Sometime last week I stumbled upon this tumblr full of dudes with their beards packed with fresh flowers. I started digging and discover this is a thing! Why has it taken society this long to discover such hilarious perfection?
The older I get the less willing I seem to be about hopping on bandwagons. ( I still am giving the comeback of birkenstocks the side eye) But flower beards…. make room ya’ll, we’re coming in.
My only challenge was that I had to convince my own bearded man to play along. Brent is not a huge fan of having his picture taken and I wish I could have captured the look on his face when I told him that I wanted to shove a bunch of flowers in his beard and then photograph him.
But bless him - he told me he’d give me five minutes, so off I went, scavenging our yard and my generous neighbor’s for some bright blooms. I had a irrational amount of fun doing this! I seriously giggled the entire time while he mouthed “hurry up” through clenched teeth.
When I was 24, I walked into an interview for my first corporate job. I had a sprinkling of various marketing related part-time jobs on my resume from my college years, but I actual knew very little about marketing.
They asked me if I knew what the company did, and my response was, “I know Red Hat has something to do with Open Source.” I cringe now, thinking back to my lack of preparation for the interview. But somehow - in spite of myself- I was able to convey to them just how hungry I was for a chance.
I was hired under the umbrella of marketing to do a very unglamorous job. I managed a database of software applications that were compatible with our product. I spent my days reviewing software partner requests to be added to the database and digging through massive, product matrices from large technology companies. It was about as boring and mind numbing as it sounds, but I was so excited to be working in the corporate world that I didn’t care.
Slowly, I was given one off opportunities to learn “real” marketing. I started creating marketing documents for our software partners. I wrote and distributed a newsletter. I started planning small events.
The role grew and so did I. I got promoted and received raises. Over the years my role changed from managing an online database to managing strategic relationships with some of our largest partners and then eventually I landed in a field marketing position where I supported our sales organization and got to be involved with all kinds of events and creative marketing campaigns. I fell in love with marketing and I knew it would forever be a part of my life in the working world.
But something happened when I moved to San Francisco. I became the sole remote member of an east coast based marketing team. I was 3 hours behind and had to work twice as hard to be heard, to be seen, to feel like a contributor. It was at this same time that some major life events were also happening - I’d just gotten married, was exploring an intoxicating new city and then learned I was pregnant. There were distractions everywhere, and being so far away made it hard to feel connected.
I enjoyed the work I was doing, but my confidence started to lack. Sometimes, being so far away and constantly feeling disconnected to the hub of the rest of my team, I felt invisible. I remember laying in bed many nights convinced that I was going to be fired. It was the heaviest feeling to know my family was depending on me to succeed and that I was certain I was failing them. I doubted that I was capable enough to be impactful. I began to think that perhaps everyone I’d worked with up until that point had overestimated me.
We moved back to Raleigh after Everly was born and I felt re-energized as I was given the opportunity to manage our field marketing efforts in the North East and Canada. I loved working with the sales organization and once again felt that passion for marketing. But things were changing- over the course of the next year, the entire marketing leadership in my department changed.
I felt like I was treading water as our goals and objectives shifted and refocused under a new structure. Nearly half of my immediate team was let go in an unanticipated layoff. There was so much work to do and not enough hands to do it. I also had new managers that I hadn’t yet built up enough rapport with to ask the hard questions and express my true concerns. All my old doubts on my abilities crept in again… I hesitated to contribute in meetings. I questioned if the work I was doing was significant and meaningful. I wanted to live and breath marketing the way I once had but saw no clear path to getting there again.
So I took a leap. I interviewed for a new role at a new organization. I landed the job. I left the comfort of what I knew and walked into a role that I knew was more visible and carried high expectations and would require me to do things outside the scope of my job experience. It was a chance at a clean slate. Early on, those old whispering thoughts crept in as I tried to soak up all of the new information being shared with me.
I was trained on 7 different systems in the first month. I jumped head first into the middle of marketing a large executive event and worked to get up to speed on supporting a customer retention organization. In the beginning, I was on information overload. I remember feeling like my new team believed in me more than I believed in myself.
I had been there two weeks when I was surprised to see that a bullet point on a big meeting agenda had my name next to it. I felt unprepared but quickly jotted down a couple things I felt might be relevant and tried to quiet the beating of my heart in my ears as I waited for my chance to speak among a large group of new colleagues.
That evening, there was a call on my voicemail from my new manager. I sat on the floor outside Everly’s room at bedtime and pressed play. “Several people stopped me to say how impressed they were with your knowledge in the meeting today. Keep it up.”
I sat there thinking about how long it had been since I had heard words like that from a manager and I just felt so flooded with the desire to make it happen more often. Week after week, my confidence grew. I found myself leading projects, heading discussions in meetings, speaking up often. Late last year, I was even given the opportunity to drive the marketing on a major new corporate project.
My passion for marketing exploded. That voice that had allowed me to undervalue myself for so long was silenced.
This past year has give me a new voice, a renewed love, and a stronger point of view. Never again will I allow myself to believe that I’m not capable of being a leader and a change maker. Never again will I shrink.
The move from Red Hat to SAS represented a clean slate - a chance to grow and start over, but this next move represents so much more. Now, I know I’m capable of making impact. Instead of starting from zero, I’m excited to push forward with my current momentum. I am hungry to make gains, to drive business, to take on projects that scare the hell out of me.
I don’t lay in bed at night, paralyzed by the fear of losing my job anymore. Instead, I swim in a thousand thoughts of how much potential lies ahead.
A Little History Lesson: Raleigh's Piggly Wiggly Past
When we first laid eyes on our current home, it was nearly winter and there were few leaves left on the trees. Almost immediately, we noticed two huge signs secured to the ground in the backyard of the yard next door.
It was one of the first things we asked about when we met our neighbor, Marshall, for the first time. Marshall is a walking encyclopedia of Raleigh knowledge. Born and raised here, he’s also an avid collector of things and stories from the past. He’s told me more interesting tidbits about our home’s original owners and our neighborhood than I ever could have hoped to find through a google search- but the story of how he came to own these two signs remains among one of my very favorite.
There used to be a Piggly Wiggly right between Glenwood Avenue and Fairview right in the heart of Five points. It has since become NOFO at the Pig, a beloved local restaurant that has kept a lot of the historical charm and some of the artifacts of the previous grocery store as part of its decor.
As Marshall tells it, many years ago he was driving by one day as they were dismantling the iconic signage on top of the shuttered grocery store to see workers loading the huge Piggly Wiggly signs into the back of a dump truck. He pulled over and asked what they were going to do with the signs. The workers told him they planned to take them to the local scrap metal facility.
"How much do you think they will give you for those signs?" asked Marshall.
The workers estimated a few hundred bucks.
Marshall offered to give them the same amount of money if they would haul the signs to his home on our street instead. There they have sat ever since, except for the occasions that they are put on display at the downtown Raleigh City Museum. Every time I look out my dining room window, it makes me smile to think that he saved a piece of Raleigh history from the dump so that they can be enjoyed by others for years to come.
Fifty years ago, Piggly Wiggly grocery stores could be found all over Raleigh and hundreds of locations around the state. Today, there are only 63 stores left in NC, nearly all of them located in small, rural towns and not a single one in Raleigh.
I’m a bit of a closet local history buff and recently stumbled upon the State Archive of NC’s flickr account. With our next door connection to this chain, I thought it would be fun to share some of the amazing photos of past Piggly Wiggly’s around downtown Raleigh. There is one labeled as the location in five points, but the size of the building doesn’t match up with what is there now and the Piggly Wiggly signage typography in the photo is different than Marshall’s signs. It’s possible there was a later remodel or update that made the building smaller and changed the signage but I couldn’t find any details online.
Corner of Person and Franklin streets. Governors square condos reside at this spot today.
This is said to be the Five Points location I mentioned above. Today NOFO at the Pig, Lily’s Pizza and Third Place Coffee shop reside at the five points location.
St. Mary’s at Peace street. Fallons flowers resides at this remodeled location today.
I recognized this location immediately! This is at the corner of Wilmington and Martin Streets. This location is now a hub of Raleigh dining and night life - It is currently home to the very popular Beasley’s Chicken and Honey, Chuck’s burgers and Fox Liquor bar downstairs.
Wouldn’t it be so much fun to shop in one of these stores? I read an account from a long time resident of the Five Points neighborhood who said before there were credit cards, he remembered when every local family had a card in an index box at the check out where they kept a tally of items purchased on credit. He also said Piggly Wiggly offered home delivery and would bring your groceries right in your home and put them away in the cabinets and fridge for you. (source)
I could spend hours digging through old photos looking for anything that feels familiar to me today. Often as we experience a city, we think only of how we know it in the present, but so many of our buildings hold rich and interesting histories. Thanks for indulging me as I explored a little of Raleigh’s past.
(All black and white photos and details are credited to the State Archive of NC flickr page and are available for viewing here).
"I forgot to tell you! Arlo loves Seinfeld! I was flipping through the channels and Arlo comes in and I stop on Seinfeld for a minute then start channel surfing and he says "Go back! Go back!" And so I go back to Seinfeld and it’s the episode where Kramer is obsessed with the chicken at Kenny Roger’s Roasters. You know that episode? Anyway Arlo is watching intently and I tried to change the channel again and he starts yelling, "Go back to the chicken show!" He loved it! He loves Seinfeld! He watched the whole thing!"
I think I laughed for a solid minute. Also, further proof my son is an old soul.
Some months ago, Brent and I started talking about his next chapter. Everly starts school in a little over a year and Arlo won’t be far behind her. After spending the last four and a half years of his life as the primary caregiver for our children, Brent is definitely at a place where he is eager to start making plans for his future and that of our family.
We both knew that after being out of the workforce for so long, going back to school was the next best step for him - but we had far more questions than answers as to how we would manage the added expenses of tuition and childcare on top of our already tight budget.
Then one day, a few months ago, a little message in my inbox caught my eye. I get emails from head hunters about other jobs occasionally, but this one was different. It was an opportunity to interview with a company headquartered in San Francisco and similar in size and structure to my previous company, Red Hat. The position was 100% work from home (and provided the much needed flexibility I sought) and the salary increase was significant enough to take some of the pressure off of us financially.
The only problem - I’ve really loved the work I’ve been doing here at SAS. The people I work with are amazing and the role has fed me creatively. I spent nearly eight years at Red Hat before taking the job at SAS last August, and I really thought I would be here for years to come.
But I interviewed anyway, unable to ignore such an awesome opportunity even if I was unsure of what to expect. Every person I spoke with during my 6 hours of phone interviews (the entire field marketing organization works remotely across the country) impressed me more. The more I read about the company, the more I felt that this could be a real answer for us. The hiring manager came to Raleigh from Georgia for my final interview and I instantly liked her.
The role has more travel (but only about 30% and regionally based) and involves more tactical marketing efforts than what I’ve been doing for the past year - but the work is fast paced, hands on and allows me to work directly with the sales organization again - something I’ve really missed.
I walked into my current manager’s office to tell her the news and immediately started to cry. In only a year’s time, SAS has become a family to me. I consider my current manager a friend and mentor. This team has made me feel so supported and appreciated since the first day I started. It is hard to leave a place like that and it’s also the reason that few people ever do (SAS has one of the lowest turn over rates in the industry)
But every time it starts to feel a little scary, I remind myself of the exciting adventures ahead for me in this new role and for Brent with the opportunity to go back to school.
Next Friday will be my last day here at SAS. I will turn a corner of our bedroom into a real home office space. I will start over again- the new girl once more. But I welcome the opportunity to get to know my new colleagues and manager and I hope that I find the same sort of hard working, kind and motivated team that I am leaving.
In two weeks time, I will no longer have to peel my daughter off of my legs every morning and hear her cry as I leave for the office. I can finally get to know my children’s teachers and classmates next school year when I drop them off in the morning. We can pay for books and classes for Brent and childcare for Arlo without having to struggle too much financially or put ourselves into major debt.
It’s an amazing reality and one that I am still a bit in disbelief over.
This fall, Brent will begin taking the necessary pre-requisite classes he needs and will start applying to masters programs in the spring. I’ll share more when there is more to tell - but I’m just so excited for him. for us. and for all that lies ahead.
Few things are as synonymous with childhood as a swing hanging from the branch of a tree. My two can’t get enough.
Arlo is looking like such a little boy these days. It’s bittersweet that there is hardly any “baby” left to be found in my baby.
My mother’s backyard. I love walking around back here - every corner reveals something whimsical and thoughtfully placed. We spent most of time just soaking it all in.
Paddle boarding with the kids at Lake Lure.
Trying to be like all of my yoga friends doing headstands on paddleboards with ease in my instagram and facebook feeds. My reality: I fell off a lot. Ate it real good a couple times. I’m going to blame it on the fact that there were so many waves from passing boats that it felt nearly impossible to find my balance. (yeah…sure… that’s the reason)
Mama and Peg bought some sort of little packets that changed the color of the fire to blue and green. The kids loved this little bit of “magic”.
Exploring the tipi in the backyard. This simple shelter has opened up a world of curiosity about the First Nations, Native American culture, and our own family history with the kids. (Our favorite book right now is D is for Drum)
Despite it being July, the cool mountain temps allowed us to enjoy a campfire every day.
Watching the Gerton, NC fireworks display from the neighbors front yard. Arlo would shout with joy after the big ones!
We went in search of a local creamy that we have passed signs for many times over the last year. A few back road turns and our search lead us to Looking Glass creamery. All of their cow and goat cheeses are made from milk from local dairies. The coconut chevre was amazing. I took home a jar of their goat’s milk carmelita sauce and mama bought cheese curds that we snacked on all afternoon.
There’s just something about a long cabin. It’s always so relaxing and retreat-like to visit Mama & Pegs home in the woods.
We have a little fisher-girl on our hands. Everly has been practicing her cast with Brent in our yard for several weeks and after Mimi put a worm on her hook, Everly cast her own pole into the pond and hooked a fish minutes later. Over the course of thirty minutes, this girl caught six brim on her own!
My sweet blue eyed boy enjoying a smores by the campfire on our last night.
There are so many wonderful farms and farm-to-table inspired business around the Asheville area. It’s a wonderland for people who want to eat local and know where their food is coming from. This past weekend, we stopped by Flying Cloud Farm in Fairview, NC (About a 12 minute drive outside Asheville) to fill up on fresh produce and abundant wildflowers.
Flying Cloud has pick-your-own blueberries and wildflower fields right now and their farm stand was packed with several leafy greens, tomatoes, squash and peppers. They rely on an honor system where folks can stop into the often unmanned stand, make their selections and leave cash or check in the designated box.
For $10, you can grab a silver bucket and a pair of scissors and choose your own flowers amongst the rows and rows of colorful beauties. Zinnias, sunflowers, and queen anne’s lace were some of my favorites.
There’s nothing better than a little girl with her arms full of vibrant wildflowers!
When I was growing up, my mama planted a patch of wildflower seeds in a sunny area behind our house. She would go out and snip off blooms and put little bouquets all around our home. It’s something I remember so fondly and I make an effort to do the same whenever possible. (If only I could get a bouquet as big as this for $10 in Raleigh!) I dream of having my own wildflower field one day.
I also love floral arranging and had far too much fun creating these colorful bouquets.
For those visiting or living in the Asheville area (lucky you!) Flying Cloud Farm’s pick-your-own wildflower field is open June through October. I look forward to stopping by again as the seasons change to see what fall blooms they have planted.
With a birthday that falls so close to Christmas, we always make an effort to celebrate Everly’s half birthday - which also fall on a major US holiday - July 4th! Even with all of the events usually surrounding the holiday weekend, we’ve always managed to do something to make the day extra special for our dove.
You will never meet a kid more obsessed with birthdays than Everly. She asks us regularly how long until her own and talks for days about her friend’s and family members birthdays. She reminisces about birthday parties like they were week long vacations. She has memorized all of our birthday months and likes to announce who has one coming up next. She told every person she encountered on Friday, “Today’s my half birthday!” Even the halfs are important to this girl!
A few months ago, I found this pink guitar for $12 in a thrift store in Jacksonville, Florida while I was visiting one of my best friends. I snatched it up and hid it in our basement with the intention of giving it to Everly as a future gift. Every half birthday, we give our kids a little sweet treat and a small toy to celebrate the occasion. This year we celebrated by making unicorn poop cookies (go ahead and click on that link, you know you want to make them too!) and a BIG gift with a reasonable price tag.
Everly absolutely loves her new guitar and has been serenading us ever since. Brent plans to make her a guitar strap out of ribbon and hopes to teach her a few chords this summer.
I look forward to sharing all of the fun of our July fourth holiday on the blog this week, but wanted to write a special post for our big four and a half year old first.
Work Clothes. These shoes! I have a couple pairs of shoes in my closet that I consider show stoppers. These are one of them. Red at the toe, black at the heel and that sexy ankle strap. The only challenge with such a shoe is that you can’t wear them too often since they are so flashy or the fun will wear off.
Play Clothes. I realize this pose makes me look at little pregnant, but I don’t like my legs in most of the photos Brent took of me in this dress, so this one will have to do. Isn’t it strange how our insecurities work? I’d rather look pregnant than post a photo where I don’t like my legs. I’ve disliked my calves and ankles since someone told me I had cankles in high school and even though I know it’s silly, I’ve carried around that insecurity ever since.
Play Clothes. You are now entering the portion of my fashion post where I become utterly obsessed with a pair of Swedish Hasbeens. (I’m wearing them in all the remaining outfit pics) These are basically the perfect shoe. Since they are a bit of an investment, I love that they are versatile enough that I can wear them from the summer right through to winter. I also like they look equally great with a pair of cut-off jean shorts or a dress. Minx has a great collection of Swedish Hasbeens on their online shop include a great neutral pair with lower heel and some fun red ones!
Work Clothes. I was pushing the limits a little bit on work appropriate wear with these funky pants but then again, I always do that. I rarely ever dress down for work but I do tend to dress kind of loud. It’s just part of my personality and something I really own. I will never show up in a crazy hat or something too tight but I can’t promise you I won’t wear wacky pants or crazy patterns together. I love to express my personality through clothes.
Work Clothes. Well, I’m already eating my words. I just said I rarely dress down, but here I am immediately following it with a work outfit involving jeans. It was a Friday with no meetings, so I took the opportunity to wear something a little more casual.
So now that I’ve shared some of my favorite outfits. I’ve got a couple of sort-of related questions for all of you.
1. Do you think it’s a risky move to dress boldly in a corporate America environment? Or is standing out (within reason!) from a satorial perspective a good thing?
2. Do you have a weird body insecurity that stems from a single incident? I’ve had worse things said to me about my appearance, but for some reason, that cankle comment has been one of the few that really stuck over the years.
(Full disclosure: Anything with a * next to it is an affiliate link.)
I walked into a typical scenario in my bedroom a few weeks ago. Everly was standing in front of the big mirror, my hat on her head and her arms full of scarves she had collected from a basket in the corner.
She was wearing a top that was once one of her favorite dresses before her legs grew too tall. It now required pants underneath, but somewhere along her path that morning, she had discarded them.
I stood in the door way and watched for a long time as she acted scenarios with her reflection. She told secrets too low for me to hear and made dramatic facial expressions and said things like, “We have to hurry! Pick out you fanciest outfit before they get here.”
I love this age of wonder and imagination. Where every day she switches characters at least a handful of times. Where every hour requires a new costume. Where sometimes, if I’m lucky, she asks me to play along.
Despite a shelf full of princess dresses and funny hats and masks in our playroom, it is my accessories that she is most drawn to. The distinct sound of my shoes being shuffled across our old hardwood floors as she teeters in them is something I wish I could wrap up and tuck away in the box I keep of her treasured things.
At every stage, there is a specific, defining memory that comes to mind as I reflect on my children’s growing up. At almost four and a half, for Everly Veda, it is moments like the one above. A little girl, wobbling across my bedroom floor in a pair of my heels. Her imagination accompanied by the blur of colorful scarves and the whispered conversations shared with the friend on the other side of a smudged mirror.
These moments fit in no box, and so I will leave them here instead.
The last time I shared some of my favorite tunes, I got SO many amazing recommendations from readers on what they were currently loving. I downloaded a ton of new songs and was introduced to so many great new-to-me artists. I thought with festival and outdoor concert season in full swing, it was the perfect time to talk music loves again. Here’s a little playlist of a few songs that are on consistent rotation in my ears right now.
Also, I can’t get the song Water Fountain to play for some reason - but the Tune Yards are rocking my world too! (It’s currently my “drop whatever you are doing and shake it” song)
What songs and artists are you loving at the moment?
When Brent and I bought our home near downtown Raleigh, we had every intention of staying put for years. We envisioned it being the place where our children would grow into their teens.
It has everything that has been important to us for the last 5-8 years close proximity to the buzz and energy of downtown, easy access to stores, parks, festivals and great restaurants. Excellent schools, hospitals and a short drive to most of our friends, family, and church.
But as the years have passed, a very persistent voice has grown louder and louder in our souls. Land. Farmhouse. Land. Farmhouse.
I grew up on five wooded acres in the Middle Creek area outside Fuquay/Apex and Brent spent most of his childhood running through the forest and sandhills in his undeveloped neighborhood in Southern Pines. We both experienced the kind of childhood where you could roam free, splash through creeks, climb trees and be gone from lunch to sun down.
We have a fenced in front yard where the kids love to play, but because it is a busy neighborhood and the fence doesn’t offer any privacy, it’s not the kind of yard where they can run out and play without supervision. Everly has taken to climbing the camelia tree in our front yard and I Iong to let her loose on a grove of dogwoods and magnolias with low hanging branches.
We’ve also had some pretty strong influences that are motivating a change in our thinking. Spending a week in the beautiful Vermont countryside with Kate and Nick each summer has certainly swayed our thoughts. Escaping to the idealic mountain retreat that my mom and Peg share keeps us daydreaming of a quieter space. Even watching our children run around at my grandparent’s home in rural Johnston Country has stirred the desire for wide openness.
The challenges we see with actually fulfilling this dream are many. In order to afford the kind of home and land we want, we would have to move well outside the Raleigh area. It’s hard to find great schools in rural parts of our state. My company doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility in work from home scenarios and a long commute into the city each day means an extra few hours away from my family. Brent is exploring going back to school and most of the major universities in our area are in the triangle area. And the biggest thing hindering a move - the idea of being farther away from our friends and family. Our house is constantly full of friends and family and our social calendar is packed. We know moving farther away would have a significant impact on what we’ve grown accustom to.
Even the thought of leaving our house itself… we love it, we truly do.
But the ache is still there and perhaps it will be for some time. Maybe it always will be there, or maybe we will find a way to fulfill our old farmhouse dreams one day.
In the meantime, I entertain myself by looking at properties all over the state and daydreaming of nigerian dwarf goats and ducks and planting fields of wild flowers and pumpkins and strawberries.
With that vision ever growing, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite farmhouse dreams, just in case any of you out there are in a better situation that we are to make it happen or maybe you just love daydreaming about this sort of thing too.
(No acreage on this one, but a great little house and right in the middle of charming Pittsboro)
(This house in Merry Hill needs some updates inside and comes with just a few acres, but what a gorgeous home and property!)
(I’m kind of obsessed with this old farmhouse in Siler City! It’s on 9.6 acres and has a separate, one bedroom log cabin for guests)
(This old house in downtown Smithfield doesn’t have any land, but it’s close to some of our family and the woodwork on the inside is the stuff of dreams!)
(This house in Stanfield has a little over 5 and a half acres and so much charm! I love the double porch!)
(This home in downtown Weaverville only boasts half an acre, but it’s proximity to Asheville (and my mama!) and the dream kitchen make it a favorite)
I just wanted to post a little something in honor of Father’s Day for Brent.
When I met him at 23, there were a lot of things I was attracted to - how he was always barefoot, his kind heart, the way he lived with a quiet confidence and never needed to prove himself to anyone, his beautiful voice and strong hands and how much fun I had with him.
Even when I married him at 26, I thought I had a pretty good idea of who he was - three years can tell you a lot about a person, but it can’t begin to predict how the lessons ahead will mold and shape them.
Nearly ten years have passed and while all those traits that drew me to him remain, it’s the man he has become that I most admire.
Brent loves not only me, his children, and family with abandon - but our neighbors, community, the world. He never has a bad word to speak of anyone. He jumps at the chance to be of assistance to others. He holds doors and says hello and waves to strangers so often that now I just smile when they sometimes eye him suspiciously.
And every day, he is the person who is showing our children how to interact with the world around them. A care giver and a teacher.
We are so grateful for him. For his dedication to us and to goodness in general.
On Father’s Day. and the Tuesday after. and every day we have with him.
Hello and welcome to a new name and look for my blog. I’ve changed the name of Dear Baby to Brave in Love. This change has been a year in the making and took a good kick in the pants to finally make it happen.
Dear Baby was the perfect name for this blog when I was starting out. I had so much to say to my unborn child and it evolved into a love story to two children and my husband. But my babies aren’t babies anymore and in the past year I started to really feel it was time to let this blog grow up alongside my children. I bought Braveinlove.com over a year ago but just sat on it. I wanted a blog name that could stand the test of time. Something meaningful that reflected the over-arching theme of this whole journey.
"To me, the most shocking part of love has always been the vulnerability it brings. It cracks open your ribs and leaves your heart beating, exposed. The fear that lies in that kind of nakedness could use me up, if I let it.
But my love forges ahead instead of retreating, and I’m learning to embrace the riches of my defenseless heart. I look at Brent. At Everly. At Arlo and it consumes me in the most frighteningly beautiful way. I am in over my head. Laid bare. Brave in love.”
The vulnerability of parenthood is the thing I come back to again and again. No one or no thing can prepare you for the way it changes everything. I have written about it a thousand different ways on the pages of this blog.
But I’ve also been comforted that this is a universal experience. That others nod in agreement when I talk about it with friends. That readers here tell me they know exactly what I mean.
I love this quote by C.S. Lewis:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
It feels like the perfect war cry for parenting. In all we give and do and experience with our children, be brave. We have second guessed ourselves a thousand times. We have been asked to do things we didn’t think we were strong enough to do. We have been overwhelmed and over the moon. Climbed mountains and nearly drowned in this experience. But we keep going.
Bravery is relative. Some of us on this journey have had to be braver than others. But parenthood asks us all to take up the challenge. It takes from us more than we expect and rewards us beyond our wildest expectations.
I look forward to sharing more of us here, in this same space with a new name.
(Special thanks to Bobbi at Ready to Blog for taking on the challenges of coding in tumblr and for having patience with this indecisive blogger!)
I was reading a book on vacation about happiness. It’s one I’ve picked up and put down several times over the last year - reading a chapter here and there, dog-earring the page and then tucking it back into the bookcase until I found myself with another hour of time to pick it up again.
There was one tiny sentence near the end of the book that grabbed a hold of me and pasted itself onto my conscience.
START WHERE YOU ARE .
Start where I am?
The possibilities of that statement are endless. Start what? Anything? Everything? Something?
A fellow blogger friend of mine, Kate, posted a commentary this morning about how men are perceived in the childrearing process. I found myself agreeing with a lot of the things she had to say - I am guilty of sending admiring smiles to a father navigating a Saturday morning alone with his two small children at the bagel shop or a man with a baby strapped to his chest, alone on the bus.
In terms of our own childcare arrangements - Brent will be the “stay at home dad”. While I will be blessed enough to work from home quite a bit, he’ll be the lead in the hour to hour care of our child during the day while I focus on my work in another room. I also travel often for work which will leave him as the lone parent for days at a time.
Other than both of us feeling truly blessed to have the flexibility to be home with our child and not have to utilize daycare - neither of us has felt this is an extraordinary occurance… however I can’t tell you the number of times that colleagues, friends, and acquaintances have raised their eyebrows and said something to the effect of “Wow! That’s different. It’s great your husband is comfortable doing that”. Why wouldn’t he be?
It took me a long time to get here. To know exactly who I am.
For most of my childhood I was a follower. I had plenty of friends but I wore what they wore, did what they did, acted in the way that was agreeable and accepted by my peers.
And that’s the way it went for many years. When I think back on the gangly girl I was in highschool - jutty shoulders, blonde hair, too much eyeliner. In “love” with a boy two years my senior for most of my schooling. I was a good kid - got good grades, never much of a challenge to my parents, and constantly surrounded by my girlfriends… but there are a lot of things that I was missing. I regret that although I considered myself a friendly person, I never made much effort to extend myself outside my group of friends. I regret that I maintained friendships with people who didn’t always have my best interest in mind. I regret that I didn’t see a world bigger than my little hometown. But then again, that’s what I knew. That’s what my limited life experiences allowed me to know.
I left highschool almost twelve years ago. And in those twelve years I’ve made major mistakes, had my heart broken, found redemption, discovered true friendship, learned to speak up for myself, uncovered my fire, and learned the beauty in my individuality.
I’ve learned that there are going to be people in this world that dislike you despite your best efforts - and hey, that’s life. I’ve learned that I’m only effective in bettering myself and making improvements when I want it, instead of trying to do it for someone else. I’ve learned to be okay with my flaws. Even if I am my own worse critic, I’m my own champion too. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
I know how to stick up for myself when it’s necessary and when to poke fun at my own faults. I am often awkward, inconsistent, unorganized, and absent-minded. I talk too much. I wish our house wasn’t messy, that I’d learn to get my oil changed on a regular basis and that I
Like most people I want to be liked, I want to be accepted but I don’t waist time
The best days of my maternity leave have been the least anticipated. The days where we sleep as late as the babies will allow. Arlo and I rising last as we’ve spent the early hours of 3 am and 6 am nursing in the quiet of our home. Then Brent makes me a hot cup of coffee in a mug marked with the word “MOM” and sets it down on the side table next to me.
Everly greets me with a mouth covered in the last bits of her breakfast. Grape jelly or strawberry slices. Little sticky fingers that smell like peanut butter pat my leg. She peers into my arms at her little brother. “Arlooooo!” she says, rolling his name around on her tongue.
We watch Nick Jr, Brent and I laughing that we know every word and we all sing along to the theme song of the bug cartoon. It’s too humid to stay outside long, but we let Everly out long enough to draw something swirly in sidewalk chalk on the front bench.
During the quiet of her mid day nap, I catch up on email and blog. Brent picks at his guitar. Arlo it seems, has plans to spend every waking minute nursing. Somewhere in the middle, I find a few minutes to steal away and get a hot shower.
When Everly wakes, we share a lemon popsicle. We play with toys. Brent has been praciticing her ABC’s with her. Over our shoulder we watch Lili, a beautiful film from 1953 about a french orphan girl who joins a carnival and falls in love with the puppets. Everly adores the songs and claps along. I make a mental note to buy the DVD.
As the afternoon falls away, Brent and Everly head out for a few errands. Arlo nurses and nurses and nurses. A storm passes through and knocks down the heat enough for us to crawl onto the front porch swing. I balance my boy on my knees and make over exaggerated facial expressions in an attempt to get him to mimic me. A neighbor walking her dog can’t see the baby and gives me a strange look.
Our lazy day has left us in no mood to cook. We defrost ham and kale soup that my dad brought over for us. We eat it with saltine crackers and big glasses of cold water. Everly is in her pajamas soon and I watch as Brent brushes her teeth.
There is a video that lives on the old laptop inside the cabinet in our living room that I’ve been thinking about lately. I made it when Arlo was three months old. It was late July and we were in the thick of bad news on our son. The latest was that he had been diagnosed with Ocular albinism*. I’d spent hours one night digging through page after page on the internet reading about what this meant for him. I was feeling vulnerable and completely unprepared and since it was 3am, and everyone else was asleep, I turned on the camera on my laptop and started to talk. and cry really hard. and lay out my fears in the quiet of my dark living room.
And then I closed my laptop and never watched it again. I just needed to let it live somewhere, admit it existed and then put it to rest. The next day, I wrote this post, sharing Arlo’s condition on my blog. I’ve always struggled with how to go about sharing Arlo’s health news here. Sometimes it felt appropriate to share it openly because Dear Baby is a reflection on the daily happenings in our life and it felt odd to be dealing with it in our lives and not acknowledging it in this space - but other things I’ve held on to for months at a time before mentioning them in a post.
With the passing of his first birthday, I am very much ready for a new era of health and wellness for my son. It is what I hope for more than anything else in the world. Health and happiness for my family. Take the rest, leave me that.
We met with Arlo’s pediatrician today for his one year check up and the first thing I said to her was, “Well, you promised me I’d survive his first year. And here we are!” My mind wandered to that late night video as she went down the checklist, smiling and nodding as we shared all the things our boy has accomplished. I thought back to that version of myself on that video, a woman feeling scared and alone with her son’s new diagnosis. I wish I could comfort her. I wish she could have been in the room today as her tiny son was transformed into a strong growing boy who flipped the light switch off and on & waved to cars that passed by the windows in our exam room.
*Arlo’s Ocular Albinism diagnosis was later changed to Oculocutaneous Albinism Type II after genetic testing.
I’m not interested in being an expert on anything, except my own family. When I started writing about my experiences on motherhood, I will admit that early on, I grew a little overconfident or a lot overconfident (depending on who you ask) about my abilities.
I was ready to dole out advice and recommendations like I’d been doing this for years, when really, truly, I only knew the ins and outs of one particular little girl who happened to be early to everything and easy about all the rest.
Arlo was a much needed reality check. Nothing that worked before him worked on him. I was starting at zero and it made me realize that everything is relative and nothing is guaranteed. There are no secret formulas or magic steps when it comes to raising children. What one mother swears by another deems useless. There is nothing that is best for all babies and all that truly matters is what’s best for my babies. There isn’t a book or a blog or how-to video out there that has those answers.
These days, I will admit I know nothing. But even within that statement I am confident in my abilities to find what will work for my children. I know nothing, but I trust the hell out of my own intuition.
I’ve learned the right amount of shushes and the perfect kind of rock to get my babies to sleep and the perfect ratio of broccoli to mac n cheese to ensure their plates are clean. I’m a master in the art of Everly and Arlo (but them alone).
I just want to make a commitment here to you all, on this little blog of minethat I will always share ideas and things that have been helpful or beneficial in the process of raising up these babies with the caveat that I know nothing (nothing at all) about how any of this might work, or be totally off basis when it comes to your family. It sounds like a disclaimer, but it’s the cold hard truth.
Most importantly, I respect and recognize and marvel at you, my fellow mamas who are experts in your own right about your own sweet babesand what makes their worlds go round. There isn’t another woman on this earth that knows what works for them better than you.And isn’t that something worthy of great pride? (Greater than gold medals or emmys or whatever statue they are handing out these days.)
Because this whole experience of parenting… it’s about making mistakes and holding our ground and learning our way. I’ll keep sharing my story and I hope you’ll all be here to help me keep it real. And remind me, should I ever get too full of myself again, that I’m not an expert on anyone else but these two little people who I brought into the world.
A few months back, on her own, Everly started to tell her brother and random friends and family, “Arlo is SO handsome!” It always made me giggle as I assumed she was just repeating what she had heard me say to him before.
Two days ago, we were sitting in the frozen yogurt place enjoying our treats and Everly was fixated on a young family outside. Among them was a boy, probably five or six, with shaggy blonde hair. After watching them through the glass for a few minutes Everly turned to Brent and I and said, “That boy out there is SO handsome!”
Brent and I immediately turned and looked at each other and laughed a little nervously. I mean she is THREE. Three years old and already announcing that a boy outside is handsome.
I don’t know what to make of it. Of course, it was completely innocent - just her observation. But it still felt odd to me to hear her make such a declaration out of the blue about someone she didn’t know.
She has years ahead of her until boys turn into icky cootie carriers and then beyond that into love interests, but it was an interesting emotional experience for me. To think - aww, that’s adorable and then wait, you are way too young to even be thinking about the physical appearance of another person. I think I’m probably giving it far more weight than it even deserves in writing it here.
A few years ago, I found some of my old diaries from elementary school - around fifth grade, I guess… And reading through them, I felt like I was way too young to even be talking about boys and crushes and “going out” and yet - there I was doing it.
Looking back on my youth, I’ve come to feel like perhaps I missed out on some real opportunities to be adventurous and develop a personal identity as a young girl because I was so wrapped up in getting a boyfriend and wondering if they liked me or not. It was the focus or my existence for most of middle school and high school.
As an adult, I wish I could have changed that experience. I wish I could have built a core of self worth around my talents and my best friends and saved the boys for years when I was emotionally more mature.
I know I’m jumping the gun in a big way by even writing these things outloud - but ultimately, we all just want to save our kids from some of the mistakes we made growing up. I know I can’t, but it won’t stop me from wishing I could.
I know that genuine interest in boys is far off for my girl, I’m just hoping
It’s weird the changes that occur when you become a mother. Your hearing becomes super sonic for one. I can hear one of my children whimper in their sleep over the sound of 10 people talking and the record player.
Motherhood is putting yourself at the back of the line, for everything, and yet never feeling like you are missing out or getting the short end of the stick. It’s eating cold chicken nuggets and shriveled peas well after your children have been fed, cleaned and put to bed or balancing your body precariously on the edge of a bed with barely any covers at all in an effort to ensure they are comfortable, warm and dreaming happily there beside you.
This experience has made me vulnerable in a really shocking way. To love anything on this earth as much as I love my children- it’s such a distinct and naked feeling. natural and foreign in the same breath. Even now, with nearly two years of trying to get used to it, sometimes I still whisper “I can’t believe how much I love you” under my breath when I watch them.
I remember one of the first times I made it out to a bar after Everly was born. Brent was playing a show. I ran into an old time acquaintance I had known from my younger days. He said to me “I bet you sure do miss this” as he pointed to the people around me in the dark room, their faces shining with sweat and lip gloss. I just smiled at him and said “You have no idea.”
because he didn’t. and he couldn’t possibly. But I knew. My sometimes sleepless nights, my cold peas for dinner, the worry, the joy, the strengths and weaknesses I’d discovered in my new role.
My name is Melissa Jordan and most of our family’s food budget each month is spent in your stores. I love that the majority of your items are dye free. I love that you use none GMO ingredients in all of your house brands. I love your cheap tempranillo wine and your frozen garlic naan like nobody’s business.
But today, I’d like to lodge a complaint. It’s regarding those tiny kid-sized red carts that you put out at the front of the store. At first glance, I found them charmingly pint-sized and fun. But I made the poor decision of letting my three year old daughter use one and quickly watched as all hell broke loose.
The bigger problem here is that I am subjected to this madness EVERY TIME we set foot in your store. My daughter, Everly, makes a bee line for the carts. Since that fated day when I mistakingly introduced her, she refuses to shop without one. She is three, so our options are hysterical public freak out or relent. On the days that we discover all of the tiny carts are in use, I secretly cheer inside. Typically, there is at least one there waiting for her. Since I usually shop for a weeks worth of groceries, I also have to get a standard cart. I began repetively telling my daughter to stay with me. pay attention. no, we don’t need that.
It is at this point that my daughter decides to play her own toddler version of supermarket sweep. Anything at eye level with interesting packaging is getting thrown in her cart while I pull them back out and put them back where they belong. I once unknowingly purchased 3 jars of sunflower seed butter she had tossed in without my knowledge.
Heaven help us when we get to the chocolate/candy selection. I physically plant myself between her and the sweets. “We don’t need those. Keep moving. Nothing to see here.” I do try to direct her towards the foods that are on our list. She happily picks out the bananas, breakfast bars, and apple sauce to put in her cart.
Trader Joes is always a mad house. The people of Raleigh get genuinely crazy eyed about low cost organic meats and freezer burritos. I have had my car rammed because I momentarily blocked the path to the guy handing out samples of pink lemonade.
The aisles are packed and we are barely squeezing by. Everly isn’t paying attention and narrowly misses ramming a couple of shoppers straight in the heels. By this point, I have one hand on my own cart and one hand on her shoulder trying to keep her on track and prevent her from causing serious injury to others. I have broken out into a sweat.
We make it to the dairy aisle, and while I put yogurt and cheese in my cart (gah, your cheese selection KILLS me. So good), my daughter has decided to abandon her cart all together. I now have a big cart, a small cart, and a 3 year old who is casually gravitating back to the candy aisle while pretending not to hear me as I shout “Everly! Get back here! We’re almost done. Everly!” Another mother gives me a look of pity, and it’s likely she has also experienced tiny cart hell. It is only when I threaten to hand Everly’s cart over to another a child does she turn on her heels and come back to me.
I can see the end in site. Everly is sticking around now, but has no interest in pushing her cart so I am literally navigating the last aisle of the store pushing two carts at varying heights while my toddler holds onto my pant leg. She refuses to sit in the kids seat part of my big cart. Not even promises of a yogurt covered star cookie can convince her to do so. A young man in a hawaiian shirt carrying a large question mark on a stick stops me to ask if I am finding everything ok. I want to ask him on which aisle can I find my sanity.
It takes a 6 point turn to get through the last bend of the wine aisle without breaking anything. There is a man in the checkout line in front of me. He has two tiny carts, both holding a few groceries and no one else in sight. I look at him and he blurts out that his kids and wife left him to pay for everything while they went to the car. I smile in sympathy and tell him I have been there. I watch as he pushes both carts, each holding a single grocery bag back to the front of the store where he discards the small, red carts with a joyous shove.
I write to you today to share my experience and in the hopes that you will help parents like myself have a more enjoyable shopping experience. Perhaps you can hide them in the back and only give them to people who request them. Perhaps there is a contraption out there that can attach it to a regular cart. Or perhaps the
Both of the children fell asleep in the car after a visit to the near empty Fort Fisher aquarium and lunch at a beach front seafood restaurant. I dropped Brent off at the house and decided that instead of sitting in the driveaway while they slept, it might be nice to go for a drive. I turned right, towards the north end and drove until I hit the beach access gate.
I turned around and drove down Canal street slowly, and it hit me that Carolina Beach has been as important to my life experience as the home I grew up in, the city of Raleigh, or our time in San Francisco.
This island is an old friend. We met when I was a small girl, all knees and elbows in baggy swimsuit on summer vacation with my family. My toes met the sand again and again over the years. I carried home sun burns, summer loves, freckles across my nose.
At a stop light, I looked to my right and saw the long white boats that served as one of my favorite activities during our week long visits each summer. I can’t even count the number of nights I danced with my cousins on those party cruise boats to a seemingly endless chorus of the electric slide.
I stopped in front of an old, wooden beach house that we rented nearly every year from an old man named Stanley. Hidden amongst the million dollar, pastel cottages, that old, weathered house is barely worth noticing except by those who know the wealth of memories it houses.
Every summer I would bring along my childhood best friend, Abby. We’d ride bumper cars and spend our quarters on arcade games and black and white photo booths. Once, in the six grade, we bravely flipped off the camera and after snickering over our act of rebellion, we promptly hid them away so that my parents wouldn’t never find them. In our early teens, we would spend all of our time on the boardwalk wearing Stussy and Billabong t-shirts and talking to the surfer boys who hung out near the lifeguard station.
Over and over I came back.
As the children slept, I turned the car into the Carolina Sands neighborhood and turned right down Tide Water. I stopped in front of a little cottage on stilts with a periwinkle front door and palm trees in the yard. My parents bought the house after traveling the eastern seaboard on their catamaran sailboat for several years when I was in college.
It was to that house that I retreated when Brent broke my heart early in our relationship. It was inside that house that my parent’s 29 year marriage ended. It was there that I spent my first awkward Christmas with my mother, alone. Natasha drove down to be with me and we spent Christmas eve on the farthest north end of the beach dancing around in the dark to Jack Johnson songs, warmed by an abandoned campfire we’d found in the sand.
Mama left Carolina Beach for Asheville nearly five years ago and after a few years of renting it out, she finally sold the house on Tide Water last year. I turned back on the main road and made a right.
One of the memories closest to my heart is the night Brent and I set out at midnight for Carolina Beach. We ate at a nearby Waffle House at 2am and fell asleep on the hood of his jeep with our dog Bailey between us. We watched the sun rise over the ocean, bleary eyed and in love.
This island is where I celebrated my impending marriage with my closest friends. Where my girlfriends and I attempted one of those human pyramids you see in cheerleading competitions. It ended in us in a heap of laughter and bodies.
Last year, we came to the island bearing new gifts, our two children.
If you can’t tell from the frequency of my blog posts lately, life is just piling up at the moment.
I always feels some guilt at neglecting this space, mostly because I know that when I am writing, my soul is at peace … and the lack of words means there is a major backlog of thoughts and ideas filling my head.
if I don’t put them here, they just wake me up at 2am and run through my head like a highlight reel. If I’m not blogging, I’m probably not sleeping either.
So with that in mind, let me tell you about this week.
firstly. (is that a word? firstly? I’m pretty sure no)
My kids have been so sick. the worst case of croup I’ve ever seen. a solid week of that horrid bark cough and a trip to the ER for each of them and rounds of steroids and breathing treatments and no one in our house sleeping for nights upon nights.
Monday morning I boarded a plane to Orlando for my biggest work event of the year.
I was upgraded to business class despite the fact that I don’t even belong to their loyalty program. I had a wonderful conversation with a man old enough to be my father who sat next to me and soon discovered the following:
1. We knew about 10 of the same people.
2. He grew up in same neighborhood where I now live and used to play football with one of the brothers who grew up in our house.
3. Was tutored in college by the CEO of my current company
When he offered to drop my off at the front door of my hotel in his rental car, I didn’t hesitate. I’m usually super cautious when it comes to traveling alone, but this time, I knew I’d made a friend and graciously accepted.
As I waved goodbye to him, I was riding high on the good luck wagon.
Over the next 24 hours, my new corporate credit card wouldn’t work, my work phone was disconnected for unknown reasons, Brent called to tell me Arlo had both pink eye and an ear infection and I had to ride a shuttle bus by myself with a man who wouldn’t let me off until I watched a cell phone video of his mother’s ghost in orb form floating around her bedroom.
I am not kidding.
And it was at this point, I was riding real real low on the luck wagon.
The rest of the week has been a little less eventful although at this point if I never see a piece of cheesecake again it will be too soon (I swear they tried to feed you every 2 hours at these conferences!)
I opted out of the last team dinner and instead have thrown on a pair of leggings and am sitting here on the bed of my hotel room missing my family and wishing it was tomorrow morning already so that I can go home.
There will come a day when you will think I am far too old to be able to relate to you and the experiences of your youth. Sometimes I wish there was a way to dump all of the knowledge and experiences I’ve learned over the years into your head so you can just bypass all the tears, disappointments and heartbreak that come with growing up. I wish you could just already know that it’s better to have one good friend that you can always count on and will never let you down than ten friends who judge you and throw fuel on your insecurities. I wish you could know that’s it better to spend your high school years having fun with your friends and exploring the possibilities of your youth without getting bogged down in a serious relationship with a boy you will most likely outgrow before you even graduate. I hope that we can teach you to follow the call of your spirit and that it leads you to see the world, to take on experiences that challenge you beyond the limits of comfort, but most of all, my greatest wish is that you strive not to be the prettiest or most popular girl in school - but the coolest.
Cool girls explore their creative interests. They revel in their individualism when everyone else is desperate to be just the same as all the rest. Cool girls are respected because they respect others. Cool girls never make themselves look good by talking bad about others. Cool girls start clubs. They take on leadership roles. They motivate their peers. Cool girls take hard classes. They travel abroad. Cool girls make the most of constructive criticism. Cool girls know that material things don’t make people, character and actions make people. Cool girls are not defined by anyone else’s definition of cool. They respect themselves.
I have dozens (hundreds?) of half written blogs posts and photos I never posted that sit in the draft folder on my blog. Some I never finished because I ran out of time, or the relevancy passed or I just struggled to find the words and the focus to finish it.
They sit, abandoned, unlikely to ever be published or read by any eyes but mine. I’ve been quiet here for two weeks and so I decided to change the story for all of those forgotten posts.
This week I’ll be digging through my drafts and publishing posts and photos from blog posts half written, incomplete and out of context. I want to purge a bit and also remind myself that not everything comes wrapped with a tidy bow.
My life is beautiful and cluttered, much like all the words inside me. They spill out of me and onto the page so effortlessly sometimes, and then again, I’ll find myself stuck, mucking through the mess, trying to make sense of my heart and the story.
In this case, incomplete will just have to be enough.
Last Sunday, Mother’s day, we all woke up in bad moods.
Had it been an average Sunday, I would have written off our rotten attitudes as “Oh well, let’s all go to bed early tonight and try again tomorrow.” But for some reason, I decided I was going to set some unreasonable expectations around the day. Social media didn’t help my mindset. Across my dashboard were photos of moms getting pedicures and eating waffles off fine china with blueberries handpicked off the bushes in their backyard and served by children wearing flower crowns.
Brent was volunteering to play music at the senior center near our home on Mother’s day, so I spent my morning wrangling two kids into church clothes and out the door. Everly cried and went through 3 different outfit changes. Arlo spilled his cereal all over the floor and kept taking his clothes off. I was hot and sweaty and doling out my frustration on both of them. In my head, I wanted to spend the morning sipping coffee and eating breakfast as a family, instead I scarfed down a muffin on my way into the nursery to care for the babies in our church during the 11am service.
After church, we ate lunch outside at The Saucer- the place where I first laid eyes on my husband. Where I met my best friends. It’s basically a beer bar with a killer sandwich menu, but to us, it’s special. Even so, our funk persisted. The kids grew antsy and crawled under the table. Everly kept insisting she wanted to take off her shoes.
We left and I asked Brent if we could take some photos. Something to commemorate Mother’s Day.
Just one photo, guys, how about it?
I hoped for a decent shot of me and the kids together. A little bright spot in my day - they did indulge my wish for a few minutes.
This last shot is my favorite… little smiles after a morning of all of us feeling raw. Even after we got home, I couldn’t shake the weird funk that had settled on me. I couldn’t get in touch with my mom most of the day when all I wanted was to hear her voice. The kids were really sensitive and cried over the silliest things. Brent did his best to tiptoe around the three of us.
I had woken up that morning with so many expectations around how I thought my day was going to go, and instead I let little disappoints snowball all the way to bed time.
I took a deep breath before bed on Sunday night and reminded myself: I am a mother every day and my family makes me feel celebrated often. I don’t need a special day on the calendar in order to justify that.
I have reread this post so many times that I wonder if it is even worth posting. Who would even want to read about me having a bad Mother’s Day? Sometimes I worry that sharing anything on my blog that comes off as complaining or disappointed makes me sound privileged or unappreciative when it is really obvious I have so much to be thankful for. But we all have bad days and I think there is value in talking about it.
Five years ago tomorrow I sat down on my bed and wrote my first blog post on Dear Baby.
It was May 10, 2009 - Mother’s Day.
That same morning, I learned I was pregnant and while I needed to hold the news close to my heart for a while longer, part of me still needed a way to wrangle the swimming words in my head into a some semblance of order. Since the day I got my first diary in the third grade, writing has always been my way of making sense of things.
But this blog has become the most precious of all my ramblings. More so than the scraggly journal entries written by an insecure sixth grader, or a heartsick college freshman, or even a wild twenty something falling in love with the man she would one day marry.
Dear Baby chronicles the journey that changed me most.
It is on this blog, in that first post, that I entered into the world of perpetual vulnerability. Here, where I have experienced more insecurity and heartsickness and wild love than I had ever known in my entire life.
Five years later, and I’m still reeling from the effects.
It has taken me this long to accept that I will never recover.
The vulnerability of motherhood is what ails me. It is what drives my anxiety and the swallowing down of my worst fears. It is what finds me, begging God above to make me capable of protecting my children and raising them with love and goodness inside. It is a lesson every day in humility, in letting go, in digging in. I will never get used to it.
But it is the love of motherhood that cures me. It forces me to do more good than I was ever capable of doing on my own. To be stronger than I want to be. To live outside my own narrow point of view. To speak up despite my weakness. Everything… better, more deeply, passionately.. for them.
It is all written down here. All the times I’ve been lost. And all the ways my children found me.
Dear Baby, My sweet Everly.
Dear Baby, My little Arlo.
You are no longer babies, but what a joy it has been to capture a small piece of your journey, of my education, of our story here.
I love this outfit and especially these shoes. I got them off Zulily last summer for dirt cheap. I think they were around $22 and it never fails that someone will stop to compliment them. The red toe is super bold but so much fun and they are actually pretty comfortable.
Skirt: Down East Basics
Shoes: Anne Michelle
Shoes: JC Penney
Headed out for a family dinner in this shot. The slouchy, printed pants craze is one I fully support. It’s like wearing fancy pajama pants in public. These shoes were another cheap Zulily find - If you feel like you can’t ever find anything good on Zulily, follow my Pinterest board. I try to go in a couple times a week and pin anything I find on the site that is a great deal or really cool.
I wore this outfit to church one Sunday and loved it so much that I wore it work the next day. Both the top and bottom are super, super soft cotton and it felt so flowly and light. Every fall and spring I buy a pair of black and a pair of neutral shoes to be my go-to dress up shoe for the season. These shoes are my new neutral shoes for spring/summer 2014 and I’ve already worn them a ton. You can’t tell in this photo, but they have a chunky heel which makes them really comfortable!
Top: Baby Lulu (Like many of her tops, this used to be a dress when she was smaller)
Vest: It came as part of his suit from his halloween costume
Shirt: Hand me down
Pants: Ruum Kids. (Ruum has some great sales on a regular basis. I bought these in several colors when they were on super sale for $6 each last month. I think the girl’s jeans fit my skinny boy great and have the elastic tabs at the waist to adjust to fit.)
Shoes: Converse with added shwings
Hat: We picked it up in the Zutano store on our trip to Vermont last year because it matches Brent’s favorite hat.
This is one of my favorite vintage dresses but I don’t wear it often because I find white to be a challenging color to wear. Brent bought it for me for my birthday five years ago.
Shoes: Jeffrey Campbell
Dress: c/o Tea Collection
Perhaps my favorite outfit of the bunch. I felt so good in this look. We had double date plans with some friends of ours last Friday night in our neighborhood. We had planned to ride our bikes, but a quick thunderstorm just before we were set to leave convinced us to drive instead. This drapey, jersey dress is a closet staple because it is so comfortable and the cut makes it really interesting. I like to belt it because it’s a little big in the waist.
Vegan leather jacket: Kut from the Kloth (from Stitch Fix this past winter)
I gave the kids my little Olympus pen camera the other week and let them take some pictures around the house with one instruction: Take photos of things you think are interesting.
There were a lot of photos that were so blurry that you couldn’t tell what they were taking a photo of, but there were also some gems among the shots. I’ve studied these photos for a few days and have really enjoyed seeing the world from my children’s point of view. When I pick up the camera, I am always looking for things I find visually appealing and tend to skip over those spaces and things that I find disheveled or ordinary.
I really love how these photos capture the real space of our home: A banged up floor board, the “time-out” chair outside our bathroom with a pile of crumbs that need to be swept. A pile of laundry and mismatched socks waiting to be put away.
But they also captured some images that could be deemed traditionally appealing: A sunspot among the shadows on the wall of the hallway, a moment of cuddling on the couch, and our dog, Bailey, sitting like a statue on a weathered chair.
I plan to do this more often and hope to build an album of photos from their point of view. I think it will be interesting to see how their photo composition and subjects will change as they grow. It is a great reminder that perspective is relative - where I might skip over, they may stop to marvel.
Even the ordinary is beautiful to someone.
P.S. My comments are back up and working! Woo hoo. Special thanks to Bobbi at Ready to Blog to get them back up and running. With her help, I’m looking forward to launching a new blog design soon too!