Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Someday You Will Love

photo by Ron Henggeler
Someday, my darlings, you will fall in love. Fate will choose who, because - as you will all too quickly learn - you have very little say in matters where your heart decides. It's a simple truth, and a scary truth, but it is also hopefully a truth which will ultimately lead you down a path of happiness.

And although this is an arena in which I may not be welcome, I care very deeply about who you love and choose to marry. My heart goes with your heart, always. And I want your heart to be treated well.

I hope you fall in love with someone who is kind. Someone who loves you deeply and knows your worth. Someone who values your mind - your intelligence, your opinions, your passions. Someone who will cherish you and honor you. Someone who brings strength in the places you are weak. Someone who  builds you up and helps you conquer your dreams. Someone who makes you happy in a way you have never known before.

And when someday you choose to marry, I hope you choose someone who will commit to those vows from the core of their being. Someone who will spend each day working to make your love greater. Someone who is willing to fight for you when things get rough. Someone who will not walk away or shut down or give up. Someone who will share your triumphs and feel your pains. Someone who will love you no matter what.

When someday you choose to marry, I hope nothing stands in your way. No archaic laws; no person near or far. Because no one can judge the quality of your love, the depth of your commitment, the ferocity of your passion but you and the one you love.

I hope you choose wisely, and I hope the choice is yours alone - no matter who you love. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

This is How I Loved You

I never struggled with depression before giving birth to my son, which is one of many reasons I let my postpartum depression go unchecked for so long. I truly didn't know what was wrong with me. It was a shock to me that I could be anything less than great at this motherhood thing, because it was something I longed for so deeply. Because of many things - the insecurity I felt, the stigma about mental illness I was conditioned to believe, the still deep and abiding love for my son - it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I even had postpartum depression. It took me much longer to forgive myself for being in that place, even though it wasn't my fault. In fact, it is something I still struggle with today, especially in the wake of my daughter's birth.

It is hard to overcome the tremendous amount of guilt I felt knowing my baby got less than my best. Knowing that he had a mother who cried and yelled more than she smiled and laughed. Even though we are in a good place now, and that time is already erased from his limited memory, it is still painful for me. I missed a beautiful time in my life - in his life - and I will never get that back.

I feel that sharp pang of guilt all the more when I look at my daughter.

I am at a point where I feel I can say with some certainty that I am not suffering postpartum depression again. The first six weeks I was on high alert, waiting for the pin to drop and for the most part nothing happened. There were a few emotional episodes, but they were brief and manageable. Only one evening did I feel that darkness creep back up on me - the switch flipped and floodgates opened - but thankfully the cloud had lifted by morning and has never returned.

I have spent these early days with my daughter wholly and completely enamored with her. Our time together has given me hope that I will never see that sad, lost side of myself again. I am patient with her. I smile at her often. I speak softly with her, always. I am deeply, deeply in love with her. And yes, it makes me feel guilty.

I see the stark contrast in the way I handle my daughter and the way I once handled my son, and I am not sure how to reconcile the way it tugs at my heart. The fact that I was not capable of controlling my emotional state during his infancy does little to assuage that guilt. The fact that there was a disease to blame does not make it fair to him, to us, and it never will.

I know that someday my children will see the words I have written. They will read my struggles and know where I've been, and I won't be able to hide it from them nearly as long as I'd like. So how do I explain to my son the disparity between my weakened mental state during his infancy and this joyous time I am enjoying with his sister? How do I show him that my love for him was just as strong, when so much evidence seems contrary?

Quite frankly, I don't know. All I can do at the moment is continue to love him from the depths of my heart, with a strength he cannot fathom. I can show him love in the way I treat his sister, and tell him, truly, this is how I loved you too.

This is how I will always love you.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Staying at Home v. Staying the Course

The two best reasons to nearly never leave the house

When I first decided to stay home with Lucas, the choice was an easy one. The job I was leaving behind was that of a lower-level retail manager. The pay was mediocre, the hours unpredictable and my potential for advancement nearly tapped out. It was a college job, and I had finally graduated. My resignation from this branch of the workforce was a decision I knew I wouldn't regret.

But when I came across this article about a woman who regrets being a stay-at-home mom, it still struck a chord with me. The author of the article had left her career to be a stay-at-home mother to her three boys. She enjoyed it. She threw herself all in. And twenty years later when it was time to re-enter the "real world," she realized what a regrettable decision it was. Not the time spent raising her babies, but the time not spent working. There is a part of her that wishes she had stayed the course in her career, even if only a little bit, because in hindsight she lost herself to the stay-at-home lifestyle.

...In the years that I was home, I lulled myself into thinking that I was accomplishing enough because I was. I was raising my children and as any parent who had spent a day with a child knows, that can fill all of the hours in a day. What I hadn't realized was how my constant focus on my family would result in my aspirations for myself slipping away.

When I read those words, I immediately went back to this post I had written not too terribly long ago about my own aspirations in life and how I was putting them on hold to be a stay-at-home mom. Because this motherhood thing does fill all the hours of the day, so why can't it be enough? Why can't I live that 1950's lifestyle and just be happy right here and now? Why shouldn't I put my dreams on hold for a little while?

Because I ought to know better than to put all my eggs in a nest that will soon be empty. Because someday, this lifestyle is not going to be enough. And someday before that, those dreams are going to lose their fire in the midst of motherhood.

I'm at the very beginning of trying to make a life for myself out of freelance writing. It's tough and frustrating and requires so much work on top of taking care of my family. I feel like I'm scraping at all ends to put together the hours of a part-time job to devote to writing. Some days I feel like everything I produce in those few hours is a waste and some days I really, really want to give up. I want to go back to my old words and say being a mother is enough.

No one would judge me. No one would blame me. No one would tell me I was wrong. Raising little humans is hard work. Anyone who has been a parent, or witnessed parenting knows that is true. I'm never going to look at a stay-at-home mother and think she has an easy life. I'm not going to tell her to get off her ass and put more on her plate. So why can't I do the same for myself?

Because I know, in my heart, I'd be doing myself a disservice. I know that letting my whole self be defined by motherhood isn't good enough for me, not now and certainly not in the years ahead of me. If I want to be a writer, I need to work towards being a writer. Not twenty years from now, when life is easy and money is good (I hope), but now. Right now.

Life isn't going to wait around for me to catch up. My dreams can't be idle afterthoughts if I want them to come true. I need to work for those aspirations, even when it's hard and the kids are screaming and I feel like I'll never know sleep again. I need to work because of those things.

I refuse to let myself use motherhood as an excuse for not being the person I know I should be. If anything, it should be the reason I aspire to greatness. To someday show my children a life I have lived without regret. To show them dreams I have accomplished with them by my side.

So I choose to stay at home and stay the course. To hold my babes in both arms and my pen in my teeth if I have to. Because this is who I want to be, for me and for them.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

4 Years Ago Today

Four years ago today...

We vowed our love, not knowing what these promises would entail, but knowing we would keep them. Knowing, without really knowing, that the words we repeated were true. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. We promised to love each other through it all.

And so far I think we're doing all right.

Because I've loved you at 3am with a baby in the bath and every piece of vomit soaked clothing in the wash, wondering how we would all survive.

Because you've loved me even when I wasn't myself, when there was a darkness chipping away at me and I couldn't recognize the girl in our wedding pictures.

Because I've loved you when we were eating spaghetti every night and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day, crying sometimes when the mail brought more hospital bills.

Because you loved me when I walked into the kitchen holding a pregnancy test that I couldn't believe was true, even when at first I cried.

Because we've loved each other during days spent lazily on the beach and vacationing in Vegas.

Because we've loved each other during the long days of school and work and babies crying, when our paths barely crossed.

Because we've loved each other on expensive date nights.

Because we've loved each other eating beans and rice at home.

Because our love is constant and strong and reliable. Because kids and money and time have changed many things, but our love is not one of them. Because even though we still don't know what those vows will entail as the years go on, we still know we will keep them. 

Because I love you and you love me, and that is the whole of the story.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Dear Dad,

There are never going to be enough words for me to tell you how much you mean to me. To tell you how good of a father you've been. To show you what a strong role model you are. To express the depth of my love and gratitude  for all the things I remember, and all the things I don't. But just to scratch the surface, as I approach my 25th birthday, here are 25 reasons I'm thankful to have you as my Dad.

1. You did not teach me to dream, you taught me to do. Even when I was very little, I always remember you asking me what I was going to do. Not what I wanted to do, what I was going to do. You never asked after my dreams like they were a fantasy. You asked for my plan and how I was going to ensure my success. You made me think strategically and chase goals with a sense of purpose.

2. You never made me feel pretty. You made me feel smart and strong. You gave praise to my mastery of crescent kicks and writing.You showed me where my true worth was, and I never forgot it.

3. You took 3 teenage girls on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. Enough said.

4. You were always there. I remember many of my friends' moms, but not many of their dads. All of my friends have memories of you, and that speaks volumes.

5. You made me feel loved. I never questioned the depth of your love for me. Not once.

6. You loved my mother. You bought her flowers and called her "baby" and hugged and kissed her when you came home.

7. You taught me to fight. Literally. You taught me how to make a fist and swing a punch and took me to Taekwondo lessons and tournaments. You never discouraged me from being strong and tough.

8. You showed me how I was supposed to be loved. I chose to marry a man who is an amazing husband and a wonderful father to our children. I chose well because of your example.

9. You are CD. That trip to the Grand Canyon with Becky and Nicole was chaotic and unforgettable and so much fun. Along the way you were dubbed CD, "Cool Dad," and had a giant cookie baked in your honor upon our return.

10. You made me feel safe. I never felt fear when I was by your side.

11. You told me bedtime stories. Not only that, but you made them up off the top of your head. Granted they were weird and occasionally not age appropriate (like the time Digger died, and you had to bring him back to life in the next story because I was so upset), but still, there are very few dads out there creating their own bedtime story sagas.

12. You empowered me. You always talked to me about how I should be an entrepreneur, a businesswoman, a chef, a lawyer, a writer. You put possibilities out there. You never put that glass ceiling above my head.

13. You taught me to be wise with my money. I have never struggled with debt and invest our family's money for the future. You were always talking to me about money, and even though I feigned that I wasn't listening, I always was.

14. You stressed the importance of learning to make a good pie. My apple pie may not be as good as Nana's, but my blue ribbon blackberry pie overtook hers at the Cazadero BBQ. Pie making is important. I don't care what anyone else says.

15. You are a wonderful grandpa. I can't wait to see all the adventures my kids have with you over the years.

16. You're a good father-in-law. You respect my husband and always make him and his family feel welcome.

17. You never put me in a box.You never discouraged me from doing anything because I was a girl. I took dance lessons and sang in the choir. I practiced martial arts and shot guns. You let me do it all.

18. You were affectionate. You always had a hug for your little boo.

19. You taught me to be independent. I was able to move out and be self-sufficient at the age of eighteen. I have many peers who still aren't there yet.

20. You taught me to work hard. When I moved out of the house, life was not easy. Making ends meet was a struggle. But I was able to do it because you taught me how to work hard for what I wanted.

21. You loved my friends. You treated my close friends as if they were your daughters too. You loved them, laughed with them, worried about them.

22. You were fearless. You were never afraid to go after what you wanted. You built a business from the ground, rebuilt it when things went wrong. You didn't let fear stand in your way, and I hope I can do the same in my life.

23. You told the truth. When you said you would do something, you did it. When you told me my horrendous, baby blue "Angel" beanie made me look like a mall-rat gang-banger, you were right. I always knew I could trust your word.

24. You sent us snipe hunting. Okay, so you always told the truth, except that time you sent us into the night to hunt an elusive chicken-like creature with glowing eyes. That was lies. But good times nonetheless.

25. You are my Dad. And you always will be. No one could ever take your place or even come close.

Happy Father's Day

I love you.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

31 Nights, 31 Days

It doesn't seem real, that a whole month has passed since that early morning you came squirming into this huge, wide world. Looking up at me with those big, bright eyes like you'd known me for a lifetime. Falling asleep in my arms, smiling in your deepest sleep, so content with the life you'd been given from the start.

It doesn't seem possible that I've slept by your side for 31 nights. That I've woken each night to comfort you. To fill your belly and change your diapers. To snuggle you back to sleep. That I've stayed awake every morning at 5:00am just to stare at your beautiful face, because that's when you like to open your eyes for the first time each day. No, 31 nights seems far more than what I've been given. I feel like I've only had the chance to glimpse at you. I've only held you for a moment.

But then again, it doesn't seem possible that 31 days ago you were still inside me. That I had never seen your face or held you in my arms. That this fierce love was absent from my heart. That you were absent from my life. It doesn't seem possible that there was a world without you only 31 days ago. Have I really only felt this love for that long?

Yes, a whole month has gone by. Regardless of what I feel, about time and space and love and you, 31 nights and 31 days have passed.

And though I feel it has gone by far too fast, I know I have savored every moment of it. I have held you close to my heart for long, lazy hours. I have stared at you in the gray hours of the morning. I have hummed lullabies and rocked you long after you'd closed your eyes.

I have loved you deeply for 31 nights and 31 days, and I will for countless more.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

No Place Like Home

A sleep deprived Lucas napped on the couch with me for an hour like this.
We've been off vacationing for the last week in the North Bay. A beautiful wedding, late nights with friends, flying kites at the beach, exploring near the bay, relaxing and daydreaming at the ranch. Too many hands to hold my sweet baby. Nana and Grandpa taking the early morning shift with Lucas (yes!). Wonderful weather. It was divine.

But while it was lovely, there's really nothing better than coming home after a long trip. Exhausted babies falling asleep all over the place. Baskets of fresh laundry coming out of the dryer. Cooking in your own kitchen. Sleeping in your own bed.

There's nothing like that sense of relief when you lumber through the door with suitcases and kids and snacks and toys, which you heave to the floor with abandon. Nothing like sitting on the couch, bedtimes be damned, and letting everyone unwind.

(Nothing like that cold beer you left waiting in the fridge for just this occasion)

There's nothing better than settling snugly into that familiar place you call home. Returning to where you belong with the people you love. It's the feeling that lets you know you have a good life. A blessed life.

There's just no place like home.

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