This morning, I spent the entire hour between waking up and leaving the house on myself (other than packing lunches) because Jax slept in (amazing!). Just as the clock turned to 7:45–the time I have to leave the house in order to make it to work on time–I realized today is the Thanksgiving feast at pre-K. This meant that I needed to send Jax to school dressed like either a Pilgrim or an Indian, per his teacher’s instructions. Rifling through his dresser, I couldn’t find anything that fit the description (in my head), so I had the bright idea to craft him a Pilgrim’s hat out of construction paper & whatever other supplies I could gather in under 5 minutes.

I struggled for a second between which of my two hats I needed to put on more: on-time professional Editor with a workload that needs all my attention versus crafty mom who doesn’t want her kid to be the only kid at school not dressed like a Pilgrim…

Mom wins. Always.

Here’s what I created when I should have been commuting:

pilgrim hatNot terrible, right? Except for the pieces of tape showing…

But when he woke up, I couldn’t get him to put it on! Can you guess why? Guess what he told me!

His teacher already made each child a Pilgrim hat or Indian headdress! Apparently, SHE had even measured their heads!

So…what do I do with my super cute Pilgrim hat? I’m thinking I make one for each of us and show up to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house wearing them.  :)

Do you think I made the right choice in going into work late so I could craft this hat, despite the outcome?

I did manage to sneak in a photo of Jax trying it on…

pilgrim hat modelAnd by the way, I managed to get to work only 9 minutes late! Not bad!

 

This post is prompted by Janine, who said this: “I’d love a post on everything you LOVE and are passionate about. More than just books and bubble baths. What made you YOU before Jax?”

What an interesting prompt! Sometimes it can feel like the person I was prior to having Jax is “other,” far away, forgotten. My friend Ron tries to remind me of that person from time to time by asking me about her and listening to her stories.

I spent a few minutes this morning trying to remember who I was before Jax was born, and it was difficult. I found that it helped to use a trick I picked up in therapy–use of the third person voice.

Me, approximately 18 years old

Me, approximately 18 years old

Jaime was the shyest kid in class, the one who preferred to remain unnoticed, to blend into the crowd (although she didn’t love crowds much). She let her anxiety define her, in a way, not that anyone recognized it as anxiety until her twenties. For the first 15 years of her life, she was a chameleon and changed as her surroundings and peers demanded, hoping not to be noticed or to upset anyone. She needed to be liked. But then she met Dana, Nicole, and Melanie and she eventually grew into herself around age 16. She started to write poetry every day on any canvas that was available, whether skin, clothing, or paper. She also sculpted, drew, and painted. She had 3 art periods in her senior year, and there were only 5 periods in the day. She was liked enough in high school, even though she mostly hung with the outcasts and weirdos. Her hair was nearly down to her butt, and she lived in her thrift store digs and her Doc Martens.

Things went wrong with her relationship with her biological father, and she became an angry teenager, dressing in a lot of gray and black, listening to her music loudly. Favorites then were Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and a lot of industrial music; but she appreciated indie rock as well, which is confusing but true. Going to concerts became a thing once she turned 18 and inherited her best friend’s neighbor’s license (the neighbor was 21 and looked like Jaime, so Jaime was able to use the license to get into concerts that were for an older crowd only). She stopped being shy because of the music and thought nothing of approaching a singer to dote on him or her.

She was a hard worker, with a lot of goals and plans; she got this from her mother, who’s also very ambitious and goal-oriented. She got her first job at 16 with her best friend; this was also the only job she’d ever had from which she’d be fired. By age 19, she was working two jobs while going to college on student loans. By 20, she was working full time on top of being a full-time English major, after changing her major from history. She originally planned to be a history or english high school teacher, but when that path was taking too long, she dropped the secondary ed thing and decided to work in publishing instead.

She moved out of her parents’ house at the age of 20 and into a house with 2 boys–her boyfriend and his best friend. She laughed a lot, but she also became depressed partly because her parents and little sister moved across the country, partly because of a reaction to birth control (she didn’t know she had a family history of depression and that this particular birth control increased her risk of depression further). She stopped being creative. She failed Intro to Bible twice because of her depression, but had a very kind, empathetic teacher who looked like Dr. Weil if Dr. Weil rode a motorcycle and were depressed, too. She had another influential teacher at college–her creative writing (and later, advanced creative writing) teacher–who gave her confidence in writing.

She developed an interest in alternative medicine, which isn’t a drastic change in a girl who used to give her friends natal charts she’d write up for them as gifts. She always believed in astrology more than anything else.

After a few years, she ended up living alone and enjoying it for a while–except for the part about having to deal with bugs that find their way inside. She had such an irrational fear of bugs that when the occasional cricket found its way into her first-floor apartment, she wouldn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call a friend to come help.

In her early twenties, she graduated college after long enough and tried to move across the country to be with her family. She came back less than a week later, terrified to go through with it for various reasons. She got a job working in the art department of a newspaper until something better came along, which never happened there. She left after 7 or 8 months and became an editor at a health care publisher. She worked on medical journals that grossed her out on a daily basis but found that she enjoyed the work anyway.

For fun, she went to parties with her friends most weekends, some of which she hosted at her apartment. She still wrote, although poetry wasn’t her thing as much as journaling was. She was very introspective and always strove for self-growth. She fell in love with someone into comics and she tried to make some but wasn’t very good at it.

She took a lot of bubble baths and read a ton of books. She was the kind of girl who was never without a book and was even known to crack it open in heavy traffic or while stopped at railroad crossings or long red lights.

She was intense, always feeling things very deeply, “emotional” in everyone’s eyes. But this also made her very empathetic to others’ emotions and, she hoped, a supportive friend.

I wrote this post today not only because Janine asked me about who I was/am but also because I’m struggling with low self-esteem right now. I worry endlessly about how others perceive me, and it’s uncomfortable. I’m considering this post to be a necessary excercise in figuring out how I want others to know me and how I know myself. It’s been helpful to see that I’m still the same person I’ve always been at my core–an introverted girl who’s struggled with anxiety and depression but fought hard to overcome those and other challenges; a supportive, emotional, empathetic friend; sometimes a bit messy; still afraid of bugs, still into astrology; a music fanatic; a believer in the power of words.

I’m issuing you the same challenge issued to me. If you blog your response to Janine’s question, please link to it in the comments below. I would love to know you better.

My inner hippie chick was released as soon as my pregnancy was confirmed. I made the decision early on to try breastfeeding, although the idea admittedly freaked me out a little. However, when Jackson was born, breastfeeding didn’t come naturally for either of us. I remember the first time I tried to nurse him, three hours after he was born. I couldn’t get him to latch correctly, and we both ended up crying and frustrated. I had my first new mom doubts about the decision I’d made.

But I’m a bulldog momma. Once I make up my mind about what I feel is best for my child, I rarely change my mind. I’d had pregnant daydreams of rocking Jackson in the glider, and nursing him gently to sleep. So I let myself be guided by instinct and I buzzed a nurse to schedule a visit with the hospital’s certified lactation consultant.

This was, hands down, the best parenting decision I’ve made to date.

The first time he successfully latched on, as the lactation consultant guided us, tears of joy sprang to my eyes and I knew I’d made the right decision not to give up during those first few frustrating days.

Moments after our first nursing session.

Moments after our first nursing session.

Months later, I was making breastmilk smoothies and pumping at work like a pro! The early days of tribulation had become a fading memory, thanks in part to the support team I’d assembled: the lactation consultant I met in the hospital and called as needed, my local La Leche League, the hospital’s in-person breastfeeding support group, a Facebook group of local breastfeeding moms, and a few coworkers who were also pumping in the office. With advice and support from these women, Jackson breastfed for 33 months.

Milk drunk!

Milk drunk!

Breastfeeding him helped us both in so many ways, in addition to giving him the best nutrition possible. Jackson was a high-needs baby, and nursing soothed and comforted him when nothing else could. As a mother who suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety, I, too, was comforted, as breastfeeding provided me with a few quiet and calm moments every few hours, when we would stop whatever we were doing and simply enjoy some skin-to-skin contact alone together. Further, once I got the hang of it, breastfeeding boosted my confidence—which, as a new mom, I desperately needed!

This post is part of BlogHer’s My ‘I’m a Mom Moment’ editorial series, made possible by Seventh Generation.

Today marks one year since my biological father passed suddenly. I’m not sure what to think or feel, let alone write here. But I wanted to acknowledge the uncertainty and make peace with it for today, so here I am, freewriting to help me process what’s going on inside.

We weren’t close when he died. We hadn’t talked in 11 or 12 years, and we had also spent 7 or 8 years before that without speaking. That means he missed more than half my life. Do I have regrets about that? Sure, I do. I’m human, afterall. I have a lot of questions about his life without me and my brother in it. I have to live with the fact that I’ll probably never know what he was like, except for a few tweets I saw and what is public on his Facebook page, and maybe a few questions I can ask of people who did know him at the end of his life (if I can ever bring myself to ask). We never had an adult relationship. He never met my son, and I don’t think he knew he was a grandfather. All I have are my childhood and adolescent memories, many of which aren’t good or comforting. Should I cling to the ones that make me smile, ignoring the painful ones? Is that doing myself a disservice, or is that being kind to myself? What will I share with Jax some day?

Those are some of the thoughts that run through my head today and occasionally at other times. I don’t know what to do with the questions, the emotions that range from sadness to anger to guilt, or any of it.

How do you forgive someone who is dead? I tell myself that he was mentally ill and also in physical pain, and my empathy for those who struggle helps alleviate some of my pain about our relationship. I tell myself that because he wasn’t in my life, I was able to be closer to my stepfather, who has been a strong, positive influence for 30 of my 35 years. I remind myself that life would have been very different for me, my brother, and my mom had she not divorced him when I was little. I think about what I know about his relationship with his third child, my half-brother, whom I first met at the funeral, and I take comfort in thinking that my dad learned from his mistakes with me and my brother and was a better father to his third child. I tell myself that I have learned from those mistakes, too, and that I am a better parent as a result.

I guess the best thing to do today is allow myself to grieve for the relationship I didn’t have with my dad after the age of 15. And breathe.

 

I cry often. Sometimes this makes the people in my life very uncomfortable. It can make them a little judgy, too. There is such a stigma about crying–have you ever heard anyone say that crying means you’re weak, that it isn’t good to show emotion, not to ever let them see you vulnerable, and so on? I have, too many times to count.

I’ve also been called a “sissy” because I am quick to cry and have been told countless times by countless people that I need to “toughen up.”

What those people don’t get is that for some of us, crying is a way to release tension. Nothing more. It doesn’t mean I’m depressed or that I am not “tough” (whatever that actually means). It means I am releasing stress and tension in a way that feels good to me–and this is a positive thing! Physiologically speaking, tears activate parasympathetic activity, which helps relieve stress and ease distress.

Crying activates both the arousing sympathetic nervous system and the sedating parasympathetic nervous system. However, the latter is activated for a longer period, which no doubt explains why people tend to remember crying as a calming and cathartic experience. (Source)

Yes, crying around others does make me vulnerable, but I feel this vulnerability is usually a positive thing, with positive results (if you do it around the right person/people). I’ve strengthened relationships as a result of allowing myself to be vulnerable in front of others. Sure, I’ve also damaged relationships by wearing my heart on my sleeve, by not containing my emotions–but how solid were those relationships in the first place if they’re so easily strained?! I’ve found that crying has sometimes led to increased connection. I betcha Brene Brown would agree with me on this one.

I spent a little time this morning reading about the myriad benefits of crying. Did you know there are 3 types of tears: basal, reflex, and emotional?

[Emotional] tears may have a number of social functions, in particular (1) communicating our emotions while emphasizing their depth and sincerity, (2) attracting attention, sympathy, and help at a time of danger, distress, or need, and (3) serving as a signal of appeasement, dependency, or attachment (for example, by blurring our vision and handicapping our aggressive and defensive actions). (Source)

In addition to all the social benefits of crying, there have been many studies stating the health benefits of emotional crying. For example, the chemicals that build up in your body as a result of stress are released through your tears.

Biochemist and “tear expert” Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis discovered that reflex tears are 98% water, whereas emotional tears also contain stress hormones which get excreted from the body through crying. (Source)

If you’re someone who feels uncomfortable seeing others cry, please ask yourself why this is. Please try not to pass judgment on the crying individual or see their crying as weak or merely an attempt to garner attention. Please read this article.

Bottom line: It is healthy, not weak, to cry.

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