#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!

Why My Baby Hasn’t Ruined My Life

First flight!
First flight!

When we were pregnant we constantly heard negative comments and warnings from other parents (not all, but more than I expected). People loved telling us that our lives were basically over now that we were having children. Goodbye fun, no more adventure, adios traveling…none of this is allowed or possible once you have baby. Some of the more common phrases we heard were, “Good thing you got all your traveling out of the way before you had kids.” “Enjoy all your summer adventures now, this won’t be possible next summer.” “You know you have to stay home all the time once you have kids.” Every single comment sounded like a bad omen, like we just made a huge mistake, like I made a bad purchase and should exchange it or get a refund.

Luna's first time on a horse.
Luna’s first time on a horse.

I expected everyone to be happy and excited for us. I thought everyone would tell us how magical and rewarding it us to be a parent. The last thing I wanted to hear was “Beware! This is going to be so much harder than you ever imagined!” There are lots of reasons why these statements bothered me while I was pregnant, but after having Luna I am trying to understand what these parents were really saying.

First time in a swing.
First time in a swing.

I’m an optimistic, believe in the good in people, kind of person, so I don’t think these parents were trying to be harsh or that they do not love their kids. In fact, I’m sure they adore their children and even like being parents (most of the time). What I think, is that these parents may be, or perhaps were, going through a stressful time. I have to admit that as far as families and parenting goes, Husband and I have had it pretty easy so far (minus the whole me being sick thing). It’s true that we got to do so many things and see so many places before having children. That doesn’t keep us from wanting to keep traveling. On the contrary, it just makes us want to see more, However, we certainly don’t feel like we didn’t take advantage of our single kid-less life. We have no regrets, that’s for sure.

First swim.
First swim.

Also, I think that maybe, just maybe, we are slightly more adventurous than some of these well-meaning advisors. Maybe some of them didn’t do some of these wet-and-wild crazy antics before children, and therefore do not do them post-children. I don’t really know, but I do know having Luna has only added to the adventure in our lives.

First hike to a waterfall.
First hike to a waterfall.

We take her just about everywhere we go, and while it isn’t always easy, and certainly not faster, it has been very doable. We are pretty low-key people. We pack the essentials, carry backpacks, wear the baby and take her with us to show her how we like to enjoy life. So far, she’s been on a plane, hiking, to a waterfall, swimming, rock-climbing, on a boat, out to fancy dinners, played at parks, had a picnic, and lots more. I feed her when she’s hungry, she naps two-three times a day and is a really happy baby.

First trip to Cheekwood.
First trip to Cheekwood.

Sure, there are times when we have to cancel or reschedule (thanks teething!), but it doesn’t phase us. We decided to have kids because we wanted to be parents. We wanted this, and we know that parenting require some sacrifice, sacrifice we are more than willing to make. Even if we weren’t able to travel and have adventures, it wouldn’t matter. I can honestly say I love spending time with my baby. I enjoy feeding, changing, bathing and playing with her. Sometimes we just stare at her as she kicks her legs, rolls around and babbles to a stuffed animal. It’s somehow become more entertaining than anything on TV.

Her first boat ride.
Her first boat ride.

You know, now that I that I am writing this, I guess they were right… our lives are different. This summer is nothing like last summer. Regular day chores and events are more challenging and take longer to complete, but what they failed to mention is that it would all be worth it. They didn’t tell me how I’d grow to love someone more than I ever thought possible. They didn’t tell me that hearing a baby’s first laugh would be better than hearing a waterfall. No one said that feeling her fall asleep on my chest would be better than feeling the ocean water on my skin. I didn’t know that watching her grow would be our biggest adventure yet.

First rock-climbing trip.
First rock-climbing trip.

What I’m trying to say is, if you want kids, or if you find yourself in a surprise situation, do not let the fear of losing your pre-baby life takeover. Babies will live your life with you. If you love to travel, hike and climb, then your baby will love doing those things with you. If you love reading, painting and watching classic movies, baby will be loving it right at your side. That baby is going to make your life a hell of a lot happier. Yes, you will be busy, exhausted, stressed and covered in someone else’s bodily fluids, but it won’t matter. It’s all just part of the latest adventure.

First hike through the woods.
First hike through the woods.

Cheers!

P.S. We are currently planning our first international trip as a family of 3. Can’t decide where to go yet…any suggestions? Morocco? Australia? Chile? Spain??

5 Ways We Keep From Killing Each Other

Husband and I just realized it will soon be our 2nd wedding anniversary and will soon after be our 10 year anniversary of being together. We like to think we win when it comes to relationships…I mean we are a pretty awesome couple, but if I’m being completely honest, it’s not always rainbows and daisies. In fact, it’s more often diapers and bills. In the grand scheme of things we are still  young in our relationship, but when I look back over the years of stupid fights and awkward memories I can safely say we have learned a lot.

Like all relationships, we started out simply wild about each other. He couldn’t keep his hands off me and I fell in love fast. The infatuation with each other wore off eventually and we started fighting about phone calls, dates, jealousy and long distance. A couple of years later we were living together and bickering over housework, jobs and bills. We have traveled and argued about where to go and what to do. Since being married some of the old arguments resurface and new ones come up over bad habits and life choices. Now, we are parents and just doing our best to not argue in front of our baby. I know getting into arguments will never go away. No two people can spend so much time together and not have some disagreements. What has changed over our almost ten years together is how we handle conflict.

The NY Botanical gardens
The NY Botanical gardens

There may be moments when I think, “Nope. No more. I’m running away to Paris,” but those moments are fleeting. The truth is that I am happier with my Husband every year. Even when I’m pissed off, I’d still rather be with him than anyone else. After lots of reflection, here’s how I think we keep from killing one another.

Last Christmas when we were still a family of 2
Last Christmas when we were still a family of 2

1. We tell each other EVERYTHING. sorry boys, but I know every single thing that happened on that bachelor party in New Orleans. Seriously, if you tell one of us a secret, just assume you’re telling both of us. We are so honest with each other that Husband actually came to me one night and told me he “had a confession”. I braced myself for devastating news.His confession?  He went to Taco Bell while running errands and did not call to see if I wanted anything. See? We tell each other EVERYTHING. We have also learned to tell each other when we are mad and why we are mad. this is especially important for me. Being a typical girl, I have the tendency to want to hold onto my angry feelings until they are so built up that I explode over something tiny and he has no idea what I’m actually mad about. Turns out, this doesn’t really workout well for either of us. It’s not easy, but we are getting better at letting one another actually explain themselves, process it and try to relate.

Playing around on some Greek ruins in Apollonia, Albania
Playing around on some Greek ruins in Apollonia, Albania

2. Sometimes we go to bed angry. I do not believe the old “never go to bed angry” phrase people toss around. Sometimes I need to sleep on it. I often wake up feeling much more calm and reasonable. For me (more than Husband) I often need to step away from an argument, take a breather and calm down. Actually, I need this after an argument too. Husband does not understand why I am still angry when we are done with a fight, but he accepts and knows that sometimes I just need a moment to simmer down.

Eating fresh sushi together in Japan
Eating fresh sushi together in Japan

3. We compliment each other all the time. It’s disgusting to anyone not in the relationship, I’m sure. I believe in small acts of love and sometimes a simple “nice ass” or “I’m proud of you” goes a very long way. We thank each other often for the small things we do. Husband is very good at acknowledging haircuts, new clothes and marathon feeding sessions with Luna. I try to point out his many talents and skills (He’s seriously good at everything!).

Celebrating at our wedding shower.
Celebrating at our wedding shower.

4. We love and respect each other’s families. This is SO important. No two families are alike and it’s a challenge to combine them. Loving someone else’s relatives as your own makes the challenging times much easier. Husband is so so so good to my family. Anytime we are in Texas he is helping my Mom clean, learning from my Dad and spending real quality time with everyone. I have never once heard him complain about spending time with my family. I try to be as equally loving and accepting of his family, which isn’t hard to do. I truly love them and have considered them my family for years.

Climbing trees together in Hilton Head.
Climbing trees together in Hilton Head.

5. We are on each other’s teams. I do not always agree with Husband and I know he is not always right (how could he be? I’m always right.) However, I always have his back. I have faith in him and know he is going to do his best to do what his right. So, even when I disagree, I trust he is making the best choice because I know his heart.

Eating cake at our wedding.
Eating cake at our wedding.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years, we are still just mad about each other. I’m sure I’ll look back on this in 20 years and laugh because hopefully we will have learned so much more about how to be in a happy, growing and successful relationship. For now, this works and I’m sure glad it does. Love that man.

How do you survive your relationships? I’d love to hear about it!

Cheers!

Annual Friend and Family Photos

Last year, some of my closest friends and I decided to take “Friend Photos”. We rarely have the opportunity for all 4 of us to get together, and often forget to snap a photo during those rare times. Life seems to be flying by for all of us and changing as each week passes, so we want to capture our times together at least once a year. The photos from last year turned out so great that we decided to make this our new annual tradition.

Our sample photo
Our sample photo

I haven’t actually got the nice edited photos yet, but I did get a couple of teaser pics to share from Facebook! ST Photography did our photos, and I CANNOT wait to see how they all turned out! Simone, the photographer, was so patient and so good with the kids! All of our families are growing, which means our photos are going to start getting more complicated and a little more wild each year. It took a couple of hours to get all of our group and family photos done, but I know it will be worth it.

Husband and I took turns snapping a few candid and behind the scenes shots while Simone did the real work.

Telling us how to pose and making sure we look good.
Telling us how to pose and making sure we look good.

with the kids girlfriends closeup

The two baby bumps!
The two baby bumps!

Halfway through our photo session we found a corral and decided it was the perfect place to round-up the kids. “Run around! Pretend to be a horse! Giddy up!” It worked for about two minutes.

corral

One happy mommy
One happy mommy

baby bump

Because friend photos weren’t enough activity for one day, I also took family photos with ST Photography on the same day! It was actually fun to do two photo shoots, and I of course had to do a “costume change” between the two. Here’s a Facebook teaser from the family session.

thefam

 

During this particular photo we had a little, well a big, guest sneak in for a photobomb…

Photobomb shot from the back of the camera!
Photobomb shot from the back of the camera!

The horse was actually trying to pull the sunglasses from my Dad’s back pocket and then decided to get a little taste of each of us. I think he just wanted his 15 minutes of fame.

Of course, we have some more behind the scenes photos from this session too.

profile

We were doing our best to get Micah to smile.
We were doing our best to get Micah to smile.
Daddy/Daughters shot
Daddy/Daughters shot

hilarie

It won’t be long until I get the fancy professional photos from Simone, can’t wait! Thanks so much for ST Photography for putting up with us for so long and capturing our families during the holidays.

Does your family take annual photos? Have you ever done friend photos? It’s a tradition I’m glad we started. It isn’t easy for all of us to get together, set up a time for photos, dress-up and make it work, but it really is worth it.

Cheers!

 

Got My Hurr Did

I had the best Groupon haircut and dye experience ever yesterday! When I moved to NY I used Groupon to try to find a salon that I liked, and was usually treated like trash the moment I walked in the door. They were not shy about hating people who use Groupon and gave me the stink-eye during the entire appointment. After several tries I finally found a salon worth visiting more than once.

Yesterday, in Nashville, I nervously attempted the same tactic. My roots were disgustingly long and my split ends now have split ends because I have waited to get into my 2nd trimester before doing anything. While browsing Groupon I found a deal at an all Organic salon in East Nashville (because where else would an all organic salon in Nashville be?) and decided to go for it! I’ve always wanted to try an all natural salon and it’s healthier for pregnant ladies too.

When I arrived to Studio Green I was greeted by the friendliest staff who offered me a myriad of drinks.  The small group of people working acted like best friends and were nice to everyone who came through the door. Even the owner walked around to make sure everyone was happy between his appointments. The girl who did my hair, Cassie, was friendly, informative, talented and never treated me like she didn’t want me to be there. Not to mention she did an awesome job on my hair.

Now, I decided to go back to brown because it’s just time. I have switched between brunette and blonde A LOT of the years just because I like change and feeling like a new person every once in a while. Here’s a little slide show of “Hilarie’s Hair Through the Years”.

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And now….

Tada!
Tada!

Husband wasn’t home so I had to take “selfie’s”, but whatevs they turned out okay.

What do you think? Do you ever change your hair color?

Cheers!

Stay-at-home-not-a-mom-yet

Ever since I was very young I have enjoyed staying busy, working, studying, keeping active and doing anything except being still. I never would have imagined myself as a stay-at-home Mom. Staying home sounded awful…Cooking? Cleaning? Chores? No thank you! That is until I started working at a childcare center in college.

I learned a lot while working at this daycare…through hands-on experience. My very first day I was thrown into a room with 26 school-aged children and was basically told to keep them safe and entertained until their parents picked them up. I swear I even heard the door lock behind me. I had recently decided to go to school for education, but had no idea what I was getting myself into. On that first day a little girl, named Michalya, jumped onto a table and started screaming and dancing while the rest of the kids followed suit on the floor. I was more concerned for my safety than any of theirs.

Before long, I learned to put on my “I mean business face” and use my teacher voice to control an entire gym full of little rascals.  More importantly, I learned to communicate with the parents. Dealing with parents is scary, but I learned that if I built relationships with them and got to know their families, they became much less scary. In fact, many of them became friends.

While getting to know so many different types of families I realized how difficult being a parent and raising children really is. I saw mothers cry as they dropped off their infants every single morning before going to work. There were parents who drove to the school on their lunch break to spend a half-hour with their babies. There were Dads who surprised their little ones by picking them up early. Of course, there were also parents who seemed to prefer their children stay at the school as much and as long as possible. I witnessed one Mother sitting in her car waiting for us to lock the daycare doors before deciding to pick up her children, and this was on her day off.

While observing all of these families, their relationships and lifestyles I learned what kind of Mother I would one day want to be. I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom.

Husband knows that I want to stay home, raise kids, master every Pinterest project, grow a garden, be homeroom=Mom, soccer-Mom, make-all-the-costumes-for-the-school-play-Mom, learn to sew, learn to cook (maybe), and enjoy watching my kids grow up, learn and be there for every milestone. Husband is beyond cool with this plan.

So, two days before moving from NYC to Tennessee, I discovered I was pregnant. I had just quit my job, was moving into a big empty house in the woods and was in the process of applying for teaching jobs. Then came all the questions….Should I tell potential bosses in interview that I’m pregnant? Am I going to quit mid-year when the baby arrives? Is it worth it to set up a classroom all summer in a new school, build a curriculum, bond with 25 new students and then leave half-way through the year? Is it worth putting myself through all this stress while being pregnant?

I know I am fortunate enough to even have these options, but it has been the toughest decision I still haven’t really made. I always assumed I’d work up until I delivered a baby, but who knew I’d be in the middle of so many changes? Right now, I am working part-time, writing, building a new website and learning to put a house together, so I sound super busy, but the truth is that I suck at not working.

While working for the last 13 years, I dreamed of the day I could quit… I’d finally get to do all the things for which there’s never enough time. I imagined myself waking at 6am, working out, cleaning, writing, cooking, crafting, volunteering, reading and that is just before lunch! In reality, without schedules and time frames I can barely manage to force myself to get out of my pajamas at all. Turns out that I am much more productive when I am super busy. This girl needs structure.

Now that vacations are over, local schools have started and I’m still stuck in this weird in between phase. I feel guilty and wrong all the time. What am I doing? I should be working 12 hours a day in a classroom is all I can think. I’ve been drowning in guilt, and covered in shame. What was the point of even getting my Master’s? Is this really what I want?  Yesterday, I had a little meltdown and decided the only way to get out of my funk was to buy something.

I don’t know why shopping is the answer to meltdown’s, but I KNOW I’m not the only one. I drove to Home Goods and found the store full of women and babies.  Every single person in the store had to have been a stay-at-home Mom, and every single child was a terror. There was a little girl running down the aisle knocking everything off the shelves, a toddler throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the floor, a baby wailing and little people running around like maniacs. Moms were screaming “shut up!” “If you walk away from me one more time..” and “I cannot wait until nap time!”

OMG, this did not help. Now, I was thinking…What the hell have I gotten myself into? I don’t want this! I don’t want to scream at my kids as I drag them through Home Goods during my meltdown! I left quickly (after checking out of course) and sat in my car for a minute, scrolling through Pandora stations (because the right song is also known to quickly reduce a meltdown) and I remembered the one thing I needed to do. Vent.

One of my best friends, who is currently pregnant, not working and planning to be a stay-at-home Mom ended up being my saving grace. The fact that I finally released all the fears and worries I’d been holding back and had someone listen to each of them was exactly what I needed. However, she also reminded me that my decisions affect my family, and my family only. If I am happy, Husband is happy and life is good then I shouldn’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks. Then, I realized the real problem. I have been more worried about what other’s think of me than what I think of me.

She also reminded me that I should feel thankful for this time and opportunity. Soon, I will be a full-time Mom and will be full-time busy. I should be taking advantage of every moment right now, which I plan to do. And, now I plan on enjoying it. This is just one more change and one more challenge I will learn to master. I somehow forget that change and I do not mix. It’s not until after a meltdown, a shopping trip and a coming to Jesus that I remember this little fact.

I’m not so young anymore, but I still enjoying keeping busy. As I get a little (and I’d like emphasize little) older I am learning to let go little by little to slow down every once in a while and just enjoy life. Maybe one day I’ll learn to just roll with punches… hahaha yeah right.

Cheers!

Positively Pregnant and Panicked

It’s been far too long since I have talked about anxiety and panic attacks. This is mostly because when I have panicked over the last couple of months it always centered around being pregnant. Since, the pregnancy was a secret for 10 weeks, I couldn’t exactly write about how I felt.

Overall, I am thrilled with how I’ve mentally handled everything. With moving, quitting my job, getting pregnant, attempting to fix up an entire house and traveling all summer I am surprised I haven’t had to up dosage and invest in a straight jacket. I am mostly happy, comfortable and positive about the future…mostly.

On any regular day I have to work to keep the negative and obsessive thoughts at bay and pregnancy has been no different. At any moment over the last 3 months I may have thought one or more of the below…

-I am not really pregnant.

-I am having a miscarriage.

-Something is wrong with this baby.

-We are going to screw up this kid.

-I am going to die in childbirth.

-I am going to get fat and stay fat forever.

-I broke the baby.

-I am having a heart attack (always).

-I am growing to fast.

-I am not being healthy enough.

-I should be teaching.

-I am doing everything wrong.

-I’m lazy, useless and should have a job.

-Everything is changing and I don’t feel the same. (Thanks Keane)

I know this all sounds so depressing and morbid, but that’s what high anxiety and panic attacks does to a person. It’s a little monster invading your every thought and forcing you to dwell on what might/could/will happen. My biggest fear after we decided to have a baby was that I will not be able to handle it. My panic attacks and anxiety have been mostly under control for a while, but what if the hormones and changes bring it all back? What if I go crazy? What if I can’t handle it??

28 years of experience has taught me that my anxiety is at its worse when I have to face big changes in my life. What could be bigger than moving, settling down and starting a family…especially for us? I stressed more about possibly having anxiety during pregnancy than the actual pregnancy itself.

Now, the great news is that even though these negative thoughts are sneaking in and trying to keep me from enjoying this exciting time in my life, I have been able to stay stable and stop them. All my practicing, retail therapy, medicine, praying and yoga are worth it because I feel stronger than ever. I am able to think rationally and remind myself that these scenarios are so unlikely. THEN, I am actually able to stop dwelling, or at least recognize I am about to go down the rabbit hole and seek rational thoughts from Husband.

I am also allowing/forcing myself to relax. Anxiety is common in pregnancy for everyone so I am making time to distress as often as I can. I have been taking baths, reading, doing yoga, writing and spending quality time with friends. It’s not easy for me to relax (I love to work and be busy), but I can tell it’s helping. I so often forget how necessary it is to unwind.

AND, the truly unbelievable thing is that I have not had any medicine in 3 weeks! Not because I wanted to stop taking it, but because I forgot to refill my prescription while traveling and have yet to do so. Miraculously, I still feel fine. I am so amazed at myself. (I do plan on refilling the prescription ASAP, but still…this is unbelievable.)

My advice to anyone who lives with panic attacks and wants to have children is to get control of them first. Do whatever you need to do to get healthier and stronger, be responsible and prepare yourself for the major changes. Change is hard, and we (panic-attack-havers) need lots of preparation before tackling any new challenges.

Here’s to 28 more weeks of a mostly calm and happy pregnancy!

Cheers!