing partners, confidants, mom friends—and it’s been a joy to be a part of.

I’m not planning on changing any of this, but I do need to get back to doing the things I loved doing before. My first step? Getting my platinum hair back. I missed it. A lot. Then, back to doing my makeup and having fun with it. Because for me, it is about the fun of it and not whatever society deems as important or beauty or whatever. It’s for me.

Decade in Review

I don’t even know where to start this. Ten years ago, I was a different person. I was 28 and on the verge of graduating college. I worked in a men’s clothing store and had dreams of working in politics. I’d also written my first novel (may it forever rest in peace in a box under my bed).

I was single and was convinced I would always be. And, I had no clue what the next day would hold, much less the next decade.

Ten years later, I’ve now written almost ten books. I’m married and a mom. I finished my undergrad and went on to get my MBA. I have a career (in retail, but using those overpriced pieces of paper). I’ve self-published three novels, and I’m currently submitting my work and querying agents.

Those are all of the tangible changes. The biggest changes are the ones you can’t see. I’m finally working towards finding comfort in my own skin. I’m finding my words and my voice. But, most importantly, I’ve laid out a clear vision for the person, wife, mother, and author I want to be. I’ve accepted that perfection is neither obtainable nor an option—and, I don’t want it.

In the last decade, I’ve become the person I never knew I wanted to be, but I still have a lot of growing and learning left to do. Cheers to the next 10 years.

PS 2020 in an election year. So, make sure you’re registered! And, of course, VOTE.

2020 Word of the Year: Intentional

Are you a habitual scroller? I can lose hours on social media. HOURS. I scroll and scroll and I don’t even think I’m actually paying attention. But I love it.

It’s a problem.

My word of the year for 2020 is Intentional.

I want to be intentional with my time and energy. To have a clear purpose. To be goal-oriented and focused. To ensure that everything I do is driving those goals and purposes forward. And, lastly, to be present in every moment I can.

This means implementing discipline around my social media usage. So, I’m sitting down now to make a plan and shift through those goals and intentions.

An Unexpected Confidence Boost

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a nail biter and a nail picker. It’s a terrible habit that is made worse by stress and anxiety. Earlier this year I shared a post about this. At the time, I was stressed at work and at home. I was also knee-deep in my first round of querying. I’d written 3 books and was planning to start another.

My hands were awful. Like, I hated having them visible. They also hurt. It was bad—possibly the worst they’d ever been.

I kept seeing these gorgeous imPRESS press-on nails on BooksAndMargs Instagram and loved them. They looked amazing. They didn’t look anything like my hands.

On a whim, I picked up a set at Target and decided I’d use them as a reward. I needed some form of incentive to stop biting and picking.

In a moment very on-brand for me, I didn’t wait until my fingers were better. I think they sat on my desk for two whole days before I caved. I was shocked at how easy they were to apply. Even more shocking? They looked good!

Within a week of applying the first set, my fingers were already healing. They were starting to look really good. Five weeks and four sets later and they are completely healed. I can’t believe my hands are the hands in these photos. I’m definitely not embarrassed by these fingers anymore and I’ve kicked a bad habit in the process. And, I’m officially obsessed with imPRESS Manicures. I’ve started collecting sets and my son’s favorite thing to do is pick out my next set. Me too, kid, me too.

Discouraging Silence

Silence is the most daunting side effect of putting yourself out there. Silence is the sound that haunts your thoughts at all hours of the day and night. It creeps into the crevices of your biggest fears and doubts and eats its way further and further until the wounds fester.

It is in the most silent of moments that you either choose to give up or strain to hear the music. These are the make or break moments for me because in silence, it is very easy to hear the nagging of my inner negative voice. She screams as loud as the silence, their voices creating a chorus of You’re Not Good Enough. Silence calls for me to join in her pity party. As tempting as it can be to dive head first into the Silence’s negativity, I’m working to stay out of it.

That pity party offers nothing for me. It doesn’t invite me to write or create. It places a spotlight on every flaw and mistake and reminds me that those moments are defining.

But they aren’t.

Silence is a liar. Her pity party is a drag and a bore, and it is not one I ever want to RSVP to (though there are times I do attend despite my better judgement).

When Silence creeps in, I like to drown her out with music or audiobooks. If I fill my ears and mind with words and music, Silence can’t get a work in edgewise. Her voice is muted. Her negativity stifled.

It is in those moments that I remember I have the power and the control, not Silence.

A Dear John Letter

Dear Fear,

I’ve given you nearly 38 years of my life. I’ve let you guide and dictate nearly every move.

You’ve made decisions for me that I’ll always regret. You’ve made me wonder what if far too many times.

You’ve made me say no when yes was all I wanted. You’ve pushed me to say yes when I needed to scream no.

But this relationship isn’t working anymore.

It’s not me. It’s you.

Of course, we’ll always be friends. Perhaps not the fondest of friends. After all, we’ll never have Paris as you’ve forbidden me from flying over the ocean.

So, while this isn’t goodbye, it is a departure. I’m sure we’ll meet again soon. More likely than not, our paths will cross when I most expect it. I’ll be ready and waiting. A quick hug. A peck on the cheek. But that is all. Nothing more.

I’ll always carry a piece of you with me, but you’ll never have all of me again.

Cozy Reading Nook

When you’re a mom, you rarely get space that is just yours. Even the toilet is shared space when you have small kids (one day, I’ll remember what it’s like to pee without an audience).

Ever since I started reading and writing again, I’ve been bugging my husband for a reading chair. A recliner. A giant bean bag chair. Whatever as long as it was mine and only mine.

I’ve found approximately fifty chairs I HAD to have. But, none that were perfect. That is until this beauty came into my life. I found it at Bargain Hunt, but it is originally from Target. The Target regular price was $232, it was only $150 at Bargain Hunt. Score.

The reviews on Target’s website say it isn’t comfortable, but the are wrong. The chair is firm and supportive, which is perfect. And, I can curl up in it comfortably. It’s also amazing for writing.

In a word, it is perfect.

Tired as a Mother

Sleep regression. Leaps. New routines. Teething. Sickness. Fears. Anxiety. Nightmares. FOMO.

Whatever the reason, whatever the name, babies and toddlers have incredibly fickle sleep habits. Just when you think you’ve mastered the whole sleep thing, it all changes and your kid is up at 2 am and ready to PAR-TAY.

As a working mother, this is my nightmare. It always seems these moments strike on the nights, er, mornings, before I have important meetings or projects due. While I live and die by my lattes, there is little they can do when I am living on four hours a sleep three nights in a row.

My son, 3.5, and daughter, 11 months, appear to be on the same sleep regression schedule. It’s almost comical how predictable it is. He wakes up at midnight and she’s up at 12:01 am. Worse is his cries or yelling will wake her up more than hers do him. His propensity to slam the toilet seat has resulted in her waking more than once. We’ve not mastered our use of inside voices or gentle toilet lid closing. One day.

Aside from the obvious, the biggest thing impacted by this is my health. Building a fitness routine has been damn near impossible since #2 was born. I am a morning fitness person (just don’t talk to me). My ideal workout time is right around 4 or 4:30 am. (Yes, I understand this may seem insane, but if it doesn’t happen then, it ain’t happening). My daughter loves waking up raring to go around 3:45; this after waking around midnight. I can handle a 4 am wake up if she rocks or nurses back to sleep, but that fifteen minutes seems to be catastrophic to my workout mojo.

The lack of sleep also results in more caffeine (LOTS of coffee and lattes) and really, really shitty food decisions as I seek out desperate (and fleeting) attempts to fuel some sort of energy.

Before you lecture me on the energy provided by working out, I know this. It’s one of those Catch 22 things… I need energy to workout, working out provides that energy, but I need to have it to do the working out part. Aye.

My poor husband is right there with me. Except, he gets the added bonus of my downright tyrannical bitchiness from not sleeping (bless his heart). Honestly, that’s a kind under-exaggeration. It’s more like an unleashed wild rage. At times, the exhaustion is enough to bring tears at just the thought of sleep.

I know these days are numbered and one day I may look back on them fondly (should I do so, please point me back to this post), but right now in the moment, they suck. They suck so much I am at a loss for words to adequately describe how sucky they are.

Saying this does not make me a horrible mother, nor does it mean I don’t love my children in the stage we are currently in. All it means is that this shit is hard, so hard, and sleep is a fundamental need for human beings. I miss it. I miss it more than I miss the feeling of my pants fitting without digging a canyon into my gut.

One day, I’ll sleep a full eight hours. Until then, bottoms up my fellow coffee-loving mamas.

Adventures in Breastfeeding

The familiar feeling of an impending letdown alerted me that I was now thirty minutes past my normal pumping time. My shirt and bra were getting tighter and the pain was beginning to distract me from my current task. I glanced towards the back of the office to the room that was supposed to be reserved as the “Mother’s Room.” It had a sign posted and a reservation schedule by the door – because my boss thought it would be too awkward to have the room listed on the calendar as “Mother’s Room.” He’d nearly vomited at my original suggestion of “The Milk Barn.”

I sighed audibly and got up. As I walked back to the room I contemplated all the mean faces and side eyes I would give the person who’d ignored every sign and was occupying the very room I needed. My irritation was growing by the second and I almost pitied the person on the other end. Almost.

I knocked quietly and waited. No answer. I knocked again. After the second non-response, I tried the handle. The door was locked. Awesome. I knocked one last time, but again, no answer. Someone had locked the door and closed it behind them as they left. I could feel my eyes starting to burn as my breasts reminded me again that I desperately needed to pump. Taking a deep breath to quell the tears, I found our office manager and asked for the key to the room.

“We don’t have one,” he said. “How badly do you need in there?”

My face flushed and I had to again force back tears, “Pretty badly.”

My co-workers, sensing my frustration, sprung into action. They tried to jimmy the lock with a paperclip, personal credit cards and random keys found in the office. Nothing worked. My pumping room was locked down tighter than a white collar prison, with my pump and supplies inside. Had they been at my desk, I likely would have just popped by boobs out and started pumping in front of everyone.

Maintenance finally showed up an hour later and I ran into the room to relieve the pressure. I may have also given in to the tears that I’d been fighting.

Now that I am nearly seven months into my second go-round as a working, breastfeeding mother, I am quite used to the variety of hurdles that come with this.  am committed to providing for my daughter as I did for my son. I do believe that breast is best (for my children) and worth every sacrifice. But this does not mean I am immune to feeling the stress and frustration.

With both my children, I started new jobs around their fifth month of life. Both times I agonized more about when to tell them I needed to have a space and the time to pump than salaries or benefits. I constantly worry that my need to pump will be an inconvenience to others, but I also find myself becoming highly annoyed when they are inconvenienced or weirded out when I mention my need.

image2While I was pumping for my son, I started traveling for work. Thankfully, I produced enough to have a freezer stash to use for him. Work travel as a pumping mom is a challenge – calling ahead to ensure your hotel room has a refrigerator only to find out upon your arrival that they do not, but you can bring your breast milk down here and we will store it (and accidentally freeze it, meaning it will thaw and spoil before you make it back home), getting excited to learn the airport has a mother’s room only to learn it is in the terminal you are not flying out of. You haven’t fully lived if you’ve never had a twenty-something TSA agent ohh and ahh over how thick your breast milk is, “WOW this looks like whole milk! I normally see watery milk, but this is THICK! And, dang, it’s like a gallon!” all while your boss and co-worker wait patiently for him to finish scanning the bags so everyone can make it to the gate in time.

Aside from the travel challenges, far too many companies do not consider the needs of working mothers. The law requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide a private space that is not a bathroom for mother’s to pump (the laws are a little more intricate than that, but I am going to skip the legal ease), but many either do not care or do not have the space for it.

I am fortunate to work in a corporate setting, but I have seen how difficult it can be for mothers that work in retail or restaurant environments. My career has led to be in those positions momentarily as I am pumping and starting new jobs. During those times, I pumped in my car because the restaurant or store I was in did not have a private space that wasn’t a bathroom or monitored by cameras. These instances were rare inconveniences for me, but for many moms, this is a reality of life every single day and most don’t fight it.

Part of the issue is the fear of asking – similar to one of the arguments of why women are paid less – because we are afraid of making requests or asking for what we deserve. This is something I struggle with regularly, both in pay negotiations and asking for time and space to express milk for my child. At some point, we as women need to stop apologize for existing and start demanding for our proper space.

However, like any mom, I make the best of the situation and make it work. Even if that means pumping in my car in the heat and humidity of a Nashville summer.

An excerpt of this originally appeared on Our Epic Blog and can be found here.