Categories
Life Work

Don’t wait until you have your sh*t together.

Just be like Nike and go do the damn thing.

Let me tell you, life can get hectic. It’s been difficult to even come up for air at times. I haven’t even taken great care of the blog lately, but hopefully, that will change after implementing a few habits that will fit some writing and web page maintenance into my daily routine. But I don’t have to have it all figured out to do some amazing stuff. Here’s how I go about doing it.

Keep learning as you go. (And never stop.)

My education does not end at my bachelor’s degree. Sure, I don’t have to show up in a classroom to learn these days, but I’m always learning something new. Whether it’s on the job, or while I’m enjoying some time off, I’m still learning every day.

It may look like I have it all under control on the outside. Some days, I do. But there are definitely days where I’ve gotta wing it and see what happens. It involves a bit of risk-taking, which I’m also still learning how to do. I’ve always played it on the safer side of things since that is how I was brought up. Now I am discovering how rewarding it can be to take the chance to pursue what I want.

Stop procrastinating.

Procrastination has always been my worst enemy. I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger on some things because of whatever excuse I could figure out. Some were legitimate concerns, such as financial cost, time commitment, etc. Others were quite plainly, just dumb. (Ex: *deciding to scroll through my phone on social media for 2 hours instead of doing something useful*)

Hustle while you wait.

I had to switch my mindset if I wanted anything to change. And it was hard. It took several weeks to really start getting this through my thick skull. I went from thinking “I want to do X, but…” to thinking “What can I do today to get to X?” and it has been life-changing. I stopped focusing on my barriers and started focusing on the actions that I can do in the present moment that would help me get there.

This part of the habit-changing process is boring, tedious, and ruthless. It is the ugly side of every transformation. Nobody really discusses this part. Because it’s not motivating or sexy. It’s hard work. It can even get really painful. This is where you get into the rhythm of doing something regularly, even when you don’t feel like it.

Go get what you want.

Add a 2-year-old toddersaurus rex into the mix, and it can definitely get easier to give up and throw in the towel sometimes. This is where persistence is key. If I fall, I’ve got to get back up. That’s really important.

Sometimes that means writing a blog post while on the kitchen floor playing with cars and a teddy bear with my daughter, who insists that her mama should play. And while chasing a cat out of a Christmas tree every 10 minutes or so. No matter what, I’ve gotta press on. Every minute counts.

Think of the long-haul instead of short term success.

Recently, we’ve put a house in rehab on the back burner because of other jobs and projects that had greater priority. (because of money!) One of the most time-consuming parts of this thing so far has been laying down the new flooring. I knew that if we tried to do it ourselves, we would never make our 2020 deadline we set for ourselves for the house to be complete.

Thankfully, I was able to bring on some additional help who had some experience laying down flooring because frankly, I had none. Zero. This was the first house I have tried doing this sort of thing on. And with just two of us, it took 10 hours to get the majority of the flooring down. (Not bad for a couple of rookies!)

Find the silver lining in every situation.

Sure, it would have been easier for me to just give up and have my hired help do all the work, but I wanted to learn, too. I didn’t want to lose my opportunity to learn something useful for future projects.

Just because I didn’t have the experience in something, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t give it a good try. I approach anything unfamiliar with that mindset. I just need to try. I don’t need to know everything or have all my sh*t together to do something today. I’ll get there.

It took a lot of trial and error for us to get into a groove. But as we learned, we got faster and more efficient at laying each part down correctly. And little by little, the house was transformed. It started to look amazing. Change is hard, so there’s definitely strength in numbers. The people in your corner can make all the difference.

Focus on today.

There’s also another way to look at how important the present moment is, especially as a parent.

Whenever I come home from my day job, it seems like my daughter grows just a little more each and every day. She’s also learning new things and slowly changing herself as well. It’s amazing to see how much she’s changed from last year.

PJ went from crawling and cooing into being a talkative, bubbly and fiercely independent little girl who can run circles around me today. And next year, she will change even more. It’s a wonderful, yet bittersweet thing for me to witness. And she’s definitely not waiting until she feels like she’s got it all figured out. She’s just going for it!

Categories
Home Life

Practicing gratitude.

This has been one of those mornings where I woke up just thankful to be alive.

I’m getting over a severe stomach bug that had rendered me useless for the past 24 hours. It’s funny how you take basic bodily functions for granted until you become violently ill. I’m just glad that I can keep my food down now.

My appetite has returned, my aches and pains are gone, and I finally am able to indulge in my morning coffee once again. Hallelujah!

Today started off kind of cruddy, though.

I woke up to the cat banging things around the house. He does this when he gets hangry. Next, the fridge was looking a little neglected, with none of our usual breakfast staples like eggs, fruit, etc. We were also out of bread. I ended up cooking beans and rice for breakfast, since it was all we had in the pantry.

Then my husband started talking to me about the bills, before my morning coffee. Probably not the best idea. During this, the cat came out again, bit my ankles and drew blood because he was still not fed yet.

In one swift movement, I cut my husband off, picked up the cat, tossed him in the bathroom and closed the door. Probably not the best way to deal with that, but those bites hurt! And I didn’t get to eat or have my coffee. I was hangry too, dammit.

——–

Whoops! This post is about practicing gratitude. It really is easy to slip back into a negative pattern of thought.

So now, let me rewrite the morning above in a different light.

——–

I woke up today with no aches, nausea, or chills. It was definitely an improvement from Monday’s crap and I felt relatively rested for the first time in a while.

PJ was awake and playing peacefully in her bed. When I walked in the door to get her for breakfast, her face lit up to see that mom was still home during the day. (She usually doesn’t see me during the weekdays.) We ate an odd, but healthy breakfast of black beans and rice, with some broccoli and cheese. Both PJ and Dan gobbled it down. It was great to remember that I could still manage to make something out of nothing when the kitchen was a little empty.

Dan began to talk about the bills that could be paid once he gets a check from the last odd job he did with his parents, and tried to get me up to speed on what I missed while I was passed out for the entirety of Monday. Meanwhile, the cat was still being crazy. (I can’t make that part sound positive, no matter what I do.)

After the cat was fed, we all had a pretty chill morning. And for the first time in months, my daughter was in a cuddly mood. So we shared some snuggles on the couch while we watched Word Party. I was one happy mama.

——–

It’s amazing what a little change in perspective can do, isn’t it?

Sometimes, I just have to pause and take a hard look at what is really in front of me. There are a lot of days where it’s just easier to default to complaining, comparing, and just not being happy with what I have. It requires less energy for me to do this. These days, I have little energy to spare. Guess what happens then? I tend to become a bit negative about things when I’m tired or when I’m feeling sick.

Fortunately, this is something for me that can be changed with practice. It’s a change of habit in my own thought patterns. It sounds really dumb and silly on the surface, but it’s true.

Lifehack has some pretty good tips on how to practice gratitude here.

For example, in my first version of my morning, I had no bread for breakfast. Our family sometimes runs on toast alone. In my second version of my morning, surprise! We still had no bread.

Despite the fact that we didn’t have bread, eggs or fruit, I improvised and thought: Well, I have rice, a can of black beans, and some broccoli. Not a typical breakfast, but it’s a meal.

Instead of focusing on what I didn’t have, I switched my focus on what I did have to work with in the pantry. Some food is definitely better than no food at all. And I know how to make sandwich bread in a pinch, but that still feels a bit ambitious for me at the moment. Maybe later. We’re not gonna starve.

Second example: In the first story, I was mad about how much the cat was bugging me. In the second, I was thrilled to spend some quality time with my daughter. Both of these things happened, but in the second version of my morning, I chose to focus on the positive things, which included those snuggles I got from PJ. I haven’t received those since she was just a few months old, so that was awesome.

So of course, there are going to be good things and bad things that happen during the day. Some days, the bad can outweigh the good. This is when I believe it is very important to try and see the silver linings that may be present to get through the nastiness of the day. It may be the one thing that saves my sanity for the moment.

I honestly have it pretty damned good most of the time. And I’m super thankful for that.

Hey, there are definitely worse things out there that I will (hopefully) never have to experience… Like cleaning out the bathrooms at a McDonald’s. Or at a Taco Bell. Or any bathroom that I’ve had to use recently with my stomach bug. My heart goes out to you and I weep for you. You have my sincerest apologies. I am thankful for you.

Categories
Life Work

Confessions of a recovering workaholic.

The path to succeed is never linear.

Let me start by saying that I’ve been feeling extra guilty for not being able to update here much lately. Work has taken a big chunk of my time, leaving little wiggle room for much else for me, including things like sleep and showering. Our first family vacation is just around the corner now, and I’ve been scrambling to get the last little bits of stuff together before we drive away and shut the world out for a week.

But I’ve been here before. Actually, I’ve been in worse situations, where there was too much work and not nearly enough down time. Not too long ago, I managed to graduate college debt-free by taking 18 credit hour semesters, working three jobs, and actively participated in two other student organizations. All while helping a family business get off the ground.

Now that was hell. 60 hour work weeks feel like vacation to me now.

There will be periods of time where I’ll have a sort of mini existential crisis. This is when I’ll wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life (not fully utilizing my bachelor’s degree is one example) and whether it is beneficial to me in the long run. Sure, things can get depressing while pondering the above, but it is an important thought process for me to have.

You see, people like to think progress is like A, then B, then C. When in reality it’s basically jsGjdkslHkdnskd- (literally slamming my keyboard) then maybe you get money for it. God, if life was really that predictable and stable looking, I feel like people wouldn’t be freaking out about nearly everything as much.

Running out of money and dealing with severe burnout was not in my master plan of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. I don’t think anyone finds any pleasure nor strives to work themselves to the point of sleep deprivation and forgetting to do things like eat, sleep, and neglect basic hygiene things like showering. No wonder people are all smelly and depressed these days. Fortunately for me, the resulting crashes from overworking myself had positive outcomes. I learned to slow down to stop and smell the roses without feeling guilty about it.

Growing up, my work ethic was born out of necessity (for things like eating) and at the same time trying to keep up with the kids that had money to do extracurricular things. School field trips, social activities, club fees, you name it. Sure, I could work long hours and suck up the pain associated with that, but I was smart enough to know in the long run that working this way 24/7 is just plain unsustainable. But I wanted a lot of things. And the only way at the time to get myself those things was to work my ass off for them.

While it takes a certain degree of madness and dedication to accomplish any big goal in life, the best advice I can give anyone with a full plate is to make sure to come up for air every once in a while. All the work, bills, and general chaos that is life will still be waiting for you after that much-needed break. Don’t let the little things kill you.

Now here’s the part where you really came for – How to not die of burnout? Maybe you’re in the thick of it and need some tips on how to manage when breaks are apparently not an option? Now let me stress this – please take time to take care of yourself. You are useless to others if you don’t put on your own oxygen mask first.

Anyway, here are my somewhat embarrassing and sometimes nasty things I did to get by during the worst of it.

1. Be resourceful and find many uses for everyday things.

Is it day 7 of dirty hair and the dry shampoo decided to run out? Baby powder to the rescue. Don’t have the money for shaving cream? Conditioner works wonders. Not only does this save time and avoid stressing about the little things, it is also very frugal and can save money down the road.

2. Be efficient about time management.

Use notes. Calendars. Reminders. Auto-payments. Anything that can help clear up some mental capacity in your head is great. I’m not ashamed to say I will always use calculators to check my work when crunching numbers. I don’t always trust my math skills, and it saves brainpower for worrying about other silly things.

It is also known that simplifying parts of your daily routine helps to keep that mental space clear. School and work uniforms actually do us a favor – they require little effort or thought in the morning to throw on, and they help reserve that mental energy for working or studying.

3. Don’t be picky.

If things don’t go to plan or play out like you’d like them to, don’t fret. Also, don’t spend your precious energy force to fix things that were perhaps never meant to be fixed in the first place. Focus on what you can do yourself. Don’t allow the actions of others or anything else outside of your control make you feel stuck in a loop.

This is something that is also easier said than done for me. I’m still learning how to let go and let live. If this starts to overwhelm me, I give myself a mental “time out” and start to focus on my actions and how I react to certain situations.

Taking a day off for a breather isn’t the end of the world either. Those things that need to be done or conquered will still be there the next morning. So please rest if needed!

4. Start saying NO.

Imagine you’re sitting at the dinner table during the holidays with some distant relative who keeps insisting you haven’t had enough to eat, but you’ve eaten enough to feed a whole village in one sitting and you just can’t take anymore. You politely have to decline or risk your stomach rupturing.

Simply apply the same visual in your work, your personal life, or whatever when that plate is overflowing. Those who mind won’t matter and those who do matter won’t mind. Your health and sanity is what matters most at the end of the day.

Categories
Life

Why I love being a working mom.

The other day, I had an unfortunate comment thrown my way, and I’m sure other moms who are out there working crazy schedules and trying to balance home and personal life can relate. I’ve heard some crazy stuff for the past few years, but I was totally unprepared for this sentence to be said right to my face:

“You spend more time with work and friends than you do with your own daughter.”

Ouch.

Needless to say, they were pretty much implying that because I wasn’t home very much, it meant that I was a sub-par mom. This person also happened to be raised in a very different time and environment than I was. Maybe they were just having a bad day or something.

Still, I will never, ever allow others to guilt trip me into thinking that being a working mother is bad for my children. I’m actually really sick and tired of having to try and explain myself or justify my reasons for working (besides the obvious income, duh). I don’t know, it seems that I can’t ever win with this mothering thing. Literally, once I had my daughter, it seemed like everyone all of a sudden had an opinion on how to raise my kid.  It can certainly be frustrating at times.

Maybe it’s surprising to some people, but I love to work. Seriously. Whatever I end up doing, I want to do it well and go above and beyond where I can. It’s been in my blood since I was younger. I love learning new things and honing my own skills. Pushing myself to my own limits is something I try to do daily. It also helps that I’m just a tad bit competitive.

I know I’m not the most nurturing type of person sometimes, but I have a lot of other qualities that are mom-worthy. Here are some of my reasons why I love being a working mom:

1. Being a positive role model.

Now, I’ve never thought of myself as marriage material, let alone mother material. I knew that it was a big deal having a kid, especially watching my own mom raise me and my little sister on her own growing up. She was a huge role model for me, and probably one of the main reasons why I continue to work hard today. And I want to be that same kind of positive influence in my own daughter’s life – to encourage her to do what she loves and to pursue her dreams.

I was also delighted to find a study that shows girls who grew up with a working mother tended to surpass the career achievements of those who did not, and also earned 23% more than those with mothers who did not work. (It also showed sons who had working mothers were more likely to contribute to household chores and spent more time towards childcare!)

2. I have a college education in something I enjoy doing.

And I want to use it, damn it! I didn’t spend so much time and money on it for it to start collecting dust.

But until I can get a job in the 419 involving market research, keeping up my copywriting skills and staying up to date on the latest market studies, digital marketing tools and strategies will just have to be the next best thing for now. Being able to use my skills that I have acquired to help others in need is amazing. I just have a natural curiosity about everything and anything, and that helps me continue to learn long after graduation. So you can stop me at any time if I start asking too many questions… it’s just what I like to do!

3. My current lifestyle is nice.

I’m not going to apologize for wanting to earn more money to afford nice things. I grew up sort of poor. Nice things made me nervous (and sometimes still do, I’ll admit. I’m afraid I’m going to break or ruin something…) After working 12-hour shifts during the week, updating and maintaining the blog, and doing household-y things like cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, whatever the thing is – I like to treat myself every now and then. And I freaking deserve it.

4. It keeps life interesting.

My husband also works from time to time, but his work is more seasonal and his schedule is way more unpredictable than mine. Lately, we’ve been swapping war stories about our work environments; mine being in a warehouse and his being on job sites all over Toledo. It gives us a chance to reconnect with each other at the end of the day and there’s always a story to tell each other.

5. My kid has a stronger relationship with her grandparents and dad.

This was something I really wanted my daughter to have, and I am fortunate enough to have a supportive mom and some kick-ass in-laws to help us out in raising PJ. What’s really neat is since both of our families are extremely different, it will give her plenty of exposure to different beliefs and ideas from a very young age, and she will be more tolerant of different views later in life. She has a lot to learn from both sides, and I’m excited to see what she takes away from these amazing people.

Whether a mom decides to stay at home or go back to work, I believe they all deserve some mad respect. After all, they are raising tiny humans. That is really hard work and should be something to be proud of. Keep fighting the good fight, mommas!

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I love my daughter.
Categories
DIY Life

This is what I’ve been up to.

You might have noticed that I’ve been MIA from the blog for a number of weeks.

Yes, I’ve had to put writing off to the side for a bit – bills had to be paid, which required a change of jobs, and a major rearranging of schedules for everyone. PJ did not like the adjustment as much as we did, and my energy has been spent either working, cleaning, or trying to help the little one cope with the time changes and to not immediately collapse into bed once she was down for the night. Yeah, I’m a slacker.

But all that will be for another post later. It’s time to share what we’ve been working on for the past few months among the chaos of life.

We bought another house. This is a pretty big deal.

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What the living room looked like after we got the keys.

A while back, my husband and I became business partners with his parents, and we began to take on homes in the area that needed love and attention. When I try to tell people in conversation that I help rehab homes, they think that I’m absolutely crazy. Yup. Especially that I’m doing this in Toledo, Ohio – the quirky city where the crazy people apparently come from. Well, I like to think that we’re kind of like the local version of Chip and Joanna Gaines, except we’re on the edges of vast cornfields in a weird little corner of the Buckeye State, we have to work in snow and ice sometimes, and we may swear a little bit from time to time.

This home had definitely seen better days. The owner was long gone, but I could still feel the memories and energy this place used to have. Photos, letters, furniture, and clothing  scattered around in different rooms, in different boxes and bags. It seemed like a nice Polish Catholic family had once made this place home, with crosses adorning nearly every entryway. Prayer cards for loved ones were tucked away in books, dressers, and also in a small bible, completely in Polish. As we went through the house to see what could be salvaged and what had to be tossed, I was reminded of the home that I grew up in not too long ago.

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The kitchen after the majority of the trash and debris was cleared.

I grew up watching my mom deal with the aftermath of the 2007-2008 mortgage crisis. My sister and I didn’t exactly grow up with silver spoons in our mouths during that time. We got by, but money was more than tight. It got bad enough for us to start receiving food stamps and other government assistance. Whether the bills got paid or not, we attempted to stay positive and made the most of things. My mom wanted us to stay in the same school district until we both graduated high school, and sacrificed a lot for us to accomplish that.

When we left our home of 20-plus years for the final time, it looked a lot like this one.

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A funky green vintage tub with matching vanity and sink.

Now I am the one who has the opportunity to walk into these houses, to pick up the pieces and breathe new life into it, hoping to fill it with another family who will love it dearly and cherish it just as the ones before them. I find it kind of ironic that I get to do this sort of thing after experiencing what it was like to be on the other end of the deal. It’s also oddly satisfying, I’ll admit. Being able to take back these homes and give them back to the community is empowering. Definitely, this is some kind of karma coming back around here.

This home is about to be wrapped up and ready to go, but there are still some final touches needed, including reinstalling the kitchen cabinet doors and hardware, paint, and patching up the exterior. I’m so excited to see the finished product come through.

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I absolutely love this color by Behr.

Now, there seems to be two schools of thought about painting kitchen cabinets: those who think it’s an absolutely terrible and horrendous thing to do to your precious cabinets, and those who don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on new cabinetry. (I was in the second group.) I was a bit worried about how they would turn out at first, as I was literally grabbing color ideas from Pinterest and collecting my favorites on a board for this project. We prepped them first by sanding them, priming them with Glidden Gripper Primer and Sealer, and then finishing them off with a coat of semi-gloss paint. We chose semi-gloss because it would be easier to clean from potential spaghetti night disasters, and it wouldn’t blind anyone with too much shine while trying to cook.

 

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What the kitchen cabinet doors looked like right after paint.

Afterwards, we moved on to prep the remainder of the kitchen for paint, including taping off the windows, baseboards, ceiling, and removing the electrical outlet covers. I originally wanted to finish the kitchen with a lovely off-white subway tile backsplash, but time and budget constraints killed that idea. Maybe one day I will be able to install this cherished and sought after look in another kitchen…

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The kitchen is coming together nicely.

While I was waiting on my father-in-law to make some plumbing repairs, I went ahead to work on the yard and landscaping to try to clean up the curb appeal of the home. An important thing to note here: I am still learning on how to do certain things. I am a DIY, grab a task and run with it kind of person.

I literally Googled how to mulch for certain plants, how to edge sidewalks, how to not kill the existing plants after weeding and trimming the beds out, etc. Did you know that there are different types and colors of mulch for plants that attract monarch butterflies? My search history is going to look a little weird for a while.

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Before picture of the front porch.

After I was done mulching, I had realized I forgot to do something crucial to prevent future weeds from popping up – and that was to apply landscape fabric before the mulch to keep the sunlight from germinating pesky weed babies. D’oh.

I will get around to fixing that issue once the weather decides to cooperate and stop being so freaking hot and humid. I seriously cannot wait for fall weather.

landscaping-mulching-front-porch-diy
Progress photo. Edging and mulching made a big difference here.

I don’t want to make this post freakishly long with all that we did, so I’ll post a part two sometime in the near future, once we finish up the remainder of the project and I get the chance to resize and upload all of the photos I’ve taken to document our progress. I’ve got more things to talk about now after taking a break from the blog, so thanks for sticking around! There will be more to come very soon.

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Categories
Life Work

Career or children? How I’m coping and striving to have both.

Let’s face it – being a parent is hard work. And it’s severely underappreciated.

I’m not even in the thick of it myself yet and I can already feel the struggles of motherhood weighing down on me. Work-life balance is the newest sought after thing as today’s parents desperately try to maintain a workload of a full-time career and the workload of raising children.

We underestimate how much this balancing act will cost us, and without taking adequate time for self-care and rest, we end up with burnout. In my experience, this is not pleasant at all and can take a period of time to recover fully from to feel somewhat back to normal.

EJ Dickson from Bustle wrote in her latest blog post “Young Women Are Convinced Motherhood Is Going To Suck — And They’re Right” that many young women today feel like they must choose between a career or having kids since it has become simply impossible to manage both. Multiple factors to take into account here are the high costs of childcare, previous student loan debt and high medical bills, the stigma working mothers face after returning to work (not being able to join happy hour or taking leave for a sick child), and maternity leave policies, or lack thereof, that provide little to no support during a big life change.

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Why is everything expensive?

It’s no wonder younger women are placing value on work over motherhood lately. Even in my case, I had placed value in my career in over prospects of marriage and having children because I had spent 5 years of my life (and plenty of hard-earned cash) investing in myself for the work that I had wanted to do.

So when the big news did come crashing through my bathroom door, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was happy, but it felt like any future career opportunities had died that day. Once I saw that test come back positive, it felt like I was literally flushing away all of my hard work and my now worthless bachelor’s degree down the toilet.

I had to reinvent myself and start over. And it was hard. My work identity fiercely fought against my new mom identity and had started to fade into nothingness. Somewhere in there, I lost myself among the bills, the deadlines, and the dirty diapers. I was a complete disaster. Along with the postpartum depression crap that was happening to me at the time, it all really sucked.

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Candid family photo as we wait for business partners to arrive.

After a while, I had a sudden realization – Since when has anything in my life been perfectly linear? Sure, I face more obstacles if I choose to continue down the career path I had chosen at the beginning, but life has a tendency to throw wrenches in plans of any sort that I try to make. Big events like these force me to slow down, take note of how I’m feeling, and see if I need to adjust my course.

I’m thankful that PJ came into my life when she did. She helped me remember what I felt was the most important to me in life. Of course, I do have moments where I fondly remember the freedom I had before having her, but now whenever she stays for an extended visit with Grandma, I find myself missing her and covering her in smooches and hugs when she returns.

After I reviewed my options, I found that it would be best for me to take a brief pause in my career. However, I would not leave the workforce entirely though, that would completely ruin me. I’m the kind of person who needs to work or I would end up going nuts.

So currently, I’m working a few side jobs while I am continuing to network, study up on industry trends, and preparing myself to get my hands dirty when I am finally ready to hit the ground running back into the marketing world. Maybe if I have the time, I’ll conduct some field research. That may be wishful thinking at the moment with how full my plate has been lately!

I have to keep in mind, this season is only a detour. Not the end of my working days. Not the end of what I’ve worked so hard to attain.

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PJ with her first cupcake for her first birthday.

And the more that I work on my own, I find that I like being able to be my own boss and call the shots. What would stop me from starting my own business? (I’m already a part of the in-laws’ family business in real estate!) Of course, I could come up with a million reasons on why I shouldn’t even bother, but it’s an option I’ve been considering for a while now. If anything, life and motherhood have been trying to get it through my thick skull that I need to be fearless.

And after this past year, I think I’ve finally been enabled to be just that. I was so concerned with doing things a certain way, and I was trying to take a more traditional path towards success. That path caused me to have a lot of anxiety if things didn’t happen like I wanted, and it caused me to cling on to a job I wasn’t completely happy in. Baby PJ came into our lives and turned it upside-down, dumping out all of the junk and silly things that had collected over the years. Things in our lives that did not improve our well-being were completely eliminated. Children definitely make you re-evaluate your life and priorities, and they leave no room for things that serve no purpose.

My fear of failure in everything was finally defeated by failing over and over again. I eventually got used to it. I’m finally able to be at peace if things become unpredictable and blow up in my face. PJ has also forced me to be very efficient with my time management. (And that’s a good thing!) With these two critical things, I can face new challenges without withdrawing into my shell – free of the perfectionist chip that was on my shoulder.

While I’m here in this season, I must remember to be thankful, to keep learning and working (even if it’s outside my field), and remember to breathe and take care of myself so that I can be the best version of myself that I can be for me, my husband, and my dear daughter.

Categories
Children Life

Bye-bye, breast pumps: The end of my breastfeeding journey.

I did it.

A whole year is about to pass, and I managed to keep a little human alive somehow. This experience has been quite a rollercoaster ride.

PJ has been successfully weaned and is now able to take whole milk in place of breast milk. She’s eating what we eat now for the most part, and the mushy baby food is now a thing of the past. I can’t believe she’s about to be one year old.

As I was packing away all of the breast pumps, parts, and equipment, I was excited to reclaim an entire section of my kitchen cabinet where these things had made a home. That feeling was fleeting and was quickly replaced with sorrow. Sure, I was happy to have my entire body to myself again, but I was also realizing how quickly PJ has grown since she came home with us for the first time.

Looking back, the first few months were rough.

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I was completely unprepared for the emotional fallout I would experience after having PJ.

I was battling postpartum depression, struggling to get PJ to latch correctly, and to top it all off, I got laid off from my job at the 6-month mark. What should have been a happy and joyous time for me ended up being dark and full of anxiety and dread. Once we finally got breastfeeding down, I looked forward to those moments where I could nurse and just be away from the rest of the world with my baby. Sometimes, those moments felt isolating and frustrating. Thankfully, I kept reminding myself to cherish PJ and hold her close, even as I was fighting with my own demons in my head, because I knew these moments wouldn’t last forever.

Those moments kept me going through the hardships our family faced. When everything around me seemed to be falling apart, I felt like I could do nothing right. When PJ would look up at me with grateful eyes and fall asleep in my arms after getting her fill of milk, it made me feel like I was able to do something important after all, and that I was here for a reason. Thank God that she was able to keep reminding me of this during some of my darker days.

breastpump-parts-flanges-adapters-membranes
More parts = less washing required.

Pumping and nursing consumed a lot of my time. There were many times where I would be on the road, and I would have to pump either while driving (not fun) or be hidden in the backseat trying to discreetly take care of business. I did travel and work quite a bit still after being laid off from my full-time job, but both of the pumps I had still saw plenty of action. I had to be dedicated to pumping while away to make breastfeeding work when I got home.

That being said, I highly recommend both the Medela Pump In Style Advanced and the Spectra S2 breast pumps. I was able to buy adapters and other interchangeable parts for both pumps on Amazon, and I definitely got my money’s worth out of both of these hard-working pumps.

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I’m sure my friends on Snapchat got tired of seeing these pics.

I eventually got used to how often I would have to pump to keep my supply stable, and I really didn’t realize just how much time this ate up until I began the weaning process. All of a sudden, I felt like I could get so much done! I would even have some extra time to myself occasionally to treat myself to a few Netflix shows or some Stardew Valley in the evenings. It was an amazing feeling to get that time back.

Still, our weaning had to be done gradually over a period of time to avoid things like breast engorgement and mastitis, but also to keep my sanity as I was going through a rough period of my life. During the last few months, I nursed with absolutely no distractions. No phone, no Facebook, nothing. Just me and PJ. I did my best to remember every detail – from her unique and creative ways to nurse sideways or even upside-down while playing or watching the TV, to how peaceful her face looked as she slowly fell asleep on my chest. I didn’t do any weird tricks to get PJ to come off the breast. She just adjusted to the bottle and fewer nursing sessions with little to no fuss.

The last nursing session we had was uneventful. It was peaceful, and I was blissfully unaware that PJ would no longer need to nurse soon. I’m glad that I didn’t make a big deal out of it and allowed things to take place naturally. It was the first thing that I had to “let go” of and the first loss of babyhood I had to grieve.

It was the first sense of loss that I have felt as a parent.

medela-pisa-pump-in-style-advanced-baby-breastfeeding
PJ making faces at me as I pack away the equipment that helped make this journey possible.

Don’t get me wrong, both of us were ready to end breastfeeding. PJ is becoming more curious by the day and is eager to move and explore the world around her. (Not to mention she has a mouth full of teeth now – another big motivator to wean at this time.) I need to get back to work, and despite the progress made with breastfeeding in the white-collar workplace, it would not be attractive to many employers in the US to hire an employee that is still nursing a child past one year.

Maybe it has something to with the hormonal shift I have to endure now that the milk factory is shutting down, but the emotional aftermath of weaning is pretty intense and can leave me feeling excited to be done one moment, and then sad and wistful the next. Fortunately, I’ve managed to keep myself busy so I wouldn’t ruminate on the things that I should have/would have/could have done during this entire journey.

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But despite all of the challenges we faced this first year, I am ready to take on the next year with renewed grit and energy.

As I packed up the pumps for storage, not to be used again until the next kid comes along, I got excited thinking about what the future has in store for us. I’m looking forward to the new experiences we will have together.

 

Categories
Children Life

How to handle the question – When are you having more kids?

I know this is often asked with the purest of intentions. Or maybe someone was just trying to make conversation to get to know me better. This is not written towards those people who don’t know better – this is aimed at people whom I may love dearly that continue to ask these kinds of questions without thinking. Even after I have said my piece and ended the discussion with “Someday, but not right now.”

This is also for people who don’t know me personally and then will read a sentence or two of text online before jumping to conclusions and then judge me with the intensity of a thousand suns. Y’all gotta chill.

I’m sorry to report this to those who don’t have kids yet – the question about whether you’re having kids or not doesn’t seem to stop until maybe you get 3 or 4 of them. Then after that, you get comments about how you should stop having kids because 7 is too many. Hey, if that’s your thing, you do you! Why are these people so interested in your kids, anyway? They’re not the ones who will be paying for them.

Sydney Kleinman from Scary Mommy came up with some fantastic responses to this question, and I can still relate to how uncomfortable that pressure to procreate can be.

Sure, you can fumble around and find something polite to say back if this kind of question throws you off guard. I usually do this most of the time. But once in a while, I will resort to a death glare if the question is brought up one too many times.

Here are some of my favorite responses to use for three scenarios I usually face:

“You got grandkids money?”

Remember when you tried to convince your parents to go through a McDonald’s or something because you were hungry and got tired of the food at home? Well, the response above is perfect karma.

I love my mom. I also love my in-laws. Almost immediately after our wedding ceremony was finished, we got bombarded with this question, especially from the hopeful grandparent candidates.

This was probably most often done at this point in jest, but it really started to annoy me. I realize that there are some not-so-great expectations that guys have to deal with from society in general, but the one where I’m supposed to be in misery for several months and then experiencing permanent changes to my body? That’s a big deal to me. Not to mention the amount of time, money, and resources that will be needed to support such a great venture.

So if you catch me with a cup of ramen noodles, do NOT even go there.

“I have to focus on me for a bit.”

Sure, this one may make me seem selfish, but I think if you take anyone though the physical and emotional pains of labor, make them sleep deprived for several months, and give selflessly to a completely dependent being, I think even the most rational person would tap out from exhaustion.

People seem to forget sometimes that moms are people, too. We have needs to be met as well. I do a whole lot of “nothing” around the house that somehow manages to keep PJ safe and happy for another day. Just because the laundry or dishes didn’t get done doesn’t mean I wasn’t hard at work.

I was one of those women climbing the corporate America ladder before I fell pregnant. Work outside the home is important for me too (because money!) but when I returned to my job at the time, I was overloaded with breadwinner duty and baby duty. There was too much on my plate, and I crashed after trying to maintain everything for about 4 months straight. What I was doing was not sustainable for my health.

My career path has definitely changed up a bit since having PJ, but I believe the change has been for the better, even if it’s a bit delayed. However, I think a sibling for PJ should wait until I can take a few more steps in the direction where I want our family to go.

“Nah, I’m good.”

I realize this isn’t very easy to say in some cases, but it is OKAY to tell someone that kids are not your thing. You really don’t need to explain yourself to anyone. Like for me, I just don’t want another one right now. PJ is enough.

Simple.

…No really, I just don’t want more right now. Maybe later.

Maybe. Now leave me be!

Categories
Home Life

Why small homes are smart for new moms.

Before I dive into this next post, I would like to define small as under 1000 square feet. To me, this is more than enough space for our current needs, but I didn’t want to confuse this kind of tiny with the tiny home movement tiny.

I mean, I could see myself living in a tiny house built on a 16 x 8 trailer by myself, but if I had to share that small space between two other humans, I’d probably get cranky real quick. I value my own space. Even I believe there is such a thing as too small.

We live in approximately 980 square feet of awesomeness. To me, this is more than enough space to live. We’re also lucky to have about half an acre of land at our disposal, which we plan on converting to garden space once we solve our water drainage problem. (If anyone has suggestions on doing that, I’m all ears.)

We have a bunch of big, beautiful, and modern looking houses in our neighborhood, and thanks to the local construction business picking up, there are more homes and subdivisions being built. I drive by these all the time for future inspiration because some of these are truly #homegoals.

The one below was built by Black Oak Building Company. If I’m using their photo in my post and gawking at their current projects IRL, then they at least deserve a shoutout here.

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Like, seriously. Home goals. I’m in love.

But would I want to live long-term in a house over 1200 square foot? Unless I happen to pop out more kids and inherit some secret trust fund I didn’t know about, then no. Not likely.

Am I crazy to want less? Maybe I am. But hear me out – here are my reasons below why a small house isn’t so bad.

1. Easy to maintain and most importantly, CLEAN.

If you hate cleaning, then boy do I have great news for you on this one – less space is less to clean. I know, mind-blowing, right?

I love how fast I can pick up my entire house. I have two small bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a tiny bathroom. The bulk of my space is a neat little rectangle split in half between the living room and kitchen. Even while managing a baby during the cleaning routine in her little sling, it takes me about an hour at most to clean my house. It’s awesome.

Truly, it frees up my time so that I can even have some blog time to write. That to me is worth every penny I have put down in this house so far. If I have more time, then I can do more stuff. I like doing a lot of stuff. I hate cleaning. It works out for me here.

Speaking of stuff, below is my next big point:

2. It prevents overspending and excessive clutter.

Retail therapy would be counterproductive since I have a small house. Where the heck would I put all of my stuff?

I’m already thinking of doing an item purge once it’s time for spring cleaning. Our closet is a mess and is packed full of clothing that my husband doesn’t even wear. It’s not that he wouldn’t wear anything he has in there – the problem is that he can no longer find the clothes he wants to wear because of how much stuff is in there.

closet-clutter
The top is mine. The bottom is his. The laundry basket below that is his, too.

We also started to worry once PJ got her own room, it would be filled to the brim with toys that she wouldn’t even get the chance to play with. Fortunately, we haven’t run into this problem yet, but when we do we will start following a simple rule – for every toy in, a toy of equal size goes out.

I think this will be a great way to also teach our daughter how to be happy with less stuff and to think before trying to grab toys at the store when she’s older.

3. Lower energy bills.

Think less space, less _______. Another thing to put in the blank here is utility bills. Who needs more bills in their life? I certainly don’t. I have yet to meet a person who is actually excited about getting bills.

Given the home is well insulated in the winter and the appliances aren’t running 24/7, this is another neat little perk that I have for my house. This also helps prevent shutoffs and financial emergencies when times are a bit lean.

It also tends to leave less of an ecological footprint if you use fewer resources. A big win for me, my wallet, and the environment! What’s not to love about that?

4. Less to furnish, renovate, and repair.

Okay, I’m a Fixer Upper junkie. Joanna is a boss when it comes to interior design and can give anything old a new breath of life in her space.

But when I feel compelled to run to our local thrift and antique stores after binging the previous season on Netflix, I remember that a lot of the look here came from being creative with the old things lying around in the first place. And that it also doesn’t require a lot of stuff to pull the look off.

Living Room, Dining Room, and Kitchen
My home is definitely inspired by this clean and cozy look.

I do want to renovate our home someday when we get the money for it. Our living room could use an overhaul. It has pink carpet and pink walls. The previous owner had red and black furniture with that. When we saw the listing on Zillow, it looked like something straight out of a bad 80’s movie. Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan.

When the time to renovate comes, it will cost us significantly less to redo things like walls, floors, and fixtures. Basically, there is less to spruce up and fix so it will cost less. And we can take the cost savings a step further by embracing this popular style and using what we have to create some unique pieces to serve us in the years to come.

5. Encourages creativity.

My office is my kitchen. That is surprisingly not detrimental to my weight-loss goals. Unless there is a chocolate cake on display next to me. Y’know, out of sight, out of mind? That’s why I have a bunch of fruit and veggies lying around if I get the munchies. I’m so smart, ha.

kitchen-nook-office-workspace
Where the magic (usually) happens. 

This isn’t the only area of the house that has more than one purpose. In order to make the most of our space, almost every area of the house has some sort of clever storage solution to maximize how much space we use. We have drawers in our drawers in our kitchen. I’m not even kidding.

Living in a small space keeps me on my creative toes, trying to figure out what I can get away with when placing furniture and appliances without cluttering the space. If I have to be creative every day in my house, I can use that creative muscle to solve other problems outside my home, too.

Anyone else with me in the small living space boat? What do you like about living small?

 

Categories
Children Life

What it’s like being the married friend with a kid.

Sometimes, I worry if I’ve lost my ‘fun’ side after I decided to settle down. I’m fortunate to still have a few of my single friends that don’t have any kids to lug around, but it’s become harder to socialize these days, let alone get a decent shower in.

I still love to go out every now and then, if my bank account says it’s okay to do so. But I’m definitely not pounding down drinks like I was while I was in college. It’s not that I couldn’t recover from the hangover if I chose to do so, but I’m busy. And I’m kind of at an awkward spot in life – where people tend to be having their kids later in life, and I managed to win the baby lottery at the young age of… 25?

What?

But people were having kids around that time in their life, maybe back in the 1950’s or something? I can understand why people are holding off on having kids these days. Crippling student debt and the cost of living are just a few factors. (I promised myself I wouldn’t rant about this stuff… yet.)

But here’s the thing – even though my doctors had said I was at the “sweet spot” in terms of childbearing age, it sometimes still feels like I had jumped on the baby train a bit too early because I see a lot of people my age still partying, traveling, living it up in general – while I’m over in the corner with my mortgage, marriage, and sweet baby girl.

My life is pretty awesome, don’t get me wrong. It is just so different from what I had imagined.

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See? I still do fun things sometimes. Like go to Columbus to see Twenty One Pilots.

So when my single ladies ask me to hang, there are more obstacles I have to face besides the outfit I’m going to wear.

Gone are the days of spontaneous nights out after a long week. I have to usually plan girls nights out at least a week ahead of time in order to be completely free to do what I want. This entails getting a sitter for PJ or having dad take one for the team. There is no such thing as free childcare, even when you have relatives who won’t charge you – there will be unique challenges to deal with there, too. (It’s the grandparents’ job to spoil the kids rotten and give them candy before bed, after all.)

Also, I can’t decide to just stay out until 2 am unless I consult with my husband first before I head out the door. We’re a team, so unless there is an emergency, we try to make it home when we say we will. Chances are, he is eagerly looking at the clock waiting for me to get back to pass the baby/household chores/work/etc. on to me as soon as I walk in the door, just as I do some days when he goes out with friends or is working. Respecting each other in a loving relationship is cool.

When my ladies come over to my house for lunch, I will mention PJ for a hot minute and then ask about their work lives and what’s going on with them – I’ll save the gross parenting stories for my newly acquired mom friends. Seriously, thank God for the mom friends in my life right now.

Secretly, I don’t want to scare my single friends off from parenting after complaining about the challenges and obstacles I face being a new mom. Who knows? Maybe in the future, they will join the parenting club and then we can bond once again between the war stories of childbirth and temper-tantrums in the grocery store aisles.

It’s honestly not that bad, but it’s not for everyone. Parenting has its moments and it’s quite an adjustment in life. I get it.

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You need support from your friends… in all areas and seasons of life.

But I’m so grateful for my single friends to call or text me, even if I haven’t spoken to them in months. I’m sure I’m not included in every outing or night out now because of how long it takes for me to get out the door, but I’m grateful to have girlfriends left who understand and will wait up for me. They’ll give me crap about it for sure, but they would never leave me behind.

If you wait up for me, I will happily share a bottle of wine with you and listen to all of your problems. I’ll even cook you some dinner. I’m just thankful for some social interaction with another adult and happy to hang up the mom hat for a bit and relax like a normal human being.

Do I miss the excitement of being single? Sometimes, sure. I don’t miss the drama or having to deal with jerks in the dating game. The single life got old to me real fast. At that point in my life, I was done wasting time on things that no longer added value to it. So I decided to start planting my roots.

What I’ve gained over the past few years are things that a lot of people would kill for. A home that is mine. A husband who loves me and is waiting for me at home every day. An amazing little girl who is happy, healthy, and learning every day.

Even as I’m helping plan a big night out for someone who will be following my footsteps soon, I know that even while living it up and partying with my friends, I will still be missing the family life that I’ve made and will look forward to coming back home to them. Every single time.