Choices

This week I started a new part-time job, not for fun, not for career advancement, not out of boredom (God, no), but simply because some extra money around the house would be useful. Going back to work, even part-time, became a huge life decision for me. My simple need to make some extra cash brought up questions about my career, success, future, retirement, preschool choices, resume and goals. It’s been hard enough to feel successful as a stay-at-home Mom, but now I was questioning if a part-time job is considered good enough… Should I be using my degree? Should I look for something with career advancement possibilities? Will this look good on my resume? Should my happiness and sanity be considered?

While debating and making my pro/con lists, I did what I always do when faced with a tough decision and discussed it with my Mom. She listened patiently as I rambled on about my options. I said to her “I do no want a full-time job right now. I love staying home with Luna, but my one worry, is that I will look back in 5 years and regret not taking the job that will help advance me in my career.” She stopped me right there and said, “No. You will only ever look back and regret not spending more time with your daughter.” That, right there, made my decision for me. That reminded me that my career is not my life, nor is it my meter of success, or at least it doesn’t have to be.

children

 

Then, because she always seems to know what I need to hear, Momastery posted this. This was the exact reminder I needed. My success is not dependent on if I work full-time, part-time or stay at home with Luna. I find success daily, in how I raise Luna, care for my family, treat others and lead by example through whatever I am doing. Today, I am a part-time working Mom, one day I may be a full-time working Mom, or perhaps a stay-at-home Mom to four kids, or a principal, or a writer, or a zookeeper. My roles will change, but my character will remain the same.

character

Right now, my role of Mom to Luna is by far the best damn role I’ve yet to play. It’s time I lay my insecurities and others’ opinions on what I should or should not be doing to rest. I hope one day Luna will look to me as an example of someone who followed her heart and did her best do what is kind, courageous and right, and I hope she does the same.

Cheers

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Newsies on the Road

Newsies_(musical)_poster

I saw Disney’s Newsies the musical for the first time during opening week on Broadway in New York. I never knew much about the show and it blew me away. What I remember most about the show was the phenomenal dancing, all male dancing. There is something very powerful and mesmerizing about all those guys spinning, leaping and flipping in unison. The dancing is what I looked most forward to when I got the invite to review the show at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

It did not disappoint.  I can’t tell you how many times the choreography gave me chills. It was honestly better than I remembered. Seize the Day had me wanting to run from the theater to start changing the world for the better, while simultaneously completing insanely difficult dance moves and acrobatic tricks. However, the dancing wasn’t the only part of the performance that had me moving. This time the lead girl, Katherine, truly resonated with me.

I’ve been slacking on work lately…. Even after 16 months I can’t seem to juggle stay-at-home Mom/blogger/tutor/what have you. (Although, I have discovered many other bloggers secret: a babysitter. I should really look into those…) In any case, the female star of Newsies, Katherine played by Stephanie Styles, is a true hardworking, witty, stand-up for what is right, seize the day kinda gal. She’s basically a Lorelei Gilmore for the 19th century, and I adore her. In fact she’s this week’s #wcw.

playbill

Her character, which doesn’t even exist in the movie, is a super cool girl that you not only want your daughters to look at as a role model, but that you yourself will look up to and love. There are a few notable changes between the movie and the musical, and in my opinion, they improved the show, especially with Katherine’s character. It’s nice to have the strong woman who can hold her own in the almost all male cast.

play

Speaking of the male cast, they are bursting with talent. Yeah, they can dance their asses off, but they can also sing as well as any other musical cast, act and entertain an audience that ranges in age from preschoolers to senior citizens. Husband and I were both impressed and entertained from beginning to end.

date night

If you want to see Newsies in Nashville, you have a few nights left to catch it! For those of you outside of Tennessee, don’t forget to check out their tour schedule. AND, for all the locals you MUST take a peek at the line up for next year’s Broadway season! I am stoked!!!

Cheers!

Minnie Mouse Love

tta

We are home from our first Disney vacation with Luna, and I am very tempted to say it was our best trip yet, and considering, we met, got engaged and got married there, that’s saying a lot. We love Disney, but seeing the magic through our daughter’s eyes makes it much more magical than I ever imagined. We spent our three days at the parks doing lots of what we thought Luna would like (and a little of what only we would enjoy). I had not doubt that Luna would enjoy running around, dancing to the music and looking at all the sights, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that she not only enjoyed, but interacted with the shows, rides and characters. Her favorite  (and our favorite) part of the trip was by far, the moment she met Minnie Mouse.

My mini Minnie!
My mini Minnie!

Luna has a small stuffed Minnie Mouse that she has loved since she was just a couple of months old.  In fact, it is the first object she ever smiled at. I have said for a while that she loves Minnie Mouse in general, but Husband has refused to believe that she actually recognizes Minnie Mouse. That is until we went to Disney World.

pink minnie
Waiting for Disney Jr. Live

 

Every. Single. Store. we went into had rows and rows of stuffed Disney characters. There was Mickey, Goofy , Donald, Pooh, Simba, Nemo and of course, Minnie. Luna would scan every aisle until she came to Minnie. She then instantly pulled Minnie from the shelf and ran with her to either me or her Daddy. This happened, not once, but in ever single store and gift shop.

picking minnie big minnie stuffed minnie

Obviously, I convinced Husband to buy her one. I mean, how can you not buy this girl a Minnie Mouse during her first trip to Disney?

stroller minnie

Then, the most magical moment of all happened. Our last day at Disney was spent at EPCOT. We decided to use one of our fastpasses for a character spot. We were somewhat apprehensive about spending time in line for Luna to meet characters that she would most likely be terrified of, but we decided to give it a shot, and I am oh so so glad we did!

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minnie kiss

She met Mickey and loved him. Next, was Goofy. She loved him too. Finally, the grand finale was her supposed favorite character, Minnie Mouse. We slowly set her on the ground about 6 feet from Minnie and nervously waited to see what would happen. Luna’s little eyes lit up when she spotted Minnie. She ran to her, arms out and hugged that giant mouse! Minnie “kissed” her head, held her hands, hugged her and interacted with her for a good three minutes before we stepped in for photos. It was magical!

meet minnie hey minnie

Minnie Mouse was the highlight of our trip, but I have SO much more to share! Stay tuned for Disney tips and tricks as wells as some adorable photos!

all mickeys

Chees!

I Can Finally Go Caving!

Before having Luna so many people told us that our wild and crazy adventures were over. Forget traveling, spelunking, skydiving, rafting, road tripping or anything else you enjoyed because babies ruin all your fun. Clearly, Husband and I took the many negative comments with a grain of salt. We know ourselves to well to believe that our fun was over. Since having Luna we have traveled abroad, hiked, rock climbed, been on road trips, biked, ran races and so much more all with Luna. The one thing I have yet to do since becoming a Mom is go caving.

I missed the last couple of caving trips because I was either 6 months pregnant or caring for a newborn. So, I was definitely not going to miss this recently planned trip. I dropped Luna off with her Grandmother on Sunday morning, left her for the longest I have ever left her (10 hours) and joined my wild and crazy friends for crazy spelunking adventure!

We went to our favorite cave, the one we call the “waterfall cave”, and oh how I wish I had a special caving camera to prove to you just how ridiculous this cave is! There are not only waterfalls, but pools and pools of water, cliffs, tiny tunnels, mud, giant rocks and everything you could ever possibly want in a cave.

water

We began by wading in knee deep water to get to a very slick and muddy edge that went along the tops of the falls in a long stream of water. We held onto a muddy rope to keep our balance and inched along until we got to solid ground. From there we tunneled on our bellies, swam in the cave, explored some random passage ways, screamed over scary giant cave crickets and got a little lost.

I always get a little scared in the high and slick parts of the cave, but the worst part of this trip was repelling down a rocky muddy wall with a rope and no harness. I completely trust our expert caving friends to keep me safe during these times, but it’s still a little nerve wracking.

Three hours later, when I finally saw the light of the sun and made my way to the exit of the tunnel, I felt like I’d just conquered the world! 16 of us survived the cave that day. Half of us went in not even knowing each other’s names and now we have this incredible experience together to bond us and hopefully keep us as friends for a long time.

Before and After
Before and After

I’m sure our next caving trip won’t be too far away…who’s in???

Cheers!

Stingrays, Penguins and Otters!

We manage to do a lot in and out of Tennessee, but we have somehow never managed to hangout in the gorgeous town of Chattanooga. Last weekend, we decided to finally make the short two hour trip there and visit some touristy spots. There’s a lot to do in Chattanooga, but there number one tourist attraction seems to be the Tennessee Aquarium. Obviously, we hit ti up first.

The Aquarium is HUGE. It actually consists of two giant buildings: the Oceans Journey and the River Journey. We started in the Ocean and went to the stingray exhibit first. Why??? Because, hello, you get to pet them! I’m just like a child when it comes to animals and I can spend hours and hours in any sort of petting zoo. I was loving the stingrays, but poor Luna couldn’t reach them. We had to wait forever for one to swim up high enough for her to reach and as she innocently splashed in the water I pulled her hand towards the closest stingray and made her pet it. She did not enjoy it. Not at all.

stingrays

The butterfly exhibit was kind of like a petting zoo too. You couldn’t technically pet the butterflies, but they flew where they pleased, and often landed on one of us excited viewers. Luna, however, didn’t seem to notice any of them. She was more interested in  stomping in the flower beds.

butterflies

Penguins are in my top 3 list of animals. They are the coolest! (Hah! Get it? Coolest?) The penguins as the aquarium are all named and labeled with little colored bracelets. They swim, jump and waddle all around and are so stinkin’ cute. Even Luna’s attention was kept for a few minutes.

penguins touch

The most beaitful exhibit in the Ocean Journey is the Secret Reef and Undersea Cavern. These large reef areas are full of giant sharks, colorful fish, sunbeams, turltels and more.

shark

I was excited to show Luna all of the cool undersea creatures, but to be honest, she was happiest just running around and climbing on any steps she could find. I think most of the aquariums seem like a giant TV to her. She didn’t quite grasp that there were real live animals swimming by her.

mommyandme

jelly

As we were walking through the Undersea Cavern, Husband stared through a small round window for a while and then called me over to point out what appeared to be a dead turtle. There it was…upside down, pale, not moving, missing a leg. It looked so sad and lifeless. After waiting a while, Bella and I decided to tell someone before young children saw it and started crying.

We walked into the gift shop and discreetly told the cashier that there seemed to be a dead turtle at the bottom of the aquarium. She almost laughed and very nonchalantly said, “Oh no, that’s just Oscar.” I explained to her that the turtle seemed very dead, but another employee then pointed to a large display with a sign that described Oscar. He is an injured turtle from the Gulf of Mexico who must sleep that way in order to breathe and keep comfortable. He is not dead. The sign was surrounded by dozens of 3-legged stuffed turtles. Feeling a little stupid and humiliated we walked back to tell Husband the good news, just in time for Oscar to wake-up and swim away.

turtle

The River Journey building has otters!!! Otters are the best, but the aquarium only has three. We need more otters!

otter

The riverside has lots more fishes, seahorses, gators, lizards, frogs, birds and more.

luna

Right outside of the aquarium are little water passages for water play. I stripped Luna down and put on her swimsuit, but most of the kids just played in their clothes. It was a little chilly, but how nice would this be on a hot summer day?

splash water

We had a fun day with the fish, the water, an amazing Latin restaurant and some ice cream, but we will need to make another trip because Chattanooga has so much to offer.

chattanooga

Cheers!

Unconditional

Have you ever needed to express yourself so badly that it hurt, physically hurt? Is there ever something you needed to say, write, sing, dance, paint, play so desperately that it’s consuming your every thought? You can’t focus, can’t sleep, can’t hold a conversation because there is work, art and poetry that needs to be made and if you don’t do it now it may never get done! So you start, you grab your paintbrush, tie your sneakers, tighten the strings on your guitar or open up your laptop and then…then, what? What you have to say is so deep within you that you don’t even know where to start or how to express yourself in a way that is meaningful and beautiful enough to transcend to anyone outside of yourself. How do you begin?

That’s where I am.

I love people. I love them deeply. I especially love the people in my life. These people, my friends, my family, my coworkers, my bosses, my students, my neighbors, my doctors, my baby… I love them. I love them for who they are and how they love me for who I am. I love them because they are wise, funny, kind, compassionate, caring, creative, hard-working, beautiful, strong and so much more. They are also all a little broken, bruised and even odd. They can be forgetful, selfish, stubborn, absent-minded, late, annoying and disorganized. They have faults, many, because they are real. They are real people who need love, just like me.

type of person

All my life, I’ve been told to love. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love as God loves you. Treat others with love and kindness. Above all else, love. Love wins. Love is the one most powerful message I have learned from my parents, my church, my favorite teachers and my mentors. That message has stuck with me through the years. Sometimes it’s at the forefront of my thoughts, and other times it’s tucked back behind my anger and ignorance, but at some point it always rears it’s head to remind me of what matters. Truth is, sometimes anger and ignorance wins. On those days, I go to bed feeling exhausted, sad and disappointed in myself. What did I accomplish with my anger or fear? Nada. When I let go of my anger and allow love in instead, I see change. I see change within my own heart, and within others. Love truly does win.

The other day a friend of mine, a friend I love dearly, let me know that she is transgender.

Was I surprised? A little, but it wasn’t at all shocking. Honestly, I felt honored because I am one of the few people she trusted to know and still love her no matter what. And I do, and I let her know that I do and that I will always be in her corner.

threat

As I drove home, grief and confusion hit me, but not for the reasons you may think. (I have just as much anxiety for others as I do for myself, it’s exhausting!) Reality began setting in and I couldn’t help but think about the struggles my friend would face, the bullies she would endure and the pain that more than likely lies ahead. However, more than those sad thoughts were the people whom my friend couldn’t trust with her news. The ones who will choose to stop caring for her, the ones who will turn on her and the ones who will no longer have her back.

I let my non-stop mind go silent for just a moment (because I so often find the answers in the silence), just long enough to hear Katy Perry (the CD that was blaring in my car to keep Luna from crying) sing the word “unconditional”, and that’s when it hit me. Unconditional love. All those lessons on love through my childhood, were based on an unconditional love. When you “love others as you love yourself”, “love as God loves” and remember that “above all else is love” than you must love unconditionally.

Come just as you are to me
Don’t need apologies
Know that you are worthy ~ Katy Perry

When you love unconditionally, you love without conditions. That should be self-explanatory, but it seems that it needs to be said. You love someone for exactly who they are despite their race, religion, political agenda, sexual preference, gender, job, education or background. It’s true that each of these factors affect us and who we become, but they do not make us good or bad.

stutter

I have to tell you I know some awesome white, straight, Christian, educated, hard-working Americans. I also know some really shitty ones. In my experience it works like that for every single labeled group of people. There’s good and bad everywhere, but mostly good. And, if you’ve got good, kind, honest and courageous people in your life, you’re lucky.

My loved ones are all of those traits and so much more, and that is what matters. Nothing more.

above all

I do not judge I try very hard to not judge, for I do not wished to be judged either. I think we could all use a lot less judgement and a lot more love. At the end of the day, when you find yourself feeling all judgey it’s best to take a look at yourself, because most judgement stems from our own fears and insecurities. It’s got more to do with you than the person you judge.

Just love. Love yourself. Love others.

Cheers

#14DaysOfMe Challenge Complete

Two weeks ago, I challenged myself to a #14daysofme challenge wherein everyday I must pick one thing I love about myself, capture it in photo and share it via social media. While aware that this may appear to be narcissistic, I did it to not only change my own inner voice, but to encourage you to change yours. Positive self-talk is one of the most effective ways to improve depression and anxiety, but it takes a lot of work to change that negative inner-voice. The #14daysofme challenge was my answer to kicking off better habits and thoughts about myself.

The first two days were easy. It’s simple to find at least two things you like about yourself, but by the third day it started getting a little challenging. I began questioning anything I liked… What if I share this and everyone thinks “really? she likes that about herself?” What if I’m wrong? What if I sound cocky? What if I don’t like anything about myself? I almost asked Husband to help me out a few times, but I never never did.  You know what? I found something everyday.

And, what’s more, everyone was super supportive. I cannot tell you how nervous I was to post each photo, but everyone single one was met with words of encouragement, agreement and even appreciation. It started getting easier to find what I like about myself. I began feeling more confident and am now very aware when that negative voice sneaks back in and tries to knock me down. THAT is a huge step in the right direction. Oh how, I hope hope hope my little challenge may have challenge one of you to do the same and change your inner voice!

By the end of the two weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking of things I like about myself. In fact, today, the final day, I had a list of things I could have shared, but after reading this beautiful essay by Glennon over at Momastery, I decided to appreciate my many faults. I highly recommend reading it if you have or know anyone who has any sort of mental illness. (addiction, anxiety, depression, etc).

Help us manage our fire, yes, but don’t try to extinguish us.Tweet: What we mentally different need is respect. Help us manage our fire, yes-but don’t try to extinguish us. @momastery http://ctt.ec/e11Cc+ ‎ That fire that almost killed us is the same fire we’ll use to light up the world. And so we don’t want you to take what we’ve got, we just want help learning how to use what we’ve got for good.  – Glennon

(Funny, how you find just what you need at the exact right moment.)

So here it is, all 14 days of me…

The challenge may be over, but it’s just the beginning to my new habit of loving and encouraging myself. What’s more, is this little boost of confidence is already empowering me to encourage and remind others how they too, are beautiful and wonderful. Like, you. You, my friend are beautiful, brave, kind and strong. And don’t you forget it.

Cheers!