The Front Seat

One of the things that drew me to Lew when we first met and were dating was this love of adventure. Travel. Camping. Road Trips. When I thought about the potential for adventures and travels we had together, my futuristic self was geeking out.

Almost 10 years later we have been on a lot of adventures and I’m so grateful as I look through our past photos, recall memories of when we decided to live in the moment and leave the camera behind. And I think forward to some of our long-term goals that include more travel with our family and I get really excited.

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One of my favorite authors, storytellers and podcasters, Tsh Oxenrider’s new book At Home in the World released this week and I’m SOOOO excited to dive in this weekend. She has asked her readers to think about where we each feel most at home in the world. As I started thinking about this, my place isn’t anywhere we’ve traveled to or is super exciting. While I would love to be able to share an exotic location, I have to say, I feel most at home in the front seat of a car.

The front seat was how we entered married life as we navigated highways and curvy roads on our honeymoon through the south.  We wound our way through Savannah and Charleston and Asheville and came back to Kentucky as one.

The front seat was the place for spontaneous road trips that led us to Toronto for long weekends and Tennessee to visit college friends and across the state of North Carolina the summer before we got married visiting friends and family going from mountains to beaches and back again.

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360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada

The front seat was the support we needed to have great conversations when we made trips to Virginia when my mom was still living there and dealing with lots of health issues, hospital stays and eventually time in a nursing home. I cherish those days and conversations with the soundrack of the Beau’s iPod getting us through those curvy West Virginia roads.

The front seat was where my mom made her way from Virginia to Kentucky in the summer of 2013 so that we would be closer to her to help with her care.

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The front seat afforded us a lot of amazing views on our road trip out west in the summer of 2015. Most memorable was driving into Canyonlands at sunset and being so overwhelmed with the beauty of creation the beau and I both teared up.

On that same trip, I experienced incredible stomach cramps and had to lay the seat down as we wound our way through Washington and Oregon.  Little did I know those stomach cramps were a precursor to something big.  We came home to a positive pregnancy test.

In November of 2015, the front seat was once again the support needed as we made our way back to Virginia to lay my mom to rest.

Christmas Day of 2015 at 24 weeks pregnant my love for the front seat was wrecked. Literally. We were hit head on and ever since then me and the front seat have been at odds. But I’m coming around.

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The front seat supported me and held my tears when I left the hospital empty handed after 6 days in the hospital and our daughter stayed in the NICU for 8 more weeks when she rocked our world 9 weeks early on February 13th, 2016.

The front seat held my secrets as I figured out my new body and how to feed my girl who was thriving on my breast milk. It was my companion as I pumped daily in the car as we drove to see our girl every day.

The front seat was empty that day the beau drove home ever so slowly with JP and me in the backseat embarking on this new journey of parenthood.

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June Parker leaving the NICU

I’m learning to love the front seat again.  The past 16 months have seen lots of flinches, grabbing of the door handle and closed eyes when in the front seat.  Being hit head on and knowing that impacted the premature birth of your daughter will do that to you. I’ve used my phone more as a distraction when traffic is bad in a big city or on those curvy roads.

But I’m trying to live in the moment and change that.  Even if it means facing my fears without my head in my phone. I don’t want to miss the view. We are planning more long term travels. And I know that I’ll be in the front seat again.  Releasing control.  Trusting. Living.  All things I want to lean into.  The front seat isn’t a destination but a place that gets you to your destination.

For me and these past 18 months, the front seat has gotten me THROUGH.

When we are driving around town, through the Red River Gorge and on the backroads to and from Lexington, I reach over and grab the beau’s hand and look back at our beautiful, healthy and perfect 14 month old and am full of gratitude.  The front seat longs to be my protector and comforter and adventurer seeker. I’m slowing learning to let it be so and let go of the fear.  Letting go has gotten me through this difficult season but is gently calling me TO more adventure, TO more road trips, TO less fear and TO courage.

Thank you Tsh for helping me remember that I am at home in the world in the front seat.

 

 

Pace

redd-angelo-14423We’re closing in toward the end of the first quarter of the year.

Seriously? Where has time gone?

I’m looking back at my last post truly wondering. But here we are.  Smack in the middle of Lent. Still looking back at the remnants of a 1st Birthday party held in early February that still make their presence known in our dining room. I’m right in the middle of my busy time at work. And JP is just busy–into everything.

And what I’m craving is slow.

I’ve been paying attention to my pace.  I’m not as in shape as I’d like to be so when I walk fast, I’m short of breath. But also when I walk fast, my mind is also tracking at that same pace. When I slow down my walk, I’m able to catch my breath, pay more attention to it and I’m more aware of my surroundings.  The flowers starting to bud. The shape of the clouds.

We’ve had a few conversations lately about being connected and what that really means.  To be honest, many of my connections are online and through the apps on my phone.  But I want to be most connected with my people–the ones who live in my house and I see every single day. I don’t want to be distracted by an Instagram post and miss staring into my daughter’s blue eyes.

So I’ve cleaned up my phone.  Deleted some apps.  Installed a few others that I hope to be my primary focus.  Found that some of my goals and Lenten observances were too far reaching or ill-willed in their motives so I’m adjusting.  And giving myself grace in that adjustment.

I want to pay attention. I want to be focused on others words and stories. I want to leave space for my soul and heart to breathe, to not feel overwhelmed and to be connected with things and people that matter and willing to walk away from that that brings stress and overwhelm and comparison.

I want to invite people into our home for a meal again.  Sit across the table at coffee and be able to give people a warm hug rather than scroll, scroll, scroll on my phone.

I’ve got some ideas on how to put this into practice but I’d love to hear yours.

And don’t be surprised if things are a little quieter on the scrolling place but you’re hearing more from me here.

Hello 2017

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2017 Goal Defining Process

2017-I’m sooooo glad to see you! As are many others this year who typically aren’t a fan of the calendar page turning.  I know many who shame New Year’s and all the “Fresh Starts” we see this time of year.  But for me it’s  the one time I get a week off work AFTER the holiday to rest.  To reflect.  It’s certainly different with a babe-the rest is coupled with nursing, changing diapers and wrangling our ever-curious babe.

I always love a fresh start. New planner.  Fresh page in the notebook. New set of pens and freshly sharpened pencils. I’m especially excited about this year. After June arrived and we had adjusted somewhat to her in our lives, we sat down and talked goals. Family goals.  BIG goals.  Exciting dreams and how they would become reality rather than just a shared Google Doc. 🙂

Now that those goals are set forth and we have a time-table to them, we now get to set the plan in action. It’s kind of like knocking over a domino and seeing the ripple effect–although this will certainly take much longer than it takes to knock them over. Perhaps this is the preparation–the setting up of said dominoes that will be knocked over in several years. But even in a 5 year timeline, discipline and faithfulness are the two BIG things that are going to make these dreams a reality.  My verse for this year is going to help me stay focused.

He who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much. Luke 16:10

While 2016 was tough (and let’s face it-2015 was tricky too), I’ve got so much to be thankful for.  And as my girl Shauna always throws out those great ideas, here is my list of 10 things I’m grateful for in 2016.

  1. A healthy baby girl delivered at 31 weeks!
  2. Renovations on the house progressed-lots of drywall hung, painting and a more finished house.
  3. Amazing support from Lew’s parents–from making sure we had plenty of food when our NICU journey began &  when June came home to doing a TON on the house.
  4. The ability to work 4 days week this summer.
  5. Supper club! Such a fun, needed group for our souls this year.
  6. Prioritizing date nights became a reality.
  7. Gaining such great (continual) support from our NICU family.
  8. The ability to nurse June starting at day 47 to now–11 months!!
  9. Joining an incredible company with a mission-Beautycounter
  10. The most incredibly supportive partner and the ability to get away for an overnight just the two of us.

Bonus–This. Is.  Us. Enough Said.

I’m really stoked for 2017 and the new momentum we’ve found so far.  I was having a conversation with a friend this week and her New Year’s Goal was to just do grown-up things. Act like an adult. I love that. I think that’s where so many of my goals are as well-and each move us toward achieving our long-term goals. But really are just simply aligned with the kind of person I want to be in my mid-30’s. I want to eat healthy as I know my body needs, work toward becoming debt free, grow together in our marriage, increase my depth, understanding and commitment to the Word, and keep my eyes on that long-term goal.  If every decision we make this year stems out of faithfulness to these things, it’s gonna be a good good year.

2016 Review

So 2016 seems to have been a tough year for a lot of people.  Whether you had personal heartache, were saddened by the events happening in our country and world or were dismayed and brokenhearted at the election results, I think most of us can say that we are ready for the calendar page to turn.

I’ve tried to re-frame our own year which certainly had it’s hard parts, but also to celebrate all the good that occurred.  And as in last year’s 2015 review, you’ll get to see some of the visual representation of all our goodness from 2016. Thank you Instagram and Google Photos.  And full disclosure (this may go without saying) but a certain someone stole the show in 2016.  So glad you joined our family JPC.

January 2016

One of my favorite pics ever.  From our Babymoon at Butterfly Gap Retreat. So sad to hear they’ve sold the property due to family illness, but hoping that another owner will reopen. This place holds a lot of special memories.  Good thing we settled on a name for Bebe during our time here.  If we’d only known what would transpire two weeks later.

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February 2016

June Parker Cracraft came catapulting into our world on an early Saturday morning, February 13th at 1:57am.  Stay tuned for more of her birth story as we approach her first birthday.  (Seriously…birthday?!?!?!?!) 2 lbs 2 oz and 14. 3 inches of pure sweet and spiciness! Our lives haven’t been the same since! This is one of my favorite pics–3 days old here.

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March 2016

This was one of the biggest milestones for me as a mother.  On her 47th day of life, I got to nurse my sweet JP.  Breastfeeding was something I really wanted to continue for as long as I could, so when our journey didn’t take near the path we had planned, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to be able to nurse June.  And I’m proud to say we’re still going strong 10 months later! We also celebrated Easter together as a family.

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April 2016

April 11th.  Taking our girl home from the NICU.  Zoom in and you can see the look of excitement and fear on the beau’s face. He was terrified of the drive home. Oxygen tank, monitor, and two folks who were oh so excited but oh so scared.  What a mix of emotions.  I’ll never forget that day.

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May 2016

My 35th birthday.  Our first date out after June came home.  Thankful for amazing in-laws who have stepped up in so many ways that I can’t begin counting.  And thankful for an amazing dinner at Distilled that night.  Sweet Sweet Snuggles after we arrived home that night.  Also very thrilled to celebrate my first Mother’s Day although it was somewhat bittersweet.  2016-05-11-22-19-30-1

June 2016

These two. What a bond they have. I cannot imagine this year without this guy by my side. We celebrated his first Father’s Day and also what an incredible support he has been. He worked 4 nights a week while June was in the NICU (because we had decided that him picking up extra shifts was a good idea before the baby came).  I also went back to work 4 days a week in late May and we celebrate and remembered my Mom on her birthday.  Quite an emotional month–he really earned his keep in June. We had our first house guest as my Aunt Ruthie came to visit for a few days and some good friends stopped in from out of town!  Also JP was able to come off oxygen this month! Yay for no more tubes!

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July 2016

July brought our first big road trip as we went to Virginia to see my family.  I will always treasure this sweet picture of my Grandma and June.

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August 2016

June spent a lot of time with Gigi and Pops this summer once I went back to work.  This was her first trip to the Disney Store and can we say someone has her Pops wrapped around her little finger?

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September 2016

Big milestones for June this month–sitting forward in her stroller and sitting up (assisted). We spent a LOT of days getting out of the house when June first arrived home taking walks around our small town and enjoying time with the girls at the coffee shop. The summer was a bit hot, so we got out on the town quite a bit in the fall.  June really enjoyed the ArtWalk, although she was asleep for most of it.  She also started physical therapy this month, but like the rock star she is, only needed two sessions! We do lots of work at home with her and she’s continuing to make big strides! I also got to celebrate my favorite season with my favorite redhead!

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October 2016

We took our first little vacation as a family of three. The beau and JP were able to tag along to a work conference in Atlanta, but first, we hit up June’s first Cincinnati Reds game. Although they lost, they lost to the Chicago Cubs so June got to see the World Series winners! How exciting! We also got to meet Aunt Tammy on the way to Atlanta and try out the pool at our hotel. October also brought starting solid foods, drinking from a sippy cup and enjoying Halloween.

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November 2016

Turkey Turkey Turkey!!! Our little Turkey LOVED Thanksgiving at her Aunt Walene and Uncle Donnie‘s! It was her first big family gathering and she was quite the center of attention.  She enjoyed turkey, sweet potatoes and peas herself! I also went with Mama to vote in this historic election.

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December 2016

Holidays.  How magical through the eyes of a child, right?  June got to meet Santa, enjoyed lots of love from friends and family, tag along on Mama and Daddy’s Christmas date and we had a lot of quality time together–the BEST gift.  June is sitting up on her own, army crawling and into EVERYTHING.  We were grateful to get an overnight in Cincinnati to reflect on our year and set some goals for the upcoming one.

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Truly as the year has come to a close, we are just so grateful for all the wonderful things brought our way through June Parker.  We have a lovely, healthy girl, sweet puppy, wonderful partnership in our marriage, two great jobs and a house over our head.

Expectations

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Always coming down to expectations.  That’s been my challenge for years.  If I’m honest, I’ve been struggling with expectations lately. What expectations should I have of myself as a working mom?  What expectations I have for my marriage? What expectation I have to how my evening will play out? That’s where it gets real. How do I navigate being organized and living into the way I’ve been created–the color-coded, futuristic, visionary self–and not hold to a particular expectation? Because when the rubber meets the road, my desire to plan is tied to the anticipated outcome.  AKA: Expectation.

How do I set a financial goal and hold loosely to the expectation that I’ll meet it but not be overwhelmed if it doesn’t happen?

How do I navigate things when the expectation is that it’s the night I need to wash bottles so that my child has food for the next day and all she wants to do is be held?

How do I respond when plans change? The dinner is cancelled, someone has to go out of town unexpectedly, the event gets rained out.

How do I switch gears when things at work or church or your volunteer organization end up going a completely different direction and all of a sudden you wake up one day and everything seems different–your coworkers, team mates, company, boss, leader, everything?

What happens when things don’t go the way you thought they would with your family? Someone loses a job, moves, has a crisis, gets divorced, has a falling out?

I’m sure we all have found ourselves in one or more of the scenarios listed above. Transition is hard.  And there are expectations going on inside of us every day. Every minute. And when things change, expectation is buzzing around like that annoying fly that you just can’t quite smack down.

I’m still figuring this all out.  I certainly don’t have all the answers. What I do know though is that so much of the things I struggle with come down to control. Expectations are my desire to have things play out a certain way. That my friends is a control issue. And as much as I can plan and forecast and look at data to predict outcomes, in my personal life, I have to trust that I’m not the one in control.  And when you’ve experienced so much of life that seems out of control, holding closely to things you know are true just seems right.  Safe. Controlled. Familiar.

But we weren’t meant to live a safe and controlled life. There is risk involved. The unknown. And when you take a risk, there is beauty beyond your wildest dreams. Relationships restored. Sunsets you’d never imagine if you’d gone home early because it was safe. Throwing caution to the wind and being spontaneous has resulted in some of my most favorite memories with the beau.  The freedom and ability to fall into the unknown clinging to the only thing that is true and known is pure bliss.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I want to listen. To process. To respond. And to live with arms wide open, chin up, eyes closed, wind blowing on my face tuned in to what is out there waiting for me that I might have missed otherwise.

Creating my Reality

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past ten years teaching time management.  Ten years of teaching college freshmen and trying to navigate my own calendar and responsibilities have taught me a few things. Some things stay the same–put the big rocks in first, figure out what time management system works for you, create an ideal schedule and do your best to stick to it, track your time and see where you time wasters are.  I’ve taught it all and done it all. And I’m always learning more.

And if I’ve learned anything as an adult-in this most recent season-it’s the art of saying No. Not just for creating boundaries and margin in my schedule which are both so important, but for helping me to foster some much needed discipline and true peace.

Discipline means saying no. Peace means being able to open up to the feeling of being able to truly take a deep breath from life on a consistent regular basis.

And in every no, there is also a yes. And sometimes we don’t want to face the yes.  We don’t want to face that there isn’t money in the bank for that coffee date. Or time in our schedule for that weekly commitment (yoga class, bible study, book club, etc.).

And sometimes in that silence–alone with the iced coffee I make at home tending to those things that present in this current season–a tear may fall grieving what once was. The ability to be spontaneous. To run a quick errand. Joining your life with someone else’s makes you ponder these things. Add another human being who literally cannot function without you providing their sustenance and that only amplifies thinking about the choices you make-every single one and the life you’re creating in a different way.  Not necessarily the life smiling back at you but the one that you’re walking out, living out in the pages of your calendar, and more importantly, the one that you listen to the thoughts and emotions and realities swirling round and round each night when you try and leave behind one day and move into a new one.  That’s the life and reality we each get to create.

My favorite author is coming out with a new book.  It actually released today.  I have’t read it yet, but it should be waiting on me when I get home from work.  Shauna’s voice has been a healing balm to my soul in some very trying waters over the past few years.  I listened to her share last week on the IF: Gathering screen cast and at her launch party.  I think it was on the IF: Gathering screen cast I stopped and went back and played this quote multiple times…

“I’m creating–and recreating– the busyness and chaos because I don’t want to face what I find in the silence.”  Shauna Niequist

This hit me like a ton of bricks.  I’ve had a lot of silence lately. More than I’m used to or comfortable with. And it’s having me face things that I don’t really want to face. Saying no has allowed that to happen. Discipline is coming in multiple areas of my life because of saying no. Looking at the tribe my life had been surrounded with in this season and those folks who have moved on. What choices am I making in regards to food and spending in addition to my time. The silence has made me look at these three things deeply. And the silence has taught me some things.

Silence has reminded me that I need to see food as fuel 90% of the time. Even though I’m a foodie at heart my body needs good foods to function properly. My body thanks me when I treat it with kindness.

Silence reminds me that right now my priorities are my daughter and husband, pursing a peaceful and simple life, and not forgetting the importance of self-care.

One of the biggest things I’m learning is that silence reminds me I love and need people in my life. Physically. I need to be able to share a hug, put my hand on someone’s shoulder look across the table into someone’s eyes and really be able to hear so much more than what the words coming out of their mouth are saying. This is hard for me in this season. So many of my relationships are based on text messages and Google Hangouts. But I’m listening to the silence and prayerfully considering how I need to respond.

So looking forward to what else Shauna’s words have to teach me through this book.

 

{Snip-its of Motherhood}-Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

{Disclaimer: I know there is much controversy around “breast is best” and those who desired to breastfeed and may have had to take other avenues.  Please know I subscribe to “fed is best” and celebrate all moms and babes on their journey. This is just a small snapshot of my story}

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Since June was born 9 weeks early so many of the ideas I had about my journey into motherhood were thwarted by a C-section, rushing our girl to the NICU with just a passing glance at her and staring numbly at the hospital grade pump my amazing nurse and lactation consultant wheeled into my room the next morning.  I had 2 more months to prepare for motherhood, finish our house renovations, prepare the nursery. I never imagined having to start my journey of nourishing my child through hand expression and  pumping around the clock 8 times a day.  Two of my best girlfriends came to visit right in the middle of my nurse educating me on how this all works.  True friends right there.

While I was still in the hospital I pumped and the beau navigated cleaning all the parts. I remember always being discouraged & concerned–is this enough? has my milk come in? I need to do this because it’s so important for preemies.

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Once we were discharged, not only were we traveling daily to the NICU to see the babe, I was trying to figure out how this new part of my body worked, remembering to wash (and bring) all the parts with us and waiting in line to use the pumping rooms. It was emotionally taxing to bring in your milk back the NICU nurses and trying not to stare when the other moms would bring in 2 entire 2.5 oz bottles full (about 80 mls each) and I would maybe have 30ml’s total.  I also experienced the reversal of that later in our journey.

Thankfully I was producing enough that donor breast milk was not needed, but she was still being tube fed and until she was able to come down off the C-pap, we couldn’t try bottle feeding or nursing her.

When she was 47 days old on March 30th, I was able to nurse her for the first time.  The beau who was back to working nights 3-4 days a week was there and the lactation consultants were busy and unable to come assist. Our amazing nurses put up curtains for privacy since she was still on oxygen.  And little June did her thing.  Just like I know babes fresh out of the womb can latch right on, she did that same thing.  And I couldn’t help but cry.

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There was so much that didn’t go the way I’d hoped but I was so thankful that this worked.  The following day the lactation consultant came over and said she had a perfect latch and our anatomy worked perfectly together.  Again, tears flowed.

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I went back to work the last two weeks of her NICU stay so that I could enjoy more time with her at home.  I would get to work at 7am, take shortened breaks and head over the to nurse her every morning. Those were very special moments.

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Coming home with her on oxygen and a monitor was tough, but I continued nursing and pumping even though her small size requires she be on some high calorie formula to help her growth. I’m grateful that our team recognizes the importance of the 19 calorie breast milk in addition to her 27 calorie formula and supports my decision to continue nursing her. That does mean that I’ve got a freezer full of milk that may be donated at some point as I’m still pumping to keep up my supply, it is worth it.

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And for all you moms out there feeding your babes–You rock.  Yes, nursing has been a great gift to us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without it’s challenges.  Just like everything in parenthood.

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Love Your Spouse

I was tagged in a post last week ago by one of my dearest friends and proponents of marriage to participate in the 7 days of Love Your Spouse/Significant Other Challenge! I was challenged to post a picture with my beloved to Facebook everyday for 7 days and to challenge 2 people each day to keep the celebration of Love and Marriage going.

I’m normally not one to participate in these types of things, but if I’ve learned anything in this season it’s that marriage has to come first.  I’m so grateful for the wonderful teammate and partner that I get to share the day-to-day with.  The past 7 months have been tough and we’ve been hanging on by a thread it seems but we have really worked hard in the past month to pull our crap together and work harder to be the best team we can, to show June the best marriage and family we can and to be the best friend, coworker and family member to those we love.

That starts with us individually and is only amplified by your closest partner.  I’m so grateful to have such an awesome teammate.

Since it’s a certain someone’s birthday, I just had to share here those sweet photos that I came upon over the past week.  Very grateful every single day to know this one has my back and my  heart.

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Tending

As I have been on this journey of motherhood for the past five months I’ve had a lot of time to think about things I wanted to share.  However the thoughts in my head as I’m doing laundry, nursing June or at work don’t equal out to time it would take to actually put pen to paper. The time spent on those things that are most important trumped the time that I would have spent getting those thoughts down. But now I think I have a routine and some tools in my toolbelt that will allow me to share these things.

One of the best books that I have read recently has been The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner (I also have a N. middle initial and love she always uses hers as well!). This book was queued up in my kindle long before June arrived, however it was not the right time for me to read it. I love it when God has a plan even down to the timing of when we read a particular book. The Cliff Notes version of this book is essentially a way for women in particular to grasp the most out of the little moments that pass by in life. It’s not necessarily multitasking but being more intentional with those moments in time that are somewhat wasted because we are scrolling on our phone or aimlessly doing things that are inconsequential. Since finishing her book I have read more books and accomplished more things than I thought possible with a newborn at home EVEN after returning to work.

So with that said I have realized that this space is something I want to tend to. I know that writing is very cathartic for me through all that I’ve experienced over the past year.  I feel that this is something I need to do. I realized in looking back that through the encouragement of my counselor and even my chiropractor that this space is important and healing for me and need not be neglected. Even if it’s a discipline for me as time can be hard to carve out to tend to this. But that’s just it…tending is a daily effort–not something done all at once.  You don’t magically go out once or even once a week to your garden and magically have a harvest–it takes small bursts of time and effort–along with some large bursts! And I’ve learned to use the tools necessary–I may be sitting here right now dictating most of this post via voice-to-text on my phone (ps-this is a new/nursing mama’s BFF!).

So with that I am hoping to share (at least) weekly on a combination of faith, parenthood, wellness, community and practical tips I’ve learned along the way as an encouragement to all those who may find their way to this place. I’m finding my niche in the intersectionality of all of those things and I want to share what I have learned as well as hear from you on your tips advice and wisdom on all of those same things. The past 5 months (and let’s face it–year) has been challenging and isolating at times but it’s also allowed me to really determine what I’m made of and how to best steward the time and resources I have on those things that are life-giving to me and necessary in the multiple identities that I hold.

And let’s face it, there’s bound to be some cute pictures of our sweet June Parker from time to time.

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#MoreThanAMom

I think it was the day after June was born, I noticed an invitation to join a Facebook Group for Mom’s who work in Student affairs. I thought the colleague who invited me wasn’t wasting any time–turns out, it had just been formed.

The group has quickly grown to over 4,000 members and I’ve been able to see the amazing women out there in my field and connect with other NICU mamas who work in Student Affairs.  I’ve gleaned wisdom from some pioneers in our field sharing their journey of motherhood.  And I was intrigued when the founder encouraged folks to share how they’re more than a mom–what are the other things you do to help bring balance and boundaries to your life.

Since balance and boundaries are a favorite topic of mine, I thought about what I’ve learned in motherhood in these 6 weeks (now 7). After writing, I realized what often happens after I write–that the writing has been cathartic for me; apart of my healing and growing process.  I hope my sharing can bring you some peace today.  And regardless of what role you’re filling–Mom, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Caregiver, Employee–know that there’s more to you than just that.  You know it.  It’s okay to let those other parts shine.  We all need them to make this world brighter. And if you are a parent, a mentor, a friend, a neighbor–let those folks see all the wonderful facets that make you YOU.

I’ve been a mom for a little over 6 weeks, but I’ve been a caregiver for quite some time as I was the primary caregiver for my Mom for many years.  Her battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis and several other health concerns ended this past November.  One of the biggest things I learned as her caregiver is that I can’t be there for her 24/7 and if I’m not taking care of myself, I can’t take care of her.  She taught me a lot about being a mom.  My daughter is in the NICU at our university hospital and I came back to work on Monday to have 6 weeks with her once she’s released. I’m taking advantage of a super supportive office and supervisors by coming in early and making the 15 minute walk to the NICU a few times a day.  It’s been a challenge thinking about how I’ve been #MoreThanAMom since June came into our lives. But then I think about the ways in which I had already implemented boundaries and balance and desired to place presence with others over perfection. I still love my friends well, enjoying hosting in our home even though it’s rarely perfect (especially in the remodel phase) and enjoying taking care of myself holistically—mind, body and soul.

Here’s how I’m sensing that I am #MoreThanAMom:

  • Being present where I am. When I’m in the office advising a student—I do my absolute best to be fully present (even if I’m a few minutes late if June has had a milestone or I need to chat with someone at the hospital). When I’m in the NICU with June, I do everything possible to not let my mind wander to what students are on my calendar that afternoon.  Walking to the NICU each day—that’s my self-care time.  And I’m learning NOT to basically run even if I’m running late. What am I thankful for?  What will I fix for dinner? What’s the schedule when I get home? What laundry must be done today? I literally flip a switch when I go through those rotating doors of the hospital—what questions do I have for the nurses, is there anything I need to address while here?
  • When I realized after a walk to the NICU that my neglected toenails were literally causing me pain on my increased walks, I immediately texted a friend to see when we could get a pedicure next week after I leave the hospital one evening.
  • I’ll take the time to S L O W down and grab a Starbucks (Thanks to the generous gift cards from friends)
  • I’m doing my hair and putting on make-up each day. Even before coming back to work, this made me feel human (at least the make-up part—a top knot was my BFF until Monday!) Plus, a good concealer helped with the bags and dark circles!
  • We are still planning on hosting supper club in May for our friends.
  • Agreeing to go with a friend to Cincinnati a few weeks ago to see Newsies when her husband unexpectedly had to go out of town and she had an extra ticket.

Sometimes being #MoreThanAMom is almost a state of mind rather than things we do. Seeing all these posts has made me think hard about how I want to parent our daughter. I want her to know that she can do lots of things and that so can I.  I’m her mom, but also an Academic Advisor, friend, worship leader at our church, theater buff and lover of coffee and good meals around the table with those I love.

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