July Playlist – Feeling Alive

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So, this month’s playlist is a modge podge of styles. July is always a rough month for me. Not really what the source is, but I can guess it has to do with how flippin’ hot it is, how uninspiring I find the summer, how much I miss my fall/winter clothing…yep, not a big fan of hot summers over here. So, to keep me feeling inspired and productive, I made this playlist. Each one of these things gives me that feeling of weightlessness or power or that I can conquer the mother-f’ing world. I hope you enjoy! Feel free to follow me on Spotify, follow the playlist here, or click the links below to support some of these great artists!

Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface (Special Packaging)

MisterWives – Our Own House

Sucre – Loner

Stars – The Five Ghosts

Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves

The Lighthouse and the Whale – The Lighthouse and the Whaler
Of Monsters and Men – Beneath The Skin

Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were

Hembree – Walk Alone

Max Richter – Luminous

Walk the Moon – Talking Is Hard

Ruelle – Until We Go Down

Foals – What Went Down

CHVRCHES – Leave A Trace

Lily Kershaw – Midnight In The Garden

#15

Dear Zoey,

Several months ago, a dear friend of mine texted me out of the blue with a question (I’ll be majorly paraphrasing) that hit me deeply,”If Zoey came to you and told you she felt like she was born in a body that wasn’t her own, what would you tell her?” I immediately assumed, based on the personal story of this friend, she was asking me about gender identity (she might have stated something about it, I can’t really remember). And this was the first time that I came face to face with the gut-wrenching question–if you’re child chose to be honest about his/herself (let me be clear that I don’t believe anyone chooses their sexuality, but there is a choice in living who you really are), and it meant possibly facing a world that didn’t understand him/her and could, quite possibly, be very cruel…what would you do? Would you join in the ridicule? Would you try to convince her otherwise? Would you love her less? Would you abandon her?

The answer actually came really easy for me. I told my friend that I would be there for her and love her. That I would find a therapist that would help guide her in whatever transition she needed to make. If my little girl found that her body was not a place where she felt safe or truthful, I would want her to find the truth. I would love her without any condition or disapproval. I think my friend asked me this because she knew I would show only love and acceptance. At least I hope she did. A few weeks later, my friend made the decision to be truthful and is now a transgendered man. And to see the freedom he now experiences is a really beautiful, incredible thing. Another friend of mine just shared how her beautiful daughter is now her transgendered son. To see a mother embrace, support, and love her beautifully brave child is inspiring, to say the least.

Zo, there will be a lot of things in coming years that you learn and see that might make you uncomfortable. Let me tell you this: they make you uncomfortable because you don’t understand it. I think there’s some sort of instinct that people have which ignorance into fear. Or maybe people create it, I’m not sure. Either way, I will fight every day to show you a world in which acceptance  and love fuels our actions. (Here comes a cliche) Knowledge really has power. Educating yourself on people and their stories is absolutely one of the best things you can do with your life.

While we may not face the same circumstances, it doesn’t mean they are not real for someone else. I will never know what it feels like to walk in the shoes of a transgendered boy or girl and I’m pretty positive I’ll never know what it is to raise one (as long as you’re my one and only), but I do know what it feels like to try and hide pieces of who you are…I think everyone does to a certain degree, and let me tell you this, I never want you to hide or shy away from the incredible human you are. I know what it feeling alone is like. I know what being judged feels like. And that is where I can find common ground. I can say, “This feeling of loneliness or emptiness or condemnation or need to hide feels awful…I would never want someone else to feel this way.” And in one sentence, compassion develops and we break down all the identifying features of a person, able to see that we are all more similar than we know.

It goes back to the basic sentiment…treat people the way you want to be treated. Value and love people for how wonderfully different and similar they are.

Love you cuddlebug,
Mama

Surviving a Quarter-Life Crisis from Someone Who Has

As I was wasting time perusing Facebook yesterday, one of my close friends posted a status that said “I think a woman’s midlife crisis happens when she’s 25.” And I couldn’t agree more. In fact, from 2 years ago, I have a blog post in my drafts titled, “Quarter…er…life crisis,” and the only thing typed is, “Confusion, confusion, confusion.”

QuarterLifeCrisis

In recent years, I’ve noticed a rise in this quarter-life crisis phenomenon. I think it happens for a lot of reasons. We think we should have everything together, we’re not where we thought we’d be when we were 18, some people have faded from our lives. There’s a lot that happens in our twenties–a lot of mistakes, a lot of wandering around, a lot of “what the hell am I gonna do?” And most of the time. we just feel stuck. Or at least I did. I felt like I was capable of doing something great, but always felt like I was a victim to my circumstances (money being the most common inhibitor). These are all still struggles I have, so I’m certainly not going to tell you that once you turn 30 you’ll suddenly feel like you have your shit together. You won’t. I titled this “Surviving a Quarter-life Crisis” because that’s what it feels like most of the time–survival. And it still lingers in the air for me, but it doesn’t feel so close or real anymore.

There comes a point–for me it was around 28 or so–that you just realize what will be will be. And this doesn’t mean you just let life do what it will without any choice or consequence. You make your choices, some good, some bad, but you do what you can with what you have, and suddenly you find more peace.

This is why I adopted a mindfulness practice into my every day life. It helps make life not feel so big and overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with anxiety and worry and depression. I still have major fears for seemingly simple tasks (Talking on the phone being one of them…) but these small mindfulness techniques that I’ve been learning, I use at those moments when I’m feeling most anxious or upset. Whether it’s a breathing technique, visualization, any of those things. It doesn’t take all of my problems away, but it reminds that the only thing I have is the current moment and that no amount of worry or regret will change that.

Looking back 5 years ago, when I was 25…I’m different, but very much the same. The best I can say is stop living where you’ve been or where you want to be, and just live now. It’s easy to believe that the grass will always be greener, but it won’t be. There will be hang-ups and mishaps anyway you turn, but you have a choice. You can choose how you react. You can choose your own destiny. I truly believe that.

All too often we try to carry the burden of where we’ve been. We hold on to questions like, “Why didn’t I just say something?” or “Why didn’t I shut the f up?” or “If I would’ve done this differently, I wouldn’t be in pain/confusion right now.” That burden is useless. You cannot hold yourself accountable now for what you didn’t know then. Your energy can be so much more productive somewhere else.

More than anything though…remind yourself that it’s really f’ing hard to do that sometimes, so be kind to yourself. More than anything, just be kind to yourself–you’re doing the best you can.

Do not go gentle, friends.

P.S. As a side note: If you’re looking for something that helps build a more mindful life, check out this book: Get Some Headspace: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day. Or this FREE app: Headspace.com – meditation & mindfulness. I plan on writing a review on Headspace soon, so keep a look out for that one.

*This post may contain affiliate links.

The Case for the Only Child

I recently saw a post on Facebook titled, “Reasons to Have a Second Child” or something like that. And I get it. I get how great it is to have another kid around, and that siblings can form bonds that last through the ins and outs and ups and downs. As of right now, Zoey is an only child, and she might end up being that for good. I’m not really sure what the future holds, but what I do know is that only children get a bad wrap a lot. Here’s the top 10 list of reasons to have a second child, and my response…to each of them:

ONLYCHILD

1. They learn to be selfless. Sorry, I wasn’t aware that I needed another child around to teach my kid not to be a selfish asshole. I understand the whole “I feel protective of this little being now,” however, I’m not sure that’s an innate sense of selflessness, I think it’s interest and curiosity (depending on how old the eldest kiddo is). It may develop into selflessness, but I certainly don’t think having a sibling is what forms that. I think it’s being surrounded by family and friends that promote that sense of compassion and loyalty to people who matter.

2. They learn how to share. Very few things irritate me more than the stigma that an only child doesn’t learn how to share. Z is 6 now, and I remember very few (actually I don’t remember any) instances where I had to remind her to share. This is, again, something you teach as a parent. You teach them by example, by showing what sharing looks like. You don’t need another kid to somehow cement that idea in their head. Also, do people just keep their only children in isolation so they never interact with other kids or something? I certainly didn’t, and I would venture to say that most parents of only children don’t either.

3. They learn how to resolve problems. Again, up to the parents.

4. They learn about teamwork. Hello, organized sports, preschool, and school?! And I actually find it quite fun to “work as a team” with Z.

5. They will have a built-in playmate. Okay, I can’t argue with this one. Not sure if this is a necessary reason to give your kid a sibling though.

6. They have someone to learn from or teach.  I will say, Z has older cousins that she spends a lot of time with, and that aspect of their relationship helps a lot. Again, this is also something that parents can (and should) do.

7. They have someone to talk to. Sure, but again, are they in isolation if they don’t have a sibling? Can they not talk to their parents or friends from school/playdates or other family members or neighbors? It seems like there’s a lot of “all or nothing” when it comes to teaching social skills to only children, according to this list.

8. They have someone to celebrate with when things go great. I love celebrating with Z. Nothing is better than celebrating occasions, milestones, and accomplishments with her. And sure, it could be fun with another, but there is something to be said for being able to fully invest all my energy and excitement into one kiddo.

9. And lean on when times get tough. See #7.

10. They have someone to grow old with. The article also says, “Friends come and go, but family is forever.” It’s nice in sentiment, but in reality, you never know is going to come and who is going to go. Friends can become your family, crazy things can happen.

Don’t misinterpret me, I think having more than one kiddo is more than okay. It’s just not right for every family, and frankly, I’m a bit jaded with these “10 Reasons You Should…blah, blah, blah…” Part of me really loves that these lists can be succinct and specific, however…life isn’t always that way. And it’s time to break the silly stigmas attached to people who decide to go against the norm. I could write a million reasons why I like my one-child family, however, those are reasons that work for me and aren’t necessarily someone else’s ideal. It’s time to stop judging and labeling the choices individual families make for themselves.

Why We Shame Online and How to Stop It

I recently read this article on Huff Post. She wrote about two separate instances of online “mom-shaming” via posting a photo online. And I was driven to a whole new level of anger. I haven’t had either of the two stories she mentions run across my newsfeed,  but in recent years I’ve thought about how voyeuristic we’ve become, as a society. I’ve thought about the rights we’ve taken over someone else’s life and how empathy seems to continue to fall. We feel as if we have some right to be able to document whatever we want of whomever (who? or whom? I’m an English major and I still get confused) we want. And then we can create a small gang of people through our various social media outlets to become self-righteous with us as we laugh at someone else’s unknowing expense.

shameonline

I’m as guilty as the next person…wanting to snap a picture of something I find absurd and posting it on Facebook or Twitter, however, usually (99% of the time) I talk myself out of it based on this one simple question I ask myself, “Would I want someone to take a picture of me if I were in that position?” And sure, I could go the self-righteous route and say, “Oh, well I would never do that.” But the thing about life is that shit happens, and as a passerby, you are never getting the full story. Don’t get me wrong, I still get self-righteous (how many more times do you think I can fit “self-righteous” into this post?) I can judge to my heart’s content, in my own head, and I might even share it with a friend or two. However, the thing that I should probably remember is this wonderful thing called empathy. How many times have I looked like hell or been in a compromising position or had a kiddo not behaving? And the thing about this online mom-shaming, neither of the mom’s mentioned in these stories were doing anything really compromising. One was a mother child-wearing her 5 year old and the other was a mom breastfeeding in public. Sure, had I seen a 5 year old being “worn” I might have questioned it in my head, but reading the story, the mother was a mom to a 5 and 1 year old and her 5 year old was under the weather. She needed to run into a store real quick and with her daughter not feeling great, she decided to wear her on her back. The other mom was breastfeeding. And let me be honest, public breastfeeding makes me really uncomfortable. I know it’s natural, I know it shouldn’t make me uncomfortable. However, just because it makes me uncomfortable, doesn’t mean the woman shouldn’t feed her child. A parent should never feel wrong about doing what he/she needs to in order to take care of his/her kids. And I know my discomfort is my own bullshit, not theirs, so don’t starve your child for my sake, that’s ridiculous. Just like some passerby taking your picture while nourishing your child and then shaming you for it online should be ridiculous.

But this epidemic isn’t just for moms, it is everywhere. How often do we see the word, “shaming” nowadays? We are all plugged in more than we ever have been before, and for some reason, we’ve taken license with other people’s lives. Judging first and thinking later. Even news organizations post news stories before knowing all the facts. How often do we see corrections at the end of news stories, or see a news anchor making assumptions before having any real evidence to back themselves up? We all have a platform now to spew whatever we want, whenever we want (coming from a blogger, I know this might seem trite and a bit contradicting, but hear me out), but what I think would be lovely is to cultivate a community of empathy. To not judge or jump to conclusions, to not join in mockery behind a computer screen, but to offer just a little understanding. If you’ve never been in the person you are judging’s shoes, maybe just remember that we are all humans, making our way through this life the best we can. And if we all posted photos of each other in our hard moments, our “life” moments, our f-up’s, we’d all look like a big bunch of losers, frankly.

So, what I’m asking for, I guess, is don’t be an asshole.

Mindfulness…from a chaotic mind.

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I was going to write about my journey in seeking a more mindful lifestyle today. I was going to talk about how this past year I’ve really adopted a sense of mindfulness into my every day life. Being present in the moment. Relinquishing control of the things I can’t change. I was going to sound brilliant and interesting and show off my expertise. I was going to create a series “Mindful Mondays,” (and then I struggle with the thought of that…mindful mondays? That sounds ridiculous…)

And then I woke up to dog shit. Literal diarrhea. And I cleaned up…nothing like the nauseating smell of poop from a dog that will eat just about anything at 7am to really start your day off right. But I had my coffee and all was right in my world.

Well, except for the fact that my head was pounding so hard, it felt like my brain was trying to escape my skull. But then I made an early trip to the store, by myself, which are always so nice. I get home and Z and I shuck some corn (it’s called shucking, right? I live in Kansas…I should know this by now). And it’s refreshing and sweet and I’m grateful for this life.

And then I workout, and I feel crappy about my body, and I’m struggling through it. And then I start getting bombarded with a million texts from a million different people, and I don’t have a chance to take a shower before I have to run an errand, and the house is hot, and I’m feeling gross. And then Z (politely) refuses to get dressed and I lose it. I turn into a complete and utter lunatic who is screaming and crying and throwing things. And all of a sudden, I find myself outside sobbing.

So much for Mindful Mondays.

Or maybe that’s the point. Because adopting mindful living is about finding gratitude in the chaos. A mindful living does not equal a a simple, clean, fresh life…Sure, it can get you there. But the whole purpose of mindfulness, at least in my experience is about letting go of the control, and trusting that life will happen. It will not happen in the way we always want or at the time we always want, but it will happen. And in these moments, when life all of sudden gets overwhelming, whether for silly reasons or not, it’s time to get back to basics. To focus on your breath. To approach this moment with gratitude. To stop trying to control the uncontrollable ebb and flow of life.

So, I take a breath, gain some composure and face the two people I love most in the world…and say sorry. And with how embarrassed I am with my behavior, it’s hard to face it. But the thing about life…and living a mindful life…it will repeatedly humble you, when you least expect it. My mantra that gets me through the day: It’s a bad day, not a bad life. It’s a bad day, not a bad life. It’s a bad day, not a bad life…

Needless to say, I’ll take you through my mindfulness journey, but it certainly won’t always be a pretty sight….

The BEST things to have on hand at Disney World

I’ll admit, this past trip to Disney World has given the full-on Disney bug. I have always loved Disney World (And Land), but it wasn’t until this most recent trip with E & Z that I have become full-on WDW obsessed. My (currently non-existent) savings is almost solely dedicated to getting us back to Disney…no joke. I was a researching madwoman before our trip, and let me tell you, when you first start researching WDW on Pinterest, it is nothing less than overwhelming. You can check out my Disney World Pinterest board here:  Disney World. As you can see, I should probably start breaking down that board into smaller, more specific boards (Yes, I’m a freak…just look at the rest of Pinterest…and yes, this is legitimately on my to-do list) because THERE’S SO MUCH INFORMATION. So, my little list below might just be sucked into the inundated world of Disney Advice, but hopefully, it’s useful to you!

OnHandDW

10. A lightweight backpack, like this one: Packable Handy Lightweight Travel Backpack Daypack-Black
This is the exact backpack I bought, and it was perfect. Plenty of compartments (but not too many for the bag-checkers at every park). I was able to tote around everything I needed (and a few things I didn’t) without it being bulky or uncomfortable.

9. An external battery pack, like this one: Dual USB Portable External Extended Battery Pack
I ended up not needing this as much as I thought I would, but when we were in a pinch, it was super helpful! I think the only reason it ended up not being as much of a necessity is because we left the parks every afternoon to rest at our hotel for a bit (See: 10 Tips for a Laid-Back Disney Vacation), so we were able to charge our phones during the afternoon before heading back to the parks. Either way, I think it’s an extremely valuable purchase, not only for Disney World, but life in general.

8. Ponchos, like these: Emergency Clear Rain Poncho 3mil PVC : ( Pack of 4 Pcs )
Again, we ended up not using these, even though there were several rain showers that happened while we were at Disney World. Fortunately, the showers happened while we were eating or resting at the hotel, but I like being safe rather than sorry. It rains a lot and sometimes very hard in Florida, so they’re useful.

7. Disney Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters: Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters
This is, by far, one of the best things I did. I found a tutorial via Pinterest, from Little Miss Save where she had the binding cut, had it rebound as a spiral book, and used it as the autograph book. Welp, I went with this idea and it was the best (and super cheap too!) Plenty of the characters took notice of the fun facts mentioned about them (Lady Tremaine even edited hers as it was not accurate in her eyes 😉 ). Plus, it helped us figure out who we still wanted autographs from!

6. Tip money. This was a big learning curve for me. Even if you have the dining plan, you still need to account for the tip, so PUT THAT IN YOUR BUDGET, so it’s not a shocker when you get the check. I’m pretty sure the Dinner Shows and Cinderella’s Royal Table are the only Table Service restaurants that include gratuity in their price.

5. Snacks. While we had a dining plan, and had plenty of snacks to last the 3 of us, it was nice to have some snacks on hand in case we were stuck in a line (which was rare because of the amazing FastPass system) or if we were waiting for the monorail/bus/etc. Don’t allow yourself to get to the hangry stage, it’s not a pretty sight!

4. Plenty of water. Seriously…keep yourselves hydrated. Majority of us aren’t prepared for the heat or the amount of walking you do at WDW. If you have the dining plan, you get refillable mugs (which I was a dufus and didn’t get until we were leaving -face palm-), but even if I had the refillable mugs during the trip, I’m not sure I would’ve used them in the parks. They had handles, which is great, except it’s hard to fit them into the side water bottle compartments of our backpack. So, I have a feeling, we would have still provided our own water bottles and refilled them at water fountains and such. Whichever way you do it, just HYDRATE (I feel like I’m in the military again…)

3. Band-Aids/Blister Care. We didn’t have any problems with blisters and I think it’s because we all had shoes that were well-broken in, and I applied this: Band-Aid Friction Blister Block Stick before we went out for the day in any “blister-problem” areas. But keep that stuff on hand because you never know.

2. Sunscreen. This should really go without saying, but I think some people forget how powerful the Florida sun is and that you should re-apply sunscreen every few hours (or more often, if you get wet…EVEN IF IT’S WATERPROOF!) E is a bit overboard when it comes to sunscreen, but I’d rather have it that way than to be burnt to a crisp on my vacation. And bring plenty of it too because I paid $15 for one little can in Magic Kingdom, when we finally ran out.

1. Good Walking Shoes. I cannot stress this enough….have great walking shoes…ones that offer support, are comfortable, and are broken-in. You will already be sore enough from walking, standing, getting jerked around on rides, so don’t add to it by not taking care of those feet. I bought these tennis shoes: New Balance Women’s W690 Neutral Cushioning Running Shoe,Blue/Pink,5 D US a few months before we left and I LOVE THEM. Easily the most comfortable shoes I’ve had…ever! And what’s better is they were only $40!

The best thing you can do when planning for a big trip like Disney World is to set yourself up for success before you even get there! What are some things you like to keep on hand while vacationing?

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