The Communication Shield

ppl on media

We all hide behind it…the communication shield. Phones, computers, texts, social media, general media, etc. are the outlets we use to remove ourselves from the consequences of our words and actions, the shields that allows us to attack everyone without ever having a real conversation with anyone. Whether getting angry on the phone with contractors and service providers, sending snippy work emails, mean tweets and texts, angry Facebook statuses, or name calling, we have all done it in some way or another. It is so easy to get behind the shield technology has created to “enhance” the way we communicate. Some of us say whatever we want, thinking it’s okay because we have a wall between us and the other person (via phone, television, or computer screen). However, do you ever think that maybe the very shields that guard us, are actually killing us, one sword wound, one mean tweet, one angry text, one facebook status, at a time?

What if ALL this communication we are jabbing angrily out into the world had to be FACE TO FACE, PERSON to PERSON, HUMAN TO HUMAN, MAN of God, to WOMAN of God. Would we say the same things? Would we maybe wrap more people into the protection of our shield instead of using it against them?

ppl helping ppl

I am just as guilty as anyone- for example, I was texting with a contractor the other day… long-story-short: our basement flooded in November. The contractors we hired did an okay job. His opinion on the work completed was very different from mine – thus we disagreed when he wanted us to pay him before (in my opinion) two of his promises were fulfilled. The conversation quickly turned into me texting, “I will be glad to let my lawyer handle this and stop further discussion” …all via text. I started to feel bad and think: if I just paused to cool off before I texted or talked to him face to face, maybe the insinuated hostility in our conversation would go away. Maybe we would be less inclined to get so angry and not be able to resolve our own issues. After I thought about how I don’t want to be “the lawyer lady” over something so trivial…over my pride, I texted him again…not as a contractor, but as a human being. He was at my house picking up a check the next day, and we were both laughing and talking about our children. Oh, yes – did I mention he is a human being with children? The kindness felt so much more true to my heart than the angry texts the day before, which were all mostly just communication issues in the first place on both sides.

I could give similar examples from our household of the way we’ve dealt with Comcast, AT&T, hospital billing departments, etc. We have disagreed with the way companies conduct and run their businesses and acted very frustrated and angry (to put it lightly in some cases). We also see instances of this every time we open up social media or turn on a news outlet. Most of us are guilty of these angry conversations in some way or another…behind phone calls, texts, Facebook, etc. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t make them less of a person, less of a man or woman of God, but behind these shields, we treat each other like we are second cousins, twice removed… from humanity.

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We are human, and we are weak, and that is okay – because we aren’t going to be perfect. And guess what? Jesus loves us anyway. But….what if instead of trying to be perfect, we just try to be a little better? A little kinder today than yesterday…? What if we decide to choose love a little more? But how?

How do we convert these shields from weapons to places of refuge to share with others? How do we fix ourselves, in hope that the solution will spread? I don’t have the answers for everyone (not even myself), but what I TRY to do in every scenario- is ask, “Would God love this person? Would Jesus be hateful to this person? Or would he love this person even harder despite his/her faults?” You may laugh and say, get this girl a WWJD bracelet and tell her to zip it, and that’s okay too. My point is that Jesus loves us despite our faults, shortcomings, political beliefs, and disagreements. He loves every race, every gender, and NONE of us deserve his love. And isn’t that wonderful? What if we all chose to love like that…to see the world like that, even one more time today than yesterday? What if ONE act of love and kindness is the answer to all of the anger and hate? One act of kindness is contagious – if you disagree, just go to Starbucks when someone pays for another person’s order, and watch as it happens throughout the line for hours. We can all be these ONE acts that spiral into several, if we choose to love others as Jesus loves us. We will have days where we fall very short, but at least we will be moving in the right direction, and we might just bring the world along with us.

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  • Topics for the dinner table:

What is something kind someone has done for you recently? What kind things have you done lately? Maybe if we talk more about these things, we will see the world is full of love, though certain outlets only focus on the hate. Choose to see  and spread light and positivity, and maybe the world will be a lot less dark.

  • Biblical Inspiration:

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

Literary Inspiration:

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” –Mark Twain

baby feeding dog

Surrender: My Natural Birth Story

Disclaimer: this is a raw, true, and emotional depiction of my life and experiences.

Whew. It has taken me months (7 to be exact) to find a way to tell this story in a way that sufficiently conveys the spiritual journey I experienced. I still don’t think I can do it justice, but here is my effort none the less.

A lot of the what I learned in childbirth I didn’t realize until long after it was all said and done (I am still learning valuable lessons from it today), but the journey really began in my childhood. At the age of 2, I learned that people let you down. The details of how I learned that would be another blog post altogether. However, it’s relevant to mention because I attribute (at least some of) my yearning to be in control and plan out many aspects of my life to my childhood experiences. I am a planner, a researcher, and I am very disciplined once I make my mind up on what I want to achieve. I’ve been that way with grades, sports, college, my career, relationships; I took the same approach to childbirth.

The Decision

My decision to have a natural, unmedicated birth didn’t come until I was about 6.5 months pregnant. That only left me 3.5 months (yes, pregnancy is technically 10 months) to prepare, which isn’t a ton of time for someone who has to research every nook and cranny of a major decision like this. Ironically, early on in the pregnancy, I was shouting EPIDURAL ALL THE WAY every time someone asked me whether or not I wanted an epidural at birth. The only thing I knew of childbirth was what Hollywood and my family told me: “It is the worst pain you will ever go through.” However, along with the pain is a side of birth that doesn’t get mentioned enough: the beautiful spiritual process it entails.

I went on many walks when I was pregnant, and around 6 months, I started feeling a yearning to research the benefits of natural birth. I researched personal experiences (on both sides), and I just kept on researching. I don’t know where it came from, but it was a very emotional process. I would even tear up on my walks as I contemplated my decision- and I know now- that it was God pulling at my heart strings. He was asking me to trust in Him, to walk with Him, hand in hand, on – what I didn’t know at the time – would be the hardest and most beautiful journey of my life.

I knew I didn’t want narcotics during labor because my biological father was addicted to them my entire life, but I was not completely opposed to an epidural and wanted to understand more about a birth without medicine. I watched The Business of Being Born, a Netflix documentary, which educated me on the risks of modern medicine, the reasons why more and more women are taking the natural approach, and allowed me to see natural births from real women. (This isn’t a blog to debate pro or anti epidural AT ALL, as I think each experience is completely different, and every woman’s journey is beautiful in its own unique way- I am just explaining my approach to educating myself and the research that went into it). After that documentary, I had officially made up my mind: I wanted to have a natural, unmedicated childbirth.

Preparation

I knew then I had 3.5 months left to prepare. My marathon training had begun. I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, hired a doula, and continued teaching barre classes to stay in shape and keep my endurance up. I had coffee with my sweet friend Connie, who had already been through this process three times, to ask her questions and soak in as much advice from her experiences as I could. My walks and imagining my birth became more and more spiritual and emotional at this point, and I started making a birthing playlist on Spotify. I would literally tear up more and more on these walks as I imagined my birth and listened to my music. The emotions were so strong at some points that I would pray no cars would pass and see me crying. I was literally the token “crazy pregnant lady” jamming out to Ray LaMontagne crying on her neighborhood walks, but I was at peace because I knew God was calling me down this path. I just didn’t know why.

We met with several doulas, and found one with whom we connected best. I got my birthing ball, my herbs and vitamins, and I prepared my body in every way I could. Prenatal yoga, birthing ball positions to help the baby down and into position, and at 38 weeks I drank Red Raspberry tea and took Evening Primrose oil like it was my job. I had my essential oils, my playlist, and my birthing outfit. I even had my birth plan already mapped out and signed by my doctor (I can send an example to anyone in search of a good natural birth plan). I had checked every box. The planner in me was content. I was ready, and I was just waiting on baby.

Labor Part I

It was Thursday, January 27th – my due date to be exact- when my contractions started at about 3AM. The best way I can describe my early labor pains is a growing and building pressure like a belt around my lower back squeezing against my uterus, causing the worst period cramps I’ve ever had. My contractions peaked at about 20 minutes apart at 7 AM, and then they became irregular again. David went on with his work day, and I took the day off, thinking I would definitely go into full-on labor by day’s end. Then evening came again, and no regular contractions. This time, I woke up at midnight, the same pressure in my lower back but much worse and building- after about 2 hours, I was drenched, as were the bed sheets, and my contractions were 7 minutes apart and almost a minute long (we still have the contraction tracker counts in my phone). I knew this was it. We went to the hospital, only to get sent back home. The NST machine in the hospital was picking up the contractions, and the nurses said they could see that they were each over a minute long at this point, but I still wasn’t dilating. I was so discouraged.

The contractions faded off again by morning, and had no pattern at all. I repeated the same process Saturday night, but I had to get on the floor and hold onto the bedsheet while David pressed into my back (I had bruises in my back I was having him press so hard). This time my contractions got down to 5 minutes apart. We went to the hospital AGAIN, only to be turned away. I felt so defeated. I thought to myself, “I know there are 3 stages of labor, and if this is the early stage, there is NO WAY I am making it through transition (for most women transition is the worst phase). I’m barely a dilated to a 2!” I begged for them to induce me (which should indicate how much pain I was in and how tired I was because I was very anti-induction, as the chances of a successful natural birth go down with induction), but there was nothing they could do because my doctor wasn’t working that weekend. The other doctor wouldn’t induce me on a weekend without clearance from my doctor.

So we went back home for the second time, feeling defeated, embarrassed, and weak, and my contractions slowed again when the sun came up. The pain from the past three nights made me fear nightfall on Sunday. I didn’t think I had the strength to stay up all night doing this again, and I was so confused – this wasn’t a stage of labor I read about- what was going on? I then found a post on prodromal or “false labor” which is a terrible name, because it isn’t false at all when you’re going through it. Prodromal labor was exactly what was happening to me: painful contractions that would get very close together at night and then slow in the mornings (can be different times of day but night is most common). My pain was all in my back, and I would wake up panicking from the overwhelming wave of pressure with each contraction, jumping down as quickly as possible into a position where I could make the pain more tolerable. David would jump down with me and rub my back, and it became so routine that I would tap him without saying a word, and we would both get into position. I went through this for one last night, and by Monday morning I was at my doctor’s office demanding to be the first induction of the day. I was willing to take my chances on induction because I didn’t know how long my prodromal labor would last. I knew another night of contractions with no sleep would mean I would definitely be too weak to have a natural birth.

Labor Part II

And so the birth process “officially” began Monday morning at 10AM when they induced me with Cytotek – a small pill they insert (I could write another blog post on my fears of Cytotek and how I finally became comfortable with that decision). Everything was moving along beautifully – I was dilating more and more every few hours when they would check me. Early labor contractions were honestly no worse than my nights of prodromal labor. During labor, I found out Hux was sunny-side-up, which means he was facing my pubic bone instead of my tail bone, and the terrible pain I felt with prodromal labor was likely him trying to turn and face correct way. He eventually turned, and I battled through the stages of labor (doing lunges, getting in the shower, and David was applying a heating pad to my bag during each contraction). I remember feeling ready to give up and be done with the pain when I was dilated to a 6.

I told the nurse I would give it an hour and if I hadn’t dilated past a 7 by then, I would have an epidural. During that hour, the doula coached me through positions, and the position that made it easiest for me to cope was grabbing the back of the hospital bed on my knees, moving my hips in circles, and making breathing noises that I can’t even describe – you literally have to hear them for yourself. I would close my eyes and imagine I was walking down the beach, hand in hand with God, as he comforted me through the ebbs and flows of each contraction. I’m sure that sounds crazy, but that was the only thing that got me through the pain, one contraction at a time. I was dilated to a 7 when the nurse came back, and that was the adrenaline rush I needed. At this point, I was the naked pregnant lady doing lunges and sitting backward on the toilet through transition to help the baby drop further. It was such a vulnerable yet powerful feeling, to be so spiritually connected to God in that moment and in such pain that I was forced to ask for His help. The only way to get through each contraction at that point is to give in and not fight the pain. I kept this up until was ready to push at about 12AM (14 hours after I was induced).

I pushed for three hours, and by 3AM I was informed they were going to start preparing for an emergency C-section. Dr. Nwadike came and checked me and realized my cervix was inflamed. She told me I had to stop pushing, or I would tear my cervix. Those words punched all of the strength and hope I had left right in the gut. I was done. All I can remember at this point were the tears welling in my eyes, and my tired voice, cracking with pain and weakness saying, “I can’t. Just cut him out- I want a C-Section. I am DONE. I can’t do anymore. I have reached my limit.” My body began to fight the pain and shake with panic, with fear, feeling like everything I had done to prepare – all the pain I had suffered without medication- was all for nothing. It was going to end in a C-Section anyway. I was going to have narcotics anyway. I failed. I was uncontrollably shaking and crying on the hospital bed, along with David, when Dr. Nwadike looked at me. She said, “Haley, there are two options. You still have a chance at a vaginal birth if you can wait for the anesthesiologist to get here with the epidural. You can sleep it off tonight – you won’t be in anymore pain- and we can see if the swelling is down by the morning so that you can push again. Or we can take you back for a C-section now.”

I pleaded in desperation, feeling the weight of a bowling ball pushing on my cervix, trying to hold my muscles back from naturally pushing, which was nearly impossible. “Take me back now! I am done – PLEASE- just get him out!” I could endure the pain when I was moving toward a goal, getting closer to seeing my baby, but in those moments, when the pain seemed to be standing still, I lost it. However, Dr. Nwadike didn’t give up on me that easily- she looked at me again and said, “Haley, I know how badly you wanted to avoid this. The baby is fine, and there is still a chance at vaginal delivery if you trust me and hold on for 30 more minutes until we can get this epidural here. I spent hours going over this birth plan with you– I know what you wanted- and I think we can still achieve some aspects of that. You are so strong- you have made it this far – I know you can do this.” I finally calmed a little after hearing her faith in me and agreed to wait for the epidural. The pain was insurmountable at this point (it took all of my strength to hold in each push so that I wouldn’t tear my cervix as the contractions came on stronger and stronger), so they gave me narcotics to hold off the pain while we waited for the epidural. David made them call the anesthesiologist every 5 minutes until he finally arrived. (I’ve never seen him so scared or upset, but then again I had never been so scared myself). Then, 45 minutes later, I finally got the epidural, and after five nights of painful contractions, some much-needed, pain-free SLEEP.

I woke up around 7AM immediately worrying about the baby – but the nurse assured me he was fine- heart rate was stable. However, my cervix was still inflamed. I had until 4:30PM for the swelling to go down before they would take me back for a C-Section. They kept checking me throughout the day (especially David – I’ve never seen him so concerned. Nor have I ever felt so close to him. I know I wouldn’t have made it through without him- he was my rock), but I was still much too swollen to push. The nurse, Angie, (happened to be my mom’s best friend from childhood) came in to check me one last time at 4:15PM before they prepped the operating room. Her face lit up with excitement. She said, “Haley, the swelling is gone, but I am going to get a second opinion.” The managing nurse came in and agreed – the swelling was gone! We could hear cheers in the waiting room and all throughout the nurses’ station outside. I was ready to PUSH!!!!!!!! Dr. Nwadike was in within seconds, and less than 30 minutes later my little guy was born.

He was here. He was healthy. He was beautiful. Nothing else mattered.

So, what’s the point?

I feel like I asked myself this question over and over again as I was laying there the morning after the epidural (still technically in labor) reflecting on what had happened. Why would God want me to get this far only to fail? Only to end up having the one thing I’ve been determined to avoid my whole life: narcotics. Throw an epidural on top of that after I had put such planning and preparation into not having one….after I executed perfectly- I made it the whole way, only to trip at the finish line.

I finally realized after I held Hux in my arms for the first time that I hadn’t tripped at the finish line. I hadn’t failed. Instead, I had fallen completely into the arms of God. My legs weren’t carrying me, but I was running more smoothly than ever before because God was in control. This was the first time in my life my back was completely against a wall, and I was entirely out of power, out of control, out of preparedness. I was forced to truly give the situation to God and ask him to take over, to ask for help from all of the people in the room – all of whom he had perfectly placed there- to get me through the finish line and deliver a beautiful healthy baby. That’s when I knew the “why” in the entire journey. Miss planner, miss prepared, miss “in control” needed to learn to let go. Though I had always been spiritual, I had never learned how to fully surrender to His will, which is much greater than my own. What a beautiful lesson it was, and I know I will continue to learn from it all the days of my life.

“Skinny” Banana French Toast

Wahoo! Feeling super accomplished that I actually had the energy to wake up and make something healthy AND delicious, I had to share. I woke up Sunday morning at 6:40 (this has been the norm because now that David and I are gearing up for our busy season, our dogs have gotten used to waking up SUPER EARLY).

Immediately I realized I wanted something besides just bacon and eggs for breakfast before church. I started perusing Pinterest for “easy” French toast recipes (that were also natural and semi-healthy).

I found THE best banana French toast recipe and decided to try it out! I ran to the grocery as soon as it opened at 7 (our church starts at 9, so I knew I would be crunched for time if I waited too long), and here is the list of ingredients I grabbed (or already had in the pantry):

  • 2 oz of lactose-free milk (I chose amond milk because we already had some in the fridge)
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 2 slices of gluten free bread (Ezekiel bread is my fave, but we were out – so I went with a whole grain option – tisk tisk)
  • 2 spoonfuls of earth balance butter (or whatever “healthy” butter you choose)
  • 1 tsp of Stevia (or sugar of your choice)
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 ripe banana peeled and sliced (maybe buy a few days before if you like them REALLY ripe like me)
  • All-natural maple syrup

Here are some of my awesome ingredients pictured (strawberries were something extra I added to the breakfast):IMG_4267

First: whisk together the eggs and milk, and dip the bread in for one minute, letting it soak all the way through (I flipped mine and did 30 seconds per side). Heat one spoonful of butter in a non-stick pan and fry the freshly-dipped bread for 2 minutes each side (until golden brown):

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Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside for the end.

Add another spoonful of butter to the pan, let it melt, and caramelise the bananas (approx. 2 minutes).

Spread the cooked bananas over the French toast, sprinkle sugar and cinnamon mixture over the top as wanted, and then top with all-natural maple syrup! Bon Appetit!! (my attempt to be French since I DID make French toast).IMG_4269

Nom nom nom!!! Enjoy!!

-Haley

 

 

Pregxpectations

Let me start off by saying my husband and I are beyond grateful for this little miracle with which God has blessed us, and we are absolutely thrilled about our sweet baby, due this January. However, this isn’t a post about the beauties of pregnancy and having children (there are plenty of those out there if you are wanting warm and fuzzy). I’m about to get real about the hardships of pregnancy and how social media conveys it much more fairy-tail like than reality.

Whew. The pregnancy bar is HIGH. The rules are endless, and the number of resources are overwhelming. I’m officially 13 weeks today, and I am already feeling guilty because I have yet to take a belly picture in front of a cute chalkboard, letting everyone know the size and facts about the baby. I’m not poking fun – I genuinely think those are cute and very sweet momentos to keep – I just keep telling myself I will “do it next week.” Maybe next week I really will (though there isn’t much to see this early on). I was imagining a glow by now and a sweet little baby bump, and all I have is acne and a bloated stomach – not the cute “oh when are you due?!” bump – just an “I can’t button my pants fat/can’t breathe after I eat” feeling.

Pregnant women are also posting about all of the foods they are eating and avoiding (NO deli meat, brie cheese or sushi and NOTHING processed-I won’t even whisper the word GMO). As I look at these “fit and pregnant” pins on pinterest, which typically lead to the most perfect blog post, where mom-to-be has tracked her baby bump since 8 weeks with fun facts along the way, I just get exhausted. The irony is that I have always been an avid fan of a very active and healthy lifestyle, but I’m sorry – first trimester, I just wanted some tacos, vanilla ice cream, and a bed… and once again, I felt guilty.

Most of the moms-to-be on social media only talk about the happy times, or how the baby is growing, how they can feel it move, or how AMAZING they feel, and how they are enjoying the “glow” of pregnancy. Let’s get real people: I want to talk about what makes us HUMAN during pregnancy (after all we are growing one inside of us). I wanted to vomit every day after week 6, and it was not just the mornings. What’s worse is that I couldn’t actually throw up, so I just felt miserable all day and laid on the couch with all of the blinds closed binge watching Netflix (which really means I would catch 5 minutes here and there as I woke up between naps). Also, an important fact: I am NOT a napper. Even my husband was shocked to see that I could sleep for four hours and then wake up, eat dinner (or try to) and go right back to bed at 8:30. I felt worthless.

One positive, I am still managing to teach barre classes in the mornings, but I wasn’t telling anyone I was pregnant yet. I would get so winded trying to count and hold a plank, that my voice would literally start to shake and crack like a nervous school girl. I know those poor ladies were thinking: how is SHE teaching US when she’s so out of shape she can’t even breathe enough to count?! I quickly learned the “turn mic off” trick when I was breathing so hard it was embarrassing. No one really tells you HOW WINDED you get at simple tasks while pregnant. Walking. Carrying groceries. Climbing HALF a flight of stairs (yes, I said half). Talking. Standing. Being. So, once again, I felt like I was just a “bad pregnant person” or the “already out of shape pregnant person,” and the guilt would return.

Another thing: the cravings. Everyone talks about crazy cravings and aversions, but I have never heard anyone say, I craved nothing, and the thought of food made me sick no matter what I ate…not just in the mornings. I would think I wanted something spicy. My sweet angel of a husband would go get me Mexican food, and I would take one bite and lay back down, sick again. That was the worst: THINKING you are craving something, but NOTHING would satisfy the craving or make the sick feeling go away. I tried it all: pickles (I’m talking ENTIRE jars and the juice), Mexican, ice cream, Chinese food, you name it. NOTHING worked.

 Lastly, pregnancy hormones. No one, and I mean NO ONE told me how quickly they would kick in! The slightest thing would make me want to punch through a wall or fall to the floor crying. I was (am) a CRAZY person (more than my NORMAL crazy). Doctors should have a separate appointment with husbands with a disclaimer: YOUR WIFE IS CRAZY – always agree with her, and do NOT push her buttons right now. Pregnancy hormones are real, folks, and mine started as early as 5 weeks. I remember one specific instance where David and I were packing to go to the Bahamas, and I could not zip my suitcase. I asked him (politely, at first) to try and zip it BEFORE he washes the dogs outside so that I can be switching suitcases if he can’t zip it. He informed me that he had already planned to wash the dogs, and I would have to wait until after that.

My mind at that moment (I’m talking SPLIT seconds): “How DARE you choose to wash the dogs before the NEEDS of your PREGNANT wife?! I am already struggling, and my hormones are raging, and you won’t do this SIMPLE thing for me that would take you two minutes?!” He told me to stop overreacting and that it’s not a big deal if I have to wait 15 minutes. Pregzilla quickly entered the room. I yelled at him as if he had just broken a vow, and tears were wailing! I sounded like a 10 year old pitching a fit. I threw a cup of water on him as he walked out (ignoring me because I was being totally crazy). Then he walked back in and said (something he will NEVER say again), “This isn’t pregnant you, Haley. This is JUST YOU!” I can’t even include in this post the words exchanged next. Needless to say, I had him reading all of these facts in books about how pregnancy hormones are REAL – and they start EARLY. He felt terrible (as did I because I didn’t recognize this crazy person I had become). So, expecting couples, just know pregzilla may show herself, and it’s okay – because she truly can’t help a lot of it. It will go away with the hormones (hopefully) haha. See, I can laugh about it now.

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Me, looking at David.

Here’s the thing I have realized: maybe I AM a BAD PREGNANT person. Maybe I can’t handle what other pregnant ladies can. Maybe I didn’t have the perfect pregnant Paleo diet full of all natural foods. Maybe I became a raging b*tch at times (pardon my French), and maybe I was the laziest, most tired pregnant person to have ever lived. Regardless, I am my own pregnant, and I guarantee you I (or we if some of you feel the same way) are not alone. We are all doing the best we can, and shouldn’t that be enough? I think social media has done a lot to fill pre-pregnant minds with high PREGXPECTATIONS! I love this baby more than anything already, and I will take the very best care of it in my own way, in my own belly, and I say it’s okay to lower your pregxpectations. We shouldn’t compare our pregnancy to anyone else’s because God gave each of us a miracle, to nurture and grow in our own way. While this baby grows, so have I, and I am getting rid of the guilt and living at peace knowing I will do the best I can, and that IS enough.

Giving Up On Being Perfect

I was at dinner with my friend KB last week, and we started talking about our careers and my calligraphy business and how crazy it is to look back on our college days, when I had “dreams” of being Miss Corporate America. I was going to be single for a AT LEAST two years after moving to Atlanta, and I had it “all figured out.” Thank God we have someone greater to determine our lives, and the plans we make for ourselves don’t always pan out. Wasn’t it Garth Brooks who said, “Some of God’s greatest gifts were unanswered prayers”?

Honestly, if I looked into the future five years ago and saw myself today, I probably wouldn’t recognize myself, and I’m okay with that. I remember my junior year of college, interviewing with the Big 4 accounting firms, being so nervous and just praying that I got my internship offer! Then, I remember interning for Ernst & Young, thinking I had finally made it. I got my job offer, and I couldn’t wait to finish my Master’s degree and CPA so that I could move to Atlanta and be totally independent. I just knew I would climb the corporate ladder and make partner one day. I had this feeling, coming from a small town and being the first in my immediate family to go to college, that I had something to prove. I’m not sure if I needed to prove it to the world, or just to myself that I COULD do it. However, after I got the career I had dreamed of, I realized maybe that’s not what I really wanted after all.

I have no regrets, and I know that the learning, experiences, and people I met allowed me to find myself and grow in such a way that I wouldn’t trade it for anything. What I realized in this journey is that I had been going after what I thought I SHOULD want, versus listening to what my heart wanted. Granted, I had to support myself right out of college, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that without accounting, so I know it was a part of God’s plan. I am just so grateful I have the support system in my wonderful husband, my amazing family and friends, and my faith in God, which ultimately helped me find the courage to follow my heart.

me and david first pic
Our first picture (David left, Brent right)

Speaking of my husband, I really did say that once I moved to Atlanta, I would be single for AT LEAST two years. I told myself I wasn’t ready for another serious relationship, and there were certain things I thought would work out eventually and luckily didn’t. I remember being on the phone with my mom, and all she said to me was, “Never say never, Haley. When you’re not looking, you’re going to find the one.” And despite my anti-romantic, career-oriented stubbornness, I found him. David was my first and ONLY date here in Atlanta, making it “official” after about two weeks. (David will kill me for sharing this next part) He said “I love you” at Waffle House after the first Georgia game in Athens – mind you- after a long day of tailgating. This was two weeks after our first date, but it was more of a mumbled, mouth-full of hash browns slur, which we didn’t talk about it until six months later, when he ACTUALLY meant to say it.

KB and I laughed about how different things would be if my plans had gone the way I had thought, and I am so thankful that the person I thought I wanted to be isn’t who I am at all. I know there is still a risk I could fail, but I’m okay with that, because at least I have found what I really want and what makes me happy. I will continue to change and hopefully grow, and five years from now, I hope I have discovered even more about myself. Isn’t that the point of life anyway? As one of my favorite authors, Anna Quindlen, put it: “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”

Anna Quindlen
Anna Quindlen

I’ll Miss the Bacon Smoke

I’ve never been a very patient person. It’s something I strive to get better at daily, and it’s something I regret more and more as I get older. Ahh, if I could go back to x, y, or z. I would just sit back and enjoy the beauty of the fleeting moments, instead of wishing each one away because of my impatience to get to that next “big phase” of life.

In middle school, I was “so ready” to be out of that in-between age, where mom had to drive me EVERYWHERE (how embarrassing), and I could be independent and “look cool” to the older kids without having my parents hanging on my every move. Then, in high school, it was “I can’t wait to be a junior, where I can drive myself to school” – and as the baby of my class, this waiting was excruciating. Then it went from waiting for college, to “I can’t wait to be done with final exams”, to “I can’t wait to graduate and move to Atlanta and have a big girl job.” It was always something bigger, better, more exciting I just couldn’t wait to experience – so much that I graduated college a semester early. Now I would kill to have just one more week with all of my friends in those carefree days, or have my parents drop me off at the movies one more time with a naïve and innocent heart.

family

I’m a mover and a shaker (a very impatient one at times). When I am passionate about something, I try to make things happen, versus waiting around on things to fall into place – and this is a great strength of mine – but also one of my biggest weaknesses. I don’t like hearing “no,” and even when I do hear it, I believe there is always something else I can do to make it work. I like knowing, or at least “thinking” I am in control of my life, instead of handing it over to God and having faith that it will all work out (probably even better than I had planned).

I remember when David and I were engaged, I was “so ready” to be married and be done with the stress of wedding planning. I couldn’t WAIT to move in together, to save money and have our own private space. Let me preface my next point by saying I LOVE married life with him, and I am so blessed to be his wife. However, I do occasionally miss my roommates. I miss wine nights and venting about stupid boys and all of our dreams and goals and sometimes our disappointments. I miss sharing outfits and having someone to tell me “no, you aren’t wearing THAT out of the house”, or “you have makeup lines”, or “let’s watch the sappiest romantic movie we can find” (usually the Notebook).

I so appreciate the time I get with my girlfriends now – I try to make every dinner, every event. I think that time with my friends is something my younger self took for granted as well, because we all assumed we would always be together all of the time. Now, as we move away, get married, have babies, it is so much harder to find quality time together, so when we get it, we soak in every second.

Another thing I find myself wishing away is living in this older apartment in the heart of Brookhaven with David, but I am trying to really enjoy this last month or so. We bought a house in my hometown, Calhoun, Georgia, and we are both so ready to be done with traffic, the lack of space in this apartment, and elbowing each other trying to work at the kitchen table.

Though there are many things I can’t wait to leave behind, there are so many things I will miss about this tiny place where I spent my first (almost year) of married life. I will miss cooking dinner together in a kitchen where it’s dangerous for even one person to stand without getting hit by both the entrance door and the refrigerator. I will miss the water going cold in the shower and yelling at David to turn off the washing machine!!!! I will miss us ordering Chinese and watching all of the Apocalypse shows he and Jay (our cousin who lives in the apartment above us) love. I will miss having a weekly chef (Jay is a great cook and would come down and make dinner for us very often – I think David paid him so that he wouldn’t be stuck with my cooking). I will miss dreaming with David about where we would go next, talking about all of our aspirations and “one day when’s” over a bottle wine at the kitchen table. I also assume one day David and I will be able to sit back and laugh at the time he thought I was being murdered when I found a roach on our headboard (it’s still a little too soon for me).

So, as I find myself gearing up for another phase of life, I plan to do it differently. I plan to sit back and enjoy the fleeting moments of this phase that’s coming to an end. At this very second I am watching David smoke up our kitchen while making his daily breakfast (because our stove vent doesn’t work). And instead of getting annoyed, I will smile this morning, and breathe in a little extra bacon smoke, knowing that this same experience may never come again after we move. And as terrible as it may seem, as my eyes water and I cough uncontrollably, I think I’m going to miss these smoky mornings. In a few years, we will look back with nostalgia at the days when it was just the two of us, in an old apartment, and life was “simple” in its own beautiful, chaotic way.

Alice: How long is forever

White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second.

 -Lewis Carrol

The Struggle is Real

The struggle is real. Isn’t it though? A very good friend of mine, a sixth grade Language Arts teacher, posted a picture of one of her student’s assignments almost a year ago. It still makes me laugh every time I’m reminded of it. The students were supposed to answer the question: “If you were famous, would you endorse a product you hate for $500,000?” Below is the child’s response:

struggle is real

We all face our struggles, whether internal or external, big or small, and though each person’s struggle is different, one thing that helps me get through tough times is a quote from Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t be afraid for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Another simple quote that always helps is “This too shall pass.”

Every struggle matters, and how we deal with our pain and suffering will shape who we become and our perspectives on life. I am talking about everything under the sun: from finding the strength to finish a personal goal or assignment, getting through a breakup with a first love, weathering a fall cold, all the way to dealing with a serious illness or coping with the loss of a loved one. Though they are all very different and nowhere on the same level, we can apply the same logic and the same faith (ironic to put logic and faith so close in the same sentence), to help us get through these hardships.

To illustrate, I’ll start with a very trivial struggle I had today – going back to the gym where I worked out before my wedding for the first time since I got married. I was scared, and it seems so silly, but if you had met Quinten aka “Q” at Roc House, you would understand my fear. Yoga and barre classes have been great lately, but how quickly I realized that I am not in high-intensity workout shape anymore!

As I was doing what seemed like my 400th burpee and finishing up 4,000 meters on the rower, Q pulled out the kettle bells. I thought, “This is it. I have reached the end. My destiny is death by kettle bell because I can’t even pick it up right now.” Q walked over to motivate me (aka yell in my face and ask if I forgot what it was like to do a real workout), and something sparked from within. I thought, “This too shall pass. Almost done. PROVE him WRONG!” and the next time he asked, “Are you already tired HP?!!!” I responded with “It’s HT now. And I feel great!” …Okay, so my response was something more of a breathless “no” – (but same difference, right?), and I managed a slight smile through the pain.

Somehow this seemingly stupid accomplishment inspired me today, because I have seen so many struggles lately – real ones – in my hometown, in the friends that surround us, in people just dealing with hardships and losses that can impact and change their lives forever. These hardships tag along a pain that I don’t think I have ever felt, and I am in no way comparing my suffering at the gym to these serious struggles. However, something pulled at my heartstrings today to humbly uplift those going through difficult times and remind us all to hold strong to our faith.

I asked one of my best friends in college, who had lost a parent a year before, how she got through it. How did her mom get through losing a husband and she a father? Her response sends chills through me to this day. She said, “You just do. You have no choice because life goes on, and you go on with it. It hurts like hell, but we are all stronger than we think. We just have to have faith that God will see us through.” Her strength, her courage, and her outlook are amazing.

I can only imagine this pain that may seem like the end; it may seem like we will never, ever, ever be okay again. When children get sick with cancer, when people are taken from us too soon, when marriages fail, when parents leave, when people give up on us and disappoint us…

It’s easy to question God in these situations. I have done it in my own struggles, but especially in witnessing the struggle of friends who have kept their faith and can’t seem to get out of one storm before another hits. In these times, I have to remind myself that I am not made to understand. I am made to believe. And I believe God is good, despite the bad I have seen lately. In seeing the positive and faithful outlook of families going through worse pain than I can fathom, in seeing how they inspire others around them, I see a silver lining. I see that God has a plan far greater than my simple, human mind can understand.

I will close with a quote from someone far wiser and more insightful than me, who I believe said it best when he said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” –C.S. Lewis

Fear | Wonder

Fear stills my body,

Chases wonder from my mind.

It protects; it secures; it suffocates.

Wonder moves my heart

Shakes the stilling fear

It awakens     it excites      it frees

I choose to be awake      excited      free

wonder

How many things have we (have I) not done in life because we are too afraid of “what-if?” Logic and fear have strong-armed me into certain decisions in the past while my heart was pleading for a different choice. Logic can be a great ally for us, because we must have a balance between our dreams and reality. However, we cannot let reality stump our dreams completely.

While there is no certainty as to the outcome of pursuing our passions, isn’t uncertainty better than sitting in fear, waiting as our hearts begin to beat with less and less vigor? When we stop being curious, we become content in a place where we have settled, beneath the grasp of our full potential. I suppose we remain there, until something shakes us from within and unveils the child-like wonder that gives us the courage to dream again.

I have found this child-like courage somewhere in the past few weeks (though some may argue that what I have found is stupidity- and I don’t fully disagree). After four and a half years of school, a Master of Accountancy, a CPA, and 3.5 years in corporate America (for which I am forever grateful), I am leaving it all behind.

I am saying goodbye to comfort, goodbye to financial security, goodbye to the box that enclosed all of my creative energy, goodbye to the excel spreadsheets, goodbye to the 9AM to 6PM structured days, goodbye for now. I may see you again in the future, as the ground is hard below, and there’s always the risk I could fall and splatter into a harsh reality once it’s all said and done. But today I am leaping, leaping in hope that my faith, passion, and drive will help me soar.

Today I choose wonder, and I feel more certain about this decision than I have felt about anything in my life. So here’s to the unknown that lies ahead – I can’t wait to see what you reveal.

-Haley, the curious calligrapher, blogger, writer, dreamer

Praying in Public: Answered by an Angel

David and I sat down for dinner last night at Verde, a local Brookhaven hot spot, for what seemed like a very normal Tuesday evening (despite it being our one-month anniversary). We both ordered one of our favorite margaritas, chips and salsa, and specialty tacos – BBQ pulled pork for me and ground beef for David. Then, just after our tacos arrived, David grabbed my hands and asked that we bless it. We try to do this before each meal (but I will be the first to admit we are often guilty of forgetting, especially in a public restaurant or with a big group of friends when we are easily pre-occupied), but last night, we took a moment and prayed over our food. It was a quick and simple prayer, spoken softly by David, and we moved onto our meal.

I asked David (aloud) after we began eating why it always feels more awkward praying in a public restaurant than at home. Was it just me? Or did he feel it too? The guilt that bubbles up as I get the awkward/embarrassed feeling– like I have an angel on one side of the table encouraging me to be proud of my faith regardless of what people think, and a devil on the other saying, “not too loud, better hurry- they’re looking at you!” Of course my human weakness gets the best of me, and I start to speak more quietly and rapidly as the prayer goes on, until it reaches its mumbled end. Whew, hands break and eyes open, and David and I are “normal” people enjoying dinner again. I hate that I feel this way – like I am proud of my faith yet embarrassed to vulnerably express it at a public dinner. I feel like a hypocrite. No, I AM a hypocrite.

My guilty feeling started to subside as we finished dinner, and just as we are getting the check, an older man who had been eating at the table beside us stopped at our table on the way out. He looked at David and me and said, “It is so nice to see a young couple today praying before meals.” He smiled and walked away. It was such a simple statement, but it touched my heart so deeply that it brought tears to my eyes. I’m not sure if he heard my revelations on praying in public places and thought I might need some encouragement, or whether he was just truly touched by seeing us pray. Either way, it felt like God was speaking to me, to us, and saying – I am proud of you, and it is okay to feel awkward, to be different.

Sadly, Christians praying before meals has become less common in today’s society – (I haven’t done research, but based on what I have experienced) I rarely, rarely see it in public, if ever. Therefore, it can feel a little taboo, but I am so glad that God reminded me that it takes courage to get over the discomfort you or others might experience through expressing your faith, but if you touch even one life, or influence just one person, it is well worth it. 

I will remember this man’s words, as they made such an impact on me, and I (though not claiming to be perfect and remember to pray at EVERY single meal like I should), will have more confidence next time I am praying in public. I will subdue the inner worry of offending someone or people staring, and I will simply thank God for my meal. And maybe, just maybe others will catch on, and we will all feel a little less awkward. 

Love,

Hales

  

 

 

Calligraphy Craze

So, I have been meaning to compile a list of some calligraphy and hand-crafted projects I have done lately to post to the blog and I am finally  getting around to it! 

Below is an invitation suite I put together that I plan to sample on etsy (I plan to make custom ones depending on the color scheme/style of the couple). Can make the font more formal (since this example is a more fun/modern style) and do anything from flowers to nautical, rustic to elaborate!   
Then there are the random doodles of fun quotes that I just love:   

 This one is a special request of a friend who gave this to the bride and groom – a quote from their first dance song – LOVE the gold for #EllieGoulding  

And more doodling:    

This next one is a special piece, handmade for my mother-in-law as a retirement gift. It’s her favorite bible quote and was such a special project I was honored to do!  

Another custom request for a wedding gift. My friend Kaylee gave this #RailroadEarth piece to a bride and groom for their special day (also a first dance inspiration):
 

My own wedding program via chalk paint:  

Some of my addressed invitations (no worries, Gorman moved haha so any stalkers trying to find her via this address, #shegone):  

…and some final random addressing and doodling with a white dip pen/other paint pens 🙂    

This has become such a fun hobby- and a way (aside from the blog) to help my right brain get some exercise. Excel spreadsheets and accounting for real estate investments everyday don’t quite fill my creativity cup. So there you have it- drink up y’all, hope you enjoy!!