7 & 1 = the right kind of crazy

Dear Avery & Bayley,

Happy birthday week to both of you.

Avery, somehow you are turning 7 — and Bay Bay, you’ve reached 1 full year of life. Insane how the time goes by so fast, but it’s been so fun to watch and be apart of.

I’m sad that I won’t be attendance of your mermaid party today, but I’m glad we got the chance to spend the whole weekend together in Dallas for your God Mama’s wedding. We enjoyed navigating a new, rainy city with huge puddles for me to drive through. We went to the aquarium that housed Flamingos? Because of course it would. Never did I think I’d experience a sea of flamingos in the middle of Texas. We had fun groovin’ on the dance floor, and taking photos in the photo booth wearing panda and shark heads. While I didn’t particularly enjoy sleeping in the same bed with the biggest bed hog of them all, AVERY, it was still fun to annoyingly wake you up both mornings by placing Bayley on your face.

Getting back to your birthdays, I wanted to talk a little bit about each of you, as you are NOW. Because you’ll only be this little for a short time.

Bayley – You are a take-no-shit baby. You are incredibly particular about who you smile at, and who you will allow to hold you. Luckily for me, I’ve passed your test (the photo below mayyyyy say otherwise, but that’s just your resting face). And I’m honored by that. You are a slow to warm up kid, but when you do — you have the best smile and giggle. You make people work for it, and I already admire that about you. I hope that you always hold your ground, and keep that sense of bad-assness. You are already so different than your sister, but I can tell you really love her anyway. Even without speaking yet, I see it.

Bay Bay

 

Avery – You are 7 going on 17. You are intelligent, inquisitive, caring, funny, and full of sass. I could write a book of all the witty things you’ve said. You’ve also become relentless. A trip to Target will always end in you negotiating buying a new toy: “I reach in the way back for the most rare toy, so it’s special.” HOW CAN ANYONE ARGUE WITH THAT LOGIC? You danced until 11:30pm at the wedding because you didn’t want to miss anything — even though your Mom and I were exhausted. So you stayed and danced until the end. You also met my friend’s son who was a couple years older than you. You seemed to really hit it off, talking about science and marvel movies and life in Texas vs California. And when we got in the car — you said, “I don’t really know what he was talking about, but I just listened anyway and nodded my head.” I laughed, but actually really admired that. You could have easily been a 7 year old kid, and thrown more mac and cheese in Bayley’s face at the end of the table. But you sat there, made a new friend, and were really respectful. Wow, am I’m proud of who you are becoming.

Aves and Flamingos

I can’t finish this blog without noting how much of super hero your Mom is. She is grace personified. Having a 7 and 1 year old is a lot to juggle. Dealing with a teething 1 year old who is highly attached to her, while the 7 year old wants to draw and sing and play video games with her… somehow she does it all, with ease. She is incredible at this motherhood thing, and you both are so lucky to have her.

Cracker Barrell

Lastly, I’ve leave you with my favorite thing from last weekend. I realized I told you, Avery, that you were “crazy” multiple times for your funny antics or funny faces you were making. You just smiled and never had anything to say back. Until I told you, “If anyone says ‘You are crazy!” be sure to say back to them “Yeah, just the right amount.” Because we all need a little childlike crazy in our lives. And without a beat, the next time I said “You are cray cray!”… you replied: “Yeah, just the right amount.”

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I love you, you little crazy mermaids. Happy birthday(s).

With love,

Aunt Megs

 

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My motto for 2018: All is Well.

Dear Avery,

The very last day of 2017, I was hit with a major panic attack. It was as-if the weight of the year for me had waited to show its full strength in the form of taking over my body. It started with a shortness of breath, tightening of my chest, losing feeling in my face and in my fingers. I was grasping the pillow like it was going to save my life. Tears came from every hard moment of the year. Grief sat on my chest, and made itself comfortable for what felt like 15 mins.  Luckily for me, I had one of my best friends holding me through it. Wrapped his arms around me, and let me know he was right there.

Eventually, I came back to reality. I slowed my breath. In and out, in and out – feeling the weight of it. Acknowledging the emotional pain, but also the physical tightness of my entire body. But I got through it.

Hours later, I met up with friends to experience the last beach sunset of 2017, and enjoy the rest of NYE together.

I picked myself up, and I went. No one knew I had experienced that only hours prior. But I went anyway because I wasn’t going to let that hold me back. I needed to push forward, and be surrounded by good people. Ring in the New Year with a positive memory. (At the same point, I’m not dismissing the experience of a panic attack. It happened for a reason. And I am acknowledging and accepting that.)

The next day, I went to the beach alone to watch the first sunset of 2018. As always, I take photos of the ever-changing views. That day was no different. There in the midst of photos, was a Cross of light within the sunset. So clear. So relevant in that moment. I felt a rush of warmth and comfort. With the words “All is Well” that came to my heart. I believed this to be a sign from God that He is with me, and that “All will be well”. It was what I had been seeking: comfort, security, calmness, and peace.

All is Well

To go from a moment in your life where it feels as if the world is emotionally and physically suffocating you, to the very next day feeling peace and comfort, is a bit of a roller coaster….but a worthy one. This life is so beautiful in those fragile moments, and also in the stillness of joy. Finding the balance of the two worlds is what life is about.

I’m choosing to use “All is Well” as my motto for 2018. I know anxiety is a part of my life, and I also know that she’ll come back with vengeance at points throughout the year. And when she comes, I’ll look her straight in the face and tell her: All will be well. Even I have to repeat a thousand times. Because maybe in that moment, it’s not well.  And that’s ok because I know it eventually will be. And that makes all the difference in how we pick ourselves up and go enjoy the next sunset.

With love,

Aunt Megs

2017: Find your Balance

Dear Avery,

2017 was painful, disheartening, sad, and down right the hardest year of my life. But it was also beautiful, full of love, and it’s when I began focusing on being present.

B a l a n c e.

When the flamingo started following me this summer (the “flamingo” post), I recently came across this image and said out loud: YES. There is more meaning behind my spirit animal.

Flamingo

Life isn’t about always being at the peak of happiness. It’s about knowing the valleys will come too, and it’s about how you handle both. In your valley, if you only wallow in self pity — chances are, you’ll stay there a long time. If you stay at your peak — but don’t appreciate the joy and the beauty of it — will you ever truly be present?

2017 was a year I decided what I needed for my life. Going through a divorce is gut-wrenching experience, and I don’t wish it upon anyone. Especially when your husband is such a fantastic man. He will always be one of the best people I know. But it stopped working for many reasons. I felt like a failure. I felt shame and guilt (and will probably always feel this). I came to point where I wasn’t present in a “perfect” marriage. I lost my joy, and ultimately decided to go through the trenches to get it back.

I’m working on finding my balance. Being OK with the hard, and fully enjoying the good.

Working for what I truly want in this life.

Figuring out what passionate love looks like to me, and how I need to give it back.

How to love myself despite my flaws and actions.

Learning to not be so hard on myself because that goes no where.

How to feel deeply and accept the circumstances for what they are.

How to show compassion and grace for all those in my life.

Working on finding stillness in the chaos.

Finding beauty in the flawed.

Owning my life choices because they are my own to make.

Finding my balance. My ying and yang. My inner flamingo.

 

And so Avery, I hope you find your balance when life gets good, when life gets hard, and when life is somewhere in the middle. Through it all, I’ll be here for you. With grace, compassion, empathy, and love as best as I possibly can. Because we all deserve that, even those of us who are currently off balance.

Into a new year we go.

With love,

Aunt Megs

 

My current obsession… PODCASTS

Dear Avery,

Last year I woke up early in my childhood room, well knowing that our family isn’t an early morning family, so I decided to listen to a podcast people had recommended to me. It was Podcastscalled “Serial”, by This American Life. A true story murder mystery that still leaves everyone wondering who did it. One episode in, and I was HOOKED.  And so my love affair with podcasts was born.

From there, I’ve listened to one-on-one interviews style podcasts, slam poetry, motivational speakers, more criminal stories, psychology focused, etc…

I thought I’d share some of my favorite podcasts in different genres:

Crime podcasts

  • Up and Vanished: a true story about a woman who had vanished 10 years ago without a trace, and then a rookie sleuth podcaster decided to investigate — and ends up solving the case! For REAL.
    • Run time: 30-60 mins depending
  • Dirty John: a true story about a crook who finds vulnerable women, poses as the perfect man, but ultimately is a sociopath.
    • Run time: 30-60 mins depending
  • S-Town: Starts off being about a murder in small town, ends up being about SO much more. This one really surprised me.
    • Run time: 60 mins
  • Crimetown: a podcast focused on cities riddled with crime and heavy mob ties. You learn about the inner workings of the mob – the psychology behind it, the in-depth crimes committed, and ultimate tying back to the notion that all anyone wants is belonging.
    • Run time: 60 mins

Motivational podcasts

  • Oprah’s Soulful conversations: One on one conversations with celebrities about living life to the fullest, and understanding our true souls and meaning on earth. I was SO inspired by an episode with Mitch Albom (author of Tuesdays with Morrie) who encouraged listeners to reconnect with a teach or professor that inspired you. So I did — I messaged my college professor and asked her if she’d like to meet for dinner. We met the next night, and had an amazing 3 hour conversation about life, love, grief, careers, and hope. I was so inspired!!!
    • Run time: 30-60 mins depending
  • The Tony Robbins Podcast: This one is similar to Oprah’s – in that there are guest speakers. Tony is probably the most motivational speakers of this generation — so he includes hard topics with solutions. This man is full of gratitude, so I love hearing his views on the world.
    • Run time: 1 hour

Story- telling

  • The Moth: a collection of real life stories told by people all over the world. Sometimes they are: funny, heartbreaking, inspiring, nostalgic, interesting, random, or heartwarming. These are simply incredible. They take you out of your own life — and give you access into other’s views and perspectives. Humanity at its finest!
    • Run time: 30-60 mins depending.
  • The Way I Heard It: Mike Rowe narrates a collection of short stories about famous people — or people you’ve never heard of yet have done something monumental in this world. The twist? You find out at the very END who he is talking about! I love the mystery of it. Often times, I find myself trying to guess the name of the person he is beautifully narrating.
    • Run time: 10 mins – yep! That’s it. Fun short stories.

Psychology

  • Invisibilia: about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Each psychology lesson is sandwiched between two relevant true stories — most of which — never have anything to do with each other — yet paints pictures of the human behavior discussed. The first episode I listened to do was about a man who lived in a coma for 12 years — and was AWAKE during it. He eventually came out of it, and went on to live a full life. The invisible nature of triumph and willingness to survive was unbelievable .
    • Run time: 60 mins.
  • Every Little Thing: a show about the small stuff. I love how she finds the wonder in the small things. She is a great story teller but also fact finder. I put this under the psychology section because you learn something from each episode and it makes you look at the world differently.
    • Run time: 30 mins

These are my favorites among a whole slue of great content out there.

It’s become an escape for me. An educational escape. An escape from screens.  An escape from very day life.

I laugh. I cry. I enjoy.

I hope you enjoy all of these — and I’m also looking for more suggestions!!

With love,

Aunt Megs

When grief slaps you in the face, and tells you to pay attention

Dear Avery,

When I started seeing a therapist over a year ago (which I highly recommend for anyone), I told her of my experience with infertility and how it broke me. She listened for a few sessions, and then introduced the topic of “Grief”.

“Do you think perhaps you are going through stages of grief right now?”

Natively, I thought: isn’t grief about death? I haven’t lost anyone close to me. Surely this is not that…

Wrong.

She followed it, “Grief can be a death of dream, too.  Realization that what you planned in your mind did not happen. Death of an idea you had for your life.”

Honestly, I could not fully comprehend this for months. It didn’t commute in my head. We worked through it over time.

The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with what we’ve lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.

Denial? Yep >> This wasn’t happening to me. Can’t possibly happen to me…

Anger? Lots of it. Anger with God (how you could not let this happen for me?), anger that my life wasn’t going to plan.

Bargaining? Ahh, not so much. But grief doesn’t fit in a box. You won’t fit everything in there.

Depression? This is a heavy word, and I probably told myself I wasn’t battling depression. But that is another form of denial. So I’d like to claim spurts of depression.

Acceptance? This comes in waves. There were periods of time where I accepted that I may not be a mother, or this just wasn’t the right time.

OK, so what now? I am going through grief of my own. I started recently reading books, listening to podcasts, taking time to sit with my self in my grief — and look at it in the face, talking to others about THEIR grief. All of it. I was running away from it so long, until it slapped me in the face and told me to pay attention. Feel the sadness. Feel the gratitude. Feel the acceptance of moving on. FEEL THE GRIEF.

Here are the things I’ve learned, and if YOU are feeling grief or a loved one is grieving, here is what I know:

  1. Ask people “How are you doing, TODAY?” not “how are you”? Everyday is different. Treat it as such.
  2. Let the grief come, when it comes.
  3. You can’t put grief in a box (ha! I already said that. But it’s true. Grief does not look the same for everyone)
  4. Sometimes Option A is not available, so kick the shit out of Option B. (Thank you, Sheryl Sandberg for this life lesson)
  5. Post – Traumatic – Growth: happens after trauma, we grow to become more joyful, more appreciative.
  6. We must believe that Option B exists. And in order to move through your grief, go with Option B.

So Avery, know that you will encounter grief of some form in your life. I’ve learned that it comes in different sizes due to different traumas, but none-the-less, it will come.

A wise professor told me, “It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to give yourself the time to sit in the corner and wallow. But after that, you have to pick yourself up and move on.”

Grief is apart of life, and after it comes such gratitude and beauty once the clouds part if you allow yourself to see it.

I may not see or feel the beauty everyday, but everyday I try.

And that’s where I’m at today. Tomorrow — we shall see! And there is such beauty in that.

With love,

Aunt Megs

The Flamingo that followed me

Dear Avery,

Did you know that the flamingo is a pretty bad ass animal? It’s more than the pink tropical bird most people associate it with. It’s much more.

Did you know it can drink boiling hot water, but can also live in below freezing conditions? Stick that bird anywhere, and it will survive. See what I mean? Such a bad ass.

Why does this matter?

Well, you know how I love signs from the universe? One day I was listening to all these fun facts about this extraordinary bird from a podcast called Every Little Thing (a funky little podcast about incredibly random things of this world — always leaves you with a smile — so of course I’d dig it), on my way to a museum with friend and her daughter. After the 25 min podcast, I parked my car… and couldn’t not think about how underestimated the flamingo really is. Why don’t people pay attention to these guys? While walking up to the museum, my friend’s daughter spotted me… ran full sprint towards me to say hello. Gave me a big hug, and showed me her dress: flamingo print dress. Hmmm. What a funny happenstance. Little did I know, this was the first of many flamingo appearances to come.

For the next two weeks, I saw them E V E R Y W H E R E:

  1. Random Social media posts.
  2. The name of restaurant next to a place I ran an errand (which I would not have noticed had the large FLOCK of elderly people in the entrance not moved faster in the parking lot, allowing me to wait patiently for them to cross, giving me the time to recognize the name of the restaurant).
  3. Since this is the summer of pool floats — a huge flamingo was the first float I saw while vacationing with our family in Lake Tahoe (a blog post on that trip to come!). I spotted at least 4 of them over the week’s span.
  4. I continued to see them in Tahoe: on men’s t-shirts, towels, and I even saw one hanging from a gondola wire. Nothing else hanging from this wire but a stuffed animal flamingo<<< whhhhhhhhhhhy?!?

You get the point. It followed me. I told my parents all about this mysterious circumstance, and my dad told me to research the symbolism of it. At first, I was hesitant — kind of like a psychic reading — I didn’t want to know what was to come.  But then, after continuing to see them, I looked it up. I came across the symbolism of having a flamingo visit you in a dream. And THIS is what it came back with:

FullSizeRender

 

I’ve been going through a hard stage in life, and this hit me square in the face.

“Let go of the negatives to build a positive future.”

Sometimes, we just have to let go, so we can begin again. As hard as it is, sometimes we just have to.

So I sent this to your Mom. She responded immediately with positive support. And then a little while later, she sent me this and suggested I get it tattooed. As a symbol of letting go, starting anew, and looking forward.

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Once I get over the inherent fear of permanent tattoos, it’s the best option I’ve seen in a very long time for one. Look at the elegance. The peacefulness. And the breath-taking power of letting go.

Aves — find the symbol that encourages you to let go of things that are not meant for you. Or better yet, it may just find you.

With love,

Aunt Megs

 

 

 

Keep Calm, and Boulder On.

Dear Avery,

This past Memorial day weekend I made a last minute decision to go camping in the desert of Joshua Tree National Park with a group of friends.

Yes, I slept on the ground. No, there wasn’t a flushing toilet. Yes, I stargazed.  No, I wasn’t a huge fan of the very loud bugs. But yes, I’m so glad I went. And, I can’t wait to go back.

This particular season of my life has been harder than most. I’ve felt pretty lost in my marriage, facing challenges with infertility, have been lacking a sense of peace, and struggling with the feeling of being overwhelmed. With all of that, I’ve been yearning for a different experience, and looking for something to take myself out of the my normal routine. I’ve been in search of an “ah ha” moment. And this was it.

My friend Cait asked me if I wanted to go for a hike around our campground when I arrived. I agreed, but was confused as she headed toward a boulder formation that had absolutely no trail to it. Just a bunch of boulders… higher and higher they went. Our hike was going to be climbing rocks. I got about 1 minute into it , watched Cait start to climb ahead of me, and said… “Um, I can’t do this.” Her simple response, “Yes, you can.”

Joshua Tree with Cait

I’m not going to lie. I stood there in front of this boulder, and thought: No Way. I’m not a 10 year old kid climbing trees anymore. (Yes, my first thought took me back to climbing Redwood Trees in this beautiful park back home where we’d get lost for hours playing in the branches.) I’m not prepared for this. I’m wearing old tennis shoes, not grippy hiking boots. I’m not strapped to anyone or anything. I repeat: I’m not prepared for this.

No way. I can’t do this. What if I fall? (This was prime time for self doubt. Hit me square in the face).

But then I thought >> Oh, but what if you don’t fall? What if you CAN do it?

And so I did.

I followed Cait’s steps up the rocks. Did my legs shake? Hell yeah they did.

Did my mouth get a little dry from being a little terrified? Absolutely.

Did I keep going? You bet.

When I reached the top, did I laugh at myself for freaking out? Oh yeah.

Joshua Tree Boulders

I enjoyed it so much that throughout our time there, I went “bouldering” a few more times. Even got tossed a beer from the ground level, sat back and enjoyed good conversation, an exquisite view, and a cold brew.

The next day, we took a trip into the Joshua Tree park and found even larger boulders and caves! We were in search of a cave called “Hall of Horrors”. Kinda perfect, huh?

Once we found that cave that you had to climb DOWN into… once again…  my self doubt came into play. “No way. I can’t do that.” But then my friends reached out their hands (thank you, John and Kyle!) and helped me through it. No questions asked. Here is my hand. Take it. And go. Don’t think. Trust. Climb. Conquer. Enjoy.

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This turned out to be my FAVORITE part of the experience. This cave is a long, narrow stretch of pathway in-between huge rocks. Maybe two people wide. And I’m claustrophobic! But I wasn’t in there. I felt a sense of accomplishment. It overcame any sort of fear I would typically endure. And that made all the difference.

So what’s the epiphany here? I literally had a rock standing in my way. I had the choice to let it stay there or climb over it. For me, that rock represented self doubt. I didn’t think I could do it. And then I did. I conquered it.

My hope for you, Aves, is that you know you can conquer any rock in your way. Even if that means grabbing the hands of people around you to make sure you can.

With love,

Aunt Megs