Lucky #13

December 30, 2005 was a snowy day in Salt Lake City, Utah. So snowy that it was pretty miserable weather for a wedding. But, it was my wedding day and it was going to take place no matter how yucky the weather was.

Despite the unfortunate weather, it was an incredible day for Jess and I. Not everything went according to plan, but it didn’t ruin my day because when it all came down to it I was still marrying the man I loved.

Those who know me well, know that I am an incredibly emotional person, and I can pretty much cry at the drop of a hat. When Jess and I were in our wedding ceremony, I found myself so overwhelmingly happy that I could not cry, but my sweet Jess (who rarely cries), was a sobbing mess. The love I felt for him seeing his raw emotion further solidified for me our bond was true.

So here we were, two kids getting hitched after a year and a half of meeting. A lot of people thought we were crazy, but the love we felt for one another was undeniable and we thought “Why wait?”. Thirteen years later, and he is still my very best friend and our love is stronger than ever.

Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

Don’t get me wrong: marriage is HARD. I was not naive thinking that it would just be a happily ever after for us once we said “I do”. I went into our marriage knowing that it would be work, and that we would need to figure out a good balance and way of life so that we wouldn’t go nuts.

Take our honeymoon for example: I got sick on the plane to St. Maarten and was sick the first day and a half of our trip. And by sick I mean diarrhea and vomiting at the same time and pretty much sleeping on our hotel bathroom floor. Jess and I waited until we were married to make love so, pretty much the mystery and romance I had been imagining was horribly sabotaged. I was a hot mess!

Thankfully, Jess handled it like a champ and took excellent care of me, and when I was feeling better our honeymoon was amazing the rest of the time! So was this some huge disaster? Of course not: this was real life! You never know what’s going to happen, but as long as you are solid with your partner and really hold true to your vows you’ve made, then when these unexpected bumps in the road happen you deal with it and move on.

Communication Is Key

I have had several friends comment to me that they admire Jess and I and feel like we have things “figured out” with marriage. I really take that as a compliment but I have to let you in on a little secret: we don’t have ANYTHING figured out!

When we were first married, I rarely told Jess what I was feeling when something pissed me off. I’m not sure if I was just afraid to speak up, or felt like I needed to pick my battles. But whatever the reason, it was not good for us. I would hold on to things and stew and then eventually break down and we would have a huge fight. It wasn’t until a few years into our marriage that I finally figured out that the issue was ME not speaking up. Now, when I am upset I tell him and we talk it out and then figure out a solution. No, this still may not be an easy process, but the key is that I am communicating how I feel instead of holding back.

While we are on the subject of anger, that old quote “Don’t go to bed angry”, is not something I live by. Go to bed angry! Sometimes, hashing out your issues when you are angry makes things worse! When you speak in anger it only ends up with you saying things you don’t mean and will regret later. I suggest instead, to wait until you cool off a little, take a step back and assess the situation, and then go into the conversation. No, it doesn’t have to be the next morning, but WAIT until the anger subsided because a lot of the times it blinds us and makes us say hurtful things. I promise you, your issues will be easier to solve once anger is removed.

You really cannot have a good relationship with someone if there is no communication. Jess and I have now gotten to a point where we are so comfortable with one another that we can talk about anything- even the painful stuff. But we love each other enough to talk about it and then work through it. We only got to this point because of the mistakes we have made and what we learned from them.

Growing Pains

Like I said, marriage is hard, but it’s also pretty amazing. You really have to suffer through the bad moments to truly appreciate the good ones. Jess and I have had our fair share of bad moments, and things we wish we could take back, but at the same time it has made us who we are today and solidified our love.

One of the things I am most grateful for that we got married young, is that we essentially got to grow up together. I was 20, and he was 24 on our wedding day, and even though I felt pretty grown up, let’s be honest I was a baby!

Jess and I have been able to go on this journey into adulthood together, and have had some crazy adventures along the way. He has helped me become the woman I am today, and I know the same is true for him about me. Then, when we became parents, an entirely new spectrum of adulthood was thrown at us and we had to rely on one another and teach each other in ways we hadn’t before. We now have three beautiful kids who enrich and bring so much joy to our lives, but who are constantly testing us with new issues as they get older. It hasn’t all been easy, and won’t be in the future I am sure, but having him by my side helps ease the anxiety for me just knowing he’s there with me.

So here are some of my “words of wisdom” with marriage that I have learned:

  • Say sorry- even if it takes a day or two. Do it.
  • Call just to say “I love you”. Texting is good too, but letting them hear it is better
  • Say thank you and let them know you appreciate them
  • If you like or don’t like something SPEAK UP
  • Try new things, change it up, spice it up!
    Don’t become complacent- put in the work! Let them know they are worth it and that you are too
    Help each other.
    Don’t go one day without telling them how much you love them. Even if it’s just a short phone call like listed above. It makes a difference

I am not a specialist, (obviously), but these are my two cents from my experience these past 13 years. All I know is, that despite all we have been through, I still feel that same love, (only stronger), as I did the day we got married. I feel extremely fortunate that I would not hesitate to say “I do” to him today if we were to get married. He is still my best friend and the one I want to be with forever thirteen years later and 70 years from now too.

I love you baby! Happy lucky number 13!

Photo by Ashley Dehart Photography

XoXo

Heather

The Raw Brunette

What If?

‘What’ and ‘if’ are generally very non-threatening words when on their own. But, when put side by side they suddenly become a very loaded question.

“What if?”

Suffering from anxiety, I fall victim to the constant “what if?” battle. It has gotten so much more controllable for me to handle since I started therapy and medication which has made a world of difference for my quality of life. But let’s rewind to just over a year ago when I was at my worst. Back then, the struggle of the “well what if this happens, and then this happens because of that?”, would send me snowballing into panic oblivion.

Now, if I find myself slipping back into the “what if” cycle I can talk my way out of it thanks to the things I have learned from my therapist. But, that’s not to say that I still don’t give in to it now and again. We all do, because we are human.

A Bumpy Journey

In general, the what ifs of our lives tend to hold us back from opportunities and adventures. I know that I have on many occasions been held back by them.

My entire life I felt held back by my fears of what other people thought of me, or the fear of failure. My anxiety and OCD which i have talked about before did not help this. I truly cared what people’s opinions were of me, and after being the subject of some pretty cruel bullying in my delicate middle school years, it was, “What if they make fun of me?” that I feared most. All I wanted was to fit in; standing out to me was bad.

By the time I graduated high school I had more confidence in myself, but it would be short lived as during my freshman semester at Utah State University I would be a victim of sexual assault mere weeks after starting school. The trauma of that incident, coupled with the persecution and threats I received afterwards by people who I thought were my friends made me feel like I was to blame. This spiraled me down a very dark path for a while. I once again had no self confidence and zero drive to take any risks. I wanted no chance of standing out. What ifs once again ruled my life.

Marriage, Motherhood, and Medication

One of the reasons I loved Jess so much from the start is that I never once felt judged by him for anything I had done in my life. When he and I met, I was still quite a mess from my freshman year at Utah State. He made it easy to be myself, and not be fearful of what he thought of me. Pretty early on in our relationship I felt my walls come down, and for the first time in a long time, I felt safe with someone.

He was just what I needed to “get my groove back” that summer, but I never dreamed we would end up getting married a year and a half later. It was a decision though, I have never questioned or regretted. There were zero of those pesky “what ifs” with him.

Three years later, our first child was born and I was plunged into motherhood. I love being a mom, despite how hard it has been for my mental health. My anxiety came back with a vengeance when I was pregnant, and I suffered postpartum anxiety like nobody’s business. It got increasingly worse with each pregnancy, and by the time my youngest was born, and he was rushed to the NICU because he was turning blue I suffered a nervous- breakdown in the maternity wing. It’s not my best moment, I’ll admit. I had come unhinged to a spectacular degree. My body physically shook for 8 hours afterwards.

That night taught me a lot about how connected moms are to their children- even just hours after birth. My doctor came and checked me over and heavily sedated me so I could calm down. He then advised that I be discharged and would recover easier at home. I joke with Jess to this day that they didn’t want to handle my crazy anymore so they sent me home!

I love my children and have been very blessed that I have not had to work and can stay home with them. Being a mom though, is not easy and it’s natural to compare yourself to other moms. I found myself doing this, and those little “what ifs” crept their way in. “What if I’m not doing a good job?”, “What if my kids aren’t learning enough?”, and “What if they grow up to resent me?” were all questions I would ask myself. These what ifs did nothing but make me feel inadequate which of course was not the case.

It’s easy to compare ourselves to others. I have come to realize though is that we as moms do what we can for our kids. Our best, even though it may not feel like it, is enough and our kids love us no matter what.

What If It Was a Good Thing?

The what ifs of life are inevitable. A valuable change of perspective that I have learned is that what ifs can be positive! Here’s an example:

“What if I try and fail?” (Negative)

“What if you try and learn something new about yourself?” (Positive)

Like in the example, it’s easy to fear failure. Putting yourself out there is so scary. If you choose to switch the focus from on how it didn’t work out this time, to what went right or what you learned, it will be a much different experience.

I have always loved this quote:

“What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”

It’s such a great reminder that the failures will be inevitable, but we should focus on what could go right instead of what could go wrong. Changing your paradigm to a positive one no matter what will be a life changer. I know it has been for me.

Being a blogger and an influencer has been scary for me. Like I’ve said, putting yourself out there for the world to judge is scary. There are plenty of what ifs that have tried to hold me back. “What if no one reads my blogs?”, “What if I’m just not as popular as other influencers?”, and “What if people think I’m a joke?” are just a few. There also have been, and will be trolls who live to tear others down. I’ve experienced my share of them already, and it’s extremely hurtful if you allow it to hurt you.

I chose to be brave and put myself out there despite all these doubts and fears. It’s still scary for me, but I have learned so much about myself from pushing through and doing what I really want to do. My what ifs have started to turn positive. “What if my blog helps someone who’s struggling?”, “What if I inspire others?”, and “What if I actually succeed?”.

Honestly, you’ll never know the answer to any of those what ifs unless you take that leap of faith and try. Go ahead, you may just surprise yourself.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Golden Girl

Colours are the smiles of nature – James Henry Leigh Hunt

One of the things I love most about the change from Summer to Fall is the changing of the leaves. Here in Utah, the changes start up on the mountains around late August. By the end of September, the mountains and surrounding canyons are an explosion of red, yellow, and orange.

The vivid colors never cease to not impress me, and I always find myself saying “Oooh!” And “WOW!” like a cliche tourist. But I’m not ashamed to say that these beautiful colors ignite my soul, because they do. We all ought to enjoy the beauty of nature and her canvas of color in Fall.

Mellow Yellow

A popular drive this time of year in Utah is called the Alpine Loop. It’s a 20 mile loop from Sundance to the American Fork Canyon that takes you through gorgeous Aspen trees, views of the Wasatch mountains, and Mt. Timpanogos. I had the opportunity to drive up there three times this past weekend and enjoyed every minute of it!

One of my favorite things in the loop is the groves of Aspen trees. The impressive white trees are just as dreamy in real life as they are in photos. They were definitely my favorites this weekend, and their leaves right now are a gorgeous yellow.

I felt myself very drawn to the yellow leaves more than the red and orange ones. I found it interesting that yellow would be so prominent with me this weekend when it is not a favorite color of mine. I have talked before about colors and their meanings in reference to chakras. The Solar Plexus Chakra is located in your diaphragm and is associated with the color yellow. The meanings associated with this chakra are:

  • Will power
  • Taking Control
  • Independence
  • Identity
  • Making Decisions
  • Confidence

What’s interesting to me about this is that lately I have been making some huge decisions with what I want to do with my life. I have been setting goals and making dreams and taking certain steps recently that will hopefully make them become a reality. It was scary to take these steps, because when isn’t it scary to venture out of your little comfort bubble? But I have felt more free and confident in myself than I have in a long time now that these things have been set into motion. Even though things are a bit chaotic and unknown at this point, I feel settled and peaceful with where life is headed.

That Sunny Warm Feeling

My mom has been visiting me in my dreams every night for almost three weeks now. I go through periods where she doesn’t appear to me at all, and then like now, she will come to me every night. I revel in my time with her in dreams, and I have found myself waking up feeling comforted and given a little boost. I know she has been visiting me because I have been making these big decisions that have been hard to do.

On top of that, being a mom lately has been very hard. Some incidents have come up with my children and I have felt lately that my hold on the reigns of mothering my children has not been the firmest. Specific things have happened that I was in no way prepared for so it threw me off, and have caused a lot of heartache and crying myself to sleep. There have been so many times lately I have ached for my mom, and she knows it, so coming to me in dreams is the only way she can.

Also, the yellow leaves. Yellow was her favorite color, and will always remind me of her. She painted two kitchens in two of her different homes yellow. At her funeral we ordered her casket spray in a beautiful yellow display which was absolutely stunning in the middle of bleak February.

As my husband and our kids hiked around yesterday amongst the aspens with their yellow leaves, my heart felt very full, and my mind was drawn suddenly to my mom. I knew she was communicating to me that she was there and loved me.

Hiking in the crisp mountain air, hearing my children laughing while hand in hand with Jess I felt a sense of calm. Being in nature in general always settles the anxiety storms inside of me, but this weekend I felt like the difficult life choices and work I have put in lately are not for nothing.

Also, this unmistakable warm feeling came over me and helped me to see that I am not failing quite as bad at this mom stuff as I think I am.

Going into this next week, I will try not to doubt myself like I have been. I need to give myself a little more credit than I do. We tend to be our own worst critics am I right? So here’s a word of advice to all of you:

Cut yourself some slack!

I need to take my own advice here too. We are all doing the best we can with the best we have been given in this life. That’s not to say we cannot improve ourselves, of COURSE we can. But when you’re giving it your absolute best, there really is no shame in the outcome.

So, go out there this week and lift your head a little higher. You have so much to offer, and are valuable and can contribute so much. Use that Solar Plexus chakra and think happy, positive thoughts.

Better yet, make them sunny yellow ones.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Photo by Jeremy Robert Photo

Fists of Fury

“5 Activities to Help You Be A Good Mom”

That was the caption under a pin on Pinterest I scrolled across a few days ago. No sooner had I read those words, an intense rage boiled up inside of me. Not just normal rage- “Momma Bear” rage. My husband likes to joke that I am sweet until someone brings out the “Philly Fire” in me and then people better watch out! And nothing stokes that Philly Fire more than my momma bear instincts. Why was this stupid Pinterest pin making me so angry? I wanted to punch the fake smiling mom in the photo in her face. Okay, that’s a tad violent, but who is she to tell me I’m not a good mom? And why would her activities ensure I was a good one? She doesn’t know me or my life!

I truly believe this is why so many women feel like they aren’t good enough. There’s this constant flow of ads on tv, magazines, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram making us feel like we are falling short. Social media in general can make one feel extremely bad about themselves if they are not careful.

Mantras For Mommas

Repeat after me ladies: I am NOT a bad mom!

Whew! Doesn’t that feel good to say out loud? Take it from my own experience: I hear at least once a day from one (or all) of my darling children that I’m “stupid” or that “I’m ruining their life” or that I am the “worst”, etc. etc. – you get the point. Normally these just bounce off of me because I know they don’t mean those words, but on those occasional bad days when their words do cut me down, actually saying I am NOT a bad mom out loud to myself helps! I’m serious! Next time you are feeling pretty low about your ability to parent, just repeat those words to yourself (or any personal variation) and you will feel better.

Some other popular mantras I like to repeat to myself are:

It’s Almost Bedtime

Mommy Is Not A Maid

Tomorrow Will Be Better

Mommys Need Time-outs Too

They’re All Alive So I’m Calling It A Win

I mean, this list is pretty much endless, and yes most of these are supposed to be funny! I would not get through most days without a little humor (and caffeine!)

If you’re day is going south fast, just take a few minutes to yourself. Take a breather, take your caffeine source of choice, sneak one of those treats you hide from the kiddos, repeat a good mantra to yourself and head back in there! It will all be okay.

The Year of No

By May of this past year I was feeling extremely burnt out. Between my kids sporting events, art classes, my sporting events, our church callings, Scouts, traveling, Jess needing to leave for Boise in April until September, my work with the American Cancer Society and with the Rape Recovery Center I was feeling at the end of my rope. We were just TOO busy! I felt like we weren’t spending enough time as a family unit, and it was starting to show. Not in any huge obvious way, but as a momma I could tell my kids were struggling with it.

In June after the Hope and Healing Gala I helped with for the Rape Recovery Center, and my epic trip to Rwanda with my Grandpa, the kids and I made our way to Boise to spend the rest of the summer with Jess while we worked. After the first week of pure summer fun and no plans whatsoever I felt so recharged, happy, and steady. I decided I needed more of that in my life; this coming school year, we would start saying NO!

This means that other than the things we have to do, we will not add more to our load. If we don’t need to commit our precious time we could be spending together, then we won’t. Our kids actually WANT to be with us, and who knows how much longer we can enjoy that? I really felt like we as a family needed some time without extra responsibilities and stress. We are going to focus this time on spending it together and strengthening our family unit while the kids are still little. I stepped down from helping with this year’s event for the American Cancer Society because frankly I was feeling so burnt out, and I needed to spend that quality time with Jess in Boise. Coming home only after a week or two would have not been a good decision.

Without any prompting, our kids have started saying no as well. Calvin after much debate decided he didn’t want to play football. I was proud of him for making that decision on his own, because I knew it was hard for him. Jess and I did not put any pressure on him to play or not, and he felt like it was not something he wanted to pursue this year. He has many years ahead of him left for sports, so I am not worried at all about him “falling behind” or any of that mumbo jumbo. Him not playing  has been a huge change for us from last fall in a positive way. He had practices every day and games every Saturday and by the end of the season he, and us were exhausted! It was fun, but a lot of time commitment. It was also a time commitment that Memphis and Shay had no say in.

So far this school year has been easy peasy. Our days aren’t as hectic and full as they were last fall, and it’s just what we needed right now.  I’m sure next year we will pick right back up and be busy with activities, but I am glad I listened to my gut and decided to start saying no.

Put Up Your Dukes!

As a mom it’s extremely easy to get offended and defensive when it comes to our kids and our ability to raise them. A prime example is me and that pin that made me so angry. I mean really, I have no reason to get so riled up by 9 words, I already know I am an amazing mom to my kids. The word that sticks out in that sentence is MY. These children are mine, and I am the only one who knows them intimately, and know how to cater to their individual needs. No one else would be able to do that! Each child is different, and each family is different.

All I know is, that I love my children fiercely, and I try my darndest to do my very best to raise them right. I make sure they go to bed every single night with kisses and knowing that they are loved. My husband and I parent together with what we feel is right for our family, and what’s right for us isn’t right for the next family- and that’s okay! Every family has unique challenges and beliefs and that’s what makes this world so diverse and beautiful. Our differences and acceptance of those differences is what makes a community better.

So keep doing you moms of the world, cuz you’re doing great!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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A Mother’s Identity Crisis

On November 20, 2008 at 4:42 AM I became a mom when my son Calvin was born. I was 23, and had been married for almost four years. We had been trying to have a baby for almost six months before we got pregnant, and were so excited to be having a boy first. When he finally made his debut at 8 lbs 12 ounces, Jess and I were overcome with emotion. That was one of the most beautiful days of my life holding my son in my arms. It was also the day that I lost my identity.  I’m sure this happens to pretty much every new mom, but I wasn’t even cognizant what had happened to me for years.

Hello! My Name is Mom

When we brought Calvin home from the hospital, my mom stayed with us for the first weekend and she was so much help. She was great at helping me adjust to the non stop feedings, clothes washing, and diaper changes. After she left, reality set in because for the first time in my life I was a mom, and I was doing it solo. Things got hard, really hard. I mean, no one really warned me just how awful the recovery process is after having a baby is to begin with.For those of you who don’t know, you have ice diapers and mesh underwear for the first few days down “there”. Plus, you bleed for weeks after, and your body is just healing in general from this watermelon you just pushed out. Let’s just talk about for a second, just how painful it is when your milk finally comes in. I mean, I thought my breasts got larger when I was pregnant, but when the milk dropped, I was like Dolly Parton! I tore “down there”, so I also had stitches that I needed to have heal, my tailbone was cracked, and I needed a blood transfusion for nearly bleeding out when I hemorrhaged all over the delivery table. Let’s just say my first experience in childbirth was a wild ride. So you’re drugged up, in pain, exhausted and yet you’re still supposed to care for a newborn. It’s like you ran a marathon, then had a boxing match, then rode the dizziest ride at the amusement park and someone hands you this little newborn and says “good luck!”.

I sort of fell into this rhythm 24 hours a day of only worrying about the baby. Because I was now “mom” and not “Heather”, I didn’t matter. It was all baby all the time. My days revolved around feedings, naps, diaper changes, and laundry. I was frumpy, tired, not losing the baby weight, and did I mention tired? A week after he was born was Thanksgiving, and someone snapped a picture of Jess and I both asleep on the couch. Tired was really an understatement.

I can vividly remember catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror one afternoon and was horrified at the woman looking back at me. I honestly didn’t recognize this tired, spit-up covered, haggard woman looking back at me!

Somebody That I Used to Know

In the weeks after having Calvin, I had a really hard time accepting the fact that I wasn’t the girl I used to be, not just figuratively speaking, but physically. My body had changed big time. I have a small frame and large babies, so my stomach stretched very far out, which resulted in very stretched out saggy skin. Not just that, but my hips were wider, my hair was falling out, I was constantly sweating from the hormones raging inside my body, and constantly in pain from the over abundance of breast milk that I was producing. Engorged breasts hurt!

For someone who had never had an issue with my weight, I was suddenly carrying around 30 extra pounds, and it really affected me. It also ended up affecting my marriage negatively.  Trying to fill the new role of being a mom and be a wife at the same time was definitely a hard road to navigate. I was trying to juggle the baby and the long list that he entailed, PLUS all the other house wifely duties I still needed to accomplish. Then, on top of ALL of that, I was still supposed to do my wifely duties including the ones in the bedroom. The honest truth is that sex was the last thing I wanted to even think about. I felt disgusting and completely not sexy. My body hurt, and by the end of the day all my energy was gone because all of it was given to this little person. Plus the scant amount of energy left was used up making sure the mountains of laundry were done and the house was still cleaned and meals cooked,  so the thought of being touched was just not appealing. Plus I could always smell spit up, even if I couldn’t find it. Who feels sexy when covered in spit up? Not me. All I wanted at night was to sleep, because sleep becomes precious once you are living with an infant. So not only was I suffering, but he was too.

It wasn’t until I broke down and finally explained to my husband everything I was going through that he understood. My problem for a long time in my marriage was that I assumed Jess was a mind reader and knew what I was feeling.

Spoiler alert: men are not mind readers!

The problem was not the emotional roller coaster I was going through, but that I was not communicating to anyone about it. Communication is key! Suffering in silence does nothing but hurt.

The New Girl

Let’s just get one thing clear in all of this: I love my kids and I love being a mom. But I hid how much I was struggling because I felt like such a failure feeling that way. I thought I just needed to soldier on because this is life and it’s tough. How could I be feeling so crappy when instead I should be like the perfect moms on Pinterest and in all the magazines? I’ll tell you why: it’s normal. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed by being a new mom, and not just with your first baby. I honestly got a little overwhelmed with my second and third babies too, but once I figured things out, and we got into our new normal I was able to accept that it didn’t make me a failure.

I also had better support when I was feeling like I was drowning because I felt more comfortable opening up to my family and friends that I needed help. If I need to stress anything in all of this, it’s that if you need help ASK FOR IT! I hope you can hear me yelling those three words- I put them in caps to further press how important it is. Asking for help doesn’t make you any less of a capable mom, in fact in my opinion it makes you more of one. If you’re not taking care of yourself, then who’s taking care of your kids? Self care is a vital thing to do when you’re a mom. I always take time for myself now, whether it’s as simple as going to Target by myself, getting my nails done, or going to the gym. Honestly even just driving in the car by myself and blasting music is great!

I’m still mom, and will always be. I am proud and grateful for that role I have been blessed with, but I’m also still Heather, even if it’s a new and different Heather than before I had kids. Frankly, I am still trying to figure out just who I am, but it’s good to know that I can identify as more than just a mom and that I don’t have to feel ashamed to do so. I can find fulfillment in being the mom and also being Heather too.

CDA0D6F6-05F0-40D9-A69E-0B6B72285886Photo by Meg Oldroyd

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Spring Cleaning

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Photo by Sadie Banks Photography

Okay, so it’s not officially Spring yet, but I  could not think of a more fitting title, so here we are. It might sound strange but cleaning has been on my mind, and for reasons I will explain has been something I’ve become very grateful for over the last few months.

The day after Christmas, my husband and I took down all the decor to prepare to paint our home. Can I just take a second to say that this in itself was quite an achievement, because I always drag my feet and end up taking down the decorations around say, Easter. So, high-fives all around to us. Let’s move on.

We have loved our home since the moment we moved in, but pretty much every wall is a shade of tan, and that’s just not our style. So, we decided to paint every wall gray. Gray in my opinion is the new tan.

Pretty much since that day, our house has been a disaster. The painting of the entire home wound up being SO much more complicated than we anticipated. Who knew that gray was such a hard color to find the right one? I’ll tell you right now, it may be the hardest color. We repainted the kitchen FOUR times! Four people! So, as we prepped and taped each room a mess of moved furniture and framed artwork and photos lay in its wake.

Then, on top of the painting, we decided it was a great time to remodel both the master bathroom and the kids bathroom in the upstairs hallway. Why not throw some more chaos into everything, right? It did need to be done, and at the time I said “Let’s just get it all finished.”, but was soon fining myself feeling very overwhelmed by how much was going on. I had a toilet sitting in my hallway for a week! The bathrooms both required new tile floors, and the kids bathroom also needed the shower to be re-tiled. We hired out for the tile thankfully, because heaven knows we would have had an adventure with that.

Our master bathroom had carpet in it, (I know, right?), and this is the second home I have lived in to have it! Never a choice I would make, but to each their own. The carpet also extended into my walk-in closet so I had to pull out the entire contents of my closet into our bedroom for this to be tiled and painted. Jess also pulled everything from his closet for the same reasons.

Our room was a hysterical MESS. I would smile every night watching Jess try to navigate his way through the mountains of stuff to get to his side of the bed, and would be grateful I am now medicated so my anxiety was not through the roof by all this disruption of my space.

Pretty much where I am going with all this, is that I have gained a great deal of gratitude these few weeks for a clean home.

Holding On

I am very happy to report that not only is the painting done, the bathrooms are done too! Pictures to come soon. But because it was done, I was now faced with the dilemma of redecorating.

I’m not going to lie, it took me a good month to figure out how to re- hang some of the pictures and artwork we have. After much debate with myself, I came to the conclusion that we just had SO much going on before. Because of that, I have decided to go a more minimalist style in redecorating our home. I have decided that “less is more” and to be more thoughtful with what I put up. I got rid of a lot of artwork that we have accumulated over the years, keeping the meaningful ones of course. We had our entire stairway wall as a gallery which I still have not gotten brave enough to put back up, but everything else I have tackled and am happy with the results.

As the walk-in closet upstairs got tiled and painted, and was almost ready for me to put my things back, I started combing through everything I owned. This gave me the chance to decide what I actually needed, and to get rid of things I did not need. It was something that I had needed to do for at least two years, so I was grateful I was finally forced to do it.

Man, did I get rid of a lot of stuff! There were things I didn’t even realize I was still holding on to! At first I was surprised by myself at wanting to keep holding on to some things, but I had to take a moment and have a talk with myself and say “It’s just STUFF.” So after that, it was much easier for me to say goodbye. I was also impressed by my husband, because he has some things in his closet that he has held onto since high school and he actually got rid of some of it! We both took some major steps for ourselves with letting go. I took at least three car loads of stuff to GoodWill of my stuff, and Jess took at least one of his.

It was so freeing to be rid of a good chunk of what was hiding in my closet, and it looks much better and more organized now too which is a plus.

Know Your Worth, Then Add Tax

I started thinking of this “cleansing” we have been having in our home these past few weeks on a larger scale. Not involving the stuff we have, but with life and emotions. So often, we hold on to things and even though they are toxic, we cannot let go. My therapist has helped me so much to realize things that I have held onto (many without even realizing that I was), and giving me the tools I needed to let them go. I cannot describe just how much weight was lifted by those acts of letting go. It’s very easy to become so weighed down by these things but over time we become numb or just used to it, so it almost becomes normal.

So, try to cleanse yourself of the things we hold onto internally. Everyone is different in what methods work so there really is no right or wrong answer for this. Workout, take a nap, read, write it down, write it down and then burn it, break something ,(within reason of course!), or talk to someone about it. In fact always talk to someone about it; have a “person” that you can always count on or at least a therapist. Do what works for you, but do not hold onto those toxic things!

These things we hold onto don’t have to be just emotional and non-tangible, they can also be people. People, I have found from experience, are harder to let go of than things. Much harder.

Toxic people can be just as damaging if not more than emotions. Relationships that are not healthy or not making you feel good should not be continued. Emotional vampires who suck you dry and make you exhausted after being with them are not people you want to keep in your life.

“Surround yourself with people who see your value and remind you of it.” -Unknown

Finding friends who love me for me has been a bit of a bumpy road. I have a few very close friends whom I know are true, and I am so grateful and blessed to have them. I would much rather have one true friend than a hundred fake ones. It’s not about quantity but quality in this scenario. Those who turn out to be different people than I thought they were,  or those who I find to not value my friendship as much as I did theirs have been sadly left behind. It’s always so heartbreaking to come to the realization that you’re just not valuable to someone whom you love, or when people turn out to not be who they say. But, we need to know our value as a person and a friend, and when someone doesn’t believe you have any, it’s time to let them go. The hardest part about it is actually letting them go. This is especially hard with those emotional vampires I mentioned. It is, however, something that we need to learn to do in order to be our whole healthy and happy self. Sometimes, it’s us that are let go, and we need to accept it, which is equally just as hard.

I firmly believe that every person who comes in and out of our lives is for a purpose. So, for the friends and family members I have had and lost I try to look back on the positive things they taught me, and like to reminisce on the good times we did share. Everyone teaches us something, whether good or bad, but it’s all for our benefit.

It Has to Be Broken to Be Fixed

At the risk of sounding crazy, I actually really enjoyed the chaos of the last few months. No, I did not like the actual mess and craziness of the workers in our house and total disruption of my stuff and personal space. What I did like, and love in fact, was the cleansing that came from completely tearing our house apart and putting it all back together. It has left me with a renewed sense of the love and stability that is in this home we have made. It has made me think about what kind of home I want this to be, and what I want it to represent. It has also given me the opportunity to think about my life and who I have chosen to leave behind, and what kinds of people I choose to be in it. People who don’t see my value or appreciate me frankly don’t deserve me! And that’s what you should say too about yourself, because you have worth- so much more than this world will tell you!

Sometimes, our life has to come crashing down in order to be re-built stronger and the way it should have been built the first time.

Some food for thought.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette