Are you here? Or is it just me?
I don’t know what it is. But I am stuck. I can’t move. I can’t make. I can’t even start. It’s scary and there is no plan and I have no idea where to begin. I don’t know where I am going. There is so much I want to learn but I cannot seem to think of anything, all at the same time.
Where do I start? How do I make the first move? I mean, why should I? I’m busy. I have a house to maintain. There are dishes to do, laundry to fold, and a lawn to mow. How dare I take time to make something, that, in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, “matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.”
Are you with me?
Who I am as a person has always been more than my daily tasks. At my core I am a maker, a creative, and a lover of color and craft. During this quieter season of “daily essentials” I have continued on my path as an admirer of beautiful work, but I have not been the one creating it. & it’s chipping away at my soul. There is something in me that is begging to be released. My creativity is killing me, and pushing me forward all at the same time.
I recently went back to counseling again, which I have always talked about here, as a positive part of my life. I will continue to believe that there is not an ounce of shame, but rather great strength, in seeking out counseling to improve managing our lives and working on becoming better people. (note to my fellow military spouses, counseling is a completely covered benefit under Military One Source!!) I was recently listening to Brene Brown’s Rising Strong on a long road trip I took with my kids, and constantly heard stories of her and her therapist’s journey. Why can’t we welcome professional help openly & deem it a sign of great strength? Don’t we all want to be better? Do better? Well I do. & what I know is that my counselors through the years have helped me connect the dots in ways I couldn’t myself. & recently, my creative block has been a big part of my work in therapy. To be more specific, why am I NOT being creative? How is this impacting my life, and the lives of the other people under my roof that have to deal with my pent up creativity? & probably, most importantly, do my talents have to generate income, for me to believe they are a valuable part of my life?
That’s a biggie right there. Did you see it?
Do my talents have to generate income, for me to believe they are a valuable part of my life?
Well, I know the answer. But it was really hard to admit it. & sometimes, it IS really hard to do something and deem the work valuable if it only serves you. But here’s what I am learning: it doesn’t only serve me. My creative work makes me shine. Like, from the inside, because it makes me so happy. It gives me an outlet that I don’t have while being a mom or a wife or a yogi or anything else. It gives me a sense of self that is greater than my more routine roles. It may not be paid work right now (and that is ok!!) but when I am ready, and find the path that makes sense in the future, it probably could be.
I think this is one of the great problems that we moms who leave the work force to raise our kids run into–what deserves our time and attention, aside from our great big job with no paycheck? What defines us, beyond being a mother? and a wife? and a chef and lawn mower and house cleaner? You know what I mean. What makes us happy, and puts us in to that incredible state of flow that Csikszentmihalyi wrote about. I remember reading his book in college and spending all my time in the art studio wondering if this feeling, the one I get when I am creating, is what he meant.
See, this creating. It’s always in there. Yearning, longing. It must find its way out.
I have all these ideas for businesses and working and generating income, but I am going to just let it be for now. I am just going to make. & what comes of that, I don’t yet know–but something will. Because this is the journey. It’s part of my story. Like this blog outlet that I created almost ten years ago while I had a “real job” and was earning a great salary (which, thanks to saving, allows me the opportunity to stay home with my kids), but left me feeling completely unfulfilled. Then the color consulting business, that turned into a photography business that turned back into just a blog and then babylogs, before I stepped away & hit pause. It’s not all for nothing. & after this podcast (episode #1) socked me in the gut, I am even more convinced. Each part has brought me to this place of discomfort. & maybe, as Brene Brown says, it’s this face down moment when I can see the clearest.
& all I can see, is color and paint and patterns and textures and creation.
So I went to my favorite coffee shop and finally dove into a calligraphy kit that I ordered two years ago. & it felt SO good. I had a moment of flow in my day, and you know what?
Everyone around me felt my joy. & my peace.
It’s not just for me. It makes me the best me.
& everyone benefits from that.
Beautiful lettering above by Stately Type, one of my favorite IG accounts and an awesome pair of makers. We love their work & t-shirts!
Back to weekly posting??! I don’t know…I’m not going to jinx it! :)
Three weeks ago, I had to have surgery on my wrist. There was a giant bump on it and while it had bugged me for a while, it recently got to the point where I couldn’t do chaturungas or weight bear on it for planks. I had to do something about it. I need yoga like I need air to breathe & it was getting in the way. I was even struggling to chop during my food prep. So I had surgery. & I completely underestimated the blow that the recovery would take to my overall productivity, particularly in the kitchen. I prepped a bit before surgery but figured it’d be no big deal. My surgeon even assured me that on a scale of 1-10, my husband’s cases were a 10 & mine was maybe a 2. So seriously, NBD. (I think the lesson that I learned was that nothing, and I mean NOTHING is “a big deal” when you are married to a heart surgeon…gushing blood? NBD. It’s not coming from your aorta. Get over it. A little bump? Just “pop it out.” HA. HA.) Well, the ganglion cyst I had removed ended up being the size of a silver dollar–so no small little invasion to my tiny wrist. I’m still splinted and immobilized, which makes food prep–a huge part of my life–a challenge. Enter: smoothies.
Over the summer I went home to visit my parents and used their Vitamix daily. I had long convinced myself that my eleven year old blender that I received as a wedding gift was FINE. Totally fine. But then…I used a Vitamix. Oh, it really is as awesome as every lucky duck who had one told me it would be. & I just couldn’t work it into our budget right now. But my incredibly generous parents decided to surprise me with one (this is the one I love!) & since the day it arrived, I don’t think I’ve used it any less than twice a day. It is AWESOME. It has literally saved me during this recovery!! So I have been experimenting. :)
My dear friend Dr. Christine Maren (are you following her blog & IG? You should be! She is a fantastic nutrition educator, and the person to whom I credit for my major family food overhaul) introduced me to this amazing vegan peanut butter shake a few weeks ago. It sure hit the spot. But she says all sorts of stuff about peanut butter and toxins and blah blah blah (Sorry Christine, nutrition is a value, but not a passion of mine so I will leave the enthusiasm & science to you!) and I started altering it to my taste. If you knew me back in Texas, then surely you saw me sleep deprived and holding a Frapuccino, which I downed almost daily. It’s been probably two years since I last had one & I haven’t found a yummy drink to replace it with, that isn’t loaded with sugar and junk. Until NOW! Is it a paleo frapuccino? A vegan frapuccino? I don’t know. I don’t like labels. & apparently you can only buy frapuccinos at starbucks, so I know it’s a whole lot healthier than those! I don’t always drink coffee in the morning anymore, so often I’ll whip one of these up around lunchtime with a little snack. So. Yum. I’ll call it the Almond Joy Frappé.
Please note: we eat a pretty low sugar diet, and I know my tastebuds have definitely changed since we moved toward what I like to call “Paleo-ish” eating. (More on that ASAP!!) I cook with natural sweeteners and very rarely use refined sugar. So I am now very sensitive to things that are sweet. This will not be super sweet if you are used to & love a sugary frappucino, but it is worth a try until you rework those taste buds. Those of you already eating mostly Dairy Free, Sugar Free & Gluten Free will hopefully love this as much as I do!
Almond Joy Frappé | Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Naturally Sweetened
- 1/2 cup cold brew concentrate**
- 1/4 cup filtered water
- 1 1/2 tablespoon raw cacao powder (a bit more, if I am being totally honest!)
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 3 soft dates, pitted
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
- 3-4 handfuls of ice
- Blend all ingredients except the coconut and ice in the blender. A high powered blender like a Vitamix is the best option. I use the smoothie setting on my Vitamix.
- Blend coconut flakes and ice. I use the smoothie setting a second time.
- & enjoy!
**note: not ready to drink cold brew coffee. You want to use the concentrate, which you typically dilute 1:1 with water. I get mine at my favorite cold brew coffee shop, but you can buy concentrate at the grocery store. You could also make your own, which I used to do with my beloved Philz coffee.
You may wish to increase the coffee flavor by subbing the 1/4 cup of water with additional cold brew concentrate.
I like to use coconut flakes instead of shreds, as it leaves a little left to “chew” in the actual smoothie–kind of like the bits in a java chip frapuccino.
Now I wonder if I could come up with a pumpkin version…!!! ;)
Gosh. Thank you all for the warm welcome back. I worried for a time that my intentional absence would leave me with no one left when I finally returned–but here you are! & you have been so kind & understanding of the choice to walk away for awhile. & I can tell you–I am truly so so excited to be back here. Like, my mind is racing with ideas. & I cannot wait to write!
Before I dive too far into any one thing, I think it’s important to address what has brought me to this place of peace. I have overhauled our life in some really drastic ways in the last two years, but shutting out the internet and welcoming books (real books! like, with pages!!) has probably been the biggest positive shift I chose to make.
It all started in the dead of winter. The holidays had come & gone. I was constantly exhausted. I desperately sought time alone and the only place I ever found it was at the gym. The problem with: I was working really, really hard when I was alone at the gym. So that time to be creative or sit with a book or catch up with a friend was still missing. There was still no downtime. Add my early bird (as in, 5:30/6am riser, neeeedy son) and my night owl (9pm to bed, one more snuggle daughter) and life was just not working. I was spending several hours after the last one finally went to sleep piddling around the house, mentally making a tally of all that I wanted to do and all that I was too spent to actually do. It was defeating and destructive to my sense of accomplishment. I mean…my house is my job and it’s a disaster…and I have nothing else…and…WTF did I DO today…and…I am getting dumber by the day because I am not learning ANYTHING! (running on repeat through my head) That’s not good self talk. So after I checked the internet for the bazillionth time, seeking escape from my messy living room, I went to bed about midnight and was then awakened, while it was still dark outside, by a child who just wouldn’t sleep another second. (As if that was anything new.) What could I do? How could I make this better?
& so I brainstormed. I remember a part of one of my favorite books that I read years and years ago (remember, my first one is my sleeper–so back then when I read books) and knew that was part of my answer. There is a particular section in Steady Days where the topic of being rushed comes up. Nothing good ever happens when mama is rushed. & my mornings were so rushed. I was too tired to give my son what he needed at the early hour when he first woke up. I was hitting the snooze on him, which made me more and more agitated with each thing he did to try to rouse me before my preferred 7am wake up time. & mornings suuuucked. I got up at the last possible second, tried to get the kids ready while I got ready, so we could get to school on time and it just sucked. I felt like a bad mom. I was not nice. They were struggling to make sense of my inability to manage the morning. & I knew I wanted to be better. So I did something crazy.
I decided to become a morning person.
[Find a Sunnier Place, the gorgeous art that hangs in my office, by the talented Emily Jeffords]
Now, those of you who already are morning people are probably snickering…it took you this long to discover the beauty of a silent morning?!
But for those of us night owls
–we just cannot even fathom lights out at 9:30 pm. FORGET an alarm that goes off before six. You craaaazy. No. Thank. You.
But I did it.
It started as an experiment. I set my alarm for 5:45am. I was in bed by 9/930 (painful!! So much time left in the day to do stuff!!) & then I made myself get up early. Then the second week, I set it for 5:30. By the third week, I was up at 5:15, going to bed sometime before ten, and often getting a whole 45 minutes to sit on the couch in silence and read before my kids got up. Or shovel the driveway, getting a bit of exercise in the silent darkness. There is really something beautiful about a quiet house in the morning. & it feels very different than a quiet house at night. The transformation that happened when I got to take care of me (or my home) for just a little bit, before I had to take care of someone else, was life changing.
It turns out that my early bird boy is perfectly happy co-existing with me in the morning. He just wants someone up with him while he plays with his trains. & so that’s what we do. I get up, get dressed, take a little me time to read & then when he gets up, I start chores. Often, I have breakfast made before we have to go up & start the [highly unpleasant] task of waking the night owl. That’s never fun. But it’s a whole lot easier when I am already awake & have plenty of time to let her hit snooze within my easy morning.
[image by Kate L Photography]
Back when I first started this, I definitely relied on my hot cup of coffee to start my day. & often, the thought of my favorite mug warming my hands and the smell of it was enough to get me going. Since, (& I will elaborate separately) I have cut out most of my caffeine intake and no longer drink coffee first thing in the morning. Outrageous, I know. WHO am I? I tell you…it’s been a very, very transformative couple of years. :) & it feels great.
& beyond the morning routine change, the ability to keep up with the news and politics (which I really enjoy!) and the reintroduction of real books has nourished me in a way that was lacking. I always have something to talk about, beyond my kids, because I am always learning something. That’s part of my puzzle that can’t be forgotten–my own personal growth. I found that reading on the iPad just didn’t do it for me (no screen, please!), but I also didn’t want to buy books, because I’d always feel bad, & like I was wasting money, if I ended up not liking a book and abandoning it. Again, making myself feel like a failure, and not allowing myself to move on to something I may really enjoy, before finishing the last. Thus, leaving me stuck with a shitty book that I would never finish and nothing on the horizon in nourishing reading-land. Deciding what is and isn’t worth your time to read is just another one of those empowering moments. Not finishing everything you start, because you decide it’s not worth your time, is powerful. It’s owning your precious time & filling it with value–NOT you being a failure for giving up something that is not worth your time. Important lesson I learned, right there.
So I put together a list of what I wanted to learn about & read, and requested books at the library. (the LIBRARY!!) Why I had not thought to get books for ME at the library, when it was a weekly part of our routine for the last five years ANYWAY, is beyond me. But it gave me the freedom to get what I wanted and make the conscious choice to let it go if it was just not working for me. Recently, I have started checking out audiobooks using the app Overdrive (where you can access the library’s selection of books, then download them on to your iPhone for a while & listen while driving without an internet connection, or while doing chores, exercising at the gym, etc.) It’s been really great & I highly recommend it. Some of my favorites: Rising Strong, The Magic of Tidying Up, The Nesting Place, Wheat Belly, It Starts with Food, The Plantpower Way, All Joy & No Fun, The Creative Family…and each deserves its own discussion. But for now–if you need some recommendations, there you go! :)
Oh, and no Facebook on my iPhone. Ever. IG? Sure, but that’s because I keep it private and use it to really interact with those I care about & am inspired by. It’s a very controlled feed. But Facebook? Maybe a few minutes a day, on my desktop only. & hide, hide, hide those on the feed that are time-suckers, anger inducers. I limit Facebook, too, to really the only people I care about and am inspired by. & a small number of groups that I participate in & seek encouragement from.
Finding time to read and find quiet and start the day on my terms has been a huge part of my sanity. & Mornings are so much happier this way! Every morning? No. But there sure are a whole lot more pleasant ones than there used to be!
[image by Kate L Photography]
As a side note, you are going to start seeing some general housekeeping around here. Some editing & restructuring to make things flow a bit better, so my site is easier to navigate. One exciting thing I am working on is an Amazon Shop that will be my own personal curation of all of my favorite things. Hopefully I can, once & for all, rid us of the broken links that are sitting in My Baby List post! I am so excited to have everything I love in one easy-to-find place! I don’t have time to blog everything that I love & use, but you will soon find my favorites (books, cook books, kids literature, toys, games, kids gear, kitchen gadgets etc.) all in one place. It will also serve as an affiliate program to keep my site financially viable, but free of sponsorships and ads, which is just the way I like it. Look for the Amazon Shop link in the sidebar, for my ongoing collection of stuff I love, and that makes my life easier! Happy Shopping!
It’s been six long years. & at the same time, six wildly fast years. They have been quiet and rich. Loud and empty. Happy and exhausting.
& I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Having my kids with me all day, for every single day of their first three-ish years, was wonderful. It was hard work and it was rewarding work. (& sometimes thankless, but thank you can be taught quickly & easily, with sign language even before words, right?!) And I can proudly say that they are my very favorite people on the planet to be around. Molding and shaping them and at the same time learning about them and creating a unique environment to help each of them grow has no doubt, been the greatest work of my life so far. Now, as I gently ease them into school, I get to watch what we’ve spent so much of our time cultivating at home be released into the big world. & that is pretty neat.
But, now, after six years of parenting 24/7/365, they are gone. & it is silent.
Like, I am home in the middle of the day and no one needs me.
And it is quiet.
And I am alone.
& it is so, so weird.
I fantasized about this moment many times. Those times with tired, sandpaper eyes when I felt like I could fall asleep standing up. When I just could’t take the arguing one more second. When everything I just cleaned became a disaster within seconds. I used to daydream about actually finishing a load of laundry without being torn in a million directions all at the same time. What would it look like if I could just have two hours to do chores. Oh, what I could accomplish!!
& here I am, six years later. I am home alone.
And it is quiet.
& as I am finally left to sit in my own thoughts for more than a second, I can’t help but think…now what?
The first day I walked away from school without anyone holding my hand was more emotional than I ever imagined. I was driving in the car. (BY MYSELF!!) Quiet, which I long wished for, was uncomfortable. I was overcome with sadness. Where are my little people? Where do I go now? Who is going to be my buddy? Who was I going to talk to at the grocery store? There was no one in my cart to squeal about yemons and yimes. It was sad. I was sad. & at the urging of one of my dearest friends, I spent that first day embracing the sadness and letting it all out. I took the journals that I write to my kids over to my favorite coffee shop and through tears, put it all on paper. What I adore about them, what frustrates me and what I miss terribly, now that they are both away from me for a small part of the day.
& then, for the first time since before Everett was born, I unwrapped a journal of my own. Not for anyone. Not to anyone. Just mine. A place to organize and plan and accomplish what I kept meaning to write down between wiping noses and making lemonade and reading books. & books. & more books.
I took deep breath after deep breath and just wrote. & planned. & mind mapped (remember that?!) I have ten months left in this city and I have things to accomplish. & for the first time in a long time, these things do not include my children.
It is time to work on ME. To find that part of myself outside of the role of mother, which is honestly, the most natural and comfortable place for me to always be. It’s really easy to let that mothering role I love be everything. But there is an itch that I haven’t scratched that is bugging me more & more lately. I feel like I am on the brink of some clarity regarding what is next here in St. Louis, and beyond that. What comes after our next move, where we put down some deeper roots. & I am prepared to work through that & blog along the way. But that part of me that makes me uncomfortable–where I push myself to do things that scare and inspire me and excite me–that’s what it’s time to think about.
I am a mother. & more. I…am…more. & I have to do more. I want to do more.
& this, is a really exciting place to be.
All of the images in this post are credited to my dear friend, Kate L Photography, who stepped into our crazy life for a weekend and gave me the absolute most precious gift of capturing our perfectly imperfect way of living. Kate, I am forever grateful to have these images to share with my children when these memories aren’t as vivid for them as they are for me. We love you!!
Hi Internet! I’ve missed you! I really have. As I sit here on July 1st, aka New Year’s Day for anyone in academic medicine, I can’t help but realize just how fast these twelve months have gone by. We’ve lived in St. Louis for a year. I have been in this house for a year. We have explored and adventured and explored some more. But it still feels hard. This season of our lives continues to be jam packed with new experiences, lots of laundry and food food & more food. I had to look back through what I wrote eight months ago to really reflect on all that has changed, because a lot has. Mostly good. But it’s still a grind. I think this has been one of the hardest academic years of our family’s life together. Everett’s first year was pretty awful, but this was tough too. It’s been full of unique struggles that so many of you who solo parent children at awesome ages can probably relate to. It’s sad to not be a family. It’s sad that he’s missing it all. But gosh, are we ever lucky to be here in St. Louis during this season of life. We never, ever run out of places to go, museums to visit or puddles to splash through. This city is really, really beautiful and rich with adventure. I feel so lucky that my husband’s fellowship brought us here.
As I mentioned last time I wrote, I still struggle with the eternal “what else” in life. This corner is still whispering for me to come back–and I think that is a positive thing. I am surely not done with styleberryBLOG yet. I think there’s so much more on the horizon, especially as life shifts to different interests and passions and goals. Everett finally potty trained recently, which means we are done with diapers. The “thing” that sort of got this ball rolling. As this blog transitions from the baby zone to the kid years, and I transition from being a sleep deprived, overwhelmed mother, to one who again finds her passions and joys get some attention during busy days, things will shift here. & that’s good. That’s what this place should be–my happy place. :)
When I first saw this come across my IG feed I just instantly loved the message & what it implied–figure out what you want. Last time I wrote I made my goal very clear–I want time with my kids, free of distraction, to explore their interests and just be with them. I am still happy with that decision. With every passing day, and each automatic please and thank you, and moment of compassion that I observe from the sidelines of afternoon play, and big words used in correct context, I am reaffirmed. Giving up some of my joys to focus on the joy of the preschool years with my children has been the best decision for us. I am happy with what I have, while working for what I want. Right now, that goal is not much beyond healthy, active, pleasant children who know they get the best of me. I’m about a month away from having two kids in school. I have had a child with me 24/7 for nearly the last six years. I cannot even imagine having an hour a week at home to myself right now–and soon I will have three school days. Three! Oh, the things I can do!!
I have so much to share…I have made some really major life changes (Paleo! Gluten Free! Early Bird life! KonMari!) over the last eight months, and I have so much to talk about. I was going to do a big giant update & then realized that I really want to break it up. I’ve learned a lot. & I am inspired to share. In my own time. In my own way.
Oh, and the house…this house! I love this house! It’s not my dream house, but it is such a perfect rental for us and I have really enjoyed decorating. Shocker, I know. ;) But I want to share, because I have learned that when I get five minutes to daydream and I close my eyes and picture what I am doing when time passes freely–I am decorating. Right back to my one true love. Maybe I have come full circle. Maybe the place where my heart was when I started this styleberry business was just exactly where it should be. Now that I’ve explored the other things that I thought I loved, I’m right back where I started. Color. Texture. Practicality. Pretty.
[above you can see evidence of the fundamental difference between my two children]
More to come.
& thanks for hanging in there with me!
[& Yes, I do still shoot with my fancy camera. No, I have not edited but a handful of images of my children since we arrived here. It is on my kids-in-school bucket list. Until then, these are Instagrams & some beautiful work by the oh so talented Ashle Photo, who we worked with last fall!]
Oh, and the age old question–YES. stylebabyLOGs will make a final print run soon. Stay tuned. & Thank you for your continued support of my business!!
The leaves are changing. (THE LEAVES ARE CHANGING!!) I wish I could fully exude my happiness about this Autumn colorshow. I have been staring in awe all day, every day. Seasons. Oh, how I missed them.
I was recently in conversation with a family member who was living back in the Midwest after a stint in Southern California and we were talking about seasons and how they impact a culture on such a deep level. When nothing changes, including the weather, life just…carries on. I think I savored less, accepted monotony more. Nothing ever changed. Not the landscape, not the activities. It just was. After six years longing for crisp mornings in south Texas, I am home. Home in the Midwest. Not home where I was raised (Northern California) but my adopted home. Cool air. Color around every corner. We are truly savoring the light & warmth as we prepare for a deep change, prepared to weather stuff that makes life difficult. Seasons are so metaphoric. They change you. I really think they do. I love them.
I have not been one to hide how little I enjoyed living in South Texas. I made the best of it and walked away with lifelong friends (which made it worth every bit of the misery) but I do not miss it. Not one bit. I am happiest when my nose gets cold in October and my lungs fill with ice cold air. And where there are huge, massive, colorful trees around every corner. I just breathe better here. Summer is bearable, because it never lasts. It’s just a season.
I seem to say that a lot. It’s been the story of my life. Life married to a resident. Life with non-sleeping newborns. Life that was hard. It was just a season. But it really all is. As the colors change and the winds shift, so do priorities. I never thought it would take me until October to log back into this blog, but I really needed to take a break. My kids pretty much just have me right now, and I need to be everything to them. Business & writing & this outlet–it wasn’t what it always has been. Like any season, it darkens. It brightens back up. Leaves fall. & then the tree blooms with life again. I am just not sure when that life will come back here.
It’s been a bit of a rough transition for our family–our first big move. There has been lots of adjusting and a new home to set up. New parks (TONS of new, incredible parks!!) and a whole new city to explore. New people, new food, new (dream) school, new routines. It’s all new. We do love it here in St. Louis, but it’s still been tough for our family. Being married to a medical fellow in his seventh year of post med school training is hard. Life feels really heavy, a lot. Life & death are daily topics of conversation & I am not sure when that heavy feeling will lift. I am hoping it is just a season, but I am sort of gripping the reality that heart surgery is not just a season. It’s kind of always heavy. & we’re working through how to handle that.
Like many moms I still struggle with the “what else” in life. The non negotiable priorities are food, exercise, cleanliness & books + art. Beyond that, well, I just don’t know where it all fits right now. Real food takes forever to cook & prep. Hard exercise makes me really tired. Laundry and dishes and the floor don’t clean themselves (darn) and books + art…well. We just love those. Non negotiables during this season. But what about what is missing?
It’s been a constant pull between what I CAN do, what I LOVE to do and what I actually have the ENERGY to do. My puzzle pieces just don’t fit together very well right now. So I am trying to make peace with this season & embrace it for what it is. All my time constraints would be solved if I had the desire to outsource, but I don’t. I want to be with my children and I feel strongly about that decision, strong enough to let all the other stuff go.
The season of “no.” That is what I am calling it. Just me, my kids and the non negotiables up there. :)
That’s what feels right.
I keep thinking about the next season and what that will hold. It’s fun to daydream. I know I am really good at taking things I love and turning them into a job, that I no longer enjoy, so I am being very mindful of that trap. I feel like I still haven’t found my calling in life, beyond motherhood. & maybe, just maybe, that is my true calling. I am good with that. But I also have “the fear.” The fear that someday when they are in school and It’s just me around here, that I will need something more. So I daydream. There’s no harm in that. Now’s just not the time to formally do anything more, unless it’s simply for my own joy.
So until that season, I’ll keep dreaming. Mostly, that looks like decorating imaginary spaces. It always seems to come back to making something pretty. & practical.
Imagine that. :)
So…to answer a couple of questions that are lingering in pending comments:
Q: Are the stylebabyLOGs going to be for sale again soon?
A: I am not sure. I have supplies to print another huge batch, but I haven’t resumed business in Missouri, and with the way things are going, I am pretty sure it will not happen until next year. Come August, I will have two children in school (at least part time) so until then, business will wait. Unless I find that energy that I seem to be missing. :) But thank you for your continued interest!!
Q: How has your Pelvic Floor rehab been going? Any updates since the article?
A: Yes!! I left my awesome PT and am still working on a referral to see one here. Due to a lack of good yoga, I ventured into a whole different world: Pilates. I have been working with an insanely amazing Pilates instructor with a lot of formal education in rehab & Pilates is the best thing to happen to my core in years. I mistook it for a posh and prissy workout–oh no. How wrong I was. It’s the hardest workout I have done in a very long time and I am even back to doing my beloved squats and lunges with zero impact, on the reformer. I could not recommend it more. I have also been doing a home yoga practice using YogaGlo.com on my ipad (I love Katherine Budig’s flows) and that has been a nice filler. I am at the gym three days a week in my classes, and doing my home yoga practice at least once a week. Before I left it was confirmed that I was able to reverse my original position quite a bit, just by rehabbing. So again, let me be your hope–it’s not a life sentence of misery! Just a detour that may lead to something out of your comfort zone! Like some awesome Pilates!
& also, I have hundreds of blog comments in queue. I try not to approve them if they warrant a response to a valuable question. I just haven’t found the time to sit at my computer to adequately reply! So if you have one pending, I am sorry. I am a mama, with a big solo parenting responsibility and while I would love to resume professional blogging, the kiddos win! :) Thanks for understanding!!
So, pictures?? It’s been almost a year since I posted any big camera images. yikes. I have a zillion, and I love them all. BUT…hardly any are edited. So we’ll celebrate my very favorite time of year to take pictures of my kiddos. HALLOWEEN! Happy Halloween! I can’t believe this is our SIXTH with kids!! Oh, so fun. But entirely different, with our first deep freeze of the season projected for tomorrow night. FUN!!
Gosh, I love Halloween!! We always try to make costumes that are appropriate to their interests. Everettosaurus + Rainbow Ballerina Hello Kitty. Concepts by kids, execution my this creative mama. :) Now I have to go back & reminisce…to the First, Second, Third, Fourth…and oh my goodness, I forgot last year. Well, for old time’s sake!! Can’t forget Ariel & her turtle friend, Squirt, who was totally into backpacks:
All so fun.
& random things worth linking:
The time has come. We are thisclose to rolling out of town and I am getting sad. It’s so easy to look forward to this day–graduation day & the end of a significant chapter–and then it hits. We’re leaving her nursery. & his nursery. & I will never rock a baby in them again. The home where we became a family will live on in our memories, but I will not walk the halls where my babies took their first steps for much longer. I will remove the last pictures from the walls. I will say goodbye to all the people that were my confidants, cheerleaders and support through a substantially challenging chapter of life.
Leaving this city is really freaking hard.
Don’t get me wrong, I will not miss the traffic and the heat, but I will miss my people. I have never found such a warm & loving community of mothers. I feel so blessed to have met some of the most amazing women I’ve ever known, here. I have been inspired and encouraged and consoled. How did I get so lucky? Investing my heart in these people has been one of the best experiences of my life. The worst part is leaving. I know we’re probably coming back in two short years, but life will never look the same. That’s tough to swallow sometimes. I feel like I am leaving babyhood here in San Antonio. And I am. This is the end of me mothering an infant. We are entering the school years. & as great as that feels, I am mourning a little bit too. I guess what I am trying to say is that I really have loved life here. Mostly because of the people, but those people have introduced me to places that have been the heart of our relationships. Our places of community.
So in an ‘ode to San Antonio, let me share my favorite local stops with you. We were regulars at any & all of these wonderful places!
- San Antonio Botanical Gardens: My favorite place in the city. They have fun events for kids–Halloween, spring break & Viva Botanics for Fiesta are our favorites! We adore the quiet, feeding the ducks back by the lake and splashing in the fountains. Especially when the rubber duckies are in it.
- Morgan’s Wonderland: Our second favorite place in the city. The cleanest, quietest, most engaging place for [littler] kids around. It is amazingly accommodating for those with special needs, but open to all families. We could not love it more.
- Little Gym of Helotes: What can I say about Little Gym and Ms. Cyndi, other than we love her and will be crying big ugly tears when we leave. My kids grew up at the gym and I owe a lot of their confidence to her. They adore her and the gym/dance classes. We have gone once a week since caroline could walk. It’s the single best kids activity we’re participated in regularly.
- Fiesta Farms: A happy little farm oasis! We love this place. Quiet & muddy/dusty. :)
- San Antonio Zoo: Not the best zoo, but a decent one. We always ride the train and head back to the Tot Spot, where it is quieter than the rest of the Zoo. The new carousel is pretty fun. & the train! The main attraction. We especially love the kitties on the other side of the tunnel.
- McKenna Children’s Museum: Worth the drive up I-35 to New Braunfels, especially if you have a daughter who is into babies–they have a full little NICU! Everett loves the giant outdoor water table and the shopping cart area. We will soon have a DO-seum on Broadway, which will replace the San Antonio Children’s Museum. The current museum in the city is not a favorite place of mine. I find it lacking, and avoid it, and its current location, at all costs. I am not comfortable going alone with my kids, for safety reasons.
- Ft. Sam Houston Quadrangle: How could I forget this one?! My profile picture up there was taken there–as was my last family session. The most dreamy light in all of the city is within the bright white stone walls of the beautiful, historic Quadrangle! There are also deer you can pet (!!), peacocks, ducks and some rowdy geese. Be sure to bring some carrots for the deer. I’m not sure if you can easily get on base as a non-military member, but even a quick bounce into the visitor center is worth it–we love the Quad! And there is the most incredible oak tree I have ever seen in my life in there. Insanely gorgeous. Now I wish we’d have gone one more time! Hopefully we’ll live right around the corner when we get back. :)
- Magik Theatre: A dynamic variety of great kids shows!
- Libraries we love: Igo & Landa. Both have great playgrounds! I think Igo has a better book selection, but you can request anything in the San Antonio system for delivery to your home branch. So nice!
- PeeWeeBees: A great place for littler kids to run off steam when it’s a hundred degrees out.
- The Painted Plate: some of my most treasured pottery/plates/Christmas ornaments were created here! I need to go pack them up for the trailer…
- The Twig: This is a locally owned book store, and storytime with Anastasia on Friday mornings is fantastic!
This was a little over a year ago at the Botanical Gardens. They were so little!
- The Discovery School: This is the most special place ever, ever in the history of ever. We adored our time at DS. Mrs. K & Ms. H were a huge source of joy & love for my caroline. I could not recommend them more. It’s a hybrid play/montessori-ish model. Lots of creativity. Lots of love. & the fairy garden is such a treasure!!
- Giant Steps: Caroline did her first year of school here. We had an excellent experience. I moved her because I was adamant about half days as a four year old, and that wasn’t an option here, but Mrs. G was incredible. & the playground is second to none!!
These are all snippets of our magical Discovery School experience. So much fun. E was an honorary student. :)
- Nowlin Roberts Salon: Sweet, sweet Nowlin. He is more than your hair guy. His talent with both rich color & the scissors in wonderful. I will miss him SO SO MUCH.
- Woodhouse Day Spa: A nice treat. I prefer the one at the RIM.
- Cheryl Nichols of ReMax The Premier Group: The hardest working realtor I know. She’s a full package–realtor/stager/photographer. Excellent accessibility & communication. We sold fast. Twice actually, when we had a fluke thing happen and our first deal was dead after both parties signed the closing papers. It happens. I’m proof. Six days later, back under contract. (Let’s hope this one sticks!!) Thank God for Cheryl.
- Best Coffee: Local (The Pearl is our favorite location & caramel latte is TDF. We also love the pastries, which are actually made by Bakery Lorraine!)
- Best Date Night: Il Sogno or Boiler House (soooo good!!)
- Best Vegetarian: Green (their nachos & ranch are incredible!)
- Best Pastries: Bakery Lorraine
- Best Cupcakes: Bird Bakery
- Best Burgers: BurgerFi
- Best Custard: Freddys
- Most gobbled up kids lunch: Cosi
Shopping, Unique to San Antonio Area
- Whole Earth Provision: My FAVORITE store here! Think REIish meets creative kids store. The most incredible children’s book/toy selection I have ever seen. We also love their shoe department. It’s amazing–for both kids and adults!! Military gets an extra discount off sale items, and they always have great sales!
- Go Baby Go: Cloth Diapering/Baby Wearing/Fun mama gear store. Tell Liz I sent you! She also offers a military discount.
- The Tiny Finch: A pinterest haven. Anthro-ish. But more home stuff.
- Nursery Couture: Owned by Katy, of Caden Lane. Posh mama one-stop-shop.
- Pottery Barn/Williams Sonoma/West Elm outlet in San Marcos: I cannot say enough about this place. I have so much gorgeous furniture that I got 50-80% off retail from here. It’s hit ans miss sometimes, but don’t forget the military discount! Yes, that is ON TOP of the ridiculously low prices already!
- Restoration Hardware Outlet in San Marcos: Still pricey, but much cheaper than the catalog!
- Architectural Antiques: A fun place for any of you restoration buffs.
Random Home Stuff
So there you have it! The Best of San Antonio, that we experienced. While we’re leaving with a lot of sadness in our hearts, we’re going to remember all the smiles on our faces over the years. This six years have been the best of my life. So much happy happened here in SA!! All signs point to us returning in a couple of years, so maybe we’ll run into you again soon! Happy Exploring!
SA mamas–what did I forget? I am sure I missed something…add to the list if you wish!! :)
I have thought a lot about what I want this article to say. Mostly, I have tried to figure out my point. & I think my goal is simple: to start a conversation. Pelvic Organ Prolapse (or Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, or Pelvic Floor Disorder) is not a topic you’ll see floating around the Internet unless you dig for it. It’s uncomfortable to talk about (for some) and if you are squeamish about medical stuff, then go ahead and just skip it now. I am going to share details that I longed to find discussed by a real person, or even on the internet–and they might make some blush. In our house, we talk about the body a lot. I see a lot of gross textbook pictures laying open on my coffee table. Nothing really fazes me anymore. So here is your warning: this is educational. I am not going to sugar coat stuff!
Pelvic prolapse is, what some will describe as, one of the last hush hush topics in gynecology. Seems like we can now talk freely about most anything with our girlfriends–and we do!!! But I have yet to have an educated conversation with a non-medical professional about a prolapse. And for a problem that affects as many as HALF of women, why is that? It’s not just an “old lady” problem. I’m in my early thirties. I have pelvic prolapse. And I think we need to have a discussion–and more importantly, talk about improving our chances of preventing it! My goal is simply to share my story–because you may have a similar one. I had NO IDEA that the symptoms I have been experiencing (some for years!) were a clue to my path to prolapse. I don’t want any of you to end up like me–formerly clueless, engaging in heavy physical activity, and then sidelined with a serious pelvic floor issue. It’s depressing and frustrating and it did not have to be this way. So let me tell you my story.
If you follow this blog, you know I have had two deliveries. Both were quick, once they got going. Both were tough on my body, for different reasons. I recovered from both slowly, gently. I never jumped right back into exercise, but I did get there eventually. After my first delivery, I had some incontinence issues, but nothing so bothersome, that I sought treatment. Back then, I was crossfitting in my own way, and my “should have seen it” clues were in my jumps. Burpees, Box Jumps, Jump Rope. All equaled leakage–but I thought, eh, consequence of having a baby. There is nothing I can do about it & I want another baby, so I’ll put it off until I “have my body back” for good. Mistake #1!! You can ALWAYS work on strengthening your pelvic floor–and this helps with incontinence!!
My second pregnancy came with a lot more discomfort than my first. I had some vaginal vein issues and my discomfort made me get off my feet for the first time in my life. It was not fun, and I assumed it would go away after delivery. Most of it did, but some of it did not. My second delivery was fast & furious, and while it was exactly what I wanted, it was really the start of this whole thing. At least that is what I think.
Fast forward about a year, and I got back into a regular and rigorous workout routine. I would do my yoga (like, drip sweat on your mat because it’s so hard yoga) twice a week. Then on Saturday I would lift really heavy (like out-lift most of the dudes in my class, heavy). It was mentally freeing. I take great pleasure and pride in getting and being strong. I feel best about myself when I am strong. Lifting myself and other heavy stuff is essential for my well-being, but it was damaging my body–not because I was doing it, but because of the way I was doing it. I went on, not knowing there was a problem for nearly a year. Until one day…something was different.
I had done two heavy barbell classes in a row. One Saturday we’d done some PR (personal record) lifting. I had my instructor help lift and rack my weight because I couldn’t rack it myself–that’s how heavy I’d gone. We did tons of squats. Tons of lunges. All really heavy, until failure. After unwinding in yoga on M/W, I went back for more. We lifted heavy again, but this time it was heavy deadlifts. We had to have done over a hundred deadlifts that day. I completed the class. Felt great. Then the next morning, I felt IT.
I felt like I had a tampon that was falling out. I did my own physical exam and wouldn’t you know–my cervix was like…right there. I used to have to work really hard to check my mirena threads in my cervix. You know, squat in the shower to reach them. Now it was like, RIGHT THERE–what was happening?!! I freaked out (something I normally don’t do) and consulted with my husband, who said I was likely experiencing prolapse. So I googled it (because I had no idea what that was!) & then I really lost it. This pretty much explains it.
I saw my Gynecologist (who happens to be a pelvic floor specialist!!) and she confirmed with some measurements, that I had exactly what I thought I did. Except it was not only a uterine prolapse, everything was moving south. There were words like hysterectomy and pelvic sling and pessary on the table. Whaaat?? I am healthy. I take care of myself. I exercise. What went wrong? What happened here?
& the answer was simple: I neglected to strengthen my pelvic floor. & then I repeatedly did several exercises that are known to significantly increase pressure on the pelvic floor. & I did them with heavy weight on my back. So therein lies my recipe for disaster! No pelvic floor muscles + lots of intra-abdominal pressure = everything falls down. And this can happen to ANYONE, regardless of how they treat their body. While prolapse cannot be reversed (without surgery) you can sometimes improve the symptoms by strengthening the pelvic floor.
So I was referred to an amazing Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist (can you believe there is such a thing??) and learned a whole lot about my body. & I want to share some of that with you. Let’s start with the symptoms, because maybe you can relate.
My Prolapse “Clues”
- Posture: I noticed that after carrying Everett, my belly always stuck out a little more than my bust. This was not the case with Caroline. What I learned was that I had such weak abdominals (despite my exercise–I had been totally overcompensating with the other muscles!), that I was still carrying my body like I was pregnant–sticking out my bum a bit & rolling my hips toward the ground, slightly bearing down at all times. Try standing in the typical “hands on my back because I am so pregnant” stance–are you still doing this after delivery?? Time to strengthen those transverse abdominals!
- Bearing down: like you have to “push.” I was constantly bearing down–to lift, to walk, to breathe, to cough, to bathe my kids. This is a major sign of a weak pelvic floor.
- Breathing: I was a belly breather. I did not engage my diaphragm much. I would breathe down, not up into my diaphragm.
- Bracing to get out of a chair: My quads were very strong, but my hamstrings were weak and I couldn’t even get out of a chair without using my arm strength. Try sitting on a firm chair & without any assistance, using your legs to get up. Can you? I am still working at this. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it was another red flag that I am still working hard to correct.
- Incontinence: Inability to stop urinary flow. Always feel like you have to go to the bathroom. Leak, even after you think you have stopped the flow or urine. Trampolines & treadmills=bad news.
- Vagina “Farts”: are you laughing yet? This one is soooo embarrassing. I googled this for so many years, and NONE of the sites I found ever came up with prolapse as an explanation. So as mortifying as it is, let’s talk about it. So you’re in yoga. You go into down dog. You lift your leg to three legged dog, and then curl it into scorpion and then as you head back up, & back to mountain, OMG. Noise!! MORTIFYING. Well. If you have a prolapse, this is what happened: your uterus slipped from its prolapse into normal position while you were inverted, and created an awesome vacuum. Then, as you returned to your upright position, your uterus fell back down (thanks, gravity!!) and shoved all the extra air you accumulated right on down with it. & out it went. So there you have it, my four year long mystery, solved. Does this happen to anyone else?? No one ever talks about it, so maybe I am a minority? It was a very real problem for me–and actually kept me away from yoga for a time.
- Low, painful periods: After Everett, I had increasingly painful periods. Some of this is surely related to my endometriosis, but some of it was new because of the location of cramping. My periods were not painful in my abdomen anymore–they were painful much, much lower. As painful as those vaginal varicose veins during pregnancy. Makes sense, now that I know that my uterus is so much lower than it should be.
So then what? What happens if you do have prolapse? Is there any hope for improvement?
Let me encourage you–yes!! There is a lot of wishy washy info out there on google searches. I am currently going to Pelvic PT, where I have my progress & strength monitored under untrasound, so I can see just how to do things like kegels and the other strength exercises. I can tell you that in the last couple of months since I started Pelvic PT I have seen a major improvement in how I carry my body. I am still symptomatic, but I do my PT exercises every single day & I am adding in more yoga as the weeks pass & I can hold the poses while engaging my pelvic floor/abdomen correctly. This is a skill that has to be acquired & practiced, & my PT has helped me identify how to fire the muscles correctly. It is also encouraging to see, under ultrasound, how much more control I have over these muscles–and that I can actually fire them now. I could not even see my kegel on ultrasound when I started–that’s how weak mine was. I have also done vaginal e-stim–which is quite a strange experience. But it works! I am learning how to control the muscles that have completely lost function. There is so much work that can be done to improve the function of the pelvic floor muscles, but I will emphasize “work.” It takes dedication!
Is there a treatment? What are you doing long term?
I am still at the beginning of treating my prolapse. I am in no rush for a hysterectomy, though I am sure it is in my future. We are learning more about my body as the treatment goes on–and how much of my problem is muscle weakness vs. ligament damage. Ligament damage (which is a result of both pregnancy and childbirth) cannot be reversed. Ligament damage is permanent & I did have two significant tears with my deliveries, so there’s likely some damage. However, the muscle improvement is ongoing, and will never be considered done. Like any other muscles, I will need to work on them the rest of my life. Even after a hysterectomy, a woman needs a strong pelvic floor. No surgery can strengthen my muscles–so I will exercise them regularly!
I am also using a pessary, which has been great! My doctor calls them a “bra for your vagina” and that’s exactly what it is! It is a soft silicone device that you insert like a diaphragm. It comes in a bunch of shapes & sizes; yours is determined by your doctor during a fitting, based on your anatomical needs. It is tricky to get out sometimes, but after a while you get the hang of it.
I have to say, the idea of using a pessary made me really sad for a long time. I thought about how much of a pain it would be to take it in & out every day. Was this my new normal? I need something to hold my insides up? I am too young for this!! & I was sweaty and in tears one night, at the beginning, when it got stuck. I swore I would never get it out. But I did. & you know–the internet has no tips for getting a pessary in & out. So while we’re talking about everything uncomfortable in this article, I will share that I’ve found it is easiest to remove in the shower (relaxed!!), standing. Squatting does not work for me. At all. I cannot get it in well sitting down, either; standing is best. It is so awkward at first, but for anyone who may be seeking encouragement here, you get the angles down eventually and it does become second nature. It isn’t ever “comfortable” but it gets easier. Just experiment with new angles until you find one that makes it easy.
The best part of the pessary? It works!!! I can’t feel it when it’s in. It relieves my symptoms (most of the incontinence too!) and I can even breeze right through that three legged dog hip opener–SILENTLY. That may be the greatest achievement of all. :) Yoga, with no noises! WINNER!
Exercise in the future is still up in the air. Many experts will tell women who have been diagnosed with prolapse that their exercise routine should include only exercises where you can keep at least one foot on the ground at all times. This means zero impact exercises. No running, no jumping. Nada. I can tell you that I will probably never be comfortable running again–just because I do fear making my prolapse worse and being forced to have surgery. Weights is something that will get introduced back into my regime over time. I don’t think I will ever lift as heavy as I used to, but with the right form & being really mindful of those pelvic floor muscles, I hope to get to a place where I can include at least light lifting again. For now, I am going to continue my yoga practice. I’ve bumped that to three times a week and hope to add even more. There is so much strength that can be gained from moving your own body around. & bonus, a new study even comments on the pelvic floor benefits of yoga. But as I have learned, you have to know how to properly engage your pelvic floor muscles or you could be doing it all wrong!!
So what can I do? What do I do??
If you show no signs of a prolapse and are looking to prevent it in the future, work on your kegels & pelvic floor strength! My doctors have always checked the strength of my kegel at my annual–which is a great place to start. Don’t ignore their advice, like I did!! squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. See if there are any local PTs that offer informational seminars in your area. There are also a bunch of resources on YouTube! Do an exercise search. Here is a search for pelvic floor exercises for women.
If you suspect something is up, see your gynecologist. Seek treatment from a specialist. I would find a Urogynecologist, board certified in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. Bonus if they are affiliated with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. If I had the chance to rewind to right after Caroline’s birth, I would have sought the help of a Women’s Health Physical Therapist immediately. I think their work is incredibly valuable. Don’t put it off–seek expert help ASAP. & make sure they examine you standing up. This is important–as everything can move back when you are laying down!
Additionally, if you happen to live in San Antonio, lucky you!! My doctor and my Pelvic Physical Therapist are putting on a fun evening program this Friday night, open to the public, to discuss all things related to Pelvic Floor Health. This is an amazing opportunity to learn more from the experts. I cannot even begin to say enough good things about Dr. Dooley and Dr. Rodriguez. Go & learn from them! Ask your questions! They will have a q&a box if you are too uncomfortable to ask your questions in front of everyone. It is open to the public, not just military, even though it is on Ft. Sam Houston. Seriously, take advantage of this opportunity!
I have read the internet up, down and sideways. Here is a collection of the articles about the Pelvic Floor that you may find particularly useful. :)
- Find a nearby Urogynecologist HERE
- Find a Women’s Health/Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist HERE
- Take the Floor, The American Urogynecologic Society non-profit organization that supports all things PFD HERE
- The best article I found on Lifting Weights & Prolapse HERE
- A random source, but excellent overview of prolapse & symptoms & therapy HERE
- 12 Unsafe Abdominal Exercises for Prolapse HERE
- Pelvic Exercises (& a really great Pelvic Floor info website!!) HERE
- 7 Yoga Poses, safe for your pelvic floor HERE
- My favorite Pelvic Health Blog HERE
Did you make it this far? Holy smokes. That was more than I thought I would write. If you have anything more you wish to add, as always, let’s make this article a resource for women who may stumble upon it on a freaked-out google search. I’d love to hear how you’ve handled a diagnosis or what you are doing to rehab. Or even if you are part of the noisy yogis club. HAhaha. No, really. It’s not funny. But it is. Sort of. Not laughing about it yet? Maybe you need a pessary! ;)