Trio for Life?

The decision to have another child or not has been floating over our heads lately. Persistently. My husband and I have been so torn about whether to have a second babe or stay a trio for life. A trio we’ve grown quite comfortable with. I love our little family. We had our precious baby girl when I was 31 and my husband was 36, so time wise we kinda need to figure it out. Our lil Gemini queen just turned two. We (I) feel a lot of pressure to have a second kid. Not intentional pressure, people aren’t bullying me or anything. I can just feel that it’s wanted. Expected. The next step. Stay tuned to hear me confuse myself further on the topic 🙂

My husband and I have had a melancholic and quite constant visit with death since moving to Las Vegas over a year ago. A lot of close people in our lives have been laid to rest. An unusual amount for such a short period of time. Not to mention our kitty cat Mona. So to say death has become an ever present part of our life lately is kind of an understatement. But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about life. Because death inevitably makes you think of life and purpose and shit like that. It makes you revaluate things. Especially things like family.

Having both grown up with siblings, he has two brothers and a sister and I have two older sisters. I treasure the relationships I have with mine, I’m sure my husband feels the same. But we live far away from our family. Our communication is mostly text/FaceTime based and through social media. We don’t hang on the week nights or have family dinners on Sunday. We don’t have that outlet. Our babe doesn’t get to play with her cousins often or have Nana or Papa watch her on the weekend. That is not a part of our daily/weekly/monthly life. Is it bad to think I can’t handle more than one on my own? Or maybe not want to… Baby girl and I have gotten into a groove. She is major HYPE and determined, which I’ve (grown to) love about her personality. She is a pistol lemme tell ya. But I have to consider what it will be like for her growing up as an only child.

Our lifestyle is different than the lifestyle my husband and I had growing up (both very similar to one another’s). Neither is better or worse, just different. My husband and I both had great childhoods’ filled with love and warm memories. Our parents were teachers and office workers. They were home at night (or coaching the sports we were playing). We played outside from day to night. We went on vacations in the summer and we visited my grandparents in PA on a monthly basis if not more often. My husband’s family owned farms (in the same area) on both sides so he was ALWAYS with his cousins and grandparents and such working and playing. Clearly where he gets his great work ethic. But, in comparison to now, my husband is a pilot and travels for work often. Actually, traveling is literally what he does for work. We’ve lived in 4 different states since we got married in 2012. Which may seem crazy to some but has given us some pretty amazing experiences. We love moving around experiencing different parts of the US. It can, however, get stressful after throwing a babe in the mix. His job also provides us with the opportunity to travel frequently for enjoyment. Something that we love and value. It’s become important to us, also significantly harder to do this with another child. We feel like we can travel as trio and we have. Lil ButtButt will be well cultured and adjusted to a broader sense of community. But throw in another one and…man. I know most of you think I’m being a ballsack (because they are so much weaker than the woman counterparts usually referred to in this case). I don’t want you to think travel is more important than family to me. But it is a part of who we are really. And it’s inevitable if we plan to keep visiting our family, all whom dwell in the Midwest/East and refuse to relocate to the sunny West. Lol. But really, I’m trying to highlight the difference in lifestyle we have now versus the one we had growing up with a larger family all in proximity.

A common reaction I get when I say we are thinking of having only one child, is that that they will grow up “weird”. Whatever. I think I’m pretty weird and I’m the youngest of three girls so… Just saying. Weird isn’t always bad. And won’t she have school friends? Neighborhood friends? Not to belittle the relationship I have with my siblings because THEY THE SHIT, but honestly, I don’t remember them playing with me when we were young. Or really being that nice… LOL. I think if you knew Washinko girls growing up you knew about our infamous, hormonal girl fights. Just ask the 18 babysitters that quit. S/O to those who stuck around. Talking about you Lou and Carrie <3 You the real MVPs. We were all three years apart but my sisters were two grades apart due to my middle’s sister’s birthday being in September. So they were in high school together. Fun times. And I just take a minute to thank the sweet Lord above my moody ass wasn’t in high school with them. Being the youngest, I learned some tricks along the way though. I remember one fight in which my middle sister and I were rolling quarters for vacation from the huge pretzel jar (from Sam’s club) we used to collect change. Duh, we got in an argument. It escalated as they usually did and she pushed me. I hit my head off of my knee. My dad wasn’t home at the time so I went into my room and put red marker on my cheek in the area that hit my knee. I rubbed it in and when he came home I cried and told him to look at what my monstrous sister did to me. It was great. Totally worked. She got in trouble. (Sorry Dad) I know if we don’t have another child my daughter will miss out on sibling support but she will also miss out on sibling rivalry and competition. Having older sisters that were great at sports made me not even think twice to join the same things. I went to Ohio State because one of my sisters did and when I went to visit, it was a blast. I just wonder what it would have been like without these inevitable influences? She’ll carve her own path. But I guess she would do that as the older/oldest too…hmmm.

But still, siblings are special. They have your back through life. I can talk as much crap about my sisters as I want but you…Go ahead. Say sum. You’ll see my Scorpio(n) stinger about face right away. Siblings make your family bigger, obviously, which is fun when you are older. It’s also cool to see the different versions of the humans you love. Compare which traits they got from whom and see the history of our family in that small lil face. Plus, now that we are all grown, my mom has some pretty fun vacay spots- me being in Vegas, my middle sister being in NYC, and my oldest being in Cleveland.

Another thing to think about is if we have two children I will be with them the majority of the time…so my mental health. Lol. My husband is home now more than he ever has been through out our 13 year relationship, but as pointed out earlier traveling IS his work. I’ve just recently been able to shift my focus to writing and photography (both are things I’ve always been passionate about). I have time now that I’m not teaching. If we have another child, I would probably go back to the classroom. I don’t know if I want to do that. I loved teaching but I was exhausted at the end of the day. I want to spend quality time with my children. Not be annoyed and tired and have to do dinner and grade papers and tests and then give baths and read more books to my own kids then grade more papers, then try to spend some QT time with the hubs before I give up on all of the papers to grade and pass out. You know, all that jazz. Poor teachers. Such an under-appreciated profession. I’m gravitating back towards working with underserved kids, just don’t know if I want that sort of time commitment that is expected from teachers. You are never done with work. Ever.

So is it selfish to want time to do things that we’ve grown to identify with in life? Maybe it’s because we had kids later in life. We got used to only considering ourselves when living, lol. I know most people put their life on hold for their kids. But I also know A LOT of people who complain about their lives…truth. Of course they love their babies unconditionally, but they feel like their life has been taken away. “It’s only for awhile”, some say, or few have gone far enough to say they wouldn’t have kids if they could go back in time. I appreciate the honesty. And keeping it 100: I know a lot of adults who aren’t happy. I’m not saying it’s because their kids at all. I’m just saying it’s easier to go with the flow of expectations of our society and have a second kid because that’s what happens after you have one. It takes guts to go against the grain. “You can’t just have ONE!!!!” Mere thought of it is neglectful enough for pre-judgment. Or does the desire to procreate another little version of ourselves actually come from a narcissistic place? I mean I read Ishmael. Lol…Perspective people! Hubs and I are both comfortable and even uplifted by the idea of adoption. Helping and providing a loving and stable home for a child in need seems like a wonderful idea. Is choosing to create another child instead of helping one that is already alive and in need selfish? Fuckkk. You know?!? Is everything selfish?!?!

Still it genuinely makes me feel bad to only want/potentially have one child. Does that mean I should have another one? Or is that just the people pleasing guilt thing that is apparently never going away? My husband has recently expressed that he prefers just one babe. He thinks…(we both go back and forth though truly). He would undeniably have another if that is something I wanted, but I clearly don’t know. Me and decisions… go together like eggs and peanut butter. Him becoming more clear on the topic has me more confused. Always. Hence, this blog post. Would love to hear some advice, wisdom, experiences, opinions, anything!! SOS.

How to Travel with an ACTIVE Toddler

Traveling is a big part of my family’s life. My husband and I have built so many memories in different places on this rock, but not nearly enough. We treasure our experiences and value the knowledge and culture you gain from travel. We refuse to believe that you can’t do it once you have kids. Now, we only have one kid. One VERY ACTIVE kid. She’s a beast tho, in the good sense. She’s been across the US at least 6 maybe 8 times by now and she’s not yet two. Now that she is a toddler, it is infinitely harder to get her to the ideal chill zone for the entire 4.5 hours (give or take) that it takes to get to our homeland Ohio. But I’ve gathered a few tricks along the way that may or may not help some of my fellow family travelers with little ones. And I’m all about the advice so…

My first tip- PACK SMART. Don’t wait until the last minute. Plan out what you will need. I do this on paper because I’m a visual learner/liver. I’m all about that making lists life. I write down everything I will need at home and make a checklist. I’m forgetful (self-diagnosed ADD, I taught school for almost 10 years… believe me I know the signs, lol) so if I don’t write it down or see it, it’s likely to be left behind. Look at the weather of your destination of course. I usually include the forecast on my list page somewhere so I don’t have to look it up a milli times.

I always start the packing process with my babe’s stuff. My daughter has her own lil carry-on. It’s a Moana bag that her Auntie got her for Christmas. I fill it with a small notebook, a FEW crayons (no need to bring an entire pack just to have it emptied onto the airplane floor), small book(s), iPad or tablet with earphones, and a few other small treasures of hers. She likes the choices and you know… the attention span of a toddler. My daughter is currently mega obsessed with writing/drawing, so that is why I chose a notebook and crayons. If your child isn’t into writing, choose something more specific to their interests. If you have a small magnadoodle, you are solid! No crayons needed. I try to save the iPad until last resort, but it’s only because our flight is long. If you have a two hour or less flight there is nothing wrong with popping a movie on. Peace be with you. As for clothes, I make sure I do laundry before we leave and I try to color coordinate our clothes (not with each other…although…maybe). It helps out with shoes which are a bitch to pack and makes your outfits more versatile. I’ll save more smart packing tips for another post though. We buy our daughter a seat now because like her mom, she is the tallest girl in town and needs the leg room. So she was only free the first few flights until we realized how much easier life was without her “sitting” on our laps the entire flight. If you can lug the car seat onto the flight it truly does make life So. Much. Easier. Gotta buy dat seat tho. MAKE SURE your car seat is FAA approved or they won’t let you take it on! It will be displayed on the side of the car seat in red lettering.

Next tip- BE PREPARED FOR BREAKDOWNS. It’s going to happen. They are toddlers. Think how fussy you are when you fly and how old are you? Mhmmm. Cut them a lil slack. I try to make sure we have something for her to drink during take off and landing. It helps with the pressure in their ears. When she was still on bottles, we had one for take off and landing and we never had any problems. Now, Boo Butt’s BFF is her zu-zu (pacifier) so that helps with popping the ears without a bottle. We are actively trying to break the habit though, so I will be experimenting with other things on our next trip. Stay tuned. People will react differently to kid explosions. In my experience, most people are understanding and you’re looked upon with sympathetic eyes. Try to realize that there is only so much you can control. It’s almost like you have to go to a zen place. Laughable, I know but true. Try to figure out what is bothering your child and help solve the problem. Once you’ve done that… try zen, lol. I usually keep my headphones on and by that I mean one headphone in, until my husband gives me that look like what in the actual fuck Carly…then I decide maybe this moment doesn’t need a soundtrack. (False, every moment does.) On our most recent flight, my daughter couldn’t get comfortable and we were trying to get her to sleep. The passenger behind us had her reading light on and it was unfortunately shining right in baby girl’s face. After awhile of trying to figure out a way to block it, I noticed she wasn’t reading but resting her eyes. I KINDLY asked if she would mind turning off her light. She quickly obliged. Shortly after boo bear was asleep. I felt bad because she too is a paying customer, but I decided to do it once I noticed her put down her book. It could have went either way. Another fun flight her ears wouldn’t pop on the way down and she WAILED. It was fun. I just held her and tried my best to calm her down. I hum, I don’t know what works for you guys? I’d love to hear though! Truly Share your experiences or ideas in the comments or hit me up. I love sharing hearing new techniques to try. Anywho, she eventually calmed down after what seemed like the longest moments of my life and fell asleep. Then we landed, lol.

Tip number 3- TRY TO DO SOMETHING ACTIVE before you get on the flight, wear the babe out. My husband lets our daughter run around the airport. Something I could never do because it gives me THE MOST anxiety. But I’m growing as a parent, and a person for that matter, and trying to be more laid back… and not imagine her being taken. It’s important that we trust each other’s instincts. Lol. But for real, my hubs feels comfortable with it and it does help me tremendously. I use the time to organize her stuff for the actual in flight time so it’s easy to grab. And meditate on the positive (try). It lets her stretch her legs and expend some energy which is seriously needed. Stay aware though. There are some crazies out there. Keep a close eye on your heart. Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. If you bought a seat for your babe you can also let them stand on the floor and play with whatever toys you have on their seats. It lets them stretch their legs for a bit.

Last tip- BE KIND. Be kind to people and they will return that kindness. This was one of my dad’s mantras. I hold it very close to my heart and I try to be more patient and kind every day. It’s not easy, and patience is definitely not one of my more admirable qualities. But I’m a firm believer that the vibe you put out there is the vibe you attract. I had a good example of when this on our flight home. I left my phone at the Pittsburgh airport. Just left it setting on the seat in the boarding area. Yep. I’m dope like that. It was a new iPhone too because duh. In a frenzy my husband ran to look for it instead of me, which was counter productive since I knew where I was sitting. By the time he returned and I tried to go look for it, they would not let me exit the terminal. I was so frustrated because I knew exactly where it was (probably). I could have been rude and dismissive and rolled my eyes, but I was understanding. I’m not the only person on the flight. I screwed up, no need to punish everyone. I was sad, but understanding. I smiled and said something like, damn ok, I get it, but I said it suuuuuper somberly of course. A flight attendant on Spirit Airlines saw my pathetic, defeated face and was very kind to me. He even asked me if I remembered specifically where I left my phone. I explained where I thought it was and he told me he would have the gate agents look there and turn it into lost and found at the airport. We didn’t have the highest hopes but a life goal is to focus on being positive…so I tried. ‘Twas hard. And man did I feel like an ass the whole flight home. Low and behold we called the Pittsburgh airport the next day and they had my phone. People are good. I believe this. I want you to believe this. I want the goodness to spread. Within a little over a day I had my new phone back. I wish I remember the flight attendant’s name so I could give him a shout out. Thank you Spirit Airlines 🙂 But, I truly believe had I reacted differently I may not have received my phone so easily. And even if I did still get it back I could have spent those 48 hours sulking, but nope. This time I succeeded in putting it out of my mind and going on with life. Who knows? Maybe it was my dad’s way of saying hi. It’s certainly something he would do 🙂

The Love Vibe, How to Catch It

Love. Such a big idea and such a passionate feeling. As with everything, it’s vastly unique to personal situations and context. But I can do my best to speak to my own experiences and the experiences of others I’ve met along the way. It kinda all comes back to “to each their own.” We spend a lot of time judging how others’ relationships are supposed to look or work, but the truth is just like everything else, each relationship is unique. We can’t expect each person to be an individual and then expect the same thing (in this case type of relationship) to work for all of them right?? (Much like in the classroom with teaching). It gets tricky when you don’t know what is right for yourself. Like if you let yourself be in abusive relationships or settle for someone out of convenience. It’s hard to tell when it is appropriate to reach out to a friend in a troubled relationship or mind your own business. Fine line. And sometimes, from what I can see, love is blind. (And it can take over your mind. Whatcha think is love, is surley not, you need to elevate and find. -Eve. Also prob not the right lyrics but they were my lyrics.) And if you have reached out and they didn’t hear you, then it’s best to let them find out on their own. Unless of course it is an abusive relationship, in which case you should intervene. Probably with the help of others.

There are so many forms of love. Love is too huge to be contained to one type of relationship. It is just flowing through us. Shifting from one person to another. Filling some as it empties others. You can see it in people, it’s like their “love vibe”, how much love they have in their lives. It shines through. Or maybe it glows. Either way you can feel it when you’re around them. I could see it pretty clearly in the kids I used to teach. It was through my teaching experience that I truly understood the phrase; “hurt people, hurt people.” Children, especially young children, have more raw emotion than adults. They are still learning their environment and their behaviors through observation and how to react to these intense emotions they are experiencing. So of course they pull from what they know, their daily life experiences. Some are scared to give their love away, others give it freely. Depends on how they are treated in their environment by the closest people in their lives. That’s what really drew me to teaching. The idea that I could potentially change lives for the better. Help people, help the community. It’s an amazingly humbling profession. But these experiences helped me realize that there is enough hate in the world. I want to foster the love. I want to be kind. I want to be supportive of people. Build people up, fill the kids with love. Love isn’t a finite thing. You can create as much as you want. Give as much as you want. Focusing on the negative just forces you to live in the negative. It’s crazy to think you can fill someone with good emotions. You have control of that, how you treat people. So a tip to help find that love vibe is to GIVE love. Give your love away. The world will give it back. It works like that. I’m pretty sure anyway. It will brighten your love vibe.

I think different relationships serve different purposes in your life. This is a rather recent enlightenment. We put a lot of restrictions on our heart and it causes us a lot of pain. Possibly unnecessary pain. If expectations are clear for relationships then maybe it’s possible to have more than one love-like relationship. I know, I know… hang me in front of town hall. But think about it. I know male, female relationships can be tricky. A lot of people say gals and guys can’t be close friends. One is inevitably attracted to the other and wants to sleep with them. If this attraction did not exist, the friendship would cease to exist. I don’t agree. I have male friends and the relationships are based off of common interests, not attraction. I think.

I’m a pretty fickle person when it comes to love. I haven’t always been able to tell the difference between love and infatuation. This was especially hard when I was a young, impressionable, hormonal girl. Can’t wait to raise one of those. LMFAO. But if I’m being completely honest, for me it has always been easy to have feelings for more than one person. Not saying that I always had simultaneous feelings of romantic love, just saying it was never an outlandish thing for me to grasp. There has been more than one time when I’ve been with someone and been attracted to other(s). Go ahead act like I’m alone. But then you’re supposed to just choose someone. But it’s supposed to be a SUPER obvious choice. Even though there are 7.7 billion people on Earth. So everybody just happens to find their “soul mate” in close proximity? Hmmmm. I’m totally not saying that I don’t believe in the “you just know” feeling. I don’t believe in it for me. Saying that doesn’t mean I love my husband any less. I love him with my whole heart. I’m just being honest. The fickleness! I do, however, definitely think you can feel chemistry straight away. Like ziiiiiing. I felt that with my husband. I used to live for that. (In college) And is primal, sexual chemistry different than compatibility?

I think we need to expand what we think of as a love relationship. It’s not going to be like it was in the sappy romance novels you (I) read in high school. Be realistic. I don’t by any means mean you should settle, but you are going to have to compromise in some way. For example, there have been moments when I thought my husband was an insufferable know-it-all. And I’m confident he’s wanted to kick my messy, ADD ass… quite often. But we compliment each other. We make it a point to make each other feel good. We love each other on a very deep level. We choose to work with our strengths and look past the imperfections. No one is perfect. Duh.

My husband and I had a special relationship from the start. We have always been very open with each other. Honest about our feelings towards marriage and monogamy, what we expected from our relationship. How the whole “forever and ever” thing kinda freaked us out. It’s important to be honest about expectations from the beginning. Obvi we decided our lives are way better together. We’ve gotten better at communicating over the years. Thank goodness considering we’ve been together for 13 years now. But working on our communication really has helped our relationship tremendously and it continues to. We did the “5 Languages of Love Test” which I highly recommend. A coworker that I taught with in Atlanta encouraged us to do it in our classrooms to help identify the students’ different learning styles and needs. (Highly recommend if you are a teacher) It gives real insight to how your partner gives and receives love. For example, my love language is “touch.” So I like cuddles and kisses and rubs. Rubs alllll day for me. My husband’s love language is “acts of service.” So he likes when I like do the dishes for him…barf (And yes he is the dishwasher in the house on the regular. Hat tipped) or take out the trash. Little things to show that I am thinking of him and appreciate all he does for us. Anyway, since we became aware of how one another likes to receive love, we became better at giving love. Giving love in the way your partner can understand it as love. They way they perceive love. Which is probably different than yours…get it? Hippie shit <3

So Free Love <3

Notes:

It’s important to give to the universe what you want to receive from the universe. So give love. Be kind. Good things will start happening.

Be realistic. Open your mind to a broader idea of love.

If you have someone please do the “5 Languages of Love Test.” It’s worth it.

Give love away. Build people up.

Italia, The Motherland

It was an easy decision to go to Italy for our honeymoon. We decided on Europe early on and I couldn’t imagine exploring any other country first. I feel so fortunate to now associate it with the start to a loving milestone in my life. Marriage. We left for our flight to Rome the day after we got married. Off we went. A bit too hung over I might add. My husband blames my cousins and their never ending shots of Sambuca. ‘Twas a celebration after all! We had a blast. As we should have, it’s a huge step for any person to take. Choosing to be with someone for the rest of your lives. A pair. Do the damn thang together. It’s colossal. We got married when I was 26. My husband was 31. We dated for 6 years prior to pulling the trigger. We both felt it was an intense step in an relationship and wanted to make sure. We lived together for a few years before he proposed. Maybe it’s because we both come from divorced parents (mine got back together!?) I’m sure it’s correlated. Also new generation. Generation- I’m gonna make damn sure I wanna be with him (or her) before we get married. You know…

Anyway, Italy!!! We (I) couldn’t imagine a more romantic place. Biased by my partial Italian heritage of course. But even objectively, Italy is known as a pretty romantic place. We flew from Pittsburgh to New York to Rome then journeyed to the Amalfi Coast and Florence before we ended our trip in back in Rome. The plane ride was long but bearable. We watched movies and I listened to a lot of music. My husband and I travel well together. I am a dreamy, stare out the window, get lost type and he is the very opposite. He is The Navigator. It’s a fantastic match. I advise you find you one of these structure-minded people if you intend to travel around foreign countries. They are very helpful. Unless you’re a control freak then you will indeed butt heads lol. I tell him what I want to do and he plots the day in an organized non-ADD fashion. It’s lovely, really.

We started our trip officially on the Amalfi Coast. Which was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. So idyllic. Warm. Colorful. Vibrant yet relaxing. We stayed in Sorrento in a villa on a large hill with a surreal view of the water, the town, and Mount Vesuvius. I remember how pretty the hydrangeas were surrounding the property. They were a saturated blend of blue and purple. The way the colors bled into each other made them look like watercolor. They reminded me of my mom, she loves hydrangeas. Now they remind me of Italia too. The hosts of our B&B made a wonderful breakfast spread every morning, with those hydrangeas posed in the middle of the long table in the sun room. Italian breakfast is my favorite. What I think of as Italian breakfast anyway. The pastries, cheese, tomatoes, jams, fresh fruit, COFFEE. We started every morning on the patio overlooking the water and the beautiful countryside and Mount Vesuvius (pictured below). Lemon trees lined the walk way to the front of the villa. We were able to pick fresh lemons daily and make our own limoncello, a regional specialty. Lemon is one of my favorite scents. It’s energizing. Well I pretend it’s energizing. My husband and I spent most of our time walking the city streets of Sorrento eating, drinking, eating, shopping, drinking, then eating again. Popping in and out of stores and buildings, you know tourist ish, really taking it in. We also went to visit the ancient city of Pompei. If you’re into history it is a pretty cool spot to spend the day, try to transcend time. It amazing to stand in the ruins and preservation of an ancient civilization.

My one most favorite adventure of all time with my husband was our scooter ride along the Amalfi Coast. It was romantic and thrilling and outstandingly beautiful. I remember the adrenaline of hanging off the scooter, trying to get good pics. Alllll the good pics. Lol. People drive crazy in Sorrento and Southern Italy in general I hear. Scooters fly around you on the street. Of course my husband took it upon himself to act like a local. We stopped along the roadside towns. Positano, Ravello…so extremely picturesque. We’d walk the hills down to the beach. The beach in Positano consisted of stone pebbles instead of sand. The stones were so hot (due to us being there at the end of June) it was difficult to walk without shoes. It’s not as easy to walk into the water or along the shoreline as imagined, but that’s part of what makes the memory stick out. We were so out of our element in the small Italian town, but we were together. We were in love. It was magical.

Our next stop was Florence. We traveled everywhere by rail when in Italy. You do have to keep an eye on your bags. They can’t always be right next to you due to lack of space, so you place them in the front of the train car. Keep your eye on em’ though…

Firenze. The city of art and marble. Much more touristy, no less beautiful, but cleaner. Like you could eat off the streets. Much different than Sorrento or Southern Italy which is a bit grungier. NO LESS BEAUTIFUL but if you’re a snob you’d probably like Florence better than Sorrento. You can feel the money in Florence. The age of the city, the air of the Renaissance, strolling the streets of the old and new markets places, the smell of LEATHER, the glow. It was all exciting. I got my mom this cool leather wallet in Florence. I wanted it for myself but she spoils the shit out of my grown ass STILL, so she got it. There was a tent set up with all kinds of leather goods. The smell was intoxicating. You have to shop when you’re in Florence. Even if it’s just drooling while window shopping. The buildings and architecture of the city definitely stick out. The statues everywhere are so whimsical. And morbid. Can they be both those things? History was so present everywhere. Oxymoron, I know, but you could feel it. We went to the museums: The Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’Accademia. We saw the statue of David. They told us not to take pictures so of course the hubs did. I remember this huge room in Uffizi where they had all reject sculpture heads. Like babies and older people. It was the coolest kind of creepy.

We ended our trip in Rome. It was during the World Cup and Roma was still in the tournament. The energy was contagious. My husband even bought a Roma futbol shirt. Lol. He’s cute like that. He gets excited about things. It’s part of what’s so appealing about him. He’s very fun loving and almost always tries to experience the best of the moment. But yea, the city was buzzing and so were we and we wore ourselves out. There is so much to see and we couldn’t shake the need to see all of it. Seeing all the sights is hard to whole-heartedly do in a few days. We did the Roman Forum and The Coliseum, Vatican City which was amazing for me since I was brought up Catholic. I bought rosaries for the fam and we got to see the Pope! Would have been MEGA cool if it was Pope Francis because I LOVE him, but Pope Benedict the whatever was still special. We stopped at the Trevi Fountain, and then ventured through the neighborhood Trastevere. It’s a super funky, boho vibe, so of course it spoke to my heart, lol. Then there’s the nightlife in Rome. Not that we experienced much of it, due to our evening exhaustion. But we tried. I mean this was pre-kid.

There’s so much food in Rome!! And HISTORY. And thinking back maybe we should have started in Rome and ended on the Amalfi Coast. The coast was way more chill and relaxing. We traveled right after our wedding which was in the summer, so it was consistently hot weather-wise. Walking the city all day was kinda brutal in the heat but I mean when you’re in Rome… you’re seeing it all. We never really got the hang of our Roma pass, which is the bus pass for the city. Though we definitely could have tried harder. We stayed in a prime location. Thanks to my forever researching partner in crime 🙂 The hubs loves sweets and legit ate gelato like at least twice a day. I loved exploring the old churches or just sitting around the piazzas. Our most memorable meal in Rome was when we sat outside at a restaurant on a main piazza during dusk, people watching, drinking white wine. It was just such a snapshot memory for me. We ate cheese and bread that filled us up before our main meal… of course drank wine. Plotted out more adventures we’d take as a couple. The beginning of quite a story for us.

Tips for traveling to and around a foreign country:

1. Don’t be an asshole. There are enough assholes in the world. Don’t be one of them.

2. Be open-minded. You are choosing to go out of your element. Embrace it.

3. Phrase books

4. Be aware of your surrounding. Notice landmarks, exits, etc.

5. Don’t be afraid to find a lil hub or place you can frequent. Going there more than once for breakfast or coffee will give you a lil sense of security, knowing what to expect.

Working On My Mental

I haven’t always been completely honest with myself about my mental health. I think I’ve always been aware that I feel things deeply. I love HARD. And inevitably when you love so hard…the burns are intense. I’ve always felt like, overly empathetic to the world. And I had a balance… Until I didn’t. It’s been almost a year since my dad died. There was a lot of darkness leading up to and after the months around his death. If you read my first blog post this was that time period. I didn’t feel like my usual, positive (fairly) and zen-like self. I was learning to be a mother, raising my first baby, moving across the country, and dealing with the demise and death of my father. My relationship with my husband was strained. I was sad. All the time. I felt alone. I was trying to be really strong. Strong for my mom, strong for my husband (so he didn’t think I was a mess) and strong for my baby girl. This was the point I realized I needed more than creative outlets and yoga to deal with this anxiety and at the time, the overwhelming sadness I was experiencing. But, I didn’t want to show weakness (what I thought at the time was weakness), or not be able to conquer this silly, sad demon on my own. I would think… I’m just anxious. Everyone is anxious. You just gotta throw yourself into situations. I’m one of those introverts that can be very extroverted when out and about. I can turn it on and off. Well, I guess I can turn the extrovert on…def can’t turn the introvert off. #lifegoals. It took me a long time to realize that my level of anxiety was not normal. Well “normal” is the wrong word. WTF is “normal” anyway? Pssshh. Not “necessary” I should say. Anxiety is a mind fuck. Constantly clouding your ability to make decisions. Sometimes even simple decisions. It got worse as I aged, post baby it EXPLODED. You find out the world can be cruel and people close to you can hurt you. Deeply. And sometimes on purpose. It’s a tough pill to swallow. It causes trust issues and little demons to creep in and crack the solid foundation you thought was your self esteem. Might even begin to doubt yourself as a person. I’m all about self reflection and have been for a long time, but I now realize you shouldn’t let other people tell you who you are or “what’s wrong” with you. Fuck that. “I’ve never felt pressure to have to justify my selfishness…at least not to you and YOURS.” -Aesop Rock. There’s a song lyric for everything. Music is life. Sorry. Not sorry.

I decided to talk to a therapist. Unfortunately I felt the stigma. I still kinda do. Like I should be able to get over this stuff with a healthy lifestyle and blah blah. I need to be stronger than this. I realized these were voices in my head telling me I was weak, my voice. But I was assigning them to people in my life. Or letting that anxiety filter my life and my experiences with people. It framed the way I looked at everything. But it wasn’t reality, it didn’t have to be. The people around me love and care about me. I am extremely fortunate in that regard. But sometimes it’s hard to feel understood. It feels so lonely. And sometimes you need to go off on your own path. I needed to be strong for me. It’s difficult to be supportive for other people when you, yourself aren’t steady. It’s not selfish. It’s self care. We were all grieving and people grieve differently. I tried to surround myself with things that make me happy and people I care about. Positivity. I’ve learned some people are meant for certain points of your life. To help you grow. Not permanence. My life mantra: “nothing is permanent but impermanence.” But, if they no longer support you, or encourage you to shine. Time to kick rocks. It’s hard to break ties with people. Extremely hard in some cases. But if that relationship isn’t serving it’s purpose, be it friendship or love, is it worth the energy? Especially negative energy. Some people drain you simply because they know they can. (A wise person told me that once) So that sucks. Gotta look out for that. Or one sided relationships…when the other person isn’t even aware they suck. Double eye roll.

My therapist also encouraged me to try to be open with the people closest to me about what I need in certain situations. Be honest with those you love. Since, I’ve opened up about some of my anxieties with my husband and it had definitely benefited our relationship. He’s very supportive and more understanding. He can’t always relate but it helps to know that he can recognize when I’m faced with uncertainty. I have a hard time creating time for myself in extendedly crowded situations. I want to spend time with everyone and make everyone happy but it takes a toll on me mentally. I feel like I need to be “on” all the time. I need time to decompress. It’s tricky when people don’t understand the boundaries because we all don’t have the same needs. But I’m working on communicating better and sometimes even saying no. It’s ok to say no.

Talking to someone has helped. I work through things very internally, usually using creative outlets or suppression (not so healthy, I’m aware…working on it) Although I hold back too much still, just being able to talk about things that are bothering me with someone who is completely objective to my life. Knows nobody. Can listen to my point of view without judging. (Well…) Give solid advice. Hopefully as time goes on, I’ll be able to open up more fully. I still feel hesitant to talk about receiving help. But I’m trying to be more embracing of my natural self and hopefully help others realize they are not alone. Do my part to kill the stigma surrounding mental health. Sometimes these bad feelings are chemical imbalances and sometimes you can’t shake it off. Believe me, I tried. There is no shame in getting help from a therapist or medicine. It doesn’t have to be a permanent thing. You can allow yourself some time to heal. No shame in healing. And if it is a permanent thing then so be it. Happiness is not a one size fits all journey. I didn’t want my baby girl seeing her Mama with a rain cloud over her head daily. I’m a very big supporter of letting yourself feel your emotions. Acknowledging them and feeling them. Watching the bad ones float down a river and blah, blah, all that shit (I get it from my Daddy). But I realized if I did not address the sadness soon, and in a different way, I may be living in this dark place, not visiting.

It’s definitely been a process but I’m coming around. I make a choice to look on the bright side every day. Some days it DOES NOT come naturally and some days the doom and gloom creeps in and I lean into it… But I’m learning it’s ok to feel. Since music inspires: a lyric that has really stuck with me is “The opposite of love is indifference.” It’s from a song by The Lumineers. I’ve learned not to apologize for my feelings but instead be proud that I feel the world so deeply. It’s part of who I am. Overly empathetic? Maybe but C’est la vie or C’est ma vie?? But it’s me. I find there to be strength in feeling. Hate is too passionate to be the opposite of love. Those feelings stem from the same place but apathy…not caring, that’s the opposite of love. I’m trying to hone my good feelings and vibes. Vibrate higher and shine from the inside. Tis hard.

Some things that helped me get on the bright side:

1. Nature. It’s true. Nature just heightens the mood. I get outside whenever possible. It helps that the sun shines eternally in the desert.

2. Yoga. Not just the asanas but practicing the ideas the go along with the yoga philosophy- mindfulness, gratefulness, etc.

3. Music (duh).

4. Visual journaling. Drawing, writing, copying poetry, using anything that helps you manifest what you want (some people do inspiration boards).

5. Writing. “Write long and clear about what hurts.” -Ernest Hemingway.

6. Talking to someone I can trust. In my case I talked to a therapist but it can be someone in your life if you chose it to be.

7. PROJECTS on PROJECTS

Thanks for reading 🙂 And please reach out to those who care about you. You are not alone in your feelings. You can even start by reading mental health blogs. There are some great ones out there and they may be just what you need to help you understand more about your personal mental health. Cheers!

Pittsburgh, A Love Story.

Driving through the hills of Western Pennsylvania has always been special for me. I find it to be incredibly beautiful and peaceful. I went on a solo trip to one of the oldest and fondest cities in my life, Pittsburgh, PA. I hadn’t gotten the chance to really explore the city as an adult so…here we go.

Steelers…here we go!

Pittsburgh’s going to the Super Bowl!

Had to…

I love driving out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel and across the bridge into the city. Boom- You see where the rivers meet, Station Square, PNC Park and Heinz Field, all the buildings, it’s great. As kids we tried to hold our breath while riding through the tunnel. I always cheated. I’m pretty sure my sisters did too. We went into the city for Steelers and Pirates games. I remember the excitement surrounding the stadium during game day. All strangers, but unified by our love for the best damn sports team around. The Primanti Brother sandwiches my parents used to take us to get…DAYUM. One of the best regional traditions, in my opinion, is the addition of fries to all things. Especially salads and in The Primanti Brother’s case, the sandwich itself. Omg and the cole slaw. It’s just amazeballs. If you haven’t had one and you’re in the area you MUST try it. Located in the Strip District.

During my current trip, I stayed in Lawrenceville. It’s a dope lil neighborhood Northeast of the city. I wasn’t entirely aware that Pittsburgh had city neighborhoods. I mean I knew about The Strip District and Oakland because of my fam (Dad went to Pitt), but I wasn’t expecting the areas to be so pronounced…?? Anyway, my AirBnB was reasonably priced (the fees get ya though). It was above Caffe Mona, which was an ADORABLE, lil coffee and grub cafe. I took full advantage of their whimsical patio (pics posted on my instagram account @goodgirlmadcities). I had great access to restaurants and bars in the area. I basically parked and walked all around taking photos and dropping into shops.

Pittsburgh is so industrial, I really dig it. Maybe because I come from a family of coal miners and steel workers. My kin folk are the Slovaks and Italians of small town PA. But, I adore the brick buildings, factories, houses stacked on hills, the hills on hills and the rivers. It feels old in Pittsburgh, but a good kind of old. Like historical. It’s like the city has been through so much. You can see it in the architecture and the streets. And the people. It’s a friendly city but not overly friendly. People help each other out, but ya kinda get the side eye as an outsider. Ya dig?

My first destination was Church Brew Works. It reminds me of my Dad (Everything in PA reminds me of fam). He was so excited to take me and my Mom there when I was home from college one year. We got pierogies and tried a bunch of beer. Me and my mom are super light weights but my dad LOVED draft beers. He was in his glory in a church drinking draft beer, lol. Anyway the pierogis are traditional and tasty. Traditional being that they are served with potatoes inside, butter, onions and a dollop of sour cream on the outside. Delicious. During my solo trip to the brewery, my bartender was friendly. We chatted about him taking his girlfriend to Vegas (where I now reside) and he asked my advice on where they should stay. I suggested Caesar’s 😉 because it’s my fave. The church itself is beautiful with it’s stained glass windows and arches. I love churches, especially old, ornate churches that have been repurposed. The way the light shines through the stained glass, it’s so enchanting to me. Although I struggle with religion sometimes, I always feel nostalgic in a Catholic church. It just feels like childhood for me. I get an odd feeling of relaxation from knowing I’m just to listen, absorb, and pray for an entire hour. I actually recently got a rosary tattooed on my ribs in rememberence of Dad. He hated tattoos…LOL, but I think he’d appreciate this one. I truly do. Especially with all of this craziness with the Catholic Church going on. His faith never wavered. He never provided excuses, but his faith stayed very strong. I think it was hard for him to watch. I don’t think a rosary represents me, but it will definitely be a permanent reminder of my Pa and his resilience, perseverance, and discipline.

I spent the rest of the evening sitting on the cafe’s patio in Pittsburgh. A grid of colorful umbrellas above me acted as a filter to the sunshine, casting a beautiful warm glow to the moment. It’s nice to have time to just be. Appreciate life. So I spent some time thinking and writing, drinking, reading and shared a great conversation with a fellow patron. I was feeling creative and let my thoughts drift back to when I was younger and used to write short stories. Like way younger. High school. And they were mostly love based because duh. So indulge me…

I could feel his stare. You know when you want to look over but you know you’ll meet his gaze and you’re not ready that. Fuck it. I’ve always been too curious. Whoa. Zing. I felt it immediately in my chest. Immediately. Weird. He was tall. Tan. Tattooed. Dangerous. He sat there sipping on a cocktail, a screwdriver maybe? Funny because he looks like a beer kinda guy. He was making no attempt to hide his curiosity of me. I could feel his eyes follow me across the room. It didn’t make me nervous though. The way he looked at me, it was warm.

The next day I headed to Oakland. Spent a large chunk of time in The Carnegie Museum of Art. It’s an impressive museum. A must see in my opinion. You can glide through the different movements of art. Get lost trying to process the evolution and revolutions. I LOVED the Contemporary work and Cubism and Abstract Expressionism. It was very energizing and motivating. Pittsburgh in general was. I want to do all kinds of creative things now.

It was sprinkling when I walked out of the museum. I was in one of those post-inspired dazes. Like when you see a really good movie or read a really good book or go to a really good museum. So I didn’t mind the rain. It was refreshing. I walked the adorable book and art shops that line the streets around Oakland. So many hills and I’m not sure if Pittsburgh is a super green city or I’ve just been in the desert for a bit and forgot about the regional GREEN vegetation. Green on green. But picturesque, indeed. I found a real gem in Caliban Book Shop. It was fantastically overcrowded with stacks of books. But organized and easily navigated. I found the photography section and buried my head for a bit. Remember, post-museum daze. Only $20 later, I am now the proud owner of Photographs by Man Ray 1920-1934 and a Walker Evans book. Slam dunk. Had to pop into Pittsburgh’s own Zeke’s Coffee. Because coffee is LIFE. Especially art museum and book store-browsing coffee. Yep. ‘Twas a good day indeed. One of my faves in awhile.

He found me somehow. It’s like he gravitated towards me. He didn’t say much just slid his hand into mine. I was caught off guard, but I liked it. I felt safe. Warm again. What’s with this warmth?!? It was so easy. We talked, touched, and connected so naturally. It’s something I never felt before. It’s like I’ve known him my entire life. Whatever souls are made of…his and mine are the same.

That night I checked out Brillobox, a bar right by my place. It was interesting. Very chill with a dark enchantment vibe. Loads of the artwork on the walls. Art was really prominent and plentiful in Pittsburgh in general. This trip was exactly what I needed for a lil inspiration and some zen time. J’adore all the flowers in the city. If there is something I will take away from Pittsburgh, it’s the creative inspiration it gave me. I’m often inspired by city architecture and urban environments, but it felt heightened. There’s a lift that takes you to up a mountain to see beautiful views of the city. It’s called the Duquesne Incline. It feels like you are riding to heaven. Great photo opp and view of the city. I was only in town for a day and a half so there is much more to Pittsburgh. So much more.

On my way home I got lost trying to locate a riverside park. I mean I had to get lost at least once. Pittsburgh is kinda a tricky city to drive in, especially if you’re a space cadet like me. But to my pleasure, I ended up in the West End, on top of a huge hill looking over the entire city. Yep. Wow. Pittsburgh has my heart. There are so many things that make this city dear to me. We move around a lot, I would never say no to moving to Pittsburgh. Especially now that I know how dope of a city it is with all of it’s unique neighborhoods. I didn’t make it to The Strip District, one of my favorite spots, but I’ll be sure to hit it up next time I’m in town. So long Pittsburgh. Salute.

Recommendations:

*Caliban Bookstore (bookstore- duh)

*Brillobox (bar)

*Church Brew Works (food, drinks)

**Caffe Mona (adorable cafe)

*Primanti Brother’s (lunch)

*Duquesne Incline

Well I’m Goin’ Down South Child

I had made up my mind. I was moving to Jackson, MS. Heading Souf. Fresh outta THE Ohio State University with a Master’s in Education and a Minor in Art, I was going to teach and give it a real go with my boyfriend (now husband). He was flying and living down there at the time. I had only read about Mississippi in books. It wasn’t my first choice of city…or state for that matter. But, you roll with it, you know? Yolo.

Such a rough and rich history Mississippi has. This was the year I had stood in line for over 5 hours in Columbus to help elect our first African American president. It was such an honor. I was fully aware that I was relocating to the reddest of red states. The controversy of this election would still be fresh. I applied to work in Jackson Public Schools, which at the time was something like 96.8% African American. And poor. Although I attended Ohio State, I came from a very small, dominantly white town. I had volunteered or worked in the African American community in Cbus for years. It’s the reason I switched from an art major (LOL) to an education major in college. But this was different. I had moved to a new and different part of the country. I was completely immersed, plucked and placed. For the most part people were loving and welcoming, especially some of my coworkers, but I immediately felt the racial divide. It’s funny, people would ALWAYS say, “you’re not from here? Why would you move here?” It made me sad for Jackson. You should always rep your city! But the idea that I was a transplant separated me in a way I could never fully recover from. Yankee.

My first teaching job was at a school downtown right off of Woodrow Wilson. It was a foundational experience for my teaching career. I taught full day Pre-K. The kids were incredibly adorable and loving. I’ll remember the stories and memories they shared with me always. Sweethearts. It was a Title 1, underprivileged school in an underserved part of the city of Jackson. There were many unserved parts of the city. It exponentiated the understanding of the privilege I had simply by growing up white. It also made me feel very fortunate. My family was by no means wealthy. We grew up in a small house in a small town. But this…these babies came to school in torn and tattered uniforms that hadn’t been washed in days if at all. They missed school regularly due to poor transportation. I’ll never forget that year I gave one of my students a stupid lil trinket from a very common treat box on his birthday. He squeezed me and said it was the best gift he “ever got.” I know he was just an excited 5 year old on his birthday, but it gives you perspective you know? Certainly it wasn’t his best gift (hopefully) but the appreciation shown was so sincere. Those kids melted my heart. At the time it was hard adjusting to a Southern White community and Southern Black community simultaneously. They were different, separate things. I mean I was used to diversity at Ohio State but this was the opposite. I adapted quickly, something I pride myself on, but it was a completely different culture. One I really appreciate experiencing. We had our awards ceremonies at the church acrossed the street. “Obey” was a huge word used by teachers. Coming from Ohio State where we were taught to literally not say no to children. Let them be little adventurers and guide them. No, no, not in Jackson. And LMFAO but I tried. Thank God for my extremely helpful assistant teacher, who was older and wiser than me. She helped me find a balance between, “I see you need to jump, but furniture is not for jumping so let’s find somewhere more suited for jumping” and “You need to obey!” She also said it for me, lol. She would say. Miss Washinko is the teacher and you need to obey her. I think she knew it was a struggle for me. She told me to find my ghetto voice quick. Bless her heart. There were times when we would butt heads but when you work so closely with someone every day it is to be expected. “Washinko” was hard to pronounce for the tinies. One of them called me “Miss Machine Gun.” I always thought that’d be a pretty dope street name.

Jackson was still surprisingly segregated when we lived there. I mean not officially or anything, but they might as well have been. A lot of people would still use the racial slurs, one slur in particular…on the regular. It was appalling to me. I mean I had seen racism, but only like ignorant racism. Is all racism ignorant…? Hmmm…no some people are just assholes. Anyway, like ungrounded racism I should say. I got into a LOAD of debates/fights with people over politics and general human compassion. I was told twice to “go back to the kitchen where I belonged.” LMFAO. Mmmmmk. Thought people only said those things in fictitious depictions of the South, not real life but mmmk. I was referred to as the “yankee” a lot but that didn’t bother me. I kinda liked it.

It was hard to make friends in Jackson. Well not for my husband but that doesn’t say much. He can make friends with a rock. But I felt like it was very kinda click-y, especially for females. Everyone was from there or from close by. If you didn’t know them, they didn’t really care to be introduced. Remember this is from a female perspective. I’m sure my husband’s perspective is much different. I think women can be challenging to make friends with as an adult. I swore too much, drank, listened to hip hop, didn’t go to church regularly and had way different political views with the majority of our white peers. Hmmm… not much to talk about I guess. Of course, as always, there were exceptions. I adored the exceptions.

Now that was the bad part of Jacktown, but there were many, many lovely things. Like the weather, outside of the summer of course. And some of the people we met down there, extremely cool, down to earth, friendly people. And fun. We had too much fun in Mississippi. We were actually stupid as hell in Jackson. But fun, none the less. We were young. Our friends had a boat and we’d hang at the reservoir and just drink all day. The boys sure made a mischievous crew. There was this super authentic blues club downtown called 9:30 Blues Cafe. My husband and I loved it there. I didn’t know much about the blues until moving down South. We ended up getting pretty into it. We toured the Delta and checked out the local blues clubs. I made mixed CDs for our road trips. One of my favorite past times. Long live the mixed CD. There were two blues clubs in Jackson from what I can recall. Basically a white one and a black one. Basically, not officially, of course. Just trying to paint the picture. Guess which one was better…

My husband got his motorcycle while we were living in Jackson. The “motorbike” as he would call it. The crew all had motorbikes. We lived for motorcycle rides on back roads in the evening. Oh my goodness is Mississippi beautiful. It truly felt like God’s country. We saw cotton fields and shack like restaurants and beautiful landscapes. We rode along Natchez Trace often. When I remember riding the motorbike, the memories have a golden tint. We’d stop and grab beers or snacks in different destinations pre-planed by my husband. He would look up the routes. Always. I was just along for the ride. I’d put my headphones in and get lost in the beauty of nature and the nostalgia of a city that once was. I love riding through cities and the different neighborhoods. Rich history the south has. Historical shit is my ish and I loved photographing and getting to know Jackson and other places in the dirty South. I appreciate my experience in Jackson much more as a reflection. It was very eye opening for me.

We had pseudo parents. They were so generous and loving and Southern. They have money but you couldn’t tell outside of their large benevolent displays of affection. Love when you can’t tell people are wealthy until you see where they live or something and you’re like…whoa. My husband met them when he was sleeping on a couch in a small airport in Jackson. This was pre- me living in Jackson. They basically adopted him. He gave them flying lessons and he lived in their mansion in the forest. I’m not kidding. It’s one of the most beautiful houses. So unique and wooden. There was a pond outside their house where we would fish or just sit and chill, light a fire in the evenings. We had lovely conversations. They were Democrats. (LOL, I had to) The house is actually for sale, if you’re looking to relocate to the whimsical, countryside in Madison, MS, get at me 🙂 We did acquire the doggy love of our lives, Milo, in Jackson. He was a boxer and a big ol cuddly bear. The best pooch and our bestest friend.

We were fortunate enough to explore a lot of the South when we lived in Jackson. We were so close to New Orleans, which has become one of my favorite cities in the U.S and stale for another day. Again, it’s just such a unique culture. The FOOOOOOD…I can’t even. The music. The architecture in the city. Just the general vibe is electric, groovy. Our pseudo parents had their own plane and they would let my husband and I take it to New Orleans, Gulfport or other close cities. They were very sweet like that. I also got to tag along with the hubs on a lot of his flights, especially if they were in the summer. Once he introduced me as his co-pilot. A lot of laughter followed.

Living in Jackson helped me grow as a person and gave me the best experience for teaching in urban schools. As I mentioned, I didn’t appreciate as much when I lived there as I do now. At the time it was hard to look past the differences. But I realize I absorbed so much. Cheers to you Jackson, MS.

Recommendations if you find yourself in Jackson:

1. Sal and Mookies (pizza joint)

2. Babalu (tapas)

3. Keifer’s (Mediterranean)

4. Fenian’s (bar)

5. Que Serra (RIP)

6. Mugshots (burger joint)

Miss My Father Day

It’s a bittersweet Father’s Day for me. Bitter because it’s the first without my Pa, and sweet because it’s my husband’s first. He’s a brand new papa bear. And such a good one. I always say I’m so lucky to have him, which I sincerely believe. He is a fantastic dad. But how unfortunate is the idea of having to be lucky to have a quality dad for your children? A dad that wants to spend time with their little one, wants to help. GETS UP AT NIGHT. I wish I saw more of a reflection of my husband in the general population. I mean of course nobody is perfect, but he does try very hard to share the load. Thankfully because it can get quite heavy. I honestly feel like we are raising our beautiful, strong willed daughter as a team. Thank goodness because she is a pistol. Shocking, I know. You should see the way she looks at him. She is daddy’s little girl through and through and I love it so much. The bond they have is so strong and growing. It’s also mega attractive… Makes me think of when I used to stare at dads playing with their kids in the pool when I was a lifeguard in high school. I’m a creep. But this idea of truly co-parenting really is pretty new to society. Hence the me being lucky part… I’m so thankful for him this Father’s Day and every Father’s Day to come. He’s a true gem. It’s such an outdated concept to think the mother is going to do all of the child rearing. I’m not sure what I would do if he were a “I bring home the bacon, you take care of the kids” type of dude. Ugh. I have interests outside of motherhood that I like to pursue, just as dads have interests such as golf or other games or hobbies. “Mom” doesn’t have to be my only identity. I love raising my baby girl but I need outlets too. The hubs is good at giving me mental health breaks and time to do me. I’m so grateful. So today we will celebrate him and the other dads like him. I know you’re out there. You da real MVPs.

My father’s death is still a fresh wound and I knew Father’s Day would be hard this year. A good family friend summed up the idea of my dad pretty well when she said, “he was like your favorite TV dad.” He was generous, moral and true, sooo fun loving and honestly just an easy-going, cool type of dude. He loved draft beers and jogging on college campuses. He lived for helping others. He derived joy from the simple things in life. Something others have to try to accomplish. It came natural to him. Dad never wanted any gifts, his family being together was enough for him. If anything maybe a restaurant ticket (aka gift card, lol). He was adorable like that. He loved actual cards though. No matter the occasion we could always depend on a heart felt card from dad. I share the same fondness for written sentiments. It made me happy to jot down all of the ways he made me proud to be his daughter. Looking back I hope I wrote enough. I really hope he knew how special he was. Wish I could write one more letter, or fill out one more card. I would tell him he did a great job raising us. That I see so much of him in myself. And my daughter. Except for his patience…lol. It breaks my heart that my baby won’t directly know the best Pap in the land.

My sisters and I lived with my dad when my parents divorced. I was young, in kindergarten I believe. They got back together when I was entering high school. Crazy, I know. But to think, he raised 3 girls and still taught and coached. He always said that’s why he lost his hair, lol. Once we went on summer vacation and he let all three of us bring a friend. Myrtle Beach or Florida were the usual destinations, this particular vacay was in Myrtle Beach. But imagine 6 girls ranging in age from junior high to high school and him. And of course we drove. Seriously, I’m not sure I would even want to do that! But Dad did. I’m pretty sure he called the police because my sisters and their friends were out so late he thought they had been taken. He rarely lost his temper so a stern lecture likely followed. He was such a counselor. Through and through. On normal days he had help from my mom of course. They had a very amiable relationship post divorce, at least they presented it that way. I’m very thankful to them for that. Makes sense since they got back together, but I’m sure it was rough. Especially since my mom remarried for awhile. Not dad though, he never got serious with anyone really. “He was one of those rare men who are capable of being fully in love only once in their lives.”- Pat Conroy, Prince of Tides. That quote is highlighted in my copy of that book. It’s such an fitting quote for him. His love for my mother was unwavering. Inspiring, really. I’ll never forget way he loved her. I know a lot of people idolize their parents but he was the closest thing to a saint I’ll ever know. I’m beginning to realize he’s my moral compass.

So you see why I have high expectations for the role of a father. My dad set the emotional bar high for a male. He had unmatched emotional intelligence for a man (any man I’ve met), an anomaly really. In my life he was compassionate, caring, a GREAT listener. He always suspended judgement. Something that is quite hard to do truly. Odd because his dad was actually kinda the exact opposite. I didn’t know my Pap on my dad’s side too well. He died when I was pretty young. But I knew enough about him to see that my dad took after his mom, my Grandma. Not him. His eyes weren’t as kind. Smile wasn’t as warm. I guess he never went to any of my dad’s football or basketball games growing up. My dad was quite the athlete, scoring a full scholarship to several schools for football. He chose Pitt. Because duh. It’s Dad and Pittsburgh is life. But that’s something. Never went to his games. Sports were always a huge part of my dad’s life. He never missed any of ours (mine or my two older sisters) and half the time he was the coach. However, I should point out that times were different when my dad was young. His family didn’t have a car. They didn’t need one I guess. Pap’s bar was right down the street. Ok…that was a bit of a jab. Again, I didn’t know Pap too well and times were different. My dad always said he was tougher on his older brother. Pap worked long hours at the steel mill and from what I can remember headed to the tavern in the evenings. It’s just astonishing to me how my dad fathered us given his dad’s parenting style (My Grandma Washinko, his mother, was an entirely different story). My father never spoke poorly of his dad though. Ever. I don’t want to give that impression. He was that kind of man. And he will forever genuinely be THAT kind of man.

I remember Coach Dad inviting more than a couple girls from the team to our house weekly, if not daily for some supper before practice. They lived far enough away to not want to travel home in between school and practice. We were in no way rich but making extra food and helping people out was a deep part of who my dad was. Even if that kindness wasn’t reciprocated or appreciated. It didn’t matter. He did it anyway. He always told me to do things without expecting things in return. I think of those words often. Sometimes it is easier said than done. But we do our best right? He was so supportive of us. You know, he wrote in every single card I can remember getting that he knew I would do something special with my life. I always hoped I wouldn’t let him down. Once I became a teacher he made it a point to tell me that was such a special thing. Helping others, being a mentor to those who need one, he considered that special. I always thought he meant something bigger. Maybe he did, but he made me feel like helping others was special enough, that I had fulfilled that expectation.

Fortunately for me, as I grow older I see more and more similarities between my father and my husband. They are very different people yet they’re not. I’m not sure how to explain it. Maybe it is because my husband and I were basically raised the same and I think our parents were basically raised the same. Ohio River Valley in da hizzouse!

My sisters and I wrote Dad a letter after he passed. I’ve included it below. I know I’ve said it so much but I just hope he knew what he meant to people.

Dear Dad,

I hope I told you enough how much I love you and how special you are. How I can’t wait to teach Lyla how to play “Tree Tag” or “Touch the Couch”. How I remember you running the “Bedtime Train” and how we would all sing and jump on. If we didn’t we became a “sack of potatoes” and you would throw us over your back as we giggled the whole way to bed. You always promised me that you wouldn’t fall asleep until I did. And you left the hall light on while you sang me Beatle songs and made up lullabys. Every night. You were so patient. Now that I have my own child, I sing her those same songs. Sometimes I get annoyed as she stares at me instead of sleeping but I think, Dad would have just sang another verse. You were such a good dad.

I wrote you a poem, I wish I could read it to you. I wrote it at your bedside during the “transition” through tear saturated eyes. I tried to be strong for you but watching this was the hardest thing I’ve ever did. Something I will NEVER forget. Just as I’ll never forget your kindness, your optimism, and your love.

Because of you Dad

Because of you Dad, I know to trust my intuition and go with my gut

Because of you I know a window opens when a door is shut

Because of you, I know how to be respectful and show compassion

You, who lived to help others, it was your passion

I’ve learned you have to be the change you want to see

To live as if you already are who you want to be

Because of you Dad I know how important it is to have faith

To stand strong and fight through what you think you can’t take

I’ll never forget all of the lessons I’ve learned

To treat everyone with kindness, and how trust is to be earned

Because of you Dad, I know what a father should be

You put us on a pedestal, how lucky are we?

We will always remember your smiling eyes

And how you stayed so positive during the demise

You are truly the best man I’ll ever know

And it hurts so bad to have to let go

But, because of you Dad, I know you are in a better place

You’re with your family in a safe and warm space

Please know you will always be with us

In our hearts you’ll stay, in this just trust

So it’s goodbye for now but not forever

All of our great memories I will always treasure

I love you Dad, Rest In Peace. I’ll talk to you soon,

Carly

New Hood, MotherHood

My first Mother’s Day just passed. I knew before having a child that Mothers were Rockstars, but I wasn’t aware of how hardcore they are. I knew eventually boogs and poo wouldn’t phase me too much, but I was NOT prepared for the emotional rollercoaster. Geesh. I’m aware that I am an emotional person. Some people have a negative connotation with the word “emotional.” Thinking emotional means lack of strength. I whole heartedly disagree. I think we have the strength to truly feel the world. I’m proud to not be apathetic in life. I like a steady ride as much as the next girl, but damned if I don’t enjoy the ups and downs too. ‘Tis considered a ride right? This is something I’ve grown to be proud of though. I still keep a lot inside, it’s just my nature. But I’m learning that emotional outlets are an important part of life.

So anyway, when I got pregnant and I was like…ok, got this. Been dealing with my emotional self foreva. THEN lil peanut came and whoooooooaaaaaaaa. Like whoa. Every feeling heightened, lol. Everything felt so deeply. But now that babe is almost one year old, I’m basically back to my normal place on the emotional spectrum. Basically. Shout out to those of you who said, “it takes a year.” I always thought that seemed way long but I feel you now. I feel you. Becoming a mother was a large progression in my personal journey to becoming a woman. I said personal because everyone’s journey is their own and not everyone requires motherhood to complete their journey. But it really made me respect the emotional intelligence women have. We are such emotional, loving, caring beings. I’ve grown to be quite proud of it. There’s a reason people are so attracted to us. They like a lil cray. Don’t be fooled. A woman is a beautiful being.

I always thought I understood the role of mother. That understanding is growing so much every day. And opening up. Staying at home with my baby has gotten a lot of cheers. People share in my joy of being able to watch and foster the growth of my child. Observe as she makes connections to the outside world and experiences things for the first time. But, surprise, surprise , it also gets a lot of sneers. “So you think you’ll just stay at home then?” “Won’t you get bored?” And the soccer mom stigma…don’t even get me started. How judgey we are as a society. It’s a damn shame. It’s imprinted in me that staying at home is not enough. I feel truly guilty when I fill out the employment section of forms or have to explain to others how I have a lot of hobbies that I currently get to enjoy. Blah, blah, blah. Why do I feel I have to explain myself? I don’t. Spending time on my family and myself needs no reason or explanation. I was grinding in teaching for 8 years. And although I LOVED working with the kids, I was drained at the end of the day. Well my work day. Then I’d have to go home and grade papers, track scores, work on my evaluation, etc. The to do list was never ending. So much extra work that job entails. So on a side note- give it up to your kid’s teacher or the next time you see an educator. Because yeah…we get summers off and breaks but we deserve that shit. It’s tough work if you care enough to do it well.

I consider myself a feminist. But being truly feminist to me means being in control of your own life. Any decision involving your reproductive rights, your capability to be a mother, your capability to choose career over family is your choice. You’re right to obstain from the marriage, kids, anything. It’s your life. Not everyone is meant to understand your journey or decisions. They are your own and everyone’s path is unique. I’ve really come to understand the term “to each their own” as I grow older. I do feel like we are confined by a lot of our society’s paternalistic, ancient expectations. As a country and as a whole we are waaaay too concerned with the actions of others or what others think “should be”. Mothers, scrutinized for everything. My husband on the other hand couldn’t care less what people think. But he’ll forever be plagued by my perennial “Does this look stupid?” I can feel the eye roll, lol.

All and all, I don’t feel too different now. I mean I know having kids is a game changer but I’m not sure my personal game is very different. This is partially due to my ability to stay home. I don’t have the hustle and bustle of getting my babe ready for daycare/school, working all day, and then resuming mother duty in the evening. I don’t go out as much, but that was decreasing anyway due to so many of our friends having kids or demanding work lives. But now the great question is upon us, whether to have another baby or not. You won’t be surprised to hear that EVERYONE also has an opinion on this topic. But I don’t want to sound annoyed. I honestly like and seek out diverse opinions and views on the topic of motherhood. An overwhelming number of people think it’s absolutely imperative that we have another child. An absurd idea to think of only having one child. Of course I love the idea of siblings, especially as we get into the later years of our life. I feel close to my two older sisters. But I also think the world is more accessible with only one child. Being able to travel and not be tied down by extracurricular schedules and more. There is something about the number 3, the trinity, triangle. My sister recently drew my attention to numerology and I’m seeing it in everything now. I don’t know. Such a pendulum. Plus, I read Ishmael, and it basically explains how we are overpopulating the earth and draining all of it’s resources. So there’s that. Also, I don’t like how people act like it is a selfish concept. Again, “to each their own.” We’ll see what the future holds. I’m not in a hurry. Today at least…lol.

If there is one thing that traveling around has taught me is that women in general are strong and mothers are vastly different. It’s best to find your own way. Mind others, but stay true to your intuition. Your opinion or perspective deserves as much respect as some rando’s. We are all raised differently, some of us very differently. I truly believe people are a product of their own environment. We Ohio Slayers (Ohio Staters) are big Vygotsky people. I believe in nature too. But also circumstance and opportunity, things in which people need to thrive, are not innate. Notice I said thrive, not survive. Difference.