The Truth: Be You With BlogU

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The theme of BlogU 2016 was Be You With BlogU, and even though it is a conference for bloggers and freelance writers, the takeaway I had from my weekend in Baltimore with all the people who live in my computer was this:

With the right tribe, with the right goals, with the right motivation, and with sweat-your-ass-off-effort, you can be successful and stay true to yourself. Not just in writing, but in everything.

If you’ve followed me for more than half a minute, you know I don’t fit all the molds. There was a very long time that I lamented this fact. My personal style is random. My music choices are all across the board. On any given day I am a strange blend of Tiger mom and Free Range Parent. I’m not the same as anyone else, and that was hard for me to accept. To revel in.

But now, I do.

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No one has the thoughts or experiences that I do. No one but me can tell my story. And while there are quite a few people who, like me, are good enough at a ridiculous amount of things but not great at any one thing, no one else can integrate my purple-filtered view into those things.

Aside from spending some amazing time with people I admire and fan-girl after, I was able to spend a lot of time reflecting on my role, my skills, and my purpose. Throughout the amazing sessions we were offered, the theme “Be You” ran loud and clear. We were encouraged to think about our skills and our passions. We were encouraged to revisit childhood dreams of what we want to be when we ‘grow up.’ We were asked to take a moment to find that clear voice that said, “I want to do ________ with my life.”

And this year, as I turned 30 years old on a big-ass campus, sweating all the sweats with my tribe, I remembered what I love doing.

I support. For years I was encouraged to be a therapist, because when my friends needed advice, I was there. Before motherhood, I planned events for a large non-profit organization dedicated to helping consumers navigate issues with local businesses. I became certified in our state’s Meth prevention program and took trips to help local law enforcement teach kids about the dangers of methamphetamines. As a parent the past 10 years, I get sick of the day-to-day drudgery of motherhood, but when push comes to shove, I am there when my kids need me. When a friend has a baby, I ask when I can bring a meal by. If there is a special occasion for someone coming up, I always offer to help. I plan parties, outings, gatherings, and intimate coffee dates. I see the need for the village where there is one lacking and I amplify the comfort that the village offers where one already exists.

It took getting lost amongst the old brick buildings of a campus on the complete opposite side of the country for me to realize that I was home. Not in a place, but in my mission. My goal for the weekend was to be the helpiest helper who ever helped. I think I did that and I was so. genuinely. joyful. the entire time. Why? Because this is my role.

This is why I want to be a birth doula. I want to lend strength and comfort where ever I can. If it is not in my power to make it better, I want to be a safe-space to turn to during the hard times. I want people to know that if there is a problem they can turn to me.

This is what drives me.

Caregiving. Supporting. Helping. Creating a nurturing space. Being a source of comfort wherever I go.

Thankfully, this is something I can apply to all the other things I love to do.

Writing. I empower. I offer a hand that says, I struggle with this, too, and you are not alone. We will get through this together.

Mothering. The ultimate role of caregiving. It won’t end with diaper changes, it will become different. It will always change and I will always greet new challenges to make sure my kids are given the best chance possible.

Friendship. Marriage. Crafting. Gardening. Cooking.

All these things require an aspect of caregiving that I finally feel, deep down in my heart of hearts, is my purpose.

It took a credit card and a day of flying across the country for me to understand that I have been so entrenched in the actions of my purpose that I couldn’t see I was already living it. This is what they mean when they say you can’t see the forest for the trees.

I see it now.

I spent the entirety of my 20s growing my family. A full 10 years of pregnancies, breastfeeding, diaper changes and sleepless nights. I plan to make my 30s MY decade. Where I tackle my goals and reach for my dreams. Where I become more than mom. Where I learn who take-everything-away-and-what-do-you-have Jessica really is.

She is me. And that is just perfect.blogU 16 Collage

Brave Enough to be Me

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It’s 3:30 a.m. Another night of being too itchy to sleep… it could also be the prednisone I am now taking that is making it impossible for my mind to switch off. If nothing else, I know now that I can function very well, thankyouverymuch, on very little sleep, with the right drugs.

I can totally see how people get addicted to prescription meds. As one of my favorite bloggers, Jen Mann of People I Want To Punch In The Throat frequently laments, it’s quite the well kept secret. Not sleeping well? Pop a pill! It will give you energy! Out of focus? Take this! It will keep your mind on track! Libido need a kick in the pants? Try this new medication! Your partner won’t know what hit them!

Anyway, this post wasn’t intended to be idle chat about the new steroids I’m taking in lieu of my anti-anxiety meds. This post is in response to the creeping doubt I’ve been feeling lately.

I know recently I said I was saying Fuck You to my biggest hater. But it’s far easier said than done.

I look around me, and surrounded by so many people who know what they’re doing. They have a voice, they have a plan, and they know what they need, and want, to do to make their goals a reality. But sometimes it just feels like my world is too crowded by talent. Too full of so many people saying the same things in vastly different ways, how on earth could there ever be room for my opinion, my way of saying things, too?

And then there are the times that I do venture out, put myself out there, in places aside from this little blog and my meager facebook fan page, and I am rejected. They say it’s not because of my work, but because it’s just not a good fit. My voice doesn’t quite jive.

I need to find my niche. Is there a “Nothing In Particular” niche out there for writers and creative hopefuls?

This whole train of thought was brought on by this graphic from YourTango’s Facebook page:

braveI just want to be me, and be accepted, and celebrated for it. And there are days, more often than not, that I think to myself, DAMN IT, Jessica, get your shit together. No one wants to high five you for thinking about writing, you have to actually do it. There are no awards for people who meant to do great things.

I want to be my weird, makeup inept, tattoo obsessed, pirate loving, purple haired self, and throw caution to the wind and just put myself out there.

What the fuck is holding me back?

The Balancing Act That I Suck At

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If you’re a follower of my page, you know that I’ve been quiet. There are a lot of things we’re waiting on right now and I’m having a hard time processing it all.

I’ve become more active in the blogging community, despite my lack of blogging efforts, and the excitement about this years blogging conferences is becoming rather infectious. I had resigned myself to not going, as what’s the point of going to a blog conference if I’m not really blogging, and the cost of airfare is super restrictive. But today someone mentioned that there are some killer travel deals going on right now, so I peeked. $500 for round trip airfare across the country is far more affordable than it was a few months ago.

With a little creative thinking, I could actually go to BlogU.

I thought about and even asked around regarding setting up a crowdfunding site for myself, but the idea of asking people to help fly me across the country felt odd. An adorable fellow blogger‘s husband set up a site for her, and within 6 days they had raised enough money to get her registered and booked for the conference. It was an amazingly sweet gesture by her husband. I feel that asking for myself is a bit tacky though.

Captain happened to call while I was in the middle of this mental struggle, so I put the question to him, “Should I crowdfund my BlogU trip?”

To which he responded, “Absolutely not.”

Because we have problems asking for financial help. As a single income home, we are blessed in that we don’t struggle to pay the bills, enroll our kids in extra curricular sports, or afford preschool. We manage quite well. We could be doing better, sure, but as of now, we want for nothing. All of our extra money, when we have it, goes straight into our ‘Forever House’ fund. We’ve never been frivolous. My vacuum was nearly 10x more expensive than my wedding ring. We don’t do fancy. I’m a bargain hunter through and through (aside from the vacuum… but the importance of that investment was drilled into me from an early age, and with 4 kids, it is worth every. single. penny).

I felt myself get teary-eyed, because after 4 kids, the hormones never really leave. Everything makes me cry.

“If you can get back into blogging regularly, make it the thing you’ve been wanting to do and talking about, then I will pay for you to go myself,” Captain explained.

And I totally started crying. Because this was the 2nd time in 12 hours that he had proven I needed to have more faith in him and his desire to see me happy and successful. He will back my children’s book and he will back my blogging/writing/marketing education.

It’s a frightening thing, being reliant on a single person’s income. It’s hard not to feel that money spent on myself is a waste. What do I really need money for that wouldn’t be better invested in the kids? But I deserve an investment in myself, too. Despite how terrible I am with housekeeping, how much I loathe grocery shopping, the procrastination I carry on with when it comes to taking care of myself, I am still a person who deserves care and attention. And I’m so grateful that I have a husband who see that.

Especially when I don’t.

So all that to say, Captain has offered me the incentive I needed to get back in the game. Even if it means taking my laptop to preschool drop off and writing in the car while the boys are in class and The Kraken naps. I’m making it a goal to post something new on this blog once a week, and submitting an essay to other blogs and/or anthologies once a week. Since I’m terrible at balance, it is incredibly likely that non-preschool days will be spent in pajamas, eating snacks for 2 of our 3 meals, with a constant stream of Disney Jr. and Nick Toons on the TV. But at the end of the day we will all be alive and fed, and I will be writing again.

I can do 2 original posts a week. I can do this. I will do this. Not just to get my tickets to BlogU to meet the incredible community I’ve come to love being a part of, but to show Captain that his faith in me isn’t misplaced.

I deserve the opportunities he’s giving me. I’m going to prove it.

No longer a life-giver.

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I should be packing and cleaning.

But my heart needs to bleed a bit, and I’ve ignored my heart far too much these past few months.

I sent off a piece of myself today.  The last bit of life I had to offer my children.

My last ounce of breastmilk.

Off it went, zipped up in numerous bags, packed in a brown paper envelope.

Left in the fate of the mail system.

To the doorstep of a women who says she can immortalize it for me.

She will turn it into a keepsake.  A ring that will be the centerpiece of my Mother’s Ring set.

I could get it back in as few as 6 weeks… Likelier that I won’t get it for a year though.

My sorrow is sharp.

The Kraken is weaned, my supply is gone.

My breasts and my body are no longer nourishing or life-giving.

They just are.

And that’s a difficult pill to swallow.

Hello, New Me.  Different Me.  We have a lot to learn about each other in the coming New Year.

We are The Village

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It’s 5 a.m. A god-awful time to be sitting at an airport gate. An especially early time if you’ve been there with your 4 children since 11 p.m. the night before. If, by chance, your boarding pass and the flight boards reflect different gate numbers, and you have already walked the significant length between the two, you are exponentially more exhausted.

It was this situation that I became privy to when a fellow would-be passenger informed myself and the aforementioned mother of 4, along with several other confused passengers, that our boarding pass was indeed correct, it was the flight boards that were wrong. We had done as instructed by all important air travel messages and trusted the board.

With heavy sighs, a group of us, who had also already made the long trek between the San Jose terminals, gathered our things and readied to get some extra exercise. Myself, with my purse slung over a shoulder, my coffee in one hand and roller bag handle in the other, a group two silvered ladies and a gentleman with minimal bags, and the mother of 4, eyeing her babes, ages 4-10, wrapped up like burritos, draped over chairs and laid out upon the ground, snoozing on the spot as only children can.

“Here, please let me help you,” I offered, draining the last of my caffeine in a massive gulp to free up a hand, while at the same time the gentleman asked which child he could carry for her.

This mother graciously accepted our help, watching as one son roughly roused another, and, with the extra hands being offered by the older group, we managed to collect the 9 bags and one too-sleepy-to-walk 4 year old that made up our motley crew’s possessions, and began our journey back down the terminal, to the gate we had all already walked to and turned away from, screens blank and seats empty.

I learned on our long walk that the older group was heading north for a train trip to a fishing destination in Canada. The mother was on a long multi-flight journey from taking her children to visit her native home and family in Hawaii, to their current home in Alaska. Myself, heading back to my own family after a whirlwind weekend long conference for bloggers.

What did we have in common aside from our temporarily similar travel path? Maybe not much, probably more than one would think at first glance, but definitely one incredible thing:

We were the village.

So many times we see, again and again, a lamentation of the loss of “the village.” “It takes a village,” everyone says, and in the next breath we curse the privatization, the exclusivity of our lives as parents, childcare givers, and neighbors. “Not my monkeys, not my circus” has been making the rounds as a prominent quote, meaning to say that we shouldn’t entangle ourselves in other people’s crazy, but being implemented on a broader scope.

Why is it then, that, in our society where oversharing is a normal occurrence, we do not share in the joy, and yes, the burden of being a village when so many are seeking one?

Our insistence on independence, ridding our lives of the need to rely on others, to be seen as strong rather than weak, to “have it all together” instead of admitting that sometimes we are all just a hot mess, is taking the village out of the communities we build. We are taking an essential part of humanity out of the human experience.

And for what?

Maybe it was empathy that caused me to help her. Having 4 kids myself, I understand the work it is to move them from Point A to Point B without losing one of them (or my mind). Maybe it was the leftover sense of community that I had been basking in for a full weekend with my blogging peers that made me reach out, eager for a continuance of the human connection. Whatever the reason, would my day have been better had I decided to enjoy my mocha, sip by drawn out sip, on a lonely stroll down the terminal? No. Quite the opposite. I would have missed out on a conversation that gave me a glimpse of the fun these people were coming from or heading towards. Snippets of their lives bringing back fond recollections of my own visits to family and my own fishing trip on the Pacific with my husband. It sparked a connection, formed a new tie-in to humanity, and, if only for that long walk down the bustling airport hall, we were a village. And when you are part of a village, it becomes easier for you to spread the village boundaries.

As our flight began boarding, comfortable from my place in this amiable, temporary village, I noticed a man being continually brushed off by the gate clerk. ‘Your row is not boarding yet, you will have to wait.’ ‘Your seat is in row 7, we are boarding rows 20 and up, please wait over there.’ Cozy in my supportive space, I watched in mild interest, a bit frustrated on his behalf due to the language barrier that was obviously hindering his ability to effectively communicate and understand. When he turned to speak to his traveling companion waiting behind all of us, I followed his gaze to his petite wife, wrapped in her hijab, holding their dimple-faced baby girl. She replied to him, unaware of my attention, and he shrugged.

I found myself drawn to them, thoughts turning to my own 10 month old daughter, her blooming curiosity echoed in the dark chocolate eyes of this baby from the other side of the world.

“Are you trying to board early?” I asked the woman, who looked to her husband.

He looked at me, clearly frustrated, “No English. Simple. Please.”

So, I made an ass of myself, pointing to the plane, pantomiming, and using the sign for one of the only sign language words I am confident of: baby.

“You… want to get on the plane… now… because of your baby?”

Relief washed over his face, “Yes.”

A quick explanation to the attendant and they were ushered to the front of the line. A furtive wave from him in thanks and they disappeared down the ramp.

Now, when I wrote this piece, I was on a 2 hour flight, seated half a plane length away from that little family. The words practically put themselves into the notebook in front of me until, finally spent, I placed what I thought was a completed piece into my bag, ready to be edited, typed, and submitted.

But the village wasn’t done with me yet.

I saw nothing of this tiny, middle eastern family when I departed the aircraft. I sent a silent prayer into the world that they would find a kind soul to help them, wherever their path led. I made friends with a candy-kid hippy and we talked tattoos while navigating the various escalators leading to the rail that would swiftly deposit us at the next gate. The train pulled up, I stepped through the doors and when I turned around, there they were. The husband fumbled for his pass, and thrust it towards me.

As fate would have it, we were heading to the same gate.

I beckoned them on, the man offered me a smile, and they stepped in next to me, their daughter, now in his arms, still bright-eyed with wonder. In a fit of spontaneity, I showed them a picture of my daughter that my husband had send to me, the blue of her eyes such a contrast to the 3 sets of eyes looking at her, but in an instant I felt a new connection being made. We needed no common tongue to have a common cause.

I resolved to help them. I had an hour until my flight boarded, and I was no longer willing to leave this family to the chance that maybe someone else would be there for them. It wasn’t hard to remember the man’s frustrations trying to board the previous flight. I tapped my wrist and said that I had time, I would settle them at their gate.

The man nodded, “Moscow.”

“Idaho?” I replied.

It is possible that I imagined the eager question in the woman’s voice when she uttered her first words to me, “Moscow, Idaho?”

I would have given quite a lot to have been able to tell her that it was my destination as well.

We were making our way towards more escalators when their daughter reached for me.

Instinctively, my hand reached up to hers, but I pulled back at the last moment, placing my hand over my heart, “May I?”

The man smiled for the second time and nodded.

His daughter’s fingers were so warm as they curled around mine. Her tan skin soft, as only a baby’s can be. Her grip was strong. She was so sure of herself in that action that she took my breath away. in our concept of the

This is what the village is. Sharing these moments, so seemingly small and insignificant, yet so pivotal.

How in the world could I ever have expected that a family who did not speak my language, share any of my physical traits, and worshiped in a completely different manner than me, would need me in their village?

It seems to me that, in our concept of the village, we have degraded it to a mere shadow of what it could be. We have turned it from a web, ever reaching, ever growing, ever reinforced, into a circle, stagnant and never changing, of people just like us. We hope to find those we have commonalities with, not because we are racist or prejudiced, per se, but because we are most comfortable with what we know, with what we are familiar with. It is in this practice that we are doing ourselves, our communities, and, most importantly, our species a disservice.

We need to take the village back. We have seen enough casting about, attempts at pinpointing the problem, speculating the hows, whos, whens, wheres, and whys. Instead of asking where my village went or how to find my village, I am making a call to action.

I am the village, and I am taking it with me, expanding its population wherever I go.

Will you join me?

Where do we go from here?

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In the ever evolving chronicles of our family’s journey of the tiny house from hell, we have a big decision to make.

But to catch you up:

  • When Captain got this job offer, we lived in Western Washington.  I was pregnant with The Kraken.  We put our house on the market.
  • The kids and I moved in with my parents in Eastern Washington.  The Kraken was born several days before Captain had to report to his new job, 2.5 hours away.
  • We lasted 1 month apart before deciding that living together in a tiny house was better than living separately with weekend visits.
  • We found a 3 bedroom house that would work while the people renting our house in W. Wa. saved up to buy it.
  • They became unexpectedly pregnant with their 3rd, necessitating a vehicle upgrading and stalling their home buying plans by at least a year.

So here were are, in this tiny house that we only planned on being in for 12-18 months, facing the possibility of being here for much, much longer.  The neighborhood is great.  We are right next to Cabin Girl’s school.  But…

There’s not a ton of space.  And only 1 bathroom. The laundry area is open to the tiny kitchen.  The 3 big kids share a room while The Kraken has the tiny room across from the one notsosweethomeCaptain and I occupy.

There are sugar ants.  EVERYWHERE.

One toilet.

The a/c went out.  Temperatures have been consistently in the triple digits, the siding on this house is aluminum, and we have 3 window units that don’t work simultaneously, because the house can’t support that much current.  Keeping our house cool consistently flips the breaker, shutting down power to the entire south side of the house.

Did I mention that our family of 6 shares the single washroom?

The dishwasher wasn’t cleaning the dishes in the top rack.  We would have to wipe them out whenever we unloaded it.  Then, it died.  It took a few days but it was finally replaced, with an older, louder version, baskets rusting through, but hey, at least everything gets clean the first time through…

Only. One. Bathroom.

As I am writing this our house is 81 degrees with all of the lights off and anything not in use unplugged so that the computer can be on while the a/c in the living room and the kids’ room will stay running.

We’re getting what we’re paying for though.  And yes, our landlords are aware of everything.  We nag them quite a bit.

Rent is cheap, there’s no denying that perk.  But it is a perk that I am no longer interested in.

We are a family at each others’ throats.  We’re always hot, in various states of undress, and crabby from always being hot.  There is no separation for anyone.  No designated space for the kids to play and be kids.  If they play in their room, it’s in the scant 12 square feet of open space between beds and dressers.  If they play in the living room it gets in the way of daily happenings.  It’s too hot to play outside.

So, where do we go from here?

Dare we seek out more expensive, less cramped housing, slowing our own savings to a trickle and prolonging purchasing our forever home?

Or do we buckle down and bear it through the next two months of serious heat, until winter when the blankets will come out to cover the poorly insulated windows and everyone wears socks and sweaters 100% of the time because of the cold floors beneath our feet?

I have already made my decision, but I feel guilty for it.  We have a roof over our head and we are together.  It is, as I said when we were living apart, all I needed.  Truly, in the grand scheme of things that’s true.

But I also need my sanity, and that is slipping away faster than the cool air escaping through the gaps around the front door.

Going to My 10 Year Reunion

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Yep.  I’m going to my 10 year reunion.  For high school.  With people I graduated next to.  Because:

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10 years ago, I was so freaking happy to be out of high school.  My life ahead of me, my not terrible but not amazing years as a high school student behind me.

I was NEVER going back.

Reunions?  For suckers.  Glorified preening parties for people who were popular in school and wanted to show off that they still had it.

‘It’ being something that I never had.

I was a choir geek, horrible at sports, and “not skinny” or moderately fashionable.  Of course now I would kill to have my high school body again, but hey, such is life.  My close friends had either graduated the year before me or would graduate the year after me.  There really wasn’t anyone in my class except my best friend/soon-to-be-roommate that I was terribly worried about keeping in touch with.

As far as I was concerned, everyone from my graduating class may as well not have existed for how much thought I would give them for the rest of my life.

And then, social media happened.

First, it started with old acquaintances reaching out to me, and, eventually, me to them.  Hey, well, maybe this isn’t so bad.  It’s cool to know they’re doing well.  And look at how much we actually have in common when you take away the bullshit of high school hierarchy.

Next, reconnecting with some friends who had gone their own way on not-so-pleasant terms.  Cautiously reconnecting, it was a great feeling to be able to say, Dude, I was stupid, I’m sorry.  Are we cool now?  And we were.  Side pondering: Is that how guys apologize?  Just all zen, water-under-the-bridge type stuff?  Because it’s so easy peasy.

Then, suddenly finding yourself having a dialogue with people you barely interacted with on a daily basis in school, via a mutual friend’s posting.  Enjoying the dialogue so much that you cautiously reach out the ‘hand’ of social media friendship, and there you are, given access to the pieces of their daily life they wish to share with the people they’re connected with.  You.  You are suddenly part of that circle.

It becomes the new platform for sharing achievements, woes, and general lifely things that you never would have guessed at or known about on your own.

Engagements, marriages, children, degrees, jobs, deaths, vacations, moves, achievements…  You have a front row seat to see and remark on them when they happen.

Gone are the days of storing all of your cool happenings for a night or weekend of preening in front of the people you spent 4 years elbowing to maintain your place on the social ladder of high school.

Now, we can come together just as people, already knowing the amazing or mundane things the others have been up to.

Sure, there are many of my class of 400 people who I am not in touch with, who may not even remember me or know who I am.  For the most part though, the playing field has been leveled.

And I am so ready to go out and play.  Of course, by play, I mean party.  Because we’re adults now, and our parents can’t stop us.

Accept that aging doesn’t diminish spousal attraction

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Does age change the attraction you feel for your spouse?  Do you worry about your spouse wishing you looked different?

Even though I’m not yet out of my twenties, being a mother of 4 is taking its toll on me.  Mentally, emotionally, and, most notably, physically.  Captain will be 30 this year, and the tolls of hard work and stress are showing on him, too.

Tell-tale signs of self-neglect lay the foundation for insecurities that I’d hoped to be past by this point of my life; Dry skin, yesterday’s makeup still smeared beneath my eyes, crows feet, frown lines, and frizzy hair, to name a few.  Add onto those the major changes having babies puts you through; Wider hips, stretch marks, extra weight, and changed breasts.

So many things that I look at and think: Ugh.

Enough things to make me wonder why Captain still takes an interest in me, as I’m clearly not the 17 year old girl he encountered when we first met anymore.

Things that make me consider expensive treatments to fix.

Until the other night, when I was cutting Captain’s hair and noticed that his hair is thinning.  If, as they say, men should look to their mother’s side of the family to find out what their predispositions for hairloss will be are true, then he’s on the road to becoming completely bald before he’s 40.

I looked at him, really looked, later that night, and saw what I’ve always known was there: stretchmarks over his muscular thighs, laugh lines and crows feet of his own, moles, and his receding hairline.  Things that really aren’t attractive at all. spousalattract

I really absorbed the way Captain has started to age, and you know what?

It didn’t change the way I feel about him one bit.

His extra weight doesn’t make me want him less.  His complexion doesn’t make me less attracted to him.  His silvering, thinning hair doesn’t make me want to go out and find a younger man to romp around with.

Why would I assume that the faults I see in myself would make him love or desire me less?

So, the next time he calls me beautiful, I’ll accept it with a smile.

When he says he finds me sexy, I’ll put my self-depreciating doubt behind me.

Because I love more than his body.

He deserves me to be accepting of his loving more than mine.

Cutting Ties

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My alarm goes off at an ungodly hour.  With a nursing baby, all sleep is precious.  It seems asinine to willingly wake up before the sun.

I gently wake Captain, then quietly walk out to the kitchen to get the coffee brewing for him.  None for me, though.  Not today.

I return to the bedroom, pull on my yoga pants and change into a relatively clean shirt.  I’m not winning any awards for best-dressed patient.

My cousin arrives to take care of the 3 older kids for an undetermined amount of hours.  We settle the baby in her car seat while relaying the basic information; feed them, let them watch tv, Cabin Girl needs to be ready for school and out the door by 8:30.  Nothing complicated.  Keep it easy for everyone.

It’s time to go, and I’m not ready.  But, I have to be.

Captain, the baby, and I get into the car.  The sun is taking its time making an appearance.  It is still bitingly cold and dark.

We make some small talk during the drive; how I’m grateful my surgery is first thing, what I packed for the baby to make Captain’s alone time with her easier, wondering if the kids have woke up yet to discover us gone.  Mostly, though, we are silent.

Captain reaches for my hand, knowing, if not understanding, that my heart and brain are enduring a whirlwind of emotions.  His hand is warm and strong, like he always is.  Those are two of the reasons why I love him.

It is too early for valet parking, so we find a spot and pick our way through the dimly lit parking lot.  The wind blows fierce and bitterly cold, like the pang of uncertainty that keeps surfacing whenever I actually think about what I am heading towards.

I get checked in and the nurse is blunt, not yet awake enough for the long day ahead of her.  She warms slightly when she notices Captain holding our baby, and she gives me a small, understanding smile.

We find a place to sit in a waiting room of anxious patients and their soon-to-be caregivers.  I take the baby in my arms and lose myself in her smiles and wondering eyes until a different nurse comes through the double doors and calls my name.

I put on a smile and give the baby back to Captain, then I stand and follow the nurse.  My steps are confident.  Eager, even.  No need to share the terror gripping my heart with anyone.

Through minutes that feel like hours, I am undressed, cleaned, poked, and prodded to the surgical prep nurse’s satisfaction.  I answer what seem like the million and one questions I have already answered dozens of times before.

Captain brings the baby to me to nurse one more time.  They are a good distraction.

My Doctor comes to make sure I’m all set, cooing as he always does over the baby, and reassuring me that it will be quick and easy.  I smile and nod, but, when the anesthesiologist comes in to discuss what is going to happen to me, I can feel the tears prick my eyes.

I have been through similar surgeries before, I’m not too worried, I hear myself say.  If he knew I was lying, would he have proceeded?

The nurse returns, and it’s time.  Swift kisses are exchanged with Captain and the baby, and I am pushed down a corridor full of masked faces bustling about their morning and through another set of double doors into a room as cold as a refrigerator.

The anesthesiologist directs me onto the operating table and proceeds to put ekg stickers on my head, chest, and ribcage.  I remind myself to breathe…

…and then I wake up.

I am warm, and groggy, and there is an obnoxious beeping near my head.

I close my eyes and drift in a fog for seconds that feel like days.

A recovery nurse comes to my bedside and asks gentle questions.  Questions which I forget instantly, but I answer, and the answers are good enough that I am moved to another recovery area where Captain and the baby could come sit with me.

Captain smiles.  He tells me that the Doctor said everything went perfectly.

Even through the fog of drugs, my heartache is acute.

It went perfectly.

I am sterile.

I will never bear children again.

And, though I wish to cry, I smile.

This was the best choice for our family.

I have five reasons not to have another baby.  One is the man I love; He does not want more children.  The other 4 reasons are the beautiful children we already have; They deserve me in a quality I could not offer if we were to have another baby.

There are other reasons, yes, but these are the ones that matter the most.

I don’t regret having the surgery.

But I have not yet come to terms with cutting the ties of the most defining part of my life.

Maybe… maybe I never will.

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