Why I’m being a little more selfish these days 

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 3.09.08 PMIt had been five weeks since our son was born, and I had a hair appointment with my favorite stylist coming up. I’d made it last December thinking this would be a good way to get myself out of the house. Glancing at the calendar that week, I remember thinking that it seemed rather ambitious to leave for a three-hour stretch so early, but I kept the appointment, probably because rescheduling it seemed too complicated and my hours of free time kept slipping away anyway.

Suddenly it was the morning of my appointment and I was rushing around the house like a madwoman looking for my jeans (not leggings, my maternity leave uniform), my keys and my (non-diaper) bag. I had pumped the night before and had a bottle ready, I had requested an Uber, I was ready too. Or so I thought.

Yes, I kept the appointment, likely because I needed to prove something to myself–that I could “escape” the nest and things wouldn’t spontaneously combust and that my husband would be fine and the dog would be fine and my little one wouldn’t starve.

By the time I sat down in my stylist’s chair, eager for some me time and a freshened up look, tears started welling in the corners of my eyes. I tried to keep it together but my heart felt so heavy. I missed my boy.

What I was struggling with that morning and what I continue to struggle with now as a new mama is the tension in keeping up with caring for my newborn and household and caring for myself. I felt a little guilty sitting in my hairdresser’s chair–especially when fielding texts from my husband who was on a maiden voyage bottle-feeding our child–but by the time my appointment ended I felt calm, and a little giddy.

I had carved out my first tiny chunk of me time, and it was working its magic on my weary body and soul. I came home so excited to be with Jack, after days feeling overworked and overtired. As any new parent knows, the physical and psychological challenges of looking after a baby are weighty. Parenthood is a privilege–and a joyful one–but it is incredibly stressful.

What motherhood requires 

Motherhood, in particular, requires a giving up of self unlike any other I have encountered in life. It starts with pregnancy, when a tiny human grows in your body over the course of several months. As your belly grows to make room for your growing child, you begin to alter your life to make room for your growing child. We moved out of the city, bought a house, cut back our commitments. A happy and also uncomfortable time, pregnancy is a practice of making room for new life.

This “making room” continues in delivery. Giving birth is a momentous, miraculous experience full of pain, wonder and joy. Your body is under an intense amount of stress–stress that will leave your body forever changed. The moment you first hold your baby in your arms, the aches in your body seem to ache less, and your heart begins to ache more because the love you have for your baby is bigger and deeper than anything you’ve ever felt. But the aches are still there, lingering in the background, reminding you of the powerful thing your body just did.

As your body tries to heal, you’re now on deck all day, all night to meet the needs of a tiny, helpless child. You’d read articles and heard advice from friends on “the importance of self-care” and though you swore that you’d be different, you surrender completely to selflessness that mothering requires.

You’re still you, and yet… your baby will always always always be a part of you. He has stolen your heart forever.

In defense of selfishness 

Most of the time I feel as though I could spend an endless amount of time with my son. Time with Jack brings me so much energy and joy. And yet … there are moments when I am downright exhausted by the constant demands on my time and the lack of control I have over my day given I am breastfeeding on demand, whenever baby shows signs of hunger. I feed him 8 to 12 times a day and sometimes it feels as though we are perpetually bonded–leaving me very small pockets of free time to take care of household tasks and my basic needs (eating, showering, sleep). I call these my “windows of opportunity.”

These pockets of time are few and far between and often cause me to make hard choices between keeping our home afloat and doing something for me. Doing something above and beyond meeting my basic needs, like a hair appointment, pedicure, going out to lunch, yoga class or writing? That’s even more rare.

Any time I have an opportunity to escape the house I feel a little bit lighter and a little more grounded. I will admit that I also have a bit of anxiety being away from my son, but for the most part taking time for me makes it feel like I’m getting the equivalent of a long lunch break in the midst of a hard day. I return energized and eager to care for my son–my attitude is better, my itch to “accomplish” has been scratched, I am more loving and feel sane.

For anyone who may think maternity leave is a “break” from work, I hate to break it to you– it’s not. It’s actually trading one job for another that is *probably* more demanding and stressful than your first AND you’re on call all day and night! Now, don’t get me wrong, this work is incredibly rewarding, and I certainly signed up for this gig willingly,  but raising a child is indeed werk, werk, werk, werk, werk.

With parental leave policies in America being incredibly gendered, and quite frankly, behind the times (Dads and other partners NEED more time off), the majority of care-taking work can easily fall solely on the shoulders of a child’s birth mother. I am lucky that my husband works for himself and is more available to support us than he might otherwise be if he had a corporate gig. Yet even with a present, supportive spouse, I still feel the pressures motherhood demands.

Recently I had a string of several tough parenting days. I was hit by a cluster-feeding that I couldn’t get ahead of the night my husband left for a weekend trip. I barely slept that evening–and neither did Jack. My mom was coming to visit the next afternoon and by the time she walked in the door I felt I’d reached my breaking point. Exhausted, I handed off the baby to her and headed to bed.

Even though I was dead tired, I couldn’t sleep. I was irritable and feeling jealous of my husband who was elsewhere, enjoying time with college friends. Then I started feeling down about myself–I thought perhaps I just didn’t have what it took to be a good mama. Why couldn’t I handle this? I should be stronger! I shouldn’t complain! I got in a cycle of negative self talk that could be described as “parental imposter syndrome.”

Then I finally fell asleep.

A couple hours later I woke up, rejuvenated and refreshed, and I realized  in order to be a good mama, I needed to do something that I often didn’t like to do–I needed to be a bit selfish. I needed to ask for help so I could take time to recharge. Thankfully I had the foresight to invite my mom over and she was a huge help to me that weekend. With her presence, parenting on my own did not feel like a burden but a blessing. Thank God for doting grandmas.

How I’m prioritizing self-care now

It started with a paradigm shift. In an effort to my maximize my time management, I wrote and rewrote my priority list the other day.

First draft looked like this:

  1. Family
  2. Household upkeep
  3. Self-care

The I switched the order:

  1. Self-care
  2. Family
  3. Household upkeep

When life/parenting gets out of control, when my my attitude is bad, that’s a  warning sign that I’ve not prioritized self-care. I know I can’t be the best, most loving mama if I put that last. It’s like the old example airline attendants use–I can’t help others unless I put on my oxygen mask first.

In this case, the oxygen is doing something just for me, something that could be considered selfish.

These days I’m keeping it simple and I try and make a point to do one thing a day that is for me. Not just basic care–showering, eating and sleeping–that I make sure to fit in! It has to be something special.

It could be a trip to Target, yoga class, a phone date with a friend or an extra long snuggle session with my dog. I keep my expectations low, and I am flexible with what works for me in the moment and what will give me the most satisfaction. Today’s treat? Finally (!) finishing this blog post.

I know I’m in a pretty intense season of life and I’ve been really itching to share more with you on this blog, but it is hard to make time to write when there is so much else to do. I am trying to remind myself that this season will pass and my son will one day sleep through the night, but until that time comes, I’m taking things one day at a time and doing a little bit here and there while trying to soak up as much as I can from this special time with my boy.

Some days I’m ready for time to speed up, but most days? Most days I’m content to snuggle my son in my arms for hours on end.

Friends, did you have to give up any hobbies when you first had a major life change–had kids? New job? New home?  How did/do you make time for self-care?

Snuggles, spit ups and what’s surprised me most about motherhood

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks. This probably sums up parenthood or at least life with a newborn pretty accurately. You have good intentions: you make plans, get excited about said plans, and then? Baby has other plans. Your plans go out the window.

Fixin’ to eat dinner at 6? Think again. Dinner’s at 9 and it’s cold stir-fry eaten standing up in the kitchen, staring off into space with a side of cheez-its because you forgot to eat lunch today (again) and you’re still hungry.

Want to go for a family walk with your dog and try out your new stroller? Once you’ve set everyone and everything up, baby will have an epic spit up and you’ll be back in house cleaning baby and the stroller and before you know it, it’s dark out and the opportunity to walk has passed.

Other parents I knew warned me through sly smiles that I, the perpetual planner, was about to get a reality check once baby showed up. In fact, I’m about to get interrupted by my crying little buddy so hold that thought.

::: Feeds, changes and snuggles baby :::

OK, I’m back.

Life lately is a pattern of feed, change, play and snuggle baby to sleep on repeat, then squeezing in chores and emails and texts and showers and eating (and mindlessly checking Instagram—note to self: cut back on that) while Jack naps, which can be anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours long. All the while, time passes. Hours melt into days and days into weeks and suddenly it’s been a month and my baby boy has grown and changed before my eyes.

Tiny Jack who used to fit into newborn onesies and sleep all.the.time is now wearing three month onesies (at one month old?!) and is awake and lucid for much longer stretches. I can’t wait until he gives us his first social smile, until he crawls for the first time, until says his first words and yet I want time to sloooow down because sooner or later I’ll have to go back to work. Honestly, I’m dreading it.

Maternity leave has been such a gift, and I’m savoring every moment I can, grateful to bond with my son mornings and afternoons when I’d typically be at the office. There is nothing quite like holding Jack tight and breathing in his baby smell while rocking him to sleep in his room. It feels like a tiny bit of heaven on earth.

To my parent friends: You were right, of course. My best laid plans are often undone by my son’s “plans.” I did get my reality check but I’m surprisingly OK with it. Motherhood has helped soften my rigid desire for order and allowed me to embrace chaos. The chaos didn’t surprise me—because you warned me about it—but there were plenty of other things that did surprise me about parenting a newborn, perhaps the biggest being the incredible range of emotions I’ve felt since giving birth to Jack.

A pastor friend of mine once told me that once you have children all your highs are higher and your lows are lower. Hey Pastor Hardy—you were right. I get it now. Not only am I more emotional due to hormones, but the fierce, mama bear love I have for my son is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Also I get frustrated a lot more than I once did, sometimes for no particular reason, just EVERYTHING because being a parent is so damn hard.

I get sad too, really sad. Sometimes I cry for no particular reason, or when I remember Jack’s birthday, which was terrifying and traumatic and nothing short of an act of God.

The first night Jack slept at home, actually the first few nights, I “slept” next to his crib, on the floor, waking up every few minutes to check if he was still breathing. I think I finally wore myself out enough to fall asleep only to be woken up by his hunger cries. I was so exhausted but so relieved he was alive I ran on adrenaline those first few days. My heart was so full of gratitude that my baby boy was safe at home with us.

Jen Hatmaker has a lovely blog about parenting, “I wish someone would have warned me about these BIG FEELINGS,” that I read hungrily and eagerly at the start of motherhood journey thanks to a tip from a fellow mama.

In it Jen writes, “I wish I would have known how new babies make all feelings MORE (and this from a girl who was already fairly high on melodrama): more thrill, more love, more anguish, more adoration, more fear, more gratitude, more doubt, more crazy. … A newborn takes your heart and mind, squishes them into pulp in her fat little baby hands, and turns you into a woman face down in despair over a Subaru commercial.”

Me too, sister. Me too. Those BIG FEELINGS? Yes, that’s exactly what surprised me the most about becoming a mother.

There have been, of course, other parenting surprises, both delightful and distressing, along the way.

Distressing:

  • Baby cues are super hard to read, it turns out
  • Learning to breastfeed correctly nearly drove me insane
  • Trying to get anything done—laundry, eating food, showering—is near impossible with a newborn, and even when you get said task done you’re too exhausted to really appreciate it
  • I often wonder how anyone even takes care of a baby and works at the same time and it gives me major anxiety
  • I wonder if I’ll ever lose the baby weight and this new little pooch around my waist and if I’ll ever be able to do crow pose or attempt a handstand again and it gives me major anxiety
  • I wonder if my child will grow up safely and think of all the possible ways he could die and desperately wish I could stop worrying because that’s what my mom used to do (Mom, I get it now!) and that also gives me major anxiety.

Delightful:

  • Parenting baby is fun! I GET to sing and read books every day (two of my favorite hobbies)
  • Baby coos, baby expressions, baby snuggles = the best
  • Baby is the most adorable creature in the world and I could look at him all day
  • Also, other people(!) want(!) to visit baby and see pictures of baby on the Internet
  • My adorable dog gets along with my adorable baby, thank God
  • My son is a good sleeper… for now
  • I’m falling in love with my husband over and over again as I watch him parent our son.

But *the most* delightful surprise about motherhood, for sure, is how much love is in my heart, in my home, right now. Being a mother is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, and it’s also the most rewarding. I’m incredibly grateful for the privilege.

Fellow parents/caretakers out there: What surprised you most about parenthood when you first brought baby home? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Jack’s birth story

image000000Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid–these were the love stories I learned as a child, thanks to Disney and my mom, who brought me to the movies. When I think about love idealized on the big screen, at least, according to Disney, it seems so shallow in comparison to the big love my mom has for me, the big love I have for my new son.

I believe that a birth story is one of the most powerful love stories we have to tell. 

Becoming a parent is a pivotal moment in one’s life story: your child is born and suddenly you are responsible for protecting and caring for this tiny human being, keeping it alive and well day in and day out. This is equal parts frightening and beautiful and transformative and humbling because the love we have for our children—deep, fierce, unconditional love—brings us face to face with the fragility of our human existence.

My son’s birthday was quite possibly the most terrifying day of my life. Because of this, I found it hard to celebrate, hard to write this story for a while.

I was blessed with an incredibly “normal,” complication-free pregnancy, though getting pregnant was a challenge for us. In more ways than one my son is, as all children are, a miracle.

When I first discovered I was expecting, it was 3 a.m. on a Tuesday. I was standing in our apartment bathroom with a positive pregnancy test in hand, wobbly with disbelief. I looked in the mirror at myself. Was this REALLY it? Was I becoming a mother?

I was. A few days, a few tests and a doctor’s appointment later, my husband and I were sure we were expecting, and we held this quiet joy in our hearts as we waited until it was safe to announce more broadly baby’s impending arrival.

Flash forward to January 29, two days before our baby’s due date. It was 8 a.m. and my husband and I were supposed to be getting ready for church. I’d been unable to sleep the night before so I’d stayed up late reading a book. I’d planned on hitting the snooze button on my alarm at least a dozen times.

Then a wave of pain hit me, a cramp-like tightening in my belly I’d never felt before. (I’d been having Braxton Hicks contractions throughout my pregnancy and kept asking my doctors how I’d distinguish them from the real deal. “Oh, you’ll know,” was their refrain, which was not comforting at the time.)

“Babe–I think this is IT!” I shouted to my husband, confident the acute pain that struck was indeed a real contraction.

We were definitely skipping church that day.

I spent the rest of the day in bed with the dog, letting slow and steady contractions wash over me like waves. By the time they were close enough together to call the doctor it was 3 a.m. on Monday.

By 4 a.m. my husband and I were in the car, him–speeding towards the hospital, me–drafting a text to send to a friend who’d agreed to help with our dog. I was low on sleep but amped up on adrenaline, giddy as a youngster on Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait to meet our son.

Once at the hospital, we checked in and were led to our birthing room. After morning broke, we texted family to update them on our status. My contractions continued to grow in strength and number and my husband held my hand and comforted me as I breathed through the pain (hat tip to my colleague who loaned us The Birth Partner).

Hours passed and the pain reached its peak–it was time for an epidural, the prospect of which terrified me. I took the shot shaking and in tears, relieved and grateful as the medicine kicked in. After the shot, there was still some time to wait until labor. My husband and I napped on and off throughout the afternoon and held hands thinking about what the future would be like with our new son.

At 4 p.m. it was time: working with the nurse and my husband, I began to push. At the top of a contraction, I’d take a deep breath, then hold it and push to the count of “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10,” repeating that twice. Though my pain was dulled from the drugs, labor was still incredibly challenging, physically, emotionally and mentally. Because I was recovering from a cold, holding my breath was a challenge and I often couldn’t make it the full ten seconds without coughing. I knew baby wasn’t making much progress, and I was worried.

Time passed. My doctors came in and out to monitor the labor.

The med student Dan came in and then ran right back out, likely scared off by my incredulous rage when he introduced himself while I was in the middle of a contraction–I mean, the nerve! He later came back to help.

As we passed the two-hour point my pain increased. The epidural was wearing off, and I was beginning to overheat. Baby’s status hadn’t changed much, but my care team kept encouraging me to push.

I hadn’t realized until I began to labor that I’d always expected I’d deliver vaginally. As the prospect of that, with time, began to slip away, I became more and more frustrated. Tears clouded my eyes as I pushed with all my might, desperate to make my dream a reality.

At three hours my doctor called it–I would have an emergency C-section. Delirious from a fever and from sheer exhaustion, I cried even harder at the thought of surgery. I was scared of surgery, disappointed in myself and worried I’d be separated from my baby boy too long after surgery after hearing what had happened with my sister-in-law (after her scheduled C-section, she’d been separated from her baby girl for two days).

The nurses whisked me away to the operating room while my husband put on scrubs before joining us. Tears welled from my eyes. I felt alone and afraid.

Despite my worries, my surgery was efficient and painless. Laying on the OR table, I listened as they extracted my son from my body, waiting for the joyful sounds of his cries.

I heard nothing.

My heart began to race.

A flurry of activity followed.

“My baby, my baby, is he OK?” I cried out, grasping my husband’s hand. I could hear the medical team as they began to perform infant CPR and my heart sank.

“Oh God, Oh God, is he going to be OK?” I sobbed, gasping for air. My husband comforted me, “Everything is going to be OK, babe. He’s in good hands.”

The medical team continued to work. I continued to cry. I was inconsolable. I had never considered this bleak possibility that my son wouldn’t live past his birthday.

Terrified and panic-stricken, I imagined coming home to an empty nursery.

It was almost too much to bear.

Then, hope: the sound of baby boy’s cry, the collective sigh of the medical team, kissing my son’s forehead. My baby was alive.

Our son was born at 8:05 p.m. on January 30, 2017, weighing 7 lbs, 3 oz at 21 1/2 inches.

My husband went with him to the NICU, where our son continued to receive medical care. I was wheeled away to a new hospital room, separated from both of them.

I didn’t even have a chance to take in what my son looked like. It didn’t matter. I’d known and loved him since he grew in my belly, nearly forty weeks ago. I prayed he would live past that moment when I kissed his forehead.

I didn’t get to see my son that night. My mother and dear friend came to comfort me while I waited in my room feeling anxious and afraid and praying my son would make it through his first hours of life. A couple hours later my husband came back to meet me with an optimistic report from the doctor and glorious pictures of our beautiful baby boy.

We named him Jack.

Thankfully, I was cleared to meet my son early the next morning, on January 31. It was 6:30 a.m., and I roused my sleepy husband and asked him to wheel me down to the NICU, my IV and catheter in tow.

Meeting Jack in person for the first time was . . . wonderful beyond words. In that moment, my heart swelled with a deep, fierce love I didn’t know was possible. 

We later learned that Jack had mucus in his lungs at birth that blocked his breathing, though the doctors were not sure of the cause. Jack spent his first night in the NICU hooked up to a CPAP machine, and eventually he grew strong enough to breathe without it. He was released from the NICU on Wednesday afternoon, and we were in the hospital a total of four nights and five days.

It took a long time for me to be ready to celebrate Jack’s birth. It was a traumatic experience that left me feeling, well, broken.

I’m so grateful God answered our prayers, that our son is alive and well today, that our love story will continue to unfold as Jack grows, day by day.

Thanks for sharing in our story.

Speaking out for women’s rights

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credit: Ted Eytan

I wasn’t going to blog this week. What I wrote was more personal, more political than I intend for this space. When I woke up this morning, nine days out from baby’s due date and on day five of fighting a never-ending cough, my first thought was of my dear friends, fellow church members, coworkers and women/men/others participating in the Women’s March on Washington, in my city, across the U.S. and around the world. I was with them, in spirit.

At home, I scrolled through my smartphone and listened intently as Gloria Steinem, America Ferrera, Bob Bland and others spoke in the capital via Facebook live; saw pictures of marchers flood my social feeds; and followed news coverage of this historic day. The outpouring of support for women’s–human–rights brought tears to my eyes.

To everyone marching, thank you. Thank you for standing up, speaking up and exercising your constitutional right to peaceful protest. Thank you for your courage, for your civic engagement, for fighting for what you believe in. This country–our world–is stronger when we recognize the rights of women, of everyone.

There’s been a lot of criticism and confusion about what this march means and what will come after it. There were initial concerns about the organizers, which I’m glad were addressed. Others have criticized marchers as sore losers, but I don’t see it that way. In this time of change and uncertainty, I see citizens banding together to voice their concerns about and to their newly elected representatives. This is about raising strong women, fighting against hateful rhetoric and fighting for reproductive rights, civil rights, immigration and so much more. Others aren’t marching today because they disagree with platforms in this march, particularly abortion. I respect that. Everyone has a different story, a different reason to march (or not), to speak out (or not).

This is mine.

The first time I thought about my body was in second grade on the school bus, sitting next to my friend Emily. Our thighs stuck to the hot plastic seats as we rode to school and I noticed my thighs were bigger than hers. They seemed “too big.” I began to worry.

Growing up I kept a journal. Once I was home and stumbled across an old one from middle school. I remember reading something like this: I am fat. My body is so disgusting. I need to do something about this. I need to start running every morning. I need to eat less. I cannot be fat.

At the time I wrote that, I was the skinniest I’d ever been. I tossed that journal out.

In high school my best friend and I read women’s magazines, Cosmo and Glamour.  I noticed most of the articles were about fashion and beauty and relationships and sex. We poured over these magazines, laughing at the outlandish outfits and sex advice. I always felt a little worse about myself after reading them.

The first and only time I was sexually assaulted was in my late twenties. It was early morning, and I was on my way to the gym.

Recently, I read an article in the New York Times that highlighted the results of a nonpartisan post-election survey of ~1,300 individuals. Of those surveyed, more than half of the Republican men said it was a better time to be a woman than a man; the survey also found that all men, regardless of political affiliation, underestimated the amount of sexism women faced. “It’s easier being a woman today than it is a man. … Everybody else is above the white man,” said one man to the article’s author. I know the feelings and stories of these men should not be dismissed or ignored, but these findings, this idea, that it’s better to be a woman than a man today filled me with rage. 

Sexual assault is a wide-ranging issue that disproportionately affects women. According to RAINN, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

What happened to me that Tuesday morning shook me to my core. I was lucky my screams had startled my attacker, lucky that he ran. In the minutes, hours, days, months, years that followed this incident I felt guilty. Dirty. Scared. Angry. Ashamed.

This happened to me because I’m a woman, because a strange man thought my body was his to touch. Because I’m a woman, I grew up receiving messages that my body mattered more than my mind. Because I’m a woman, I’m still afraid this could happen again. So, no, I do not think it is an easier time to be a woman than a man.

To be a woman, even in the U.S., is to live in fear that your body is under scrutiny, is not fully your own. The idea that the government should dictate a woman’s reproductive rights angers me. That a man who bragged about sexual assault is now president angers me. That those words were dismissed by some as “locker room talk” angers me.

For women to achieve true equality, let alone a better quality of life than men, women must grow up learning that we aren’t judged by our bodies, but by our character, and that our bodies belong to us, no one else. We must earn the same amount as men, be represented at all levels equally in the government, military and the board room, we must not walk the streets in fear.

It took me a long time to feel comfortable in my neighborhood, in my body again. It took me a long time to heal. 

I know that I’ve been fortunate. I know there are thousands upon thousands of stories of injustices far worse that women and others have suffered because of their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, level of ability and more. We have to do better. We must not stay silent about what matters. Especially now.

This is why today, since I can’t march, I write.

To the thousands of sisters, brothers and neighbors that marched today, thank you for showing up. Women’s rights–human rights–matter. And equality IS worth fighting for. And I hope that’s something we can all agree on.

Update: I’m following this action plan from the national march organizers. Join me?

What I hope to teach my son

In my third trimester of pregnancy, I’ve struggled to sleep through the night. I know this is par for the course, but the experience has been absolutely maddening and exhausting. The silver lining in all of this? 3 a.m. is a really great time to write and tackle random projects and catch up on reading. Still, third trimester insomnia is just the WORST. Interestingly enough, this past Tuesday night was the deepest I’d slept since the night of Nov. 8, when the results of the presidential election became clear. And ever since Nov. 8, I’ve been feeling a deep, gut-wrenching sense of despair about our country’s future, especially as an expectant parent.

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credit: Will Nunnally

Maybe you’ve felt it too, or maybe you reacted in the opposite way. Maybe for the first time in a long time, you finally felt hopeful for the U.S. You are ready to chart a new course with a new president at the helm. Regardless of where we all fall on the political spectrum I’d like to think that what unites us, as our outgoing president put it, is our shared sense of decency.

I’d forgotten about this, too distracted by sharp political divides, distrust of the media and bizarre tweets from the president-elect (can we all agree that this is not good?). I’d lost sight of the audacious idea that makes our democracy work: that “for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together, that we rise or fall as one.” We may not agree on policy or process, but perhaps we can agree on shared values, like education, healthcare, family and work? My heart longs for this to be true.

Tuesday night came and President Barack Obama’s remarks inspired me and restored my belief that ordinary U.S. citizens like you and me can be a force for good in this country, in this world, after weeks of feeling otherwise. He convinced me of that, and for the first time in a long time, my anxious, pregnant mind–and body–felt release. So I slept.

For a while I’ve been asking myself: How can I be a force for good, when on the precipice of this new, all-consuming stage of life?

Then the (obvious?) answer then came to me. I can be a parent. Parenting is a political act. What my husband and I teach our son will matter.

We’d discussed this over Thai food last weekend, compiling a list of values we hoped we’d teach him. As the conversation progressed, our list grew to a size that was daunting, much like the responsibility of raising a child.

“Had we forgotten anything? Were we up to the challenge? Would these ideas even stick?” I worried. Surely there would always be something more to add or amend, but this conversation was a good starting point for us. What follows are a couple highlights from our talk.

When I think about the future, what I hope to teach my son is this: that now, more than ever, truth-telling matters. Honesty is the first value my husband mentioned during our dinnertime discussion, and it’s an important one to focus on as we navigate an era when the truth seems illusive, reason and science are questioned and politicians deny the unflattering things we’ve seen them say and do in order to save face.

Telling the truth isn’t always easy; often it requires great courage. But lying doesn’t just wrong others, it also eats away at our souls. Embracing honesty sets us free from the invisible walls we build up around ourselves and allows us to authentically connect with others. 

Another value we spoke about was equality. It’s a value outlined in the constitution and the creation story, something that seems so simple in theory yet in practice is radical and countercultural. It is the thrust behind feminism, #blacklivesmatter, LGBTQ rights–human rights–and so on.

I hope to teach my son that every person deserves to be treated equally and with dignity, no matter her/his skin color, religion, gender, class, physical or mental abilities, sexual orientation or any other category s/he might fall into. 

In his farewell speech, Obama spoke pointedly and poignantly about race, and all the other differences that divide us. He quoted Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch, saying, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

I know my son will be born with certain privileges, and I will work fiercely to teach him to empathize with others different than he and to be concerned with human rights.

There’s so much more I want to teach my son. I hope to teach him the value of listening, sharing, hard work and play.

I’ll teach him that this world is full of wonder, beauty, hope and joy–also sadness, ugliness, corruption and hate.

I hope to instill in my son a zest for curiosity and creativity and movement and stillness.

I hope to teach him the importance of relationships and friendships and family and community. 

I hope to teach him how to identify his emotions–happiness, sadness, envy, anger–and feel them without judgment.

I hope to teach him about kindness and selflessness and unconditional love, the breathtaking, powerful kind of love we don’t earn or deserve, we just receive.

I hope to teach him about my deep faith, the cornerstone of my values. 

And more.

When I started writing this post, I was feeling hopeful. And as the week progressed, I felt sad again, and then all the emotions: afraid/nervous/excited/unhinged. I am, once again, restless with anticipation for the birth of my son.

I’m currently praying hard to tap back into that hope I felt Tuesday night. If I can teach my future son a fraction of all I desire to share with him, perhaps I–he–we can be a force for good in this world.

How raising a puppy changed my life

This week my husband and I are celebrating the one-year anniversary of the day we got our beloved pug, Gus. That day, January 4, 2015, will be forever etched in my memory as the day I learned what it felt like to fall in love at first sight.

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That’s me, meeting Gus for the first time. He was so tiny!
One year ago my husband and I were sitting in our car in a gas station parking lot in Merrillville, Ind., feeling a bit uncomfortable and anxious as we waited to meet our breeder. The brutal January wind whipped at our windows as I shifted in my seat. “What kind of car did she say she had again?” I asked him for what was surely the ten millionth time. As he answered, the very van we’d been searching for finally pulled into the parking lot and we looked at each other with wide-eyed excitement.

Then there I was, standing alongside our breeder’s gold minivan with a powder blue fleece blanket in my arms when all of the sudden a tiny, fluffy, fawn-colored pug puppy was thrust into my arms, a life that would change my life—our lives—completely. He was eight weeks old.

Look, I know everyone says, “A baby changes everything,” and as we are also expecting a baby, I know that is so true and I will probably have much more to say about that in the weeks ahead—I can’t wait, honestly, to know more about that. But I also believe the same could be said about getting a pet, especially your first dog who also happens to a puppy and is completely new to the world and needs constant attention, love and training (especially of the potty variety). Extra bonus points if you decide to get a puppy in the middle of a Chicago winter. Oh, memories!


OK, confession time: I grew up with a cat.

Phew! Glad that’s out of the way.

When I was younger I did not get dogs, nor did I want anything to do with them. (I also did not get cats, as the cat I grew up with only had eyes for my mother.) In my mid-twenties, something changed and I became quite enamored with the idea of getting a dog. My husband and I dreamed of getting a city dog that wouldn’t mind our tiny apartment; other requirements included being good around kids, laid back, fun-loving and, of course, super adorable. We developed a minor obsession with #pugsofinstagram, and after researching the breed further, we decided this was the dog for us.

Our journey to get Gus, which I playfully dubbed #pugwatch2015 (not a real hashtag), involved multiple visits to the allergist as well as multiple failed attempts to adopt a pug in need. I was overjoyed when we discovered a reputable, loving breeder through a friend at the gym, and even happier when we learned we’d been approved to adopt one of her puppies.

That January day we took Gus home was exhilarating and joyous and terrifying all at once. It was a day we had prepared for, reading Pugs for Dummies, Click for Joy and Don’t Shoot the Dog (Err… I only half-read that first book but my husband read all three),  assembling the crate and buying all the things–food and puppy shampoo and toys and a nail trimmer we’d never end up using. We’d even readied ourselves by rearranging our lives for Gus, with my husband taking some time off from his busy travel schedule for a short puppy paternity leave. (This month, as we finish getting ready for baby, I’m feeling an odd sense of déjà vu.)

Of course nothing could prepare us for how much love and frustration (and heartache!) puppy brought into our lives.

So what, specifically, changed?

My home life

When I think back to life before Gus, I have a hard time remembering my old routines and habits. While I did workout most mornings before work, I didn’t have much of a post-work routine. What I did in the evenings varied, whether it was working late or meeting up with friends or heading to book club or catching an evening yoga class. An extrovert at heart, I did whatever I could to avoid spending time on my own when my husband was traveling, which was most weeks.

Enter Gus. Mornings with puppy always included a bathroom break (or two) outside  and a meal, and it was the same in the evenings, punctuated by plenty of playtime. Luckily there were two of us at home to manage our puppy’s routine, which helped a lot. Although I continued to keep up with my regular commitments, the number of spontaneous outings in my life tapered off significantly.

I didn’t mind, actually, because I was in love with our new little puppy, and our new life together. Spending time with my two boys brought me so much joy–it was often the highlight of my day. Rather than scroll through my phone, habitually checking the news or my newsfeed, I poured my time, energy and attention into bonding with Gus. My puppy gave me a new appreciation for what it means to be present in the moment, something I craved for my life but really needed to work on. I knew I had issues with being present, I knew I was a little addicted to my phone.

Gus taught me to be present by teaching me to play again. His energy and enthusiasm was and continues to be boundless.

What is it about growing up that sucks away our desire to just play for the sake of playing? What happens to us along our journeys that downplays the important of play for humans? It’s as though we reach a certain age and at that age we are taught to be embarrassed by play, by indulging in silliness. 

Dogs seem to have it all figured out. They know play is essential to life and will go to great lengths to engage their owners to do so (at least ours does!). Gus certainly knows he needs play to survive and thrive–he’s actually a play bully, often pushing his toys into us or barking when he knows he needs a good session.

With Gus, home life is anything but lonely. When I am home with Gus I get to practice being present, I get to rediscover the joy of play.

My relationship

My husband didn’t spend much time at home before we had our puppy. The nature of his work is such that he could be asked to take a regional trip within a day’s notice, and he’d often be gone for the majority of the month. 

This was hard on me, as my love language is quality time. Even though we kept in touch while he was away, there have been times when I didn’t get enough quality time with him to fill my tank. Raising a puppy changed all that.

My husband stopped traveling for a couple months and became the primary puppy parent. (This was super helpful speeding up the potty training process and I’ll be forever grateful to him for it.) To my delight, he was usually home to greet me in the morning and greet me in the evening when I came home. So was Gus. For the first couple days, it seemed surreal, too good to be true. As I became accustomed to our togetherness the heartache I’d felt for so long when my husband was gone began to heal.

In those early days, I once came home to discover my husband had put together a spreadsheet of puppy’s potty schedule, documenting Gus’s day, hour by hour.

Leave it to an engineer on vacation to do something like this.

It sounds absurd, but it was actually super helpful. I loved it and loved the ways we were working together to raise Gus, sharing responsibilities and troubleshooting any problems that arose.

I remember the first time we gave Gus a bath. We kept checking Pugs for Dummies to see if we were “following all the steps correctly” while Gus looked on and waited for us humans to figure out what we were doing. It was a little clumsy but we got through it, congratulating ourselves as we patted him dry with a towel.

I remember the day Gus graduated from puppy school. We were both so proud of Gus, and the hours we’d spent training him to sit, lay down, walk away, and come when he’s called, really seemed to have paid off.

Raising Gus brought us even closer together than we already were. Not only did that special period in our life when we first got Gus give us hours of time together, it also forced us to communicate about milestones the puppy reached on a regular basis. In the process, we divvied up domestic dog duties and even developed our own silly nicknames and language for talking about the dog and it just worked.

My understanding of unconditional love

The third and final way raising a puppy shaped my life was the way it taught me about unconditional love.

In Sunday School we learned Jesus loves you no matter what and that is unconditional love, but I still grew up a people pleaser at heart and never fully digested the message. What I know now: Real love isn’t something you need to earn. And Gus helped with that. 

Through a leadership course and therapy that winter, I was just starting to notice how I acted to seek approval from others. Nowhere was this more clear than at work, which happened to be going pretty terribly when we got Gus.

I often would come home troubled by ______(fill in the blank with a ridiculous story here)_____, and troubled by Chicago traffic. I was under a lot of stress.

But nothing quite compares to coming home and being greeted by a dog who is just so excited to see you he can’t stop wiggling, wagging his tail or licking you. Gus was truly a therapy dog for me then and continues to be one for me now. (Oh, and those daily struggles? They’ve dissipated.)

If there’s ever a time when I’m feeling down, however, it’s as if Gus has a sixth sense and will stop whatever he’s doing to show me some love. 

Because of Gus I know I don’t have to earn love. I’m still working through patterns of people-pleasing that don’t serve me. But Gus, who loves me because I am me not because of anything I’ve done, has helped me see the transformative power of unconditional love. It is good and pure and true–a gift to be treasured.

Conclusion: Puppies – not for everyone.

I could tell you a plethora of other ways Gus has changed my life–our lives–for the better. We get outside more; he helped us meet new neighbors; he helped me not take life for granted.

Look, puppies aren’t for everyone, but if you’re considering adopting, know you are about to be gifted with a huge privilege and undertaking that cannot to be taken lightly. It is time-consuming and life-altering. Yet everything you invest in your dog, you will get back x1000.

I am a better person because of it. I feel so lucky to have the privilege to care for a dog. 

How about you? Do you have a special pet you’ll never forget, one that changed your life for the better? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 

 

 

 

Why I don’t set New Year’s resolutions

. . . and what I’m doing instead in 2017.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want the next year–2017–to look like for me. Have you been too? Maybe you’ve made a resolution to lose weight or to save or make more money or to get involved in local politics or to start making it to work on time. How many times have you said this to yourself, “This year will be the year I finally … (fill in the blank with your just-out-of-reach goal here)”?

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freeimages.com/danielcarter
For most of my adult life, I was the queen of resolutions. In late December, as New Year’s Eve approached, I’d write in my journal all the hopes and dreams I had for the year ahead, all the ways I’d improve myself–bad habits I’d break (stop procrastinating), good habits I’d pick up (flossing), goals I’d accomplish (run a half marathon). I’d copy my list of resolutions neatly in the back of my planner, excited and eager and hopeful for a fresh year, a blank slate, a new story to write.

As each new year went on, though, inevitably I couldn’t live up to all dreams I had for myself. When I’d turn to the back of my planner and check in on my progress I’d feel good about what I was pursuing (training for that race – check!) and guilty about the habits I just couldn’t seem to shake (still procrastinating, ugh) or make (still not flossing, whoops). Because some of the visions I had for my life were just that–visions too aspirational or unattainable–I ended up putting myself through a lot of unnecessary, internal angst by focusing on my unmet resolutions rather than what I had accomplished with a little determination and focus.

Once I resolved to eat nothing but beans, vegetables and proteins for the entire year (I know, strange). Something I read had convinced me that this diet would be the solution to the body image issues that plagued me because with it I would finally lose the weight I desired and keep it off too. I wasn’t perfect, but I actually kept up with this weird diet for several months until I realized how unhappy I’d become and how unrealistic it was for someone like me to eliminate several food groups from my diet (I am a moderator, not an abstainer; for more on this idea, see this post).

Part of my problem was that the resolutions I set were just too idealistic. To “never eat gluten again” or “always be early to meetings” just isn’t realistic because life is never all or nothing, life just happens. Grandmother’s extra-special 80th birthday cake, a business lunch that runs late–happens and often bends or breaks a resolution. Unfortunately my all-or-nothing approach to resolutions made it hard for me to jump back on the horse when I faltered, leading way to self-loathing.

The other issue?  I had so many different resolutions going at once, I couldn’t keep them all straight. Though I had good intentions, I couldn’t see that I was actually setting myself up to fail by dividing my attention, rather than honing in on a few attainable resolutions. Maybe you already know this for yourself–I obviously didn’t–but eventually I realized New Year’s resolutions were doing me more harm than good.

I know I’m not alone in my resolution angst. This study found that 81 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. So why do we make them, year after year, even though it’s unlikely we follow through? I think the answer has something to do with this generation’s zeitgeist of self-improvement, coupled with the many messages we receive from media and marketers who capitalize on our deepest desires to become “better” than before.

My philosophy today: I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

I suppose I could just be more practical and focused, lowering the bar a bit when it comes to resolutions. Do I still have habits I want to break or form? You bet. Goals that I want to accomplish? Sure. But I no longer use the New Year as my starting line for improving my life in those ways.

Instead I use the start of a New Year as an occasion to set one theme or focus I can pursue year-round. It’s an idea inspired by one of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin, who has written quite a bit about choosing a one-word or phrase theme for the New Year.

Your word or phrase can be just about anything–its purpose is to be a guiding beacon as you approach a new year of life. In the past, I’ve chosen “presence” (2016), “love” (2015) and “peace” (2014). When I look back on the past three years, I can see a marked change in the way I approached my life and ways my word helped me transform on a conscious and subconscious level. Gone is the creeping remorse of unmet resolutions of years past.

In 2015, I made a life shift toward a different career track. My company was restructuring our department and my dream job had opened up. So had a few management opportunities within my existing team. Both paths seemed intriguing and out of reach, but I knew I had to take a chance or risk the regret of not knowing what might have been. I applied for my dream job–a lateral move for sure–an incredible chance to do what I love every day. For work. It seemed a bit, well, unreal.

Fast forward a few weeks, and they offered me the dream job, the job I never thought I’d have. I was overjoyed and relieved and exhilarated. Due to a variety of factors, the next year in that position would be more challenging than I’d ever anticipated. When occasional moments of doubt or envy set in, I needed only remind myself of the love that inspired my career decision and those feelings dissipated.

Having a theme or focus for the New Year has been uplifting beyond measure, it’s like having a handy compass whenever you need direction or motivation or feel as if you’ve lost your way.

For my focus in 2017, I’ve chosen the word “courage.” In the past, I’ve often allowed my fears to hold me back from being my most authentic self or pursuing big dreams. This year I want to break up with fear and cultivate courage.

I want to be brave enough to create, to tell my unique stories and share others that need telling. I want to disagree, to disappoint, to say “no,” to say “yes,” to live out my faith and values in ways that might be counter-cultural.

I want to be courageous in the ways I love and care for my family and friends, showing up for them, being open and vulnerable and true. I want to be brave enough to speak up for what I believe or what I need, even when it’s unpopular or unsettling.

I want to be brave enough to live and love imperfectly in a world obsessed with picture perfect people. I know there are times that I’ll fail and give in to fear, but I’m using this space, this post to make a public promise to myself that I’ll keep pushing and trying to be courageous, and be gentle with myself when I’m not.

Being courageous means working to silence the tiny voice inside my head that says, “You are not enough,” and replace it with a message of love, a message that says, “You are enough.” I draw strength from my belief that God made me, and everyone else in the world, in God’s image.

I am enough, and my stories matter. You are enough, and your stories matter too.

I choose to be courageous in 2017. What do you choose? 

Do you have a one-word or phrase focus for 2017? Share it in comments section below. I’d love to hear from you! 

 

Lessons from 30

Today I turn 31. This particular age feels simultaneously foreign and familiar, like a too big, too old-fashioned coat you once bought and thought you’d never wear that now mysteriously fits so you reluctantly just wear it.

birthday cake with candles
freeimages.com/art brazee

My husband and I have birthdays a week apart, so he is 31 too. I wrote in his card that 30 had been a rollercoaster year marked by a surprising flux of highs and lows. “I’d never felt so much like an adult until I turned 30,” I’d remarked more than once this year. He agreed.

Several of my friends have described 2016 as a bit of a disaster, and with all that’s happened in the world, I’ve been tempted to say the same. Yet in all that disappoints or disturbs, my faith challenges me to seek out God’s silver lining, as there is so much to be grateful for in this life. This world, it’s both stunningly beautiful and broken, perhaps best characterized by the word “bittersweet.” I discovered this description from one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, who offers this advice about life’s ups and downs: “When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”

In the spirit of gratitude, here are a few things I’m thankful I learned at 30, three lessons I want to share with you.

On life and death

We’ve all been told life is a fragile, ephemeral gift. But at 30, that really sunk in for me. It started when my husband’s cousin died unexpectedly.

I remember the night my husband came home from the hospital, red-eyed and downtrodden. (Plagued with morning sickness, I’d regrettably stayed home.) He had looked up to his cousin TG so much, and it devastated him to see a man he knew to be so full of energy and love and kindness on life support. TG passed away that night.

The loss of TG shook us to the core. It was so sudden and shocking and it just seemed so unfair that someone as big-hearted as TG could die so soon, at the age of 45. TG’s funeral was an incredible testimony to his life and spirit. He was, in a word, unforgettable.

Just as the funeral was coming to a close I saw a text from our pet-sitter, who asked me to call her immediately. Already weepy, I stepped away from the funeral to make the call. I broke into hysterical crying as she broke the news: Gus, our puppy, had been hit by a car, she said. A freak accident when he slipped out of his collar.

As we raced to the Vet ER in a panic, I feared we’d mourn two losses that night. Helplessly I watched the minutes tick away on my Google maps app as we got closer and closer to our final destination. When we finally arrived, seeing Gus in the ER was both a relief and terror. Hooked up to oxygen in an unfamiliar place, he looked so helpless and afraid.

He was just a puppy. This just wasn’t fair.

The veterinarian had said Gus would be OK if he made it through the night. So afraid we’d get a call from the vet, I could barely sleep that night. Doubtful and angry, turning to prayer felt like an impossible task. So I sent out an SOS to my women’s group and to others, asking them to hold our family in prayer.

When the first text came in, “I’m praying for Gus, Erin,” my heart softened and I felt a wave of relief. One by one the messages came in, and I began to hope, and I even attempted my own feeble prayer, “God, if you are out there, please let my puppy live.”

To our surprise, Gus made it through the night and the next day, and the day after that. It was truly a miracle. I was beyond grateful that Gus survived.

The lesson in all this? Ever since that day, I’ve practiced resisting the ease that comes in taking life for granted. Each day is a new opportunity to tell someone you love them, to find beauty in the highs, the lows, the ordinary moments.

On trying (and failing) and trying again

This year I was rejected from a small handful of career opportunities I really wanted. To be clear, these weren’t all job applications–I actually love my current job–but they were certainly new challenges that I thought I might be a fit for. Well, I wasn’t. #fail

It’s hard not to take rejection personally, especially when you’re a creative. As a writer, so much of my work IS personal, so hearing “We think you’re really talented, but you’re just not a good fit for us” can be pretty hard to swallow.

I’m also a self-described “recovering perfectionist” who has spent nearly 30 years people-pleasing, so I know I take things harder than others might. I’m working on that.

The thing I’ve learned about failure, though, is that even when it really hurts, it’s actually a really good thing.

I still remember the first time I practice taught part of a yoga class at the start of my teacher-training journey in fall 2015.

Um, I was awful. I couldn’t remember the sequence, my voice was too quiet and I had no presence whatsoever. It was pretty uncomfortable for everyone. #fail

And, you know what? It was also awesome. It was so incredibly freeing to fail. It gave me such a rush–I wanted to do it again, to try again, and maybe get a little better but probably only do an adequate job at best the next chance I had to teach. So I did.

By January 2016, after more rounds of practice teaching than I can count and hours upon hours of learning and practicing yoga at my studio, I was certified and on my way to teaching power yoga with confidence, grace and good humor towards my shortcomings.

Throughout teacher training, my instructors never once framed trying and making mistakes as failure. They were encouraging to each and every student who was brave enough to put herself or himself out there, and provided direct, gentle feedback to promote an atmosphere of growth. The experience pushed me to let go of my deep-seated fear of failure in ways I never dreamed possible.

What I know now (and I can’t believe it took me this long): Getting rejected or failing at something is key to growth. And rather than let rejection slow me down or scare me away from pursuing my dreams, I will keep trying, and failing, and trying again at 31.

On putting down roots

Earlier this year my husband and I made the decision to buy a house. With a baby on the way, we knew it was time for us to put down roots. So we started talking about and dreaming about house-hunting. After eight years in Chicago, we weren’t convinced that this city was the place we wanted to raise our family.

Sure there were great things about the city, but we’d grown tired of the crime, the high taxes and the soul-crushing commute times. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I did not mention the soul-crushing weather! We’d read that Illinois was (and continues to be) a state with a very high rate of residential departures for warmer, fairer states.  Was buying a home even a good investment here?

Uncertain about the city, we resurrected our dream of moving west and settled on checking out Denver again this July. I’d always loved the area but hadn’t been back in a while. It seemed to have all the things we were looking for that we couldn’t find in Chicago–better weather, the great outdoors, a slower pace of living–to name a few. After returning from that trip, once again enamored with the city, we made a pro/con list and pitted Denver against Chicago. Guess which city won?

It was Denver, by a longshot. We were moving. So we started putting things in motion in Denver, looking into realtors and remote work policies and how the move might impact our family. We were on the way to making the leap.

Near the end of the process, the week before we’d fly to Denver to look at homes, I started feeling a little doubtful. Moving to Denver wasn’t convenient but it seemed like the right decision, it seemed like we would finally be pursuing our dreams of living somewhere new. And, it won by a landslide in the pro/con faceoff!

I talked about this with a dear friend who was dreading the prospect my moving. “I can’t really talk about this with you because I’m biased, but, I’m not sure it’s a good idea,” she said. “I don’t want to influence your choice though. . .”

After that conversation I went home and practiced an exercise that podcaster Jess Lively describes as “writing to your intuition.” I answered the question: Why do I have this inner conflict? As I started typing, I was startled by what I found.

It seemed that even though moving away seemed like a logical choice on paper, it didn’t jive with my values. We couldn’t just move away from my entire network of friends–and of course family–when we were having our first child. I am a person who thrives on relationships. Even though we’d seen so many of our friends move away from the city in the years we lived here, we still had new and old friends we loved who were a big part of our lives. It seemed completely foolish to abandon the incredible network and church we had here, especially given the ways we’d need to lean on them–and of course my family, for support in the year ahead.

That night, laying next to my husband in bed, I told him I wanted to stay in Chicago. He said he did too. As soon as we talked, I felt calmer and more at ease. We knew the decision was right. We just had to rework our plans a bit. And even though it was stressful, in the end we found the perfect place to live in Chicago. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

What I learned: Listen to your heart, not your head. Big decisions take time–and even when you think you have your mind made up, you may have a change of heart. And that’s okay.

Onward and upward

There were, of course, several other lessons I learned at 30, more than could be detailed in an already-long blog post. What will 31 have in store, I wonder.

For one, a baby–as long as I have a safe delivery, I pray–and the ups and downs of motherhood. And another, more stories. For a long time I’ve wanted to start a blog. And finally, at 31, it feels like I have more to say, more to explore, and I need a space to do it. It is my hope that I can use this tiny corner of the internet as a virtual “room of my own”(inspired by Virginia Woolf) to write and to share more moments with you.

I’m sure there will be times when it’s hard to for me to post consistently, and others when the writing muse will strike, as it has for me now. Either way, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I look forward to connecting with you.