Posted in Our Story

Untitled (intentionally)

I’ve been struggling with myself lately. My sister called in the middle of the day last week simply to be heard. Her words could have been my own. “I no longer have my own identity.” Living 1,690 miles away from her, I jumped on my Amazon app to find the perfect item capable of reviving her sense of self. What did I find? Mama Bear paraphernalia, kitchen gadgets, wine accessories, and relaxation goodies. All things that I am certain we could scroll through for hours finding quite a few to add to our wish lists. Not a single one I found related to my sister as a person outside of her current circumstance. Not one. I found junk to help her unwind from a rough day with 2 toddlers. Practical stuff for her obligations as a cook and homemaker. I saw a pair of earrings that struck me as her style but I didn’t even click on them. Being a Mom to my own 3 year old, I know better than to gift her another reason for her baby to tug at her body or to serve as a reminder for how long it has been since an escape AKA date night. There I was helpless in my effort to bring her comfort and left with a growing awareness of my own detachment from who I formerly knew as myself.

I just keep thinking: I am beginning to comprehend what motivated my Mom. I know that if she were here, I would be grateful for her in a more complex way now that I have a feisty minion of my own. Since she is no longer a resident of this Earth, I have been blessed with a newfound bond to her. The complication of our relationship has never been a secret and I think that friction would have held up a wall as long as she was alive. In a strange twist, her death blasted a pathway between us. Without her persistent pull to rescue me from repeating her fears, I can see her and I believe she is finally able to see me. With every step I come closer to uncovering who she was, I see a woman tangled in the veils of being a wife and torn from herself by the ever changing obligations as a mother. I’ve spoken frankly to the people closest to her throughout the progressing phases of her life.  Had those people been able to share stories of her with each other, they’d uncover a stranger too. She buried who she was under layers of other people’s expectations. She lost sight of herself and became obsessed with “properly” filling her roles.

The fear of falling into the grooves worn by her path remains my challenge, even without her presence. Ironically, the traits that gave her the most grief bring me comfort. Let me clarify. Given the choice and without a drop of hesitation, I would take her as a grandmother to my daughter over her absence. I am here attempting to brighten this situation similar to the way she would turn to the seemingly defeated party and offer solace. My sister and I are in her shoes. Lost. Not just because my barely size 6 foot would be swallowed by her size 9 clogs but a ‘disappearing from my own reflection in the mirror’ kind of lost. As I bantered with my sister, “No one told us it would be like this!” Lonely and alone. Sounds redundant but being lonely and alone are not identical. Alone is being without someone else. Lonely is not having companionship. I am more often than not lonely while sitting right next to my husband. Not alone, just lonely. Same goes for being with my daughter. Not alone, just lonely and lost in my own skin.

You are not alone. I am here in South Carolina crawling through the trenches with you. You are virtually not alone. I call you all to lift up your fellow Mamas. She’s that sexy lady using her forearms to push the buggy while coaxing a grumpy mini human to be pleased with the samples of popped pea crisps- baked, not fried. That one next to you with her previously silky hair twisted atop her head as a display of her altered priorities. I think we can all find a comfortable venue to provide support and connect with others in similar situations. Unlike my former self, I am unfazed replying to my daughter asking what I’d like to do with the confident reply, “Bang my head against the wall.” The passing Mom snickered with full eye contact and whispered, “I’m right there with you.” She was hunched over a buggy filled with carefully curated picks. Her new life’s passion- selecting the ideal items for her family based on research, financial responsibility, and social influence. Be her friend. For that moment in passing, a season of tee ball, or a continued comradery through traded date nights and excited Ladies’ Nights painting wall decor. Not just fellow moms but anyone within your reach who is fighting a battle familiar to you. I’m pretty sure we can all find another in a related uncharted territory carving out a path while recreating their own sense of self.

I tease about volunteering to teach an unconventional maternity class about your life after giving birth. Becoming a mother did not come naturally to me and I did not cope gracefully with the introduction of my daughter. I believe that many parents experience some degree of postpartum depression and we should acknowledge the impact of adjusting to these phases in our lives. We all are moving through unique reactions to the situations life throws at us. I am continually recovering from an evolving dynamic in my family since my mother’s passing in 2014. Through recent stories of my Mom, I see her as a proud and loving person for the first time in my life. Her death also sparked the loss of my Dad, as I knew him. He disassociated from the remaining family unit and I am sadly accepting his new occasional presence in my life. As a result, I have no where to go home to. My house is suddenly the primary home in my life. Even married and with a kid, I envisioned ultimately going home to my parent’s house as I worked in the background to create a home of my own. Hosting holidays in my house feels more like playing pretend than warmly welcoming friends and family to celebrate in a cozy established home. I took for granted how blessed I was to be under one roof with the people I’ve shared a lifetime of memories with in a house that held an irreplaceable familiarity. It’s awkward to be in this place building my own young family’s memories without the ability to recharge in the embrace of a home filled with the memories that formed me.

Take a full deep breath and give yourself grace. The journey to conquering our circumstance is swimming with every facet of emotion. You may be stepping in some ugly stuff right now or basking in the warmth of your season. Take a second to absorb the fluid onward motion of your life. I spent too much of Annabeth’s first years swallowed by the depressing state I found myself in. But perspective certainly is everything. I am not slipping further away from me. There is nothing to let go of because I have taken the reins and I am transforming day by day, allowing the heartache to stretch me to seek a fresh perspective that will propel me through my next phase in life. Simply making the decision to no longer regret growing apart from who I once was gives me the grace to fall in love with myself all over again. I am not a shell of my former self, disappearing with each role I take on. I am blessed by the challenges that are carving depth and strength into my character.

Bring on that Mama Bear mug! I am beaming proud of that chunk of myself who gets to be a Mom. I will connect with my situations on a more personal level and take advantage of the endless moments that serve as opportunities to define me. I will develop my own expectations of the roles I fill and mindfully immerse my being into all aspects of who I am. I am Momma. I am a wife. I am a neighbor and a friend. Enjoying my circumstance is loving who I am being molded into along the way.

Posted in Our Story

Fall into Winter

The holidays consumed us this year. Intentionally. T.J.’s schedule allows us to be a family and we are basking in the time we have together. Annabeth’s tee ball league ended just before Halloween. T.J. volunteered to play catch with the kids at first practice and was assistant coach from then on. I giggled as I watched preschoolers more fascinated with the red dirt and bugs than T.J.’s attempts to corral them into fielding the ball. The big news: We made our first friends through some chatting on the bleachers! T.J. and I cannot remember the last time we made a new friend that wasn’t via work or school. How sad. Honestly, our sweet neighbors in Hudson are the last friends we can remember making. I’m not sure if that was their choice or just victims of circumstance.

Our last couple months were filled with dancing in the booths of Taco Bell and Raising Cane’s, peeing in the backyard, playing with Barbie dolls, and a developing obsession with Disney+. Annabeth chose to go as Shazam for Halloween, after failed attempts to convince her that Moana/Maui/Hei Hei or Ariel/King Triton/Sebastian were superior choices. She corrected anyone who guessed she was Shazam saying, “We are Shazam FAMILY.” We now pray over dinner with our hands stacked and end it with, “Shazam!” instead of an Amen. We made it to a Fall Festival at the park and Hocus Pocus movie that followed but cold temps brought us home early. It’s rough when your 71 degree sunshine drops into a chilling 48! We also found the cutest Harvest Festival put on by neighboring churches and joined our new friends from tee ball in the fun. The kids jumped in a bouncy house, decorated mini pumpkins, joined in on a cake walk, got tattoos and sno cones, and played countless games for treats. We also joined them for Trick-or-Treating on Halloween because our neighborhood is over 55 years old and so are most of it’s residents. We did see one large group hopping on and off a hayride pulled by an ATV stopping at the few houses that were lit up as we visited a couple of the neighbors we know before heading home for the night.

The first weekend in November, we surprised Annabeth with Disney On Ice at the North Charleston Coliseum. I was proud of myself for remembering to get her dressed in costume for the event. There is no greater shame than Annabeth’s reaction to being the only one not dressed properly for the occasion, especially when it comes to a princess theme. We had her convinced we were getting ready for dinner at Cane’s, so she was stoked when we revealed that ice skating Disney princesses were a part of the evening. T.J. and I ended up being surprised at how much we enjoyed the performance. Annabeth was on the edge of her seat nearly the entire time! Win, win for all. Despite the distraction, the promise of Cane’s stood fast. Chicken and crinkle cut fries drenched in Cane’s sauce were the ultimate finale for our Southern Belle in training.

The following weekend we spent at the Coastal Carolina Fair, which was held at an event park just 4 miles from our house. It was nicely organized and we set our sights on the 2 sections designated for kiddie rides. My eyes brimmed with tears as she braved going on her first ride all by herself! The only ride we went on together was the Ferris Wheel. Annabeth will never let Dad live down forgetting the cheese sauce for her first ever curly fries. Man, oh man. She was so disappointed. She refused to eat them no matter how many ketchup drenched potatoes Dad offered.

T.J.’s 38th birthday was on November 23rd. (I get to tease him about his impending 40th birthday next year!) Let me tell you, hunting for a gift for Daddy was tough. Annabeth and I wanted to get these tennis shoes he has been keeping his eye on. We waited for the perfect time to make the trek down to the Tanger Outlets only to discover that they were sold out of his size! I panicked and Annabeth was in tears. We scrambled through Costco searching for a last minute gift when Annabeth excitedly exclaimed, “The Queen’s tea, Mom!” She jabbered on about how much Dad loves the Queen’s tea and just had to wrap it up for his birthday. “The Queen’s tea will be perfect for Dad,” she demanded. Amused by her enthusiasm, I eventually locked my eyes on the purple box with a crown on the label. Crown Royal: The Queen’s Tea. You should have seen Annabeth beam with pride when she handed him that present! The best part is, I can’t remember the last time he had Crown. We ended the day by having our new friends over for lasagna and cheesecake.

We finished off November with Thanksgiving at our neighbor’s house. T.J. smoked a gorgeous brined turkey stuffed with onions, oranges, and apples. We made the mistake of slathering our last one with a compound butter. Needless to say, we learned why you should lift the skin and rub butter directly onto the meat. My stomach can hardly contain its contents at the sight of a featherless bird. I will not be massaging a headless turkey under a dermal sheet any time soon. My biggest feat to date is using a wooden spoon to shove cornbread stuffing into the carcass last Thanksgiving! It was a lovely meal and we were so grateful to be able to share it with our neighbor. She watches Annabeth on occasion and we check on her puppies when needed. The value of friendship surely has increased with age.

This year has brought a revived focus on thankfulness. We are sad to be a 3.5 hour plane ride away from our friends and family in Colorado but South Carolina has been so good for us. We feel alive here. This place, this circumstance has refreshed our souls and opened our hearts.