In the Blink of an Eye

My son is going through his 18-24 month sleep regression, which means we’ve been doing a lot of rocking before bed lately. The boy who used to let us know it was bedtime and would climb into bed, lay his head down and close his eyes without a fight now refuses to do anything of the sort.

Last night as I rocked him, I rubbed my cheek over the top of his head like I did so many times during the first year or so of his life. When he was born he had the softest peach fuzz atop his (cone) head. I can still remember the softness and comfort it brought as I’d gently move my hand or cheek across it. I spent many a nights with my face gently resting against that tiny, fuzzy head. It became a part of our routine – nurse, rock, head rub. I think it soothed me as much as it did him.

I don’t remember the last time I did this. Instead, those moments are combined into a single memory. A memory that comes complete with the familiar sensation of his tiny baby hair against my skin and his tiny body wrapped up completely in my arms. His entire world existed inside our arms, now he can run and explore a world he couldn’t have dreamt of before.

His hair has grown out and isn’t so baby soft anymore. It’s usually an unruly mess that neither my husband nor I can tame. We are well past due on his second haircut. But last night as I rocked him into his new dream world, I laid my cheek on top of his head and smiled as the long hairs tickled my skin.

We have a lot of firsts to look forward to and to look back on. But, what I’ve taken for granted are all the lasts we have ahead of us as well. There will come a day when he won’t clamor to sit on Mama’s lap or have Dada tickle his toes. He won’t want us to be in the room with him and he won’t cry when we leave. He’ll sulk in the back seat instead of giggle and talk as we drive home from school. He won’t wake up babbling and asking for Mama, he’ll shove us off and roll over to fall back asleep. He won’t reach for us and beg us to lift up or hold him. His “peas” and “tank ous
” will become fully enunciated “pleases” and “thank yous,” if we are lucky enough to get them. Mama reading Mama Llama to him before bed won’t be the highlight of his day and bath time with Dada will become fights over the need to shower and use deodorant. One day, his world won’t revolve around Mama and Dada. I’ve known these moments were coming, but I wasn’t prepared for the weight of the realization.

Those hairs brushing my cheek reminded me that these moments are fleeting and they will be long gone in the blink of an eye.

Malala Yousafzai: I am Malala

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban is a powerful story of a young girl fighting for the things she believes in: peace and education for all children. Malala’s story delivered the kind of inspirational tale that I was expecting – a strong, brave, intelligent and outspoken young woman who fought for her education. What I didn’t expect? The detailed insight into how the Taliban came to power in her valley in Pakistan.

What also came as a surprise? The parallels I was able to draw between the current regime in America and the way in which the Taliban was able to draw in supporters.

As I listened to this young girl detail the history of the Taliban in Pakistan and the way they moved into her home in the Swat Valley, my jaw dropped. From the man who came to power by promising to release his taxes and drain the corruption from the government to the Taliban leader who took to the radio airwaves to spread fake news and false narratives while calling out those he felt didn’t follow the Islam that he deemed to be correct. Every step they took rung true as I thought about Donald Trump, the alt-right and those that follow them religiously. It was eerie how similar these tactics are.

What struck me the most as I listened to Malala’s life story was how important it was – not just her plea for education and rights for girls – but to story of how the Taliban and other extremists have perverted the Islamic of religion. Malala and her family are passionate about their faith and they are adamantly opposed to the message of the Taliban. She offers a perspective that all Americans and Westerners need to hear. It is something I’ve said for years, but that her book reinforced, extremists do not represent the Muslim community and those in the community are as appalled by their actions as we are.

Malala’s story was eye opening and provided me with a perspective that one could only get from someone who lived through it.

Dada Home?

Thanks to my job, I travel once every month or two. Most of the time, the trips are short, but sometimes I am gone for a few days. Those trips are hard – being away from my son and husband isn’t easy. Plus, I don’t always have time to call or video chat.

Thankfully, I have a partner that is just that – a true partner. He doesn’t consider caring for our son “women’s work” and is an active and engaged parent. This is something I try very hard to not take for granted. Our family only works because he works. There are times, many times, where I feel like he carries far more of the home responsibilities than I do. Likely because I will let the dishes build to mountain climbing levels before I touch them and he refuses to let them pile up.

This week my husband had to travel to a conference and was gone four nights. For most moms this wouldn’t be a big deal. But for me, it was. I’ve never had to do the morning and night routine solo. My husband typically does the morning and breakfast routine with our son while I get ready. At bedtime, I read him a book and give him kisses while my husband tucks him in. If I am in the room, he will fight sleep and not stay in bed.

When I travel, I always ask my husband if our son asks for me. Usually, the answer is “nope.” I hate this answer. I know it is completely selfish, but I want my son to miss me when I am gone. I want him to want his mama. At first this question and answer would leave me in tears, but then I found comfort in knowing that my husband and my son have an amazing bond … although, it still hurts sometimes.

The first night my husband was gone, he asked about Dada as soon as we got home. He normally does this because he knows Dada always gets home before we do. So, I wasn’t surprised there. At bedtime, he fought sleep a little and even got back out of bed after I left the room. But, a few verses of Hakuna Matata (thank you Lion Guard for the refresher) and a few back rubs later, he fell asleep like a champ.

Until three in the morning when I was awoken by one of his toys singing, “I’m a silly little penguin. Waddling here. Waddling there.” Ugh. I knew that toy was on the opposite end of the room and didn’t just randomly turn on. I threw myself out of bed and walk to his room.

“Hi Mama!” He shouted and waved as I walk in. This energy did not reflect that of a child who just happened out of bed. He was wide awake. I was not.

After a failed attempt to get him back into bed, I brought him into our room. As we lay in the dark, he started talking.

“Dada home? Dada home?” he repeated over and over. I tell him Dada will be home later. He keeps asking. My eyes swelled with tears as I got him back up and tried to rock him to sleep. “Dada home? Dada home?”

He kept asking. His voice small and quiet.

“Just Mama, buddy,” I whispered back to him. “Dada will be home in a few days.”

We played this game for another hour before I gave up and got the day started.

Just Mama. God it killed me to hear him asking for Dada when I knew he rarely asked for me. At three in the morning your brain likes to travel down dark paths that are neither productive or vetted in reality. I wondered if I’d failed him as a mother. I thought all my work travel had made him not miss me when I was gone – oh, Mama? She’s always gone. I again wondered if I was really good enough for him or even just enough. I sobbed as I tried to rub his back to get him to fall asleep again. I hated myself.

But, as the sun came up, my thoughts shifted. Of course he wanted to know where Dada was and why he wasn’t home. He knows when Mama leaves she always comes back. He knows the routine of my travel. For his dada, this was new territory. His routine was thrown off. Dada didn’t read him a story and tuck him in. Dada wasn’t there for breakfast. For over a year and a half, Dada has been there almost every single night at bedtime and then the next morning at breakfast.

This is something that makes me happy and makes me love my husband more every single day. It is also something I far too often just take for granted and do not appreciate as I should.

As soon as we had a video chat with Dada, all was right with his world. He knew Dada, like Mama, was there even when he was not home. The smile on his face when he heard Dada’s voice was worth every insecurity I’d felt the night before.

I’ve shared this before, but it’s worth repeating, Mom Guilt is hard. It infiltrates our brains and makes us think crazy thoughts. It makes the smallest slight feel like world war.

He Runs and Hides

My son has been visiting the Two Year Old room at school lately. Every afternoon his class spends the last part of the day in this new magical room full of new toys and big kids. My son loves it in there. In fact, he loves it so much that he runs and hides from me when I pick him up.

Yup.

My child runs and hides from me when I come to pick him up.

The same child that would act as though the world were ending if Mom even considered walking into another room. The child who used to run to me when I picked him up – he’d practically tackle me and beg me to hold him. The child who used to refuse everyone but me.

He runs and hides from me.

Sure I know he loves the new room – so many new toys to play with, new faces to interact with, but it stings. It stings a lot.

Every single day I sit in my office and I wonder if the work I am doing is truly worth missing out on my son’s day. Every minute I sit in my car begging traffic to move I wish I were at daycare already. Every waking minute, and sometimes sleeping ones, I wonder if I can be a good mom while also having a career.

So, seeing my son look up at me, make eye contact and run the other direction so he can play with one more toy before coming home absolutely guts me. If I listened to all the delightful people on Twitter who tell me that women like me are the reason this generation is so screwed up or listen to the woman who not so subtly asks me how I could let another person raise my son, this would hurt even more.

But, I do listen to them. Their words hurt even though I know my son is thriving. He’s smart. He’s happy. He adores his father and me (sometimes, I think he might favor Dada over Mama), and I am sure that given the choice, he’d much rather spend his days and nights with us than at school. It does make me happy that he loves his school, but that happiness is overshadowed by my jealousy. I want him to be that excited to see me, not his toys or classmates. He loves coming “ome” once we are in the car. On the short ride home, we talk about the snacks we’ll make, the pets he’ll torment, the books we’ll read and the cuddles we’ll have.

I wish I could erase the doubt filled thoughts and anxiety that plague working mothers. I wish society could accept that women can lead in the home and out of it and stop making us feel guilty for choosing both careers and motherhood.

Most of all, I wish my son wouldn’t run and hide at the end of the day.

Sheryl Sandberg: Lean In

When I started listening to Lean In I had no idea that it would take me on an emotional journey into self-realization and ultimately self-reassurance.

I know I am a few years late to the Lean In movement, but the timing could not have been more perfect for my life. Being a working mom is still fairly new for me and having a career with goals and a ladder is almost equally as new. The combination of the two – motherhood and career – is an ongoing struggle for me. The mere mention of the words working, daycare, child, mom, etc. will almost always bring immediate tears to my eyes. So, listening to this book made me incredibly thankful for waterproof mascara.

Sandberg is an expert in both being a career woman and a mom and her words were incredibly powerful. Her message? Was like an atomic bomb. So many of the self-inflicted issues women face in the workplace and in life struck me right where I needed to hear it. I found myself nodding in agreement almost every other sentence.

Whether your career is in or out of the home, Sandberg’s message of Leaning In is important. Women often place themselves inside imaginary boundaries when it comes to our roles and though they may make us unhappy or unsatisfied, we don’t push back against the norms. It is up to us to redefine the norms and roles for our generation and future generations.

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.

 

 

The Eye(lashe)s Have It

Few things haunt me more than my desire to have eyelashes that are actually visible to the outside world. Superficial? Maybe, but I don’t care. I love makeup and I love they way it can transform my entire outlook. Sometimes, all a girl needs to turn a crap day around is some bright lipstick (or lip stain, if you’re like me), a good mascara and a latte.

This look features:
Younique primer, liquid foundation in Organza, Moodstruck Addiction Palette 2, Moodstruck brow pencil & gel in Medium, 3D Fiber Lashes, lipstain in Skittish.
It Cosmetics: Bye Bye Redness & Bye Bye Undereye
Burberry: Effortless Eyeliner in black

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?

Gloria Steinem: My Life on the Road

Gloria Steinem’s name is one I’ve heard most of my life – from my mother, from the news, from other political leaders and activists – but, until I read , I didn’t really understand who she is. I knew she was a powerful voice and force during the women’s movement and I also knew she was still active in organizing and campaigning. What I didn’t know?

How powerful her words were.

In My Life on the Road, Steinem doesn’t just tell her story, but she also tells the stories of the people who influenced and impacted her throughout her life. She weaves these stories into lessons of American history, whether intentional or not. In this collection of life experiences and personal stories, she brings these often static moments to life – from Vietnam to Civil Rights to the assassinations of JFK and Bobby Kennedy.

These stories made me laugh out loud, but many brought me to tears. The courage and fight held in these pages showcases the very spirit of America … and they are just the words we need to hear right now. Steinem reminded me that We, The People, have the power to use our voices and our actions to enact real, impactful change.

It’s Not Guilt, It’s Humanity

Reducing my demand for equality to what you refer to as “white guilt” proves only one thing: you don’t understand what equality means.

e·qual·i·ty
əˈkwälədē/
noun
  1. the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.

By definition, equality itself removes the added barrier of so-called “white guilt.” In a society with true equality, which the United States has not achieved, the lines of race, sex, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. simply do not exist and nullify the argument that a desire for equality is caused by an underlying feeling of guilt. In reality, guilt exists in the absence of equality.

I don’t fight for and stand up for equality because of guilt, I do it because it is right. As human beings, we should all start with the same chances and our shot at success and happiness should not be tied to definitions beyond our control. Further, as human beings we should see beyond the physical characterizations as we look to our fellow persons. We shouldn’t use the things we see as a way to persecute or judge others.

That’s not to say that privileges don’t exist for those born looking and believing a certain way – until we have true equality, privilege is a reality. And, recognizing this privilege is a crucial component of achieving equality. Until we can see and admit to the injustices caused by this privilege and inequality, we cannot expect to ever move forward. Recognizing this isn’t symptom of guilt, it’s a side effect of being observant to the world around you.

We are all in this together, whether we like it (or each other) or not.