Just Ask the Axis

 “Anger he smiles towering in shiny metallic purple armor

Queen Jealousy, envy waits behind him

Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground

Blue are the life-giving waters taken for granted

They quietly understand

The once happy turquoise armies lay opposite ready

But wonder why the fight is on…”

The lyrics to Jimi Hendrix’s famous song “Bold as Love” have been on repeat in my mind for about a week now. If you’ve never heard it, (and you are doing yourself a great disservice to not expose yourself to it), it personifies colors as different characters. It very descriptively paints this picture of the full spectrum of human emotions. Not only is the song great, but it has reminded me how prevalent colors are to us in our everyday life.  Colors have meant a lot to me as of late, and I have a strong belief that colors can influence your life.

Have you ever considered how great a role that colors play for you? If you sit back and really think about it, colors are involved in almost every aspect of our lives.

Making a House a Home

A room can literally be transformed with a coat of paint. Currently the house we are living in was painted in mostly tans, and my husband and I are just not loving it. So across the room from where I am currently typing in my kitchen there are three paint swatches of different greys we put on the wall to decide which one will work throughout the entire house. Even just the small paint strokes of grey against the existing tan are drastically different, and we feel it will brighten up our home while staying neutral.

Unfortunately, picking the perfect paint color doesn’t always happen. In our old home, we decided to repaint our master bathroom, and for whatever reason I thought a dark brown would work. After we painted it and put everything back up, I realized that painting the walls dark brown in a room where we do number twos was maybe not such a good idea. In fact, it was downright hilarious! In the end, we decided it was the “poop brown” bathroom and we called it that until we moved out. At least we could laugh about it.

Signature Color

Ever notice how a specific color can make you feel more confident? Or how when you are in particular moods you tend to wear colors pertaining to them? I know that I personally tend to gravitate towards certain colors in my wardrobe. Generally I like black, grey, neutral, and darker colors. I have very few pieces that are super bright because that’s just not usually my style (unless it’s a swimsuit). These colors tend to give me more confidence, and I generally feel the most comfortable in.

We associate certain colors for specific events or people. Brides traditionally wear a white wedding dress, inmates generally wear orange jumpsuits, and one in mourning usually wears black to a funeral. For my mother’s funeral I considered not wearing black, but my heart was just so broken and sad that black was the only solution. I did though, paint my nails a beautiful raspberry pink which I know my mom would have loved so it seemed fitting.

Colors are involved in every aspect of fashion. Can you imagine how unimpressive our clothes would be without all the beautiful colors?  We color our fabrics to make our clothes, and shoes come in all colors of the rainbow. There’s accessories like coats, bags, belts, and hats. We color our hair, we paint our nails, there’s blush, and bronzer, fake tanner, lipstick, and eyeshadow. I could go on, but you get the point.

In truth, it would be a whole lot easier to shop if everything came in one color, but what fun would that be?

Color Me Happy

Colors also have emotional ties to them. We can associate colors with memories, or people. Yellow for instance, was my mom’s favorite color. At her funeral we went rogue and got a gorgeous casket spray in yellow roses and other various yellow flowers in season. The florist said she had never made one before in yellow, but loved the idea. It turned out wonderfully, and looked just gorgeous on top of Mom’s casket at the cemetery. It was such a rainy and cold day in February so this bright light of sunny yellow in the midst of all of it was a tender mercy.

I can also vividly remember my dad’s blue Buick that he had when I was young. Not only was the exterior blue, but the interior was as well and it was plushy. Anytime I hear Buick it makes me think of that car.

There was a really good friend of ours in Philadelphia named Nancy Sowa. Some of you reading this have fond memories of her like I do. She was very loud, very funny, and loved those she cared for fiercely. I remember once when I was about nine years old I told her that I always knew she was in church on Sundays because I could hear her singing from the back of the chapel. I didn’t mean it to be rude, (although she did belt her little heart out), and she didn’t take it that way at all. In fact, she told me she was “tickled pink” by it. So, now should Nancy every arise in conversation or should I think of her,  I always associate her with the color pink.

Isn’t it funny how even just looking at a color can spark a memory?

Bold As Love

The past seven months have been a bit of a roller coaster for me. I wrote in a previous post here about my battle with anxiety. Through many prayers, therapy, medication, and good friends I can lean on I have been able to manage it, although some days are still a struggle. The past few weeks have been incredibly emotional and hard for me. Therapy, although extremely beneficial for me, has uncovered so many layers of myself that I have never dealt with. So, handling the emotions that are uncovered are at times pretty painful, and working through them is hard. Also the fact that its the holidays, and it makes me ache for my mom so much does not help.

I was at a place last week where I had so much inner turmoil from a particularly hard subject which we uncovered at therapy, (which I won’t be disclosing), that I didn’t even realize I was holding onto and was causing me so much pain. Those floodgates were opened and it had me feeling panicked and I was spiraling down into a bad place. I found myself backed into a  corner and not sure where to go. Cue fate.

This fall my oldest child Calvin played in a youth tackle football league, and through that team I was able to meet these two amazing parents, Cy and Julie, who’s son was also on the team. Not only are they just the coolest people, but I feel like we were meant to meet. I am a firm believer that people are put into your life right when you need them, and in this case, this couple definitely was. Julie, in particular. I had asked her advice about getting some help for my sister who is struggling after her volatile marriage and divorce, and came to learn that Julie is an energy healer. I was so intrigued that I set an appointment for myself too.

I am still fairly new to energy healing but I love the ideas behind it. It’s basically having to do with your chakras, which there are 7 main ones, and they are all associated with colors and different parts of your body. The Crown Chakra, on the crown of your head is purple, and is associated with your divine connection, as well as the central nervous system and deep brain functions. The Third Eye Chakra, in the center of your forehead, is blue, and it associated with your intuition, your sinuses, eyes, ears, and outer brain functions. The Throat Chakra, in the center of your throat, is turquoise, and is associated with expression and communication, your neck, jaw, teeth, gums, mouth, throat and thyroid. The Heart Chakra, located along your spine next to your heart, is green and is associated with love and compassion, your heart, lungs, upper torso, shoulders, arms, and hands. The Solar Plexus Chakra, located along your spine, is yellow and is associated with your willpower and ambition, your liver, pancreas, gallbladder, stomach, and spleen. The Sacral Chakra, located in your hips and genetalia, is orange and is associated with intimacy, creativity, desires, and sexuality. Finally, the Root Chakra, located at the base of your spine, is red and is associated with survival, safety, security, and fear.

During our session, Julie was able to assess what was going on with my chakras and help balance them. I was actually pretty nervous going there, and called Jess in Julie’s driveway on the verge of a panic attack. But I sucked it up and went in despite feeling this way, and Julie was super sweet and made me feel safe. I can say that when we were done, I felt so much relief. My burdens and panic were literally lifted away from me and I truly felt balanced and refreshed. All weekend I had the color purple with me, which I now know is associated with my Crown Chakra, and it comforted me to know that it was strengthened by my energy healing.

Even our inner selves can be associated with colors and it can alter our state of mind and emotions. After my energy healing this weekend I am wholly convinced of that.

Even if you think colors have no effect on you, I guarantee if you take a good look at your life you’d be surprised how much they really do. Life is much more beautiful in color!

May we all be more willing and open to let our true colors shine through.

“…all of these emotions of mine keep holding me from

Giving my life to a rainbow like you” – Jimi Hendrix “Bold As Love”

 

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Barcelona, Spain

On October 13, we officially arrived in Barcelona. It was our first stop on our epic two-week trip and even though it was technically 2 AM our time I was super excited and ready to go when we landed. We had been on different flights from Salt Lake City, but all met up in Newark, NJ before boarding our Norwegian Airlines flight to Barcelona. Jess and I flew Norwegian when we went to Europe two years ago, and their planes are SO nice! Also, when they have their fare sales, their prices are some of the cheapest around.

We were in Barcelona during a very interesting time for the Catalan region of Spain. The Catalan leaders and people were voting to secede from Spain, and become their own country. When we arrived, the vote had already taken place, and they had all unanimously voted to secede. So, while we were there, it was peaceful and the people were extremely happy. Everywhere we went, there were Catalonian flags hanging proudly from balconies, in windows of homes, and draped out of car windows. Unfortunately, since then the Spanish government has decided to overrule them, and are now possibly jailing the Catalan leaders, and there’s a lot of protesting and civil unrest.

Like I said, we really lucked out with the timing of our trip! Some friends of ours arrived in Barcelona a few days after we left and none of the main touristy sites closed, and there were protests and strikes all across the city, so pretty much nothing was accessible or open.

From the airport, we made our way to our first Airbnb of the trip. We swear by Airbnb because it gives you the chance to meet locals, and have a more authentic experience in each city you stay. Plus, you cannot beat the prices! The apartment we rented was about 20 minutes north of Barcelona via train in a cute little town called La Floresta. It was nestled up in the hills that were covered in trees that were filled with parrots! The parrots in Barcelona were one of my most favorite things! They were a beautiful green color and were about as common as robins are here in Utah. I loved it! Our host’s name was Pilar, and she was so kind and welcoming when she met us. Her apartment had everything we needed, (except for 3 people the water heater was super small so at least one of us had a cold shower everyday!), even though it was a small space. But, we really weren’t there for long at night so it was fine. Poor Aly was basically sleeping in a closet! She got shafted a lot on our trip with beds, which I will tell about more as I post more about our trip. It was pretty funny to see what the third “bed” would end up being in a lot of the places!

One of my favorite things about our apartment was the outdoor sitting area. There was a small table and chairs and a swinging bench. In the morning, the birds would all be singing their little hearts out, and it was so quiet because we were away from the noise pollution of the city that it was just magical.

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This staircase from the La Floresta train station was a killer leg workout!

 

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Part of the walk to our apartment in La Floresta

 

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Waiting for our train on the way to Sant Cugat Del Valles

Once we settled into our apartment, and took an hour siesta (the jet lag hit us HARD), we decided for the evening to take the train 10 minutes north to the town of Sant Cugat. It was a charming little town that had a Roman Monastery, and darling little streets and shops.We were pretty hungry, so we searched for a cafe to eat. Jess and I chose a bakery that had sandwiches and pizzas. I settled on a small cheese flatbread and a chocolate croissant. This would be the first of about a million croissants on our trip!

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After we ate, we walked around the cute shops for a while, and then made our way to the monastery. I made a huge mistake and led us in the wrong direction for a good 30 minutes before I realized it. But, in my defense, there were like three different places with the same name as the monastery! So, we had a good long walk and lots of exercise!

Thankfully, we arrived there before it got too dark, and we were able to explore the Monastery of Sant Cugat. It is a Benedictine abbey that was founded in the 9th century, but was under construction and was not completed until the 14th century. I had to touch the walls and the wooden doors because some of them are as old as the early 900’s!

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Gotta love the photobomb by Jess 🙂

Knowing we had a long day the following day, we went to a market and got some food items for breakfast, and headed back to our apartment.

The next morning we took the train back south to Barcelona. We started our day finding one of Gaudi’s most famous architectural feats: Casa Mila, or La Padrera. It was actually the last private residence designed by Antoni Gaudi. Like most of the touristy spots in Barcelona, you had to pay to go in. We decided that this particular spot was not necessarily worth paying to see. Seeing the outside of it was very impressive though!

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Casa Mila

Our second stop was La Sagrada Familia. This was what I was most excited about and have dreamed about seeing since I took some architecture classes in college. It definitely did not disappoint me when I saw it in person! Once the giant structure came into view, I was speechless! My bubble was soon burst as we were informed that there were NO more tickets for tours that day.

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Trying a local favorite. It’s a churro that you dip into hot Nutella chocolate. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was worth trying!

We made a reservation to see La Sagrada Familia for the day we would fly back to Barcelona on October 26, since we would have about 6 hours once we landed from Lisbon. Seeing the outside of it but knowing we couldn’t go inside really hurt, but knowing we would eventually see the inside made it sting a little less.

We hoofed it up to Guell Park. Barcelona reminded me a bit of San Francisco with how steep most of the city streets are! By the time we made it to the park, we were SO sweaty and tired. It was a gorgeous 80 degree sunny day, so it made for the uphill walk to be quite hot.

Guell Park was super crowded, which made the experience a little less than special, but what can ya do? You also had to buy tickets to see the really cool and iconic spots in the park, and sadly for us, we ran into the same problem as we did at La Sagrada Familia. We had hoped that we could just get tickets the same day, but the only time they had available was at 6 PM that night, and we honestly didn’t want to come all the way back up the hill again. So, we walked around and saw what we could for free, and saw from afar the cool iconic and colorful buildings.

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Gaudi’s Home

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I had to take this photo from behind a fence 😦

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Just hanging out with Antoni Gaudi!

After our disappointing Gaudi explorations, we decided to head down to the waterfront and see what that was all about. Barcelona is so beautiful, and it seemed around every corner was some amazing old building. We even ran into another Gaudi building that I had completely forgotten about: Casa Batllo.

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Casa Batllo

We also stopped and ate our first taste of Tapas. We also discovered during this meal that lunch in Spain is the usually the biggest meal of the day, and takes about 3 hours!

Once at the waterfront we saw the Christopher Columbus Memorial, and some other impressive buildings, and then made our way up the coast to see the Magic Fountain. Once again, (although not my fault this time), we took a wrong turn and ended up take the extremely long way there. After an hour, we finally found a hotel that had a bus stop, and took the bus. The only thing was it was PACKED full! The three of us were jammed at the front of the bus and standing by the bus driver. One of the times he stopped the door smashed my foot! Luckily there was no real harm done.

We found some standing room at the Magic Fountain, and even though we had to wait an hour for the show to start, it was worth it! The show lasted about 30 minutes and was put to music. It put the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas to shame!

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Barcelona is a city I would love to see more of! We saw as much as we could for as cheaply as we could in the day that we had though. When we were walking to find the Magic Fountain, we got to see an amazing view of the city at night, so that was worth the walk too.

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Until next time!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

The Value of a Woman

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This afternoon I sat on the soft leather sofa in my therapists office, and she was asking me what I valued most in life. I immediately listed off what felt to me like the normal things: my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, my work (helping others), and my beliefs. I felt like I was done and was silently read over the list. There was a brief pause as she turned and looked at me.

“Anything else?”

“Well,” I hesitated, “can I put myself up there?”

“Heather, you should be up at the top of this list!”

She went on to discuss with me why I didn’t add myself to the list initially. I honestly wanted to add it, but decided against it because I felt like it sounded selfish. So, the question is: why did I feel selfish to value myself?

Of course I KNOW I have value, but it has bothered me all day since my appointment why that played out the way it did. Why wouldn’t I consider myself just as valuable as everything else on my list? I have been trying to peel away the onion layers of this, and although there’s still so much to understand, I think I’m on the right track.

Fake News

From a young age, girls are bombarded by the “standards of beauty”. I remember staring at the half-dressed emaciated models on the covers of magazines at checkout stands around age 6 and thinking they looked strange, but as a teenager those women suddenly became who I wanted to be and look like.

So, when I was an awkward teen in middle school, the Delia’s magazine was huge, (anyone else remember this? Or does this totally age me?). I remember scoring through its pages coveting all the clothes inside. I felt like such a loser because I didn’t have the clothes, but also because I wasn’t tall and super skinny like the models. This was during the time when my mom was hospitalized with her terminal cancer, so even was she was home, she was not able to help me with makeup and clothes. I was often depressed and some days just flat out hated myself because I didn’t feel like I was beautiful since I didn’t fit these standards.

I will give the fashion industry credit. Things have come a long way since then, but it’s still bad. With the added sources of social media, it seems that “fashion FOMO” and body issues are even worse now. I don’t want my daughter to feel like I did, but I know that navigating that with how many sources of content there are today is going to be rough.

But WHO decided that these are the set standards? I would like to have some cross words with them, or maybe just punch them in the throat for good measure. There shouldn’t be one set of these ridiculous “beauty standards” simply because not every woman is the same. The fact that everyone is different makes this world beautiful. Being the same as everyone else is not.

Me, Too

I know you’re all familiar with this campaign that went viral just a few weeks ago. It was heartbreaking to see how many women, (and men),  I know who posted the status. I am very sad to say I am also among those who posted it. I was sexually assaulted by a guy I knew my freshman year of college and when I tried to report it, I was threatened by not only him but his friends and people who I thought were my friends. He was on a football scholarship, and this could potentially “ruin his career”. It was a hot pile of garbage is what it was. Rape culture at it’s finest.

Recently Hollywood seems to be imploding with the scandals of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Casey Affleck, Louis C.K, and many others I’m sure that will come out who have all raped or sexually assaulted women. There is one thing in common with all these stories: that the women felt like they couldn’t come out with what happened to them because they were scared, or were perceived to be liars, or were quietly paid off so that they would not tell. It’s this that makes my blood boil more than anything. The fact that we as women are viewed by so many in this world to not have value. Women are viewed as these sexual objects for men to do with what they want, and then we cannot say anything about it.

The world has always exploited women. We are told to look a certain way and act a certain way. Women are praised or judged by what they look like or what they are wearing. It’s rarely for our intellect and achievements. Obviously this isn’t true for the world as a whole, and even though women’s rights have come so far, we still have such a long way to go. Have you ever noticed in tabloids it always talks about what the women are wearing? Women are constantly “flaunting” their bodies, instead of just simply walking down a street living her daily life. Magazines rarely talk about men the same way. Women are perceived as these sexual objects and nothing more.

But here’s the double standard. If a woman dresses more modestly or acts so, she’s suddenly a “prude”, but if she is comfortable with herself to flaunt it and dress a little more revealing suddenly she’s a “whore”. Why is that? Why can’t a girl or woman choose what she wants to do with her own body and let that be that? “My body, my choice” am I right?

So many guys in high school would either never ask me out again, or not even pursue me romantically because I chose to save myself until marriage and wouldn’t give them what they wanted. Since when is that bad? I hope if those boys I knew ever have daughters, that they never have to deal with boys treating her the way they treated girls in high school. Hopefully karma doesn’t teach them a hard lesson.

What’s In a Value?

Last Sunday I got to teach a group of teenage girls from ages 12-18 at my local LDS church. In this lesson, I taught them that no matter what happens, that they still have worth in this world. Despite what this world will tell us over and over, is that we (as women) have so much value. It’s more than what we wear or what we look like. So much more. So, let’s go back then to the question of why I couldn’t list myself on the list of things I valued.

I know I have value, I knew it when my therapist asked me, but I was just afraid to say it. I’m not going to be afraid to value myself now. I will no longer let the things that have happend to me in the past, or anyone or anything else convince me that I have no value.

My daughter will always be taught by me that she has value, and I will help her navigate through this world that will constantly bombard her with these ridiculous “beauty standards”. Lucky for her, she’s got an entire pride of strong women who will also guide her. Wherever she goes in this life, I know that she is going to have the confidence and knowledge to take her far.

I want to hear your thoughts on this!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

 

 

Portuguese Dirty Bathroom Floors

As I sat in the bathroom stall with unbearable pain stabbing at my stomach, I knew that I was about to be extremely ill. We had literally just sat down at a table outside of the nice French Restaurant in Sintra, Portugal and were looking over the menu when I suddenly was overcome by “that” feeling of oncoming sickness. You all know the one – the oh-so-lovely  “number 2” kind. I bolted for the restroom, and there I sat on the toilet with my head in my hands to try and stop my head from spinning. Sweat was pouring down my face and neck making me even more uncomfortable. I had my coat on and another two layers underneath it since it had gotten chilly as the sun went down, and those layers were all just sealing in all the juices.

I badly wanted to take off my coat to help relieve me from some of the heat, but I didn’t want it to come into contact with the dirty floor in the bathroom. Granted, it was a nicer restaurant, so it was cleaner than most places but it was still a public bathroom in the middle of Portugal. I was determined to release these demons, and be on my merry way. Unfortunately for me, my body had other plans. All I’m gonna say is  it was a good thing that no one else was in the bathroom because once the floodgates opened, it was ghastly. Had it not been me, I would have been laughing, because it sounded like a professional sound board of flatulence and diarrheal explosions used in a movie. It was really bad. So bad in fact, that I  started to get really dizzy and quickly recognized that I was going to pass out. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and even though I could barely see what I was typing I managed to text my sister:

“Help”

Finally succumbing to the fact that I was indeed fainting, I figured it would be better to lay down myself than fall down. Feeling so awful to the point that I just didn’t care anymore about the aforementioned dirty floor, I plunged from the toilet head first. I did however, manage to place my hat on the floor so my face was not in direct contact. It was there, in all my post-diarrhea glory with my pants still down, that I finally blacked out.

Within moments my sister dramatically flung the door of the bathroom open, (I imagine her kicking it open with her fists in the air). She told me later she thought my text message meant I was being kidnapped, (I mean, obviously if I was being abducted I would be able to text), and she was fully prepared to fight off whoever it was. I was brought back to consciousness by her pounding on the bathroom stall door. I was able to lift my arm and unlock it, and she knelt down by me to assess the situation.

After telling her what happened she ran to fetch Jess. When the two of them returned, he knelt by my side and the first sweet thing that came out of his mouth was:

“Why are you so sweaty?!”

Had I not been incapacitated I would have busted up laughing. This whole situation was crappy – pun intended – but it was hilarious. The bathroom smelt horrendous from the ungodly things that had just come out of me. I was aware I was extremely sweaty – I had a river flowing from my neck to my backside- but I can only imagine what I looked like to everyone else. I was not only riding on the hot mess express, I was the conductor. Toot toot!

Along with Aly and Jess came a waitress, who was super freaked out and wanted to call an ambulance. I was mortified. First of all, my pants were STILL down around my ankles so, first order of business was to get those suckers back up. I was so glad they would come back up! You know after you go swimming and if your legs are a little wet it’s impossible to get clothes on? It was kind of like that. Secondly, I would be damned if I had to get in an ambulance because of a little diarrhea! What would they have done anyway, wipe my butt and give me some tums? Nope. That absolutely was not happening.

After drinking some water and sitting up for a few minutes – still on the bathroom floor mind you – I assured the waitress that I would be alright, and we headed back to our Airbnb which was thankfully about five minutes away. Once there, I stripped all my clothes off and put them in a plastic bag to be washed at our next stop, showered and went straight to bed. I was so relieved to be laying on a soft bed and not a dirty bathroom floor.

What would a European vacation be without an epic diarrhea story, right? Well, I would prefer it not to be me who was sick, but I took one for the team. My husband Jess, sister Aly, and myself traveled to Spain and Portugal for two weeks this past October. It was a dream trip that we planned for about a year, and even as we got on the plane to leave it didn’t seem real. The thing about traveling, especially with long trips like this one, is that nothing will ever quite go as planned. That’s just a given!  The mishaps and adventures along the way are what make a trip so memorable. Kind of like the hilarious example below where Jess and i could not nail this jumping photo!

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Besides this little diarrhea debacle, our trip was amazing, and I cannot wait to post more about it! I took SO many photos so get ready!

 

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Be Brave My Darlings: An Open Letter for My Littles

My darlings,

As I am writing this letter to you, the three of you are playing a game in the front room together. The sound of infectious giggling is filling the house; a sound that always brings me so much joy. It is a precious sound I wish I could bottle up, and open when the days are hard. I know that one day you will all be grown and gone, and the sound of your laughter will be greatly missed.

Your happiness means everything to me. I have tried to keep your lives enriched with fun activities, new adventures, and so much love. I know I am not perfect. Far From it. I just hope that even when I struggle, you understand one day that I always tried my best and can be forgiven when I failed spectacularly.

I have tried to protect you and keep you safe. The “Momma Bear” instincts are a very real thing. Even when you were just fluttering in my belly my desire to protect you would burn so strongly inside me. When you were newborns, I worried about illness and SIDS. When you were a few months I worried about you choking on small items since every object was chewed on. When you were a year or so, I worried constantly about bumps and bruises when you took your first steps, and had to child proof the house like Fort Knox because every nook and cranny was explored. It honestly goes on and on, and with each new stage comes new dangers and worries for a mom. Unfortunately, I cannot protect you from everything. This reality for me has been such a hard one to come to terms with.

The world we live in is becoming a scarier and more dangerous place. There are so many evils facing us now that I could have never imagined would be commonplace and on the news everyday. As horrifying as it is, these dangers are very real, and even now on American soil. In our cities and hometowns. I never in my life thought that white supremacists would be walking so proudly in the streets of my country openly promoting their sickening message and beliefs of hatred. It makes me physically ill to think that people can be so hateful towards other human beings.

The first time I saw a swastika I was six years old. I was in first grade, and during our art class, a boy tricked me into drawing one onto our art tables that were covered with brown paper. When our teacher saw it she freaked out, because, swastika. I had no clue what this symbol was and was confused and upset why I was in trouble for drawing it. My teacher quickly realizing that I didn’t know what this symbol stood for, decided to call my mom to tell her about it. That night, my mom had a discussion with me. She explained to me that this symbol became the emblem of one of the most hateful and evil groups of people in history – the Nazis. I had never heard of the Nazis before, but would soon understand they were bad guys from the Indiana Jones movies that became favorites of mine. I just could not understand why they could hate people so much because of their religion or their genetics. It broke my little six-year-old heart.

My first real education about the Nazis was during our World War II studies in eighth grade. Towards the end of the semester, we took a field trip to Washington D.C. and went to the National Holocaust Museum. As is the norm with any field trip, we were all psyched to be on buses and with our friends. Even on the elevator up to the top floor where the museum starts, we were still busily chatting with one another. As the metal doors opened, however, we were stunned to silence. I’m pretty sure no one really spoke until we all exited the museum.

In 2015, your father and I took a trip to Europe. While in Munich, Germany we made it a priority to go to Dachau and see the site of the first concentration camp during WWII. It was a very heavy day for us. I had a pit in my stomach that stayed with me hours after we left and headed back to Munich. I was so glad we took the time to go, and I suggest that anyone who is in the vicinity of one of the sites of any concentration camp should go. It needs to be seen and future generations need to be educated so we do not allow history to be repeated. The atrocities that occurred are unspeakable, and being there in the actual location of these crimes against humanity was extremely harrowing.

We spent a few hours there. I took my time, taking care to even tread lightly on the ground. Your father and I maybe spoke a handful of words to one another while we were there. Speaking seemed disrespectful. When I entered the gas chamber I was instantly overcome with the horror of that room. I had been alone when I entered, but was not once I stepped inside. The brick walls were no longer silent, and the things I heard and felt will never leave me.

I do not tell you these things to horrify or scare you. I tell them so that you are aware that these evils happened. Human beings did this to other human beings. Hatred and killing happens everyday, even here in the U.S. Racism is still prevalent in our country. Hate crimes are prevalent in our country. Hate is something that probably will never go away, and peace, may never be a concept our world will fully know again.

There is, however hope. That hope is you, my children. You, and your future children, and every generation to come. I want to teach you so many things while I can, but one of the most important things is to be decent human beings. To just be a nice human. To be the good in this world that is filled with increasing hate. There is more good in this world than evil, and if we educate ourselves and stand up to evil we have a fighting chance.

I want to make some things very clear. Pay attention.

  •    You must never stand by and watch. Doing nothing is as bad as doing the evil itself. Please, don’t be afraid. Some of the most beautiful and rewarding things happen on the other side of fear. Evil wins if fear resides.
  •   I will NEVER be proud of any child of mine if they are involved with, support, or condone any sort of hate. I even hate the word hate. Hate will never be allowed in our home for any person. I forbid discrimination or the mistreatment of any person because of the color of their skin, who they choose to love, who they choose to worship, (or not worship), where they live, their financial situation, what they look like, or what they are good or not good at. It’s absolutely unacceptable and this will never chage. Ever.
  • You are not defined by your mistakes. Despite what people and the world may tell you, you have SO much worth. More than you will ever know. Please, do not forget this. Mistakes will happen, it’s a part of life. The hard but most important step will be to overcome these mistakes and become stronger because of it. I believe in all of you with all my heart.

Perhaps the most important one of all: you will ALWAYS be loved. Always. Don’t be afraid to come to your father or I when things are overwhelming, scary, falling apart, confusing, or hurting. Don’t be upset if we get angry. Our initial reactions to situations may not be how we truly feel. We are not perfect either, so just try to remember that. Despite whatever happens, our love will always remain. That will never change.

Being your mother has been the most challenging and most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life. I am grateful for you three every single day. Sometimes I sit and marvel watching you. I cannot believe that these three different, beautiful little children are all a part of me. I see the good in all of you, because you are good. Hate is not born, it’s taught. Hold onto the good, and never let go. I hope that I can teach you these things while I can so that you can spread a little good in this world. It needs it, and it needs you.

Be brave my darlings.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Five Minutes

Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time. Or does it? To a woman, saying she will be ready in five minutes really means about an hour or so (and we are sorry not sorry about it!) To a kid, five minutes in time-out can feel like a life sentence, but if it’s five more minutes to play then it’s not nearly long enoughIt’s funny how time can be so insignificant at times and monumental at others.

A Glimpse of What Could Have Been

When my youngest son Memphis was born he was a seemingly healthy baby weighing in at 9 lbs 6 oz, (he was a whopper!). I hate hospitals so was overjoyed when they told me we could leave the next morning. Unfortunately, that next morning Memphis failed his heart test. They initially told me to not worry, (yeah right. Me WORRY? Never.), sometimes it happens, and they would immediately run another heart test. Much to my dismay, a while later they told me he once again failed it, and would require an echocardiogram. I was starting to get nervous, and joined the heart specialist over the course of an hour as they did a full ultrasound of my newborn son’s heart. That hour seemed to stretch out forever. Memphis was quite uncomfortable and was tired of being poked and prodded and was crying uncontrollably. The nurse kept giving him little syringes full of sugar water but it would only make him happy for a few minutes and he would start yowling again. I wanted so badly to hold him but was not able to. I kept wishing and hoping for the ultrasound to be over, but time would not yield to my pleas. Soon enough though, my baby was once again in my arms. The doctors told me that there was nothing wrong with his heart, which was great news, but he had started to labor in his breathing and was turning blue. Before I knew it, they were whisking my baby off to the NICU to be monitored, and four hours later, they determined he was born with pneumonia. We were so thankful that he had something that would be easily fixed, but so heartbroken to leave our baby in the NICU for a week. One of the worst feelings ever was leaving the hospital with no baby. I was heavily sedated to even be able to do so.

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For the next 8 days I went back to the hospital as many times a day as I could to be with my sweet baby. When I was at home I was constantly pumping and also bringing as much bottled breast milk with me as I could for Memphis. I had never visited a NICU before so it was all very foreign to me. Every time one enters, they must first go through a washing station that consisted of large metal sinks. Above each sink was a digital timer which when you pushed the foot pedal underneath would start at five minutes and countdown. That was how long you were required to scrub your hands before being able to enter.

Five minutes never felt so long in my entire life. Those red digital numbers seemed to go slower and slower as if mocking me. I would go through this process so many times a day and by the time I was even able to come back to the hospital I was aching so badly to see Memphis that those five minutes were torture.

I’ll be honest, I did some very deep soul searching during those five minute scrubs. It forced me to stand still and painfully revisit the events that had occurred with our family and our brand new baby. The importance of minutes and just how valuable and precious they are became very clear to me. Jess and I for a frightening time thought we were going to lose our son, and it’s a feeling I won’t ever forget. We were lucky enough to be able to still have him, and it helped me to start appreciating every moment I had with all of my children, and all of my family for that matter.

Frozen in Time

Not two days ago I was vacuuming out my minivan at the local car wash. As I was picking up garbage I looked inside the pocket on the backside of the driver seat and saw the back of a Kodak photo. I pulled it out and to my surprise it was a snapshot of my parents that I don’t think I have ever seen before. The weirdest thing is I have no idea how this photo came to be in my van, but I know I was meant to see it when I did.

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Instantly, I was taken back in time. Judging by the outfits, I would say this was from the early 90’s. This was before my mom was diagnosed with cancer in 1997. She was so beautiful in this picture, and so happy. The cancer changed her physically and emotionally over her 18 year battle. She was never really the same person.

I found myself wishing so badly to go back in time to this. I would even take five minutes with her before she got sick, and taken some mental pictures of her when she was her healthy self because those fragile memories that I have of her are fading. I mean, we had no way to know what was going to happen, but when she was diagnosed the cancer forced us all to take a step back and treasure the moments we had left.

Time Lost

Cancer is a thief. It steals time. It made the years that were supposed to be my mom’s best painful 24 hours a day. She fought to stay alive, and she fought hard. My mother was an extremely stubborn woman, and she refused to die until she was good and ready.  Initially when she was diagnosed in 1997, she was terminal with stage 4 multiple myeloma (bone marrow) cancer. For almost an entire year she stayed in a hospital. The doctors did not expect her to live, but she surprised them all and did. She told us that she was determined to see Aly and I graduate high school. She entered her first of several remissions in 2000, which lasted until after we graduated and went to our freshman year of college.

She then told us she was determined to see all her children married. My brother was married in 2001, I was married in 2005, and my sister was married in 2013. Despite have her second bone marrow transplant and nearly dying in 2008, Mom lived to see all her children married like she said. She was so stubborn, that woman.  It’s one of the things I loved most about her.

Her health dramatically decreased from 2013-2015. In October of 2014 they told us once again that she was terminal. But after 18 years of the constant pain, and the long list of health issues that arose from the chemo treatments, radiation, and cancer itself, Mom decided she would stop treatments. None of us could blame her at that point, but that does not mean it wasn’t heartbreaking knowing the end was near.

On Tuesday February 17, 2015 around 6:00 PM we gathered around a hospital bed where she lay dying. They had turned off her pace maker and we were watching the monitors as her heart rate and breathing were slowing. My sister Aly, my brother Rob and I were all by the bedside. My sister whispered :

“Mom, it’s okay to go now.”

My brother and I both chimed in too saying it was okay, and in a few moments she was gone.

Her time on this earth was shortened, but she held on as stubbornly as she could to get every last moment she could with her family.

Time Found

Time is a funny thing. Some days we constantly check our clocks just wishing for the day to speed up, and other days we feel like the days are dragging on. Time is best spent doing things we love, and with the people we love. For those loved ones we have lost, we can find them in those moments of happiness because they do not want us to sit around and be sad missing them. They want us living and enjoying every moment.

One thing is for sure, on those days where I catch myself wishing for time to speed up I have to stop and remember how precious every moment is. Be it an hour, a month, ten years, or five minutes.

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XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Mediocre Momness

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Back to school! It’s such a joyous time for Moms and Dads across the country. I remember when I was little Staples came out with a commercial that was forever my Mom’s favorite. It had the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing and the Mom was riding on top of the shopping cart sailing down the aisles just celebrating whilst filling said cart with back to school supplies. Her children were walking slowly behind her looking very unhappy. I totally get now why that was one of my Mom’s favorite commercials. Don’t get me wrong I love summer. However, once August rolls around, I am ready for structure and schedules again because the kids are getting restless and unruly. I also love the time I have to get things done while the kids are at school. This year, Memphis is the only one home with me since Shay is in first grade and it’s her first year going to all day school. I am loving the one-on-one time I am getting with him.

There is one thing that without fail always happens though once school rolls around again. I call it the back to school blues. It has absolutely nothing to do with my kids, and everything to do with me.

Forever Trying

One thing I will never be is the perfect mom, but I am no quitter. I try my hardest to make my kids lives fun and structured and healthy, but like I said, I’m not perfect. Despite me trying so hard to not worry about being perfect, there are moms everywhere who constantly make me feel guilty about it. It’s basically impossible to not compare myself to other moms. They seem to be everywhere – the Pinterest moms. I call them that because they seem like those picture perfect moms that are all over Pinterest. They cook extravagant meals, look like a movie star at 7 am with full make up on and dressed to the nines, they never yell at their kids, they are always doing fun activities, and their houses are always spotless. They’re basically like stepford wives.

Then there’s me. I always hit snooze on my alarm in the morning. I’m constantly in a state of tiredness. I should go to bed earlier, but I revel in my alone time at night once the kids are in bed that I end up staying up WAY too late binge watching on Netflix and Hulu. I’m also perpetually late to everything school related. It’s a skill. No matter how far in advance I plan, I almost never get a seat in the auditorium and am forced to stand while my toddler throws a fit and I’m so sweaty by the end of the concert or assembly that it seems like so much work to have even made the effort. Which speaking of sweaty, I’m usually in my workout clothes and unshowered. I mean, if I’m given the choice of working out or showering I pick the workout out every time. Cleanliness is overrated right? That’s what I keep telling myself. I almost never get a chance to shower. So yes, I may show up to the school functions smelling like B.O. with four days worth of  unshowered hair that’s 95% dry shampoo, and three-day old makeup making me look like a sick raccoon. But at least I made the effort to go right?

Now I am in no way saying that these Pinterest perfect moms are bad. I actually WISH I could be more like them! But try as I might I just keep falling very very short. It’s actually quite exhausting trying to keep up with them.

A Not so Subtle Revelation

Last night (Sunday), it was time for bed. As per usual, my kids rioted. It’s like they think that school was only for one week, and then that was it. So the fact that they had to go to bed early on a Sunday night was appalling. The usual way my oldest son acts out now is to say terrible things to me. He kept telling me over and over last night as we got ready for bed that I was a “bad” mom. I was also called “unfair”, “not cool”, “the meanest”, and “the dumbest” during his rant. I’m used to it now, so it didn’t faze me and yes, he still went to bed. There’s one thing this mom doesn’t cave on, and it’s bedtime. It’s a sacred time for me when the kids are all in their beds and I can just sit down and relax.

Once the kids were finally all in their beds I flopped down on my couch to queue up Netflix. I felt a little deflated from the battle that just went on upstairs, and I reflected on the things my son had said to me just moments before. The old me would have been really sad that he had said those things to me; I might have cried and had my feelings hurt by it. But not this time.

“I’m not a bad mom, I’m not even a terrible mom,” I said to myself, “I’m a GREAT mom!”

I felt rejuvenated. This realization gave me a new sense of self. I AM a great mom. My kids have great lives. They have a home, food, clothes, and toys. Most of all they are LOVED and KNOW it. I mean, I do some pretty cool stuff too like take my kids on fun adventures, read books to them in different voices, randomly break into song, have dance parties, and can tell every fart or poop joke in the book. But there is no denying I am a screw-up. But I am also a pretty awesome mom because I am such a loveable screw-up. I mean, my kids should be thanking me for being so relatable and down to earth.

Sorry Not Sorry

I quickly realized once my oldest son was in kindergarten, that I would not be able to make it to every event at the school. He was upset I couldn’t volunteer in his class, or come to all their class parties. It killed me, but having two other small kids at home and a husband with crazy hours meant I was not going to be able to. I stressed out about it for a few days, and was wondering if I was going to “break” my child by seeming to be unsupportive, but I soon realized that was ridiculous.

So, here is a list I’ve compiled for all you other moms out there who struggle like me feeling like such an imperfect mom. This particular list is things that do NOT make you a bad mom:

  • Not attending all events at school. (yes, they’re cute, but do we REALLY need a celebratory concert for America in the middle of February?!)
  • Not getting up and making a gourmet breakfast. Sorry kids, mommy is not and never will be a morning person. Sometimes I sleep right through my alarm. Eggo waffles are perfectly acceptable on such mornings.
  • Showing up to school looking like the conductor of the hot mess express. Yep, I have done this too many times to count! Just last week on the first day of school I slept through my alarm and ended up driving Calvin and Shay while wearing NO shoes and a grubby t-shirt and sweats I threw on. I fully embrace the hot mess that I am 80% of the time, but I do clean up pretty nicely too!
  • Not making healthy gourmet dinners every night. So to start off, I have picky eaters, and it’s hard! Even if i made the effort to cook a super healthy meal, no one would eat it. So yes, sometimes I do cook them and force them to eat it and they all usually cry. But most of the time, I give in and let them choose one thing they want to eat, (like mac n cheese), as long as they will eat one vegetable or a salad with it. My kids also take vitamins everyday, and are very active. So, I feel like as long as we can find a happy medium that they will be okay.
  • Not being their friend. Sometimes, this is such a hard one. But kids need to be loved and part of it is discipline. I refuse to let my kids grow up to be terrible adults, so discipline is necessary so they know what they can and cannot do.
  • Not having a clean house. Yeah, this one I am guilty of hardcore. Currently the laundry pile in my bedroom that needs to be put away is as tall as my bed, and I keep expecting it to grow legs and walk away. The table I am currently working at on my laptop in my kitchen is covered in crumbs and various toys that have accumulated over the weekend that I still haven’t cleaned off. But the toilets are clean! That in my book is a win.

I could go on and on with this list. Just know that you do NOT need to be a perfect stepford wives mom to be a GOOD mom. If you are that way, then good for you! You’re a good mom too and we applaud you! But for the rest of moms out there like me who struggle daily, just remember that perfect isn’t possible.

No, I’m by no means a perfect mom. I am, however, the perfectly unperfect mom for my kids. I try my very best and I think that’s what any of us can do. So if that makes me a mediocre mom, and not the Pinterest mom, so be it. I am happy with my mediocre momness.

 

Xoxo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette