November 17, 2014

More, please!

Recently, my husband and I took Z to the Dallas Arboretum to visit the stunning pumpkin village (which boasts over 65,000 pumpkins!) for my birthday. Throughout the day, I took little snippets of videos of him playing among the pumpkins and trying (unsuccessfully) to lift them and carry them. Later, while he slept, I used a fancy iPhone app to make a video montage of the day’s festivities. Then, I made a choice which has haunted me ever since: I showed him the video.

My son is obsessed with this video. If he sees me with my phone, he walks over and climbs up into my lap and signs “please.” His face lights up and he throws back his head and laughs every time the music starts and he sees the baby on the screen playing among the pumpkins. He’s gotten to the point where he knows when the video is almost over, and he looks at me and signs “More, please!” Usually, after the 9th or 10th viewing, I get to the point in which I’ve decided we’ve had enough and I say “okay, all done!” and he just wails.

Recently, he's been doing the same thing with two specific books that he just can't get enough of.  The moment I'm done reading the last line, he closes the book and looks at me and signs "Please!" I think we read "The Jungle King" sixteen times yesterday afternoon alone.

Kids, man. Long after Mom or Dad has grown tired or bored from the activity, the kid is shouting or gesturing for “More, please!” I was laughing about this with my husband during one particularly epic meltdown (because what can you do other than laugh sometimes?), when I remembered a quote a friend had posted on his Facebook page (emphasis mine):

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” - G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

The entire quote speaks to me on a spiritual level, of course, but I have often found spiritual lessons in my daily interactions with my son. The absolute delight he finds in an activity or a moment does not diminish with repetition. On the contrary, he finds a new joy with each repetition! Remember when we were children, how we used to rewind our VHS tapes over and over to watch our favorite part of a movie? Goodness, when did we outgrow that? When did we start to lose our “abounding vitality” and our fierce, free spirit?

As adults, we all too often rush through our day and the many things that need to be accomplished. Even the moments that have the potential to stop us in our tracks only give us pause for a moment because there’s always a schedule to keep, a meeting to go to, a lesson to plan, a deadline to meet.

Recently, I was walking across the college campus where I work on my lunch hour. I had music playing in my headphones and it was a beautiful, breezy and sunny day. I was soaking up all the Vitamin D I could before going back to my cubicle. All in one beautiful moment, the music in my ears reached a soaring chord and the wind blew my hair back from my face. Without thinking, I threw back my head, spread my arms wide and laughed with the pure joy of the moment, without worry or care as to who saw me or how foolish I looked..

After that brief, joyful moment passed, my son’s face entered my mind. I thought of how each moment and each new thing that he has discovered and encountered in his 16 months of life has been filled with that kind of joy and wonder. Therefore why shouldn’t he want to experience it over and over and over again? I know it’s easier for him than it is for us, but perhaps I should take a lesson from my son and, in my opinion, from my Heavenly Father to actively seek delight in the monotony of everyday life.

I’m realistic; I know that it isn’t going to happen every day. But perhaps I can strive to get to a point where I find such joy in the minute differences in the monotony of the daily routine that I can look up, smile, and say “More, please!” I think it’s worth a try.

October 1, 2014

::guest post:: Wearing My Confidence on my Back

Today, I am featured as a guest blogger at Mamas in Pajamas Read the full post here


Before I had Z, I had all these Big Plans.  While pregnant, I wrote out med-free birth plans, bought books about breastfeeding, researched cloth diapering and co-sleeping and baby-led weaning and, on a whim, purchased a Baby K’Tan wrap while doing some baby shower gift exchanges in Babies-R-Us.  Babywearing was just another aspect of the Attachment Parenting philosophy I just knew I’d subscribe to as a new mom, but it wasn’t at the top of the list.

Of all of those things, only one ended up working out for me and my little family, and it was the last one...

September 22, 2014

[sponsored post] eShakti Hummingbird Dress


Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by eShakti.com.  However, all opinions and photos are my own! 




Recently, I was contacted by a representative of eShakti with the opportunity to choose and customize a garment from their stock, providing that I write a review of the garment on my blog.  First of all, um...free clothes? YES PLEASE. Secondly, I have never done a sponsored post before, so I will just be straightforward and no-nonsense about all of the linkage required:

Find eShakti on:


There! Now that that's taken care of, let's talk about the clothes! 

The thing I love about eShakti is that they have sizes ranging from 0-36W and each garment is made according to your specifications.  This is amazing for several reasons.  For one thing, there aren't a lot of great options out there for plus-sized (or, as I like to call it, "normal-sized") women.  Or, if there are options, they are this stock, shapeless or shape-specific type of thing that doesn't fit all curvy bodies the same way.  eShakti provides options for customized measurements, hem length, sleeve length, neckline and pockets (though, why anyone would choose to remove pockets from a dress is beyond my comprehension!).  

I chose this dress:

Stock image from eShakti confirmation email

A boat neckline is not the most flattering on me, so I had it customized with a sweetheart neckline. I kept the cap sleeves, and chose "below the knee" for length.  I wanted a dress that would work in the later summer months in Texas, but still be appropriate for the crisp, autumn months with the addition of fall staples (tights, cardigans, booties, etc.).  

The dress arrived promptly, and I'm wearing it today!


 (Check out that morning light! So yummy!)


The dress ended up being the perfect length. So many dresses on me these days are somewhere in between "way too short for a working mom in her early 30s" and "ugh why do I keep tripping on this?!" So the "just below knee" length works perfect.  I also love how the overlay is just a bit longer than the skirt of the dress.


The neckline ended up being a little more ornate than I was envisioning, but I don't own any other dresses with a similar neckline, so it stands out among dresses I usually wear.  I can't decide if it makes me look more or less top-heavy, but I do like it.  So that's a plus!


The embroidery is beautiful on the skirt. I absolutely love the colors for fall, and they work really well with my skin tone.  I have to admit, I don't love the sash at all. I almost thought it was a mistake when I found it in the garment box, because it just doesn't seem to work naturally with the dress. There are no belt loops, so the sash slips around a lot.  I might try this dress with a belt of my own some time.  Maybe a braided brown one or a black leather sash belt I already own.


I styled this dress very simply.  Nude heels (I got them from a secondhand shop - Plato's Closet - but the label says they're Rue 21), plastic feather earrings to go with the bird motif (PUT A BIRD ON IT!), also from Plato's closet, and my black & gold reversible braided headband from Target.

The cap sleeves are perfect.  Sometimes, especially on curvier girls, cap sleeves can be the devil, and squeeze the tops of the arms really badly.  This dress is made in such a way that the sleeves have that perfect flare at the top, but scoop way back under the arms.  Plenty of room!

Every eShakti dress also comes with pockets, as I mentioned (love!) and bra strap stays (little snaps that hold your bra strap in place! genius!).  

The only cons:
  • It's hand-wash only. Note to self: don't spill anything on this dress and try to change out of it before dealing with the toddler.
  • The sash - not my favorite, but not a deal-breaker.
  • Wrinkles easily (but also irons out easily with low heat iron. Also! The overlay irons easily without getting weird as netting/mesh sometimes does.).
  • The side zipper is a real struggle, especially zipping it over the waistline, where the seam is.
That's it!  Overall, I love this dress.  It's a great quality, well-made, and I love the quirky design.  eShakti has some of the cutest prints and patterns. It was really hard to choose just one dress, and I think I'll have to go do some shopping before the weather really cools down...

If you'd like to do the same, please feel free to use a coupon code that eShakti was kind enough to provide readers of this blog! Enter code "theoperawife" (minus the quotes, not case-sensitive) at checkout to receive 10% off your order.  Coupon code only valid until 10/16/14. 


  • Code has to be entered in the ‘promotional code’ box.   It is not case-sensitive.  
  • Code can be used any number of times until the validity period. 
  • It can be clubbed with any other promotional offer, gift coupon or gift card in the same order unless explicitly specified otherwise in the offer conditions.
  • This discount code is not applicable on clearance / sale, gift cards & overstock categories.
  • Not applicable on previous purchases.  

September 12, 2014

20 Things

Just for funsies, since it's been a little heavy-handed over here recently, I decided to break out the Old School blogging technique of the survey/meme.  Got this from Drea's blog, and thought it'd be fun to play along!  I encourage you to do the same! 


Question 1: How tall are you?

5'3".  Recently met up with a 7 Days participant who said "You're shorter than I thought you'd be!" 

Question 2: Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what?

I'm really really good at second-guessing everything I say or do.  Or post. Or tweet. But seriously, I hope my talents are out there, being used, rather than hiding. 

Question 3: What’s your biggest blog-related pet peeve?

Bloggers who ONLY do paid advertisements or sponsored posts.  I want to read about the nitty-gritty, real life stuff. Not just something you're posting to get free or discounted stuff.  This is especially true with the parent bloggers. 

Question 4: What’s your biggest non-blog related pet peeve?

Bad drivers. People who walk slowly and weave around a sidewalk so I can't even get around them.  Vaguebooking. 

Question 5: What’s your favorite song?

Oh Lord, that's impossible to answer.  Here's one I can't get enough of, ever: 



Question 6: What’s your favorite Etsy shop that isn’t yours?

I don't shop on Etsy. (gasp!)

Question 7: What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone?

Reading. Binge-watching something on Netflix.  Working on theatre stuff. 

Question 8: What’s your favorite junk food?

Bad question to ask me when I'm dieting. 
  • Pizza
  • Chips and Salsa
  • Margaritas
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Oreos


Question 9: Do you have a pet or pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?
One pretty pittie named Carmen. 



Question 10: What are your number one favorite nonfiction and fiction books?

Geez, another Sophie's Choice question.  I have recently loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and Eleanor & Park.  Nonfiction is tougher because I don't read it often. Though I did just finish Patti Lupone's memoir (ehh...) and I'm reading The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents by Deepak Chopra. 

Question 11: What’s your favorite beauty product?

BB Cream (just started using it, and I love it. First one I tried was Cover Girl, but I'll probably try a different brand next time) and Maybelline Voluminous "Falsies" mascara. 

Question 12: When were you last embarrassed? What happened?
Oh man, I feel like I'm always embarrassed by something or other (see: "hidden talent" above). But I have learned to laugh at it or brush it off after almost 33 years of klutziness and not thinking before I speak.  And the last time I felt truly embarrassed was when I had inadvertently hurt one of my friends' feelings.  But that friend was very kind and honest, and we were able to resolve it quickly. 

Question 13: If you could only drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Iced coffee.  And Diet Coke, if I didn't avoid it like the plague because I get seriously addicted to it.  As the Pioneer Woman says, "Amen." 

Question 14: What’s your favorite movie?
Remember the Titans.  The Princess Bride. Across the Universe.  (Can you tell I don't like picking "favorites" of anything?)

Question 15: What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?

I went to a really small school (graduated with 70 in my senior class) and we all mostly got along and didn't really place labels on each other. I was very fortunate.  If I were to place a label on my HS self, I'd probably say band/theatre nerd. 

Question 16: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

I'm truly happy where I live right now.  But if I could get the Li'l D experience and be closer to Big D, I'd be in heaven. 

Question 17: PC or Mac?

PC

Question 18: Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse?

My husband follows me and the toddler around, cleaning up after us; he folds laundry while I'm bathing the baby; he washes dishes after I cook; he lets me take naps on mornings that Z wakes up super early.  He's fantastic. 

Question 19: Favorite celebrity?

Jimmy Fallon came to mind first.  I love how he fangirls out and he has an amazing sense of humor. 

Question 20: What blogger do you secretly want be best friends with?

The Pioneer Woman
Sween and his wife. 
You, probably.




September 11, 2014

Today, We Made Funny Faces

My sweet baby boy,

Last year, I explained why today is important as I gave you your morning bottle.  You grunted and blinked and looked at me so intently as I tried to think of ways to explain why this day is so important to us. I know you were too young (and are, still) to grasp why this day makes Mommies and Daddies cry.  You were too young to understand fear or hate or even love or goodwill or kindness. You had needs, and they were being met at that moment. Hungry: bottle.

But I was practicing, you see. There will come a day when we have to explain this day to you. You will hear about it in school.  You will see images before I'm ready for you to see them.  You will ask me why the flag is lower. So, I practiced. I practiced my kid-friendly speech.  I like to think it was a good speech.

This year, today sneaked right up on me.  Having you in our lives makes the days run together in a beautiful, exhausted and chaotic mess of songs and naps and messes and storybooks and babywearing. I would have forgotten that mine and Daddy's wedding anniversary was last weekend if I hadn't gotten a reminder on my calendar at work.

For a moment, I thought about telling you again.  You don't sit still very often anymore, so I thought about telling you as we drove to school.  Two things stopped me.

For one thing, you were happily babbling to yourself in the backseat.  Still a little sleepy.  Watching the cars go by, catching glimpses of yourself in the mirror and sticking your tongue out at your reflection.  Blowing raspberries and randomly calling out "DA!" I didn't want to harsh your mellow with grave reflections of a day you don't yet understand.

Secondly (and this one is hard for Mommy), I saw your first glimpse into fear last night.  It took us off guard.  You were just watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse before bed, like you always do, when suddenly you cried out, turned away from the TV and threw yourself to the ground, burying your face in your hands.  A cartoon bee had suddenly flown on to the screen, and it surprised you. It scared you. You crawled over to me and into my lap. I felt your tiny hands gripping my arms, and I saw your bottom lip pucker out in a heartbreaking little pout until the little Disney bees went away.  Then, as if nothing had happened, you clamored out of my lap again and went back to your Spot, where you love to watch Mickey and his friends at the Clubhouse.

Fear. Something that frightened you suddenly in the middle of a show you love and have come to depend upon as part of your daily routine.  You weren't expecting it and, for a moment, you were hesitant to trust it again.

It was a tiny moment, and you probably don't even remember it today.  But I do.  I remember a piece of my heart breaking off because I realized that you will experience that over and over again in your life. You'll lose tiny bits of innocence and uncover the truth that the world isn't always sweet and fun. Logically, I knew this was going to happen.  However, my heart was surprised and caught off guard.

As you grow and change and learn and develop into the boy and the man you will be, I can't promise I'll always be able to protect you and hold you until you trust that everything is okay.  (I mean, I want to, and your Daddy and I will do the best we can, of course, to prepare you for the things of this world that sting.)  But for now, for today, I can.  I get to make that decision.

So today, I didn't practice my speech again. Today,I smiled and tried again (unsuccessfully) to get you to say "Ma Ma" instead of "Da Da."  Today, I blew raspberries back at you.  Today, I sang "Shake it Off" to you when it came on the radio because it makes you laugh and dance in your carseat.

Today, we made funny faces.




Because today, for you, is a new day; another day to be joyful and innocent and full of laughter and smiles.

Today, maybe we will take your lead. Images may scare us, but we'll cry, be comforted, and then go back on with our routines.

Love,
Mommy

September 9, 2014

My Child is a Person, Not an Inconvenience

Last night, I (very unwisely) commented on the Facebook status of a friend who posted something that basically said, "I'm really glad school is back in session so that I can run my errands in peace and quiet. I'm sure YOUR child would NEVER behave poorly but I'm glad to not have to be around those that do."  The mama bear claws came out and I snarked back, "Well make sure you get them all done before the weekend, because we have to run our errands some time, and we'd hate for our brats to ruin your Saturday!"

In retrospect, I should have kept my mouth shut.  I've never been known to be someone who thinks before she types/speaks in every situation.  I couldn't help but get defensive, though.

Listen, I get it.  Kids aren't for everybody. Not everybody likes kids. Some parents only like their own kids.  Sometimes kids can be jerks (I've called mine a punk before; I admit it), and some parents are negligent, choosing to scroll through their Instagram feed in the supermarket while their child empties a box of Lucky Charms onto the ground and stops all over the spilled cereal while singing some atrocity from a Bubble Guppies episode at top volume.

But I am so weary of my child-free/childless (which is PC these days?) friends complaining about children on social media sites.  From the ever-popular "stuck on an airplane with a crying baby; great. #FML" to the more malicious and, in my opinion, unnecessary posts such as the one I saw last night.

I'll be the first one to like or comment on a post complaining about an incident such as the Lucky Charms one above.  Get your face out of your phone and pay attention, ya know?  But in most cases, I think we could all stand to show a little more compassion and understanding to two main truths:

1. A child is a person.
2. A parent is just trying to survive.

Your judgmental glares and rolled eyes and heavy sighs do nothing but exacerbate the problem and, more importantly, make the parents feel terrible and self-conscious.  (Let me let you in on a little secret: we already feel self-conscious and think we're terrible!)

This past Saturday, I took my 14-month-old son with me to a brand new donut shop in town.  I was carrying him in Fiona while I waited in a line that went out the door and almost to the street.  The place was filled with families, hip-looking couples, and bleary-eyed college students  grabbing a delicious box of snacks before heading to the morning football game. It was already a little noisy in there, but somehow (I mean I don't know from WHICH parent he gets this...::shifts in chair::) he managed to be louder than everyone. Not screaming. Not pitching a fit.  Just saying "da DA! da DA! da! DA DA DA DA DAAAAAAAAAAAAA! da DA!" over and over again (and with great breath support and placement, if I may add) with a very serious and focused look in his eyes.

I tensed up automatically, bracing myself for the withering looks of other parents or rolled eyes of the way-cooler-than-me couple behind me, when the guy smiled at Z and started talking BACK to him.  "No way!? Dude that's awesome. I KNOW RIGHT?" Z smiled and continued his chatter with a bit more gusto.

I caught the eye of the guy's lady-friend, and she smiled at me.  I smiled back, my eyes saying a silent "thank you" to them both for understanding that he's just a kid, just figuring out his voice and his vocal abilities. Eventually he'll learn "inside voice," but for now he's just kind of exploring what he can do.

When a child is screaming on an airplane, I promise they aren't doing it to annoy you. How do you feel when you travel coach?  I'll tell you how I feel: Uncomfortable. Tired. Grumpy. Hungry. My ears hurt during takeoff and landing.  Guess what?  That baby feels all those things, too.  And the parents are feeling all of those things AND the panic and stress of flying with a small child.

When you're in the grocery store, thinking to yourself, "Those kids are crazy. They shouldn't have that many kids if they can't handle them," I promise you that the parents are doing the best they can to grab a few things for dinner or a school supply that one of them lost or forgot and probably mentally adding up everything they put into their basket, hoping they can afford it, while their tired, overstimulated and hungry children (who are not emotionally mature enough yet to just grit their teeth and bear it) slowly melt down.

Ask yourself -- how often have you, an adult, wanted to just sit in the middle of a grocery aisle and cry?  How often have you wanted to throw your coffee cup on the ground in the middle of a meeting when you get upset? We don't because we're adults and we know that we have to act better, but at some point we, too, gave into those instincts as younger people.

Maybe you're reading this and shaking your head, thinking "teach them early!" But I want my child to be a child while he still can. I already feel my heart breaking when he bumps his head and I see him struggle with the decision on whether or not to cry.  Even at 14 months old, some instinct is telling him not to show emotion and to just deal with it. Some day, he'll find himself in situations where he does need to tamp down his emotions until he's in an appropriate time and place to release them.  But not now.  Not yet.

Please be aware that I'm not just going to let my child throw tantrums and brush it off with an "Oh, isn't he precious?" smile.  No. I'm going to be embarrassed and wondering what everyone is thinking about me and my parenting skills, and I'm going to mentally calculate whether or not he or I can both handle the extra 10 minutes it will take us to just FINISH the shopping trip or if it's best if I just leave the grocery cart on whichever aisle we're on and just get outta there.

But I am also not going to tell my child he should be seen and not heard. I want him to squeal with delight. I want him to sing the songs he learned that day at school. I want him to point and call out when he recognizes things.  Your thoughts may not be heard, but your feelings are seen in every glare and every roll of your eyes and in every put-upon sigh.

I will do my best to comfort and discipline him when he inevitably melts down in public.  But you know what would help me more than a judgmental look or whispered admonition? An offer to help me load my groceries into the trunk. A smile that says "It's okay, that's just babies being babies."  Or, if kids really aren't your thing and you just don't get it and don't want to?  Just put your headphones in and please stifle your sneering as best you can until I can get to my destination and out of your way.

I can promise that you and I BOTH are thinking about the glass of wine we'll pour as soon as we get home and get the chance to sit still. In the meantime, please give me (and my child) a little grace. I'm not asking you to love kids (or even like them) or have a few of your own. I just am asking for some grace.


August 29, 2014

DIY Planner with Printables

Being a mom means you have a super busy life that you have to deal with after you lost about 30%* of your smarts after making, birthing, and beginning to raise a baby.  Being a mom who is also involved in lots of activities makes it even busier.  Being a mom who has a husband who is ALSO involved in lots of activities and/or a crazy schedule....well, you get it.

(*not an exact science)

For a while now, I've had real frustration with my iPhone calendar and my Gmail calendar (#firstworldproblem, I know, but seriously).  I'd be at the end of a meeting, putting in the next meeting's date and time RIGHT THEN, only to have it disappear only a few days later, for no apparent reason. 

ALSO, I was really growing tired of asking my husband over and over what his (varied, ever-changing) schedule was and what time he'd be done that day (he was getting pretty tired of it, too).  I honestly just couldn't remember from day to day.  So I started thinking about getting a planner.

The Erin Condren planners were the first ones I wanted to look at, but....L O L at spending $50 on that when there are other things to buy right now (and never enough money to spend it on).  Sure, I could have gotten a cheaper one (they're still like $15-20) at Target or Staples, but I wanted it to be pretty.

So, I like to have my cake and eat it, too.  Sue me.

Then Heather totally saved me by tweeting this link yesterday and using some printables there, along with some Pinterest and some creativity of my own, and VOILA! My very own DIY (pretty!) planner!

and it IS a crazy life...

At-a-glance calendar for the year

Full month calendar; different color/patterned washi tape to indicate my commitment/husband's commitment/Z's appointments

Weekly plan after each month (I can tear them out once I'm done, or keep them all!)

Menu planning/shopping list

Bought a post it/stick-on thingy to go in the back.  It folds into the planner when it's shut, and I can refill it with other post-its when I run out. 

I used the "Blog Planner" template to keep up with my social media postings for different organizations for which I manage pages. This is one area where it'd be nice to make it customizeable, but hey...it was free.

Task/to-do lists for the shows I'm directing. The washi tape came in handy again because, unfortunately, the guy at Office Max bound these pages upside-down. Grrrr.  


Who knows if this will actually help me out (I'm really great at starting planners...) but I'm excited about it!  And it was WAY cheaper to print all of this out on my own and then have it bound.

Cost Breakdown

Printing: Free (ink, of course)
Binding: about $5 at OfficeMax
Washi tape: $2 x 3 rolls = $6
Post-it thingy: ~$6

Total Cost: less than $20

Thank you HEATHER!  Here's to getting organized.

August 21, 2014

My Worst Critic

Today, inspired by Jon Acuff's post in which he did the same, I took a photograph of my worst critic.

I caught her in a moment. I snapped her photo so that I could see her at a vulnerable moment and remind her that she really holds no power and that she doesn't always tell the truth.

I took her picture so that I could look right at her and tell her that she's not always right when she tells me things including (but certainly not limited to):

  • You are not a nice person.
  • You don't deserve good things to happen to you.
  • Good things aren't happening to you, and it's because you aren't trying hard enough.
  • You're bitter because you think you aren't good enough, and you're not.
What a mean person this critic is! Nobody would want to hang out with a person like this, would they? And yet she was close enough for me to snap a photograph.

Are you ready to see her?


(I know you aren't surprised.  These types of posts are usually pretty predictable.)

I had this empty post field open already when I clicked on Jon's tweet that led me to his blog post, and it was incredibly well-timed.  I was literally preparing to write an honest-but-not-very-nice post about myself in which I shook my fists to the Heavens in frustration and anger and bitterness about the fact that I'm not where I want to be yet.

Worse and much scarier - that I don't know where I want to be yet.  At least not definitively.

I do know some honest facts, though (my critic just doesn't have a very nice, tactful or loving way of saying them):

  • I'm afraid. 
  • I'm anxious.
  • I'm having a hard time being happy for anyone right now when good things happen to them.  Not because I don't think they deserve them, but because I don't understand why they aren't happening for me. 
  • I'm unfulfilled, professionally.
Look, I know what I'm doing wrong (though, perhaps "wrong" is the critic's word and I should try to come up with another one).   I've read all the devotional emails and heard all the sermons that remind me that until I fill up my life with Christ and focus on His word, I will not feel truly fulfilled in other aspects of my life, either.

Even THIS WEEK, I read a devotional that should have made me feel better.  It spoke directly to what I've been feeling lately.  Here's an excerpt:

I know some of you are ready to give up and quit. Some mountain is standing between you and the dream you thought was sure to become a reality. You think God has lost track of where you are and what you are going through. He hasn’t. That is a lie from the pit and smells like smoke. Don’t buy it!
I know you don’t understand why a loving God would allow so much pain to saturate this broken world and perpetuate such loss and hurt. I don’t either. But God’s ways are so much higher than my ways, and His thoughts are for my eternal good – not my temporary comfort.
The world is broken and hearts (including mine) are so heavy right now.  I'm frustrated with the state of the world, both globally and in my own little bubble and that mean girl up there in the mirror is telling me that I shouldn't allow myself to feel my own little first-world problems when there are "much bigger, worse things happening everywhere else." To an extent, she is right...

But I do need to address her, head-on, and face the truths that I'm fighting against with every fiber of my being.

A lot of posts and articles have made the rounds lately, in the wake of the sudden and tragic death of Robin Williams about how depression and anxiety are liars. I've never wanted to admit that I may struggle with one or both of those things (not outside of the postpartum anxiety I had for several months after Z was born, anyway) because they aren't "as bad as some people really have it."  But that's another lie, because I don't have to quanitfy OR qualify my feelings against those of others.

If I'm laying in bed, letting that inner critic, that Mean Girl, tell me all of those items in that first bulleted list and believing them, then it's time to make a change.

There's no revelation or special ending paragraph to this post that details what I'm going to do or how I'm going to do it. Because right now I'm still in the frustrated phase. I am reading devotional emails and cognitively knowing and understanding what the issue is and what I can and should be doing, but right now I'm stubbornly digging in my heels and folding my arms and just wanting to be mad. Openly inviting my worst critic into the conversation.

But maybe calling her out is the first step. She, led by the lies of the Enemy and the untruths and deception of anxiety, is not the boss of me. I won't let her win.

As I write this, I get tears in my eyes because I know that I do try every day to focus on love and positivity, but that sometimes that's just not enough.  But I'll get there.  My story isn't even close to over. Way, way, way down the path I can see where I want to be. I've just got to get over that mountain first.




August 11, 2014

On this blog, I write my last* confessions...

(*read: most recent)

I have a confession to make.  A couple, actually. 

Confession #1 -- About a week or so ago, I started asking myself a question that I was afraid to answer.  The question was, "Am I just unmoved by musical theatre anymore?" The question came as a result of having recently left several productions, from amateur to professional, just feeling...bereft of feeling or emotion.

As a matter of fact, I've been wondering of late if and where and how theatre even belongs in my life.  Becoming a mom to Z has definitely put my life into perspective, regarding how and where I spend my time and money, and sometimes I wonder if I even love it as much as I used to.  (See this post from Theatre Communications Group a while back -- it is a fairly accurate representation of the feelings I've had difficulty expressing in the past 13 months).

Then, this past Friday night, I attended Dallas Theater Center's widely-discussed (and quite polarizing) production of Les Misérables. With an open mind but a guarded heart for my all-time favorite musical, I craned my neck from the edge of my infamous chair at the Wyly Theatre, and spent three hours holding my breath and fighting back tears.

Which leads me to Confession #2 -- I will no longer call myself a "purist" when it comes to theatre.  At least, not in the sense of the word that has me digging in my heels and refusing to accept change or re-imagining of what we've, as a community, deemed "classic" works in the art form. 

Photo by Karen Almond, from DTC web site.
Before scoring my own set of tickets to a performance, I read almost every review of this production, and actively participated in discussions on Facebook theatre group forums (sometimes just to play Devil's Advocate and keep discussion going, but sometimes just to ask questions and be a part of the conversation -- and there was a lot of conversation about this production).  However, once I bought my tickets, I went off the Les Mis grid.  I wanted to spend the next 3.5 weeks in a bubble, and reset myself and my expectations for this production.

Photo by Karen Almond, from DTC web site.
This is not a review.  Others have done that already, and have done it better than I could.  I have thoughts - lots of them - about the direction and the staging and the performances...and also about the whole concept or idea of pushing our boundaries and taking the time to look at a story with fresh perspective.

I am no longer a purist -- but allow me to explain how I'm choosing to define "purist" in this genre. 

Do I believe that we need to consider the author/playwright/composer's intent?  Yes, absolutely.

Do I believe, though, that we cannot think outside the box without compromising the aforementioned intent and/or changing the story?  Not anymore. 

In my opinion, theatre is necessary and beautiful because it speaks to the human condition.  It's almost always about people, isn't it?  Or about how something affects a person or group of people?  I think so.  And we can only hope as artists that, when we make ourselves vulnerable and put our hearts and souls into the characters and breathe life into them on a stage, that we end up sharing something important and real with our audiences.

It's not just about the concept or the lighting or the production -- it's about the story.  It's about the human elements that guided the pen of the playwright/composer, that inspired the director/conductor and that are brought onto a stage by a dedicated, committed and passionate cast of actors.

That's why (and how) Les Mis works, even if you dress it up a bit differently. If anything, I'd say that this version, spearheaded by director Liesl Tommy, works even more so -- because you are unable to go into soft focus and watch this show as you've always seen it.  You perk up a bit in your seat, you tilt your head to the side a bit, and you snap to attention.  You hear lyrics as you've never heard or understood them before.  Themes smack you in the face with a little bit more force than the last reboot you saw come through on a tour.

Photo by Karen Almond, from DTC web site.

Again, I really do have so much more I could say about this production, but I fear I'd end up writing something long enough to rival Hugo's novel.  I do want to say just one more thing before I close with my final feelings:  I do not think that it takes the budget or space of Dallas Theater Center to create all of the same beauty and rawness and humanity that I experienced on Friday night.  It can happen (and is happening) anywhere artists are gathered with a passion and a goal to create art that inspires people.

I'll close with an email I sent to the director the morning after the show.  Perhaps I did tiptoe into "fangirl" territory, but I meant every word. I feel inspired and refreshed as an artist.  And grateful to have so many opportunities coming up to put that inspiration on its feet. 
Dear Ms. Tommy, 

Last night, my husband and I finally were able to score tickets to Les Miserables at Dallas Theater Center. We are semi-active members of the D/FW theater community and we love the musical and wanted to go and support some of our friends in the show. 

Thank you. 

Thank you for being brave with a classic production. Thank you for taking a risk and giving local audiences a chance to expand and open their minds to a fresh perspective on a beloved musical. 

Thank you for taking a concept and clearly weaving it through every single intricacy of a very intricate story. 

Thank you for showing us that, despite time or place of setting, humanity and the human connections we make are still relevant and that, in my opinion, they are why we do theater (or see theater, if our interests don't take us onstage) and why it's our DUTY to keep looking at these stories and songs. 

On a personal note...thank you and the cast for showing me that yes...I do need theater in my life, still. I had a baby a year ago, and since his birth and a very rough first experience back onstage a few months ago, I have been struggling with an artistic existential crisis. I've been asking myself, "Does theater -- specifically musical theater -- even have a place in my life anymore? Is this something that I still NEED?" Last night reminded me in my very bones that the answer is "YES." I was mentally and physically drained after last night's performance from sitting on the edge of my seat, holding my breath, and seeing and understanding new meanings in the story (I know it's cliche, but all of the parent/children moments resonated with me in a brand new way). I just wanted to rest my head in my arms on the balcony and weep. 

In my head, I've just been saying, "I want to email Liesl Tommy and say, simply, 'I got it. I understood it. Thank you.'" But the words kept coming. 

Thank you. And the cast. A million times.


August 2, 2014

Fiona

This may come as a big surprise to you all, but...I'm kind of an emotional person.


I know.

But what can I say? I love traditions. I love meaningful things. I love "things" or mementos or treasures or articles of clothing that have a story tied to them. (Remember the Traveling Maternity Shirt?)

Enter Fiona.

"Who/what is Fiona?" you say?

Let me start at the beginning.

Back when I found out I was pregnant, I hesitantly joined The Bump, one of many choices for pregnancy websites.  I found my Birth Month message board (June 2013) and kind of held it at arms length for a while.  However, sharing a pregnancy with strangers who will delight in your ever-growing bump with you and get SUPER excited about milestones (V-day, etc.) when everyone in your life who isn't pregnant just kind of smiles and nods....it was nice to have that group.

Late in the pregnancy, a smaller group of us formed a Facebook group (I'd tell you our name, but then I'd have to kill you.  The first rule about the June 2013 Moms Group is that you don't talk about the June 2013 Moms Group) and quickly began to get close to each other.  We anxiously awaited each June baby (some decided to make early appearances!), and we were there for each other literally 24/7 (you'd probably not be surprised to hear that there were some middle-of-the-night WHY IS MY BABY STILL CRYING?! type posts) during those bleary-eyed newborn stages.  We celebrated each milestone and, just recently, we celebrated and cried nostalgic tears with each other as we cheered each baby's first birthday and each Mama's first Birth Day celebration.

These women are amazing.

Now, back to Fiona. 

As you may remember, I got pretty into babywearing, thanks in large part to these amazing women (I bought my first wrap from one of them, and have borrowed many more from others).

One of the traveling wraps was Fiona.  Fiona is a woven wrap made by Pavo Textiles, and it's a fuchsia Etini.  One of the June mamas sent Fiona traveling in order to break her in ("breaking in" means making the wrap softer and more easily wrapped with than it is brand new in the bag).  MANY June mamas were on the list to play with Fiona for a week.  I lucked out and got her just in time for Christmas:


I absolutely loved seeing Fiona's travels...knowing that this one wrap was carrying all of these babies. That women I had grown to love and trust were wrapping their cranky, sleepy, teething, clingy, lovey-dovey babies with the same wrap.

I mean seriously, though, isn't that kind of a beautiful thing??

Anyway, when Fiona returned home, she was offered for sale (with what we call "buyback dibs") by the owner.  We all knew we wanted to keep Fiona in the "family." LONG STORY SHORT (too late), the owner and I spoke and she offered to split the wrap with me, and have two ring slings made by a professional converter.

Well...my half arrived today.


As soon as I put Z (cranky, clingy and feverish as he gets over an ear infection) in the sling, he rested his head on my chest and sighed.  I got huge tears in my eyes and was barely able to snap this picture before I got ugly-cry-face going.

It's not just that it's a wrap. A beautiful one, at that.  It's also that this wrap has carried many of the 2013 Junebugs. It's been lovingly re-folded and packed and shipped all over the U.S.

And...if I'm being honest...it's also that the owner was willing to do this for me on a payment schedule that works for us. I'm lucky to have one wrap at all, and it just isn't prudent for us to spend money on more when my beautiful Indio is so versatile for us.


...but she knew how much Fiona means to me. She knows I'm one of the sappiest people ever, and her generosity, patience and kindness make me get all teary all over again.

I don't have many and will probably never have a large wrap stash. But the ones I have are definitely perma-stash.  They will be in my home long after my baby (babies, possibly...some day) is past the wrapping years.  Because they mean a lot to me, and they carry stories as well as babies.

Welcome home, Fiona.  We'll do you proud.


July 25, 2014

Glory Moments

I am a working mom.

I always knew I would be.

I can definitely see myself standing under that bizarre umbrella that is "an introvert with extroverted tendencies," I need my time at home and I need to get out of the house sometimes. I want to work, and I want to be proud of what I do. I want Z to be proud of me, too!

I'm lucky.  I truly, truly am.  I leave him every day at one of the best childcare facilities in our city and he is loved! His classmates smile and clap and make squeals of delight when they see him. His teachers call out his name in hearty greeting. He spends the day learning and playing and comes home filthy and happy and more confident. His teachers hug me when I tearfully ask them not to tell me when/if he takes his first steps there instead of at home...and they promise me that, as far as they are concerned, all milestones happen at home.

But still. It's so hard sometimes. This week in particular, I've become acutely aware of just how little time I (and millions of other working moms) get to spend with him on a normal weekday.  Half an hour to an hour in the morning, and 2/2.5 hours tops between pick-up and bedtime.

So we fill that time with hugs and giggles and stolen kisses (he's so busy; it's hard to catch him!) and songs and bath time and storybooks. 


My time with my family is so precious.  I know there are silver linings in every dark cloud.  While I may not be feeling particularly...fulfilled, professionally these days, I am definitely made more aware of every. single. moment. with my family.  In our short times together during the week and especially on the weekends.




A daily devotional I read calls them "glory moments."  Moments of gratitude and wonder and thankfulness.  These moments are what I live for, and they're what get me through every day.

Nothing is permanent; I know things can and will change.  But this week has been harder than usual.  And these last couple of months of transition and change have taught me that I have to find the joy where I can and not allow the frustration or the negativity to rule me. (I'm being vague, but I have to be. It's the smart, grown-up thing to do, right? RIGHT?)

The good news is, these moments are usually pretty easy to find...


The joy lives with me, with these two guys in my life.  The little one smiles and pats my face, and the bigger one holds me and tells me he supports me no matter what.


It's the glory moments that get me through....that fill in all the little cracks and holes between Monday at 8am and Friday at 5pm.

And they are wonderful.

July 23, 2014

Stitch Fix #5 - We have a WINNER!


Ladies and Gentlemen...we finally have a winner!

(For back story on my last two disappointing fixes, read here and here.  If you want to know what Stitch Fix is all about, read about my first fix here.  If you wanna try it for yourself, please use my referral link so I can hopefully get more clothes like these from Michel'Le, who should be my stylist FOREVER.)

So after the last (very disappointing) fix, I was ready to throw in the towel. However, I still had about $80 in referral credit sitting in my account, and I was NOT READY to give up on Stitch Fix.  Especially since the other mail-order-clothing option I was looking into, Gwynnie Bee, is more geared toward plus-sized women and I'm in this awful, in-between size that's not quite plus-sized but definitely not teeny tiny. 

So I scheduled my next fix for the next-closest date and, before I knew it, another box was on my doorstep. I let Z take a look at it first because what's more fun than a box to a one-year-old? NOTHING, THAT'S WHAT.


I opened the styling card first and let out a WHOOP of joy when I saw three dresses and two tops on the list.  THREE DRESSES.  FINALLY, someone was speaking my language!

Let me post the photos and just tell you that, with the exception of the black patterned shirt-dress (which just was TOO much pattern and simply did not fit my curves well), I would have kept everything in this box.  The colors were on point, and everything would have worked seamlessly into my wardrobe and fit my style.


Roma Cowl Neck Jersey Knit Top (Market and Spruce) - Despite how clingy the fabric of this blouse was, I LOVED it. I loved the drape and the color so much. It was quite thin, but cool and silky.  The price point was a little high (I think it was around $48) for just basically being a knit shirt.  But I did love it!


Lana Lace Detail V-Neck Tank (Pomelo) - This black and white sleeveless blouse with the embroidery detail was another instant like. I can't actually say that it's the most flattering thing I've ever put on, but it was comfortable and loose in a "problem" area for me...so it would have been perfect on bloaty days.
 

Joe 3/4 Tab Sleeve Shirt Dress (Renee C) - This dress was just all kinds of wrong and a "LOL NO" as soon as I put it on. It looked great on the card, and I wanted it to work just for its versatility (could wear it in at least 3 out of 4 seasons with the right accessories) but...no.  Darn.


Gillian Sleeveless Dress (Gilli) - THIS DRESS.  The color, the length, the silhouette! Joy! Instant winner. Wore it to work the very next day and got a million compliments.  (okay, not actually a million, but SEVERAL, and I felt awesome in it.)  This dress is so on point. It's perfectly ME, and it's age and work appropriate.


Carlita Multi Chevron Print Maxi Dress (Loveapella) - YOUGUYS, a Maxi dress that isn't too long! It's a Christmas-in-July miracle! Also colors I love.  If you zoom in (or click on the image for a larger version) you can actually see my swimsuit hanging on my closet door behind me and it's almost the exact same color palette.  The necklace I'm wearing is one I already own, and the color matched just perfectly. I know the beauty of maxi dresses is that you can wear them for pretty much any occasion, but I felt so super sexy and dressed up in this one (bonus: my husband loved this one) that I'm saving it for our upcoming date night.

So I ended up keeping just the two bottom dresses.  They were a little pricey so, even with my style credit I still had to come out of pocket some, but it was worth it because I will wear them often.  Plus...as cliche as this sounds...it's really hard to put a price on feeling amazing in an outfit.  So, it was worth it to me.

I'm officially back on the Stitch Fix bandwagon.  It is obviously ALL about the stylist.  The next time I'm able to afford a fix, I will ask specifically for Michel'Le to style me again!