Saying Goodbye

Nearly twenty-six years ago I lost my father to cancer. I was ten at the time and barely understood the meaning of a forever goodbye. In the decades that followed I was tormented by dreams of him. In many, I’d discover that he’d never really died and that it had all been a horrible joke. I often woke up from those drenched in sweat and my heart racing. I hated those dreams.

Aside from these nightmares, the one thing that always plagued me was never knowing where his final resting place was and missing my chance for a final goodbye and closure. Through a newspaper article, I knew he’d been placed there around 1994, though he passed in 1991. We learned later the reason for the delay, aside from donating his body to medical research at UMKC, was that when he was shipped back to his sister-in-law, they didn’t have a place for him in the family plot. So, he sat on a bookshelf in their home for a while.

Since learning this, I’d been to Kansas City a few times, but had never been able to confirm where he was. My mom and I drove around a cemetery for over an hour while she tried to remember the place he’d once taken her to where his family had a lot. We were unsuccessful. Likely because we were at the wrong cemetery.

A few years later, my brother visited and drove around for a bit, this time the right cemetery, but he never found him. So, before my latest trip, I did some research and confirmed that he was in fact at the cemetery my brother had visited. This time. I called ahead and they confirmed his placement and offered to leave me a map.

When I arrived, it was dreary and early. The rain was light, but the chill in the air brought a familiar comfort. As soon as I parked my car in front of the mausoleum, the comfort dissipated. Half of me was missing. I shouldn’t be here alone. I called my twin brother and asked if he wanted to stay on the phone with me while I walked to our father’s crypt.

I opened the heavy iron gate and was greeted by a pitch black tomb … hell to the no. I hung up with my brother and immediately called the front desk. They sent up a maintenance man to get the lights on (thank you to the very understanding receptionist and the kind maintenance man who both kindly indulged my fears).

Finally down in the crypt, I once again had to wait for lighting. As I stood outside my father’s final resting place, I felt calm and peace. Any other time, standing alone in the basement of a grave yard surrounded by crypts would have sent me running. But, here, I felt safe. I felt welcome. I felt as though I were surrounded by love.

Because I was.

After the maintenance man came and went, I walked into the crypt. His stone was just above my reach, so I looked up to him – just as I had done so many times as a child. My last memories of my father were of him frail and sick in a hospital bed. In those moments, I was the tall one looking down at him. But, as I finally said my goodbyes to him 26 years later, I was once again standing in his shadow.  I told him I missed him and that he’d missed so much. I whispered one last “I love you” and went on my way.

I miss the man I used to dream my father was. He wasn’t perfect, far from it. But, in my eyes, he was and will always be this mountain of a man with a beard and a Harley.

 

 

Where Does This Leave Me?

I’ve never been one to surround myself with a gaggle of girlfriends.

I’ve never been good at making friends or keeping in touch.

I’ve always been better on my own.

I’ve always found peace in my own inner chaos.

These are the side effects of being an overly sensitive introvert. I thrive in the silence of a good book and feed my soul through music. I get lost in characters and, usually, my own thoughts. The time I spend in my car driving to and from work is more often than not the most relaxing part of my day. In those 45-60 minutes I am no one to no one. I am not an employee or a co-worker. I am not a wife or a mother. I am not a friend or a foe. I am just me. I can get lost in the road or a song or an audiobook. It’s the only time I am truly unplugged and able to recharge.

Since November 8 I feel as though I’ve slipped further and further into the introverted habits I find comfort in and am finding that they are providing less and less comfort as the world around me falls apart. I have found myself desperate for conversation with like-minded people – I crave it some days. There are days I don’t speak to anyone other than my husband and my toddler (this is partially a side effect of working in a small office with few employees and a total of zero that ever leave their caves). Those are the days I crave outside conversation the most.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I have lost contact with the handful of friends I did have – some by choice, some by accident. Fortunate because many of these friends cast their vote for the POTUS causing the world around me to crumble and unfortunate because I’ve lost the few people I felt comfortable talking to, even if we didn’t agree. Some days, like today, I miss them and I miss having a safety net to share my thought with. Other days go by in a blur and I don’t notice their absence.

Lately I’ve found some solace in a few groups of like-minded people – the women of the Nasty Women Project and the voices of The Resistance on Twitter. But these conversations are typically limited to 140 characters or the other constraints of social media. They also tend to care a little less about my personal experience and they rarely know my backstory, nor do they care to.

Where does this leave little introverted me?

When Intelligence Fails Them

Since November, I’ve become far more vocal and outspoken on social media. I’ve joined the millions of voices in The Resistance and I’ve not been shy about sharing my thoughts and opinions. With this newfound voice, I’ve also found myself on the receiving end of countless trolls and incessant personal attacks and insults.

As you can see from the screenshot, their favorite target for their insults: my eyebrows. Seriously. My eyebrows.  I’ll admit that at first it bothered me. Why the heck are these people who hide behind Twitter eggs and avatars so offended by my eyebrows? Then I realized why their first instinct is to insult. Well, one of two reasons – 1.) They’re own insecurities cause them to pick apart others, or, 2.) They don’t like what I have to say but have nothing intelligent to add.

Their second favorite “insult” is to call me a man in drag. Why? I am guessing it is because I wear makeup. But, here’s the problem with their insult – Drag Queens are phenomenal at makeup application and are typically flawless. As a makeup geek, this is more of a compliment than an insult.

Why do I share this?

Mainly to communicate that it’s not okay to personally attack others when you don’t agree with them. I do my best to not stoop to this level and, for the most part, I am don’t. When I get comments like this, I typically respond with a cute GIF and a “Thank you!” I do this for two reasons – to let them know their insults don’t bother me and to discourage negativity. If I can take their mean spirited comments and turn them into something positive, perhaps I can better spread the message I am trying to spread.

But, I also share this to show the world just how much shit women put up with. Our opinions, thoughts, ideas and value are often reduced to our appearance. As if we can’t have anything of value to add if the audience doesn’t appreciate our looks. Further, it is also assumed that any woman speaking her mind is fair game for attacks on her appearance or comments on what she is wearing. This is simply not true.

Under the platinum blonde hair (yes, it’s dyed and no, I don’t really care whether you like it or not), behind the makeup and contouring,  underneath the eyebrows and beyond the layer or two of fat lies a human being with a brain, an education, a career and a family. Those last things are what I’d rather be judged on … not the physical.

Dear Son

The first thing I said to my son this morning? “I’m sorry, we let you down yesterday.”

The tears in my eyes are not those of a sore loser, but those of a scared mother. Those of you that wish to downplay that, feel free. But, I’ll be holding my likely only child much closer these next four years. I’ll be screaming my message of love and acceptance from the top of my lungs and I will never apologize for making my voice heard.It’s time to rebuild and heal. They want us to forget the rhetoric and move past it, but let’s use it to become stronger. Let’s empower those who’ve been silenced and marginalized. Let’s teach the world who America really is, because the America I leave my son will not be one full of hate.

Finding Your Inner Motivation

image1 (2)One common theme among my friends and myself is that we constantly struggle to find the motivation to do whatever it is we are wanting to do that requires work. The get up and go is hard to come by when your knee deep in dirty diapers, work schedules, laundry, grocery shopping and all the million and one other things that us moms have to worry about. It is so easy to get caught up in the mundane and forget about the big picture.

I am 100% certain we were not put on this earth to sort laundry or negotiate how many pieces of broccoli will be eaten at dinner. And yet, this is where we tend to focus 100% of our attention and efforts.

It becomes this cycle that we get stuck in – set goals, think goals are too big, put them aside, worry about something smaller and forget the goals – and it is one that is hard to get out of. Ultimately, at least for me, it comes down to thinking the goal or the dream is too big. We focus on the biggest, most difficult task required to achieve this goal and we falter.

Sure there are big scary steps to take to reach those big, fat, hairy, audacious goals we love to set – and don’t take this wrong, those are the goals we should be setting. Seriously, a goal or dream that doesn’t scare you a little might not be a goal worth investing time and calories in. This one was a tough one to tackle – being afraid of the things I really wanted because I would rather run from the work than do the work. Staying where you are, spinning your tires is far easier than getting out of the car and pushing it forward.

So, setting those big, scary goals is step one. Let me say this again … do not be afraid to dream big. You should be more afraid to dream small.

The next step would be to break your goal down into all the different steps and tasks that you would need to take to achieve your goal. Do some research and start paying attention to those people who have achieved a similar goal or that live a lifestyle you want to live. What did they do to get there? What do you see in them that might be applicable to your life.

Every day, start with a to do list built from this. Break down your tasks into little bite size, manageable chunks. In other words, take the monster out of your big, scary goals by tackling the smaller goals and tasks that will help you move forward. If you have a task on your list for the day that just sounds painful and awful, do that first. Get it out of the way and never think about it again. So often we look at our to do list and there is one task on there that just fills you with dread all day long. You put it off and you ignore it and it never gets done. But, if you start your day by knocking it out, then you can go into the rest of your day felling accomplished and like a badass. Who doesn’t love that?

And, what is more motivating than starting your day feeling like a badass?

Comfort Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

image1 (1)Sometimes, I get completely overwhelmed when I start to think about some of the things I have to do – work, family, life, etc. I start to dwell and worry about all the ten thousand what-ifs. What if I don’t know what I am doing? What if they don’t like me? What if I can’t answer their questions? What if I let my boss/husband/son/friends down? I used to allow myself to get so lost and so caught up in those what-ifs that I didn’t do half the things I wanted to do.

I left fear and self-doubt control me because I lacked the confidence to push ahead and push past the noise.

I once intentionally bombed a job interview because it was on the 21st floor and the elevator ride up and down terrified me. Yep.

A few years ago, I was invited to cover a fashion event as a blogger – a HUGE opportunity. I left halfway through and never covered it because I was too scared to talk to people and felt like an outsider. I blew it because I let fear get in the way of me.

I could probably list at least a hundred other examples of how I let my fears get in the way of my success. But, as I have started to work on me and have become actively engaged in personal development, I am learning how to let go of that fear and anxiety and move past it.

How?

First, by realizing that I am not alone. When I was at that fashion event, I wasn’t the only person there solo. As I stood alone in the corner, someone else was likely doing the same thing. I didn’t seek them out and start making conversation. Had I realized this at the time, I could have come in prepared to ask questions and make conversation. Instead, I made the whole thing about me and how I felt personally, when I wasn’t even there as me – I was there as Girl In Nashville.

Then, think about why you are there or why you need to do something. Remember your purpose and your passion. If the thought of doing something terrifies you, focus on the outcome. My new job is in an office building and I have to take the elevator now … and even scarier (at least for me), I have to take an elevator in the parking garage. That’s two elevators, twice a day. But, this job was the opportunity I had been waiting for and had I turned it down due to my elevator fear, I’d still be stuck, spinning my wheels. The purpose far outweighed the fear.

Next, don’t take it personally. Most people are so lost in themselves that they are likely unaware of how they might make you feel. Very rarely do people act out of spite (sure, there are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, they are just not aware). And, if something really bothers you, speak up. Don’t continue to make yourself miserable.

My last piece of advice is to not make it about you. If being front and center makes you nervous, turn it around. Make the conversation about them – ask questions, listen and then ask follow up questions. I hate talking about myself, so this was the perfect way to shift the focus away from me. Bonus: it makes other people feel comfortable and appreciated when you actively seek to get to know them.

You don’t have to take drastic measures to get out of your comfort zone, do it little by little.

That said, I will still divert to the long way on my walk into work if there is a pigeon in the alley.

My Greatest Fear

mygreatestfearI have a lot of irrational fears … flying, elevators, snakes, heights, tire blowouts on the interstate, building or bridge collapses, earthquakes, birds … seriously, I could go on for days of all the ridiculous things I am afraid of. As a new mom, there are a million new fears that I won’t even go in to. But, one new fear has quickly overcome all my other silly fears.

When I was 10 my father passed away after a short battle with brain cancer. His death shattered my entire world. For years, and even now, I often find myself asking the same questions over and over – would he be proud of me, what was he like at this age, would he have been a good grandfather, would he have been there all those times a girl needs her father – all of which are forever unanswered.

Thanks to social media, I get to read all these stories of fathers who left their daughters letters or videos to read and watch as they grew up without them. These fathers held early weddings so they could symbolically walk their daughters down the aisle. They arranged for people or things to stand in their place for moments when they could not be there. While I love all of these stories, sometimes they only help to widen the hole in my heart. Why didn’t my dad have the foresight to do all these things. Didn’t he know I’d one day walk down the aisle, desperate for a father-daughter moment? Did he not want to impart fatherly wisdom on me as I graduated college or learned to drive a car? Did he care that he was going to miss all those moments? Did it occur to him how much I would miss him in those moments?

Now that I am a mother, my greatest fear is that one day my son will have to ask these questions. Every time I leave the house I wonder what will happen if I don’t make it home. Will he know how much I love him and how desperately I want to be there for every moment in his life – big or small. Who will comfort him when he needs his mother? There are a million other questions that break my heart to even think about him having to ask. I pray I never have to worry about these questions. While I know it is pointless to worry about things out of my control, I cannot help but remember my own childhood or think about my husband’s – he lost his father when he was young too and his mother a few years ago. I never want my son to know that heartbreak.

The one, and likely only, benefit of this fear is that it caused me to hold him a little longer at night while he sleeps on my chest. I savor the sound of his laughter and the cadence of his babbling. While his little brain isn’t making memories just yet, I take a million photos so one day he might be able to piece together his childhood and fill in the gaps that his memory can’t. I make sure to never leave the house without telling him and his father that I love them. While these things do not calm my fears, they do help to reassure me that should my fears become reality perhaps my son won’t spend his life wondering about his mother the way I wonder about my father. He will, without a doubt, know that I loved him fiercely and would be proud of him no matter the day, event or outcome.

Am I Enough?

image1Midnight is a bitch of an hour. It’s dark. It’s deathly silent (well, until your baby wakes up coughing and screaming). It’s brutally honest. And it’s in the dark, honest silence where I often find myself asking life’s biggest questions as I gently rock my baby boy back to sleep. I rub my cheek on the top of his head, closing my eyes as his soft hair tickles my face. This is something I have done since his newborn days, his short, fine blonde hair is soft and almost soothing against my skin.

Last night as I tried desperately to get him back to sleep, I kept wondering if I was enough or if I was doing good enough. I thought about my upcoming work trips and recalled earlier that day when he’d cried for me when I left the room. That was not even five minutes, how is he going to handle the 2 day trip this week or the 3 day one in two weeks. How am I going to handle this? In prior months, he barely noticed I was gone as his little brain didn’t make short-term memories. He literally lived in the moment. But now he notices when I am gone and he gets really excited when I return – his welcoming smiles and giggles when I pick him up from daycare are the highlight of my day.

Perhaps that’s the curse of being a working mother. I enjoy my job and I thrive in my career, they both fulfill me in a way that family cannot. But, I also love my son and I love my husband and they provide me with the love and fulfillment that a career cannot. Despite the fulfillment my career provides, it doesn’t replace the moments lost or firsts missed. I know that I cannot and will not ever get those back, but I also know that one day I hope my son will beam with pride as he talks about me and tells his classmates that his mom does something cool for a living.

For a living. That’s what we work for, right? We work to provide a life we can enjoy. We don’t live for work and finding that balance can be difficult. My evenings and weekends belong to my family and the occasional “me” time. I work to ensure I don’t work during that time, ironic isn’t it?

To take it a step further, I work for a living so I can truly enjoy the life and love of my family. We don’t have to worry and we don’t carry the burden of bills, groceries or other necessities. We have enough and for that I am grateful. Money doesn’t bring happiness, but it can add a layer of safety and comfort. Having spent much of my adult life not having enough, I thoroughly enjoy being able to contribute and help provide for our family.

Some will argue that isn’t enough to make up for the time lost. They will ask how I can let a stranger raise my child. Won’t I miss out, they’ll muse. For them maybe it isn’t. But for me, I know deep down that I am making the choices that matter to my family. I can’t get back the time I spend at work, but I can make up for it in love. My son knows I am his mama and he knows that I am the one who is there when he needs me. His teachers at daycare are not strangers, they have become extended family members. And I assure you neither my son, nor I are missing out. I will be there for every milestone, every school event and every bump and bruise along the way. That is what matters to me.

Now, in the clarity of the daylight, I can see that I am enough. My husband and I are all that our son needs and we are more than enough.

Pumpin’ Ain’t Easy

IMG_5955Most breastfeeding moms hate pumping, but I look forward to it sometimes. While I am at work, it is often my only quiet time. At home, it is my alone time. It is ironic that doing something for someone else is what I consider my alone time. That’s right … I find it relaxing to be hooked up to a machine and be milked like a cow. Weird? Maybe.

Sure, it can also be inconvenient … especially when traveling for work. Ever had a TSA agent admire how thick your milk was,staring at in awe and exclaiming … “WOW this looks like whole milk!” as he scans each and every one of your bags of pumped milk? All the while other passengers are walking by commenting on how patient you must be or lamenting on their pumping days gone by.

IMG_7337Even more fun than getting a play-by-play on the quality of your milk? Pumping in an airport bathroom because their Mother’s Room is on the other side of the airport. Better yet, ever been serenaded by your male boss as you walked to the Mother’s Room … his song of choice? Pump up the Jam. Which, then becomes your code word for going to pump. Or ever had to pump in the back seat of a rental car while the CEO at your new employer drove?

Luckily for me, my humility went out the window after going through birth and subsequently being topless in a hospital for 4 days while my newborn and I tried to figure out how to nurse. Nothing will strip you of your modesty more than exposing your full breast to the entire hospital staff.

All this said, pumping isn’t fun or easy, but it’s worth every second and every hassle.

How She Doesn’t Do It

fontcandyI mom. I work. I wife. I school. I bake. Not necessarily in that order. But, I don’t clean (often). I don’t laundry (at least not often enough). I don’t cook (every night). In other words, I don’t do it all and sometimes, I don’t do what I do well enough to qualify as doing it. Shit happens, I miss deadlines. I miss assignments. I have to ask my husband to get up to give the baby a bottle of pumped milk. So, next time you feel the need to tell me “wow, you must be so busy! How do you do it?” please know that the answer is simple … I don’t. My husband does.

That’s right, I don’t do it all. Not even close. Not even a little. And I don’t think I am alone in this. I’ve met a few Super Moms, but even Super Moms have someone or a few someones they can lean on for support now and then. Or, even someone to fill in so we can escape for some alone time … because alone time is insanely important to maintaining your mom sanity. Remember that Super Moms, because without sanity your cape gets a bit tattered.

Another thing that weathers your cape? Thinking you can do it all and that you have to do it all perfectly. Your family doesn’t need perfection, they need happiness and safety. You know what your family also needs? Failure. There I said it. We need to fail once in a while and we need to teach our kids that it is okay to fail. Why? Because we have to learn lessons and we have to fall flat on our face so we can truly know when and how to celebrate the wins. When we teach our kids that it is perfectly fine to not be perfect, we are teaching them to love themselves and to embrace their flaws, and that is a wonderful thing.

So Moms, stop beating yourselves up for bringing Oreos to the bake sale or for calling it a day and having PB&Js for dinner. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your family and it doesn’t make you a terrible mother. It makes you the perfectly imperfect mom that your family needs … because all they need is you.

Most importantly? Never, ever be afraid to ask for help.