The Warrior Project

On Sunday, I drove home around 4:30 with tears streaming down my face.  I wouldn’t say they were exactly “sad” or “happy” tears.  Honestly it was just kind of an overwhelming cry.  You see, I got to spend the day with the most amazing women.  So let’s backtrack to last month when this all started.

I swear anytime Crystal Pickett calls me I could not guess what she’s going to say.  Sometimes it might be, “I just called to tell you I farted on my boss today.  It was awkward..” Sometimes she just needs to vent, because like me, she wants to blog about every emotion, and sometimes you can’t because emotions are fleeting.  You don’t want to say something online and then feel a different way tomorrow.  If that even makes sense.  So she calls me and says, “I have a little challenge for you, if you’re up to it..”  DUH, I’m always up for it!  She mentioned how a Valentine’s day photo shoot of 14 women would be a cool idea.  I agreed and the ball got rolling, we probably called each other more in the last month than we have in the last six months.  We talked about the details, the venue, the food, and of course the women.  She would call me and say, “I think you should put so and so on the list.”   And I would say, “I already have her on it!”  I do want to point out that I am extremely proud, and inspired by Crystal and would have loved to have her be one of the 14, but we both decided that none of my family members should be picked.

So I chose 14 women, and we reached out.  I was so nervous even asking because not everyone likes to have their photo taken!  It wasn’t just the photos though.  I decided to call this The Warrior Project and I sent each of them a list of questions that pretty much forced them to open up a little, but they all did in the best way!  So Crystal worked her magic and Edg Clif winery donated us the perfect venue, and Emily Morgan donated us some yummy desserts!  Frank Kramer and April Barton supplied the food! Andrea Griffin donated her time and talent and did some fabulous hair, while the talented Kacee Fitzgerald did the make up!  Thanks to Katelynn Scott for ruNning errands and helping with SO MUCH!  THANK YOU to each and every one of for making these women feel comfortable, beautiful, loved and supported!  Your kindness will not be forgotten, and my heart is so full that you would do such a wonderful thing for people you do not know.  I applaud you!

Now let me introduce the ladies or as I like to call them the WARRIORS!

LISA GIPSON

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Lisa was an easy choice for me.  The paths our lives have taken are very similar, and she is someone I go to very often for advice.  Like me, Lisa found herself single while pregnant.  She wasn’t carrying just one baby, but TWO!  She was very young and also already had a toddler!  She not only lost the man she married, but her home, her car, everything.  I cannot imagine.  Actually, I can imagine the pain because I have felt it first hand, but I can’t imagine the obstacles she had to overcome.  This woman is super woman to me.  She raised some amazing kids who also look at her like she is super woman.  She also did something that I have yet to do.  She met a man who showed her what it means to be truly loved, and he loved her kids like they were his own.  Going through such a traumatic experience, Lisa still deals with fears that came along with it almost 30 years later.  Greater than the fear though, is the love that her family shares.  She now has three beautiful grandchildren, and when I asked her about her goals and aspirations she said she hopes to celebrate 50 years with her hubby (they just celebrated 20!!) and she hopes to meet her great grand babies one day!  When I asked what she was most proud of she said,

 “The way my kids are helping out people in the world. I realize I did a pretty good job raising my kids despite the hurdles and circumstances we faced!”

  Lisa, has shown me that I can absolutely be a good single mom and that maybe one day I will meet someone who completes me.  I am truly grateful to have this woman in my life!

SARAH JACOBSEN

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I adore this girl.  Her mom jokes that we are the same person because we have so much in common!  Her list of “favorites” are also mine!!  She loves Jesus, coffee, makeup, naps, and New Girl.  If I’m like Sarah at all, I must be doing something right!  Sarah has always been a well known athlete in our small town, and I know we were all proud to see her go off to Mizzou on a running scholarship!  Unfortunately, she was struck by a vehicle not once, but TWICE.  She had two hip surgeries in two years!  She thought she was defined as “Sarah the runner”.  She told me that she thought that was all she was and all she had to offer.  Once running was taken away from her she didn’t feel like herself.  She struggled with feeling like she no longer had worth and questioned herself and her path.  Luckily, in summer of 2015 Sarah realized that God had been writing her story all along.  She was so much more than just an athlete.  Sarah ran one race at Mizzou.  Here is what she had to say about her “best day”-

I had finally gotten to a place where I could try to race after having one hip surgery. The weeks leading up to the race my other hip had begun to hurt and surgery was in my future so I knew that that race would be my first and last. I went into that day with the mindset of knowing that I wanted my race to be a display of God’s faithfulness. I wanted it to be a day of praise and joy. I had prayed for this day for so long and when it was finally there I couldn’t be more excited to show off what God’s work had done. My friends, family, and mentors were all there and the whole track had an energy like nothing I had seen before. Everyone was cheering and screaming my name and excited to finally see me perform. I toed the line with a smile on my face and ran one of the slowest races of my life. I didn’t even care that it was slow. That race gave me more joy than any other race in my life. The race wasn’t about the time or place it was about praising God giving thanks for what He had done in my life.”

Having so much going for her with her further career plans and being almost done with college, I wanted to know what she was most proud of too.

 “I am most proud of a few things, I am proud to be Joni and Mike’s daughter. They are the best parents and I couldn’t imagine getting through life without them. I am proud to be Luke and Noah’s sister. They will never know the love I have for them. I am so incredibly proud of the men that they are and will become. I am proud of my Mizzou letterman jacket, it’s something I thought I would never receive and when I was told I would be getting one I had to pinch myself. And I am proud to be from a small town in Missouri. I think most don’t expect success from a town with only 4 stop lights and nothing to do. With determination, hard work and an opportunity it doesn’t matter where you come from to have success.” 

Sarah, you are a brave and admirable young woman.  I can’t wait to see where your life takes you!

ALICIA BERNARDT

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I am so glad Alicia was apart of this.  Her family has had a tough couple a months so I am so grateful she got to have a nice relaxing day with us!  Alicia is a wife, mother, daughter, teacher, and so many other things.  She has a heart of pure gold, and if you know her at all you know there is no questioning that.  She spoke so highly of her students, friends and family.  When she spoke about her mom, Verna, it really resonated with me.  Alicia recently lost her father, and while she was undoubtably a “daddy’s girl” she told me about what a devoted wife her mother was.

“She is the most dedicated, loving and compassionate human being that I know, and I am honored to be one of her daughters.  I love her so much, and I strive to be like her every day.”  

It is so clear that Alicia has a great mother.  It is also clear that she is a great mother herself.  Her son, Tate was diagnosed with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome when he was around 7 months old.  It is an extremely rare chromosomal disorder. His diagnosis was tough to swallow, but since attending a Wolf-Hirschhorn conference in L.A. Alicia says her eyes were opened to what she was facing as a mother to a special needs child.

 “I realized that God had given this child, because He knew that I could take care of him and love him like no one else could.”

Alicia is a beautiful person, inside and out.  Tate, and the rest of her family are lucky to have her.

LORI BLAIR

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I really look up to Lori.  I look up to all small business owners, because it’s scary and hard to venture out and try to succeed!! Crystal and I call her a “goal digger”.  Once Lori answered my questions I realized just how much of a goal digger she really is!  She has been a waitress, cashier, Mary Kay consultant, candle maker, hair stylist, daycare worker, vet tech, legal secretary, and now she is a local boutique owner!  She says her kids and husband are what drive her to be a success.

“Andy has shown me that taking risks is good…stressful sometimes, but in the end I have no regrets because at least I tried.”  

Every time you walk into her store, you are greeted with the brightest, friendliest smile!  I know all too well though that sometimes the warmest smiles can still hide the scars of grief.  I was sad to learn that like 25% of women, Lori has had a miscarriage.

 “Andy and I went to a baby dr appointment and were told we needed to go to another location for more tests.  Then we were informed our baby’s heart had stopped so I ended up in surgery the next day.”   

Many people try to discredit that pain and the emotions that women feel.  I have never known that pain, but my heart goes out to anyone affected by a loss like that.  I have no doubt that Lori will get to meet that baby again someday.  Lori’s goals include opening another business and taking her current store online!  Lord help my bank account if she does!!

HALEY MAHLER

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I am so glad to have gotten to get to know this girl more.  I have known her awhile, and I have only seen the bubbly and hilarious side of her.  She loves to make people laugh.  I’m not sure if she won class clown, but she should have if not!  In the past year she has lost 75 pounds!  That alone is amazing and makes her an inspiration!  She says she could not have done it without the support of her husband!  Getting to know Haley on a more personal level I learned that she was raised by her father do to her mothers poor life choices.

My Dad has been a big inspiration in my life. He stepped up as a father and became someone who worked three jobs at times just to provide food on the table and to give me everything I needed when my mom could no longer be there for me at a young age. He took on every struggle and raised me the best he could.  He has shown me how to be the best parent I can be and that even though life isn’t always easy we have the ability to make it the best life don’t let someone else decide your happiness and your ability to succeed.”  

Haley has 12 siblings!  Four of which she has never even met,

“I love them all and wish them all the happiness in the world.  Even though we are all far apart we all look at the same moon.”  

She is a fantastic mother to her son, and she is setting a good example for him every day.  I am lucky to know her.

CASEY CROWELL

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Casey is one of my single mom friends.  I knew we had things in common, but I didn’t realize how much I related to this girl and nearly ever thing she said or thought.  I chose her because I admire her for being a strong, independent, beautiful, brave person for her little girl to look up to.  Casey is not the type of single mom you find out at bars or constantly trying to date or find a boyfriend.  I LOVE that she is like me in the way that she doesn’t mind being single.  She doesn’t bring guy after guy into her daughter’s life, and it is so evident that her daughter comes first, always.

“Being a good role model and mother to her (Claire) is something that is very important to me.  Her happiness is something that makes my heart happy and full, so I work hard daily to give her the best life I can.  She is already so smart, spunky, and full of life being a good woman to set an example for her is something that pushes me daily. Knowing that little girl will look up to me the rest of her life is something that I take pride in and is what keeps me going. She gives my life meaning.” 

Casey didn’t grow up with a mom around, she didn’t have that example so she is making sure she is a great one for Claire.  When your life revolves around your child, you want to give them everything.  Including a family.  I know that Casey’s break up with her daughter’s dad was hard.  Another thing I can relate to.

“Not only because it was tough for me emotionally for myself, but because I had my 8 month old daughter who I knew from then on would never know what it was like to have her parents together. That broke my heart. When you have this tiny human that you love more than life itself knowing that YOU already have given her a broken home is very tough pill to swallow.  A lot of tears were cried at that point in my life. I was hurting in so many different ways.”  

I am so glad to see her in a better place now.  She and Claire have just moved into a new place, and she gets along well with Claire’s dad and his girlfriend.  Her long term goal is just that when Claire is older she is proud to call Casey her momma.  I have no doubt she will be.

KIM KWON

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Honestly, I think Kim is a badass.  She is a veteran, an air force wife, and a wonderful mother.  Plus she slings weights around like it’s nothing in her free time!  I knew I wanted her to be apart of this, but she currently lives in Texas.  Well she is so wonderful that she drove to Missouri after working all night, and I could not have been more thrilled!  When she was young, one of her parents was sentenced to three years incarceration, and she and her siblings were put into foster care.

“People gossip and stories were told. I was only 13 at the time, and I knew my teenage years wouldn’t be what I ever expected them to be.  I had to grow up fast, not only for myself but for Monica as well.”  

Monica is Kim’s younger sister, who I also chose as one of the 14 women.  She told me how much she admires Kim, calling her her hero.  I think the title fits her well!  Kim says her “defining moment” was when she decided to join the military.

“I knew it would’t be easy, but I also knew it was the only way I was going to start a life of my of my OWN ON MY OWN.  I have never had the extra help with bills, buying new clothes, paying my car or insurance payments, paying for my cell phone etc.  I am an independent woman because I had no choice, but joining the military was something I got to CHOOSE for myself.  It was a huge stepping stone for me and honestly helped me build the life I always hoped for, especially for my girls.”  

Kim’s “best day” was when her daughter’s got to watch her graduate college.  She works as a Respiratory Therapist, but says she would love to get her masters in social work.  She has her heart set on working with foster children.  I know she will shine at whatever she does, and I know two little girls who watch her and adore her! What lucky girls they are to have her as a mom!

MONICA BURNETTE

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I don’t know if I have ever met a sweeter person.  She is beautiful of course, but her soul is beautiful too.  I have known Monica for years, and never knew about her and her siblings time in the foster care system.  It never would have changed my view of her, but it opens your eyes to the bigger picture and how you don’t really know what people are going through.

I remember being 13 years old and sitting on the top bunk of a bed in a foster home. I was at one of my lowest points. I read through the entire New Testament of the Bible during the 2 months I was there. My faith and God is what has really gotten me through the dark times.”  

Aside from being an incredible mother of three, Monica volunteers at a homeless shelter and says she loves working with families and children.  I asked about her goals and again learned something new about my old friend.

“A long term goal I’d love to achieve is to write a book.  I want to reach out to others.  I want others to know my story.  I want them to know that if i can make it through difficult situations and still be able to make it out okay, that they can too.”  

See what I mean, by “beautiful soul”?!

JONI JACOBSEN

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Joni is a pure joy to be around.  I am so glad she was there making everyone smile on Sunday.  I am also so thankful to have her in my life.  She has seen me cry so many tears and she lets me get them out without judgement.  She puts others first, and she lives and breathes for her family.

“I’m most proud of my kids.  I know they are not perfect, but they are my heart.  They are the reason I breathe.  I could have all the treasures in the world, but nothing means more to me than them.  I’m so proud of them. If I ever leave this world I hope they know how much I love them.  Being their mom has been my greatest joy, job, adventure and love I have ever had.”  

Her faith in God is something to be admired as well. I wish that Joni could look in the mirror and see what I see.

“I have a real problem finding things I love about myself.  I don’t think I can say anything.  I do think I truly love others and I’m loyal to a fault if we are friends.”

So many of these 14 women had a difficult time finding things they loved about themselves.  It makes me sad.  I wish each of you knew that even your scars make you beautiful!

“I have faced many things that have been hard.  Many during my childhood.  I look at them now and see them as the things that made me, me.”

BRANDY BRANHAM

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Before I ever met Brandy, I was inspired by her through social media.  I only knew her as a grieving mother.  She was involved in a car accident back in 2012 that claimed the life of her 14 year old daughter Natalee.  I remember reading her posts and my heart aching for her.  It’s been five years and my heart still aches.  Even more now that I’m a mother myself.

Daily I struggle with knowing my family is incomplete. What’s even harder is knowing that I won’t ever have the power to that or fill the void. It’s a hole that I wake up to every morning & go to bed with every night. To wonder what could have been, what should have been.“  

Brandy is surrounded by love and support, her husband Aaron has been a rock for her.  She described her best day as when she married her best friend.

“I never felt so complete.  I had previously had a failed relationship/marriage and a broken family.  There have been a lot of time I felt like a failure to my kids.  That day just felt as if the family I always loved and wanted was right there becoming one.  One of our last family photos was taken then.  Every time I look at that photo I think to myself ‘that’s when everything was whole and good’”.  

She says that she could be angry at life without Natalee, but that she would rather have had her, and known her, and been her mother than to never have been a part of her life.

“I am simply blessed just having what short time I have had with her here on Earth. I am so thankful and proud for not only Natalee being in my life but the family He has blessed me with as well.”  

What a beautiful way to look at it.  That is what makes Brandy an inspiration.  I know Natalee would be incredibly proud of her!

SARAH KEARNS

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A fellow photographer who is as kind as she is pretty.  I admire Sarah for so many reasons.  She is genuine.  She is hilarious.  She is unapologetically herself.  She is BRAVE.  I say this because she had a very difficult childhood and rose above it.  She is brave for telling her story and speaking her truth.  You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but Sarah is the victim of molestation.  There is no way to sugarcoat it and make it sound less appalling.  When Sarah first told me I wanted to break down and cry.  It’s so sad, and it’s so sad how common this is, how many people this happens to.  

I never used to know what my point here on earth really was for. With my past history I’ve never been able to fully be myself and share who I am, I’ve had friendships but I’ve never let myself fully invest my heart into them. I honestly always felt like I had been a burden and in the way of other people’s happy lives and lives that seemed perfect to me compared to mine. I never wanted my life growing up. Ever. I always wanted to be someone else and was always angry at the world for giving me the awful life that I had… BUT.. Then I heard this perfect little first scream of life- and so many things changed. Becoming a mom was such a turning point for me and when I found my path. Being a mom was meant just for me. Not only was I overwhelmed with love for this little person that I just met and gave my entire heart to in seconds, but I also realized just how much people in my life loved me. Yes, I was dealt a fucking terrible and shitty hand during one decade of my life- but at the same time it lead me to be the person that I am today. Which I honestly think is a pretty damn good person, who is still learning to love herself along the way. My kids not only helped me become me again, but a better me along the way.”  

I am so insanely proud to call her my friend.  I wish I were half as brave as her.

AMANDA HUTCHINGS

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Amanda labels herself a “mompreneur” (Mom + Entrepreneur) which I love!  She believes everyone’s purpose is to help others, which I also love!  She is doing something monumentally cool right now. In 2013 she co-invented and patented a product that eventually turned into a company and brand now known as Harold’s Famous Bee Cream. That product is quickly turning into a line, possibly several lines. She also co-founded a Research and Development Laboratory where they are able to be creative with their ideas.

“In June of 2016, my business partner and I flew to Tegulicapala, Honduras to study their honey bee culture. In the van riding from the airport to our destination we had a conversation with our tour guide, Rene about the idea behind our bee cream. We explained that for centuries people have been using bee stings as a treatment for certain ailments, sometimes up to 40 stings a day, on purpose! Harold explained that we invented a way to receive the benefits of the bee sting, without the actual sting and without killing the bee in the process. Once Harold was finished explaining our product, Rene told us that his mom (Lillian) was a current user of bee sting therapy for arthritis, and that this therapy is very common in his part of the world. He said although the stings were very painful, Lillian found immense relief from arthritis. On the way out of Tegulicapala, Rene made a quick stop at Lillian’s house, and we offered her a bottle of our bee cream. I can’t explain the feeling as I watched Harold apply the cream to her crippled hands and the immense amount of joy on her face. That is a moment I will never forget as long as I live. Life altering.” 

I love her passion for helping others, it is so genuine and pure.  She is honestly one of the sweetest people!  She says a big inspiration to her is her Grandpa Juliette.

“Some of my favorite childhood memories involve me walking barefoot behind him as he tilled the garden. I specifically remember one day I was skipping along behind him as he tilled, and on that particular day some bees kept circling around me. I guess my swatting caught his attention because he turned around and yelled, “leave them alone, they won’t hurt you – they’re good for you!” It’s funny how life turns out, here I am 30 years later telling the world the same thing.”

JANET BOURBON

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The defining moment for me was when I had laid down for bed one Saturday night, inconsolable. I hugged the lion a friend made for me that dressed in Brandon’s clothing. I cried and I begged Brandon to help me because I was drowning then I fell into a drug induced sleep. (I cannot sleep at all without medication) The next morning I was getting a pair of socks from my drawer and I found a letter he had sent to me when he was a kid. It said he wanted to thank me for keeping our family strong and that he wanted me to know he loved me. It was so strange that a young boy would right such a mature note to his mother. It was like he’d come & left it for me to find that day. To help push me forward and keep my family ‘strong'”.

I don’t think Janet feels strong.  I don’t think she thinks of herself as an inspiration.  But she is.  She is strong everyday that she gets out of bed.  She is strong while she cries in the shower, or while she cries driving home.  She is strong in every moment of every day.  Tears don’t make you weak.  Hurting inside doesn’t make you weak.  Janet is strong because she is Brandon Bourbon’s mother.  She will always be strong.  Janet told me she would like to start a scholarship in her late son’s honor and eventually be able to talk to parents who have troubled children or just parents in general.

“To share my experience so other people know what to look for. I was completely oblivious and there were signs everywhere. I just didn’t know what to look for or dreamed he was capable of such a thing. If it could happen to him it could happen to anyone.” 

I am so glad she brought a few his things to be pictured with.  When she pulled his jacket out of the bag my eyes instantly filled with tears and hers were already falling.  The smell of him was everywhere, so powerful and familiar it was overwhelming.  So we cried, and I hugged her, and I took the most real and raw photos I’ve ever taken.

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KELLY GRIFFIN

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Kelly is more than a cancer fighter.  She is a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a cousin, a friend.  Everyone loves this girl, and we all hate what she is facing.  Kelly wants to continue building her families dreams they have together.  She explained some of the difficulties she’s faced with lately such as not being able to do as much as used to. 

“I like to be on the go and spend time with my friends and family.  I have to take each day as a blessing.  It’s truly so hard for me to slow down, I am used to helping others so it’s hard for me to receive it.”

Kelly has to wear a new TPN bag every night for 12 hours to get her nutrition through IV in her pic line.  Clear liquid diet only.  She says it’s really hard for a girl who likes her food!  We talked about a defining moment for her and she shared an amazing story!

“In September I received the devastating news, that I would probably only live six to nine more months and not make it to next Christmas.  I attended a revival/Christian retreat in Colorado.  We created “identity cards”when we were there and I want to share mine with you.  It’s very personal but funny how this was named The Warrior Project all in the same.. They gave us the meaning of our names; KELLY (War, lively, aggressive) GRIFFIN (strong grip, chief, Lord).  This is what I wrote back in December of 2016 for God’s purpose for my life and who I am supposed to be; ‘I am a warrior.  I am passionate for what I love.  I am an educator and learner.  I am a mother to a very independent, bold, energetic, and brilliant Ella Kate.  I am a wife to the most amazing best friend, lover, and warrior Caleb Matthew.  I am a cancer killer.  I am a positive powerful impact. I am His!”  

Kelly wants to see all of Ella’s milestones, and be there for the rest of her friends and family.  She says if it wasn’t for God and His hand on her she could not be this strong.  Kelly, a warrior is exactly what you are.

This has been amazing.  Getting to know each and every one of you.  You have touched my life in a way that I can’t explain.  Kelly happened to say something during the photo shoot that I loved so I’m going to wrap this up with that….

“It’s really cool how we all have a story, it makes you feel like you aren’t alone.”

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THANK YOU ALL!!  I am touched by each and every one of you!

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supermom

Hey friends!  How I’ve missed you!  I know it’s been TOO long since I wrote anything, but fall is considered “busy season” for photographers.  It kind of rolls into early December as well.  Any down time I happen to have I want to spend with Avery so writing has been put on hold for bit.  Obviously my five month old REALLY wants to go to the pumpkin patch and decorate her Christmas tree!  Isn’t it funny how we do those things “for our kids” but it kind of ends up being more for us?  Avery’s first Halloween and first Thanksgiving are behind us already!  Time has been flying!  So I took her to hobby lobby and bought her first Christmas tree!  We turned on the Pentatonix Christmas album and she watched while I decorated it, and then I watched her eyes light up once it was finished.  Every penny spent was instantly worth it.  I wish I had something juicy to write about or something in my personal life to share, but honestly I’ve been so busy working and being momma that the most exciting thing to happen this week is that I bought a giant 24 pack of frozen waffles.  Not that my life isn’t exciting, I love every second of it.  I just don’t want you guys getting bored with the 80th post about how obsessed I am with my kid.  You obviously know I’m obsessed.

One thing I’ve been wondering lately is HOW do you other moms fit working out in your schedule?  There is no way.  MAYBE I can understand working out at home, but those of you who go to the actual gym……HOW?  For starters, I hate having to have a sitter.  I feel guilt about it whether I am working all day, or just having my mom watch her while I shower.  Do I bring her to the gym with me?  What does she do in while I’m hating my life on the treadmill?  Okay, so I’ll work out at home.  I have youtube and a yoga mat.  Let me just get up drink coffee, feed Avery, start laundry, answer emails, edit photos, feed Avery, play with Avery, run errands, eat lunch, feed Avery, go to the store, play with Avery, eat dinner, feed Avery, answer more emails, bathe Avery, feed Avery, put Ave to bed, edit, edit, edit- Oh it’s midnight, time to work out…Just kidding, I’ll eat Oreos and pin fitness stuff on Pinterest.  None of that even accounts for when I shower, or clean, or actually have full days of photo shoots.  So those of you who are killing it at the gym, I APPLAUD you.  No fucking way I can make it happen.  I’m tired.  Thinking about it makes me tired.  Women do this shit daily and they have more than one kid!  You guys rock.  Someone once said to me, “You think you’re supermom.” and yes, they meant it in a hurtful way.. but shouldn’t we all think we are superheroes?  Being a single mom doesn’t make me a superhero, being a PARENT does.  There’s nothing wrong with feeling proud of yourself!  No, I didn’t work out today, but I got a lot done and stayed focused on my goals and my baby is happy and healthy and sleeping soundly in her room.  Yeah, I’m supermom.  Fuck off.

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“that mom”

I love that I can be having a perfectly normal day, and out of nowhere I look at Avery, and my heart literally feels like it’s going burst out of my chest.  No one warned me about these moments.  That’s what’s amazing about them.  They happen completely out of the blue.  She can be sleeping in her crib, and I go in to check on her, and she just looks so damn peaceful that BOOM. Heart explosion.  It’s all just so much more than I expected.  Yes, I knew I would be crazy in love with my daughter but I didn’t think I would turn into one of “those moms”.  There’s a chance this post might offend some mothers who are “those moms” but try to remember that I am waving the white flag and totally surrendering to the fact that I am “that mom” right along with you.

I always HATED the phrase, “You don’t understand until you’re a mother”.  I always rolled my eyes and thought, “I obviously DO understand that a mother loves her child”.  I HATED that Facebook moms felt the need to post photos every single day of their kid, and update us all on how potty training is going.  I always thought, “NO ONE CARES,”  but at the same time I was posting photos from my weekend spent at a bar somewhere, making silly faces and not caring about a thing.  Now I realize those moms probably saw my photos and thought, “NO ONE CARES!” It’s so funny, in hindsight.  Living in a social media crazed world, we just post about what we love and where we are and what we are doing.  I always told myself I wouldn’t be “that mom” that shared my daughter’s first EVERYTHING, but fuck it I know I will.  I didn’t understand before, because I wasn’t a mother.  When your entire world revolves around the tiny human that you made, what do you expect?  Granted, I do share other things, but I have struggled with feeling like I’m annoying people with my posts about my own daughter.  I actually just discovered about a month ago that someone I was friends with in high school recently deleted me from Facebook.  I don’t know why I let this bother me for as long as it did.  He isn’t anywhere close to where I am in life.  He is traveling, working on his career, partying and being a single 20 something guy.  I’m being a mom still figuring out how to balance my daughter, my career, and my social life.  We pretty much have nothing in common anymore, but it still hurt my feelings.  That’s when I realized I’m “that mom”.  I wanted to message him and say, “Why did you delete me?  Don’t you realize you are missing photos of my cute baby?!  SHE’S THE CUTEST BABY IN THE WORLD ARE YOU CRAZY AND ALSO I AM NOT A REGULAR MOM IM A COOL MOM OKAY?!”  I’m insane.  I know.  Instead of sending him that and making myself look batshit crazy, I decided it’s best if people who don’t want to see this part of my life delete me.  Yall know I’m not about negativity.  No, I don’t give a shit about his slice of pizza he’s eating at 3 am after leaving the club but I wasn’t going to delete him for it.  So after he did me this favor of deleting me I decided to not give a shit if people actually want to see what I post.  I don’t enjoy that every time I open Facebook someone is sharing an overweight guy dancing in a tiny pair of panties, but there it is!  People have a weird sense of humor I swear.  Anyway, I will continue to post photos of the one thing I love more than anyone or anything because she is cute as hell.  I will probably be “that mom” right up til I’m “that grandma” with my phone in your face showing you 50 pictures that are basically all alike.  Get over it.

 

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#blessed

Some of you reading this may know me, but a lot of you will not.  I know you’re used to reading the uncensored writing of Bay, but today you’re getting me.  When I approached Bailey with my idea to switch blogs for this post, she said and I quote, “BUUUUT can I say f*@#?”  My first inclination was to worry… What will the people who read my blog think?  Then I remembered that for at least the last three blogs I’ve published, someone has gotten mad at me, and I didn’t say any of those four letter words.  The only intention of anything I’ve written, was to share what I’m going through and hopefully help someone else.  After every single one of those blogs that I wrote, someone has texted, called, or messaged me to say how much it spoke to them.  I have to believe it matters.  As a matter of fact as I was working on this blog I had pretty much decided this would be the last one that I would be writing.  I went out to the mailbox that day to check my mail and found this little note inside.

spark

Anywho…  So back to the dilemma of the “F” word and my so-called Christian blog.  I say so-called because a lot of people like to point fingers, and say you’re not a Christian because you do this, or that wrong.  I always thought a Christian is someone who recognizes that they are not perfect and that they need a savior.  Instead of saying God I don’t need to change, I don’t need your help, they hit their knees and beg him to change their heart.  Unless you’re kneeling beside me(any of you are welcome to) and can physically hear what’s going on inside of my soul between God and this hot mess that is me, please stop throwing those stones my way.  I have to admit that I say things I’d rather not on most days.  Do I think it’s ok to cuss like a sailor?  Probably not…  some days though I have a real hard time not jumping on board a pirate ship and sailing away into the land of profanity.

So… Who am I to tell her how to write?  I’ve read everything she’s written, and loved every word.(even the curse words)  She writes just like I do, from a heart that’s been cracked open, ripped to shreds, sewn back together and then shattered into a million tiny pieces all over again.  As I sit here typing out these words for you, I can’t help but think about the similar paths our lives have taken.  We actually shared the same last name for a few years.  In the past year if she hadn’t been able to tell me that everything I was feeling was perfectly normal and promise me that it would get better with time, honestly I don’t know if I’d still be here to write for y’all.

If I sat down and made a list of all the bad things that I’ve faced in my life, you know what would happen? I DO! I would end up depressed, and feeling broken all over again.  Some of the things on my list are public knowledge, but others I’ve never had the want or need to share with anyone.  We could always dwell on the hurt and pain of the past, and I’ve been stuck in that place for quite some time.  Just when I feel like I’m gaining ground, I’m sucked back into what feels like quicksand made out of self pity and doubt. I swear my mind literally plays tricks on me.  If Bay were helping me write this I think she would say, “Do your best to let that crap go!(she wouldn’t say crap)  Suck it up buttercup!  Life keeps on movin’ even when you choose to stand still.”

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If we’re being honest, I’ve been standing still or occasionally moving at turtle speed.  It was a pretty rough last few days.  I had no idea what to do.  I’d been begging God to change my heart, heal the anxiety, send some encouragement or anything.  I am sometimes a little impatient, a shocker, I know.  I reached out to a few people and it didn’t go the way I hoped.  I found myself begging God for just a little hope.  I stood in the bathroom at work this morning and watched a single tear roll slowly down my cheek.  I said, “Well God, are you gonna catch that one?”

Psalm 56:8- “You keep track of all my wanderings.  You have collected my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded them in your book.”

For a while now, I haven’t felt like myself.  So much so that I don’t know how to get back to the person I was proud to be.  Today I found encouragement just when I thought there was no hope.  A friend sent me words that she uses to stop fear from taking hold.  She said, “Don’t let fear rob you of a blessing.”

FEAR

SCARED

AFRAID

WORRIED

TERRIFIED

FREAKING OUT

It starts with a little fear and before I know it I’ve let my mind carry me off into a full blown freak out.  I heard someone say tonight, “If you allow it to take hold, fear of what if, will poison your relationships.”  I’m hoping that I didn’t realize this little fact too late.  I’m hoping that I can drop all the baggage and just trust again.  It may not always look like it on the outside, but I am trying.  The next time I write it will be a happy blog.  No more of this feeling sorry for myself.  I’m making the decision today that whether I have little or I have a lot, I will be content.  I will force myself look up and smile, instead of hanging my head and trying to pass through life unseen.

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I’ve spent way too much time fearing what could happen… Today I’m going to start counting my blessings instead of my sorrows!

  1. I still have faith.  Although it may be damaged and small at the moment, it’s still there.
  2. I have an amazing man who loves me.  He never tells me I can’t do something.  He pushes me to be better for me, and for the life we want to have together.
  3. One of the greatest things that has happened in my life, is that now there are these two little ones who don’t hesitate to say, “I love you” to me.  I never expected to be dating anyone EVER again, and sure didn’t anticipate the chance to be a role model for them.(not really sure what to call myself, hence “role model”)
  4. I have a career!!! Me! At 33 years of age, I feel like I’m just getting started in life.  I didn’t just get a job.  I work in an office that I fit perfectly in.
  5. We have traveled more in the last 6 months, than in my whole life combined.  I’m pretty sure I have what some call wanderlust.
  6. I’m officially a staff member for one of my favorite charities.  I love helping people!  I love that I get to do that, and I no longer have to feel guilty for it.
  7. I went from seeing my family on holidays to being able to say, “Hey let’s go see my mom, sister, etc.” No questions asked we make the hour drive as soon as possible.
  8. While there are a lot of people, who just don’t “get me”, there are a few who really do.  They know when to call, how to encourage, and they try to be there.  Just be there.DSC_0031.jpg
  9. I know it may not seem like a blessing to some of you that I have the ability to write.  Honestly, it’s one of the only ways I can work through things sometimes.  I swear I’m not normal.  The thoughts in my head come together like the pages of a book.  They are worded like a very well written novel.  The only way to let them go, is to put them down on a page.
  10.  Music.  Almost any kind of music, makes my heart happy.

These are just a few.  It’s 11 P.M. and I was supposed to be asleep by now.  I’ve been trying so hard to finish this post for days now.  I’m going to end it by challenging each of you to share this blog, along with a list like the one above.  Sometimes life is hard.  Sometimes life is really hard.  Scratch that.  Sometimes life is terrifying, sad, lonely, and well… HARD.  I, for one know it would benefit me to spend more time remembering the good things in my life.  How about you?

To read HER words on MY blog, visit fatgirlinlittlecoatblog

i’m not a true friend

Lately I have heard the words, “true friend” being thrown around a lot.

“She’s not a true friend.”

“If you were a true friend, you would have…”

“If you want to know who your true friends are, have a baby..”

Sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me.  What makes a “true friend” anyway?  I think if we’re being honest with ourselves we can admit that we have probably all been a shitty friend at some point in our lives.  With a two month old baby, I have slacked a lot lately.  I don’t always answer my phone, or remember to call when I say I will.  I barely remember to wash my hair these days, so remembering to call someone back is a big deal.  I guess I think it’s not a big deal because to me, a “true friend” wouldn’t make it a big deal.  Maybe that’s just me being selfish.  Maybe I’m just a little spoiled by great friends.  There are a handful of friends that I am close to.  I can go a month without contact, and then hit them up randomly and nothings changed.  I guess in my opinion that’s how it should be.  At 25, I know with my friends at least, we are all just busy.  All the time.  Doing different shit, living different lives.  One of my friends just bought a house, and she’s trying to plan a wedding.  Another is trying for a baby and another is trying for baby number two!  One of my friends is about to start intense schooling, and a lot of my other friends are just enjoying themselves and going out whenever they please because they can!!  I feel like people get their feelings hurt so easily, me included, but I think we need to cut each other some slack. You don’t get to choose your family, but you do get to choose your friends.    I’m lucky that I can slack off on being a “true friend” because the people I chose don’t care.  I don’t feel like it should be a big deal to have to cancel plans because you are going to work an extra shift instead, or because you have a sick kid.  You’ll realize, as years go by that the people who DO care about you being a “true friend” will probably not be around your whole life through.

Lately, I have been looking through pictures of my life before I had Avery and missing the people in the photos.  The fact of the matter is, we aren’t all going to agree all the time, and we aren’t all going to reach milestones at the same time.   That doesn’t mean friendships can’t hold though.  I have friends that are married, friends that are married with kids, friends in relationships, friends that are engaged, and friends that are single.  I have friends who don’t drink, and friends who go out every weekend.  Yes, with where I am right now I have to work a little harder to see my friends who go out more, but damn it feels good to know I can call them and say, “MOMMA NEEDS A NIGHT OUT” and they’re just like, “YASSS BITCH!”.  Isn’t that how it should be?

I guess I’m trying to say, don’t sweat the small stuff.  If to you, a “true friend” is someone who will drop everything to go have a beer, or someone who remembers to call you back on time and not a day later, then I’m definitely not a “true friend”.   I am a friend who will probably show up late, but still show up for your kids birthday.  I am a friend who will fall asleep and forget to call back, but you know I’ll call the next day ready to hear “what that asshole said to you”.  I am a friend who will not get mad that you can’t make dinner because you have to work.  I will be the friend who is cheering you on, hoping you crush all your goals.  I will be a friend that you can come vent to.  I will probably be the friend that tells you you can do better, dump him.  You probably won’t dump him, but I’ll be the friend that lets you cry it out when you realize you should have.  So no, I might not be your definition of a “true friend”, but I will still try and be a damn good one.

xo.

good vibes

Yesterday, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  Let’s face it, that’s just a nice way to say I was a crab ass.  Nothing brought on my bad mood.  I slept fine, Avery slept through the night, and I really had no reason for it.  I was waiting for what felt like ten years for my coffee to make when my dad tried to talk to me, and I think I responded with a grunt.  As I’m walking back to my room, I hear the sweetest sound… Avery is ‘gooing’ and making all these tiny noises, and just like that my bad mood is gone.  Watching her learn and grow everyday is probably the coolest thing in the entire world.  It got me thinking about appreciating little things right along with the big things.  I can’t justify waking up cranky when there are people not waking up at all.

I believe in karma, and I believe you get back what you put into this world.  The world is shitty enough as it is, right?  So I’m working on spending less time getting mad, or annoyed, or sad about petty things and more time smiling and enjoying my life with my daughter.  I’ve decided to try harder to distance myself from negativity, and in doing that I learned I need to let go of anger that I’ve been holding onto so tightly for so long.  I’ve been told that life is a little easier when you learn to “accept apologies” that you never actually get.  I did that a long, long time ago, and you know what?  A little over two months ago that person apologized, and they were really surprised by my openness to forgive.  I was able to forgive because I had already forgiven them in my heart over a year ago.  It feels damn good not to hold onto anything that gives me an ugly feeling.  I’m not saying this is an easy task by any means… I know I won’t wake up tomorrow and every bad feeling I have or anger that I feel towards people or situations will be gone, but I WILL think about it a little less and a little less until it’s just a minor thing.  Then I’ll find that forgiveness.

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My family jokes that I am “too nice”.  I’m apparently “too nice” to people who do not deserve it, but I think there’s worse things to be than “too nice”.  Like I said, I think you get what you give.  You can’t control what others do or how others live.  You are going to come across some shitty people.  Sometimes people are cruel just for the sake of being cruel.  Sometimes people are selfish, sometimes they’re mean, and nearly every time there is nothing you can do about it except brush it off and move on.  So here is to getting there.. at my own pace, but still getting there!

xo.

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naked

I think I’m the worst at keeping a blog.  Initially, I told myself I would post every Monday.  Im pretty sure that’s only happened twice.  Oops, but hey, I have to give myself some credit.  I’ve only missed ONE week.  Blogging with an infant is no easy task so I’m pretty proud of myself.  Some days what I want to write about just flows out of me and the words come easy.  Other days I know what I’m feeling, and I know I could write about but I don’t.  I don’t because I don’t want to deal with the aftermath in my personal life.  Then there are days where I don’t know how in the hell to sort my thoughts enough to actually get them out.  This is one of those days.  I’ll try anyway.  My baby is going to be one month on Friday.  She’s developing her little personality more and more each day.  It’s been wonderful.  It’s been trying, exhausting, exciting, and WONDERFUL.

The other day I walked by a mirror.  I’m down 30 pounds, and I am actually smaller than when I got pregnant.  That doesn’t mean however, that I’m in shape.  So I walked by the mirror, right?  I smiled.  I liked what I saw.  My clothes were a little too big, my hair was thrown up on top of my head, I had some dried spit up on my side, and there was a stain on my shirt from my boobs leaking sometime in the night.  I still smiled.  So that night I got brave.  I went back to the same mirror, and I stood in front of it naked.  I don’t know what made me do this.  Well, now I see skin that isn’t as tight, I see a scar, and I see some stretch marks.  I thought I would have to tell myself “the marks will fade, and your skin will tighten. It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine” but I didn’t.  I still smiled.  I think I actually sighed with relief once I realized that I still loved my body.  Then I smiled bigger because I realized that I love my body MORE now.  Why was I scared of this?  I want to encourage all of you to try it.  Let it be a freeing experience.  It’s just flesh and bone right?  Not who you are, really.  I think part of the reason I wanted to do this was because as of lately, my family has been….well, I don’t want to say “pushing” me.. we’ll say “nudging” me to move on.  Not that they want me going out looking for anyone, just that if opportunity knocks they want me to answer.  I totally get where they are coming from.  Can’t say I’m not terrified, but I get it.  Anyway, I’m a firm believer that you can’t fully love anyone if you don’t love yourself first.  So there I was naked and ridiculously happy in knowing that I do love myself.  And now after having a baby not only do I love myself, but I have hella respect for myself.  So seriously I think you guys should try it.  I don’t care if you just had a baby, had one 15 years ago, aren’t even a mom, or if you’re a dude.  DO IT.  Fall in love with yourself.  It feels really, really good.

xo.

*this week’s images are by Sarah Kearns of Sarah Elizabeth photography!  She is AMAZING if ya didn’t already know!  I appreciate her so much, and I will cherish these photos forever!

are all moms as sweaty as me?

Sometimes it’s really hard to commit to this blog.  I love when you guys come up to me in the store and tell me you read it every week, but just know that sometimes it’s hard for me.  It’s hard to make myself sit down and write about the things I’m trying to not even think about.  I do though because I find that after I get it all out there I can literally feel that weight being lifted.

I’ve been up and down lately.  Which is normal I think, considering all the wonky things my hormones are doing at the moment.  I’ve listened to countless people give me their opinions and advice.  I’ve been living life as normal as I can.  I still have days where I just want to sit and cry.  Sometimes it’s because of the obvious…I’m a single mom, and it’s hard as fuck.  Saying that still shocks me.  It still shakes me to my core and scares the shit out of me.  Other times I cry because my kid didn’t poop all day, and I think I did something wrong.  Then she finally poops, and I realize I’m a nutcase.  I went to a baby shower this week, and I kept having to take breaks from doing my hair to stand in front of the air and cool off.  By the time I got there I was so sweaty and tired I don’t know why I bothered to get ready.  I was so overwhelmed that I had to let a few tears slip.  Today I feel stronger.  Being around the right people can do that to you.  Surround yourself with the people who don’t care how sweaty you get just from trying to load a carseat by yourself.  Do it, and I swear you are one step closer to a better day.

I also feel the need to share that this is probably my shortest blog post yet, and it has taken over three hours to finish because a fussy baby has had my full attention.  She is currently zonked out on my lap as I try my hardest to type quietly.  I am already noticing changes in her.  Why do babies have to grow so quickly?  I am trying desperately to memorize everything.  That peach fuzz hair on top of her head, and the way her legs curl up like she’s still inside me.  Fussiness or not, sweatiness or not, I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world.

 

 

goodbye modesty, hello motherhood

Maybe it’s the countless times you just spread your legs so another nurse can check your cervix.  Maybe it’s the multiple times you whip your boobs out to feed a tiny mouth even if the room is full of people, or even if a nurse is pulling on your boob trying to show you the correct way.  Maybe it’s the backless hospital gowns.  Either way, any modesty I possessed has temporarily left the building.  I realized this as I was casually hooked up to my breast pump on my couch in front of my dad.  I feel like some of you amazing, powerful women do a perfect swan dive into motherhood.  From an amazing birth right into being an amazing mom.  As for me, I feel like I sort belly flopped into it.  I’m still learning, but I’m getting there.  One thing I know for sure is everything is different.  Everything. All of it.  My entire life has lead me to this.  My world had completely shifted on it’s axis as I looked at this little 7 pound, 14 ounce miracle.  I used to be so angry.  I asked God “Why me? Why did bad things happen to me?”  Then I remember thinking that things played out the way they did because I found love.  I thought I found my forever.  Now I know that it wasn’t even love compared to this.  Now I ask God, “Why me?  Why am I considered worthy to be her momma?”  Every road that has never made sense before finally makes sense to me now. This is my soul purpose.  This is my forever.  I finally know what real love is because of her.  How beautiful is that?  Every choice, every mistake, every bump and pot hole along the way… It was all to get me here. Holding this little girl.

I have told many of you I would blog about my birth experience.  Just remember… You guys asked for it.  I had a normal OB check up, and after my blood pressure was consecutively high my doctor decided to induce me.  There’s something so nerve wracking about KNOWING it’s going to happen.  I went home to make sure I had everything I needed, and I ended up just sitting there in shock.  Holy shit, I’m having baby.  I made it to the hospital where I posted this photo

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So many of you sweet, sweet souls complimented how good I looked for someone about to have a baby.  You guys are the ones who inspired me to be totally open about the rest.  I did NOT look like that photo while giving birth, after I gave birth, or the days afterwards.  I documented it just for you!  Also, I didn’t want anyone feeling like I thought make up or having your hair a certain way when you’re having a baby is ANY indication that you’re going to be a better mom than anyone else.  I braided my hair bc I felt like a warrior.  The make up was just me  killing time while waiting for the contractions to start!  …..and boy did they start…. I’m basically going to give you guys the short version.  The contractions were hard, long, and back to back.  Typical I think?  I made it until I was dilated to a five before asking for an epidural.  I wasn’t “for” or “against” an epidural at all.  I went in very open minded.  Plus at this point, the thought of not feeling anything when a nurse had her fingers shoved up there sounded okay to me.  I got the magical drugs, and I stopped dilating.  Avery had her first poop while she was still inside me- so that’s when things got sketchy.  My doctor explained that we needed to do an emergency c section.  I’m very optimistic and open minded, but this crushed me.  I cried and balled.  This wasn’t what I wanted, and again I thought  “Why God?!”  Finally, I just sucked it up.  I wanted my girl to be healthy, and if this was the way it had to be then so be it.  Now things get more sketchy for me.  About 30 minutes before I go back for surgery I start having intense pain at the top of my spine, bottom of my neck.  Pain so bad I’m shaking and crying and begging anyone to make it stop.  I was just wheeled back for surgery and told it would all be okay.  So the surgery begins and they get Avery out.  I can’t see anything except my moms face which looks pale and terrified.  I’m begging her to tell me what’s wrong, and I learn the cord was very tightly wrapped around my daughters neck and she was a gray/blue color.  After what felt like an eternity, all the pain, worry, and fear just came to a halt as I heard the most beautiful cry come from behind this big blue sheet.  She was okay.  I still couldn’t see anything while she was getting cleaned up, but I was FEELING everything they were doing to me.  My epidural apparently ended about halfway down my stomach so I’m screaming that I can feel everything, and the anesthesiologist gives me more drugs.  I’m about to pass out, and I haven’t even met my daughter!

Finally she was brought over to me.  That moment was so surreal.  I made this tiny human.  She is only minutes old, and I’ve never loved anyone more.  The fact that she stopped crying when she heard my voice caused this intense ache in my heart, and I knew in that moment that every choice I ever made was absolutely right.  Every road, every mistake, it was all right.

We’ve been home about a week now, and while it’s been so exhausting, it has been the most wonderful week of my life.  Sometime during labor I pulled my back all out of place.  I can’t even tell you how sad it is as a new mom to not be able to hold your baby without immense pain.  Also, I am not someone who asks for help.  I don’t like asking for favors or feeling like I’m putting people out.  That first night home I was stubborn and did it all myself.  Up all night, doing it all.  Want to know where I ended up? Sitting on the edge of my bed at 5:30 am, balling my eyes out, feeling like a failure.  My mom happened to walk by at the same time and immediately called out of work.  That’s when I started to see that it’s okay to ask for help.  So after two trips to the chiropractor, my wonderful massage therapist cousin making a house call, and another trip back to the hospital.  I am trying to take it easy and rest and accept help from the people who want to give it.  I’m considering this my first lesson in motherhood.  Please enjoy the following photos, and remember that I wore the giant mesh underwear and adult diaper sized pad just like the rest of you!

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fathers be good to your daughters

I’m trying to remember the last time I cried. I’m very grateful that I can’t remember, but today that streak is broken.  I’m home alone, waiting for my family to get home from the river so we can join the rest of my family for some Father’s day festivities.  So I’m going through photo albums and thinking about my dad, and I can’t stop crying.  Lord I’m so pregnant.

I’m lucky that my dad is still here with me. I’m so lucky to be able to still be annoyed by him daily.  He’s had too many health scares for me to name, and I’m pretty sure he just thinks he’s invincible.  I remember when I thought so too.  I remember a counselor came and got me out of class in the sixth grade to tell me my dad had a heart attack. She wanted to know if I needed to talk, but I thought she was literally crazy and talking to the wrong person.  Nothing’s wrong with my dad, he barely even gets sick.  It wasn’t until I saw him in the hospital gown that I realized my dad was human like the rest of us.

I think every guy wants a son at some point. My dad is no exception.  Not only did he not have a son, he got two bonus “daughters” in my Aunt Crystal and her best friend April. They lived with us for their high school years.  He’s always had a house full.  Although I have no doubt he would have been a great dad to a little boy, he was pretty perfect for us girls.

My dad has driven us to dance competitions, he has watched my sister and I cheer since middle school, he’s bought barbies, and dolls, then cell phones and our first cars.  He’s paid for prom dresses and wedding gowns.  He has always just been there, this sturdy rock for our family.  When things were tough and money was tight, Shelbi and I pretty much remained unaware. He takes a lot on his shoulders so we don’t have to.

My dad walked me down the aisle at my wedding, and he sat next to me at the lawyer’s office when that happily ever after turned dark.  He’s been to ultrasounds and built my daughter a nursery when it wasn’t his job to do so.

I only just realized that I took all this for granted. By “all this” I mean my family…the fact that I didn’t grow up in a broken home.  Sure, I had tons of friends with divorced parents, and to be honest I never gave it much thought at all.  Why would I?  I couldn’t relate.  It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I was having dinner with one of my best friends, and she told me something that really pulled at my heart.  She said that she remembers feeling jealous coming to my house when we were younger.  Not jealous in a bad way, really.  She just said that she never lived in the same house with her dad.  She never had her family all together, living under one roof.  She said she would come to my house, and my family seemed so normal.  I didn’t tell her this, but at that moment I could have burst into tears because my daughter will know that feeling.  She will never live with her dad and I under the same roof, or know what it’s like.  My heart hurts thinking that I can’t relate to her in that way, I won’t know how that feels for her.  I can be here for her, but I don’t know exactly how I’m going to answer her questions when she finally asks them.  I won’t know because my family is a unit. We are a hot ass mess sometimes, but we never quit on each other.  For that, I’m so so so grateful.  So I’ll do my best to explain anything to her, knowing I have the support of a wonderful family.

Thanks dad, for being everything I needed when you didn’t have to.  Thank you for choosing us and loving us and keeping us together.  Thank you for putting our happiness above your own, countless times.  Thanks for sticking around and putting up with us even when we were little assholes.  I know Avery will look up to you, and she will see what I see.  A great guy, who loves his family and would do anything for us.

Happy Father’s Day.

xo.