Category Archives: Self

Stay At Home Mom

It is a quintessential day to stay in my pajamas with a piping hot mug of tea. To curl up on the couch with a blanket and a book. To watch the last of the golden yellow leaves on the tree outside my window blowing in the wind. With the addition of a few diaper changes and a newfound love of peek-a-boo, that’s exactly what I’m doing. This is a perk that being a Stay-at-Home Mom affords me.

I never dreamed of having children until I got married and even then the thought gave me nervous butterflies for a while. Our pregnancy was planned and, by God’s grace, well executed. Aside from some early food aversion and fatigue, my pregnancy was easy-going. As it turns out, I’m pretty good at being pregnant. But even for the nine months I was incubating my son, the reality that I was going to be solely responsible for a little tiny human was not present.IMG_1380 (2)

Now I’m not only a Mom, but I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom. And I know how blessed I am to be able to be home with my son. I know there are so many mothers who would love to be home with their children but are unable to financially. So I feel almost callous examining the pros and cons of my current occupation. But for me, a woman who at one point used to very much judge the idea of not going back to work after having children, it seems like a necessity.

As with anything, there’s usually a positive to every negative and vice versa. With that in mind, I present to you the split persona of the Stay-At-Home Mom.

If you so choose, you can stay in your pajamas all day.
If you’re not careful, you could go days without leaving the house.

You are home to make home-cooked hot meals for yourself and your family.
You feel guilty if you don’t feel like cooking.

You can get lunch with friends any day of the week.
Except most of your friends are at work and eating out has to be planned around feedings and naps.

You don’t have to go to a job everyday.
You also don’t really ever go home from your “job”.

You have more time to keep a tidy house.
There are days you won’t have time to tidy. These days might make you feel like a failure as a homemaker.

You will have lots of cute anecdotes to tell your spouse when he comes home.
You will feel the need to list all of the things you did that day just to prove to yourself (and in theory your spouse) that you were productive.

You are the one raising your child.
Your child may have separation anxiety whenever you’re not at home.

A common myth about Stay-At-Home Parents (one that I naively had myself) is that we have lots of time to take up hobbies. This is a lie. Some days you might find time to scrapbook for a bit or knit part of a scarf or bake some bread. But it took me two days just to write this blog post.

blog 2All of those things aside, I do love being able to play with my son all day long. I love being able to nurse him on demand. To get to see his sweet smile every time he wakes up from a nap. In fact, I’m tentatively planning to return to the working world within the next few months and the thought, surprisingly, leaves me with a sense of melancholy.

I’m not sure I’m a lifer in the Stay-At-Home realm, but I am certainly loving it for the moment. Even when I’m washing spit-up out of my hair and sing Jesus Loves You for the fifteenth time that day.

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Is 28 Old?

In my head I am still young. Like, a “young person” which is why it’s okay that I’m still figuring out my career path and that I’m just starting a family. Because I’m still so young, right? I am barely out of college. That’s right, right? (If barely means I graduated almost seven years ago.)

The universe seems intent on informing me that twenty-eight is not really as young as I – apparently – like to think. Like when I got the invitation for my ten-year high school reunion. Or got a card from a college roommate and realized I hadn’t seen him in over five years. When Mindy Kaling in The Mindy Project said she cries when she realizes a celebrity is younger than her. And when I was watching Top Chef and one of the contestants was an acclaimed chef at twenty-eight and was not the youngest contestant by far.

So now I am asking myself, am I old? Did I blink and ten years passed?018

I have to sometimes remind myself of the things I have accomplished. I have traveled to five of the seven continents and yet I’m taunted by all the places lurking on my bucket list. I got married to the person I’m planning to be with for the rest of my life. (In fairness, if I thought otherwise I wouldn’t have married him.) I discovered the joys and difficulties of pregnancy and childbirth and now motherhood. I have a lovely diploma informing the world that I attended college for four years. I’ve been heartbroken and hospitalized. I’ve worked for a variety of employers – some of them even had benefits. And I have been in possession of a driver’s license from three different states.

In the grand scheme of things, this may be more than many people accomplish in a lifetime. And it also may be a pitiful comparison to that of a peer’s list of accomplishments. Which basically tells me nothing.

So what is it I thought I’d need to have by twenty-eight that I haven’t obtained?

  • A Master’s degree. Maybe even a PhD. I really expected to continue my education further than a Bachelor’s. And I still intend to do so, but I’m getting kind of old, right? Won’t most of my classmates be young whippersnappers fresh out of undergrad? And I’ll be that student with the husband and kid at home.
  • A career. My current occupation is as stay at home mom and that was nowhere in my dreams. I never anticipated spending whole days in my pajamas making meal plans and changing diapers. And yet, that’s where I am. Not working for a publishing house or running a study abroad program or writing best-sellers. Nope. I’m a professional – okay, let’s be honest still pretty amateur – homemaker.
  • A clear path. When I graduated from high school I had a 5, 10, and 15 year plan. I derailed about a semester into college. Those plans, as it turns out, fell short in real world execution and currently I feel accomplished if I know what we’re eating for dinner tomorrow night. So, a year from now? Ten years from now? No idea.
  • Purchased real furniture. This one is almost embarrassing, but it’s true. The only large purchase my husband and I have made for our household is a mattress and box spring. (And I am seriously in love with our bed.) Everything else in our apartment is a hand-me-down. From the kitchen table and chairs to the couches to the spare bed and dressers.
  • Traveled the world. Or, at least, more of the world. I have yet to visit Australia or Thailand or Peru or Egypt or Honduras or Israel or Vietnam. And that is a very small sampling of my list.
  • Learned a foreign language fluently. For this I have no excuse. I’ve lived abroad and live with a man who is trilingual. What can I say? Other things just got in the way – like Facebook and YouTube and books written in English.
  • Lived in New York City. Truly. I thought it would be my future home. In retrospect I’m not sure it ever would have worked out. It doesn’t really fit me. It’s a remarkable city – just not my city. I don’t like crowds or traffic or cold weather. And yet, I definitely saw living there as some definitive move into adulthood. Or liberation. Or freedom. Or something.

I am twenty-eight. I have no notoriety to my name. I’m not at the top of any career field. I don’t have any letters after my name. I don’t live in an exciting destination city.

But then, I’m only twenty-eight. And I’m going to stick to that old saying that age is just a number. It is, after all. It doesn’t have to be a milestone. It can just be a number like any other.

Or, at the very least, I’m not thirty yet, so there’s that…

Hating on Marriage

Recently I have seen a lot of articles hating on marriage. More specifically, married women. Which could lead me into an entire diatribe of why society feels that when men get married it shows that they’re committed and honorable and when women get married it shows that they’re desperate and need a man to define them. But that’s a topic for another time.

Right now I want to discuss why society is hating on marriage. I mean, there’s a huge global movement fighting for the rights for marriage. Gay marriage has been a hot button issue for my entire adult life and yet, getting married is selling out or losing yourself or giving up your freedom. If that’s what marriage is for heterosexuals, then the homosexual community should turn back now! Do not enter! This marriage place is THE WORST!Tandem Love

Except that it’s actually not. And that’s why they’re fighting for it.

Obviously the real aim of these articles is to celebrate being single which I fully support. I just don’t think you have to hate on marriage to love the single life. In fact, I think if you need to hate on marriage to love the single life then you’re really not loving your single life, but rather rationalizing why it’s better than marriage. I won’t rationalize to you why being married is better than being single because I’m not trying to convince myself that being married is better than being single. My path ultimately led me to marriage. Maybe yours won’t. Both are still good paths.

I know a lot of women. I have known a lot of women. Married, single, divorced, old, young, feminists, pro-life activists, religious, atheist, gay, straight, smart, not so smart, funny, mean. A lot of women. I am a woman. I’ve been on this planet for twenty-seven years. It was bound to happen.

Some of the women I know started looking for marriage at a ripe, young age. My freshman year of college I was introduced to the “Ring Before Spring” concept. That is, the girls that go to college simply to find a husband and fully expect to be engaged before they graduate – and maybe even forego graduation in favor of marriage. Some of those women are happily married. Some are still single. Some are maybe divorced.

I know other women, like myself, who were never going to marry. That’s right, I’m writing a blog post talking about NOT hating on marriage and yet, when I was twenty-one I could have written a post on exactly the opposite. Namely, why marriage is an unfounded institution that is the work of governments to keep better track of their citizens. But you know what? I didn’t hate on married people. In fact, I used to tell my parents – who have been happily married for over 40 years despite that they married at a young, impressionable, hardly knew themselves age of 19 and 23 – that they gave their children unrealistic expectations of marriage because theirs is so wonderful. So, despite not needing marriage to find fulfillment in my own life, I recognized that marriage could be an incredibly beautiful and powerful union.

I knew myself before I met my – now – husband. And I know myself now. And they’re not the same people. Because I have had some significant life changes. I opened myself up and let myself be vulnerable. I moved to Cartagena, Colombia without much of a plan and loved/hated every minute of it. I learned more about the immigration process than anyone should ever have to know. I have had multiple real, life-altering experiences with God. I road-tripped across the United States. I picked up my home base and moved it across state lines permanently for the first time in my entire life. Oh yeah, also, I got married.

Wedding DayAnd you know what? I love being married. Not for the title – in fact, two and half years later and it still freaks me out a little bit that I’m someone’s wife – or the security, though sometimes that is nice, but because I love my husband and we both know that our marriage took work and significant commitment before we ever said any vows or signed any papers. That sounds sappy and a little ridiculous even to my own ears and I don’t know if I would feel exactly the same if I was in a committed relationship with the same man and we never signed papers. If we were just partners instead of husband and wife – because marriage really is just paperwork in many ways. But marriage was the path for us – the best path for us and I don’t regret it for a single second.

Sure, sometimes I long to buy a plane ticket and just take off. And I can’t. And, you know what, that moment sucks. And then I think about why I can’t do that and it doesn’t suck quite as much anymore. I remember how much I really love my life now and maybe taking off to a foreign country isn’t the right path or direction for my life in this moment. And when it is again – and it will be, I assure you – then everything will fall into place and we’ll come to it on our path.

The moral of this story? Being married isn’t a bad thing. A married woman isn’t a sell out and a single woman isn’t going to be a cat lady. Being single is amazing and if you are single, enjoy every second of your single life. But don’t love being single because you think I, the married woman, am miserable. Because I’m not. And you don’t need to convince yourself that I’m miserable in order for you to be happy.

Being Up-Cycled

Garden & HerbsSeptember of 2012 found me working part-time, primarily without a car, and aimlessly searching for some unknown outcome. At times I felt like I was drowning in my marriage and at other moments I was blissfully enjoying my new surroundings. I read with an urgency and made friends with my library card when I struggled to find genuine connections with other individuals. By all accounts, it wasn’t a terribly happy time of life and yet… I don’t look back on it with sadness or remorse. It was a time of growth and perhaps a necessary passage to get to where I am now. Like a teething child who is miserable while his teeth breach the gums, but will take his teeth for granted later in life. Sometimes pain and discomfort and struggles give way to greater endings.

During that season of my life there was a thrift store about a mile from my home – I could walk there – of which I was a frequent wanderer. There were also signs of a fair trade coffee shop that, sadly, had taken its leave before my arrival. I have only ever purchased one thing from this thrift store despite my many visits, but I just enjoyed looking. Seeing. Exploring. And maybe, in retrospect, it was an escape.

You see, this thrift store isn’t really thrifty, it’s more artsy. They sell a lot of up-cycled pieces. So they intend to have items that please the eye and inspire the mind. They do not simply sell second-hand items and that is what I loved about them. They took items that were old and worn and turned them into something worth seeing again. They brought back the beauty lost in a broken table or a dented hubcap or a broken canoe. Where the world saw destruction and waste, they saw a new creation, a piece of art, a new beginning and it’s because of their vision that when I walked into that thrift store, I saw beauty too. I saw innovation and revitalization and a renewal. And, in turn, it renewed me.

Canoe RenewedI was reminded with each newly upholstered chair and each broken record player converted into a side table that there was never going to be a time in my life when God couldn’t work with what I gave him. A truly great chef can make a meal out of anything and a truly great artist can see beauty in the simplest object. And a true visionary, like my God, can literally make something out of nothing.

So, inspired by a thrift store, I threw myself into my faith head first. I spent more time in prayer than ever before. I was diligent with my prayer journal and was fervently seeking the Word. And life got better. Not instantly. Not overnight. It took time. It took patience. It took devotion. It took change – a change in me. The up-cycle artist needed to make a change to the broken canoe to bring out its beauty and likewise my creator needed to make a change in me.

Months later I wrote a post on this very blog absolutely gushing about the degree to which I loved my life. And it hasn’t been the last of its kind. And once I started truly loving my life and feeling joyful from the inside out, life started loving me back. Relationships manifested. Finances improved. Resolutions stuck. And love became this flowing current going and coming in all directions. I still seek him daily for he is my renewal. Because just as the silver needs polished to keep its shine, I too need to be washed to keep my luster.

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Content to be Content

There’s a part of me that loves rainy mornings. They’re peaceful. I laid in bed this morning listening to the rain fall outside my window and the splash of an occasional car driving past. And I felt calm and serene. Sometimes on rainy mornings, I feel like all is well in the world.

Minca, Colombia

As I think I’ve shared before, I am very affected by the weather. And by the smells weather brings. A certain feeling outside will transport me to another place. Sometimes unexpected places.  Often on damp, cool, misty mornings I feel like I am in Minca – a small town in the mountains of Colombia where I spent little more than twenty-four hours of my life.

When the wind picks up on an Autumn day carrying the scent of damp, decaying leaves, I can see my grandmother’s house in Mississippi. When I traveled through Mississippi two years ago we stopped at a rest area and I just stood there breathing the air. It smelled just like Grandma’s and I had visions of Kick the Can and building wigwams and stepping in fire ant piles. The same trees must have been the ones most prevalent on her property.

This morning, however, as I stepped outside to go to work and walked the path from my car to my office, I was happy. I was fully enjoying this rainy morning, but I was not transported. I was still here in my own skin, in my own city, in my current life. And I can only surmise that must mean that I am content.

This isn’t a revelation. I’ve known this for some time. And acknowledged it openly. But sometimes it still surprises me.

Because content is never something I really expected to be. Content isn’t something I really wanted to be. Content is of the same vein as settled. And settled has always been a preposterous word to me. To use the adjective settled when referring to myself seems almost blasphemous. And so, you can understand why sometimes I remember how content I am and am taken aback. And led into self-reflection of how it is that this contentedness settled into my life.

What I think I have discovered this time around is that settled and content are not the same. Many people feel settled and not content and likewise many feel content and are far from settled. In fact, some people have the enviable ability to feel content at most junctures of their lives and starting from a very young age. Perhaps they had a healthier relationship with the word content than I have had in the past.

Content

So while settled and I still aren’t quite on speaking terms, I embrace contentedness in all of its various forms. I embrace it like a long-time friend that you suddenly realize you love hanging out with. I embrace it like an unexpected batch of chocolate chip cookies. I embrace it in the same way I am determined to embrace life daily. With ferocity and loyalty and passion.