Friday, February 26, 2016

on turning thirty.

On Sunday, I will celebrate my thirtieth birthday.

When I was twenty, my friends and I used to have long conversations about where we'd be in ten years. I'm sure I imagined I'd be married, maybe with a couple kids, and I figured I'd have a high powered job or I'd have gained at least some notoriety for something important. I wanted to be someone by now.

I was hard on my future self. Sure I'd be married, but certainly I would have played the field a little, been wooed by many men to be sure the one I settled down with was the right one for me. Maybe I'd have kids, but only after my husband (that winning suitor of all my admirers) and I had traveled the world. We'd have to cross off so many things off our bucket list before finally embarking on the daunting journey of parenthood. I'd be successful for sure. I would be making money and earning accolades because that's how twenty year old me measured success: money and achievement. And for some reason, I was fixated on a sleek and modern loft apartment in a big city.

In ten years, I would be celebrating my thirtieth birthday with a decade worth of rich experience under my belt.

Twenty year old me would be wildly disappointed in thirty year old me.

Thirty year old me managed to date a grand total of one person before getting married. I haven't spent the last ten years checking item after item off my bucket list, in fact I haven't even left the country. I have no notoriety and have made next to nothing working in non-profits and no one outside of my friend group has any idea who I am. And, as if I couldn't insult twenty year old me enough, I live in a regular, run of the mill house that I would hardly describe as sleek or modern.

That's okay though. In a lot of ways, twenty year old me was an idiot. She parted her hair down the middle, which was a terrible look, and she always wore shirts that were a size too small cause she thought it was cute to show her midriff. She cared so deeply what other people thought of her and she didn't like who she saw in the mirror. I'm glad I don't measure my success by her standards.

Instead I spent the last decade with the man I love, growing from kids into adults together. We haven't traveled the world, but we have logged thousands of miles around the country, moving to new cities and sharing all kinds of everyday adventures before finally embarking on the adventure that is parenthood. Instead of notoriety and accolades, I've spent the last ten years meeting new friends and cultivating rich relationships with just a handful of people. I'm a better woman for the friends I've met as we put down roots in new places and for the tribe that I've taken with me as I go. Instead of success and money, I've been fortunate to do several different jobs, each one a perfect fit for the season I'm in it. And instead of a sleek, modern apartment, we have our boring house that is a warm, inviting home. We welcome authenticity and love on our stained, hand me down couches and I wouldn't want it any other way,

Twenty year old me my have had different ideas about the way thirty would look, but I can say, with a full and happy heart, that on Sunday, I will be celebrating my thirtieth birthday with a decade worth of rich experience under my belt.


I had a wonderful time looking through pictures of the last decade for this post. I have truly had a good time, so it was hard to narrow some down. These two seemed to sum it up best though. These are my two main girls, Katy and Megan, who have kept it real since high school. In the first picture, we were 21 and getting ready for a night out at the bars. We are made up and ready to see and be seen and I'm sure we were wearing uncomfortable shoes. In the second picture, taken just last month, we are piled in my bed in the morning. We've got kids and husbands and fiances and jobs and there isn't a lick of makeup on any of our faces and we couldn't be happier. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

i love you. i mean it.

The last conversation I had with my Dad, I told him I loved him. He teased me about calling for my Mom and not him and we chatted for a few minutes before he put her on, and before he handed off the phone, we both told each other we loved one another. He died the next day.

I told my Dad I loved him all the time. And I meant it.

I told him stories and made him laugh and he told me often that he was proud of me. We talked about school and work and family and faith. I called much more often to talk to my Mom, which he always pretended to be offended by, but when I called to talk to him, we always connected and we both valued our relationship and worked to maintain it.

I told him that he was a good Dad because he was. I told him I admired his marriage to my Mom and sought his advice in my own relationships.

He valued my opinions and I valued his stamp of approval. A few months before he died, the last visit that I would see him in person, we had lunch together at a diner he liked and we talked for hours about the non-profit he was starting and his dreams and vision and  I told him I was proud of him. And I meant it.

My Dad was easy to love and he loved easily.

Next week will be three years without him and I miss him terribly. So many seasons have come and gone and, like anyone who has lost someone they love deeply, I have been struck many times in the last three years with the realization that I want to pick up the phone and call him, but I can't.

I'm a parent now and I want so badly to ask him all about his thoughts on parenting and babies and how marriages change with kids and tell him stories and send him pictures of his granddaughter. Those moments sting and they make his absence felt deeply.

I am comforted profoundly though as we approach the anniversary of his death, that even though I won't get the chance to have those conversations with my Dad this side of eternity, I left nothing unsaid while he was still alive. My Dad died knowing that I love him and I know that I was loved by him. There is so much comfort in knowing that there are no regrets and I said everything I wanted to say.

Next week I will pour a glass of Eagle Rare whiskey and I will tell stories and remember his laugh and kiss Eva for him. And I will honor his memory by striving to say the things that matter in my other relationships as well; to say I love you, to say it often, and to mean it.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

happy 29th birthday!

Happy birthday to my husband!

This will be the 13th year I've celebrated your birthday with you. When we were first dating, I bought you a Steely Dan CD from Sam Goody because you mentioned (one time) liking one of their songs. Back then I had to listen closely to everything you said to know your likes and dislikes and glean your interests. You teased me years later about that CD, admitting you'd never even opened it, because you didn't really like Steely Dan that much. We hardly knew each other. We were kids and we hardly knew ourselves.

Thirteen birthdays later and I don't need to listen so closely because you and I have grown together like the trunks of two old trees. Nothing is more familiar to me, outside of my own skin, than the feel of your hand in mine and the sound of your voice. I know your stories and your history and your family has become my family.

Now you embark on the last year of your twenties, that sweet decade of childhood and adulthood all rolled into one. When you entered your twenties, we were in college and long distance and we had not lived much life. Now, you are a husband and a father. There have been births and deaths. There have been career changes, and deployments, and moving trucks, and new cities, and new friends. And this final year of your twenties is a year full of change and new adventures.

This year, more than ever, I am grateful that our branches have grown together because after thirteen birthdays, you are my home. You are my roots and you are my new growth.

Today I celebrate you and I will spend the day feeling immensely grateful to a good God, saying thank you that you were born and that you are who you are and that you came into my life thirteen birthdays ago.

Happy birthday!

A selfie from one my favorite trips ever.

Friday, February 5, 2016

twelve things i've learned in twelve weeks.

There is a concept surrounding childbirth and newborn care called the fourth trimester. This is the idea that, in addition to the three trimesters of actual pregnancy, there is an additional trimester, which is the first twelve weeks of baby's life where she is virtually as needy as she was in the womb. Experts say that the secret to a happy, healthy newborn is to recreate the comfort and quiet and coziness that your baby experienced in utero as much as possible for those first three months. No crying it out, no self soothing, no sleep training, no schedules; just comfort your baby and meet her needs and everyone will be happy.

Well, we have recently emerged from that fourth trimester and I have to say, I don't think Eva was the only needy soul around here. I feel like the last three months have been my newborn mama stage, my needy underdeveloped season of finding my footing as the mother of this sweet little tater tot. I've needed a lot of comfort and gentleness, but I'm slowly growing in my confidence as a new mom. 

So, in an effort to acknowledge just how far we've come, I've compiled Twelve Things I've Learned in Twelve Weeks. 

1. How to Swaddle Like A Champ
Babies like to feel like they're back in the womb. The trick to keeping them happy when they get out is the swaddle. I didn't really buy it at first, but the minute the nurses at the hospital handed me a tightly wrapped eggroll of a baby, sleeping soundly and happy as a clam, I was a believer. I've mastered the straight-jacket tightness and you can watch Eva go from fussy to blissful in just a few tight tugs and it's the best feeling ever. 

2. How to Live on Two Hours of Sleep at A Time
This one was hard earned. The first month I felt like a Navy SEAL in Hell Week. I would be talking and halfway through a sentence just forget what I was saying. I would daydream about sleeping while I was awake and cry when I was woken up from actual sleep. I honestly started to understand why they used sleep deprivation as a form of torture. But then my body adjusted a little and slowly Eva and I fell into a sleep/wake routine and now I wake up every two hours all night long and I can wake up and operate a vehicle without endangering lives. I consider it one of my life's greatest accomplishments. 

3. How Important My Core Is
Once upon a time I was in college and I did yoga and Pilates four days a week and my body was pretty much the bees knees. And then I got pregnant. And I had a Cesarean birth. And then I tried to swing out out of bed using my legs and I almost died. Oh core, I will never underestimate your importance again.

4. How to Use Ridiculous Vocabulary
"Can you grab the Wub A Nub?" "Put her her in the Boppy." "Do you think she's ready for a Bumbo?" These are actual things I've said out loud. I feel silly saying them. I've thought about a concept bar just for parents of small kids where the drinks are all named after these products. I think I would much rather order a Boppy on the rocks than talk about it in any other context. 

5. How to Accept Help
I used to hate admitting when I needed help. I like to be in control too much to let people help me. Then our friends and family loved on us in such practical and generous ways (and they still do all the time!) and I realized that accepting help not only makes me feel sane, but it also makes the helper feel useful and needed. Win win for everyone. A special thanks to the friends who have loaded my dishwasher- you know who you are. 

6. How to Nurse In Public
I decided that unless I wanted to be locked in my house all time, I would need to figure out how to feed my baby out in the world. You would be amazed at the contortionism I have to employ to make sure I don't show the world everything God gave me, but I've mastered it and it's a little victory each time!

7. How to Do The Five Minute Makeup Routine
By the time I get Eva fed and changed and dressed when I'm headed out, there isn't much time for a full on hair and makeup session for me. Gone are my days of listening to music and sipping my coffee while I leisurely put my face on and pick out my outfit. Now, I've mastered the art of concealer-blush-mascara and putting on my outfit right before we walk out the door to avoid spit up. 

8. How Not To Be So Judge-y
Okay, can I make a confession? I used to judge just a little. Now I am genuinely judgement free. Every mama is just doing the best they can and we all want the same thing for our kids and every kid is different so I lay down any self-righteous judgement I had before and I commend you, Mama because you are probably doing a good job and we are in this together. 

9. How the Smiles Change Everything
I truly believe my kid's smile could melt even the stoniest of hearts. It certainly gave me a renewed sense of hope in this whole parenting endeavor. Those first few weeks were so rough and the moment she looked up at me, really looked at me, and smiled a big, wide, toothless grin, my heart exploded! I won't go so far as to say it makes it all worth it because if I'm being honest, I would still rather have a scowling kid and sleep eight solid, blissful hours. but those smiles certainly do sweeten the whole deal.

10. How to Keep My Lunch Down
This Just In: Babies are super gross. The things that come out of them in liquid form are disgusting and they acquire lint mysteriously and they drool like St. Bernards and you have to clean in between their fat rolls. If that last one made you gag, then you are not ready for the science project that is caring for a baby. 

11. How There is Strength In Numbers
A good friend gave me the advice to make Mom friends when I had a baby. I mean, that makes sense in theory, but no biggie if I don't follow through, right? Wrong! It is super important! Other parents are the only other people who care about cloth diapering and tummy time and when to start solids and teething and the color of poop and blah blah blah and all the other things that I could not have cared less about before I had a kid. They are the lifesavers when I feel like I'm going a little crazy with the day to day minutiae of raising a person. The solidarity and encouragement is so real with my mom friends. But to be fair, my non-mom friends are also super important because they remind me that the world is bigger than tummy time and teething and they pull me out of the minutiae a little and back into the world of, well, everything else. So basically, there is strength in numbers. 

12. Finally, I asked R what he learned about being a Dad the last twelve weeks. After all, I might be the newborn mama, but he's just learning the ropes here, too. With no further explanation, he simply said, "I didn't think I could love someone else as much as I love you." 

I think it's been a successful fourth trimester for everyone.