Do Over.

Well, here I am again, and once again, I have completely neglected this poor blog. I’ve been wanting to try to get back into blogging for awhile, and I finally got the kick in the pants that I needed.

One of my favorite Christian speakers/authors, Jon Acuff, issued a challenge to his blog/Twitter/email/etc followers & subscribers: a do-over challenge. On January 1st, he sent out an PDF to everyone who signed up that contained worksheets for 10 days that were to help us set aside at least 10 minutes a day to devote to an area in our lives that we wanted to try to do over.

I hesitated to sign up at first. Honestly, I don’t like to commit to things like that, because if I “fail” at them, then I feel like a loser. But, at the same time, it gives me the motivation to do something. This makes it harder to excuse just sitting around the house all day. I blame a lot of things, and yes, I have two boys under two years old, and it’s basically chaos 90% of the time in my house, but that’s still not a good excuse. If I ever want things to change, then I need to step it up and make time to improve myself. So, here I am again with this blog.

Honestly, I don’t know if anyone will read this blog. It’s so intimidating to even think about trying to resurrect this, because there are about a gazillion blogs out there, and it’s hard to think that anyone would ever actually notice mine. But even if no one does, I know I need to do this for myself.

I love my boys (ages 16 months and 1 month), but my life has been completely taken over by kid stuff. I never really get time to myself anymore. I read board books more than all the books I have waiting for me on shelves and in my Kindle. I watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Clifford the Big Red Dog on a daily basis, and can’t tell you the last time I’ve just sat down to watch a movie and relax. I have children’s songs stuck in my head constantly. Sometimes, I just need to feel like an adult again. I need to feel like someone who has a college degree and is fairly intelligent. I need to keep my writing skills sharpened and up to date. And sometimes, I just need to get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper–or, in this case, a webpage.

So here we go. It’s a new year, and my word for the year is “change.” I want to change a lot of things this year, stop making excuses, and really enjoy my life, my marriage, and my kids. Here’s to small beginnings!

Mom, Dad, and Classic Rock: A Tribute.

True Story: When I was growing up, my mom used to sing classic rock songs to us instead of traditional “kids” music, or lullabies. The reason why I know almost all the words to Bohemian Rhapsody? Only because of my mom singing it around the house all the time. I used to think she was so weird. I mean, who sings Queen to their preschoolers? And how does she know all the words to it anyway? That song is so bizarre.

And not only did she sing us classic rock songs, she would make up her own words to them at times. She would personalize them and sing them about us, our siblings, our pets, whatever. It’s cute when you’re a kid, but when you get older and your mom is still singing songs about the cats instead of the real words to Smoke on the Water, it’s a little embarrassing. Also embarrassing? My dad playing air guitar and air drums when he would “rock out” to his albums. And not just in front of us. In front of my friends too. As a teenager, I just wanted to crawl into a hole and hide when he would do that. I mean, honestly, who does that in front of their kids’ friends?

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I appreciate the music I grew up with. I hear REO Speedwagon and Journey on the radio, and it brings back memories of being at home–all of us together, working on school work, or cleaning the house or something, or seeing my mom and dad rock out with their air guitars on the weekends in the living room. I love classic rock and I know I never would have without my parents’ influence.

It’s not just the music, though. I realize I appreciate my parents and how they raised me as well. Yeah, we were a little non-traditional. Yes, they embarrassed me countless times. But now I know I wouldn’t trade it-or them-for the world. And I am probably going to end up raising Jack the same way. When I was pregnant, my favorite song to sing to him in my belly was Don’t Stop Believin’. He liked it too–he would always kick and move around. He still likes it when I sing it to him. I realize now that my mom just sang us what she knew. Yeah, they weren’t “kids” songs, but she did it because she loved us and just wanted to sing to us and make us happy. I sang Wonderwall to Jack as his lullaby a few weeks ago. He didn’t know it wasn’t a traditional lullaby. He just liked hearing my voice. As I’m typing this, we’re listening to a Rockabye Baby CD–Lullaby Renditions of Bon Jovi. Earlier we had on Lullaby Renditions of Journey. Truth be told, I’d rather listen to this stuff than regular kids music, anyway. That stuff is lame.

Hopefully I won’t embarrass Jack too much as he gets older. But, I’ll continue on the tradition of singing rock songs and my own parodies to him. Maybe one day he’ll appreciate it like I do now. Just yesterday, I heard Bohemian Rhapsody on the radio and I had to smile as I sang along. That song will forever connect me to my parents, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

(And now it’ll be stuck in my head for the rest of the day….”I see a little silhouetto of a man, Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?” What do those words even mean?)

sing along

Uninspired.

One of the things I wanted to do this year was to blog and write more. Clearly, that has not happened yet. I’ve just felt so uninspired lately for some reason. I had all these grand ideas of what I would do with my free time once I graduated (if you didn’t know–I did graduate! I have my Bachelor’s degree now, and tons of extra time! It’s amazing.). But….if I’m being honest, I spend most of that time hanging out with Jack on the couch, reading and watching Netflix.

I’m basically a stay at home mom now, besides working 3 evenings a week at the restaurant. I love it–I had no idea how much I missed him while I was in school until I got the chance to actually be with him all day every day. However, it’s not easy. Especially with him still being so young, I’m constantly having to entertain him, or feed him, or change him, or clean up messes, or something. As my sister in law told me after babysitting him for a couple hours, it’s a full time job. So there’s not much time left for things like writing. I’m still trying to get my house organized from the holidays. I’ve come to realize that with a baby, I can get things done, but basically only halfway. So I have a lot of projects that are half done. It doesn’t make me feel very productive.

But I’ve come to realize that I need to keep writing. I mean, my degree is in English, and I’d like to get a writing/editing job at some point, so I need to stay current. I can’t keep improving if I’m just binge watching Scandal all day. And sometimes I get bored with only a 5 month old to talk to. Writing helps me feel like an adult again, with a life outside of teethers, bouncy seats, sleepers, and burp rags.

But here’s the thing: sometimes writing is scary. Especially writing online. You’re putting yourself out there, your thoughts and feelings, for anyone and everyone to read and form an opinion about. It’s a very vulnerable state to be in, and honestly, one of the reasons why I haven’t pursued anything that would help my writing career yet is because it’s a scary thing to do. What if I’m not as good as I think I am? Why if people don’t like my writing, or aren’t interested in what I have to say? But I know I have to do it. I’ve been researching some things, and I found a Twitter account that tweets quotes by writers about writing, and it has started to break through my state of apathy towards writing. I also started this book that’s supposed to help inspire and overcome writer’s block by making lists of random things: specific moments in life, your likes and dislikes, fears, ambitions, etc. It’s interesting.

So here’s to a new year, and hopefully some new inspiration and lots of writing!

writing quote

You are Not Defeated.

As some of you know, I’m a full time student, along with being a new mom with an almost three month old baby, and I serve on the weekends. For those of you who aren’t lucky enough to hear me rant on at least a weekly basis, let me just tell you that being a college student, a mother, and a server is about ten different kinds of crazy. My cousin asked me the other day how I was getting through it. I told her, “a lot of caffeine and the grace of God.” I was really only being partly sarcastic. Sometimes I really don’t know how I’m making it through. The past couple of weeks have been really tough. I’ve just had tons of projects and assignments due, I’ve barely gotten any sleep, and I’ve felt extremely overwhelmed with everything. I was have a really hard time.

Sunday, I decided to try to make it to church. Jack and I haven’t gone since he’s been born, because it’s just kind of chaotic to try to get both of us out the door early enough to go with Alex. But we were having some special guests, so I wanted to try to go. Daniel Bashta was leading worship, the guy who wrote the song “Like a Lion (God’s Not Dead).” I’ll admit, one of the reasons I decided to go was mainly because I love that song.

So I was standing there during worship, while singing “Like a Lion” and all I could think about was how overwhelmed I felt, and everything I had to do at home. I just sighed and thought “I feel so defeated.” And immediately, God gently said to me, “You are not defeated.” I felt a glimmer of hope and strength rise up in me. I wasn’t defeated? I wasn’t defeated! Then I started really focusing on the words to the song:

Let hope arise and make the darkness hide. My faith is dead, I need a resurrection, somehow….Now I’m lost in your freedom, this world I’ll overcome. My God’s not dead, He’s surely alive, He’s living on the inside, roaring like a lion

I felt like I could’ve written those first couple of lines. But knowing that God was still alive and roaring inside of me even though I felt lifeless and beaten did wonders for me that morning. I’ve had that song in my head non-stop since then.

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One of my favorite images of God has always been a lion. I think it started when I became enthralled with the Chronicles of Narnia books. Ever since then, I’ve always kind of pictured Him like Aslan. I love Aslan. He’s strong and powerful, yet loving and gentle and kind and compassionate. I absolutely love this clip of Aslan and Lucy from the movie Prince Caspian (even though I really wasn’t a fan of the movie). I love how when things looked like they were over, Aslan shows up, just in time.

And then I love, love, love this scene. It’s honestly probably one of my favorite move scenes ever. Lucy goes to face the battle, even though she’s scared, because she knows Aslan’s got her back. So she walks up to the battlefield, faces the enemies head on, and pulls out this little knife. And the huge enemy army is looking around like, “seriously, she’s going to take us on with this little knife?” And then Aslan walks up behind her, and lets out this battle roar, and completely defeats the enemies.

So yeah, that’s what that song always reminds me of, and it really renewed my hope on Sunday. We are not defeated. Just keep telling yourself that, write it down and tape it around the house if you have to, but don’t forget it. I also think it’s important to be honest with ourselves and with God. It’s okay to say “listen, my faith is dead. Help me out here.” He’s a big God–He can handle it. He won’t be mad or disappointed. I believe He longs for us to stop pretending, take down our walls, and just be honest with Him. Only then can He breakthrough and start to help us. I love that we have a God on the inside of us who roars like a lion, but also speaks gently to us to remind us that He is still there.

“Never Let Your Fear Decide Your Fate”

Last week, I was observing a dance class for a writing assignment. I was curious to see how the class would go, because I never took dance while I was growing up. I observed two classes, filled with girls around seven and eight years old. The first one was a hip hop class. It looked super fun, and I actually found myself thinking “hey, I might be able to do this!” (Which, seeing as how these were elementary aged kids, doesn’t say a lot about my dancing “skills.”)

The next class was tap. I was always intrigued by tap dancing when I was little. I loved the click-clacking sounds that the shoes made, and was enthralled at the speed with which the dancer’s feet moved. However, I learned during the 45 minutes or so while I observed this class that tap dancing is not as easy as it looks. The differences between moves are so subtle, I don’t know how anyone can remember them. I was pretty impressed that these little girls could do as well as they did.

About halfway through the lesson, the teacher asked each girl to do a certain move individually so she could see how well they knew it, and what they needed to work on. Most girls needed some improvement, and the teacher was kind in her correction, genuinely trying to help them. After each girl finished the move, they went back to group work. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little girl on the end scrunch her face up and quickly wipe tears out of her eyes. Her face turned red as she tried to hold back tears, while still trying to focus on the moves. One of her classmates noticed her crying and tried to ask if she was okay. She brushed her off, furiously wiping her cheeks. Eventually, the teacher noticed and stopped to make sure everything was okay. The little girl nodded, sniffed, and tried not to get noticed again.

My heart immediately went out to this girl. I knew she wasn’t crying because someone had been mean to her, or because she was hurt. She was frustrated. And embarrassed. Her individual move hadn’t been perfect, and she had gotten corrected. I know this because I used to be that girl. When I was her age, I would’ve cried over the same thing. I have always been a perfectionist, even as young as the students in this class. If I did something and I felt stupid, or it was wrong, or it looked funny, I refused to continue doing it. I would get embarrassed, try to hold back tears, and be miserable for the rest of time spent doing that activity.

One thing I always wanted to do while I was growing up was learn how to play guitar. When I was a teenager, my mom was finally able to sign me up for lessons. I took them at the local library with a group of other kids, all younger than me. We had lessons for a few weeks during the summer, and then at the end, we were supposed to have a performance. We each got to pick out what song we wanted to play for it, and our teacher helped us learn the first verse of it. I picked “Time of Your Life” by Green Day (I know. Don’t judge me.). It was a little tricky, but I was determined to learn it, and I ended up getting the hang of it. But then, on performance day– with my mom, brothers, and best friend there–I messed up my song. I was nervous, and didn’t get the beginning right. Then I became flustered and pretty much screwed up the whole thing. I felt so stupid and completely embarrassed. My mom and friend tried to reassure me that I did fine, but I knew they were lying to me (I was a cynical teenager). I vowed to never play guitar again because, in my eyes, I sucked. Never mind that I’d only been playing for a month or two. I wasn’t perfect, so I wasn’t doing it.

And I never did. I haven’t picked up a guitar since then. And it’s something I regret every time I think about it. Obviously I wasn’t perfect–nobody is born playing the guitar perfectly. But I let my embarrassment and fear control my decisions, and I gave up on something that I had desired for years.

I did that a lot growing up. I really wanted to play basketball when I was in high school, but I decided not to try to join the team, because I was afraid I’d be bad at it. To this day, I will not play volleyball because I messed up during a game at church camp and one of my teammates yelled at me. Back then, it made sense to shut myself off from these things. My unofficial motto was basically “aim low, avoid disappointment.” Now that I look back on it, I realize how much I limited myself. I could have experienced so much more (and probably had a lot more fun) if I had just let myself try new things and hadn’t worried about “failing” at them. I love this quote from J.K. Rowling, and I wish I had made this my motto when I was younger instead:

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all–in which case, you fail by default.”

Now that I’m older, I’m trying to be more intentional about trying new things, and not being worried about what will happen. Last semester, I submitted some of my writing to be considered for publication in our college literary journal. I was scared to death, but I wanted to try. So I did. And you know what? I didn’t get picked. It was a bummer, for sure. But I would’ve never known if I could’ve gotten picked if I hadn’t put myself out there. So I did it again this semester. In all honesty, I probably won’t get picked this semester either. But at least I tried.

My heart broke for that little girl in tap class, because I used to be her. And it wasn’t fun. I had to practically pin myself down to my seat to keep from going over there and wrapping her up in a hug. If I could’ve said anything to her, it would’ve been this: “Don’t quit.” Don’t quit because your move wasn’t perfect. Don’t quit because you got picked last for the team. Don’t quit just because you’re scared. Don’t quit because you’re afraid of what people might think. Don’t quit based on anything that “might” happen. Take a chance. Live a little.

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“Real” Mommyhood.

So, I’ve been a mom for 2 months now. (Well, longer if you count the time that I was pregnant. Which should totally be counted.) But I feel like yesterday I underwent a rite of passage that made me feel like I had become a “real” mommy. Like everything before then was just Mommyhood-lite. What was that all-important event?

Jack got his first round of shots.

Oh, my gosh. The drama that ensued. I mean, for a 2 month old, Jack is pretty dramatic (I have no idea where he gets that from). He screamed bloody murder as soon as the first needle touched his leg and did not stop crying until well after the nurse left the room. I felt so terrible. I held him in my lap as she gave them to him, hoping that would help calm him down, but, not so much.

I couldn’t watch the nurse actually give him the shots. I have this thing where I can’t watch needles go into skin. I’m not really scared of needles, per se….just seeing them go in totally freaks me out. I couldn’t even watch when I got my own tattoo. So I was cringing when she pulled out the needle and prepared to put it in my poor baby’s leg. I think I may have actually closed my eyes as it was going in. I’m sure we made quite a sight–him, red faced and screaming, with his mouth turned down in that pitiful pout he gets, and me, wincing and closing my eyes like I’m getting the shot myself.

But the crazy thing was, I could almost feel it. No, I wasn’t getting any shots. But I swear I could almost feel the pain. And as much as I hate shots (and pain), I wanted to take it for him. I would’ve gladly gotten his shots for him, if it would’ve helped at all. It was such a strange feeling. I’ve never felt that way before. Sure, there are people that you say you would give your life for, or take their pain for. I have people like that–my family members, my husband, my best friend. But I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve felt such an instinctual protective feeling like that. I never knew you could almost physically feel another person’s pain.

Then of course, we had a little crankiness in the evening afterwards. His pediatrician said he’d probably take a long nap when we got home. Well, he didn’t. (My kid. Always doing things his own way. I don’t know where he gets that from either.) So that evening, it was a combination of him being uncomfortable and overly tired. I gave him some baby pain reliever, and that helped, but he would not fall into a deep sleep. Then after a few hours, the medicine wore off and he was beside himself again. So I basically sat there the whole evening and into the night holding and comforting him.

My mommy instincts kicked in last night. I was nervous about when to give him medicine, because I didn’t want to give it to him if he didn’t need it. But all of a sudden, I knew I needed to give it to him. When he was obviously needing sleep, I knew I should sing to him, and it helped. He fell asleep.  I hadn’t really experienced the whole mommy instinct thing until last night. It was pretty cool, actually.

We eventually fell asleep on the couch together around 2 AM, watching some lame baby show on Netflix (I really need to buy him some Baby Einstein DVDs). And when we woke up this morning, he gave me a big smile, and I knew my happy boy was finally back. It was a long night, but all that mattered was that my baby boy felt better. I felt almost proud of myself for surviving my first night of comforting him through a rough time. And even prouder for being successful at it.

I know he won’t ever remember what happened. But I will. And it really made me realize what mothers go through. We should really appreciate our moms more. I never fully realized the love and emotion they have for their children until now. I saw this quote online once, before I had Jack, even before I got pregnant:

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” –Elizabeth Stone

I really didn’t know what that meant before. In all honesty, I thought it was kind of a lame quote. But I know now. And I can’t really explain it, because it’s one of those things like finding  your future husband or wife–you can’t explain it, you just know. But just believe me when I say it’s true. Image

Fresh Start.

Clearly I have neglected this blog. I mean, part of it was because I was slightly busy having a baby and everything, but part of it was also sheer laziness. However, now that I am back in school and have no time to read or write anything that isn’t assigned to me, my fingers are dying to type something fun. I also have a lot of new thoughts in my head all the time….being a mommy is a whole new world. Add that to being a college student and a temporary guardian to a teenager (my little sis is staying with us for awhile…she’s our nanny. 😉 ), and it makes for some interesting/thought provoking/amusing moments. 

Also I have been totally inspired by my friend Rihanna, who is hilarious and a wonderful writer/blogger. Reading her posts makes me want to write more. Her blog totally took off and went viral this summer when she wrote a post about Miley Cyrus. That’s when I realized that you never know when people are going to notice you, and if you don’t make a point to follow your dreams, you’ll never have a chance to see them fulfilled. So even though my blog might not ever go viral or even get read by more people than my mom and a couple of my friends, I’m still going to try. I want to polish my writing and try to improve, so I’m going to use my blog to practice. And at least it’ll give me a break from homework. 

So, hopefully I’ll have a new post at least every week or so. And hopefully they’ll be somewhat interesting. In the meantime, go check out Rihanna’s blog. Her newest entry had me literally lol’ing in the middle of the student lounge at school today. I’m off to write an op-ed piece for Newswriting.