Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I'm Sorry If My Happiness Offends You




I became a mother for the first time when Myspace was still cool, although it was running its course.  I was hearing chatter about a new and improved social media site called, Facebook.  I had no idea how to navigate my way around it, nor a desire to learn.  I was sleep deprived, anxious, and spent my days focusing on how many ounces of breast milk I could pump into a bottle.  As exhausting as it was, I had a pretty adorable baby to show for it. 

Once the dust had settled, and my son and I fell into a routine, I was able to figure out what Facebook was all about.  And you know what?  It was kind of fun.  After all, my idea of fun those days was when my husband came home from work, and I was able to take a hot shower without hearing phantom cries coming from the nursery. 

I became familiar with how the site worked, and attempted to figure out what the purpose actually was.  That part is still up for debate.  But what I found interesting was the universal mystery of someone who doesn’t post or comment often or at all. 

Myspace had a way that one could see the last time another had logged into their account.  Facebook has a few different ways of finding this out.  If we don’t see these people as active posters, we just assume they have lives outside of this virtual world and we somehow hold them in a higher regard.  I mean, only smart, emotionally stable people decide they don’t need to share their whole lives with us, attention whores, right?

But that’s a big, FAT lie.  There is a whole community of people who are on Facebook just as much as I am.  They snoop through all of your pictures, your videos, your comments and your feed, only to rarely “like” or comment, if ever.  But my favorite part is when they see you in person, and know everything about you, from Facebook of course.  And once that slips out, they’re exposed. 

It should come as no surprise, but I am virtually active.  And before I began posting anything about my life, I had mystery too.  People were aware that I recently had a baby and were curious about what he looked like and frankly, how fast I was shedding the baby weight.  People were eagerly awaiting a post, a comment, something, anything! 

At some point, I did want to show off my sweet bundle.  But there was an ugly truth lurking behind the status updates and deep within the newsfeeds of my virtual friends that I would soon find out.  No one actually wants to see your adorable baby, or mine. 

Once I gave into my urges to share, the floodgates opened and I received a ton of, “your little boy is so cute” and “you look amazing after just having a baby.”  Even though we all knew my jowls were still swollen and my lack of effort to cover my hormone acne with makeup was solid, I did appreciate the attempt at flattery.

The mystery of what was happening in my life was over.   The first mistake I made was posting pictures of my new family while in the hospital, in all our glory.  No I’m not talking about the money shot at the end of the tunnel, but the first family photo where my I.V.’s were still in my arm and my blood pressure cuff was strapped on.  You know, the ones I would soon regret ever showing a soul.

Apparently my ex-boyfriend saw them and had some nice things to say about me to a family member back in my hometown.  And by “nice,” I mean douche-bag comments.  But that’s to be expected and is neither here nor there.  Although I did let him have it through text message while in a hormonal rage.  It was definitely a shining moment of mine. 

I realized that my child, my marriage, and myself were all being judged and it was my fault.  I put myself out there thinking people actually cared to see what was going on in my life, but that felt like a broad misconception. 

Perception is reality on social media.  I have problems in my life like everyone else, but if I shared all of those with my watchers in the newsfeeds, would I become a “negative Nancy?”  It’s a fine line.

I will say that I have dozens of friends and family who are genuinely interested in my life and the rage against the ex-boyfriend was eventually settled in a peace treaty.  But not all 331 friends cared to see me as happy as I was, and I just had to get over that.  I had to accept the inevitable judgments if I was going to continue to be a part of the new “high school” that was, Facebook. 

With my youngest son, I made sure to post every picture that my heart desired; after all he was my baby.  If someone didn’t like it, they could hide my posts, block me, or “un-friend” me.  Now days there are many ways to politely reject someone without them ever knowing it.  And people did.  I found out that a few couldn’t tolerate the baby photos every day, or how expressive I was about my husband and children.  As surprised as I was, I really couldn’t have cared less.  I wasn’t “positive Polly” all of the time, but I also wasn’t on Facebook to please the people whom I hadn’t seen in over 10 years, by pretending to be a miserable housewife.  I was there to share my experiences with my family and friends, good or bad, who I sometimes, actually saw in real life.

What many don’t know about writers, and yes I consider myself a passionate one, is that we have the need to share information.  A never-ending, all consuming need to share.  Whether it be my day to day life lessons, the amazing meal I just ate at the restaurant down the road, or just how damn cute my baby is.  I’m an open book.

And yet, the sweet irony of it all is how quickly the tables turn.  Some of those who had a hard time watching my happy moments, are finally experiencing theirs.  Whether it’s the new puppy they can’t get enough of, landing the job of their dreams, or the new engagement ring.  Things are ever changing and always rearranging.

To those “friends,” the 95 wedding pictures you recently uploaded, they are so beautiful.  And the status update about the highs and lows of new parenthood, I completely relate and it will get better. 

And those of you who still have a hard time with my “timeline,” which hardly defines who I am, I’ll never apologize for my happiness, but I am sorry if it offends you.  Not because I did anything wrong, but because I hope one day, you will experience it too.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Struggle of the Juggle: Our Decision Not to Have More Children



 
My husband and I have hit the age and stage in our lives where, not only are we asked almost daily if we are going to have more children, but we truly are struggling with the decision to have just one more.  I'm not getting any younger and I've given myself a cutoff age of 35 if I decide to go for the gold on this.  We have 2 beautiful, healthy sons and sure, I sit and fantasize of having a sweet baby girl. 
 
I dream of how she would look, if she would resemble me.  I think of how her big brothers would protect her for the rest of her life and how precious it would be to witness such a relationship.  I could dress her in pink frill and take her to dance class.   What about another little boy?  I think of the closeness and bond 3 brothers would share.  Wrestling matches in the living room like there are today, but with one more opponent. 

My oldest asks for another brother at least once a month, and part of me is sure he would get one if we tried.  The theories are beautiful and storybook like.  I would be the mother who is proud of her 3 children and juggling the after school activities with grace and ease.  I would cook them all spaghetti and meatballs after sports practice and they'd make a red sauced mess all over my dining room table, only to have me laugh endearingly as I watch.

But I have no idea who this person is that I create during these fantasies.  She's surely not me!  She exists somewhere deep in my mind.  The mother I'll never be. 

She's calm and patient and only has aspirations of being the best mother and wife that exists.  She has all the time in the world for her children's thoughts, questions, activities and hobbies.  She devotes her time to cooking for her family and crafting for the holidays.  She's s beautiful, funny, poised, and has endless amounts of class.  Her husband is well taken care of.  He is able to go to work and never worry about dinner being put on the table or getting the groceries bought.  His wife and mother of his children would have all of that under control.  She's supportive of all of his desires and knows every rule in the game of football. 

The reality is, I am some of those things, with a twist of sarcasm, a pinch of neurosis, a generous amount of anxiety, a dash of controlling tendencies, a heap of imbalanced hormones, and when heated to just the right temperature or set to boil, the ability to over communicate pleasant honesty or ugly truths.  But that's not to say I don't try.  I have the biggest heart, the desire to help people and more love and feelings than I know what to do with.

Here's a little more truth for you.  I am not calm.  I'm actually kind of a wreck.  I try to be patient, but it runs thin pretty quick.  My aspirations are co-mingled with my goals, my husband's goals and our hopes and dreams for our children.  I make time for my children, I volunteer at school, but also need time for me and for my husband.  And even then, I feel like we will always be struggling to juggle the balance of family time and everything else.  I am no cook.  I have never learned, so I wing it with recipes and things that come in a jar or a box.  I have no time or patience for crafts, but I do a decent job when I want to.  I may be somewhat cute and sometimes funny, but poised and classy are probably 2 things I fall very short on.  I like to listen to extremely offensive rap and hip-hop music.  My husband definitely takes better care of me than I do him at this stage in our lives, but I love that man to no end.  I am supportive and am learning about football.  But one thing I am certain of, I will never have any of it under complete control.

It was set in stone that I wanted a 3rd child, until the following day when I was suddenly positive that I didn't. So I decided to research the topic.  The mull over whether or not to have more children is in fact a real thing that women go through and write about.  I found some great articles from mothers who struggle with the same feelings.  I felt comforted by the camaraderie that we as women and mothers share.  

There were many different perspectives on having more children, 2, 3, 4 or more.  And what I found common on both ends of the spectrum was the question; how do you handle stress?  The way we handle stress is an accurate indicator of how we will handle having more children.  I understood this concept and agreed. 

Deep down my head has told me I was done having kids.  Who was I kidding?  I can hardly handle the 2 I've got.  But my heart always liked to drift off into another world where it was all so easy.  Where we just follow our hearts and it all works out.

In my current state as a mother to Alijah, 6 and Parker, 2, I have my hands full.  Alijah is the snuggle-bug who will fall asleep wrapped in my arms. Meanwhile, Parker will only allow me to touch him on his terms, yet won't let me leave his side.  He only shows me affection when he wants something from me, or is being separated from me.  It's like I'm stuck in the friend zone with my own son, and all I want is to be in the mom zone, the really cuddly mom zone. 

I must be realistic about what having a 3rd child would mean for us.  We have friends who will soon be having a third, and more who talk about having a big family, and we are so happy for them.  We all differ in how we handle the demands of children; therefore, what's right for me may be a far cry from what is right for the next woman. 

After a lot of soul searching, being honest with myself, long talks with my husband and an epiphany of sorts, we've decided that another child is not what we really want.  What we really want is to travel with our boys, provide them with the love and attention that is required for them to grow into healthy little humans.  Give them as many experiences as we can for them to learn and transform into whatever their little hearts desire.  They love each other so much and we are so happy and content to have given them the gift of life and brotherhood.  And that is enough.  For them and for us.

And yes, selfishly, it's not just about what's right and good for them.  It's about what's right and good for my husband's and my marriage and our careers.  I have been working very hard to begin my career, and at the same time, juggling family and pregnancies.  I need to give myself this opportunity to succeed and relish in the success.  I needed a sense of finality on this topic and now feel content and satisfied with our decision.  

We will always miss our children as small babies.  But more so, we will enjoy the opportunities and experiences we will continue to share with them as they grow.  While closing the chapter on making babies, we can focus on raising them in the next.  I’ll be able to focus on my career and taking care of myself and begin to put my happiness on the list of priorities.  Feels surprisingly selfish to say that, yet intensely liberating.  My marriage, my role as a mother and our overall lives can begin a new chapter, starting with more sleep and maybe a little less coffee. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

10 Flaws That Became My Strengths




As I've entered my early 30's, I've become not only aware of my insecurities, but also very appreciative of my flaws.  When I say the word "flaws," I don't really believe them to be so, or would have ever defined them as that if I had the same perspective then, as I do now.  But as a child, adolescent and young adult, I truly thought they were flaws that I somehow needed to fix or wanted to wish away.  Now I sometimes laugh at the silly things that bothered me, but other times, I still catch myself feeling a type of way about a specific feature or characteristic of mine and have to have "the talk" with myself on self love all over again.

I believe we all need to start loving ourselves more, especially us women.  I have a few of my own things that my 21 year old self would have classified as flaws that I now can love and appreciate about myself and actually feel have become my strengths.

1. Pale Skin 
As far back as I can remember, I struggled with how pale my skin was. I was teased a lot as a
child, because all of my family and friends were either olive skin toned, or at least darker than I was, and my insecurity developed very quickly. It didn't help much that I burned so easily either.  In junior high and high school I never wore shorts, skirts or dresses and barely wore sleeveless anything. As I grew more comfortable in my own skin, I began wearing the dresses and shorts and realized, if someone had something to say about my pale skin, it isn't any problem of mine, it's a problem of theirs. And it didn't hurt to have a man by my side who still, till this day, loves everything about my pale skin. I'll always be the woman taking the extra 5 minutes to apply mounds of sunscreen before I step foot in the sun and I'll never again torture myself or my poor skin with another tanning bed. That's what spray tans are for people. And if someone wants to point out how pale I am, as if I don't already know, I just tell them, "I'm not pale honey, I'm porcelain."

2.  Freckles
Along with pale skin came the freckles of course. I was never given the story that freckles were angel kisses. My parents were pretty realistic and said "sorry honey but, I love your freckles." I didn't mind them so much until I began junior high, you know, the cruelest years of your life. I mean, a lot of other kids had freckles, but they always seemed to have something to off set it, like big breasts, or an athletic talent of some sort. I felt like my braces and small chest were only enhancing the problem. I'm just thankful my parents didn't make me wear my head gear to school.  But as I've grown, I've come to love how unique freckles are. Granted, they are more of a pigmentation issue, but I still really love my little freckles. I feel like "me" with them. Like if I was somehow missing them, I wouldn't feel quite myself. I love how they come out so strongly in the summer and then tend to fade in the fall and winter months. It's just my own cycle of freckledom.

3.  Small Breasts
Who doesn't love talking about small breasts? Couldn't you just talk about them all day? Well my small breasts were never something I could actually grow out of. I will never know the feeling of actually having naturally big breasts, except for when I breastfed my 2 boys. But that's a whole different kind of breast all together. I was insecure for all of the same reasons every girl was.  It was more of an issue for me when I was younger, probably because the stereotype went, 'men love women with big breasts,' I mean, hello! Luckily, I do have a little bit of a booty to offset the
small chest, but of course that didn't develop until I hit my late teens, so I guess you could say I gained one asset in the middle of the pale skin, freckles and small breasts. But to be honest, I think the point in my life where it all shifted was when I had my children. To watch your body not only transform, but miraculously grow a child, birth a child, then feed a child, is incredible.  I had the big chest for a while during and after my pregnancies and while it was for a completely different reason all together, I just had so much appreciation for what they did. They had a purpose and I was grateful for them for the first time. Now don't get me wrong, they were a lot different looking before my children, so I'm not saying there won't be an enhancement one day, but I am completely comfortable and confident with what I have, for now.

4.  Abundance of Emotions
As women we tend to be emotional and act on emotion. I like to call it passion. That way I avoid the all too often stereotypical comment about being an emotional woman. But I admit, I am a ball of emotions. I can feel not just my feelings to the extreme, but I can also feel yours, and yours, and yours, hell, all of yours. I am that passionate. I feel so deeply, because I know my purpose is to help others. I never knew that purpose until I had children, and as I've grown to look inward, I don't see my emotions as crippling me or causing me to make irrational decisions. I see it as my own gift to others in my personal life and in my professional life as a therapist. It truly is a gift, not a curse. And I hope every woman can find that gift in their own emotions.

5.  Sensitivity 
Do you guys think sensitivity is the same as emotional? See, some do, but I think it's completely different. I am sensitive in the way that I take things to heart. And not just like my feelings are hurt, although, that does happen, but I cry at everything. Most people don't even notice that I'm tearing up at the American Idol audition, or the Sprint commercial, but I am.  I tear up when my son tells me he passed his current set of spelling words, because I'm proud.  I used to believe I needed to hide it a lot more than I find myself doing at times, but it helps me to release my feelings and it also helps to connect me to others. I always remember reacting to my father as a young girl. I was obviously very dramatic, but I took everything personal and got my feelings hurt a lot. My father would always tell my I was too sensitive. And while I was sensitive, I don't think I was too sensitive, because I still am till this day, but I think that's just who I am. And instead of fighting it, I embrace it. I have had to learn to tell myself that just because something makes me feel a certain feeling, it doesn't mean it was intended to. That way I'm not running around feeling hurt and as if everything is about me, because it's not. People do and say hurtful things all the time, but it doesn't mean it was the intention, and that's the difference.

6.  Left Handedness
Where are my south-paws at? Anyone? Hello? Well, while there aren't too many of us, I seem to surround myself with them unintentionally. Obviously because we are awesome! I used to have the worst time in school sitting in those right handed desks, trying to act like it was no big deal that I had no where to rest my arm and elbow. As if I had mastered the art of wrist strength and could manage perfectly fine on my own. Yea it kind of sucked at times, but who really cares? There are much bigger problems in the world than the accommodations of my left hand.  It was just the thought of being somehow different, AGAIN. The funny thing is, is that I'm somewhat ambidextrous. I cut with scissors, bat and golf right handed, but do everything else left handed. I can write fairly well with my right hand, but it's definitely more comfortable with my left. They say that left handed people use the right side of their brain and are creative. And while I feel that is true in my case, I am also wired in many ways that a right handed person is said to be wired. I often feel like I have 2 complete different sides to me and maybe I do, but instead of fretting over being different from others, I have totally embraced being a south paw. I am very proud of it. Some of the world's greatest leaders and heroes are left handed. But I'm not looking to be President of the United States so you can rest easy there.

7.  Big Forehead
I never contemplated whether I had a big forehead or not until it was time to start caring about my appearance, maybe in junior high? I vaguely remember a boy making a comment about my big forehead, obviously in a negative way. I realized there was some truth to it just by looking in the mirror, but why did it have to be a bad thing? I asked my mom or aunt (can't say for sure) why I had a big forehead and the response I got every time was, "the bigger the forehead, the more beautiful you are." What I took from that conversation, was to stop asking family members for truths, because they would only say something to make you feel better. I grew out my bangs in hopes of covering up my new found insecurity, but all it did was give me forehead acne. Could a girl catch break? Was this really worth it? Once my forehead finally came out of the shadow of my bangs, I never once heard a comment about it again. The less thought and attention I gave to the ridiculous notion that bigger foreheads weren't acceptable, so did everyone else. So now, I flaunt that forehead around like no one's business, because it's not! It's my beautiful forehead!

8.  Forgiving Nature
I've had my share of pain, but who hasn't? No one person has it easy, and if they do, they'll eventually experience some sort of heartbreak in their lifetime and they'll be faced with a choice to forgive or not to forgive. I've always been one to smooth things over and make them seem ok even if they weren't. That doesn't necessarily mean I forgave immediately, but in the end, I always have. There's a saying that sometimes in order to move on, we have to accept the apology we never got. And that happens so often. Some things have happened to me where people around me have urged me not to forgive, because they felt I was letting someone off too easy by doing so, but I never had the energy to keep the hate going. I used to try to have a tougher exterior in hopes that people would take it as a sign not to hurt me again, but in the end, I was only hurting myself. Life is too darn short to be upset and mad all the time. I don't have the energy, simple as that. So if I have forgiveness in my heart, then maybe the ones around me who don't, can learn something from me. If we really want to be happy, and I mean really happy, we must learn to forgive. That doesn't mean to keep a situation the same or to take on something we are unhappy doing, it simply means we can forgive and move on, and be happy.

9.  Honesty
Honesty is an interesting topic. I am a person who likes to communicate, but not just communicate as in talk a lot, I like to communicate the truth. I have an eye for bullshit, pardon my French, and it feels like I'm allergic to it. So when I see or experience something that calls for truth and honesty, I'm there to say it or do it. I hate being fake. I can't pretend to like you, to hate you, or care for something if I don't. I wear my emotions on my face, so everyone will likely know what I'm thinking, it's just a matter of acting on that. I have scared a number of people out of my life due to their disdain for honesty, and that's perfectly okay by me. I am not someone who is unfiltered and lashes out at people. I know everything has a place and time. But if I'm asked a question, I tell the truth. If I'm crossed, I address the matter, and if there is a problem, YO I'll solve it! Not really, but I'll attempt to. One of my favorite quotes is "Everyone wants the truth, but no one wants to be honest." Ain't that the truth! I value honesty in others the way I think others value it in me. I pride myself on being honest. I never need to struggle to remember any sort of lie or fabricated story, because there is no need for it. There are so many people out there that are more concerned with portraying a false reality than actually living in a real one. What's wrong with honesty anyways? I think it makes life much more interesting!

10. I am an Open Book
So this kind of goes along with my too honest attitude. I've been asked if I should be as open as I am, due to the creepy internet trollers and being so exposed on the virtual web. I feel like if I tried to keep myself locked up tight then I wouldn't be accessible to people. That's not very conducive in a blogger's world. My main purpose in life is to help others and my way of doing that is by being open and honest about my life struggles and triumphs. I don't want people to ever feel alone. I want them to feel like they have someone to relate to and that doesn't work when you're hiding things or making yourself unavailable to do so. I know there are some crazy people out there and if I was just a private person who didn't want to be bothered, I would privatize my whole life the best way I knew how, but that's just not me. I take ownership in my wrong doings as well as my rights and I think others can appreciate that kind of honesty. I'm here to share that with others. If someone doesn't like it, they don't have to read it. The great thing about the internet is that you can click someone out of your screen. I don't claim to be everyone's favorite person or cup of tea, but if I can be of any help to anyone, whether it be my sarcastic, honest attitude, or my deep feelings of emotion, than great. I might be down right annoying in your life, but to another person, I might be making a real difference. And that's what I really care about.

So there you have it.  My 10 flaws that became my personal strengths.  I feel like my insecurities actually made me more confident as an adult.  I am who I am.  We are who we are.  Aside from the things we continue to work on, we should accept the little flaws and nuances of what make us unique.  My big forehead isn't going anywhere, so all I can do is love all of it!
     


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Falling Stars: Depression vs. The World



I am not a doctor, I'm not even a licensed therapist.  I am a graduate student who will one day sit in an office and listen to others tell me their problems and demons.  At this stage in my prelude to a career, I'm not claiming to know it all or have the answers to any burning questions out there, but I have a strong opinion on something profound and prevalent in today's world and society.

There is a disorder out there that has been affecting our world for thousands of years.  It's delivered in many forms.  It masks itself and tricks people into thinking lies are the truth and reality is darkness.  It can stem off and cause new disorders and even diseases, or can even be brought on by other diseases and illnesses.  It's ugly and loud, and is most frightening because it doesn't discriminate.  It affects the rich, the poor and everyone in between, but for all of us "little" people out there, we see it on a grander scale among the lives o f celebrities.  And since we have so much access to pieces of their lives, they are on display for all to judge, criticize and obsess over. That fact right there, contributes to and heightens the killer.  Oh yea, did I mention it can kill?  And get this, it's invisible to the human eye.  If that's not scary, I don't know what is.

Depression.

There is not one person on this earth that doesn't either know someone with it or is personally affected by depression.  There are thousands, maybe millions who go undiagnosed, but everyone is affected.  Everyone is susceptible and no one is safe.  To act as if you're in some way above depression, better than depression or don't believe it exists, you're sorely wrong.  No one is above it, or better than it.  Because no one gets to choose.  To believe it doesn't exist is ignorance.

Our brains are made up of chemicals, and we need just the right amount in order to avoid depression over all, but sometimes that doesn't even save us. Sometimes we don't have the right amount to keep us healthy, sometimes our bodies aren't able to get the chemical(s) to our brain properly, and sometimes an event causes a shift or change in the balance of these chemicals.  We can actively make an effort to ward it off, cope with it, or prevent it by doing physical activity and/or things that make us happy.  As many who workout know, what a great feeling working out can give you.  Partaking in things we are passionate about also gives us a great sense of accomplishment and can help with depression. But many are not so lucky.

For any of you who have children, or better yet, imagine yourself at the age of 6, if you can even remember that far back; were you as impressionable as my 6 year old is?  My son is a sponge.  He is at an age where he is learning about societal rules; the do's and don'ts of the world.  It's very confusing for him.  A lot of "why?" questions engross my time with him, which is okay, although, I am often sad at the answers I have for him.  His guess is a better, more rational answer than I have for him.  Why and how our world has become what it has, doesn't feel good enough for him in my eyes.  He deserves a better and deeper reasoning for why some things are the way they are.  The fact that the reasons stem from hatred, racism, ignorance, etc., is confusing and even hurtful to a young boy his age.  He has compassion for others and an innocence that keeps him searching for answers.  His thoughts are not warped, jaded or complicated, yet.  His thoughts are simple, which is how it should be.  When, why and how did things get so complicated?  

Imagine if I were to put him in an acting class at this age and let him learn not just about real world society, but about the "business" as so many like to call it.  Imagine if my 6 year old son, or your 6 year old self was thrust into the business and now sitting in an acting class, being taught how to be someone he's not and told that he has a gift, a talent.  Imagine telling him that he needs to turn that talent on during an audition, then be judged during the audition and likely receive the gut wrenching, painful feeling of rejection.  It hurts my heart to even imagine my son going through that.  How would that child cope with the rejection?  Because you know what?  It's not normal for a child to be judged like that and told they aren't good enough at such a young age. And that doesn't just apply to 6 year old kids, that's all impressionable, young children.  Even into adolescence, we are still trying to build our self worth.  If all a child grows up on is what other people tell them they are worth, how do they cope?  Were they taught coping skills for the rejection and "constructive" criticism?  I doubt it.

As many young stars begin their rise in the business as children, why are we so surprised when they fall as young adults and into their later years?  They are children.  Young, innocent children who think they are making their parents and loved ones proud by doing something that they all want them to do.  As much as we don't always see or know it, children want to please others and they yearn for approval.  So if the basis of their foundation is to please the parents, the agent, the manager and the bosses on set, what's left for them?  What continues to build them up as human beings and not just as dollar signs, in a business built to tear them down?

I was almost this girl.  I wanted to be an actress at a young age more than anything in the world.  I wouldn't shut up about it.  Finally, my mom got me an agent and I began acting classes.  I remember sitting in a chair at the office of my management company and they were putting color palettes up to my face in order to tell me what colors I should or shouldn't wear for head shots and auditions.  My makeup and hair was done up.  I didn't even look like myself.  I remember receiving my first taste of criticism when I overheard them give an overwhelming, in unison response to how I looked next to a pastel palette.  The women's voices got high and all I was hearing was, "oh no, pastels are not her colors.  Don't put her in anything with a pastel.  She is much too fair."  And while that shouldn't have felt like a critical statement, it did.  I think I was around 7 years old and I wanted to crawl under a rock.  I remember my cheeks getting hot and I felt like I did something wrong, all because I didn't look good in pastels.  The way they said it stuck with me all these years later.  You can imagine how I look at a pastel anything these days without that thought running through my mind.  Can you imagine if I had stayed in the business?  After some acting classes and a few auditions, we received a call from my agent.  My mom and dad had recently decided to divorce just before the phone call came, so when my mom hung up, she told me that I got the part in the commercial I went for, but that I couldn't fulfill the commitment, because we were moving. And that we did.  I remember crying and crying, begging her to let me do it.  But it never happened.  Some would say I dodged a bullet.  And I probably did.

In my early 20's after completing my general education in college, I decided I was going to move to L.A. to pursue an acting career.  It was now or never and I chose to do it.  I started making living arrangements and had set a tentative date to move, and then I met the love of my life.  I hesitated, but knew I couldn't live without him.  I was going to marry this guy and have babies with him, was what I told myself.  And I did.  I feel like he saved me from another bullet.  At 20 years old, I was still at an impressionable age and my naivety was seeping out of my pours.  Hollywood and I weren't meant to be.  Looking at Hollywood today, I can't imagine what I would have gone through and don't know how much I would have even been able to endure.

So many of us watching Hollywood on the big screen want to judge all of these celebrities for abusing alcohol and drugs, for being reckless and selfish, and even taking their own lives.  But I haven't a clue on how I would have coped with the stress and pressure that was expected of me, let alone the competition.  Who knows who I would have become.  And that's why we hear so much of the celebrity who overcame an addiction that they had early on in their career, or see the young stars falling like meteors, crashing and burning, killing opportunities and throwing potential away like yesterday's trash.  Hollywood isn't made up of hundreds of addicts who had a genetic predisposition for all things reckless.  The way in which Hollywood and the business raises children is unnatural.  It's harmful from the gate and there's no way out of a mentality that's been built on living to please others at any cost.  A person has to recondition their brain.  They have to put in work to learn self worth, self love and learn to leave all of the people, maybe even family members that surround them with anything less, behind.  It's the ugliest black hole and that's why they say it will chew you up and spit you out.  Only a few survive, and many of them didn't start out as child actors.  Think that's a coincidence? Me either.

For some reason depression hasn't been talked about much, it doesn't seem to be taken as seriously as other illnesses.  Do we as a society not understand that depression is as serious, heart breaking, painful and debilitating as any other disease?  It can mentally and physically incapacitate a person and stop them right in their tracks.  It's not something to push to the side or take lightly, but we continue to do so.  Are we in denial?  Then we are so incredibly quick to judge and point fingers when the symptoms of a downward spiral gain momentum.  We are ignoring what's right in front of us.  Mental illness affects everyone.  It's more common than any of us can fathom.  So please, lets wake up!  Lets start treating this illness with the severity it deserves.  Lets stop treating others as if they should be ashamed or hide it.  Alienation is one of the absolute worst treatments any one person can experience, especially a person with depression.  In this society, we are taught to mask our problems and not let anyone know how we're feeling.  No one in Hollywood stops what their doing to go talk to a therapist about how their feeling on their path of rejection and exhaustion.  No struggling actor has insurance or money to pay for that.  So they smoke a few joints, take a few shots and pop a molly, creating and adding bigger problems for themselves, such as addiction.  This isn't just Hollywood, obviously.  This is you and this is me.  Everyday people who struggle with the stresses and pressures of every day life, of childhood memories, of rape, of domestic violence, and of genetics, etc.  This list of trauma goes on and on.  I felt compelled to use Hollywood, celebrities and fame as a prime example of why we see it in the forefront so often. It's not an epidemic, it's been around since the beginning of man kind.  It's been known by many other names, and today it's known as depression. 

The hardest part is taking the first step in getting help.  Talking to a friend, a family member, or a therapist are just a few ways one can get help.  It's about reaching out and getting what is in your head, out of your head.  You're not alone.  No one is alone.  And we would all be more than surprised if we sat down with one another and had an honest conversation about feelings and emotions.  We're all made of the same flesh and bones.  We all have hearts and we all experience pain.  We can use each other as shoulders to cry on, and ears to listen.  People who have learned to cope in healthy ways can share those tools with people who don't have them.  Help one another out and stop acting like this doesn't exist. 

Depression is treatable, no one has to suffer in silence.  We need to make the acknowledgement that depression is real.  Depression can feel like an endless abyss of darkness, you just need to reach out  for help in order to turn the light on. 

One glimmer of hope can save someone's life. 

Awareness is key.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or any other mental disorder, you can click the link below for help or call 1-888-771-5166.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is



How many of you have heard the expressions, put your money where your mouth is, practice what you preach, or prove it?  Well, I've decided to do that. I have more on my plate than I ever have and yet I still find time for things like Facebook or Instagram.  I'm rarely at a lunch or dinner where one of us is on one of them at some point and it's just sad. I'm a wife and full time mom to 2 active boys who need a lot of attention. I'm a grad student and in the middle of getting my new home unpacked and renovated.  How can I possibly give all of the important things in my life the love and attention it needs if I constantly find things to distract me, such as social media? The answer is, I can't.  I love sharing my life with others, especially with family who live far away. That is who I am in nature. I blog for goodness sake. I will always have a passion to share information about what I've learned from experiences. I am proud of my family and friends and love interacting with  them as much as I can, even if it's only through social media. The problem here is, I'm really not giving my actual life 100% of "me," because I'm also fitting an unnecessary internet life in there too.  From sharing pictures, to status updates, to party invitations. There's not a whole lot you can't do on these sites.  I'm too engaged in showing the life I'm living on social media that I'm taking away from my engagement in my real life. Most of us are guilty of this to some extent, I have just made a personal decision to do something about it.

I'm challenging myself to 14 days free from Facebook and Instagram. I'm wondering if I'll survive and make it through the moments when I take a picture of my kids that is so adorable, it would be a shame for no one else to see it. I hope I can stand not being up to date on what everyone is up to. What if I miss a party?  What if I miss a pregnancy or engagement announcement? 

What IF I spend more quality TIME with my CHILDREN?
What IF I spend more TIME working on MYSELF?
What IF I LIVE in the MOMENT
What IF I LOVE IT?
Now that's EXCITING.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Mommy Cultures




The Pre "Baby Fever" Woman:

Before I ever considered having a child, I knew I wanted 5 children, a 2 story house, and the white picket fence, obviously.  I loved how chunky a baby could get and how good they could smell.  I had names picked out before the husband and knew how many years my kids would be apart.  It was so easy then.  To dream and plan a future so far in the distance is nothing but innocent fun.  I never thought once about any one of the most common touchy-topics I, as a mother have faced and deal with today.  The things I thought about were light and fun, and I think that's just how it should be when you're no where near considering having a child.  So for you women who do NOT have babies on the brain, keep dreaming, because in the end, that's what it all really is, a dream, NOT reality.  Just focus on NOT having a baby and you can keep that dream alive.

The Mother to be:

When I first learned I was pregnant with my first child, it was a feeling like no other.  Scared shitless.  My computer is telling me that "shitless" is not a word.  I don't care, it's a feeling, a VERY strong feeling, so I will continue on and leave it there when what my laptop would be happiest with is if I said shit-less.  Just doesn't have the same effect.  Anyway, I tried very hard for my first child.  Like, VERY hard, so you couldn't have told me that I would feel so undoubtedly afraid, and that after I smiled at my husbands face after telling him that we finally got what we'd been hoping for, I closed the door and cried in the shower tears of pure fear.

After getting over the shock of it all, I accepted the happy news and found all things joyous about it and went with that feeling instead.  So for the first 3 weeks that I was able to enjoy actually knowing I was pregnant, I walked around smiling and day dreaming of my perfect baby, perfect family I was going to have and how FUN it would be. 

Week 6 hit and I wanted to crawl under a rock until the 24-hour hangover feeling went away.  And anyone who knows me knows I am the hangover queen.  I wasn't handling it well to say the least.  After I came out of my nauseous fog at 14 weeks, I began googling everything.  Ugh, now my computer is telling me that "googling" is not a word either.  How is that not a word by now?  It's practically a verb that is so conducive in today's society, many of us would either be dead if we didn't do it, or many of us would be a lot happier.  Regardless, you get what I'm saying.  So I figured a few things out by taking important key words to google.com.  
Words and questions like:  When does morning sickness go away?, constipation, iron deficiency, what CAN I eat while pregnant?, what do I take when I am sick?, sleeplessness, muscle spasms, mucous plug, sex during pregnancy, baby names, hormones, husbands who don't understand what you're going through, epidurals, perineum, birthing plan, natural birth, etc. 
The list could go on and on. 

All the internet did was scare me shitless once again and cause me to shut down and go back into my cave called denial.  I read the book "What to Expect When Expecting" and that was pretty standard and tame so for most of the pregnancy, I stuck with that.  At this stage of "Motherhood," to be honest, I was more concerned about how the pregnancy would be affecting me while my little monkey was happily taking over my body, than I was about what kind of reality would hit me when he swung off the tree and into my arms.  I was doubting my word of choice with denial a little earlier, but it's sounding more and more perfect, the longer this post gets. 

In late pregnancy I joined this club...or group...or cult called Facebook.  Have you guys heard of it?  I thought so.  Once I joined Facebook, I found out that I was actually not a very good pregnant woman or a very good mother-to-be.  I realized I hadn't put any thought into whether I would or would NOT vaccinate, circumcise or feed my son organic food.  I was basically told indirectly and passive aggressively that I was doing my child a HUGE disservice by NOT considering to NOT do or DO any of these things.  I mean I was told these things by a highly opinionated, uneducated former high school classmate of mine.  Like, I should definitely take her approach and information for all things to do with my child and run with it.  This was a moment when I realized that I would never stop being judged as a mother and woman from this point on.  I was no longer looked at as someone who could make her own decisions about my child, but I was an opportunity for someone to preach to me about something they know more about, because they had a baby 6 months before me. 

I was scared shitless, still.

The Mother of One:

While I was contemplating how I've basically wasted 9 months of my pregnancy on NOT considering whether or NOT to DO or NOT do what all of what my fellow mothers were doing on Facebook, I went into labor.  Shit, I'd already fucked up my child, because I was still NOT prepared to do something other than what my husband and I had already decided we would do.  So do I circumcise my son even though the know-it-all, former classmate wouldn't approve?  And do I give breast feeding my best shot and see how it goes even though that stay at home mom who is still breast feeding her baby at 2 years old told me it's the ONLY way to give my baby proper nutrition?  Obviously doing my best wasn't going to be good enough.  I HAD to do it right?  For like, at least a year, right?  And while I was recovering from my vaginal birth that my Facebook friend told me to do epidural-free (which I didn't, shockingly) I was faced with the vaccination opportunity.  As the doc was coming in to give my son his first vaccine, I asked about it.  He gave me a very thorough run down of the reasons, the risks and so on and then asked me if I was considering not doing it.  I told him I had always planned on vaccinating my child, but until recently hadn't thought about the option not to do it.  He asked me what sparked that.  I told him, "oh this girl I went to high school with told me it was poison to my baby."  Once he asked me if she was a professional who gave me advice, I told him, "no, she just had her first baby less than a year ago and that's it."  I listened to myself say those words and that was all I needed to hear.  I was doubting MY decision over some opinionated know-it-all who wanted to change the world in many different ways one vulnerable, inexperienced mother at a time.  They should make a "NO SOLICITORS" filter for Facebook these days.

Needless to say, I spent the first few years of motherhood getting unsolicited advice from many new mothers who swore their way was the right way because it worked for them.  I was inexperienced, and sleep deprived, perfect ingredients in creating an insecure mother.

Questions I would be prepared to answer when having my 2nd son:

Do you plan to circumcise? That's NONE of your business.
Do you plan to breast-feed? That's NONE of your business.
     If so, for how long?  Please refer to my answer above.
Do you plan to feed your baby only organic food?  Yes if I win the lottery, absolutely.
Do you plan to vaccinate your children?  That's NONE of your business.
Do you plan to co-sleep?  That's NONE of your business.

The Mother of Two:

I circumcised my second son, just like my first.  That is my right, and my choice.  A choice that my husband and I came to with careful thought and consideration. 

I breastfed my second son for 8 months.  I am BEYOND proud of myself and my son for our teamwork during that time.  It was NOT easy and I have been very forthright about that from the beginning.  The bond we shared will be a wonderful memory.  With my first son I gave him breast milk for as long as I could and I am SO proud of him and I as well.  We share an amazing bond for other reasons than breast feeding. 

I fed my second son pureed organic fruits and veggies until his appetite and food preference expanded.  Then I retired my Whole Foods purchases and 2 years later, I am happy when he will eat an apple without sucking the juices out before spitting it all out.  My first son ate fruits and veggies from the store bought jars.  I am SO happy he survived.  Looking back, it seems as though I should have been worried.

I vaccinated both of my children and wouldn't change that decision.  I did much more research the second time around and still came to the same conclusion.

My husband and I never co-slept with either of our children.  With both of our sons, I did skin to skin at night for hours as infants. One of my absolute favorite memories.  I brought them up to bed with me from their bassinet when they cried or couldn't sleep because they wanted to be near me.  I took naps in my bed with both of them as babies, held them in my arms for countless hours.  I snuggle them both to sleep at night, to this day.  We comfort them when they have bad dreams.  They lay in between my husband and I when they are sick and fevered.  I don't need to explain why we don't co-sleep and I'll never have to explain that to my children, because they know that they are never too far from Mommy and Daddy. 

This is not me, trying to bash any mothers or fathers who are making different decisions than us or are making some and not all.  This is me trying to help other mothers out there, or soon to be mothers, or women who want to become mothers, that there is NO NORMAL.  As mothers we are on the internet, on Facebook, talking with our friends and family comparing stories because all we want to feel is accepted and normal.  There's nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with trying to change who we are as women and mothers, just to fit a mold.  Just to follow a fad.  And believe it or not, so much of motherhood has become a fad these days.  Mothers have been breast feeding for thousands of years, we do not need to make mothers who can't or choose not to, feel any less than an incredible mother.  That is not ok.  There will always be backlash in any culture where there are opinions and different perspectives, but as women and mothers, we should support one another in the decisions we make.  Not try to change them with information that is unwanted and unwarranted.  Respect is something we need a lot more of in these Mommy Cultures.  To respect someone else's point of view will not hurt us, but hopefully enlighten us. 

I am someone who chooses to be very open about my struggles and triumphs in life, but mostly in motherhood.  I am honest and only want to help and encourage other women and mothers to do the same.  I try my absolute best to only give my opinion when it's called upon.  I don't like to shove my view down someone else's throat, but if you ask, I will tell you with 100% honesty.  And when it comes to motherhood, I would be doing any mother a disservice if I sugar-coated an ounce of it.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

10 Joys of Being a Mom to Little Boys



If you had asked me 15 years ago what I envisioned having children would be like, I would have likely told you that I would have a boy first, then 2 years later have a girl. Somewhere in there I would have stated that it would be fun and that babies are cute.  You know, because my naive 16 year old self actually believed that things just worked out the way I wanted them to.  I probably wouldn't have envisioned never having a daughter, yet raising 2 boys, 4 years apart in age.  I'll say what all mothers should say and would say at this point, and I'm being sarcastic even though I 100% mean what I'm about to say.  I wouldn't change having my 2 boys for anything.  There I said it, I obviously love them to no end and would die for those little monsters, but you must understand, I grew up with all sisters and 1 step-brother.  I was as unprepared for this angle of motherhood as any one person could be, but I sure am making the most of it.  As often as I go through the day whining to myself and anyone else that will listen, of all the woes that I deal with on a daily basis, I laugh my way through it too.  Because watching your child grow up is as new to me as it is familiar.  I'm watching them relive my own childhood in so many ways.  It's fascinating, and it comes with some great, and unforgettable memories I will lock in the vault forever.  Here are my top 10 greatest 'joys' so far. I can't wait to see what's in store for me in the next 6 years.

1.  What's a Clean House?

A clean house has worked it's way so far down the priority list that when someone tells me they cleaned their house, I immediately respond with, "well, I cleaned my boys last night in the bathtub, and that took place in my house, so..."

2.  Sleeping With Boys:

A mom of boys is the only person who can truthfully say she had a wild night with a few boys and woke up with both of them in her bed, and it be completely acceptable.

3.  Farts:

In a household full of boys, the word farts, the smell of farts and the act of farting is like any other hobby out there.  It's fun to do, they are good at it, and everyone but mom usually gets a good laugh.

4.  Laundry:

I do more loads of laundry in one week than most do in a month.  Having boys could be compared to having little broadway actors who require constant costume changes.  Except the costume changes of my 2 sons come at the expense of dirt, snot, potions that smell like vinegar and sour milk, dead bugs and the ever popular poop, from either the dog or my 2 year old.

5.  Backseat Brawlers:

A mom of boys can always find a moment of peace while brothers go at it in the backseat for the first 20 seconds.  At least until the first punch is thrown, or until one of them screech a blood curdling scream.  Then, I'm snapped back to reality.  If they aren't talking or screaming at me for a response, I choose to have my own thoughts for as long as they allow.

6.  Apologizing in Public:

A mom of boys can frequently be seen apologizing to others in public places for the sounds and smells coming out her child, whether it's being done by accident or on purpose for comedic relief.  We can be seen apologizing for the all too honest statement made about the lady in front of us in line who decided to pretend she didn't hear my little angel's observation, while she clenches her jaw.  Or just for the constant machine gun sounds, or any other gun sounds coming out of his mouth, followed up by the invisible gun  pointed at every person who walks by. Sometimes I tell the passer-biers that he wants to grow up to be a soldier and fight for out country, hoping they'll find him endearing, rather than annoying.  But my cover is always blown when my son yells out "NO I DON'T, MOM!"

7.  The Sweet Smell of Dirt:

I can be away from my boys, having some free time and suddenly get a whiff of dirt, then immediately  become sentimental, because the smell of dirt always reminds me of my kids.  It's that smell after they come in from the backyard where they just "saved" 100 rollie-pollies by sealing them into a tupperware filled with water for them to drink.  Or being at the park running around in 85 degree weather, sweaty and sand filled from hair to toe.  I've never appreciated the smell of dirt so much.

8.  The Potty Wars:

I can go to any other person's house and while using the restroom, I automatically try to put the toilet seat down whether it's already down or not, wipe the toilet seat, or try to avoid wet spots at the base of the toilet on the bathroom floor.  It's like being on auto-pilot.  I have mastered this technique in my sleep just so I don't have to sit on another toilet without the seat down, or sit on a wet toilet seat, or better yet, step on the drops of pee that didn't make it into the toilet.  It's become a game that I've realized will only be won by acceptance.

9.  The Crying Game:

In our house, either I am crying or the boys are crying.  It can be sparked by stress of my rambunctious and uncontrollable boys, or by how they can display such love for one another that it brings me to tears.  To watch a brotherly bond be built is definitely worth a good cry, but so is the meltdown they both just had over who's going to have the last fruit roll-up.  I never know what kind of day I'll get, I just hope I get lucky and have 2 fruit roll-ups on hand.

10. Forgiveness

I can go from pleading with my boys and almost waving my white flag, to being the most grateful mother on earth for having my sons.  See, the moment my oldest sees that he's hurt my feelings or made me upset to the point of no return, he can and will say things like, "mom, you're a princess, the most beautiful princess in the world and I love you."  Followed by a dozen kisses to my face.  It's like he works for the Matrix and has just erased my memory.  I literally may start to tear up out of joy and tell him he's the best child on the planet, all while choosing to forget the completely offensive comment he just made.  Probably something like, "mom, are you pregnant? Or did you just eat a lot of food again?" I'm always forgiving and thankfully, I know they are always forgiving me as well.

I have no doubt that in 20 years my boys will be offering me up more than a top 10 list of 'joys' of being the sons to their mother.