A Page of One's Own

Thank You, Stranger

Dec
28

Being a parent is tough. You hold this little kid in your arms having (literally) no idea what you should really do. This bewildered feeling, in my experience, has not gone away for the last eleven months of motherhood–new day, new huge question mark in the air following me around.

And you know what is mega helpful to me, as a loving and concerned parent?

When you, dearest stranger/family member/anyone other than my husband, tell me how to parent.

You have no idea how much of a relief it is to have you approach me and yell in my face: “SHOULDN’T THAT BABY BE WEARING A HAT?” It makes me feel warm and fuzzy and wonderful inside, knowing that you trust that I love my baby (who I carried for 40 weeks in my uterus, pushed out of me, and have spent every moment of her life with) more than you do.

Haha, just kidding. Don’t test me right now. Don’t tell me to put a hat, a coat, a blanket, or a diaper on my baby, or my baby will be completely naked for the next year (or five years) of her life. Rolling around in the snow, eating the yellow snow actually, completely naked.

Back to the whole “being a parent is tough” bit. Man, I’m not kidding. Every mistake you make as a parent causes brain damage, according to google. There is no way to raise a little human without inflicting some serious amount of brain damage.

You let your kid cry? BRAIN DAMAGE.

You pick your kid up when crying? BRAIN DAMAGE.

You use a bottle instead of a sippy cup, OR a sippy cup instead of a bottle? BRAIN DAMAGE.

You feed your kid solids too early, too late, you use the wrong color car seat cover? BRAIN DAMAGE.

All of these things can be stressful if you let them get to you. Brain damage seems like a steep cost for getting the wrong car seat cover, but don’t risk it.

All of this aside, I can also confidently and without reserve say that the WORST part of parenting is the unsolicited advice. It is hilarious. It is as if every human in the world suddenly gets a say in how to best raise my kid. Which totally makes sense, seeing as they are all the one awake with her all night/changing diapers all day/etc etc…

I put together a little list, so you can know if you are an unsolicited advice-giver to young parents. If you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, seek help, or just stop offering unsolicited advice.

A. Do you or have you ever started a sentence with the words “you should” to a young parent?

B. Do you or have you ever reacted negatively, (including body language such as eye rolling, shoulder shrugging, etc…) when a young parent does anything?

C. Do you or have you ever said the words “When I was young parent” in a condescending tone without being asked to speak that sentence?

D. Do you or have you ever approached anyone in Target, Walmart, or Home Depot to offer helpful ideas on how to raise a child, including but not limited to how to best feed, comfort, clothe or love their child?

You want to be helpful? Thank you. Go buy me diapers, or a cute outfit for my baby, or better yet, go get me some caffeine.

Xoxo, Kaylee

Soul Work

Nov
27

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetA year ago, I was stressed out of my mind. I was studying for finals, working on a heavy semester of school projects, tutoring 20 hours a week, going to 4+ doctor’s appointments weekly, and trying to keep a baby in my belly until I graduated college.

I had no expectations after graduation. I had no idea what the future held for either me or Branden. I literally didn’t think about what motherhood would look like for me. I was in survival mode until I had Charlee.

I have been pretty open with some of the struggles of motherhood. I haven’t, however, ever touched on the heart of these struggles.

For the first time in my life, as a mother, a college graduate in a creative major, and a wife, I could not do what I once did, and what I have done my whole life. I didn’t feel productive. I didn’t feel like I was contributing.

For the first time in my life, I lost all external validation. The performances that I had always been praised for disappeared. No one cared anymore that I graduated at the top of my class, that I could run fast, that I was smart, that I was capable, that I was (fill in the blank.) It evaporated into the air, and with it, my whole sense of being and worth.

This moment was a crucial one for me. I realized that I had never developed myself, absent of performance and achievement. I realized that I had been using busy-ness as a defense from feeling empty. This moment has lasted months. It has been my first real identity crisis. It has been an unraveling. All of the unwanted, hidden emotions and behaviors unraveled right before me as the next step of my life was no longer provided. How incredibly uncomfortable. What an opportunity. img_2134

I wanted to share with you all a few valuable things that I have learned, through months of counseling, relapse, and amazing joy–I wanted to share with you all the value in the soul work that I am undergoing.

I have learned that fulfillment comes through creation.

I started to paint a few months ago. I don’t do it super well. It is so good for me to do something I don’t do perfectly. I don’t get praised for painting, and I don’t want to–I do it for me. When I finish a painting, a painting authentically mine, I feel creative and fulfilled. When I start feeling depressed, I create.

I have learned that to feel joy, I must do things that fill my soul; things that make me feel.

Walking, running, reading, writing, painting, creating, playing, singing, talking, exploring, hiking–these are my soul-fillers.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetMy default is to numb–to watch Netflix so there is noise around me, to make a list and check things off, to clean and shop and do the things that must be done and take care of the people that must be taken care of. But as I have tried to let myself feel, to really feel what it is to be alive and to experience a day and a moment, I have felt connected to myself and people around me.

I have learned about rest.

Rest is this uncomfortable thing I do to take care of myself. I have been working on giving myself permission to take breaks. Emotions like guilt and discomfort always accompany the rest for me, but I keep doing it. In a culture that says GO, I try to rest. In a culture that says sacrifice self, I try to practice self-care. It isn’t indulgent; it is necessary.

I have learned that perfectionism is not a badge–it is destructive.

I am a recovering perfectionist. For years, almost my whole life, I used the word “perfectionist” as a shield against people who talked about self-love and acceptance. As I have worked to let go of black-and-white thinking, pretty cool things have happened. Relief flooded into my life in realizing that I am good enough, healthy enough; a good enough mother and good enough wife and a good enough person to live life well. Enough is my favorite word. I am not perfect. I am enough.Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

I have learned that I can feel joy when life isn’t perfect.

img_2094The word “joy” at its root means the good mood of the soul. As I have worked to let go of perfectionism and stop defining myself by that label, I let go of having a perfect life. I let go of trying to control the parts of my life that weren’t “fitting” the way that I wanted them to. Then, joy came. I feel joyful. I don’t always feel happy. I struggle with all the hats I wear right now–of mother and wife, financial provider of our little family, member of the community, bill payer and grocery shopper and laundry doer and cook and etc… Some days, I don’t feel very happy. Some days I feel sad, or mad, or disappointed, or empty. But let me tell you, I feel joy pretty often. I know that I’m okay and that I’m going to be okay. My soul is in a good mood about it.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetI have learned that joy stems from gratitude.

Practicing gratitude in concrete, verbal ways has set the tone for what I see in my life. If I look for aspects of my life to be grateful for, they appear. I’m not one of those people who is grateful for everything. Some things make no sense to me, and I hate them. But I am grateful for sweet potatoes, because I love them, and mustard yellow, and Charlotte’s evil cackle, and baby pajamas. Tender mercies have started to flow, when I tried to find them.

I have learned that my validation has to come from myself.

This is hard for me. I know myself very well. One gift that I have been given is the gift of awareness, of myself and other people. I have a microscope of insight that allows me to really pick apart my thoughts, actions and words. Sometimes I don’t like what I see. Because of this, I have tried my whole life to get validation from other people. I don’t come across as an insecure person, but I have learned that I have been secure only because I have been liked.

Being liked runs out. Being pretty runs out. Being anything runs out, because we change. And then we are left with ourselves. So if I’m alone with myself, I better have enough self-compassion and forgiveness and understanding built up that I can still feel joy and gratitude in my life.

I have learned that humans can change.

Not just their behaviors, but their thought processes, their beliefs, their perception. Addicts can change. I can change.

This was devastating for me at first, owning every part of myself, because that meant that I couldn’t squirm out of my mistakes and wrongdoings. I struggled with the thought that I could really change my core.

I believe it now.

As I work to own my story, my body, my beliefs, my words, and my actions, I can then be empowered to own what I do today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. And you know what that means? I get to decide how I react, how I feel about myself, and how I treat others.

How cool is that, guys? How cool is that.

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Election, 2016

Nov
10

13603258_1218904074816653_2650555217071578330_oBranden loves to teach me everything he is learning about in PA school. A few days ago, he brought home a blood sugar testing kit. (Sorry. I don’t know the real name.) He pricked my finger and tested my blood. Altogether, it was very dramatic, and I have increased empathy for people with diabetes.

Anyways, he also has been learning about sleep disorders. A big rule in “sleep hygiene” is to avoid screens in bed.

I 100% broke that rule yesterday.

Social media was on fire. The more I scrolled through my feed, the worse I felt. Still, I could not put my phone away. I read countless opinions on the United States of America electing Donald Trump as President. I read a lot of angry people venting, a few people stringing thoughtful observations together, some people trying to shine positivity or humor through the muck, and everyone, everyone, finding offense with whatever anyone else was writing.

I went to bed feeling sick. I truly felt awful.

This morning I woke up feeling exactly the same way. I decided to try to work through what was bothering me the most by running and thinking. I put on my jogging shoes, borrowed a really nice jogging stroller–wow, someone buy me a bob stroller–,  and ran until I had finally put my finger on it.

Yesterday, I felt afraid. I felt silenced.

I wanted to join the discourse on who our new president was. I wanted to give my input, my opinion, and my thoughts. And I was too afraid to say anything, because people are too busy blaming, shaming, and bashing whoever doesn’t think like them to stop for a moment and listen.

I ended up posting a picture of my baby with the caption “Just doing our thing.” I don’t generally experience high volumes of social media anxiety, but I wrote and rewrote that caption six times, each time thinking of how someone would find offense in what I was saying. Would someone take “just doing our thing” and make it political? Would I lose friends? Would someone call me names because of an unassuming post on a very heated day? It might sound ridiculous, but I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised.

I do not want to make small of peoples’ fears following this election. I cannot fully comprehend how minorities may feel with Donald Trump representing our country, but I think I have a taste after reading and re-reading comments he has made about women.

After a day of thought and struggle, I have decided that I do not fear Donald Trump. I believe there are enough good people in the world to stop him from doing irreparable damage. I fear what is happening with us, all of us.

Yesterday, I saw people bashing each other, people unfriending those who thought differently from them, people shaming each other for the way that they voted, and people hating democracy–and America.

I felt silenced. I felt too afraid to speak what was on my mind. As a straight, white, privileged female, I felt silenced from voicing my opinion, for fear of someone shoving it in my face that I was a straight, white, privileged female and thus had no understanding of what was going on in the real world.

And that, that, is what I’m afraid of.

When people stop discussing and start raging.

When we can’t stand for people to disagree with us because we are too angry to consider an opposing point of view. When we generalize, calling people bigots or liars or cheaters because of their point of view. When we base our friendships on if people agree and support what we hold dear?

I understand that disagreement is uncomfortable. It means that instead of pointing the finger at someone else, we take a hard look at our own deeply held, long-developed, even sacred beliefs and consider what adding or subtracting from those would like like. It’s uncomfortable. I get that.

But disagreement is what begets democracy.

Disagreement itself is sacred.

I have never seen so many of my friends polarized against each other. That is what I’m afraid of. Donald Trump will come and go, hopefully surprising me and doing a decent job. I pray that he surprises me. But either way, he will come and go.

I also pray that as a limited human, I stop to consider how I treat people who don’t agree with me. Do I dismiss them, or do I really listen? I will try harder to listen better. We all need to be heard.

Yesterday, I tried to take a little longer on articles and posts from people who have differing opinions from me. I deeply appreciated people expressing any opinion with respect and an earnest desire to put that out in the world. Expressing a sacred opinion is vulnerable. Bashing someone else’s is not.

I do not want to come across like I know it all. I don’t. Every time I have a political discussion with someone who disagrees with something I say, I admit that I get a little butthurt. I generalize and stereotype. I am a human, and I only have one life of 23 years to base my opinions around. They are constantly evolving as I grow and come to know different things. But despite my imperfections, I work hard to be kind and to fight against stereotypes, to respect people and to validate struggles that I feel are real, including racism, homophobia, and sexism.

I just don’t think that the way to treat one form of hate is with more hate.

This morning on my run, I vowed to take responsibility for my part in  (what I have seen) as the two worst candidates running up against each other. Next election, I will do more to be better informed and involved in the election process.

I don’t want to feel silenced, so there’s my two cents.

 

 

 

When Sundays Go Wrong

Nov
07
img_1933

Pre “The Terrible Sunday”

I genuinely do not know how anyone with a child under 17 makes it to church and stays there for more than 45 minutes. Sundays are the struggle of my life.

This morning, Branden and I woke up to Charlee having a complete meltdown. She knew it was Sunday. She was just an absolute grump all morning. Regardless, I told Branden, “I’m going to look good today. I never try anymore. I’m going to try today.”

I also decide to dress my baby. She has had no dresses for the last few months. She wears pants to church, if I get to putting pants on her. Sometimes she wears a shirt to church and that works too. Anyways, today I decide to dress my baby. I put her in a new floral dress from my mom, a huge bow, pink nylons and moccasins. She looks adorable.

Back to me.

I proceed to put on a funky white dress and black tights. As I stand by my mirror putting on makeup, I hear a solid thud behind me. Charlee had pulled herself up on my dresser, slipped, and smacked her cheekbone directly on the metal of a bookshelf. I drop my mascara, sprint over, and scoop her up quickly. The moment that I picked her up, I feel something wet run down my arm. I smell diarrhea.

I look down to check the damage only to see a huge bruise forming on her cheek. She is screaming in pain, and I am frantically running back and forth with her at arms length, searching for wipes.

My dad is in the bathroom (he is visiting his parents) and I start banging on the door with my elbows. Charlee is screaming, Branden is trying to figure out what in the world is happening, I am acting as a barrier between Charlotte’s falling poop and the carpet, and my dad is answering the bathroom door in his underwear.

Dad takes one look at us and snaps into fix-it mode. He grabs Charlotte, (she has poop in her hair; how does she have poop in her hair?) turns on the bathtub, and sticks her in. She is still completely hysterical. Branden and I are now running around the bathroom, bumping into each other and bumbling around with poopy wipes and poopy hands and poopy clothes. Dad is still in his underwear, rinsing off Charlee as she claws at his hands. Branden hands her a sucker. As if that will help.

My white dress (dry-clean only) is covered in the diarrhea of an angry little baby. I take it off and throw something on without looking twice.

Twenty minutes later, we finally walk into church. Charlotte is back in her PJs (at 9 AM). She looks like a boxer after a bar fight wearing a pink “G is for GIGGLES” onsie. As we walk in, I see that the doors to the chapel are still open. I do a hang-loose sign as I strut through the doors and say “YES. WE MADE IT IN TIME FOR THE SACRAMENT.” I say this too loudly and the people in the chapel turn to look at me.

As we walk forward, I realize that we, in fact, did not make it in time. The sacrament is happening as I walk in. Everyone is reverent. I am hanging loose. (I don’t know why it ever felt right to do a hang loose sign as I walked into that church.)

Not only this, but everyone and their 17 children decided it was a good Sunday to chill in the lounge outside of the chapel. It’s packed to the brim. We waddle to find an empty space with our little boxer baby and my dad. (Dad is now dressed in clothes.)

About 30 minutes later, I finally look at what I am wearing. I lean over to Branden and say. “Wow. My outfit makes no sense.”

I am in a red, polka-dot dress with black tights and dark green vintage boots with pointy toes. Nothing makes sense anymore. This doesn’t particularly bother me until he says “You look like Minnie Mouse,” at which point I begin glaring at him and don’t stop for the next hour. Just what I’m going for. Minnie Mouse.

During the second hour of church, the little boxer baby starts sucking on my neck, searching for food. We are in the front row of Sunday School because (SURPRISE) we are late. She then pulls down the front of my dress repeatedly. on the hunt. I am being undressed by a baby in pajamas with a black eye.

It was at this point that we left the church building.

All that I’m saying is that church is impossible.

Oh, and also, right before my dad left for the airport, she blew out all over him again. Bath numero dos.

Brittany in Africa

Oct
14

img_1375From the time that my sister Brittany learned that the world was bigger than the Tri-Cities, she wanted to go to Africa. She wanted to deliver babies and give medical care in the most needy of places. She wanted to love people to life. While I was freaking out about the one word I missed on a spelling test in fourth grade (“immature”), she started hanging up pictures of Africa in our room.

Her room in Kennewick is still plastered with pictures and drawings of Africa. After months of searching for the right organization, she finally clicked “purchase” for a plane ticket.

That was a good day for all of us.

Brittany texts me everyday, sending pictures and stories of what is happening in the middle of rural Uganda. img_1436

Generally the tone of her texts are positive and excited, with a twinge of homesickness and an occasional “what the hell am I doing here.” Earlier this week, something was different.

She started the conversation with this: “Charlotte will not go to Africa. She will not get married. She will never like a boy. She will live in a closet knitting hats for the poor. This is how she will help society. But she will be in a closet doing it.”

This is when I knew that something was wrong.

She proceeded to tell me about her day.

I think I’m just seeing a lot of really hard things everyday. My heart is so sad. Today I interviewed three orphans who are trying to get sponsored so they can go to school.

Moses is 13 and his 18 year old brother takes care of him and he eats once a day. Both his parents died of HIV.

Esther is 8 and her dad was an alcoholic and her mom left her when she was 3. Every time she stands up ‘she feels bad’ and it is because she doesn’t eat.”

And then sweet little Patience is 3 and both her parents left her and her grandma takes care of her.

I was sitting there writing down the answers to different questions and I just wanted to cry.

The hardest part is because I’m one person and there are millions and millions of kids in this situation and when I start thinking about it I can’t handle it.

Moses’s favorite subject is “science” and his favorite hobby is “studying hard.” His siblings live in different homes so that they can each eat one meal a day. He was in school for years, but he had to drop out because he could not pay the tuition. “It’s been very difficult, but I try to make it easy.”

Esther is taken care of by her 11 year old brother. She loves school, except that she gets sick because she has no jackets for warmth. She collapses often from hunger. When asked what she needed, she said “Maybe if the sponsor is able to help, they could buy shoes, a uniform, and a sweater.”

Patience’s favorite things to do are to “play games, sing songs, and learn about animals.” Her hobbies are things that make her happy. She wants shoes more than anything, because there are chiggers in her toes, and they “bury themselves” and it hurts very bad.

The following videos are of the kids that Brittany has worked with, learning how to be frogs and butterflies:

So far in Africa, Brittany has helped deliver multiple babies, has been in the OR for multiple brain surgeries (one for a four month old and one for a six week old), and has treated countless people for malaria. Actually, the other doctors and nurses she works with diagnosed her with malaria last week.img_1598

Brittany is in the heart of one of the poorest places in the world. She travels from village to village by herself or with one other volunteer. She works primarily with orphans and vulnerable children.

I think that seeing this side of humanity has made her feel helpless. I felt that when we spoke a few days ago.

As she wrote me about her discouragement, ideas started flashing into my head of reaching out to get these kids shoes, and school supplies, and a jacket, and maybe even another year at school.

She isn’t one person; she is a long trail of interactions and services and friendships and differences. If you are reading this, you can be a part of expanding her little village in Uganda.

It costs $240 to sponsor one child for the entire school year. The link to the GoFundMe page is below:

https://_www.gofundme.com/_BushikaEducation Brennan Frost

If you are not able to give money, or you want to be more creative in what you send, please email me at kaylee1133@hotmail.com. I would love to send boxes and boxes of clothes, new or used, shoes, jackets, etc…

If you are not able to give, please share this post or this link.

I would love to see Brittany’s “one” expand and multiply.

Loves to you all!

My Views on Feminism

Oct
09
virginia-woolf

Virginia Woolf

I’m feeling controversial today. Some idiot driver didn’t let me into his lane–he actually went out of his way to not let me into his lane–and it made me so angry that I rode his bumper for a solid mile. I generally don’t get road rage. But, really? Charlotte was crying in the car and I had to stop completely after the idiot driver had passed, and I even started yelling. It wasn’t one of my proudest moments. The moral of the story is that I’m feeling controversial today.

So while I’m making people angry and yelling at the world, I figured that I would finally write my feelings about feminism, and specifically feminism within the church that I belong to.

I am a feminist.

I hate the public reaction when I say that sentence, because I can guarantee that at least half of my audience cringes at the very word. The social connotations with the word “feminist” are actually very different from what I consider to be true feminism, which is, that men and women are equal.

I graduated with a degree in English. Within my studies, I focused primarily on women in literature. I took classes studying women writers throughout history, especially in Central/South America, and early North America. The name of my blog is based on who I consider to be a great woman and leader in certain feminist ideas, Virginia Woolfe. She wrote about creating space for women in the literary and creative world.

From my education and subsequent studies, here is what I have come to believe, to this point:

Historically, women have not be heard; they have be silenced. Most women who I read or studied fought, hard, to breath from the same air that men breathed from. Queen Elizabeth wrote about this in her personal journals. Even being a leader, her femininity trapped her in many regards.

I do not mean to be dramatic in saying this, but I truly believe that this era is actually the first in recorded history when women have been free. I don’t say that lightly. I believe that with that freedom comes a new host of challenges and responsibilities.

I also believe that anyone who thinks that sexism isn’t prevalent in our current society isn’t paying attention.

I recognize that many feminist arguments don’t seem fair. I disagree that there should be a certain amount of positions in a graduate school or company for women. I want to go to graduate school or get a dream job because I earned it, not because I am a woman.

Women’s rights have certainly come a long way, and they still have a long way to come. I am grateful to live in a time where I can go to work if I chose or get married and have children. I feel that women are pretty nasty at times when it comes to this. Stay-at-home mothers criticize working moms, even in unsuspecting statements about breastfeeding, daycare, or loving their kids “enough” to do _______ for them. And the jokes against stay-at-home moms from working mothers are everywhere; if you don’t believe me, start watching TV.

I admire and respect women; we need them at home, and we need them in the world.

I know that the above ideas and beliefs seem scattered, but they represent together an idea I believe passionately and will continue to support: that women are equal to men. It is not my “job” to do what women have historically done. The beauty of this time is that I can chose.

Another crucial part of my beliefs on femininity, and one that is increasingly unpopular, is that women are different than men. I feel a great burden with the thought of raising a daughter, and I feel the burden for mothers raising this generation of daughters, to teach that each girl can actually dream and accomplish anything she wants. And at the same time, she is a woman, not a man.

Within the LDS church, there is a recent movement of men and women joined together advocating for what I can with near confidence say would be more equality between men and women. Any worthy man holds something called the “priesthood,” to heal and bless and administer ordinances. Women do not hold the priesthood.

How do I fit this into my feminist beliefs?

The word priesthood means the power of God. I genuinely believe that I have the power of God. So the priesthood that I have just looks different from the priesthood my husband has. One is not greater than the other; they complement each other perfectly.

For instance, I have the ability to receive personal revelation. I can literally talk to God and He will answer. I have the ability to create life. I have had experience after experience that confirm to me that I have the power of God, and thus, my own kind of priesthood.

The foundation of my religious beliefs stem from personal revelation I have received that have taught me that the gospel I believe in, and the church that gospel is built on, teach truth that comes directly from God.

The distinction between church and gospel has been tricky for many church members. I hear stupid things at church all the time, which I don’t believe or agree with. I have had leaders who I don’t like at all; who I flat-out disagree with, and who I don’t respect. I can make room for this, because people are, actually, human.

The gospel to me is pretty simple: it is built of principles of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and committing to God through promises, or covenants. It teaches that God always has and always will call prophets and apostles to be His mouthpiece. They will make mistakes. (Again, that “human” thing.) At the same time, the principles that they teach are directly from God Himself.

So when the prophet says something, I support it. I pray about it and think about it. And then I support it.

The gospel is not a democracy. It wasn’t when Jesus was here and it isn’t today. I feel that women who have issues with not having the priesthood either don’t understand how much power of God actually fills them up, or don’t understand that the principles of the gospel are up to God. Not me or you.

Let me return to my first point: I’m a feminist. Even within the church.

Like, what about Nephi’s wife in the scriptures? She was dragged all around the universe bearing children in the desert and she never gets a name? You better believe she’s a main reason Nephi stayed as good as he did. For that matter, what about all of the wives?

I recognize that within any organization filled with imperfect people, churches included, there will be names omitted and mistakes made. It isn’t a deal breaker for me. I try not to expect people, even and especially leaders, to be perfect. I expect God to be perfect. If a change needs to happen, I believe it’ll happen in His time. I don’t pretend to know everything or feel completely at ease with where I am. I feel that this discomfort is essential, else why do I need faith?

I love being a woman. It is messy and complicated and exciting right now. I love messy and complicated and exciting.

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You’re Doing Alright, Mama

Sep
30

14238246_1291013377605642_1927252795496066075_nLet me tell you how to parent.

Exclusively breastfeed. No bottles in the house. Bottle-feeding creates attachment issues.

Dress your baby in soft, new clothes everyday. Spot them immediately when they get food on them. They’ll stain quick.

Feed your baby organic food from the start. They’ll be addicted to refined sugar by the time they’re 7 months old.

Don’t lose your cool. They’ll remember. Other parents don’t lose their temper.

Be a stay-at-home mom, or welcome round two of attachment issues.

Don’t let your baby cry. You can’t spoil them.

Thirty minutes of tummy time a day. It is crucial for their development.

Let me tell you how I parent.

I gave my baby a bottle about three weeks in; I needed sleep.

She wore pajamas for a solid three months.

She eats cheerios with all her meals.

Sometimes I get so mad I have to walk away.

I work.

I let my baby cry. Some days she really screams.

The most tummy time I ever gave my baby was maybe ten minutes a day.

Along with becoming a parent came a host of struggles that I expected: exhaustion, anxiety, fear. But one emotion that I didn’t expect, but which has stuck to me longer and harder than the rest has been guilt.

Anyone who knows me knows that I hate unsolicited advice. I hate people telling me what to do, even if it is well-intentioned. But with a new baby, I found it impossible to escape the advice, which advice one way or the other would destroy my child. No matter what I did, it was wrong by someone.

This last week, I have talked to at least one friend every day who has expressed to me the ways that they are certain their kids will be forever ruined by their imperfections.

I just wanted to write you a quick note today: You’re doing alright, mama. You’re doing alright, dad.

You certainly are doing a host of things wrong. I certainly have already made enough mistakes to ruin my daughter. But here’s the thing that advice does not and will never account for: You love your kid. They don’t.

You’re doing alright. You fight with each other. I like to think of that as the work that goes into creating a relationship. You lose your temper. I like to think of that as a reminder to kids that their parents were once very much like them. Your kid doesn’t agree with you. Your house is a wreck 90% of your life. You missed a soccer game.

And you’re doing alright.

The only proof that I have of that, and the only comfort I can give you today, is that my baby learned to give kisses today. She claws my whole head with her tiny fingernails, pulls me in close, and lands an open-mouth slobber bomb right on my mouth. She’ll only kiss me.

Your proof will look different. Maybe it will be tucking in your two-year-old, who tells you for the first time he loves you. Maybe it will be an honest moment with a child learning not to lie, who trusts you with her guilt over anyone else. Maybe it will be when your teenage daughter comes to when she needs to breakdown, even after years of fighting. Maybe it will be a college-bound student missing you. Maybe it will be your oldest, now an adult, telling you a sincere thank you.

I just wanted to write today and tell you, that mama, you’re doing alright.

 

Deeper Than That

Sep
14

1927675_66806986825_2756960_nYou sit down and you think.

Your mind is your own. It moves when you moves; it makes you move. You think about something, or everything. You think through school, you think too little or too much. You think about how to fight life the next day, or the next hour or even the next moment. You think your own thoughts. Sometime when you get stuck, I can slip you a thought or two of the ones I have stored away.

You sit down and you grow.

Everything either grows or shrinks–you, your soul, your mind, your body, your curiosity, your contentment, you. Everyday when you sit down and think, parts are growing. Parts are shrinking. You change, because life changes and your mind changes and you change. When you shrink too far for too long, I will tell you and we will build a piece of you back up together.

You sit down and you bleed.

Under the surface, your blood. It pulses through you. You sit down and you bleed, on paper or in art, in prayer or in silence, in a plea or in nothing. The blood you have is different than mine. If we are alike enough and you find yourself in trouble, I can share. I will share what is under my surface, and it will keep you alive.

And in the middle of you bleeding, thinking, and growing in the human interactions that take place deep under the skin, the world worships or criticizes your surface.

Few people would argue that we live in a appearance-obsessed world. What I want my daughter to know, and what I want to believe myself, is that I am more than how I appear.

People starve themselves, take drugs to get bigger, change their face or body with plastic surgeries, wear thousands of dollars worth of gold jewelry and name-brand clothes. People do not care. People care too much. You care about something I have never thought about; I worry about something that has never crossed your mind. Magazine scream about “healthy eating,” childhood obesity, how to erase wrinkles and look 30 years younger.

What I want you to know is that you, what makes up you, the million decisions and quirks and struggles and moments of triumph, the blood and the mind and the growth which is extraordinarily unique, could never be contained or defined by a body.

No matter what you chose to do with your body, you are infinitely more than how you appear.

160820-elizabeth-smart-mn-0930_dcc9f5673e7f0d54fb62c50a318fcc98-nbcnews-fp-360-360Elizabeth Smart touched on this in a recent article. After experiencing brutal months full of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, she discusses how difficult it was to return to a religious, conservative society. She states that “people need to realize that there is nothing that can detract from your worth,” including mistreatment inflicted by self or others.

Nothing. This includes having lifelong health issues, being a victim to demoralizing abuse, having the “wrong” shape, hating exercise, or being obsessed with yourself. Your worth cannot be touched.

Whether you chose to mold your body, respect it, nourish it, enjoy it, hate it, struggle with it, build it strong, keep it weak, let it go or keep it close, you are not confined by it.

Whether you are cancer-ridden, have deformities, eating disorders, diseases, or inabilities; whether you feel shame or guilt with how you look, whether you self-harm, whether you struggle with your nose or acne or plain hair, whether you bounce back after a baby or you never feel the same–you are not what you look like.

Darling, you are too complicated for that.

 

 

 

What I Do On The Bad Days

Sep
12

Day 9: What do you do on a bad day?

First things first: I put on my bike shirt. I got this shirt for free in someone’s yard. It was a leftover from a yard sale. No one wanted it, so the owner gave it to me for free. This is what it looks like:
14232580_1291177570922636_1944568900448257571_nI like to wear it with purple knee-length spandex.

Anyways, enough about what I wear.

After I’m in my bike shirt and spandex shorts, I eat chocolate. If I don’t have any, I get some, or I steal some, whatever it takes.

I take a bath, and I do yoga.

I pick out a movie to watch; either a romantic comedy, an action, or a history/documentary type-of movie.

But really as I write this I feel like I’m lying, because what I actually do is go to work, take care of my baby, eat eggs for dinner, cry about something dumb, and put myself to bed early.

Brittany and I often play the “I hate” game, where we take turns listing to each other what we hate. Anything from the trivial to the deep. Brittany actually is now in Uganda, and when I think about that, it makes my bad days feel worst. I have no one to play the “I hate” game with. But really, I always feel significantly better after I play the “I hate” game, because I get all the built-up negativity out of my system. And Brittany doesn’t tell anyone what I say, so I don’t have to be careful about hating things for a moment.

I talk to a friend. Just not the peppy ones. I talk to them on the good days.

Most of my days are pretty good. I have a pretty good life, and my bike shirt really carries me through the bad ones. I mean, look at it.

The Day I Changed My Name

Sep
07

Day 8: Describe your day today, no matter how ordinary it was.

14231350_1285312341509159_8298606525394261170_oCharlotte has a cold, so I spent my morning trying to help her feel comfortable, giving her all the food she wanted and cuddling her good. Her little voice was raspy from the congestion. It broke my heart but also was the cutest thing I have ever heard.

Once she woke up from her morning nap, we headed to the Social Security Office. This (and the DMV) are the places things go to die. Why is everyone so grumpy? Some lady there parked her car in the middle of a lane. Granted, it was incredibly dangerous and idiotic. But the cop in the office stormed out, took one look at the car, and yelled at her in front of the 50 other miserable people in the office: “I’m going to tow your car, and it is going to cost you!” Why couldn’t he have just asked her to move it? Like I said, things go here to die.

I had Charlotte on one arms, my diaper bag in another, cheerios spilling on the floor behind me, and a fat folder full of all my important papers under my chin. As I tried to fill out the application to have my last name changed to Heath, a kind woman asked if she could help. I hate Utah for a few reasons, and I also love it for a few reasons. I love that people are incredibly understanding of fussy kids. She helped me with Charlotte as I filled out the paperwork.

I decided that I would be ultra productive, so I headed to Smiths as I waited for my number. After grocery shopping, I ran back to the Social Security Office, and everyone in the room became my friend. Charlee smiled and giggled, and everyone wanted to talk to me and play with her. I love that she makes peoples’ days better. I met some awesome people.

I changed my name legally today. It made me sad. I have fought it for over two years, for so many reasons. Mainly, because I am a Brooks and I have always been a Brooks and I always want to be a Brooks. It is a part of me and as much love, admiration, and respect I have for Branden, being married doesn’t mean that my “Brooksness” is gone. But after fighting it for so long, I think I just got tired. So I changed my name.

As I left the office, I felt like a grown-up. Those are the worst moments. But also I felt happy knowing that now I will be tied forever in an external way to my husband.

I went to change my name at the bank. The banker who helped me told me all of the struggles of his life. It was quite the conversation. Did you know his wife only has partial control of her fingers because of a car accident and he married into a family of four? He became a husband and father at once. It was quite overwhelming.

I taught piano for an hour. I learned the theme song to Minecraft. I made homemade tomato soup.

I watched a documentary on poverty and felt guilty for having everything I want. I can’t imagine not being able to feed and educate my child. I truly can’t imagine, and I feel that anything I write about poverty will be hypocritical and shallow. I have no real understanding. I hope one day to be able to speak of it with reverence because of sacrifices I personally have made.

I skyped Brittany to tell her good-bye as she heads to Uganda tomorrow. Charlotte showed her how she can bear crawl now.

I just made pecan pie mini muffins, scheduled ACT tutoring for the week, and put my baby down. She put both of her hands on my shoulders and nuzzled her face in my neck, and I felt profound gratitude that I had the means to feed, clothe, and educate her. I’m glad love doesn’t cost a cent. That makes me feel a little better.