Six Things I Learned From Da’ Hood

Betcha weren’t expecting a title like that for my latest blog, were you??

Admit it….you totally clicked on here just to see if I was just being crazy or I indeed converted to the thug life just for thrills.

Relax, I’m not that ghetto, although I can rap a 90’s Vanilla Ice song like nobody’s business — granted it’s in the most awkward and southwest Missouri hick twang ever as I’m driving down the road by myself. No, my booty still ain’t “bootylicious”. And my dance moves are still as basic white girl status as they’ve ever been, so don’t worry. I’m still me. #KeepinItReal

I chose this title partly because I couldn’t really think of anything else clever, but mostly because five weeks ago I officially entered the Mom Club, which I refer to as Da’ Hood — that is, motherhood. (Not really sure where I got this from, but hey…we’ll go with it.)

And no, to my amazement they didn’t give me a cool T-shirt or gold chain or stunner shades or a fancy VIP card or anything like that. They just slapped a precious 7 pound 10 ounce baby girl on my chest and sent us out the doors with a newborn in our backseat two days later and that was that.

No instruction manual. No “in case of emergency, push” button. No test or extensive interrogations to make sure we weren’t psychos and were indeed qualified to be parents. We were just homebound with a tiny human we were now solely responsible for and literally had NO CLUE what we were doing or what to expect next.

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Zaylee Grace Brown, born May 16, 2018 @ 11:20 AM 7 lb 10 oz, 21 in.

Those first few days that soon rolled into weeks that quickly turned into a month already gone by have been quite the adventure, to say the least! I have learned. I have loved. I have laughed until I cried and cried until I laughed.

And I have loved every second of it, even when it’s sometimes really hard to.

Throughout my entire pregnancy and now postpartum experience, there are many realizations I have come to know that either mothers I highly respect and look up to have passed down to me or that I have had to figure out for myself (or yes, I’ll confess…look up on Google and WhatToExpect.com in the wee hours of the night when I’m absolutely positive something is wrong with my child or I’m not “momming” good enough.)

One of the most beautiful things, in my opinion, about becoming a mom is realizing you’re now a part of a tribe of amazing, creative, and strong women out there who have been where you are and can lift you up when it gets overwhelming and celebrate alongside you when it’s exciting. To offer tips and tricks to help you transition and get through the hard times. To pop a top and enjoy a glass of wine with from time to time and blow off some steam, so you are more refreshed and energized when you return to your babies. How sad and lonely and overwhelming would it be if we kept all our tricks up our sleeves to ourselves and didn’t share with other mommas out there who are joining our club for the very first time, completely clueless and scared and excited to the newness of it all? Afterall, they say sharing is caring!

So here it is! A compilation of the greatest advice I was ever given as a first time mommy-to-be, that I can now pay forward to someone else about to experience this crazy and beautiful journey through Da’ Hood!
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#1 – Your experience is YOURS.

I listed this first…because I think of all the realizations I’ve had so far as a mom, this one really hits the nail on the head. Verbatum.

Here’s the deal.

Some mothers have a healthy, energetic, and altogether glowing pregnancy. Others can outsleep a cat, look like they just crawled out of a dumpster half the time, and may not be able to get more than a five foot radius away from the toilet until about Week 22 (**ehemmm….me!!!). Some maybe not even then! Some will gain 40-50 pounds, while others will look only five months along the day they are considered full term. Some mothers opt for in home or even all natural births, while some DEMAND that epidural or choose a cesarean. Many moms may not even get a choice at all. You’ll hear about moms who had a quick, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy labor, and you’ll hear about those who endured 36 or more hours of the worst pain imaginable until their little ones finally came into this world. Some exceed their due dates by a week or more, and some live in the NICU for several weeks until they get to finally come home. Some will breastfeed, make their own baby food, and use cloth diapers. Others prop a bottle, buy Gerber’s lil’ snackies, and think Luvs or Huggies will suffice. Gender reveals and maternity sessions may be the greatest thing since the invention of the Tupperware to some moms, while others may not really see the point. And let’s uneven the playing field a little more about whether some moms find it necessary to broadcast weekly baby bump pictures on Facebook or to have a birth photographer bedside to document the Big Day.

The point is…I have never heard two moms have the exact same experience about pregnancy, birthing, or parenting in general. So don’t believe for a second that your story will be written like someone else’s. You just do YOU and always trust that this is the way things are meant to be and you are doing what is best for you and your baby.

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#2 – Be thankful.

Week 5….the week I will never forget.

I was driving in my car alone in Springfield when I felt it. A sudden warm gush. I looked down and tried to feel what was going on.

Blood.

I was frantic. For days I hadn’t really felt well and had some spotting off and on, but never this heavy. Something was definitely not right. I immediately pulled into the nearest gas station and raced to the bathroom, tears already streaming down my face. This couldn’t be happening. Not to me. Not to us.

I freaked out even more when I felt a sharp pain and passed what I just knew was our baby. Our little precious miracle we prayed for. Right there in a lonely bathroom stall at the Kum and Go on Sunshine street. I called my husband who was over an hour away – completely hysterical – telling him I was going to the ER and he needed to leave right now and come get me, because I didn’t think I could face what would happen next on my own. He dropped everything and flew there as fast as he could.

It felt like eternity – the time it took me to drag myself out of my car and walk across the parking lot through those sliding doors to await my fate. Every step grew heavier and the lump in my chest grew larger the closer I got to the check-in desk. “Please, God.” I begged over and over as they took my insurance information and escorted me to be admitted.

Everything else from there was a blur, but a very long one. The nurse’s questions were just muffled mumbles I couldn’t understand as she checked my vitals, put my wristband on, and ushered me to the waiting room until Kurtis arrived. Nearly two hours passed before they finally called us back for even more hours of blood work, urine tests, IV fluids that ended up busting my veins, and the most painful internal ultrasound I have ever had to date. When the moment of truth finally came, the ultrasound tech told us over and over as she was getting ready to examine me that we should definitely prepare ourselves, but also that other mothers have had similar symptoms and things surprisingly turned out to be okay.

I held my breath and almost couldn’t look at the screen when she finally pointed and said “right there.”

The whole world stopped. A teeny spec. Our miracle baby. Right there on the screen, when I was CERTAIN I had already lost it. While there was definitely a newfound sense of hope that I at least still had a baby inside, there was still this deep unsettling fear that there was no movement – no little heart “flutter” – to confirm whether or not our little one was actually alive. We were sent home and told we wouldn’t have answers for at least three more days until they could recheck my blood levels, as I was not yet far enough along to detect a heartbeat on the ultrasound.

Let me tell you. That afternoon was definitely long, but it didn’t hold a candle to the next three days I was on bed rest before my follow-up appointment, praying and pleading that we would get the news we longed for more than anything else.

Fast forward three LONNNNGGGGGG days later, and I got the phone call from my doctor that my blood levels were stable and increasing! A week later they were able to actually detect a heartbeat on the ultrasound, and I never cried so hard in my life seeing that flutter on the screen and hearing that little throbbing noise coming through the speakers. We were congratulated, comforted, and reassured that I indeed had a perfectly healthy, viable fetus growing strong inside.

I still thank God every day for that very moment.

As for what caused all those crazy symptoms and the scariest moment of my life so far? We may never know. Some told us it was just implantation pain and bleeding. Some told us we very easily could have miscarried a twin. We don’t waste time wondering what might have been. All I know is I am forever GRATEFUL for this chance I have now, to embrace a beautiful, healthy baby in my arms that God didn’t have to spare us that day. I am THANKFUL, because many of my loved ones and friends have suffered infertility. True miscarriage. Sudden loss of a child. I am BLESSED that our story had a happy ending, when that is not the case for so many others out there.

So I will take the morning sickness, excessive tiredness, stretch marks, swelling, contractions, nipple chafing, and fussy sleepless nights any day over the outcome that was almost our worst reality.

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#3 – Most people mean well…..Most.

You guys.

People can be cruel.

Like, REALLY cruel.

When you are a new momma, it often seems like everyone and their other brother wants to give you their unsolicited “advice” about how you should grow your tiny human, bring it into the world, and especially raise it. I’ve been scoffed at for ordering a small Starbucks drink at the mall or getting a 32-ounce cherry coke at the gas station. I’ve had my hands slapped for trying to lift a medium sized box that I could seriously lift with my pinky. I’ve been reprimanded for ordering a subway sandwich by a random stranger, who didn’t realize that I literally had been vomiting everything else and a ham sandwich was literally all that sounded good to me that day and at least I was feeding myself SOMETHING. I’ve been told that I wasn’t a “real woman” if I opted for an epidural. I’ve frantically checked over my shoulder at get-togethers to see if anyone noticed me licking the spoon after mixing cookie dough or sneaking an teeny-tiny sip of red wine. People have literally FLIPPED OUT on me when I posted any photos of our home renovation progress and I had a paintbrush in my hand, was on my hands and knees helping lay flooring, or was standing anywhere remotely close to a ladder. (As if taking on a DIY on top of working very demanding full time jobs, skimping on a tight budget, and trying to get it all done in time before I pop isn’t stressful enough as is…) And let’s not forget to mention the hateful remarks about either being a stay at home or working mom or debating whether or not breastfeeding or exclusively pumping or bottle feeding is what is most practical for our busy lifestyle.

Then they look at you like you’re more irrational than the number pi and want to blame it on your raging hormones when you finally have heard enough of it all and snap and put them in their place.

You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, am I right???

The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is sometimes you just have to take it all with a grain of salt and assume everyone’s best intentions, even if it is super annoying or hurtful. Even if its your best friend or a family member degrading your choices because “that’s not how they did it”. Even if you’ve SERIOUSLY heard it all a million and three times before. Because, yes, it’s true. Some people really are just jerks and don’t know what the heck they’re talking about. But most people are just concerned and want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Trust me…you’ll go absolutely bonkers if you don’t occasionally bite your tongue, take a deep breath, laugh it off, and just let it roll.

#4 – Let people help.

There’s nothing I hate more than admitting I can’t keep it all together on my own.

Afterall, I am Woman, right?? Aren’t I supposed to be able to save the world and wear a superhero cape?? I mean, back in the old days mothers were birthing new babies with a toddler on their hip and had five other little ones running around while simultaneously milking cows and planting gardens in the 90 degree summer heat and putting dinner on the table by 5pm sharp every night. They survived motherhood like a champ — without all the fancy rock n’ plays and bottle warmers and Freemie cups for hands-free pumping and probably not Moscato wine, either. It’s 2018. I live in modern-day America, y’all, where we have crock pots and robot vacuums and Google and Amazon Prime 2-day shipping. I have perfectly functioning central heat and air, all the bells and whistles in terms of baby gear and equipment, no other children running around at my heels, and am pretty sure I can’t tell you the last time I ever had to pull a weed or pick a tomato. So why is my sink always overflowing with dishes and I never have clean underwear because I can’t keep up with the laundry like I used to? I can’t even tell you the last time I seriously dusted or scrubbed the shower. We desperately need groceries and I haven’t shaved my legs in going on two weeks. There’s bills and mail piled up under the TV stand that I haven’t sorted through yet and boxes and boxes to unpack. And how many more times can we possibly eat frozen pizza or hamburger helper because I am too exhausted to prepare a meal that requires more than ten minutes of prep work on my end?

Mommy and wife guilt is a very real and serious thing, my friends. During my entire pregnancy, our life was the absolute CRAZIEST and busiest it had ever been, and I rarely ever cut myself some slack when I fell short. When I wanted to have a pity party and beat myself down over and over for all the things I didn’t accomplish for the day, I had to always stop and remind myself that I was leading a very busy lifestyle that required a lot of my time and energy, so it was perfectly acceptable that I came home completely and utterly EXHAUSTED each night and passed out on the couch, pretty much up until the day I gave birth.

Not to mention that we were also in the middle of a major home renovation that we came home to every night to work on ourselves any chance we could so we could be moved in before Baby Brown’s arrival. Every weekend it seemed we were tied down with another birthday party, graduation, family get-together, church dinner, baby shower, or last-minute late night trip to Lowes. When we didn’t have anything going on, we were so wiped that we literally lounged all day.  My husband also works a full-time engineering job and comes home to a 280 acre farm with over 60 head of cattle, where there’s always feeding to do, fences to fix, tractors to repair, and new baby calves hitting the ground that need tended to. At the time, I was wrangling middle schoolers for 8 hours a day then had lessons to plan and papers to grade as soon as I got home before I could play Housewife. Then we woke up to do it all again the next day.

Oh, yeah. And I was growing a human on top of it all, too. So there’s that…

And now that our sweet baby is here? Pshhh. I like maybe get one box unpacked from our move and one picture frame hung on the wall a month. Maybe every two weeks if I’m real ambitious. There are days I literally never leave my bed because she is super fussy and wants cuddled or I’m just too exhausted to function. Anndddd my legs are still hairy, the shower still needs a good scrubbing, and we still have DiGiorno’s pizza once or twice weekly. And somehow, it’s okay!

I’ll never forget the best advice I ever got as an expecting mother.

Ask. For. Help.

Seriously. Do ittttt.

Don’t ever shame yourself for feeling tired and overwhelmed all the time, whether pregnant or postpartum or ten years down the road with three kids and a dog. Busy is the new norm for all of us mommas, and we all need a little leg up sometimes to get us through. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to pick up the phone and ask my mother in-law to ride with me to get groceries, text my sister in-laws for mommy advice to calm my nerves, recruit my best friends to help me paint kitchen cabinets in the new house, and let my mom provide dinner for us so I didn’t have to cook. Find yourself a good support system, whether it be your mom, mother in-law, a sister, your spouse, best friends, or whoever you have in your life. Ask them to fold a basket of laundry, run the vacuum, or to grab a few things you need at Wally World. Book a babysitter so you can enjoy a bubble bath or a date night or just a short un-interrupted nap for once. Let the ladies from church bring you a casserole when you first get home from the hospital.

And don’t feel guilty about it for a second! Most of them are seriously more than happy to help because they have been where you are and they want to feel needed and appreciated. Let them, so you can breathe a little!

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#5 – Less is really more.

I can laugh about it now, but I remember having a mental breakdown one night after going through all the things we received from one of our baby showers. While I was completely grateful and overwhelmed with love at all the wonderful gifts our friends and family provided us, I was also in complete shock at how expensive everything was and how many things one tiny person needed to survive. I was seriously hyperventilating when I realized we still had a lot of major things we hadn’t purchased yet — like a changing table and a crib and bottles and a car seat and ALL the clothes, as we didn’t find out the gender of our little one until the big day — and my due date was only a few weeks away.

How were we possibly going to afford it all or get all we needed in time? The mountains of diapers and wipes we received were no doubt a godsend, but I knew we would blow through them extremely fast. Not to mention all the hospital expenses we were about to get slapped in the face with. (We joked that I was either gonna have to hook it or donate a kidney to keep up with it all!)

And when it came time to pack my hospital bag, I swore I needed this and that and everything under the sun to bring my precious baby into the world the right way. He or she had to have the most perfect coming home outfit and I needed my entire makeup drawer and straightener and the comfiest birthing gowns and cutest slippers ever for myself.

Guess what?

My sweet baby came along just fine, not caring whether or not I looked “photo worthy” or if I had everything I thought I needed. And half the crap I stressed so much about having when we got home I didn’t even use or need right away — like a high chair. I’m serious! I was so bent out of shape that I didn’t have something my kid wouldn’t even use until about 4 months old.

What I really learned is that less is truly more. When it finally comes down to Show Time and you’re in hardcore labor, you won’t want to lug your entire house up to the 4th floor of the hospital, and neither will your partner. You most likely won’t need a gigantic camera with five different lenses and attachments to document each moment, because it all happens so fast and it’s so much more practical to snap a photo on a cell phone. Or hire a birth photographer to do all the dirty work for you, if that floats your boat. You will be lucky if you get to “fix yourself” up with anything more than a fresh hospital gown, some dry shampoo, and a stick of gum to brush your teeth before visitors are barging through the door to ooooooh and awwww at your precious little bundle. Trust me, — and I am a relatively vain person by nature who hardly leaves the house without eyeliner and a little concealer — no one cares about your zits showing, the bags under your eyes, and the fact that you haven’t showered in two days when they hold that sweet baby. The focus will not even be on you at all, so leave the salon at home!

You also won’t use hardly anything in a diaper bag you bring from home, because the hospital gives you diapers, formula, and basically anything else you could possibly need during your stay — and often times you get loaded with a goodie bag to take home to get you and your little one by your first few weeks! (And God bless Dermoplast numbing spray, oversized pads, mesh undies, and that nifty little squirt bottle they give you to “service” yourself!!!) I also learned my baby could care less if she was wearing the cutest outfit ever I found on Etsy, a plain white onesie from the clearance aisle at Walmart, or just chilling half naked in diaper and a swaddle blanket.

Moral of the story? As cool as diaper genies, wipe warmers, and battery operated aspirators are, you really just need the basics starting out! As long as your baby is well fed, clean, warm, healthy, and has a safe place to sleep and be transported from here to there, you are set up for success!

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#6 – You really CAN do it.

There seriously was a moment when it was finally go time and I was pushing and bringing our daughter into this world after nine LONGGGG but amazing months of varying emotions, horomones, morning sickness, Braxton Hicks, stretch marks, and emergency late night Taco Bell runs where I panicked and thought to myself, there’s no freaking way. I can’t do this!!!! Shove it back up there and I’ll cross my legs real tight! This can’t happen! Not today, Jose’!

There was also a moment where my doctor reminded me she was already halfway out, and I literally didn’t have a choice, so I knew I had to just buck up buttercup and give it my all until it was done.

Y’all, the woman body is INCREDIBLE and should definitely be dignified more for all the things it can endure and bounce back from. I’m serious. They don’t prepare you for what happens after the pain meds wear off or your adrenaline slows down and they take your catheter out and you have to pee on your own and you take a first glimpse “down there” after birth and scream Oh, my God! It’s wrecked forever!!! I have a freaking UDDER!!!

Then you get home and literally EVERYTHING is so sore and you walk funny and have to sit sideways on an ice pack like a hen on eggs for three weeks straight until you finally recover while being the most sleep deprived and exhausted you’ve ever been in your entire life, but you know you will probably never “sleep” again because you still have to take care of your precious little one (hey, at least she’s adorable!!!) and life still goes on anyway, when you swear you could fall over dead at any second.

If there’s one thing motherhood has taught me about myself, it would be that I’m fairly certain there is nothing I can’t handle or make it through now. Even when the nights are long and she’s screaming her head off for no apparent reason for a solid two hours straight and I’m so overwhelmed and exhausted and I feel like I am going to explode, I survive and live long enough to blog about it! Mommas, we are TOUGH. God made us to handle the unimaginable and multitask on a level unlike any other, because He knew we were capable of just throwing our hair up in a messy bun, chugging an oversized mug of coffee, cranking some gangster rap from time to time, and just handling it! (You’re welcome, by the way, for getting Ice Ice Baby stuck in your head!)

Just when you think you’re at your wits end, you find a way to hold and feed your baby with one hand while pumping, folding a basket of laundry, and crying to your momma on the phone for advice with the other. Somehow, we make it! Even those of us who, while all of this chaos is going on, are also sitting helplessly on the couch watching their toddlers and other kids throw fits, terrorize each other, and tear up the house faster than a tornado in upstate Kansas. (Haven’t ventured into that journey myself quite yet since I have one child, but I can only imagine it’s stressful for those of you who live this out every day! I pray for patience and strength and good wine for you!)

It absolutely gets really hard sometimes, especially when the baby blues and for some, postpartum depression sets in after the newness and excitement of a newborn wears off and no one comes to visit or help you anymore and you’re stuck in an empty and messy house until your loved one gets home or someone comes over to relieve you for half an hour so you can at least take a shower long enough where you don’t have to make the impulse decision of whether or not you’re going to finish shampooing your hair or shave your legs because the baby is screaming and all Hell is breaking loose on the other side of that shower curtain.

Hard times are inevitable. But friends, in these times let’s give ourselves some grace, realize that the hard days might be LONGGGG but the years are oh so short with our sweet babies, embrace the good moments for all they’re worth, and just breathe until we find a way to ride out the storm until it passes.

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To say that motherhood has been a whirlwind so far is definitely an understatement! I can honestly say that in my 24 years of life, nothing has ever wore me out more yet made me happier and so full of overwhelming love. As I sit here watching our sweet baby girl sleep and am reminiscing about the past five weeks since we brought her home, I cannot believe literally how fast the times are already flying and all the fun memories we’ve had so far.

My friends, we are so incredibly blessed with this gift of motherhood, every single one of us.

I know that these tidbits of wisdom someone shared with me that I am now passing on to you  (that literally took me every bit of the past five weeks to blog in between naps and feedings and pumping sessions, of course) will be closely tucked away in my Mommy Toolbox whenever I need them to remind me to simply soak it all in and ENJOY it.

Every single exhausting and stressful and scary and fun and altogether amazing bit of it.

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Simplify.

To Be More….With Less.

It’s no secret, you guys.

I’m kind of a perfectionist.

The longer I trek through my twenty-somethings I am becoming well aware of how this has impacted all areas of my life — some in good ways and some, well…let’s just say it’s not pretty.

It seems like every time January 1st rolls around each year, I go to Walmart or Mardel’s and get this fancy journal with an inspirational Bible verse on the front cover and matching gel pens and I make this long, ridiculous, detailed, color-coded, alphabetized and highlighted list with cute-sy swirls and hearts and what-have-you’s about things I am going to do to “make myself a better person”. (See? Told ya I was a perfectionist!)

I start out jotting down one or two fairly simple and realistic goals but the problem is a new one pops in my head and I get on such a roll that I literally just. Can’t. Stopppp.

I’m going to make my bed every day. Do 100 sit-ups and go for a mile walk every day, rain or shine. Learn to highlight and contour my face and do more with my hair than just throwing it in a boring braid or messy bun and rolling out the door. Make a Dave Ramsey budget spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel and religiously document every single penny we spend. Clean out the closet and thoroughly clean at least once every new season. Alphabetize the DVD’s in the TV stand. Make five new friends. Create a scrapbook of our wedding photos from four years ago that I STILL have never printed off. Practice piano for twenty minutes a day. Get all the dishes and laundry done and house picked before I go to bed. Have the most stellar and detailed lesson plans known to man-kind and teacherhood. Make 2-3 crock pot meals on average per week. Quit drinking soda and eating junk food cold turkey. Read the entire Bible in a year (but secretly betting myself I can do it in about two or three months if I read several chapters a day!!!! Pin a rose on my nose!)

And on and on and on…..

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I get all hyped up about it and am real committed….for about the first week. I cross off Goal #1 almost immediately. #2 and #3 are usually quick to follow. By about Goal #4 the Momentum Train is starting to slow down, but hey! At least it’s still a rollin’!!

But then…I slowly crawl to Goal #5. I look down at the list I scribbled — or more like calligraphed –in my fancy notebook with an inspirational Bible verse on the front cover with my matching gel pens and all the cute-sy swirls and hearts and what-have-you’s and realized I’ve filled about FIFTY lines and several pages out of endless to-do’s that are staring back at me, burning into the inner depths of my soul. (**Insert heart palpitations and cold sweats here**)

Then I look at my calendar and realize it’s only January 7 and I am literally already so EXHAUSTED with Project Get My Life Together: 2017 Editionand I’m not even maybe a sixteenth of the way through my goals. I also realize I forgot to wash a plate from last night’s dinner and oh, yeah! Guess who didn’t make her bed this morning??? I mean, no one else knows or cares I already broke the rules, but I know. I TOTALLY KNOW. Then I get overwhelmed and ugly cry in the shower because I realize maybe I am NOT really a better person after all and have severe commitment issues.

Then I have to console myself with a cookie…which, by the way, totally breaks Goal #23.

And I do this to myself.

Every. Stinking. Year.

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Needless to say…you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to calculate how THAT one has worked out for me…

So, this year is going to be different. No seriously, I mean it this time. Because I am going to take the same concept of bettering myself a little each day but apply it in a much more realistic approach with a support system who is doing the same thing alongside me. I choose to believe that life doesn’t have to be SO. HARD. anymore.

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One of the missions some of my sideline sisters in my Arbonne business and I have recently challenged each other to do this year as part of our personal growth and development is to each pick and commit to just one word — yes, ONE word….not 50 bullet points in a journal — that we are going to focus all our energy and attention towards every day in 2018 until it becomes a habit. The idea is that every day you reflect on your word and what you are personally going to do during that day to put it into action. Once we spend 365 days mastering this word by applying small things to our daily lives, they eventually grow to yield big results. Then, we will pick a new word and move on to the next year. Simply wash, rinse, and repeat!

And you guys….it’s totally MANAGEABLE. We just write our word down on something as simple as a sticky note where we can look at it every day and remind ourselves how we are going to make it happen.

A sticky note??? Are you kidding me?? This is GOLD! I mean, I didn’t even have to buy a fancy journal or a single gel pen or anything! This, my friends, is what you call do-able.

Disclaimer** This obviously is definitely not our own original idea, but we are borrowing it from this increasingly popular social experiment that’s been going around called My One Word. If you have never heard of it, you should definitely check it out here! It’s good stuff! http://myoneword.org/

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The really amazing thing that I’ve loved about this challenge so far is that we all have chosen different words that serve us, and it is so inspiring to hear everyone’s journeys and what they are doing to live out their words daily. We are all on the same ultimate mission — not necessarily to Be The Best, but to simply Do Our Best — however we all have our own spiritual and personal journeys we are taking until we get there. I don’t know that anyone ever necessarily “arrives” at their final destination of being the very best that they can be, because after all isn’t the idea that you always have something else you can do more effectively or intentionally? I know I certainly haven’t arrived. But in all honestly…I really don’t ever want to arrive.

Because that ultimately means I have stopped learning and growing and my journey is over. And I can’t settle with that.

If there’s one thing I have really come to know about myself, it is that I am one that seems to be always seeking something. It may seem obsessive, but I don’t ever want my wanderlust thirst to become more than I am right now to ever be fully quenched! I WANT to be inspired. I LONG to feel accomplished. I DESIRE to leave my fingerprints on this world long after I’m gone. However, unlike in years past, I realize that what I NEED is to make goal setting more realistic and less stressful if I want anything good to come out of it.

So the word I have chosen for 2018 is simplify. (And no, it’s not because I teach middle school math, although that ironically does relate…)

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It’s because it’s time to learn how to be content. To be intentional. To be happier. To give more of myself to the Lord, my students, my clients, my friends, and my family. To actually have a nice “flow” to my life — rather than constantly flying by the seat of my pants.

To be more…with less.

So essentially I start out my mornings asking myself what I am going to do to “simplify” my life today. Then I do it because I say I’ll do it. And life is slowly improving all the way around already.

For example, yesterday to make my day go smoother I decided to get up half an hour early. I hit my Bible and got my daily devotion and prayer in first thing before my feet hit the floor. I ate a good breakfast, packed my lunch, and got to work earlier. I greeted my students with a smile at the door and spent the first part of each hour letting them each have their time to share what the highlights of their Christmas Break were before jumping into what I needed them to do right away — which made them more efficient and me less grumpy! I had some unexpected extra plan time that allowed me to get ahead on lesson plans and grading so now I won’t be behind for next week. When I got home I put away two baskets of laundry as soon as they came out of the dryer instead of letting it set until the weekend when I would have three more on top of that to deal with. I devoted an entire hour towards solely working my Arbonne business instead of waiting until month-end closing week to finally “get with it”. I got my clothes set out for school the next day so I wouldn’t be so rushed getting ready the next morning. I enjoyed some meaningful pillow talk with my husband before kissing him goodnight and got some quality reading time in after he fell asleep instead of scrolling through my Facebook news feed until the wee hours of the morning.

And it was a great day!

Now, granted I didn’t get my bed made and the dishes are definitely NOT done but it didn’t ruin my entire day or make me feel like a failure like it would have last year! And the even better news? Because I managed my time better yesterday, today went smoother and I actually have more time and energy to take care of other things now!

Like doing those dishes and writing this blog… =)

And tomorrow will be even easier because of what I did to “simplify” my life today. I can only imagine what my life will look and feel like after 365 days of this!

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And yeah, yeah, yeah…..I realize it’s literally only the fourth day of the new year and I’m normally a creature of habit that gives it up after the newness wears off and reality sets in, but I can feel a totally different shift with this particular challenge than any of the New Year challenges I had ever set before. I can tell that this is a plan I CAN stick to. It works because it’s simple! No cold sweats and heart palpitations for this girl!!! #WinWin

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So as we have officially launched into 2018, I want to challenge my readers to also pick One Word to focus on. Write it down on a sticky note, old receipt in your wallet, napkin in your glove box, your bathroom mirror, or whatever you have available. Commit to doing small tasks every day that lead you to master and live out that word. Remember that what you didn’t have time to get to today is merely a great starting point for a task to conquer tomorrow, so there is no need to stress about it. Have a friend or co-worker or loved one do this challenge with you, too!

Then sit back and watch the beauty of it all unfold. #2018vibes #itsagoodyeartohaveagoodyear

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Becoming More.

So this past weekend I attended the trip of a lifetime.

And mind you, I get around. (Hey now! Shame on you…I was talking about traveling!)

I’ve watched the sun set over the Rocky Mountains and have stood in awe on the edge of the Grand Canyon just trying to take it all in. I have hiked the Great Wall of China and have scaled a waterfall by a hot air balloon in upstate New York. I’ve white water rafted in the Smoky Mountains and have touched the Florida sky from the comfort of a fairly tattered parasail harness.

While these adventures have undeniably engraved their way into my fondest memories of my life so far, there was just something so different about this trip that set it apart from all the others.

It was here — at a simple two day leadership training retreat in small town Oklahoma amidst 45 other powerful women in a perfect stranger’s living room (who were all hyped up on gluten-free oreo truffles and chocolate covered strawberries and maybe a little tipsy on champagne) — that I learned to become more.

I will be completely transparent here. When I first learned I had earned this trip along with some of my dearest friends for our success in our recent small business through an amazing health and wellness company called Arbonne, I was ecstatic of course because I had heard other consultants raving about how life-changing this weekend would be, but I was also a wee bit nervous. To be enclosed in a small space with 45 women who I didn’t know very well all talking about our feelings and struggles we have faced in not only our businesses but also our personal lives??

Holy toledo. That’s A LOTTTTTTT of estrogen. I mean, are there even enough Kleenexes in the world for this?

I knew I was definitely packing a bag and jumping in the car and going, but I really didn’t know what to expect beyond that.

When we first arrived after a long 3 ½ hour commute, I opened the door to National Vice President Miranda Burcham’s house and my jaw immediately hit the floor. Aside from the fact that her home looked worthy enough to be showcased in some HGTV magazine and that I was pretty certain my little house could fit in her dining room alone, all I could really focus on is that there were people EVERYWHERE, which made my anxiety plummet through her vaulted ceiling roof.

How nice. I don’t know anyone here…and I’m definitely underdressed…

Oh look! Someone I recognize! I’ve seen her at trainings before….her name is, wait…is it Karen? Beth? Louise? Crap!…she’s walking over to me and I can’t remember her name…

Okay, so we established two things in the entire five seconds I’ve been here….her name is definitely Pam and I’m an idiot…

Okay, so now I find my name tag and put it on? I don’t see my name…did they forget about me? I did earn this trip, right? What if I’m not supposed to be here? Oh God, did I accidentally crash a high class retreat?

Whew! There’s my name tag. I’m not crazy. Now to find a seat because we’re starting in five minutes…except there are no more seats. It’s fine, I will sit on the floor.

In front of everyone which is sort of awkward…

Wait….icebreakers? Go around the room and introduce yourself and tell something interesting??? These people are talking about being arrested for something hilarious and how they have fed the homeless in Haiti and all I can think about is that I have a one-eared cat named Albert…which is super weird. I can’t do this…

Ooohhh…I spy a platter of chocolate covered strawberries…now, I can definitely do THAT…

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So to summarize here, I’m basically a professional when it comes to anxiety and social awkwardness. But once the first session started, I immediately started to feel a shift I had never felt before.

Now, please note that if I were to write about every little thing I experienced in those two days, you would not be reading a simple little blog in the spare five or ten minutes you have set aside right now. Truthfully, I would have to write a book for you to read — no, more like a series of novels — to get it all out.

And let’s be real. Neither one of us probably have the time for that.

But what I will do is share some of my biggest takeaways that went from being simple tips and tricks to kickstart my Arbonne business to evolving into much deeper life lessons and convictions.

I’m no psychic, but my guess is like me some of you probably struggle with similar battles in your careers, relationships, friendships, spiritual life, or maybe even in your heart and mind and could also use these tidbits of wisdom to help you overcome them.

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1 – There is power in the comeback.

I can’t even begin to explain the impact of all the stories that were shared, right there in Miranda’s living room. Stories about unimaginable loss of loved ones. Stories about promoting to a certain level in the company and then losing it all and having to restart from square one. Stories about people who have been hurt by the people who should have cared for them the most. Stories about spouses leaving spouses to be single parents in the worst possible time when everything else came crashing down.

Stories about comebacks.

Listening to these women pour their hearts out to a complete stranger like me about how they were forced to rise above when life got hard was such a wake up call that reminded me of my own story, and I began to think about it even deeper.

So many people know that I have just recently launched my Arbonne business on the side of teaching and photography. They know that I LOVE LOVE LOVE every second of it and probably even think I’ve gone a little crazy with it, because I literally live and breathe it in my everyday life and it’s become almost all I talk about anymore. But what most people don’t know is why I started this business in the first place.

 

About four months ago I was the lowest of lows I had ever been and was seriously ready to end it all. I felt like crap all the time. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating…and when I did it was the worst possible food that obviously wasn’t serving my body the way I needed it to in order to survive a busy hectic day. I was solely running on strong coffee and gas station energy drinks. I couldn’t even wrap my head around having kids because I was so overstimulated with everything else around me going on. I wasn’t happy in my career. I was a grouch to my students then came home even more unpleasant. I shut people out…especially my husband who was my biggest supporter through it all. I was bitter towards the people who hurt me severely in my past and let it over-consume me. And I felt guilty about all of it. I remember laying in bed at night praying to God for some opportunity to come my way that would help me understand my purpose in this world. “God, what am I supposed to do? I am NOT happy and there has to be more than being a punching bag to my own life. What do YOU want from me?”

Two days later my friend Erika messaged me about Arbonne, explaining how she had a life changing opportunity she wanted to share with me because she knew I would be amazing at it.

And I am thoroughly convinced if she never did, I don’t know that I would be writing these words you’re reading right now.

Erika had NO idea how desperate I was for any opportunity at all to get out of the rut I felt I was sinking in. She had no idea I desperately needed this business — not for the delicious protein shakes or the amazing mascara — but for survival.

I came face to face with the reality that if I wanted something in my life to change, I would have to be the one to move and change it myself. Even if it wasn’t easy. Even if I had always had bad experiences with direct sales and vowed I would never become one of those people. I was definitely scared to try it, but was even more terrified of what would happen if I never even took the chance. So, with every fear and hesitation and millionth excuse anyone could possibly think of for reasons NOT TO DO the business, I chose to TO DO it for one reason.

I had to make a comeback.

So here I am, four months later, re-writing my story through an incredible business that I almost said no to. And boy, am I so glad I put faith over fear! Believe me when I say my life is changing because of the positive people I am constantly surrounded by, the focus I have to set and conquer goals, and the vision I now have to do more and trust God’s calling on my life. I am not 100% out of the darkness and there are days when the devil tries to sneak in and claim victory over my weakness. But I am on the right path to a new, better me inside and out and know where I am going.

And that, my friends, is liberating.

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2 – Are you playing to win, or playing not to lose?

If you ever want someone to call you out on your crap, tell you there are no excuses, and order you put your big girl panties on and basically “suck it up buttercup”, I highly recommend listening to Linda Parker who is an executive national vice president in the company. (Which, by the way, you can access her calls on YouTube or soundcloud!)

Whoa, buddy….talk about a powerhouse leader!

I sat at her feet for two straight hours just taking everything she said in and didn’t even care that my buttcheeks were so numb and I had to pee half an hour ago…because she was just THAT. GOOD.

The biggest statement I remember most from her coaching was “Are you playing to win, or playing not to lose?”

Holy crap, Batman. That’s deep.

How many of us play it safe in our life because it’s easier? How many of us talk ourselves out of overachieving just to do the bare minimum because, well, that’s good enough? How many of us whine and rant to our friends and family and make excuses for when something is too hard instead of taking a step back, figuring out what going wrong, and finding a solution? How many of us get to a certain goal and then decide we’ve gone as far as we can, so we stop setting bigger, more complex goals that really require us to get out of our comfort zone?

Well, I’ll raise my hand if no one else will….

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What a call to action to knock it off, pick ourselves up when we stumble, and press on to greater heights! The truth is this world can’t afford for us to play small. To put this into personal perspective, if Erika had never reached out to me — basically a stranger she knew very little about — who knows where would be?

Or if I would even still be here at all.

Dramatic? Maybe. But true? Absolutely. So how dare I sit on the side lines and play small when there are so many more people out there who need this incredible opportunity that I have at my fingertips, just like I so desperately needed it four months ago without even realizing it.

It’s time to stop making excuses and start making an impact.

3 – Make up a story that serves YOU.

One of the exercises we were coached to do is write down three facts or things that have happened in our lives. We then had to write down the stories that we have told ourselves based on those facts.

It wasn’t pretty.

For example:

Fact – My real dad left me when I was 3 years old.

Story – There must be something wrong with me. I’m wasn’t good enough to make him stay.

 

Fact – I didn’t make the varsity volleyball team in high school.

Story – I suck at sports.I should have never tried out. What a humiliation!

 

Fact – I didn’t reach the goals I had set last month in my business.

Story – I’m bad at being a consultant and don’t know if I have what it takes to do this.

Whoa. Talk about Negative Nancy, right???

Funny how after you write the things you constantly think about and tell yourself down on paper and read them aloud how they make you stop and think about how personal you’ve been taking everything your whole life. I realized how I have been playing the victim instead of the victor all along in every situation where life threw me a curveball. No wonder I am generally not a confident person! How can I be when all I tell myself is how much I’m unworthy?

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So after this epiphany, we then had a major heart to heart about how these stories were obviously not fixing anything and not serving us the way that they should. Bad things happen. Annoying things happen. That’s life. We can’t change that.

But what we can change is the stories we come up with when these things do happen.

Sooo….time for a divine intervention! We then took our old stories and rewrote them into positive stories that actually served us. The results were crazy eye opening!

Fact – My real dad left me when I was 3 years old.

NEW Story – I will be a better parent because of this. I can also be a testimony to my students who have had a parent who walked out in their life. I could even open my heart and home to adoption or fostering someday and be the loving, involved parent that my real dad never was to a child in need.

 

Fact – I didn’t make the varsity volleyball team in high school.

Story – Sports may not be my thing, but at least I can say I tried! Time to find something else I’m good at.

 

Fact – I didn’t reach the goals I had set last month in my business.

Story – Every business builder has struggles, and I’m not the only one! November is a new month. I know what didn’t work last month and how I can fix it to be more successful this month. Time to get to work!

Better, right? What an easy way to change your perspective. ** See ya, Negative Nancy!

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4 – Don’t be a dreamer, be a vision caster.

One of the things my team’s national vice president Lisa Dooley challenged us to do in our businesses and lives is to not just have a dream for what could happen, but cast a vision of exactly what that moment would look like when we reach the goals we have set our hearts on.

Because if you really think about it, a dream is just a wish or fantasy, but a vision is more of a reality.

I got to thinking how this applies to my business. One of my biggest goals is to become a regional vice president by the time I am 25 years old. Before last weekend, this was really only a figment of my imagination. I could only dream of getting a paycheck that would not only replace my income but also my husband’s income and allow us more choice to start blessing others in bigger ways we can’t do with our current paychecks — but I wasn’t actually envisioning it getting deposited into our checking account. I could only dream of driving that white Mercedes Benz that the company rewards you with when you promote to a vice president — but I wasn’t actually “smelling the leather”. I could only dream about having the finances, time freedom, and conviction to travel the world and sponsor missions trips or build homes in third world countries — but I wasn’t actually visualizing myself standing on the beaches of Haiti with a team of soul-on-fire consultants working alongside me because I led them there.

I always thought it would be freaking awesome, but in my heart it didn’t really seem like a possibility because I was only thinking about these things occasionally when I would drift off into La La Land. I wasn’t actually painting the picture of what that moment would look like. Feel like. Smell like. Even taste like. And if I wasn’t painting the picture, I definitely wasn’t painting myself in it. No wonder it seemed so surreal and not possible!

So again, my goal is to become a regional vice president. But it’s no longer just a dream. It’s a vision. My vision.

It is October 1, 2018 and I am a REGIONAL vice president!! Life is good today. It smells and tastes like pancakes and bacon, because I am actually HOME with my family making breakfast before Kurtis goes off to work. We have just finished remodeling our dream home and I just unpacked the LAST box — and there a white Mercedes parked in the garage. Over breakfast, we are talking about our new goals and are even considering sponsoring money to our church for a missions trip to Australia. My birthday is in 18 more days and I will be blowing out my candles in Jamaica with my husband and our 5 month old baby with other families in the business on the Arbonne Incentive Trip. I have also recently promoted 4 new district managers and 2 new area managers. One is in qualification for region! Next comes nation!

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So, yeah. Wasn’t kidding when I said last weekend was the trip of a lifetime!

It’s so crazy to think of how much my perspectives have changed since joining this business and how it’s impacting so many other areas in my life. I mean, I almost have to laugh.

I used to think direct sales people were annoying. Thank goodness not all of them are like that and some actually have a vision to change their lives….and then this world.

I used to think that to be successful in this business you had to know a lot of people and be a good talker. Thank goodness you just have to be is passionate about helping others and willing to build new relationships!

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I used to think you had to win every challenge, incentive trip, and promotion out there to make it to the top. Thank goodness all you have to do is have grit and determination to stick around when it gets hard!

I used to think you had to know everything about everything in order to have credibility. Thank goodness all you have to know is how to ask or where to go for help until you figure it out!

I used to think that stress was just a normal part of being an adult and that would never really change. Thank goodness it doesn’t have to be that way, if you are willing to get up and change it yourself!

And to think all this came from a simple two day conference in Oklahoma with 45 women I didn’t know, which really all stemmed from a decision four months ago to take a chance on something I was completely terrified to do.

I will tell you all a million times over that the reason I do this business is not about being part of some pyramid get-rich-quick scheme and conning others into jumping on my bandwagon. It’s not about having my skin looking flawless and my nutrition on point. It’s not about my stats on my dashboard website or the number of sign-ups I got last month. It’s not about making bookoos of money and having my name and face in the latest Arbonne catalog. It’s honestly not even really about me at all.

It’s about paying it forward and becoming more for this world that is desperately waiting for me to change it.

And I can’t wait to see who all will rise up to the challenge and join me in this life-changing endeavor.

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Closing Time

Because moving on is part of moving forward.

Today was quite the day, you guys.


It was my last official day as an agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor for Niangua R-V High School. {And before you say anything like “shouldn’t you already be off for the summer and toes-deep in the sand on some beach somewhere sippin’ a pina colada?” please note that ag teachers are on a 12 month contract from July to June, which basically means we are running on auto-pilot 24/7, 365 days a year. We also drink our coffee very very very very black, eat drive-thru’s on the daily, and have mastered the art of sleeping with our eyes open. True story. }

So June is already here and gone. This morning I took my last hour-long drive through all those hills, curves, and miles of countryside that I’ve come to know by heart – as they have carried me in their arms this entire year, pumping me up for my mornings and winding me down at the end of another long day. I threw away the last poster from my wall, peeled sticky tack off my bulletin boards, and cleaned the rest of my highlighters and sticky notes and bobby pins and scented Germ-X out of my desk. I loaded boxes and boxes of all my lesson plans, family pictures, Hobby Lobby decorations, plaques, and my old FFA jacket in the back of my car. I unplugged my coffee pot and emptied the mini fridge that hid my jug of sweet tea when I needed an afternoon caffeine boost and all my chocolate for when I needed that little sugar rush while staying late grading papers. I hugged some co-workers goodbye…and may have also left sappy notes in their mailboxes.

{ Yeah buddy, I’m THAT girl. }

I watered the greenhouse and swept my shop floor one final time. I turned in my keys for the new teacher coming along and took my name tag off my door. And I sat one more time in my squeaky chair and stared at all those empty desks that not too long ago were full of the students that became “my kids” this past year.

Right here in this little room that was home for so many of us who desperately needed it.

We did a lot of learning and growing in this tiny classroom. We lived, we loved, and we laughed.

Also, we killed LOTSSSS of spiders.

We had heart-to-hearts before the morning tardy bell sounded and deep life discussions before the last bell of the day rang. A lot of “your mom” jokes were fired {okay, so I’m not the most “politically correct” teacher there ever was…} and many General’s Orders for saying cuss words out loud were written. In this room I prayed in desperation, cursed in frustration, cried in defeat, smiled in proudness, and celebrated in triumph. In this room I sat in this very chair one year ago as a first year teacher – so fragile, like a paper airplane in a hurricane – thinking there was no way I’d survive it all.

But, here I am, still soaring.

Last year’s beginning is already today’s end…and I really can’t believe it.

And I won’t lie…I’m a little unsteady about what’s coming next for me as my identity will soon completely change from a high school ag teacher to a middle school math and science teacher.

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However, as this bittersweet conclusion to a beautiful journey I’ve experienced this past year has officially drawn to an end, I know it’s now the start of a new and exciting chapter in my life story. And for that, I am happy.

I am really, genuinely happy.

In a month I will hang different posters in my new classroom and decorate new bulletin boards. My pictures and plaques and little personal touches will be unboxed again, a million new nail holes will plaster the walls, and new students will soon come rushing through my door. My Pinterest Lesson Plan board will slowly evolve from “parts of a cow” and “welding tips” to all things osmosis, phases of the moon, solving inequalities, and the Pythagorean Theorem. I will exchange all those red staff polos and Cardinal’s T-Shirts in the back of my closet with purple and gold ones that say “Hermitage Hornets” on them. I will make new memories, befriend new co-workers, experience new challenges, and achieve new and greater heights.

And above all I will keep learning and growing and loving all those kiddos on my new class roster, even if I do roast them with a “your mom” joke from time to time.

{Don’t worry, I DO know when there’s a time and place for it…** insert eye roll here**}

I know good things are ahead for this girl, although some amazing memories and that old weathered “Welcome to Niangua” sign will soon be in my rear-view for good. 

It’s hard, but it’s time.

It’s time to roll the windows down, crank those speakers, and let my hair fly in the breeze as I press on down this new road, because after all; moving on is part of moving forward.

And what a coincidence that the song jamming on my playlist this very moment by one of my all-time favorite 90’s bands just happens to be the perfect summary for it all.

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So, what more is there really left to say?

Except…

On to the next adventure.

 

Oh yeah, and I also need gas…

 

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