The Darkest Parts of the Vase I Carry

14 years later I still battle the dark thoughts that sneak their way in from time to time. I still find my thoughts almost daydreaming of “what would happen if” statements that I swear I’ll never follow through with because that’s just what they are, thoughts. 14 years of battling an ugly disease. The ugliest part about it is that it’s not always present, but becomes known on the days you tend to forget. It’s like it knows when you’re happy and waits for something or someone to bring you down and that’s when it slowly creeps back in– weaving it’s way into your brain and ways of thinking. 14 years later and I’m still facing the struggle of pushing those nasty thoughts to a different space than the empty space it wants to take me into. And once you’re enveloped inside of those negative spaces it’s hard to see through the tiny cracks of light that are desperate to peak through. I’m trying to peak through but after awhile your eyes become adjusted to the new dark and rather than trying to find your way out, you accept the quiet of the darkness for the moment, until you can’t.

I don’t openly talk about my battles of depression. Not because I don’t think that I could relate with anyone else but because it’s the most vulnerable parts of me that I don’t really want to share with anyone else. It’s a story that I’ve kept to myself and hidden away from my own memory and the memory of every person that my story could potentially effect. It’s almost as if I’m carrying around this large porcelain vase and if I’m not careful I could easily drop it and it would break into pieces. I think I often feel like I am that vase. If I tell too much about my past and what I’ve struggled with and what I struggle with daily that would be too much overflow into someone else’s life and my vase might crack under the pressure. There is no way to sugar coat depression. There is no happy ending or “cure-all” story out there, because they do not exist. It is a constant battle. The worst part is it’s not a battle that most people would even recognize on the surface. Depression can be the quietest, sneakiest, prey of all, and steal joy like a thief in the night, and nobody but you would even know. Depression isn’t loud. Depression doesn’t shout or boast. It creeps, it crawls, it preys, and it lingers.

The first piece fell into my vase when I moved states after my 7th grade year of school. I was 12 the summer I moved and that was my first time to ever move and it was honestly one of the hardest things I had ever gone through at that time. I had friends come and go over the years but nothing like trying to keep in touch with the girls you grew up with as babies until now. I left behind my childhood home, my neighborhood where I actually knew my neighbors and went over for play-dates daily. I left the very first boy I ever kissed. My first crush. I left my school and my dance classes and the orchestra I had just become a part of at school. I left it all for probably the smallest place I will ever live in during my lifetime. To put it simply… It. Was. Hard.

Our house wasn’t even ready when we moved and we lived for two weeks at my grandparents house. I remember sitting in the floor of my new room, struggling to get everything unpacked and just laying in the middle of my floor crying. I probably was being a bit dramatic. I was a teenage girl, everything is a crisis at that age. I literally thought this place was the worst and that there was no way I would survive without my best friends. Somehow I survived. I actually made new friends rather quickly (which made me feel guilty like I was betraying my old friends, and that they would feel replaced) and I grew up. I accepted the change. Until I couldn’t. Until I became the change and I changed in ways I didn’t then realize. I couldn’t have. But I changed. I don’t think it was avoidable. There were so many changes happening all at once in my world and I just assumed I was supposed to change with them.

The major changes didn’t happen until my freshmen year of high school though. Eighth grade was smooth-sailing and apparently then my bushy hair, close eyebrows, tucked in shirts, and braces didn’t matter. In 9th grade I lost the braces, learned how to straighten and style my hair, plucked my eyebrows, and cared a little more about what I wore. I also learned how to cuss. I quickly learned the people that thought you were cool if you cussed or a “poser” if you did. I learned that wearing Converse made you “emo” or a “fake”. I learned all the right bands to listen to and the ones not to. I learned that depending which table you sat at during the lunch hour was the determinant of your high school status. I fit somewhere in the “average nerds”. I learned that passing notes in class was more important than taking notes. I learned the art of texting under the table or which teachers simply did not care if you used your phone during class. I learned all of these things and so much more.

Entering high school was a big deal. It meant boys and dances and football games and pep rallies. It meant food fights and girl fights and drama. It meant heartbreak and headache over studying for exams. It meant unforgettable conversations with friends you thought would last forever because you’re BFFs until the end of time, until time ran out for you both a lot quicker than you had imagined. I experienced all of those things and more and in the midst of all the rush somewhere I lost who I was in the new person I had become.

I became a girl who lied to my parents often because I was too afraid to admit the truth. I stayed up late most nights talking to strangers in chat rooms because it filled a void that I didn’t realize I had at the time. I could be the new me there and not feel hated or judged or criticized for “becoming someone else”. I could be the old me or the new me, I got to decide. And if I didn’t feel like being either of those people because let’s be honest, sometimes that too became exhausting, sometimes I would slip into a persona of someone I completely made up in that moment; and for that moment I was free to be this new version of myself that I would become only for a fraction of time. I became a girl who secretly dated older men I’d met in chat rooms because talking to boys in real life was stupid and crazy and nobody would want a silly nobody girl like me. Little did I know that I would wrap myself in this one person, this one stranger, to the point that I would not only date them in secret for a whole year, but that I would later date them for another year and a half in the sacred places of my home when I invited an 18 year old into my life at the age of 15. I became a girl who chose this boy over her closest friends and lost them because of the pursuit of this dangerous relationship.

I became a girl I did not recognize anymore. Not on the inside and certainly not in the mirror. I stayed up late. My closest friends became strangers I’d never meet. I remember the very first time I cut myself swearing that it would be my last. But it wasn’t. If only I knew that it would become a battle I would face for the next 6 years. I cut to numb the pain I felt inside. I cut when I let my real friends down. Cut when I made mistakes. Cut when I simply felt as though I didn’t deserve anything better than the scars I had created on my arms and stomach and any place I felt that I could hide from the ugly I had caused. I couldn’t, there was no escape. Freshmen year was pure hell. It’s not a year I can easily revisit. I see that year as a year full of deep loss and regret and pain. I not only hurt the people that cared  about me, but I hurt myself—physically and emotionally.

Freshman year was the year I lost literally every friend I had made since I had moved there. I lost them over a boy that would later sexually and emotionally abuse me over the course of 2.5 years. The longest relationship I ever maintained, until now. I had too many scars to count, and some of them I still have as reminders of how lost I was. I lost my first pet (she was all I felt like I had left at the time) and one of my uncles in a car wreck. This was the year I got drunk for the first time over Christmas break after my uncle passed away. This was the year I started having nightmares so severe I was terrified of falling asleep for fear that God would take me in my sleep. I remember a period where I slept in my mom’s bed for five months just so I could feel safe. This was the year I would meet with a counselor due to the referral of a concerned friend in regards to my cutting, to my parents not only finding out about my cuts but about this blog I had kept hidden full of my deepest and darkest thoughts. I felt so naked and exposed coming home that day. My thoughts were no longer my own. I could no longer bleed in secret, my raw wounds would soon be exposed. A glimpse of the girl my parents thought I was quickly dashed away by images of people cutting themselves and poems I had written about murder and suicide. A girl that had grown up in church and still went to church every Sunday, but who struggled daily with her faith and to believe in a God who could allow so much pain and hurt to happen. My internet use was quickly taken over by my parents. Everything I did or said was monitored. I felt scared and trapped and most of all alone. I felt 100% alone.

But none of those days were even what I would consider the hardest or worst day that year. The worst day was the day I heard the rumors about me. In the morning I would hear the rumor going around that some girl was dating a 40 year old pedophile, and I knew that that they were talking about me. Before lunch I would hear the rumor that a girl I considered to be a close friend of mine, was going to beat me up. She did not beat me with her fists, but she beat me with her words, and I think that was far worse. It was during lunchtime and there was already a strange buzz about the room and my stomach was in knots because I was anticipating something bad to happen. What I was unprepared for the most was for the truth to come out. Truth that my friends had gotten together and taken turns pretending to be one of the “guys” I was talking to online. They wanted to try and understand why I was so wrapped up in this online world and why I connected more with strangers than my own friends. I had become very distant with my school friends and they wanted to know why. I can’t say that I blame them.

At the time I remember feeling numb. I couldn’t believe they would go behind my back and pretend to be somebody else, when I had been doing that very same thing for awhile now. At the time I felt great shame and embarrassment and hurt. I was hurt that they would do something that cold. Time has passed of course and I am no longer bitter or angry over what happened, but it cut a new piece of me that went deep. Deeper than all of the other things that had caused me pain earlier in that year. That night was the first night I had really considered taking my own life. I didn’t think I could face another day at school again. I couldn’t walk the same hall with the people who hated me. I couldn’t show my face or speak to the people I had lied to or pretended to be somebody I wasn’t so that I would “fit in”. I think I felt an immense amount of loss in that moment because I knew that I wanted to end it all only I didn’t have the means how to. I didn’t have a gun, I didn’t have a rope. I had nothing. It was painful but it passed.

I got drunk for the second time my junior year after a big fight with one of my best friends. I was upset and alone and didn’t know how to cope. I didn’t know what coping was or any of the things that I now know about depression. I let the darkness rob me of my joy. I let it consume me. I didn’t know how to fight it anymore. I was tired. I was done. I was so done with it all.

I kept fighting and pushed through until graduation. I graduated and started right away to college the next fall. A lot of friends (even though it probably felt like an eternity during the time I had no friends, I don’t think it was long before I started making new ones) moved off to bigger schools while I stayed home for two more years and went to the local college here. Freshmen year I hit a second hard spell of depression. This would be the year I would try cigarettes for the first time and decide early on that they would only be for leisure and not become an addiction (luckily they never did). This would be the year I would not only become so depressed I would chop off all my hair in an attempt to change how I felt on the outside, but because I also was struggling with feelings of attraction towards the same sex. This would be the year I’d lose someone I knew to suicide. The impact of his suicide would not only cause me to fail my final exam for a class, but months later would result in my first attempt to end my life by overdosing on too many pain pills. This would be my first experience trying to reach out to a hotline, only to hear a devastating busy signal on the other end of the line. This would be my first real scare into calling poison control just to make sure I was going to make it through the night. Somehow I did, somehow God wasn’t quite ready for my story to end there. And it didn’t.

I transferred schools summer of 2012. I needed change, I needed a safe place where I could start over. I needed to renew and refill my crushed and lost spirit. And I did. I thrived where I also failed and continued to make mistakes. I went through at least five or six times of changing my mind about my major. I dated too many dumb boys. Okay, not all of them were dumb (sorry Phil!) but I made some dumb mistakes. I survived breakups and more drama and a second suicide of a close friend. It took me going through ten different relationships before ever finding the ONE I would marry and spend the rest of my life with. It took loads of time and effort and slowly pulling out of my dark shell and finding the lost pieces of the person I once was. And it was hard. It took lots of patience and time and grace that I did not allow myself for the longest time. It took learning how to love myself and be happy with who I was again. It took rediscovering my identity in Christ rather than in what other people thought of me. It took forgiving people who had hurt me in the past and forgiving myself. It took not looking back and only forward. So much so that I often fail to tread back into those dark spaces that had haunted me like ghosts inside my mind for years to come. I became a closed off person. I could be friendly and quirky and make jokes that only I found funny, and nobody would ever have to know any of the ugly cracks inside my vase. Only I had to see those parts. Nobody else would ever have to know the scars that I remember creating and etching into my skin, that would later become flaws and pieces of regret.

I recently had the opportunity of going to a ladies only lock-in event with my church. I always love going to those types of things even though I always walk in anxious. I can be a really shy person. I can be pretty guarded and reserved. We were put into small groups of other girls of various ages from our church. Each and every girl in my group shared something deep and personal from their past. They openly talked about their past and current demons while I could only sit there in silence and be reminded of mine. But I kept my mouth closed the entire time. I  spoke when spoken to and did not share anything remotely personal or about myself. Part of the problem was the fact that I was sitting right next to my mom but I also was holding tightly onto that vase. I was too afraid to let the darkest parts of the vase that I carry crack or chip off in the tiniest way. I didn’t want the attention drawn on me. I didn’t want my voice to be heard. I didn’t want anyone to know. But these girls have gone through so much worse things in life than you will ever have to experience. And it’s like I know that. I know there are people out there who have had to go through literal hell to get to where they are today. I know people that are still fighting daily in battles that I hope to never have to face. And yet I close up and all defenses go up when it comes to sharing even a fraction of my story. It’s too real. It’s too raw. It’s too personal. It’s too frightening because I promised myself that I would never go back to those darkest places. Those darkest places almost killed me. Those darkest voices that once controlled my mind almost completely rid me of the girl I had lost inside. How could I go back there? How could I open the doors I slammed shut and ran as far as I possibly could from?

But I think the scariest thought of all is what if I’m not that far from the edge after all? What if I’m really only a step away from another breaking point? What if I don’t make it out alive the “next time”? Will there be a next time?

After all this time I can say that there is hope. There is hope for a chance at a better life. There is hope for a chance for positive and healthy change. There is hope to renew your faith that once was lost or never present to begin with. There is hope for redemption and forgiveness. There is hope for healing through the passing of time and stronger relationships than before. There is hope for carrying a vase so heavy that you don’t know how much longer you can carry it for. The good news is that Jesus is now carrying my vase. Jesus has picked up my burdens and I no longer have to carry them around with me. I have been set free from a past I thought would consume me. I am no longer a slave to depression, though I still struggle from time to time. I am not a slave to myself or anyone else. I am free and I am forgiven. If I weren’t either of those things I am not sure that I would be here to write you this.

So, you’re probably wondering, why am I telling you all of this now? That is a great question. A question I am still trying to figure out the answer to myself. I think up until now I have been holding onto this vase of my past. I think I have held onto it for so long that I wasn’t quite sure how to let it go. I have moved on, and I feel like a new person from the person I was then, but I don’t think I’ve ever fully let the pieces of my past go. I’ve been too afraid to share my darkest parts for fear of being too open. Fear of being too vulnerable, too raw, too exposed. It’s easy to share the picture perfect snapshots of our lives, but much harder to share the ugly, naked truths about our past and present struggles. What if we were always honest and real with every person that took the time to really ask us, “How are you today?” and rather than replying with, “Oh I’m fine, you?” but with an in-depth version of what we are experiencing in that moment, what kinds of connections with people would we have then? It sounds terrifying right? That’s because it is. It’s not easy to share the hard bits, but so much easier to share the surface things that we are quickly to forget. But the shallow bits don’t create connections. The shallow bits don’t allow tears to be shed only to be met with compassion and understanding from others that too have experienced a similar kind of pain. The shallow bits don’t reveal the real truths about who you are and what you go through. As humans we struggle and fall short daily. We hold too tightly to our vases we are too afraid of breaking that we stop allowing people in on even those shallow bits, until we are so completely consumed with figuring out how to balance the vase that we can no longer see where we are walking anymore.

Today, I want to break off a piece of my vase. I’ll be honest, I’m not ready to completely throw down my vase and celebrate the pieces that I don’t have to carry around anymore. But I am ready to break a piece off and share that piece with you. Maybe it’s two pieces, maybe it’s a little more. Maybe if I continue to chip away at my vase daily, someday I won’t be carrying a vase anymore, and maybe it will simply be a small piece of dirt that once lined the bottom. I hope to get there some day, and I hope that you will too. So here is my piece to you… do whatever you wish with it, and I encourage you to do the same with your vase. It’s not easy. It’s messy. It can be painful and may cause some tears. But I do believe in the end it will be worth it. For your sake, and the sake of others lives you will reach through your story.

Go.

Breathe. Love. Survive. Hope. Live.

 

 

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Birthday wishes & baby girl kisses

I’ve always wanted to be a mother. It’s something I dreamed about as a young girl. Growing up, I was always extremely close to my Mom. She was a stay at home mom who taught piano lessons and held a daycare in her home. Home for me was always warm, welcome, and inviting. For a really long time she was my best friend. Most of my childhood memories have my Mom in them. I always tried to picture myself as mother myself and never really could. I just couldn’t see it. And the older I got, the more I started to convince myself of the lie that I was not good enough to be worthy of such a thing. Who was I kidding? It seemed like I was either always experiencing heartbreak or the girl breaking hearts because I chose to date another dumb boy.

Without the right guy, how could I expect the perfect child? I didn’t want to have kids with just anyone. But the longer I searched and the more guys I dated, and although I was young, I was old in my mind, and a big part of me had given up. I would start a new relationship and feel it coming to an end almost as quickly as it had begun. Now, I don’t wanna get too far ahead of myself, but it definitely wasn’t “baby at first sight” when I met my husband. He actually had two children of his own, no longer babies, and my first thoughts were not “well I guess he’s done having kids because he’s already got two”, but was more like, “Wow, if I marry this guy I am going to be a step mom” and I think that honestly scared me more.

I didn’t grow up in a divorced home. My parents (currently) have been married for 36 years. My brain can’t even begin to comprehend what that is like. Their marriage is 10 years older than I am. They were married 10 years before my mom gave birth to me. I have always thought that was crazy, but to think that they had 10 years together without kids! My parents weren’t the super romantic type (thank God, I probably would have died of embarrassment!) but they still went on dates often and went to shows and wine tastings and other local events. They still made time for each other after having kids.

At least this guy (love ya babe!) was upfront and honest about having two kids from a marriage that he recently got out of. He had a little girl, age 4 and a boy, age 6. Cute as a button, seriously. But if I dated this guy and things got serious and hypothetically speaking, say I did something crazy like uh marry him, I wasn’t just gaining him as my husband, I was becoming step mother to his two children, whom his ex had full custody of. I didn’t know how to fit that role. That was never something I dreamed about becoming before I became a mother. If anything it should be done in reverse order. Have kids of my own, then if I wanna become a step mom then sure, okay. But that’s not really how it works.

We got married July, 2016, and in the same day, I became a wife and a step mother. Step mothers are never depicted as anything shy of beautiful in movies. Especially Disney. They are mean, cruel, and the extremely jealous type. I was none of those things. But it wasn’t a title I loved or knew how to embrace. And after claiming my new title of Mrs. I was asked the question quite a bit. “So, how does it feel to be a step mom?” Which, in return, I always returned with, “I’m not really their step mom. They live full time with their biological mom. I will never be a mom to them.” Legally, yes, sure, I am their step mom. By marriage that branch has been drawn into the family tree. But even now, 2 and half years later, I do not think of myself as their step mother or anything close. They are literally oceans away from me, but I do love and care for them a lot.

I don’t know if this makes me a bad person to admit this next thing “out loud” but I don’t think I will ever love them as my own. I don’t mean that in a mean or harsh or cold way, but I just don’t think that I will. They aren’t my kids, I didn’t raise them, and hope that we will never have to (they have a great Mom and I would never want to take that away from her, seriously, I wouldn’t). I don’t love them like my husband does. Because they are his kids. He was a big part in their lives and still is as much as he can be, even from a distance. But that is just the thing. There is a huge distance gap and they have lived in three different states in the short time that I have known them. Their mother is in the air force and re-married into the air force and so that’s just part of their lives— they have to move around a lot. Which doesn’t make it easier to grow that relationship. It actually makes it really hard. So because of long distance and plane tickets and hotels and all of that, we don’t get to see his kids very often. Maybe, once a year. I know it’s hard on my husband. I can’t even pretend like I know what that is like. Because I don’t and his love for them is and always will be stronger for them than mine. But I do love and care for his kids because of the love and passion he has towards them.

Growing up I had a lot of self-doubt and low self-esteem. My inner critic told me I would never be good enough to be someone’s mother someday, told me my body probably was broken and that I wouldn’t be able to produce kids. I had nothing scientific to prove this theory but it’s one that I wholeheartedly believed about myself, and so when my husband and I had worked hard etching our 3 year no-baby plan, God laughed and said he had other plans. We got married July 2, 2016 and I found out I was pregnant January 6, 2017. Our 3 year plan got rushed by a just a little bit. But nothing about any of it was by chance or luck or coincidence. It really was the perfect timing.

First, God kept giving me sign after sign (literal signs) about the name Evergreen. Her name came to me one day, back before my husband and I were married, back when we were still very much googly-eyed for each other, holding hands, shoulder-to-shoulder in an old arts theater attending the play Handel’s Messiah. I remember my mind trailing off like it often does into a mild daydream wondering what the lady on stage with the long dark brown hair and big bright eyes name was. And almost instantly the name Evergreen came to mind. I remember whispering into my boyfriend’s ear, “What do you think of the name Evergreen?” Not at all thinking of it as a name for our unborn future child, but just as a general name. I’m pretty sure he said he liked it. Now, usually when something like that happens, I’ll elaborate the daydream and it’ll turn into some thought-out storyline with a plot and I’d tell him all about it and then just as quickly as I’d imagined it all up, the curtain would close, the credits would role, you’d get up from your chair and say, “Yeah that was a pretty good movie,” and never think about it again. Only, that isn’t what happened with this story (I’m sorry, I don’t remember the story other than me picturing the girl on stage with this name)– but rather, I started seeing the name everywhere. I saw it in the credits of a movie, it was the name of a company. I saw it while watching Phantom of the Opera during one of the earlier songs in the movie where Christina is singing up on stage and the only reason we even noticed is because sometimes we watch movies with subtitles and she sang,

“We never said our love was evergreen
Or as unchanging as the sea
But if you can still remember
Stop and think of me…”

It was the name of a park we have here in town. Unknowingly Phil bought a secondhand shirt from a thrift store for our annual ugly Christmas sweater contest, and he found a shirt and bought it that said: Be Evergreen. It was on candles. It was the name of a town in a cheesy Hallmark movie at Christmas time. It was on the bottom of a mug one of my coworkers gave me as a gift. It’s a famous line in an Ed Sheeran song, “Cause honey your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen.” We saw it in every town we visited. We passed through a small town called Evergreen during our honeymoon. And we never stopped seeing the signs. Right around the time the signs started appearing, I started having these dreams. I dreamed about being a mother to a little girl with brown hair and bright eyes and her name was Evergreen. Sometimes she was really young and sometimes she was running and jumping and talking.

That’s when I started believing that God was trying to tell me something. He was telling me that I was going to become a mother to a little girl and that I should name her Evergreen. Several people thought I was crazy. What will you name your baby if it’s a boy? “But it’s not going to be a boy.” How can you be so sure? I don’t want you to get your hopes too high in case it’s not and then you’ll be really disappointed. “Well, if it’s a boy then I’ll just name him Everest (sort of a joke, ha) but I’m not worried about that because I’m confident it’s a girl.” If you’re reading this and think that I just got lucky by “guessing right”, I kid you not… seriously every single time I started to doubt myself and what I had believed God to tell me was true, he gave me a new sign. Sometimes the signs weren’t that different or I would see the same ones, but he would find a way to point me directly to them. I would pass by a moving car that said Evergreen Enterprises. Or I would park next to a car with an Evergreen, CO license plate. Or like the time I was doubting at work and was bored doing a word search and when I opened the book to what I thought was a random page, but the entire category was Evergreen trees.

Every time I doubted or prayed for a sign he would sure enough give me one. Sometimes I would almost treat it like a game when we would go on a road trip or vacation and I would pray, “God just give me one more sign.” He always did. As humans, we like evidence, we second guess and we doubt ourselves all the time; God didn’t want there to be any space in my heart or mind for an ounce of doubt or disbelief for what he was doing in our lives. You don’t have to believe that, but I do. Fully, and wholeheartedly. I think that’s why he continually answered my prayers whenever I would openly come to him with my doubts about his promise. He wanted me to be absolutely sure and trust him completely.

Phil and I didn’t “find out” the gender officially until my ultrasound at 20 weeks. 20 weeks is a long time to wait. You other mamas out there know exactly what I’m talking about it. It’s stinking hard! But we did it. We didn’t want to find out at the appointment so we had her write the reveal on the ultrasound pictures and seal them in an envelope. We drove to the place where we had decided for lunch afterwards in celebration of knowing the certainty of if I really was having a girl, or was about to be surprised about a boy. As an act of faith, I had a gift planned for my husband after the reveal. If you’ve ever watched Mean Girls, and I’m going to assume that most of you have, you all know the famous line of, “On Wednesdays we wear pink!” And some of our mutual coworkers swore by this tradition and they wore pink every Wednesday. We quickly made it a tradition as well… so in honor of this, I had a friend make my husband, myself, and new baby matching pink shirts that read: On Wednesdays we wear pink. If it turned out we were having a boy…well, awkward! Just kidding, we would have still worn the shirts. Right before we opened the envelope we just so happened to park right in front of a place called, Mt. Everest. Not even joking. I think God did that on purpose as a last little test, before the grand reveal. Congrats! It’s a baby girl!!!! We celebrated lunch at Pei Wei and just an extra confirmation the back of my fortune cookie had a word written in Chinese and underneath the translation was simply… girl. Happiest. Day. Ever.

A year ago, my whole entire world shifted. A year ago, God chose me to be the mother of a sweet, spunky, wild little girl we named Evergreen Noelle. She’s got her Mama’s eyes and button little nose, but her daddy’s hair and smile and personality. She moved constantly in the womb and moves constantly out of the womb. She just recently discovered how to walk on her own and tries to move faster than her little feet know how to. She loves hide and seek and being tickled by her daddy. She loves teddy bears and baby dolls and she’s super sweet when she pats them or lays her head on them and wraps her arms around her bears. She “talks” all the time; she’s always got a story to tell. She loves dancing to music and it seems as if she’s always got a tune in her head because lately she just starts bobbing up and down as if there’s a song playing. She can climb up the stairs and on chairs and tries to climb up everything. She loves balls and balloons and taking things out of something and putting it back in. She is most definitely a Mama’s girl. She is such a delight and joy in my life and although, I grew up with doubt and fear of raising a child of my own… I love this sweet firecracker to pieces, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

HAPPY 1st BIRTHDAY, BABY GIRL!

*Here’s a link to my birthing story. I wrote this out days after giving birth. I wanted to remember it in as vivid detail as possible, because time really does fly by when you’re not looking–and even when you are looking, it still manages to escape. So, here’s my story, enjoy.

Every story is unique and beautiful. Cherish every moment, especially the ones worth remembering.

https://www.mamanatural.com/birth-story/her-husbands-full-support-and-a-lot-of-prayers-helped-delon-achieve-her-birth-center-birth/

My Colorful Colorado

I took a poll recently to see how many people would vote either beach or mountains when choosing a vacation destination. BEACH: 10   MOUNTAINS: 15 votes. I was actually surprised at how closely in number the two comparisons were. A few people were both, but I feel like the general population usually favors one over the other. I have always favored the beach over mountains. Probably a good part of that has to do with my family taking vacations to Pensacola Beach in Florida growing up. It’s funny when people ask the Beach vs Mountains question (okay, maybe nobody has ever actually asked me this question) because while I’d rather be on the beach than in the mountains, I am not what you would call a true beach girl.

I don’t really swim in the ocean. Sure, I dip my feet in the water along the shore, and run up and down the shoreline collecting seashells as the waves crash in trying desperately to grab the biggest, prettiest, one I can find before the waves return—and oh! Was that a moving sand dollar I just missed? Wait, I think if it’s moving that probably means it is still alive. And what color are they supposed to be when they are “okay” to pluck from the ocean? What am I really going to do with all of these shards of “sea glass” that I treasured, and there’s probably a crab still living in one of the shells. Maybe I can sneak him home and keep him for a pet! Yeah, that’d be pretty neat!

I’d been stung by one too many jellies to risk sticking more than past my knees (and even that is being brave) into the water. And hello, it seems like every time we visited was right in the middle of Shark Week, and everybody knows if you’re a Shark Week binger you cannot risk swimming in shark-infested waters. That’s instant suicide. Although, I luckily had never seen any sharks, the fear stuck with me, and the ocean is filled with too many unknowns so it was best not to chance any of it. When you really think about it there is an entire world under water that most of us do not see or think about on a daily basis. There might be mermaids and the loch ness and who knows what else. Sea unicorns. Probably owned by the mermaids under the sea in a cavern with all of our hidden treasures. Oh my gosh.  Go ahead and laugh, but seriously, Ariel might have Rose from Titanic’s beautiful blue necklace. In fact, I bet she is wearing it right now as she rides her sea unicorn through the magical sea forests. Okay, sorry, I lost ya there didn’t I?

What I’m getting at though is while I love the ocean, I do not love the ocean. I love the sound of the waves, and standing close enough to smell it and feel it. I love waking up and seeing the sun rise over the waters and if you look closely enough from your hotel room you can spot a dolphin or two dancing above the waters. When we vacationed to the Bahamas a few years back I was in love with how clear and blue the waters were. I loved the random light showers throughout the day. And it never got hot. The weather was always perfect. Florida was still hot, but the waters felt nice, and I honestly don’t mind the heat. I love summer.

Phil is the opposite of me. He loves winter because that means snow and skiing and mountains. I don’t love winter because that means less sunshine, no swimming, being cold, and did I mention being cold? So, it didn’t surprise me when he invited me to join his parents this summer for a small vacation in The Rockies.

It had been years since I’d been to Colorado. I went once with my family and my aunt, uncle, grandparents, and cousins. We stayed in Colorado Springs and toured all the important parts of course. Garden of the Gods, the Royal Gorge (which my brother and one of my cousins swung over in some form of a glider), and the Seven Falls. I have no real memories of being there other than the proof that I was actually there by the one and only scrapbook I ever made after the trip that I keep dust on in one of my closets. It’s so sad sometimes looking back through old photo albums because part of you feels like you can replay a specific memory captured in a photograph, but the closer you study the photo and the more you keep coming back to it year after year suddenly you realize that you’re getting old and you really don’t have a clue who the people standing next to you are or where this picture was even taken or who took it or why you were there in the first place or even how old you were or who you even were.

 It’s like going over to a friend’s house and looking through their family photo album. It might be fun for them to share memories with you and tell you about certain people, but in reality, these people don’t mean that much to you, after all you’re just flipping through page after page of a book full of strangers and memories you were never a part of. That’s how it feels sometimes when I’m flipping back through old albums. I recognize people and faces, but I don’t remember how old I was then, or what I was even like back then. I feel like I’m staring back at a stranger that looks familiar, like maybe I saw them in a dream or something but I don’t really have any clue who they are.

Memories are such an interesting thing. And sometimes they make me really sad that I don’t remember more. Our childhood is such a brief part of our lives, yet at the time, I’m sure it felt like the entire world. Watching my baby girl grow up, I often wonder about her thoughts and the things she thinks about as she’s nearing toddlerhood. She is constantly babbling and telling me something, although I have no idea how to interpret most of what she is trying to say. She has no idea how big her world is. I love taking her on trips with us. Okay, let me restate that. I love being somewhere new with her, I don’t love long car rides with her. There is a definite difference. And as parents, you try so hard to plan events around eating and sleeping schedules so your baby will be able to enjoy their “vacation” and hopefully feel like home away from home because of a similar routine. Makes sense, and I don’t fault anyone for planning vacations that way with an infant. We did. But what I often forget, is that she won’t remember any of this.

She won’t remember being strapped in her car seat for 9.5 hours there and 9.5 hours back. She won’t remember the breathtaking beauty of the mountains as you climb up and up and up in elevation and you have to keep swallowing to allow your ears to pop. She won’t remember being changed in the car and being nursed by her Mama on the floor of a public restroom (which is absolutely as terrible as it sounds Mamas). She won’t remember the condo or the swimming pool or gondola ride. How quick is she to forget everything though? How quick is she to forget what we did yesterday, and the day before, and the week before that? How quick is she to forget all the memories made in our first apartment and all our firsts that probably mean so little to her but mean everything to me? So much in fact that I carry a journal with me logging everything new that she does in hopes that I won’t forget her growth. Babies are constantly growing and changing and learning new things. How quick will I be to forget the day I gave birth to her and rode in the backseat the 2.5 hours back home the next day exhausted from being up all night but in disbelief and awe as I watched my brand new baby girl sleeping in her car seat for the very first time.

She may not even remember that anymore. She may not remember being in the womb and spending almost the full 9 months (she was 3 days early) in there, and then being born under water in a birthing tub. She may not remember the long days and stressful nights as new Mom tried to adjust and heal and “take it easy” and learn how to feed her baby all at the same time. She may not remember the struggle with nursing for the first 9 months of her life, her tongue-tie surgery and her 45 minute nursing sessions, and teething pains, and just the day in and day out life of being an infant. I remember most parts because it’s still fresh and I have so many pictures to account for all those moments and milestones. I also took lots of video so I could physically see her and hear her voice and sweet baby noises as she progressed and learned to make new sounds. It almost breaks my heart that already, at 10 months, almost 11 months old, she may not remember most of it. Or she may remember it all right now, but won’t in a few weeks or months or a year from now. She’ll be five or six flipping through old baby pictures and asking me, “Mommy was that really me? Did I really do that? That doesn’t even look like me!” and while it will be fun for her to watch herself laughing and playing as a baby, it won’t be a memory for her. It won’t mean the same to her as it does to me when I look back even now through her very first moments captured through pictures and ultrasounds and her first footprint taken the day she was born. So why are all of these moments and memories so important for us to try and remember? Why do we try so hard to recollect pieces of our past as we try and move forward daily towards our future? Why do we hold on so tightly to all the things we miss, when we don’t even really remember what we are missing in the first place?

So we stayed in a small town near Breckenridge called Silverthorne. We shared a two-bedroom condo with Phil’s parents. We left our little town in Oklahoma around 5pm on a Wednesday and arrived around 1:30am on Thursday. We were both exhausted and Evergreen actually did a really amazing job on the ride there. But she was exhausted too and ready to sleep in an actual bed (or a Pack n Play). She is a great sleeper usually, just not in car rides. She would sleep in 30 minute increments the whole way there. Phil went ahead of me and unloaded her portable crib and our luggage and came back for his wife and baby. I nursed Evergreen and changed her diaper and then put her down for bed in the room that his parents would be staying in later that night. They had been camping the past few weeks in a camper in a nearby town called Dillon. Maybe if I was still in my preteens and they had asked me to go camping with them I would have said yes in a heartbeat. Back when I actually liked bugs and catching grasshoppers on camping trips was the cool thing to do. But now, as a stay at home mom with an infant that is still breastfeeding and still takes long afternoon naps, I didn’t think I could do a long weekend in a camper with close sleeping quarters to his parents (nothing at all against his parents, I love them to pieces— but I am such a light sleeper and cannot sleep with everyone snoring—I’ll get to that in a little bit!) and no running water or electricity or public restrooms. Ahhhh, no thank you. I’d rather not have to worry about all of that and more and be able to enjoy my trip. Thank God for the wonderful outdoors and nature, but also thank God for AC and electricity and running water. I enjoy nature much better when I feel that I can still take care of myself and baby girl.

Unfortunately, our condo wasn’t all the dreamworks it appeared to be on their website. The entire lobby area reeked of weed, our condo did not have any AC so we kept all the windows open which made it a little warm during the day but pretty cool in the evenings. The shower was pretty terrible, but yes it was much better than not having any shower at all. And the walls were super thin. Did I mention the walls being paper thin? The first night I expected a great nights sleep. We had traveled all day, I managed to stay awake with my husband so that he wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel, I was exhausted too, and baby is sleeping in the next room, I should be able to sleep right? Wrong. As spoiled as this next statement is going to sound, I have trouble sleeping anywhere that isn’t my bed. I’m one of those people. For those of you that can sleep just about anytime anywhere, consider yourselves lucky. I think I inherited part of my Mom’s bad sleeping genes. She can’t even sleep at home. Luckily, I haven’t gotten that bad… yet. I heard running water above our bed off and on. Footsteps. More footsteps. Beds creaking. Phil, is that you snoring? Shhh…. Toss. Turn. I think I hear someone outside. Wait, what if it’s a bear? Do you think bears come around here? It’s cold in here. It’s too hot. You’re hogging all the covers. I have to pee. I’m thirsty (the thirst was a real problem, I had no idea how badly the mountains would dry my mouth out). It was like the inside of my mouth had turned into the Sahara Desert. Nevertheless, I did not sleep great that first night, or any of the other nights.

We met his parents later that same Thursday morning at their campsite for a late breakfast. Evergreen woke up in great spirits as Mama fought her way in and out of sleep and wrestled with the blankets that kept willing me back to sleep. After a good hearty breakfast I was okay. We drove to a scenic lookout and I got to stop to stretch my legs and breathe the fresh mountain air and take some pictures that I’ll probably forget about until I stumble on the picture a few years later and go, “Oh yeah, I think I remember that mountain.” And I stopped to pick up rocks and weigh my pockets down with pieces of the mountain that I could take with me for my art project waiting for me back at home.

As I type this, I’m a little embarassed to admit that I had good intentions of writing about our Colorful Colorado trip a lot sooner. It’s already August and we got back from our trip the 22nd of July. I had started to write but then something came up as it often does. I got distracted by “business”. By life. By baby waking up earlier than I had wanted her to when I first started writing this, or my art project that isn’t due until almost the end of this month but I was so passionate and excited that I couldn’t help myself and finished it a few days after being back home. By stressing over this new eating lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself and our family and figuring out what I can have vs can’t have anymore, vs which recipes were a success and which ones were a total fail. By a new series on Netflix we are trying to make our way through interrupted by hilarious, but foul, comedian Iliza. By making a trip to “The City” the same week of our return so that could enjoy the last week’s service of At The Movies (Life.Church). By trying to get back into the habit of working out daily (I am falling miserably behind). By trying to help my Mom plan for our Murder Mystery dinner party (that was last night and by the way it was a freaking blast!). By this, by that. Not enough time. Too much time but more important things to do. By working on my children’s book manuscript. Oh, have I failed to mention that on top of everything I am in the process of publishing my first children’s book? Yeah, there’s that. All the excuses in the world that I can think of, and even the ones that I can’t come up with right now, they are there, just under the surface.

Until, this morning, when I woke up and my fingers were just itching to write. Just itching to get something written down.  But of course, I let all of those excuses fog my memory of a recent vacation, that is no longer considered fresh anymore. If I thought really hard about it I could probably pull some of the pieces of where we ate out, what foods I ordered. But I probably couldn’t tell you what day we did what, or we ate at this restaurant at this time on this day and I ordered this item and it was delicious. Then the next day we went to this other place and saw these types of people and I did this and we did that and Evergreen did great and had a blast because she had never been to this place and did this particular event before. It sounds pathetic and terrible, but that’s honestly most likely how we remember a lot of events. In very non-specific-event-form. Just very general information. We went, we saw, we had a great adventure. If only we remembered the adventure.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea when reading this. I loved MOST of our Colorado trip. I truthfully did and would go back in a heartbeat. But it wasn’t the Colorado I remembered. An important piece to be mindful of when traveling/planning/lodging with in-laws is to simply remember that they are not you. They just aren’t and that’s okay and as long as you remember that simple fact everything will be OK. Everybody has their own way of doing things: wake up schedules, breakfast or no breakfast, coffee drinkers vs non-coffee drinkers, hang out indoors, adventures outdoors, plan the day, we’re just gonna “wing it” or “go with the flow”, lunch schedules, group activities vs individual leisure activities, dinner schedules, bedtime schedules, wake up and do it all over again. If you go into a family trip knowing that you are coming from two entirely different families and keep that in the front of your mind (this part is important) then like I said, sit back, relax and have a great time! I think if I had remembered this fact just a little bit more, I would have loved ALL of my time in Colorado.

I think part of my problem was that I had entirely set myself up for expectations from my past family excursions. Here is the major flaw in my theory: my family was not on this vacation. My mom is the planner, my dad is the doer. Months before we even book the trip (or maybe the minute it’s officially booked) my mom starts working on plans for each day that we will be there. Where we go first, what restaurants we want to eat at, what meals and days we want to save a little money and “dine-in”. She plans who will share a room with who, what games we should bring, what nights we should have a “game night”, and leaves enough room for everyone to do something they want to do and have time to pick out a souvenir to remember our trip by. Also, something my husband pointed out to me, part of all this planning revolves around meal times: when we are eating, what activities are offered when and where and what time so we can get back in time for lunch or dinner. And we are all in bed by no later than 10 or 10:30. I have no idea why but I think that is exactly how I expected this trip to go. I left Oklahoma with expectations from what my childhood and even adulthood vacations with my family were like. And just because they are Phil’s parents doesn’t mean they would even do anything remotely the same as my family growing up.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I just went into it all wrong so when you go into something with an opposite mindset you expect one thing and get the complete opposite and it throws you off balance. There was a full day on the trip that I think I lost my balance and if his parents are reading this they probably can even pinpoint the moment and time and place that it fell apart that day. I apologize for that. But you can’t keep living in an opposite expectation mindset and expect for things to go

s m o o t h l y. 

His family are wonderful people they just do things differently and are not the same as my family. I don’t know why I expected them to be. There wasn’t set plans upon arrival just brochures and ideas of plans, but nothing set in stone. Food was often an after thought once we couldn’t stand to go any longer without eating. Okay, maybe that is a slight exaggeration but eating at almost 2:00 or later every day is hard on this nursing mother who is used to schedules and routines and eating lunch by 12:00 PM on the dot or slightly right off the dot every single day. There were also activities that I was not physically allowed to do because I had an infant under the age of one or simply had no interest in doing (i.e. bike riding or hiking; remember, I’m a beach girl). So if you remembered the second day of our trip, Friday, as being the day I must have tilted a little off my axis, you have hit the bullseye. Or should I say the buckeye. (Come on, it’s a joke, I needed something corny to lighten the mood. Go Bucks!) I really was excited to ride the gondola. But I think I was the only one truly excited about it. Phil was bummed because it didn’t go very high and Evergreen was too young to ride up higher on the chair lift. I still thought it would be a fun experience for her. Even if she wouldn’t have a single memory of it. So we rode the gondola. I think everyone genuinely loved it. Then we got to a stopping point and got out. There were tons of people everywhere. Kids of all ages, adults of all ages. People eating, people riding down giant slides, people getting on the chair lift, people biking, people pushing strollers, people playing music, people just having a great time. That is, everyone but me.

I get really anxious when I know it’s time to feed Evergreen and I’m in a public place and I don’t have a “safe” area to nurse her. I’m not going to get into the whole thing about breastfeeding in public vs feeding in private. I support mothers who choose either one or who do both. I however, feel most comfortable doing it in private. There was no private place for a nursing mother other than the public restroom. I started to feel my anxiety rising. I tried desperately to search for any place other than a restroom. But unfortunately I did not. Phil’s parents probably thought I was crazy and he probably wished that I wasn’t so crazy in that moment. And yes, I do realize it would have made things a lot less complicated if I would just whip out my boobs in public and be okay with it. But I was not and probably never will be. I’m not ashamed of that and I’m not ashamed of feeding my baby, however, it’s a very personal intimate thing and I would rather do it behind closed doors. Besides if you have ever met my baby you know how short her attention span is and how easily distracted she can get and how she almost never sits still. If people were constantly walking by I don’t think she would nurse well. Anyway, I found myself nursing in a public restroom on the bathroom floor. I felt like a disgusting person. Evergreen loved me anyway and didn’t seem to mind too much. Sweet baby. I was an emotional mess by the time I was done. My husband and his parents had left to go ride the chair lift to a higher point and get to look around a beautiful scenic spot that I would not get to see. I initially was happy that they got to spend some time together, but it felt like they were gone ages. And the longer they were gone the more anxious I became and I just felt alone and defeated. I thought vacations were supposed to be full of family activities. I was by myself trying to keep my baby happy and fed and changed. Nothing new, I do it every day! But this particular day I had different expectations. I fed her snacks. Her leg got stuck in the high chair and she threw a massive screaming fit in front of everyone. My face always turns red and I start to sweat and get embarrassed in those types of situations. But I remained calm and took her outside. I had her in one arm, the stroller in another, and her diaper bag on my back. Somewhere along the way I broke part of her stroller and couldn’t figure out how to fix it. There were several rocky parts on the ground that her little stroller just couldn’t handle so I had to carry her and the stroller in separate arms. That was fun. I was also really starting to get hungry but I didn’t want to eat lunch by myself. They finally returned close to 2:00. I was upset, deflated, and very hungry, with a very tired baby.

I ended up eating a late lunch with his parents while Phil walked her around in her stroller until she fell asleep. She only got a 30 minute nap that day. I will say that I enjoyed my lunch with his parents. We ate at a neat Thai restaurant and they actually had several vegan options on the menu for me to try. I saved some leftovers for Phil. The day really didn’t get a lot better. Phil’s stomach was upset pretty much the entire day. After eating, and meeting back up with Phil and baby, I had yet to find another place to feed her and ended up in an even more disgusting bathroom in which I had to nurse her on the floor and felt as if the bathroom door didn’t even exist as I sat on the cold concrete floor with traces of toilet paper and toilet water and I could hear someone in the stall next to us wondering what they thought the soft sucking sounds of my baby at my breast sounded like to a complete stranger.

Afterwards, I had Phil change her diaper because she just wanted to crawl around everywhere in the bathroom (excuse me while I go wash my hands and brush my teeth–love my baby, but sometimes she can be super gross!). I went across the block and walked into a shop I had spotted earlier. The whole reason we were downtown was because of me. On vacations that was always something I looked forward to. Shopping. It was something I always did with my mom. Phil’s mom did not love to shop. Nobody really loved to shop on vacation but me. I don’t know about you but when everyone would rather be doing something else but you, it doesn’t really make the activity that appealing anymore. Not by yourself. And that’s basically what I did. I shopped by myself. I went into several stores while Phil and his parents went inside a cool little historic museum. And please don’t read this thinking that I’m faulting you (hubby) for doing that or even upset about it. I promise, I’m not. I just felt alone that day. I felt alone in the plaza with my baby and I felt alone downtown in the place that I had fell in love with just the day before driving by. But at this point in the day I was pretty emotional and just needed a break. I went into a baby boutique and bought Evergreen a pair of jeans that I wouldn’t normally go out and buy her because of the cost. But today I didn’t care. I needed some time away and if I wanted to blow a few extra dollars, so what. I’m not saying it was right, but it’s how I justified my emotions at the time. Then I walked across the street and went into a little coffee shop. I was terrified because it looked more like a bar than a coffee shop and the waiter was young and male and what if he thought I was cute? And, this was also my first coffee order as a vegan so I had no idea what to order. I felt nervous and I think I made him nervous because he ended up spilling my drink all over the counter as he was handing it to me. I asked him what he would recommend that was a nice blend that also happened to be dairy free and he pointed me to something on the menu that was actually pretty tasty.

Then I walked into a few clothing shops and then I found myself in a really cool rock shop with ginormous geodes and polished rocks. I met up with Phil and his family and baby girl shortly after. I think I needed that time apart to regroup and kick myself back into my sweet and positive self. It seemed to do the trick and I was able to enjoy the rest of the day and evening. Phil and I talked things over later that night and I felt better about the whole thing and we talked about how maybe we all had different expectations and because of our differences we let them override our fun buttons.

The next day went a whole heck of a lot smoother. It was almost as if the stench of the day before had just simply went out the windows, unlike the smell of weed that was in literally everything. And before you can even ask, NO we did not smoke, chew, sniff, ingest, inject any form of pot in any fashion.

The mountains were absolutely beautiful. The air smelled fresh and piney. The air was crisp and refreshing. It was unreal and amazing. And I would love to go back someday. Maybe the same part, maybe something different. I don’t remember ever visiting Denver and that looks like it would be a fun place to visit sometime. Phil and I and his family made some really great memories there. So what if I had one day as an “off” day. We all have those days. We all have expectations for certain things. We can’t help it. I had mine and maybe Phil’s parents had theirs. Maybe they had an off day too and I didn’t even know it because I was so worried about how to fix the mess of mine I had created. But I am genuinely grateful for the trip and getting to spend time with his family and watching Evergreen warm up to them both, her Nonni and PaPa. They both love her and our family so much. It is hard sometimes because they live so far away, but I really was glad that we were able to plan this trip together.

Not every trip has to be perfect, but it was my Colorful Colorado, and that, it will forever be.

DN ♡

Going Green

I never in a million years pictured myself becoming a vegan. In fact, if I saw myself then as I see myself now, I probably would have laughed. I went through a very brief spell where I thought it would be cool to be a vegetarian. I’m talking one-day-only brief. I’m not even sure what sparked the interest, I think it was some article one of my hippie friends had sent me titled: “Kentucky Fried Cruelty… Do You Know How Their Chickens Are Really Being Treated?” And I read it and it disgusted me. I decided I would never eat chicken again. This was still when I was in high school and living at home with Mom and Dad. They took me to Arby’s to eat the next day, and well, if you’re even vastly familiar with this setting you know that Arby’s HAS THE MEATS! So I was doomed and my dream of being a vegetarian died that day as I gave into my guilty pleasure of an order of medium curly fries dripping in hot grease of course smothered in melted cheddar cheese with a super healthy french dip sandwich.

The only other time I considered trying it again was after reading that terrible book they make you read for class, you may have already guessed it, none other than the beloved Lord of the Flies. If you loved that book, great! But I was not a fan. It’s been so long since I’ve read it, so I’m pretty rusty on the actual content of the book, but I remember the scene with the dead pig disturbing me so much that I did not eat anything pig related for months. Serious. That stuff was creepy! It honestly wasn’t that hard for me since I’m not a huge pork fan anyway. I have never really enjoyed a slice of ham at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and I never willingly go out and buy myself pork chops or anything like that. Now don’t kid yourselves, this was (probably still is) a girl that loooooved herself some salty fried up bacon. My mouth *almost* waters at the thought. Almost.

I remember growing up, whenever I would share my love for bacon, I would come across the few people in this world that were actually repulsed by bacon and finding that out would shock me. How can someone not love bacon? It’s basically swimming in grease and fat and it’s super salty, and everyone knows that the crispier the better, so what’s not to love? And that wasn’t even the best part! You could literally have bacon with every meal. Every meal. Breakfast? That’s a given. Lunch? Yup. Salads, wraps, pasta, chicken, in a freaking sandwich for crying out loud! Dinner, duh. Dessert? Ever heard of chocolate bacon, or bacon crack? The stuff was addicting! And so so good for me. Wait what?

In order to even think about going on a plant-based diet I had to completely rewire my way of thinking about food. What exactly is bacon and do I even really want to know? I’m going to tell you up front that this post is not to try and convince you to become vegan, because I’m still super new to this and don’t have all the facts (yet) and I don’t think I have that kind of power. But I would like to share my reasons WHY with you and maybe it will spark an interest or at least a question or something. Or maybe it will do absolutely nothing. Maybe you’re reading this now and thinking, nope this girl is nuts and I could NEVER give up meat. Oh did I mention you also have to give up all your delicious processed foods and fast food dreams and all your dairy loves. Why in the world would you be crazy enough to give up all of that?

I asked those exact same questions. Giving up meat was actually the easy part. That part is actually easier to understand. My husband and I don’t live off of meat. We don’t have to have meat with every meal and we rarely ever “crave” it. We could eat a plate of fresh vegetables for dinner and call that a good meal. Why? Well it’s healthy for one thing and for another we just love the way it tastes and makes us feel. We can eat an entire plate of vegetables and not have to feel guilty about it later. We know exactly what is going into our bodies and don’t have to think twice about it.

(Yes I do realize these veggies are dripping with oil, my kryptonite)

It wasn’t until recently though that I was reminded about another aspect to meat: the treatment of the animals that are being slaughtered for our plates. That word sounds almost as terrible as flesh or moist. My husband loves watching documentaries. I love watching… anything else. I never browse the documentary section on Netflix for “entertainment” and most definitely don’t pick one to watch after our baby has gone to bed, as I grab my little tub of ice cream and eat until I get a brain freeze or I realize I’ve been eating for the past fifteen minutes. But just a week ago my husband had started watching this documentary called What the Health. It actually was very good and was not boring at all. It provided a lot of facts and new information that I had no idea about.

I already consider myself to be a pretty “crunchy” person. If you have no idea what that means don’t feel dumb, I had no idea either until pretty recently. Let me see if I can find a definition for ya.

According to Urban Dictionary, it can be defined as such:

Adjective. Used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental reasons. Crunchy persons tend to be politically strongly left-leaning and may be additionally but not exclusively categorized as vegetarians, vegans, eco-tarians, conservationists, environmentalists, neo-hippiestree huggers, nature enthusiasts, etc.

And just for kicks and giggles…

Crunchy Mom

A member of an increasingly growing group of moms who are neo-hippies.

They generally believe (for varying reasons) that there is something bad or less beneficial about buying mainstream products or doing other common activities in the mainstream way.

You might be a crunchy mom if you:

…bake all your own bread
…make your own jam, jelly, pickles, applesauce, etc.
…gave birth at home — by CHOICE! (With a midwifedoula, or unassisted!)
…prefer to teach your children yourself at home instead of letting the public or private schools do it for you.
…grow your own food as much as possible, and buy the rest at farmer’s markets or health food stores.
…are vegan or vegetarian.
…choose not to use birth control.
…don’t wear a bra or shoes.
…don’t use shampoo or soap, but instead maybe sea salt or a variety of other things.
…had your placenta chopped up for an anti-depressant pill or smoothie.
…have no television in your home — and actually read BOOKS for entertainment!
…grind your own grain to make your own bread with (did you know that wheat looses about 90% of it’s nutrients within 7 days of being ground?)
…don’t cut your hair or wear pants (not going around half-naked, but wearing skirts! Silly people! Get your mind out of the gutter!)
…can add 10 more things to this list that I didn’t even think of!

If it were a spectrum, on the extreme far end you would find Amish. <– That is hilarious!

Mom 1: So after that HORRIBLE experience with the hospital with my first baby, I had my second one at home completely unassisted.

Lets pause here for a minute and take the How Crunchy Are You Test?

How many, if any, or all, apply to your life? Would you consider yourself to be a “crunchy” person?

Let’s tally up my points.

  1. I gave birth in a birthing center if that counts! With a midwife and doula!
  2. I am already thinking about homeschooling Evergreen or finding someone in our community that homeschools.
  3. We absolutely LOVE going to the Farmer’s Market and definitely do not support them as much as we should!
  4. Well as of right now I am vegan!

Darn, can’t get points for this one. I wear both a bra and shoes… most of the time.

  1. I did indeed have my placenta made into tiny capsules that my midwife called “happy mood pills”, but seriously as weird as it may sound, they have helped immensely with hormone balance and just overall wellness and happiness. I also had a strawberry placenta smoothie shortly after giving birth. My husband even tried it!
  2. We have a TV but do not have cable and we do not watch it during the day with our daughter. We read her lots of books and teach her new things daily.
  3. We use lots of essential oils for healing and wellness rather than medicine.
  4. We are anti-vaxxers
  5. I switched to Almond Milk after giving birth because it was causing severe gas pains in our baby. Since the switch she is a lot less gassy. I am not sure I can tell the difference in my own personal gut but it makes me feel healthier drinking it and since educating myself more on the truth about dairy, drinking Almond milk was a choice I could feel good about making.

This documentary re-established what I once knew and had forgotten and even provided some new information about the conditions of how animals are cared for and treated before they are ground into something we eat. I know several people who know about the process and are disgusted as well but choose not to do anything about it because either 1. They simply lack the passion (I don’t mean that rudely, but it just isn’t there. Without passion change isn’t going to take place) 2. They love the way their food taste too much (been there and I totally get that) 3. They worry that if they give up meat, how are they going to get “proper” protein.

I seriously wish that I knew ALL of the facts to give you right here, right now. I wish I could share my passion with you and reiterate why it is so important for our health to change the way we eat and the way we think about food. I wish that I could share with you all of the reasons why, and the reasons are out there if you seriously look for them. But the truth is, not many people care or are even looking. It sounds too crazy, or too expensive, or time-consuming, or pointless, or whatever other reason they can come up with. And honestly, that is your choice and that is okay. You do what you want for your body and your health and your happiness. If you are interested great!

There are tons of books out there, documentaries, and just people right around the corner that could share their own personal testimonies of why they switched to a plant-based diet and how it changed everything. From their younger looking skin, to elevated energy levels, and clarity of the mind (Why You Should Go Vegan, p.8). “This combination of benefits helps mitigate some of the biggest health issues in the world today, which include heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes,” (Why You Should Go Vegan, p.8).

Here are just a few of the positive reasons to become vegan that I want to share with you:

-boost in stability and energy levels

-your body feels rested and restored in the mornings

-your body only receives the purest of elements that sustain a strong immune system

-healthy weight loss

-detoxes your body and rids of the unwanted toxins that can lead to premature aging and disease

-nails become stronger, hair becomes healthier

-you become less irritable, your mood stabilizes

-improves your focus

-veganism can relieve PMS symptoms, due to no longer receiving hormones received in dairy

-living a vegan lifestyle is actually cheaper

-the risk of any harm from pesticides on vegetables and fruit is very low

-can reverse illness such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer

With so many great benefits, how could I not be willing to at least try it?

After watching What the Health our research didn’t stop there. We instantly jumped right into watching Food Choices, also on Netflix. And just recently we started watching Forks Over Knives. Some of the information is repetitive but also provided with more and new information. I love learning about new things. And before I decide to try something I like to know all that I can about it. I think that is smart. Do your own research, see what is out there. Don’t just take someone’s word for it. Don’t even take my word for it. Seriously, if you are curious, dig deeper. I don’t have all the answers and you may not even find all the answers but some of this research is ground breaking! Shocking, heartbreaking, and amazing. And I can’t stop.

While Evergreen was napping I read the shortest book ever on veganism, that I referred to earlier, called Why You Should Go Vegan: What Vegetarians Know, and You Don’t! It’s a short intro book that gives you basic facts and simple reasons as to why someone might choose this lifestyle for themselves and/or their family. I have ordered a few more books that will hopefully be coming in the mail soon that I can’t wait to dig into. When I get passionate about something I really go after it and I don’t just want someone to tell me about something I want to go and find out for myself.

Funny that I wrote this because literally my books just came in the mail. I bought used books so my husband wouldn’t kill me for adding more books to my book collection. Let’s see I’ve got: The Vegan Cheat Sheet (this will be so helpful during our mini-trip to Colorado next weekend where I will want to try new places to eat [that’s caused by a small town deprivation] and want to eat all the things that I know I shouldn’t), The Plant-Based Journey (written by a plant-based lifestyle coach; I didn’t even know that was a thing!), and finally, Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World. If you are reading this and you have either read these or have some other great reads related to these books please feel free to comment about them in the comment section below this post! I’d love to hear from you about it.

So, when it all comes down to do it, the Real question here is not what books should I or should I not be reading, or even how many documentaries are really out there about plant-based living, — no the real question is my WHY. Why did I decide to become a vegan? Watching something on Netflix does not make you “become” something, reading all the books out there informs you yes, but it still does not change anything about you. You are the deciding factor for your own actions. You choose the way you live. So why did I choose to live this way?

Well, it started gradually, it did not happen overnight. And thank goodness, because I probably would have given up by now if I had. I had tried almond milk in the past and did not care for it. I thought it was gross and did not understand why I would choose to drink something from a nut than from an animal. It didn’t make sense to me. Truthfully, I just didn’t know. My husband has an intolerance to lactose. So when we first started dating he introduced me to almond milk because that was what he drank. I started with the vanilla flavored almond milk and grew to love it. I gave up milk completely after Evergreen was born. I noticed she would have these intense gas pains and I could not figure out why. I was breastfeeding and still am (10 months strong!) and wondered what I was doing wrong.

Someone suggested limiting my dairy intake and to see what would happen. So I followed her advice and did. I didn’t cut all dairy but I definitely ate it in moderation and stopped drinking whole milk or 2% all together. I almost instantly noticed a difference in her digestion. She slept better, ate better, was less fussy and was not nearly as gassy as she was before when I was still drinking milk. So I made the choice for me and my baby that we would continue on this road because it benefited us both. Veganism was not even close to being in the picture at the time, but I was on the right path.

It may sound silly admitting this, but I’m not ashamed. What truthfully kickstarted this whole thing was watching those documentaries on Netflix. I felt like my eyes had been opened for the first time. And I viewed food and the things that I was putting into my body in an entirely different light. I know this journey is not going to be for everyone and I completely and wholeheartedly respect that. This is my journey and this is just the beginning for me. Since deciding to “go green” I have been more aware of what I buy for myself and my family when I’m shopping for food at the grocery store. I check the labels and check the ingredients of what I’m buying.

I recently did a “pantry and fridge purge” and got rid of everything that was non-compliant with this new lifestyle. It was truly shocking all of the food that I used to buy and love that was labeled as containing: milk, eggs, or cheese. I’m not gonna lie there are foods that I’m going to MISS. I am a HUGE diary fanatic. I love cottage cheese, cream cheese, bagels, ice cream, yogurt, eggs, things fried in eggs, and of course things that contain milk and eggs like brownies and cake batters and pancakes. But that is often the misconception about being a vegan is that they are limiting their food choices. Actually it opens up a whole new opportunity for so many new things that I never would have even thought of trying. And it’s actually a brilliant science all of the ways to make your own “eggs, cheese, and butter,” that are still vegan and still tasty. So, essentially, I am not missing out on anything. I can’t think of it that way. It’s just a new way of living, new way of eating, new way of exploring my world around me, and thanking God for giving me all of these natural fruits and vegetables that I don’t have to feel guilty about eating, and truly feel GOOD about it and right!

I do have to be careful of course, because I could be a vegan and still be the most unhealthy person ever. I could still fill my body with sugar, oils, carbs, and things that are just not healthy or good for me but, “Hey there isn’t any meat in this so I better eat it!” I can’t just dive off the deep end into a heavenly bliss of vegan ice cream and donuts and cakes and frying all my veggies in loads of oil with loads of salt. Don’t even get me started on my love for salt. This “diet”, and that’s really what it is, is one of the most disciplined diets that there are out there. But I have to pay attention to what I’m eating and how much of it I am eating when I do indulge in some of those delicious hard-to-quit treats. Moderation is always key.

Lastly, I care about my health and wellness, my emotional state, the animals, and our environment. I want to do what I can to protect these animals and by choosing not to eat them or avoid as many products that are made from animals as possible, that is my stance on protecting and caring for them. I try to make it an important part of my daily routine to exercise, eat healthy, and find time to do something that I enjoy. Today, I got to fill my writing passion, who knows what it will be tomorrow or the next day. But it’s important to make time for those things. It may seem small, but continuing to take part in the little pieces of life that light you up on the inside are actually really important.

For someone that has struggled with some horrific spells of depression and anxiety, if simply changing the way I eat can help resolve or even reverse some of those symptoms, I am all for it. If it doesn’t work it doesn’t work, but at least my body won’t be screaming at me from the inside anymore.

I’m not “super” crunchy in the fact that my husband and I are both terrible at keeping plants alive. I don’t know if we will ever have our own garden (never say never, check back with me in a few years and I’ll let you know if that dream is still nonexistent) and that’s okay. We have a great friend from church that is constantly providing us with fresh vegetables from her garden. I might cry when winter arrives. But for now, I will gladly take all the fresh okra, corn, green beans, eggplant, squash, and zucchini that she has to offer. God gave us these wonderful plants, and he blessed others with green thumbs, so I am going to take part in celebrating these riches.

(First official vegan meal: whole wheat tortillas w/ground up cauliflower and tofu, jasmine rice, fresh salsa, diced avocado, chao vegan cheese, and sliced lettuce)

This journey is not going to be easy. Sometimes it’s going to be super hard. After all, somehow I survived almost all 26 years of my life as an omnivore. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be expensive (still trying to figure that part out yet, but I’m slowly learning), and it doesn’t have to be limiting or boring. I am not asking you to walk this same journey with me (great if you do!), I just hope that you can love me anyway and support me in reaching my goals and that I’ll be strong enough to handle your jokes and criticisms. Because I know there will be both of those. I’m okay with that. You’re allowed to have a different opinion. It’s not a crime here. I’ll still love you and care about you, promise. You have your own goals and dreams and I have mine. Thanks for listening. Thanks for allowing me to be passionate and follow my dreams. Until next time… May the Greens Be With You!

Ha. Here’s a good one. May the Greens Be Ever in Your Flavor. Wow, that was rich. Okay, I’m done. Peace out.

DN ♡

Bragging Rights

They say that time flies by when you’re having fun. They weren’t kidding! Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our two year anniversary. Two whole years of marriage, wow. It may not seem like a long time to those of you that have been married a lot longer or have dated someone for a really long time, but two years of marriage is really significant. Especially when I never believed that marriage would happen for me. I remember as a little girl being the kid that would throw pennies into the fountain in the mall and wish for a husband (I was in elementary school guys). It seems silly now but looking back it really was a strong desire of mine. I grew up with two loving parents who stayed together and I wanted a similar future. I wanted to find someone that I could share the rest of my life with, but little did I know that I would choose a path that would take awhile to get there.

I had my first “boyfriend” in kindergarten and it lasted a whole day. He had the biggest, curliest blonde afro I had ever seen. He was Jewish (if you read my last post you will know that I am not) and I invited him over to my house one day for our first official “date”. Let me tell ya, it’s almost up there on the list of “worst first dates”. I had all these activities planned for our day and he only wanted to do each of them for about 5 minutes, if not less. Wanna go outside and swing? Sure. I’m bored let’s do something else. Ohhhkaaayy. Wanna play in the sandbox? Sure. I’m bored. Wanna build something with play doh? Okay. I’m bored. I’m not sure how long this actually went on but it felt like hours! I think finally my mom ended up making us a snack and then called his mom so she could pick him up. Let’s just say he wasn’t invited back over. I wasn’t heart broken or anything but it definitely did not go how I thought it would. Pfft. Kids.

The next boy I clearly remember was from second grade. Actually there were two around that time. I really don’t understand how because I was such a dorky kid, no really ask anyone in my family and they will nod their heads yes, but somehow I was a boy magnet. I remember sitting in class at a table with a bunch of other students right before recess when this brilliant idea came to me. I am totally going to make these guys race for me today. Say what? Yeah, you heard that right. I announced to the boys of the classroom that today at recess there would be a race on the basketball courts and whoever got to the finish line the fastest would become my boyfriend for that week. Just for the week, to clarify. It’s hilarious to even imagine myself saying these crazy words, but I did and I remember saying them plain as day. I remember being surprised at how many boys actually tried to outrun each other and how fast they ran to try and beat the other boys to that finish line. Was this really about wanting to be my boyfriend or did they just see it as a competition and a chance to show off? What nine year old boy doesn’t love to run? I won’t spoil the name of the boy who actually won the race that day, and I honestly think after he won he wished that he hadn’t because suddenly there I was forcing my hand in his and giddy because he was my boyfriend!

He was sooooo embarrassed. He refused to hold my hand because well, everyone could see us! So I held his arm instead. He was after all, you know, my boyfriend! I sat extra close to him during story time. Sometimes I would just sit there and stare at him. I think our relationship lasted two whole days. Because the next day he came to class and he brought me a gift. In a tiny box was this necklace with a ruby red stone. He told me it was originally a gift for his mom’s birthday but he wanted me to have it instead. Not knowing any better I gladly accepted the necklace and wore it instantly. It wasn’t until years later that reality hit me and I wondered just how expensive that necklace had been and if it really had been for his mother. I don’t really remember much after that. I do remember feeling super embarrassed about it when I had a math class with him in seventh grade and I couldn’t even look at him or speak to him for fear of him remembering me as the girl that forced him to be my boyfriend because of a dumb race one day at recess. But I never said another word about it and neither did he.

In fourth grade there was a brave boy that actually came to my house, rang the front door bell, and asked me out while handing me a bouquet of flowers. Not to mention while my mom was teaching piano students in the living room and all of them lined up behind me to see who the strange boy was with the flowers at the door. He was a kid I recognized and was friends with at school. But sadly that was it, just friends. I felt like the biggest jerk ever turning him down. He had flowers for crying out loud, and he also had brought a friend with him for moral support. I’m not even sure how he knew where I lived, probably looked me up in the dumb student directory that the school gave out every year. I don’t even remember seeing a car parked anywhere, did he walk? Surely he deserved at least one date for being so bold and such a gentlemen, but no, my heart was cold that day and I took his flowers, (oh my gosh I hope I at least took his flowers!) and told him I’m sorry I’m just not     i   n    t  e   r   e   s   t   e   d.                              Ouch, those words hurt. I was always taught that it was a good thing to be honest, but if I’m honest with you, saying those words most definitely did not feel like a good thing.

I don’t remember how old I was when I got my first kiss. Or how many kisses I’ve received since then. If only I had known then what I know now, I could have saved my innocent little heart from so much unwanted heartbreak. My first official boyfriend was when I just fifteen. An eighth grader in middle school. Sometimes when I think about my past and the experiences that I went through it makes me wanna cry and cringe and just shake my old self and say to her, “What were you thinking?” And it also makes me a little scared for the day I watch my baby girl suddenly grow up and ask if she can bring a boy home. I pray that she does ask. I hope that I can be as honest with her as I’m being with you right now in hopes that she will make better decisions and choose a better path to finding the one than I did.

I met this guy online (another red flag, amongst so many) when I was fifteen and he had just turned eighteen. I was too young and should have known better (and I did). But my heart was wide open and I didn’t know what love was like from an older boy and when he told me he loved me, that was the beginning and end of everything. I’m not going to give you the whole story on him right now (I’ll save that story for another time because it’s very heavy, and vulnerable, and hard to talk about) but basically our whole relationship was built on lies from the start. I wasn’t even allowed to date until I turned sixteen. We dated a full year online before we ever even met. And we did meet. And he moved all the way from South Dakota to Oklahoma to be with me. We dated a total of 2.5 years. The longest relationship I have ever been in, to date. Until I met my husband in 2015. Two years of lies, abuse, cheating, pain and just plain old heartache. I don’t know why I put up with it for so long. But I lost all of my friends over it (that’s not an exaggeration, and I’m sure I deserved it) and I even lost trust from my own family. And that was hard and hurtful. But this was a lesson I had to learn on my own, I had to figure out how to pick up the pieces after everything finally came to a crashing halt. By the end, I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror and I was not only on a journey to mend the pieces that were broken but to rediscover who I really was.

My high school years consisted of a lot of highs and lows and I mostly remember the lows. I went through a lot of “firsts”. I had my first breakup, my first car, my first death in the family, my first loss of a family pet, my first drink, my first smoke, my first cut, my first prom that I couldn’t even stay at because my anxiety was so severe and I had a panic attack and had to leave, first fight with my best friends, first time (and wouldn’t be the last) that I would hear people gossiping about me as I walked to my class in the hallway, and other firsts that I can’t remember at the moment. I was a train wreck to say the very least. I tried my hardest to put on a mask when I came home every day, but I was hurting so badly inside and I didn’t know what to do with it. I had more friends online than I did at school. I stopped hanging out with my real friends and stayed up way past my bedtime to talk to the people that seemed more real to me at the time. I wrote really dark poetry and often had nightmares so bad that I was afraid to sleep or I would crawl in bed with my mom (yes, as a teenager) in hopes that I could get some sleep. I was severely depressed and didn’t know how to talk about it. I didn’t know who to reach out to. There were times I wanted to tell my mom so badly because I knew that I needed help but I was scared and times that I felt like I was trying, I didn’t feel like I was really being heard. I self-diagnosed all the time. I must be bipolar, maybe I am a bit manic because I keep having these strange episodes, what does it mean when you hear voices in your head telling you to do crazy things? Does that make me crazy? Maybe I just have depression. Okay, I am seriously depressed and need help. Nah, I’m okay now it was a false alarm. No, I’m really not okay, somebody please help me, I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine. 

But I was not fine at all. I continued to struggle with depression and anxiety through college. I was constantly in and out of relationships (friends and boys). I never really allowed myself enough time to heal after a breakup. Almost as soon as I would breakup with somebody, I was already talking to somebody else. It sounds petty and it was, and I’m not proud to type these words, but I didn’t know how to handle pain and hurt so it was easier not to have to feel those things. If I didn’t have the time for it I would be okay. I would just skip that part of the healing process and just move on. Simple right?

My husband was lucky number eleven. I had dated ten guys before I met him. Ten is kind of a crazy number. I dated ten guys in the span of about ten years, while he was in a marriage that was failing for that same amount of time… ten years. Looking back sometimes I wonder if I had saved myself from so much unnecessary pain if we would have still ended up together. I believe that God always has a plan for our lives and for our spouses. I don’t think I always made the wisest decisions or even always chose the right path. But somehow God was still able to steer me to the path that I needed to be on. The path that ultimately would lead to my amazing husband.

We first started talking back in July of 2015 (the 6th to be exact). For those of you that don’t know, we met on Eharmony. Yeah, yeah, the cheesiest commercials and couples that you always have to wonder if they are the real deal or just really bad at acting. Or maybe they are real Eharmony couples and that is why they are bad at acting. But that is where we found one another. I like to believe that it was God that paired us together not some genius behind a screen that made us compatible. Ultimately, we made the choice to be together. From the very start we were both very open and honest with each other. I don’t even know how many emails we sent back and forth in the beginning just trying to find out everything out about one another. We didn’t want anything left in the dark so we shared everything, including our deepest darkest secrets that probably nobody else knew about us. It was both terrifying and relieving at the same time. Sometimes you don’t realize how full your suitcase really is until you start to unpack it. There is something freeing about being able to trust someone else enough to just start letting go of things that you’ve held onto for way too long. I never felt judgment, or disgust, and he definitely didn’t tell me “I don’t really want to know all of that about you yet.” Not ever. And believe it or not I have been told that by a guy before. I thought it would be better to just lay it all out there so he would know exactly who I was, but we never went on another date after I opened up and shared things about myself and when I asked him why he didn’t want to see me again he said it was because I shared too much about myself too soon. So how did I know that it wasn’t too soon with this guy?

I guess it’s just the risk we both took. He had nothing to hide from me and was an open book, and because of his openness I was able to be just as honest and vulnerable. If you can’t be open and honest and vulnerable with your future spouse, well then, I’m not sure that they are meant to be your future anything.  Here’s normally where I would dive into the sped-up version of our timeline from the emails, to phone calls, to writing letters, to FaceTiming, to meeting for the first time, to our first date, second date, etc, to when he moved from Omaha to Oklahoma, to when we met his kiddos for the first time (oh did I forget to mention he has two kids? Beautiful children now 8– Malakai, and 6–Esther), to when we got engaged (I do remember the date of that one! It fell on my dad’s birthday March 10, 2016), to our wedding in North Carolina (July 2, 2016), to our honeymoon in NC (directly following the wedding), to our first apartment together (May 2016-May 2018), to getting pregnant with our first child (December 25-September 13, 2017), to buying our first home (April 2018-current), to now… I’m a stay at home mom with our 10 month old daughter, Evergreen, and I’m going back to school in August (I can’t believe that is next month already!), Phil works full time at the local hospital, and life is crazy sometimes but I love our live together.

First picture we ever took together.

First official date we went on (above).

We still do our best to make sure we go on dates frequently (so blessed to have grandparents literally 5 minutes away!). And sometimes it’s just a movie date at home on the couch with take out chinese food (one of our favorite guilty pleasures, that or sushi!). We have been to the rodeo every year, we often go the monster truck show in the summer as well. We attend film festivals and art walks and parades and we just love doing life together. I don’t even know how I found him. Okay well I know how, I logged onto my computer and signed up for Eharmony, duh. But you know what I mean. In literally out of the ENTIRE universe, how did we find one another?! How does that even happen? Do you believe in “soul mates”? I think that I do. I think we were meant to end up together. I just wished it hadn’t taken me so long to finally find the one that I had been searching for all along but had no idea who I was searching for.

Pictures taken above from our most recent dinner date (babyless!)

I wrote this amazing letter exactly a year from the day we started talking. I had titled it: Dear Mr. Right. I remember writing it in a time where I wasn’t with anybody and I was at peace with myself for one of the first times in a long time. I had spent time in prayer and my bible searching for peace and understanding and words just started flowing, like they are right now, and I wrote a letter for my future husband to give him the night before our wedding. Phil knew that I was the one for him long before I knew that he was the one for me. But he was so patient with me and waited for me to be sure. I remember the day I told him that I was sure he was the one for me. We were on our way to Canadian, TX for a dinner date. I just leaned over from the passenger seat and told him that I was sure he was the one for me. We both were lit up from the inside out, bursting with love. And I still feel that way when I see him come home after a long day. I may not be kicking my legs and flapping my arms up and down and squealing like my baby girl does when she sees her daddy coming up the front steps but I still get that jittery feeling in my stomach and sometimes I can’t help but just stare at him in awe that he really is mine forever. 

When I knew that he was the right guy for me I remembered the letter that I had written and I went back and read over it and was shocked at how perfectly the man I had described in my letter had described him to a T. Capital T. And I swear I hadn’t known him before we met. Yet somehow, I wrote that letter for my husband a year from the day I would “meet” him. How crazy is that? He of course loved it and it brought tears to his eyes. He read it the night before we got married on our special destination wedding on the beach. However, I ruined a perfect moment by having too much wine the night before and so when he called me with tears in his eyes to tell me how beautiful my letter was and how much it had moved him, I could barely hear what he was saying to me because I was beyond tipsy and treated every word he said like it was a big joke. It was not my most shining moment.

I’m ashamed to even type it now, and it’s one of my biggest regrets. Reality didn’t sink in until the next morning, the day of our wedding and I was worried that he would have changed his mind about me, or been bitter or angry with me. He was those things but when I came walking up over that sandy hill with my daddy, and my eyes locked with my future husband, I saw nothing but pure LOVE. I didn’t see disgust or sorrow or hurt or even anger, I only saw love. Almost all was forgotten when I finally reached him, as we held hands together under the pier that we became one. It was a sore subject for awhile when everything finally settled down, but he was able to forgive me and extend his grace towards me, in a very stupid and vulnerable moment of mine. And we both continue to screw up. All the dang time. But I think our hearts were made strong because of where we’ve both come from and knowing the places we have been helps us to be able to help one another. He is slow to anger and quick to forgive. He is honest and loyal and genuine. He is bright (no really, everything he wears is brightly colored), he is vibrant and bursting with love, life, and laughter. Get ready for another cliche, but he is my better half, my one and only, my best friend, and forevermate. This post is for you babe. I can’t thank you enough for everything that you’ve ever done for me; thank you for accepting me for who I am and loving me through all my errors and flaws, and helping me to become a better person—as your wife, and as a mother. Thank you for being my number one cheerleader and always supporting my dreams. I love you to the freaking moon and back. I cannot cannot tell you that I love you enough. So here it is… I love you, I love you, I love you. Today, tomorrow, and forevermore.

All the hearts; all the everythings.

DN ♡

Open Doors

I have gone to church for as long as I can remember. I grew up Baptist and was used to waking up, getting ready for church every Sunday, sitting through Sunday class and then I would sit next to Mom and Dad in “big church” where the rest of the congregation would meet. Sometimes I would listen but mostly when I found my thoughts start wandering I would pull out my pens and journal and write or doodle or both. Whatever it took to keep me quiet and awake. I didn’t mind singing the hymns, I’ve always enjoyed singing, and I like how it feels when I can feel my voice blending in with everyone else’s like when you first mix creamer into a steaming cup of coffee. At first you hear everyone else, they are a solid sound. Well okay, except for the lady standing directly behind you that sings with more vibrato than the rest and she is even trying to harmonize with the choir. And there’s a guy a few people down from you that is trying so hard to blend in but he is obviously off-key and when he claps it doesn’t match the beat of the drums. Oh wait, I almost forgot we are in a Baptist church right now, so he might want to put his hands away. I’m kidding! That was a joke! I was Baptist for most of my life so I think I’m allowed to have some fun with it.

While both my parents are musically gifted, singing is not either of their forte. My mom has taught piano as long as I’ve been alive and my dad has played drums for most of his life. I, myself, have tried many different instruments to which I have all gave up and quit at some point. I did mention in my previous post that I haven’t always finished what I’ve started and piano and violin lessons are a few examples. I took piano lessons from my mom for about four years and while in middle school, when we were still living in Texas, I had joined the school orchestra (shout out to all the orch-dorks out there!) and played violin for 2.5 years. And then we made the great trek across from Everything is Bigger and Better in Texas to Is-There-Seriously-No-Mall-Here Oklahoma. Orchestra was extinct in this land and I had the options of joining band (no offense to the band-nerds out there, y’all are great, it just wasn’t for me) or choir. I wholeheartedly chose choir. So what did that make me now… a choir nerd? Did we even have nicknames? Help me out here because I honestly don’t remember. Maybe we were just the cool kids with the pumped up kicks.

I loved choir… until I didn’t. I loved being able to sing with a group of people that also loved to sing. I did not love solos or having to sing in front of the entire classroom. That was mortifying. It was like I could sing all day long until that moment when the teacher at the front of the room called my name (you know that sinking feeling when you avoid eye contact because you don’t want to be seen) it was like something lodged its way inside of my throat and singing was no longer a feasible option. My hands would instantly go cold and clammy and my voice would tremble and shake and I would feel my face growing hotter as suddenly all the eyes in the room were on me and my terrified voice. I have never been a confident or bold singer. There was always a girl in our class that would stand out. Quite literally too, she was taller than everyone else. Whenever she sang she sang with boldness so fierce sometimes you almost forgot there was anybody else in the room. Her voice was beautiful and she knew that too well. She always tried out for the solo parts in an upcoming concert or competition. Even when we were all singing as “one”, sometimes she was the only voice I could hear. She had a beautiful voice, don’t get me wrong, but something about it felt too confident, and almost fake, like she was trying too hard to be noticed. And she was definitely noticed.

It took me awhile to realize that I was doing that exact same thing during worship at church. Even though the idea as a church congregation was to sing as one, for whatever reason I wanted to be the one that was heard. I wanted to be able to hear my voice above all the rest. I didn’t want my voice to be drowned out in the sea of everyone else’s voices. I thought if I could hear my own voice, not only could I make sure I was on pitch and sounded good, but others would hear me and confirm my beliefs about my voice. Nobody ever did. I would sing loudly at church camp, loudly during service, loudly alone in my bedroom where I loved to sing best, but never did I like to sing loudly for the sake of pure confidence and joy and love for my voice. I was doing it for all of the wrong reasons. I simply just wanted to be heard. I wanted others to tell me that I had a good voice. Nobody ever seemed to hear me or notice or care. Or at least I felt that way and after awhile, I just stopped singing. You know how in the movie Inside Out her little islands slowly start dying away, well at some point I think my singing island crumbled and turned to dust. Every now and then I would sit in my car, turn my radio up and just simply sing. I could sing as loud or as soft as I wanted to because I wasn’t worried about anyone hearing me. I actually did not want to be heard this time. I was ashamed and even embarrassed by my voice and did not think that I was good enough to sing in front of anyone else but myself.

It wasn’t until I transferred schools in the middle of my undergrad career, that I found singing to be a part of my life again. I joined a non-denominational church called Liberty and it was nothing like I had ever experienced before. I had no problems growing up Baptist, until I started attending this church regularly and truly felt so FREE. People were warm and welcomed me the moment I stepped foot inside. There weren’t “assigned seats” and people made sure I had someone to sit with even though at first I didn’t know a single soul in that building. Worship was loud and vibrant. Someone was up there playing the drums, and there were at least two guitar players, and someone on the keyboard, and there was even a lady on stage wearing a Bob Marley hat (you know the colors) with fake dreads coming out of the hat, banging on a bongo drum with pure joy on her face. There were no pews but rows of chairs, and there was no stained glass but lights and sound machines. And people were up front close to the stage, almost as if there were at a rock concert, with their hands lifted as high as they could reach them, and for the first time I felt at home. I felt grounded and safe and free. I felt love reach me from all around. It was only a few weeks later that I joined the worship band.

I was so nervous to “try out”, but everyone was so nice and so welcoming that I was basically a part of their team before I had said yes. Band practice was every Tuesday night and they would meet at the church on stage and practice their new songs for the upcoming week. I told them upfront that I did not want to lead a song or be the main vocalist. Funny how at one point in my life, I just wanted to be heard, but now I wanted to blend in with the rest of their voices, as in to represent the body of Christ. They were totally okay with that. I loved being a part of their worship team. I only sang once a month on stage with them; they had a rotation system and a different worship band would take turns leading worship each week. I can’t really describe to you the feeling I had up there. Sure, I was still just as nervous singing up there in front of even more people than my high school choir room, but my purpose was entirely different and my heart was in a better place. That is the page turner.

I was heartbroken about leaving the church after I graduated and got a job back in my hometown. I had made some really strong connections with the people in my church and leaving the first church that ever really felt like home was like saying goodbye to someone you really cared about. It was hard and it sucked. I was blessed with my new job working in an emergency youth shelter, but I wasn’t looking forward to leaving all my friends, my church, and everything behind me. My parents had just discovered a new church that was in the wakening stages. Members of the church would meet every Sunday in an old arts theater building and worship and watch the sermon messages online via projector on the wall. They didn’t have a band or a live preacher and all their sermons were online. What kind of church was this? And they expected me to just automatically jump for joy and want to be a part of this beginning because honestly they were short on everything: equipment, technology, and people.

After moving back, I did start regularly going to Ignite Church, that met every Sunday night in the art theater downtown. I did not fall in love at first sight. I could only sit there and compare it to the thriving church I had to walk away from. I remember feeling bitter and resentful in the beginning. I probably wasn’t very friendly to new people that I met or even the people that had started the church and was excited to have me as a new member of their church. They were desperate for volunteers so of course I got suckered into volunteering, only this time I was not on stage singing for the Lord, I was upstairs caring for kids and preteens in kids church. I would volunteer early service and then attend second service. I did not enjoy doing crafts, and teaching a lesson, and singing songs and praying with the kids. I’ll be flat out honest. When we switched to morning services, I actually would pray that there would be NO kids upstairs for me to watch and if that were the case sometimes I would just go back home. I figured if there are no kids, then they don’t need me, and so my time is better spent back in bed, or doing something productive at home. I really thought that was the truth.

Then there was a time after they had switched to Sunday morning services only that I wasn’t able to go at all because of my work schedule. There were months that I wasn’t able to go to church because of having to go in to work. I didn’t love going to church, but I felt more guilty for not going. I had gone to church all my life and for the first time in my life I was a consistent non-church-goer. That wasn’t me. Or I didn’t want it to become a new part of me where I just stopped going. So I talked to my boss and we worked it out to where I could go to the early service and then come into work right after. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a compromise and I accepted it. It also got me out of volunteering every Sunday, and so I would attend service, and then drive straight to work and work 8.5 hours. And then after I got off work I would get ready to go to Life Group and get my second dose of church for the day.

I didn’t love this routine and I got burned out pretty quickly. And then a wonderful thing happened. I got pregnant and I went from working full time to part time and eventually I got my Sundays back. Having Sundays off again was a significant blessing. I could actually enjoy my day and I was actually looking forward to attending church again. Again, I had a heart change and was ready to try again. Instead of volunteering in children’s church, I decided to become a greeter with my mom. My mom is in charge of the host team and greets people as they come and go from the services and hands out the weekly bulletins. She does a great job at it. I loved being a greeter and it felt good welcoming people into the church. On the surface it may seem like the easiest job within the body of believers, but honestly it’s not as easy as it sounds. You have to show up every Sunday and really bring your A game, and your good attitude. You are the first person that someone sees before they even enter the building. You are part of the reason people choose to open the door and come in rather than keep walking past you and hop into their car and leave. It is your job to make people feel warm and welcome and loved and cared for and accepted before they even walk inside. Don’t tell me that is nothing. That is HUGE. And that was the part that I felt that I was missing. I had felt warm and welcomed at my previous church, and because of my bitterness and hardened heart I didn’t want to feel that way anywhere else. But once those walls came down I was able to feel at peace and at home again. And I do feel at home here. And I hope that you will too, if you ever find yourself standing at our door trying to decide whether or not you should come on in. Well I say, hey come on over, you’re always welcome here.

After I had Evergreen I took a few weeks at home to let my body heal and recover (as any new mother should) and watched the sermons online with my husband. It was a nice change to be able to sit in the comfort of my living room and worship on the couch while our new baby girl was either asleep in our arms or in her swing next to us. By about the third week I was ready to go back. I was so stir crazy, any moment of getting out of the house felt glorious. As a new mom I was super anxious to go anywhere that involved being around people. What if she cries? What if she doesn’t stop crying? What if everyone wants to hold her and I don’t have the power to say no? Heaven forbid someone tries to kiss her (this very thing actually did happen more times than I would like to admit)! I still don’t really even know how to hold a baby, let alone in front of everyone. And then this, Everyone is watching me, judging me as a new mother. They know I am terrified and they can see right through me. I can’t do this. Maybe this was a crazy and stupid idea, what was I thinking? Right girl, what were you thinking? All of that was crazy nonsense talk. I had a mean girl moment and had to force her out of my head. She actually slept through the entire service (loud music and all). Our baby is an angel in disguise.

I am partly ashamed to say that since having her almost 10 months ago (don’t even get me started on that, I will probably start crying–which I haven’t done yet, but have come close several times) I have not volunteered in the church. When I started coming back to church at first I would attend first service with my husband and baby girl and then leave afterwards to nurse her at home. Just a personal preference and as a new mother still trying to figure out one day at a time, I was not and am still not comfortable nursing in public. It wasn’t too long before I got brave enough and started letting her aunt watch her during second service so I could sit in during the sermon while she was being watched in the nursery. There was maybe once or twice I had to come get her because she was either hungry or tired or just missing her mama. But as it became routine for both of us she actually started really enjoying spending time with her aunt during service and I enjoyed getting to be a part of church again.

It is hard though because my husband serves second service and attends first service. I don’t come until second service and I just attend, I am not currently serving anywhere, and I have been trying to wrack my brain on just how to make that work. I might sound crazy saying this but I have come to love specific routines with my daughter and when they are super little sometimes routines are hard because they don’t eat at specific times or sleep or do anything on a specific schedule. As a new parent you’re just struggling to find time for yourself and time to sleep and just how to adjust to this new role. When they get a little older you can start establishing routines and bedtimes and you figure out their general nap times, etc. and it’s such a beautiful thing when you can start predicting what your baby is going to do any a certain hour (all relatively speaking of course, they aren’t machines!).

So, because of our routine: she wakes up around 6:30 am, nurses, goes back to sleep, mama showers, eats breakfast, maybe reads or workouts if baby is still sleeping, baby wakes up, nurses, gets dressed and changed, plays for a few minutes before leaving for church, goes to church, even gets there a little early (go mama!) so she can say hi to all the people that adore and love her and oooh and aww over her cute little outfits and oh my goodness is she waving now? and then mama drops her off in the nursery and mama grabs a donut and a cup of water (yeah yeah, it’s my once a week cheat day, I think I’m allowed to have one donut), hugs her own mama, goes to sit down, has a few minutes to spare before service begins, finishes her donut, lights are dimming, people are talking and starting to stand, the music is building, and church is ready to begin. I’m ready to begin! And that’s it, I sit and listen to the sermon, follow along if I have a bulletin, if not that’s okay too, and then the lights come on, and I’m out the door, grab the keys from my mom, and head back to the nursery to pick up my baby girl, say goodbye to her aunt and goodbye to the hubby as I head to my car, load baby up so that I can nurse her at my mom’s house before I have to grab lunch so that I can make it home in time for my husband and I to lead a Life Group of our own. Sundays are always go, go, go. And sometimes I absolutely love it. Most weeks I do. But some days… I’ll be real with you, I would rather curl up in my bed and take a long well-deserved nap. Most days I am busy doing other things and taking a nap is not on my agenda. However, whenever you can, take that nap, you’ll feel awesome—trust me, the house, the dishes, the laundry, it will still be there when you wake up, only you’ll feel less tired doing them. (This was a half joke and you were supposed to laugh).

I don’t really know where my call to serve in church is anymore. It’s actually funny that I even brought up the fact that I “secretly” love to sing because I just recently got asked to try out for my church’s worship band. By my dad. I never in a million years would have expected that question to be asked aloud to me, his own daughter. My dad is a drummer on the worship band and really brings it every single Sunday. I’m not just saying that, I can seriously see and feel his passion every week and it’s awesome, and I am so incredibly proud of how far he has come. I have a quiet love for singing. Like I mentioned earlier I don’t like singing for an audience but really just in private or with my husband in the comfort of our own home. But I honestly don’t really sing that much anymore. To tell you a sad truth I’m not really sure either of my parents really even know that I can carry a tune. Maybe one of these days, if I’m feeling lucky and you stick around with me, I’ll share a tune with ya, but we gotta get to know each other a little bit better first. I’m not a confident singer at all. I have a very limited range and I rarely ever sing out or have the vibrato to let my voice carry me new places. I only like singing certain types of songs (I’m more of the indie folk or Nora Jones type of singer), or simple songs that have deep meanings. I think my forever favorite will be Coldplay’s Scientist.

Couldn’t even tell ya why I love that song so much but it’s a song I feel like I can sing pretty well and I know all the words and I’ve always loved singing it. But again, I don’t just go around singing that song or any song. I’m no Carrie Underwood or Mariah Carey or Kelly Clarkson. I am just me. You won’t ever see my face on American Idol. I don’t need three judges to tell me that I’m not “good enough” or don’t have a strong enough voice for that type of competition. I don’t say that to be hurtful towards myself, and I think it’s great for the people that are brave enough to try out and for those that truly love to sing and are confident enough to share it with others but that is just not who I am or who I am called to be. And I’m totally, completely okay with that. I promise. Cross my little heart.

I recently did a brave thing though. I had the opportunity this summer to attend an all women’s church retreat that was an overnight stay at this really cool lodge and bed and breakfast. I spent a lot of time with a girl that I already knew from church but hadn’t really spent any time with. She was practicing in her room on her guitar preparing the songs for that evening’s worship songs she would be leading the group in and I decided to join her while I was waiting for my turn to get a massage (ohhh yes, girl). She is one of the main singers at our church and does a fabulous job every Sunday. I asked her if it would be ok if I practiced with her (even though at the time I had no intention of singing with her). She eagerly said yes and song by song we sang together with our voices blending as smooth as pure honey and the rawness of her guitar in the background. At first I sang quietly, but then I decided not to be shy about it and sang until I could hear our voices become one and it was such a beautiful moment. I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did because it was truly a thrill. I didn’t care about the girls listening to us on just the outside of her bedroom door, I didn’t care if I couldn’t hit all the notes, I just simply sang because it felt right and was freeing in that moment. Afterwards she smiled at me and said, “Hey, I didn’t know you could sing.” I laughed and replied, “Me either.”

Long story short, I ended up singing that night outside the cabin with her. It was humid and the june bugs were fierce and I was swatting the lyric sheets I was so desperately trying to hold still for her to read in the dark with the light from my phone as she swatted bugs off her guitar and fingers as she tried to play and sing. She didn’t miss a beat though and I felt bold and brave and confident and sang right along side her. Just like we had earlier in her room and it truly felt great. Later that night and even weeks following I had people come up to me telling me that I did a great job and said that I should join the worship band at our church. I was both shocked and humbled, but also uncertain if that was what my true calling really was. Yes I loved getting to sing with her and I was okay being vulnerable and exposed and I didn’t just shrivel up and die on the spot like I had always imagined that I would. But I didn’t. So you can only imagine the shock I received when word had traveled to my own father about me being able to sing and that people actually believed in me and really thought that I was good enough to be a part of the worship for our church. That is seriously probably one of the biggest compliments I have ever received. And I’m still not entirely sure what to do with it. I don’t want to say no, but I also don’t want to say yes. I don’t know if I want to be on stage again. Would I feel more connected spiritually being on the other side of the stage than I currently am? Would I feel more alive in front of the lights and having a microphone placed in front of me? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers right now. This is something that is definitely going to take some time and prayer. Always lots of prayer. When you’re unsure about something, especially a pretty big decision, but even the small things, God wants you to open up to Him through prayer.

So that is where I am currently at. I may not be serving in the church directly right now, but I feel like God is using me to serve in a lot of other small ways. I am serving when I am led to reach out to a friend in need or trying to reconnect with someone I hadn’t spoken to in some time. I am serving when I write an encouraging letter to one of my girl friends who may be having a hard week or just could use an emotional boost. I am serving when I focus on honoring my body and taking care of myself physically and emotionally by daily exercise and eating right and taking time to pray, journal, write, or read, or just go for a walk or a drive so that I can clear my head and sort out my thoughts. I am serving by loving my husband and loving my daughter and using kind words to people I come into contact with on any given day. I hope that I am serving right now as I type these closing words. I hope that my words are honoring my Savior rather than just myself. He is constantly opening doors for me, and yes sometimes closing others. But I believe for every door closed a new door opens. What doors or opportunities are being opened for you today? Are there any doors you can open for someone else? What are you waiting for? My door is always open.

DN ♡

https://www.life.church/

Re-igniting the Flame

Hey there. So it’s been a long while since I’ve really sat down and written anything out. Writing has always been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. It’s sort of become a dying passion of mine, but I am eager to re-ignite that flame. I could probably come up with a hundred and two excuses, but probably the main ones that I’ve got are: I don’t have the time, and when I do have the time I feel exhausted and honestly would rather catch up with the back of my eyelids.

Being a mom has been such a blessing. I mean, truly. But since having a baby, I haven’t really squeezed much time in the daily for myself and the things that I used to love doing before I became a mother. Before I became a mother… I would wake up 2 hours before work just so I could spend time making sure my hair was styled appropriately and watching tutorials on makeup and hair so that I could try to figure out how in the world to do cateyes and beach waves. Which I never really figured out by the way. Before I became a mother… I would read and write and take selfies. Now before I go any further I’m gonna hit the pause button. Yes, I said selfies. Before having my daughter, I was just like the rest of the social media world and took hundreds of selfies. I cared about my image and what others saw when they came into contact with me. I wanted to look good. I think that’s okay. When I got pregnant last December, I still took selfies, pregnant selfies but not as many once my body really started to change. And then after having my precious baby girl, selfies became almost nonexistent in my world. I spent less and less time on my hair. Some weeks I wouldn’t even bother with makeup. Heck, I was lucky if I showered that day! 

I couldn’t tell you the last time I used a hair dryer. I used to straighten/curl my hair every day, now I just put some light product in and scrunch it to keep my natural curls. Shower or read? Makeup or hair? Breakfast or workout? All of these things that pose as a challenge once the baby is awake. As of May, I joined BeachBody on Demand. I not only wanted to make physical changes in myself but I wanted to create healthier eating habits as well. I have never been great at going to the gym. I like the idea of the gym more than I actually like going to the gym. As a non-gym-goer I always felt really small whenever I walked into the building. Now, I don’t mean physically small because I am naturally a small person but I mean metaphorically speaking, I feel like a grain of salt when I walk in. I don’t know what half the equipment is or how to use it. I don’t know how much I “should” be lifting, and I’m not about to go pretend to “bulk up” my non-existent muscles in front of body builders and personal trainers. Are you out of your dang mind?! And treadmills are a joke (which is basically all I knew how to do when I did go onceuponatime) as I stand there listening to music in my headphones as runners next to me are jogging or basically sprinting on the machines beside me, as I walk barely above a whisper at the ever slightest incline.

I did try out a few yoga classes when I went which I actually really enjoyed. But both of my favorite yoga teachers left and I was too pregnant by the time the second one moved away. After giving birth I had every intention (okay, that’s probably not entirely true) to return to my beloved treadmills, but instead my husband and I cancelled our membership and I joined the lifetime membership of motherhood and he joined a different fitness center with my brother.

It took awhile to start loving myself and my body again after having Evergreen. It is still a daily process. I still have stretch marks, I still have “love handles” and extra flab in my stomach that I would like to see disappear. I’m telling you this because I am not sure that you would believe me if we were standing face to face. I don’t know how many people were surprised at how quickly I lost all the baby weight after giving birth. Breastfeeding works miracles y’all! But seriously, in a short amount of time I had not only lost all pregnancy-baby weight, I was actually under my pre-pregnancy weight. I hadn’t weighed this since I first started college in 2010. I may have looked back to “normal” to the outside viewer, but inside, I felt weighted down and ugly. Weight has never been something I have struggled with. I’ve been fortunate enough to never have needed diets or strenuous exercise. But just this past May, I decided that something needed to change. I thought at first it was just a physical change that I was needing; I had goals of toning my muscles and just becoming the fit mama that I’ve always dreamed of becoming. But I also needed a heart change as well. I needed lifted up emotionally and spiritually. Joining BeachBody has been so great for me so far. I have met an amazing group of ladies that support me 100%. On days that I miss a workout or don’t eat as good as I should or I forget to drink water, they don’t curse me or reprimand me or make me feel small like I feel sometimes, they are there to encourage, congratulate and cheer me on towards my goal. It makes me want to help others reach their goals.

I took a year off of school after I had my daughter last September. I was making good headway in my masters program in counseling, but made the decision to take a year off to focus on being a new mom and figuring out how to embrace this new role. That’s a story I’d love to share with you soon. Because that has been a journey in and of itself. It is still one. I am going back to school this August. I have just 18 hours left to completion and I’d like to finish what I started. I don’t always finish what I start, but I’ve come too far, put in way too much time and money and effort for it to all go to waste— and this is a dream of mine that I don’t want to die. I have no idea if I will ever go back to “work”. My job right now as a mother is to stay home with my baby and teach her about Jesus and the things of this world. I don’t know if someday I will be called back into the working field. I have a few ideas and dreams that I haven’t made my mind up about yet. But hopefully by this time next summer I will be graduating and receiving my masters degree in counseling. I have dreamed about the idea of becoming an online counselor or even an online life coach. I don’t think that is too far or out of reach. I may have thought that a few years ago when I was in between majors and trying to figure out what exactly I was supposed to be when I “grew up”. Maybe I will never really know. But I have dreams and I would like to see them take form one by one, slowly, surely, positively.

I have hope for your dreams as well, dear reader. Whoever you are, wherever you are in this wonderful journey of life that we are given. I hope that you will find your dream and start doing what you need to do to start achieving and really believing that you truly are capable. Go get it, dreamer, you deserve this.

See you soon!

Love,

DN. ♡

From a little spark may burst a flame. — Dante Alighieri