Sunday, December 29, 2013

Looking Back on 2013

As this year comes to a close, I want to take a couple of minutes to reflect upon the past year and where I am now as a parent, woman, friend. It has been awhile since I have blogged so this may be a doozie, but that is not something that bothers me - my good friends will tell you that I tend to write novels anyway :)

I am not at all where I thought I would be right now. Going into my 29th year, I thought for sure I would be married with at least 2 kids, maybe even more. I would be starting my career as a teacher, excited to see young people light up and become passionate about something, much as I did in high school. I thought I would be settled down and getting into a sort of stride in my life.

But as all of us know, that is not the case. Here I am, a single Mom of one amazing little girl at 28 (almost 29), unable to finish my degree in secondary education for financial reasons, working at a job that I by no means hate, but never thought I would be working at. At I certainly have not settled down or found a stride in my all. In fact, I just laughed typing that. Nothing about where I am is at all where I thought I would be. I have experienced a lot of heartache this year, which many do not know about. In fact, I could even tell you that there were probably times that my parents knew something was going on in the past 2 years they have lived with me, but it was very rare that I would actually cry or lash out emotionally about something. I have felt as though I have to be the stronghold of the family, of my family. I do not have a choice but to be strong and forge ahead. To fight my emotional battles by myself and not burden others with them. And there is nothing wrong with being strong and looking at the present and the future instead of the past. But emotionally, that is hard to through on your own and fight battles on your own. All of my friends who have loving partners, please remember this: CHERISH the partner you have. Never take for granted the love and emotional support they give you. You may have your family you grew up with (which is amazing), but raising children and moving forward with your life without that emotional is much harder than I ever imagined it would be. Even when your partner is away for a long period of time and taking care of the house and the kids seems unmanageable and you are about to pull your hair out, remember that you have that emotional partner who is there for catch you when you fall emotionally. That equal who is always there to hold you up and you to hold them up. Do not forget that and please, do not take it for granted.

I have had dear friends who have gone through traumatic events in their lives this past year and I would have done ANYTHING to take on that burden for them. Anything. Those times make friendships stronger, even when the friendship itself changes. To know that there are people out there that will always be there for me, regardless of where we are at, and for them to know that I would do the same for them...THAT is all that matters. It really is. At the end of the day, having people who love you and you love them and you are there for each other...that is all that really matters.

So here I am, about to start 2014 with a large amount of student loan debt, no husband (or boyfriend to speak of), and not at all where I thought I would be in my career. And there are moments when the thought of that brings me down...a lot more than I would care to admit. However, I choose to live in the NOW. I choose to live in the present and look towards the future. I cannot do anything about my past -- the things that I cannot change. I can sit here and stew over them and see how I could have done this or that differently but ultimately, I am just allowing the past and the fear of the unknown to take a hold of me and suck life out of me. But I choose to not do that -- it is a choice. It is a choice that you make to say "horrible things have happened...I am not the person I was before. My life was shattered and I, as a person, am altered. But I am looking at the now. I will never forget the past and what has happened to me, but I am living for the present and the future." And that is something I tell myself every night before I go to sleep. I did the best I could today but I cannot change anything that happened. I cannot rewind time. Tomorrow is a new day - a fresh, clean day. No mistakes. I have to make NOW the best today I can...and every day after that.

With all that being said, I would not change a thing. I would do it all over again if I had to, without hesitation. I would take the good with the bad; endure the heartaches for all the moments of celebration and happiness. And I would do it over and over again without even thinking about it. And when I think about the hard times, and trust me, they were hard, I think about how much more FULL I am because of all the good times. How much light and joy is in my life because of my little Emmalynn. How I don't know how I would survive without her or how I survived before her. How EVERYTHING I do is for her.

And so 2014 is a year of living in the NOW (in case you hadn't figured that out yet :) ) -- being positive and looking forward, not back. Loving with everything I have and not putting up walls. Being the best person I can be and allowing myself to make mistakes. Allowing myself to feel pain and heartbreak. Allowing myself to learn from those experiences and move forward. In 2014, I will be the best mother I can be and the best friend I know how to be. I will continue to be there for those who need me and be a light for those who need one. But most of all, I will live in the in the NOW. Do everything I can today to make it the best day possible and the same the next day, and the day after that. No holding back.

So Happy Almost 2014 -- make it a great year! Love harder, live better, never hold back.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dating: Part II

Where do I even begin? I know this is not the first time I've written about dating and I am pretty positive it won't be the last. I am a single mom and until the word "single" is no longer in front of my description as a mom, it will be something I talk about. It is something I experience and recognize every day. I am a single parent. I am very thankful to be a parent period. My daughter is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am not quite sure how I ever felt whole or fulfilled in life before she was here with me. But I wouldn't wish being a single parent on anyone. Ever. It's the hardest but most rewarding job I will ever have. 

But this whole dating with a child thing just...blows. For lack of a better term, it just blows. And what sucks the most about it is that somehow no matter how old or young a man is (or even a woman), they can't seem to be mature when it comes to dating. I am a very straight up girl; when I am not interested or I become uninterested, you know. I don't do the ignoring thing. Or the excuse thing. Or the "I'm sorry I have to wash my hair in Friday night" thing. I would say that 95% of the time if I am not interested or become uninterested or I'm just not that into a guy, he knows...because I flat out tell him. Point blank. It's better for everyone involved that way. No mind games. No tricks. Just honesty. We all deserve that much. 

All I am asking is that the favor is returned. Is that too much to ask? Seriously? 

Because here is the deal: I'm awesome. I really am. I'm not trying to be cocky or overconfident but I'm awesome. I don't ask where a man is and what he's doing every 5 minutes. I don't feel the need to "check in" on someone I am dating unless they are sick or depressed. I have clear and concise boundaries. I don't jump into a relationship. I am extremely patient. And do you know why? Because I'm awesome. And the other reason? Because I expect the same in return. I have this odd notion that we should treat people the way we want to be treated. If I want someone to be kind and patient, I should be kind and patient. If I was someone to be considerate and thoughtful, I should be considerate and thoughtful. And I would say I do a good job of it, too.

But now we come to the part of why I hate dating the most: apparently, not everyone sees it the way I do. And I am not sure if it us because they don't feel like they deserve this treatment or I don't deserve is treatment but either way, it blows. It really does. Because I'm better than that. I'm worth way more than that. 

Some people would say, "Katie, just go out and have some fun! Date around! Have a few drinks with a couple guys! Have fun!" Well, I did that. In my early to mid-twenties I did that. I had lots of fun dating. And it was very fun. Tons of fun. Fun coming out of my ears. Then I had a child. And this child depends on me and looks to me for how she should act and what the right things are to say and do. She looks to me to be her example. So while I want to meet someone and date and have fun while doing it, I don't want to just go around having fun. I did that. Now I want to meet someone and after a good amount of time dating, be in a committed relationship and eventually get married and have more babies. And I deserve that...because I'm awesome. And any single parent deserves that too - you are all awesome! You deserve to be treated to the standard you would treat someone. You do. Don't settle for anything less. Because you deserve the best. And don't be afraid to demand it, either. And don't be afraid to get hurt. Because when you love with your whole heart, you child sees that. They see that we make mistakes and we choose the wrong path sometimes but that we learn from it. We grow from it. And we want them to learn and grow from their mistakes as well. 

So, while I am TOTALLY fighting with dating right now, I will keep at it. My daughter should see that I am not afraid of making mistakes. That I am not afraid of the unknown. That I am not afraid to be vulnerable. And that because of all this, she shouldn't be afraid either. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Greatest is Love

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it has no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 

I think most people have heard this verse a time or two...or 80. I Corinthians 13 is something I had to memorize during a church program in 4-5 grade (where are all my STARS girls at???). It is also not something I fully understood until many years after memorizing it. And I kind of think that was the point; taking this knowledge with us as we travel through life. The older I get, the more I understand the deep meaning of scripture in my life and in the lives of others. 

There is one verse that gets me to the core....especially recently: Love has no record of wrong. Quite a few people in my life, including myself, have gone through some tough times lately. As we all know, life is not sunshine and roses. Things happen that have little to no explanation and leave us asking, "Why?" It can leave us angry, bitter, or make us feel like we are being punished. More than anything, these hard times can make us feel so...alone. These are times when our family and friend's support means everything. Just a simple "I'm thinking of you" can mean everything to someone going through a hard time. And not saying something can break whatever relationship was there before hand. 

This is when this passage of scripture is so important. Loving always. Not just when things are easy and good. Always. Love never fails. And it keeps no record of wrong. Love is not conditional. You cannot say you love someone and then peace out when things get hard. You cannot say, "I love you unless you do this or do that." You cannot say you love someone and then list conditions of your love. That is not love. God gave us love in the context of I Corinthians 13 - love encompasses everything. Love does not hold things against us. That is not part of love. 

Now, this blog is about parenting. And so I am about to get on my soap box (if I'm not already) and make my point: you cannot love your child(ren) and hold things over their heads. Your cannot love your child(ren) but only if they win that trophy or get straight A's or win beauty pageants. The best thing you can do for your child is encourage them and love them despite their shortcomings. They are not perfect but THAT is why you love them. Because they are themselves. Your children will succeed when they know you love and believe in matter what. I am begging all of you to love your children and your spouse (or partner, boyfriend, etc) unconditionally. just isn't love. It just isn't. 

My best friend sent me an e-card that said, "Thanks for being such a good friend when my life looked life a Cymbalta commercial." The first thing I did was laugh hysterically. The second thing I did was say to myself, "No. Thank you. That's what it's about." THAT is what it's about. Love without conditions. No record of wrongs. It's easy to love someone when everything is great. Make sure you are loving them when their lives look like a Cymbalta commercial. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Hard Parts

Now that Emmalynn is almost two and a half and independent, I am tested on a daily basis. I tell myself whenever I am tested that this moment is going to make me a better parent. It will teach me more about parenting and about myself. And I feel a bit better.

And then I tell myself again about 20 times throughout the day.

That's right. 20 times.

Did I mention she is almost two and a half?

And then there is just life. Life is hard. Being a parent is hard work. Being a working parent is hard work. And being a single's the hardest job I will ever do. Ever. And I would never wish being a single parent on anyone. I am lucky to have a co-parent that I work well with and really see as a partner and not just a "baby daddy".

But there are those days...those days that test my relationship with my co-parent. Today is one of those days. I can honestly say that sometimes things are great and sometimes things are terrible. We take it one day at a time and today is one of the hard ones. I have heard from many people that marriage can be the same way - one day at a time. And that makes me feel a bit better.

It can just be so hard to understand what's going on...where his head is at. And maybe I'm not meant to understand. But it is something I struggle with every day.

And then the future is hard. I have started a new job where I am starting to get into the swing of things and understand the culture a bit more. I am taking more time for myself as well. And I even started to date again about 6 months ago. I have been trying to move forward and more and continue to date...but that is hard. And scary. Just as scary as it was when I started dating after two years of not dating. The more I do, the easier it gets, I'm sure. But it is still hard.

All of this combined truly scares me. Achieving my goals and becoming a great woman, mother and hopefully someday scares me. And it is hard to stay positive. But if the new culture at my work has taught me anything, it is to be positive and know that you have a team...people we can lean on and ask for help. When things are hard, we all have a team - our family, our friends, our rocks. Those people are their to be our sounding board and there for us to lean on. So as times are hard, I lean on my friends and family and know that with their help, I can make it through any hard days.

So while this journey may be is totally, 100% worth it. Trust in God and trust in yourself...and you will never be alone.

And she's worth it :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Beginnings?

First of all...HAPPY NEW YEAR! :) I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday :)

Second of all...I never understood the saying, "New Year, New Beginnings." I mean, you can vow to start over and be a better person each year. But I am a firm believer that you should never forget or regret the past. There are several reasons I believe this: the first reason being that you should forgive, but never forget. The saying "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me" really rings true with me. I truly believe that everyone deserves a second chance. But I also believe that if you forget what has happened in the past, then you are not LEARNING from the past. And that brings me to the second reason, which is that if you live with regrets, that means you are not learning from your mistakes. I choose not to regret the things I have done -- I choose to learn from them. When I was 16, a dear friend of mine was in such a low place that he decided the problem was not temporary...that it was never going away...that it was something he could not live with. He took his own life on March 1, 2001. I will never forget that day...and I will never forget that dear friend. And it was at the tender age of 15 that I made the decision to never regret -- to make mistakes and make lots of them, but to LEARN from them. And so far, I have done a pretty good job of not living with regrets. I have certainly done a good job at making mistakes...even making them 3 or 4 times just to be sure that it was a mistake :) It is also because of this dear friend that I choose to love without conditions -- to take the good with the bad and the fun with the not so fun...I am all in whenever I am in a relationship (and I don't just mean romantic...I mean friendship, relationship, family, etc.). This has a lot to do with not living with regrets. I don't want to look back and say, "If I just would have done..." or "If I just would have showed them...". Nope. I will do it -- I will show it and say it, whether it be good or bad, because I am all in. No conditions. That is not love. I Corinthians 13 says that "love is not easily angered; it has no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." ALWAYS. No conditions. It never has a record of wrong. It is not conditional. If it has conditions, it is not love. Period.

I guess the point of this is to learn from my mistakes not only as a parent, but as a person. Making sure I put first what should be put first -- my duties as a mother. Now, I have talked before about how each parent needs their "me" time and how couples should make sure to make time for "date night" and not get lost in their jobs and children and their children's activities...but ask those people why they do those things and they not only do it for themselves, they do it so they can be a better parent and set a better example for their children. So, for 2013, I am going to try my hardest to be the best mother I can be -- make as many mistakes as possible so I can know what is the best for my daughter and I and make sure I put being the best mother I can be FIRST. Anything is icing on the cake. An added bonus. I also want to do something superficial (I think that is required when it comes to resolutions) and go to at least one Zumba class (or other work out class) a week and pay more attention to what I am eating. It sets a good example for Emmalynn that I care about myself and I care about her and what we put into our bodies.

I feel as though this blog has been sufficiently serious for a resolution and "reflection" blog. Now...some fun pictures from my baby's 3rd Christmas :)

Big Girl Excited for Christmas :)

Riding in her new car and LOVING it :)

Walking in her new Minnie Mouse light up heels :)

Here is to new friends, new experiences, putting aside our fears and living out lives in 2013! I can't wait to see what it holds :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Are We Afraid Of?

The older Emmalynn gets, the more I consider her development, both socially and physically, and how the events that are currently taking place are going to effect her in the long run. So here are a few things that I have feared or that my friend's fear could happen with their children.

1. Are the educational programs she is watching really teaching her anything? Or is she just staring at the colors, hypnotized by the pixels and in fact, learning nothing?

I have often asked myself these questions, especially with all the current research about children watching TV. The media has a strong influence on older children and adolescents and it makes me wonder how much influence it has on my toddler. The other night, we were watching Dora the Explorer (which makes me want to punch myself in the face but Emmalynn seems to like) and when Dora asked if Swiper the Fox was anywhere to be seen. Emmalynn ran up the TV and pointed to where Swiper was and then when Dora asked her to say "Swiper No Swiping!", she said it in UNISON with Dora and Boots and even put her little hand up like both of the characters do. So I just found my answer -- she DOES learn something from educational television. She DOES love it for the colors as well. And does the media effect her? Absolutely. As a parent, we cannot shield our children from all the bad things in the world, and that includes what they see on TV. However, we can do our best to ensure that what they are watching is not damaging to them and is either neutral, or they are learning something. Honestly, I am just happy she is learning new things that are helping her develop -- regardless of where it comes from. And I don't think that makes me a bad Mom, either. She watches TV and learns colors, shapes, directions, how to be kind, etc. I don't feel bad about those things or the fact that she watches TV at all. And if you child does this, I don't think you should either. The shows they watch on Nick Jr, Sprout, or Disney Junior are teaching them things -- what does it matter that it comes from a TV show if they are learning? It doesn't. Don't punish yourself.

2. How is Emmalynn's father and I not being together going to effect Emmalynn's development and her perception of what a family is "supposed" to be like? Even though we are civil and on good terms, are we doing more damage than good?

There is no way for me to know this. I could sit and ruminate about this all day but I am really never going to know the effects of this arrangement. In fact, she will never know anything different. The probability that this will have a negative effect on her and make her resent us is highly unlikely. If she were older and we separated after she would remember, that would be different. But I cannot sit around and wonder how something is going to effect her or if I am screwing her up for the future. Here is my theory: we are all screwed up because of our parents. Most of the time it is not intentional -- I would say that a good majority of parents have their child's best interest at heart. However, we learn more from our parents actions and less from their words. When we have shortcomings or insecurities, it is usually from our parents. So I can worry about it as much as I would like but that is not going to make a difference. All I can do (and all of us can do) is be the best parent possible and hope that our actions do not screw up our children too much. And you know what? It is okay if they are a bit screwed up -- it makes family gatherings interesting, right? :)

3. If my child plays alone and does not interact well with other kids, are they going to grow up to be a bully/school shooter/serial killer?

Okay. I get it. We worry about how our children act now and look towards the future and identify warning signs. That is what we do as parents. However, a serial killer usually has something happen in their childhood that causes them to become a sociopath. It is highly unlikely that a child that comes from a loving, caring and "normal" home will turn out to be a school shooter or a serial killer. I read a study that was done on sociopaths that showed that many serial killers/sociopaths have a special gene and an underdeveloped brain which causes them to act more on impulse instead of having impulse control. It was also shown that people who had this gene and mutation in their brain that came from a loving, caring and accepting home environment did not end up being serial killers. Keep in mind that no matter how great of an influence nature has on a person, the nurture of that life helps to shape who that person will become. Here is the point: we just do the best we can to show our children love, teach them strong morals and lay a good foundation for them to be caring, respectful adults. None of us can tell what the future holds, but we can do everything in our control and power to bring up the best children we can. If you sit around and worry about things you have no control over, you are letting worry and fear live in your head rent free. How about we free up that space and energy for our children NOW? Do our best to live in the present instead of worrying and being fearful of something that has not happened yet? I think so.

Those are the three BIG ones for me. They are tough for all of us. But we cannot sit around worrying about things we do not have control over. We need to be with our children in the here and now -- worry about the present or the immediate future. Worry about the rest when it gets here. Understand the signs of trouble and pay close attention to them. Be the best parent you can be IN THE PRESENT. Be with your child or children IN THE PRESENT. You do the best thing you can for your NOW -- don't worry about things that have not happened yet through irrational fears.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Things I have learned since I last blogged...

I have spent quite some time away but it was not on purpose -- I just got really busy and in all honesty, my world got turned upside down!

Here are some things I have learned since the last time I blogged...

- Dating is not so bad as I thought it was. In fact, sometimes it works out in your favor. If anything, you meet new people, make new friends, and do something for YOURSELF.

- My child has learned several new words and sayings. Her recent favorite is "Come back here! Come back here now!" And she also has a flair for the dramatic. When the gate is put up at the top of the stairs, Emmalynn will see it and dramatically say, "No, no, no, no, nooooo!" To say I have an independent child is an understatement.

- Jumping on an air-filled pillow when you have a back condition is not a good idea. I have been in pain all around my back since Saturday afternoon. Not cool.

- The fact that Emmalynn has started to go to her Dad's every Thursday and every other weekend now has made me cherish my time with her so much more. I try not to waste a single minute and to play and watch movies and just love on her while I can. It makes me appreciate what a beautiful little girl I have even more than I already did. It is hard, but it is a blessing in disguise.

- Laughter is the best medicine -- when I was having hard times, my best friends made me laugh so hard that my stomach hurt. I appreciate them more than they will ever know.

- Moving sucks. Hardcore sucks. I hate it. Literally. I am not moving again until I get married. You think I am kidding...I am not. But I am SO thankful for all the church friends my parents had come and help us. Because of them we are in our new home and it is starting to feel like an actual HOME.

- I have about 5 friends having babies within the next few months (if not DAYS!). I am so excited to hold beautiful, new little babies...and give them back to their parents :) I am totally at peace with the fact that I don't know when I am going to have more kids or get married. I have nothing but joy for anyone expecting their second child and I just hold hope that in the future, I will get married and have more babies...with the right person and the right way :)

And I will leave you with images from the time I have been away -- I am sure there are a lot of them so I hope you like pictures :)

                                                            Emmalynn at Night Eyes!

                                           Jessica and I at her wedding -- perfect moment!!

Emmalynn and I at Night Eyes!

Emmalynn playing at her birthday party -- the parachute was awesome!!

Auntie Krista, Stella, Emmalynn and I at Night Eyes

                                               Stella and I at Emmalynn's Birthday Party!

Emmalynn and Ardyn at the Minnesota Zoo -- soo cute, right?