Thursday, October 16, 2014

Friday Favorites: October 10

This weekend, my godson and goddaughter are going to spend the weekend with us, and I'm thrilled. And a little nervous, as I'll be playing a Mother of Three for 48 hours. I get to enjoy three kids and lots of ice cream all weekend long, and then we're back to "normal." Or we may never get back to that same normal again, which is just fine.

I'll be offline until Monday. In the meantime, please enjoy these posts that I fell in love with in the last week.

* * * 

I found myself holding my breath through this paragraph:

"I begin reading to him. Four chapters later, he signals that he is ready to fall asleep. “Can you read more tomorrow?” he whispers, his eyes half shut. “Of course,” I answer. “Thank you,” he whispers. “I love you.” He falls asleep, and I dare not move, lest I disrupt his snuggling, his gratitude, or his sweetness. It is one of those rare glimpses where I’m terrified that any motion I make could end it as unexpectedly as it came on. I hold my breath while his finds its gentle, rhythmic pace of sleep, his face unwrinkled and at peace."

* * *
This post from Elaine Alguire reminds me of the good:

"Next time you’re in a moment or a conversation or a situation where things are not the best or you think someone is in the wrong, try to see the goodness first.  I don’t guarantee it will change things but it may. And to me, that is worth a try."

* * * 

How many of you out there are walking around with a hole in your life? So many of us, in so many ways.

"Most of us are walking around with holes. I bet we’re almost all missing someone, tired, struggling, worried, scared. I’ve seen that those with leaky holes of their own are often the best at detecting who else is in need of a love band-aid.

And it’s often when we help patch someone else up that we heal a little of our own self."

* * *
Glennon moves me to DO something. Her passion and her compassion are inspiring.

"Maybe anger is like compassion, in that it can point us directly toward the place in the world we were born to help heal."

[In this vein, read this post by Arnebya Herndon. She is one of the most eloquent, hilarious, thoughtful, and intelligent people I know:

* * *
Katrina is sticking up for the much-aligned teenager, and it's awesome.

"Like all the generations before them, today’s teens sometimes get a bad rap. But I’ll say this for the ones I know: they’re bright, they’re connected, they’re globally aware, they’re socially engaged, they’re fiercely loyal, and they’re wicked smart."

* * *
I love to read Denise's words; she is the mother of grown kids, and is the kind of mom I'd like to be:.

"I think my kids are amazing, good, kind people, and I have every confidence that (with a few stumbles, I'm sure) they will forge their own paths into their own happy adult lives. They are not perfect. I am not perfect. We are, however, pretty perfect together."

* * *  
For a dash of funny/ sweet, read Kim's post on what she thinks makes dads sexy:

* * *
Lastly, I introduced two friends of mine at a birthday dinner last year, and they collaborated on a gorgeous children's book that will be launched shortly - I'm so proud of them.

Happy weekend!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When your confidence wanes

I sat there, listening, as the calls started coming in.

They went for the throat immediately, hurling insults as if we were exotic game animals in a sporting shoot.  My face started to flush and I felt the anger seeping in, and the frustration of being muted while strangers called me “stupid” and “lame” and “boring”.  The other two guys got that and worse. I glowered at the regular DJs, fidgeting in my seat.

I was a contestant on an Atlanta-based radio station called “Quit Your Day Job” and I had made it through an audition of 100 people and a week of music trivia to get to this point – the final three in a race for a prize package including a car and townhouse lease for a year.  The last hurdle was that they let the three of us host the show for ten minutes, and we had about an hour to plan and fill those ten minutes with whatever we wanted. We were amateurs, certainly, and we did the best we could. All of us wanted to win, badly, but we got along well, and we had fun with it. 

What we didn’t know is that the regular DJs were talking over us and making fun of us as we spoke from the other room. After they came back into the booth and played it back for us, they opened up the phones for callers to comment, and the effect was brutal.

After taking several calls dripping with criticism and sarcasm, they opened up my microphone to let me speak.

“Steam is starting to come out of your ears, Kristin,” one of the DJs said, smirking.  “What’s on your mind?”

I leaned into the mic and unleashed my feelings: I said that the callers didn’t really know me and didn’t have a right to criticize me or my two new friends in that manner. I told them they should be ashamed of themselves for the language they used to describe people they didn’t know.  Criticize our technique, but don’t criticize us as people, I said. I sounded louder and more animated than I had all week, and when I was finished, I sat back down. The lead DJ looked at me with new respect, but told me that if I wanted to entertain a job as a DJ, I’d have to learn to take the heat.

The other DJ said on the air, “I’m proud of you, Kristin. That’s the most you have revealed about yourself all week. And check it out – the compliments are starting to come in.”

New callers were lined up to give us support and encouragement. They drowned out the negative callers, and the regular DJs joked that we must have paid some of them to call in or that they must be relatives. Their normal was the negative.

I didn’t win the contest. But I was reminded on that day: be real. Don’t worry about being unpopular; just be true. It’s a message I heard at a conference two years ago when the speaker, a woman with an amazing success story, said one of her lessons in life was, “Don’t be mild.” That’s a Texas reference in terms of heat and salsa and the Tex-Mex cooking we eat often in this area. Be spicy if you’re spicy. Be medium if you’re more medium. But don’t be mild to try to please others if your nature is to be spicy.

The second thing I learned was that I don’t want to spend my life in a toxic environment. Any job in which I’d have to learn how to take that kind of heat on a daily basis is not where I want to spend my time. Granted, as a writer, I experience some trolls and internet commenters who are less than kind. I don’t like it, but I have learned to shut them out as best as I can.

It’s more than ten years since the DJ contest, and I still struggle sometimes when I get negative feedback – but less than I used to. I confided in a group of friends recently that I still felt like a teenager when my confidence wanes. They all chimed in, “Me too!” “Me too!” and we agreed that our own insecurities get in our way. Crises of confidence seem to be pretty normal, but they are frustrating.

One friend gave me a great piece of advice.  When I shared with her my lagging confidence, she said, “Well, do you want to change who you are? I like you the way you are. You have to be you.”

At 43, I know who I am, for the most part.

I’m 100% extrovert, and I talk a lot.

I tend to interrupt when I’m excited about a topic.

I am constantly on the go, and may be exhausting to anyone who has a slower pace.

I make mistakes on a regular basis.

I’m sappy and sometimes cheesy.

I may not be for everyone.

But I am me. 

And the lessons I am still learning are the ones I want to pass onto my son, and to you: you are you.  And you should be YOU, whether you are mild, medium, or spicy. You don’t need anyone’s approval. You don’t always have to be liked, even though that is sometimes tough to swallow. Be true to you.

Maybe this sounds familiar to you:

Sometimes I worry that my writing doesn't mean anything, or that it's trivial. And then I get a message from one person telling me that it helped them in some way. Sometimes I worry that I am not a good enough friend. And then I get a text from someone telling me they love me. Sometimes I worry that I am not a good enough mother. And then my son hugs me. I'm harder on myself than anyone else could be, as many people are.

Tell those voices in your head to be quiet and wait for the next wave of good.

My son will meet negative people, mean people, and people who are jealous or angry or hateful. I want him to know that the whole world doesn’t have to like him, but he can make a difference for the people who do, one person at a time… and for that one person, that’s all that matters. Focus on them and forgive the rest.

I’m kind of spicy. Maybe you are, too.You’re probably also kind, and thoughtful, and loving.

Forgive yourself for being imperfect.

Forgive yourself for being bent or broken on your way to wholeness.

Keep being kind, keep the faith, and keep moving forward. And surround yourself with love.

Be you.

* * *

My favorite quote of the week on this topic, from Marc and Angel:

“Stop listening to what the world says you should want.  Start listening to who you are.  Truth be told, there are only a few people in this world who will stay 100% true to you, and YOU should be one of them.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Nesting: the night I learned to embrace our bedtime routine

I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Austin except for one woman who was introduced to me on the trade show circuit by a mutual business friend. As it turned out, she was the first person who knew I was pregnant, other than my husband.

It happened at lunch one day as we were getting to know each other better; we had spent a few lunch dates together before this one. She asked me if we were planning to have children, and in her naturally forthright way, she indicated that I’d better get moving, at my age (38, at the time).  She asked me if I had a good ob/gyn and I said yes and then started to blush at her line of questioning. 

We had discovered that I was pregnant a few days before.

“Well, I – see, the thing is –"

“You’re pregnant, aren’t you?” she said.

I’m no good at poker, and my face showed it all.

After my son was born, my new friend brought me a chicken pot pie and handed me an “infant management book” that was extremely popular. Translated-into-16-languages-popular, that is. I read it, dutifully. Before I knew that I was suffering from postpartum anxiety, this book fueled my interest in parenting and baby sleep books, and I bought several more and read them at every possible moment – probably when I should have been sleeping. None of them helped. None of them matched my instincts, even though friends swore the methods worked very well for them. My head started to spin from the sheer volume of advice.

A few weeks later, when I was about to lose my mind from confusion and sleep deprivation, I took the whole pile of books and shipped them to a friend who was pregnant and looking for information.

Take them all, and don’t worry about sending them back, I dashed off in a note, desperate to get rid of them, like a sleep-training-book exorcism.

Once my anxiety started to abate and I became more confident in my mothering, I relaxed into the rhythm of a kid who, as it turned out, never became a great sleeper. 

He slept snugged in the car seat for hours at a time (luckily, I didn’t know much about torticollis, or it would have added to my worry and anxiety).

He was a tiny Houdini escaping from a poorly-wrapped swaddle blanket at four weeks.

He slept in the pack and play for naps and he slept in the swing – even with it turned off–  for eight hours straight at night, so we stuck with that until he was nearly four months old. I seriously considered having a swing made that would accommodate his growing size. Only an upcoming trip motivated me to practice in his crib more often.

Later, we even tried the gentlest of sleep trainings – but after a few minutes of crying, I couldn’t take it anymore and gave up and switched to part-time co-sleeping, and began the next few years of getting kicked in my sleep by a restless toddler about halfway through the night.

At some point in the process, he became proficient at putting himself to sleep in his own crib. We could put him in the crib and he would laugh himself to slumberland without a problem.

And then one day, I came back from a business trip, and I learned that my husband decided to lie next to our son as he fell asleep to comfort him while I was away. That was the end of our son talking himself to sleep; he learned that having mom or dad next to him was preferable.

That was probably two years ago, and my son is now five. For the first several months of this new process, I was resentful. Where was my ME time? Why can’t he just go back to the old way of going to bed? I am wasting my time lying here! I would seethe in frustration.

It dawned on me after many nights of frustration and snappy “Go to sleep!” admonitions that I was missing something major: He wanted to hold my hand. He wanted to tell stories and hear my lullabies and share our thankfulness for our family and friends together. This time was gold.

And I was wasting my time resenting it.

I have one child, and it's an easy decision to make: I can spend this time with him, because he wants me there. The day he wants me to leave him alone to sleep will come soon enough. 

Now, it’s my favorite time of day. It still cuts into my evening time, but I don’t mind nearly as much.  This small boy asks me to tell him a story, and I always start with “Once upon a time” and I always end with “…and they lived happily ever after”, even if the princess was defeated by the dragon. He repeats and revises my stories and turns them into his own, developing his voice and his creativity. I get to witness it.

Most nights, he says, “Mom, will you hug me?” which means that he wants me to hold him as he falls asleep. The privilege of holding this child as his body relaxes into the tiny quakes that mean that he has crossed into sleep is one that I want to be very mindful of. When he decides to push me away, that he doesn’t need me any more, I will remember. I will have the muscle memory of his small body curled into mine, nesting.

Nesting. I like that. Like a mama bird.

Until he’s ready to fly, without me beside him, into his dreams.

Photo by Ashley White at

All parents should know that they shouldn’t be judged for teaching their babies to sleep in whatever way works best for them, whether it’s safe co-sleeping or Ferber or swaddling or the swing or some other method. The important thing is that everyone gets the rest they need.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Friday Favorites: October 3

Well, I typically try to post Friday Favorites on Fridays. But it just didn't happen last week, so we're a little late.  Want to pretend that today is Friday instead?


I am no parenting expert, so I like to read things like this that give me ideas on how I can teach my son to be a better citizen of the world:
Are you raising nice kids? 5 ways to raise them to be kind.

And more on teaching kids to be kind, because I want to arm my son with kindness to combat mean.
"Kindness exhibits strength of character.  ANYONE can be mean and quick to judge.  Be better than that.  Be kind.  Be responsible.  WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR KIDS.  Let's make their lives better.  Let's model kindness for them, not snark and not tearing each other down."
Where do mean girls come from?

This post, from a mother who is raising a son with autism, is a sweet letter to the other kids in the world asking them to learn about the signs of autism and how they might react.
Will you help me change the world for our children?

Some of my friends with children in elementary school have been struggling with the issue of when to let their child quit an activity. I thought this was a thought-provoking take on it. 
Why I never let my kid quit anything


I feel like parenting is defined by this constant angsty tension – wanting so much for a hard phase to be over, simultaneously feeling guilty that we are wishing it away, and then immediately grieving each stage as soon as it has passed.  It seems like we are constantly sandwiched between a hope for an easier stage, and a regret that the harder stage is gone."
Teach us to realize the brevity of life

"Now, I am dancing with my little boy. His small hand in mine, I spin him around the room, sing loudly while he laughs and holds me tight. I feel our connection… parent to child to parent to child. I never really understood the lyrics before I had him, but here it was, the rainbow connection. It is this song, this love, these moments that connect our generations, our hearts."
The rainbow connection

This post made me wish I lived next door to my parents:
Unexpected family love

Go forth and have a wonderful week. More original work coming up.

P.S.  Jennifer Williams is posting 31 days of pies on her site. PIE. Yum.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Forty-four pounds

Seven is the number of pounds I lost in my first trimester with my son, because I could not stomach anything but waffles, cereal, Pop Tarts, and toaster pastries. I had no idea that pregnancy could make a woman quite that sick for weeks at a time. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel as I curled up on the couch, wondering if this baby was healthy, because I felt like I had been run over by a construction-grade roller.

Nine pounds was the estimate for my son’s birth weight; the doctors thought he would be too big for my body.  Since I was of advanced maternal age, they mandated weekly sonograms.  That suited me just fine so I could keep my anxiety in check about whether or not the cord was wrapped around his neck, or if he was breech, and if his tiny heart was beating properly.

Eight pounds was his actual weight when he was born. Eight pounds on the dot, and twenty inches long. I held his head gently as he was finally placed in my arms, and he felt as light as a bean bag. Clumsily, I jostled him as I learned how to change his diaper, swaddle him, and nurse him. I would hold him for hours, my arms cramping. Eight pounds felt like twenty at the end of a long day of new motherhood. As the weeks went on, my arms became stronger and so did my confidence in motherhood.

Twelve is the number of pounds I was under my pre-pregnancy weight at the height of postpartum anxiety, when I was fighting jittery nerves and could not wrap my mind around when I would have time to feed myself. It didn’t occur to me that I shouldn’t have been able to fit into my jeans so quickly. Those 12 pounds represented all of the worry, and fear, and stress that had taken a toll on my body; at the same time, my son had reached the 12-pound mark.

Forty-four pounds is what my five-year-old son weighs today.

Forty-four pounds of boy. Forty-four pounds of love and intelligence and sweetness and curiosity in a compact ball of energy.

This morning, he holds up his arms for me to pick him up, and they look closer to me and longer than ever, as if I were looking down at him through a magnifying glass.  I bend my knees to hoist him with more effort.

I could have said no, you are a big boy now.

No, you have to walk.

No, I have too many other things to carry.

But I don’t say no. I juggle the other things in my hands and find a way to hold him too.  I breathe in his little-boy scent of sweat and soap and I hold him closely, because I know holding him closely will be a privilege I can enjoy for only a little bit longer. I’m not ready to grieve the end of his little-boy years to concede to the big-boy years, even knowing that I don’t want him to stop growing. It is in the growing that I grow as well. It is only in the opportunity to watch him develop that I can also learn how to be a better mother, with practice and time.

He wants more piggyback rides lately. And I say yes. Yes, always yes. As long as I can lift him I will do it. He feels heavier, even though I have earned this weight with time invested and frequent lifting of his small body for more than five years now. The arm muscles I have are not from my infrequent visits to the gym but from five years of holding a gradually heavier weight, every day.

And so I marvel in this time that is quickly passing me by and I try to memorize his face even as it is changing before my eyes. I touch the baby-soft skin on his arms and imprint the sensation in my brain before he no longer wants me to do that. I hold his hand every opportunity possible as I teach him how to cross the street safely. And I pick him up and carry him when he wants me to. He jumps into my arms from whatever perch he is standing and leaps with abandon, knowing that I will catch him without fail.

I allow him to tackle me and kiss my boo-boos and mess up my hair. I let him paint my skin and I don’t complain when he is pressed up against me on the couch on a hot afternoon, watching Paw Patrol.  I don’t mind that he leans on me or likes to have a hand on me while he eats his dinner. It won’t be long before he won’t.

The phrase that sticks in my head is “One day, you’ll put him down and won’t ever pick him up again”… because he will have outgrown it.  And me. 

So I bend my knees and pick him up.And I hold him close for as long as I can.



* * * 

Have you checked out my first published book? Several essays were written by dear friends of mine, and I'm savoring them.

The next one, Precipice, is coming out in October, with one of my essays on marriage.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Five minutes

I only had five minutes between the moment I left my house and a lunch meeting with a friend in town. I waffled, because I knew it wasn't much time, but I decided to use those minutes to call one of my best friends, a friend I have had for more than 20 years.

She didn’t pick up, so I left a voice mail; she called back a minute later. With only a couple of minutes to spare, I figured I could let her know that I was thinking about her and say hello. After the initial happy surprise to speak with each other, the tone in her words changed quickly, and I tuned in.

“I’m so glad you called me today,” she said. “I needed a friend. My mother recently found out that she has breast cancer and her lumpectomy is today.”

This was a shock to me as well, and I have spent plenty of quality time with her mother, whom I adore, over the years. We went on to discuss her mom’s prognosis and promised to text each other that day for updates. Her mom had the surgery and a shot of radiation, and her prognosis is good. 

[Side note: women, go schedule your mammogram! Yes, right now. I’ll wait.]

Those five minutes were well spent.  I wished I had an hour to talk to her and catch up, but I didn’t have an hour.  And in all reality, she probably didn’t, either. In most cases, a few minutes at a time are all you need to feed and nurture your friendship.

You know how it goes, right?

You move, or have a baby, or start a new job, or get married, and your time is squeezed into smaller and smaller segments and you find it difficult to keep up the level of friendship that you could before life marched forward.  Long conversations are replaced by quick cups of coffee and voice mail tag. Guilt sets in and before you know it, it has been three months since you last spoke to each other. 

Who called last? Is she upset with me for not calling her back?

My friend Andy and her best friend implemented something they call “the 5-minute rule”. If one is thinking of the other but only has five minutes to spare, she will call and say, “I only have five minutes to talk” and they talk as much as they can fit into that period of time. It’s part sanity check, part loving gesture, and part friendship maintenance. It's all about setting up the expectation up front.

Often, I feel as though I need to allot more time to a “meaningful” call. So I wait, and wait, and wait for the perfect moment.

The perfect moment is elusive between getting ready for school and making dinner and working and Little League practice. And that’s only on my end. A friend might have tae kwon do, swim, and occupational therapy for her three kids.  Or maybe she just has three kids and that pretty much takes all the available time slots, especially when they’re small. Or maybe she’s a busy executive. None of us have the time we had when we were teenagers, twirling the cord around our fingers as we chatted away. 

Five minutes. Try it.  The next time you’re thinking about a friend and you just want to hear her voice, call her right then and there. Or wait until you’re on your way to pick up the kids from school, even if it’s just down the street and you don’t have much time. You can speak a multitude of feelings in five minutes.

You’re saying: 

I care.
I’m thinking about you.
I want you to know that I’m glad you’re in my life.
I trust you and need your advice.
I need for you to hear me because I feel lost. 
I love you.

And honestly, not everyone is a phone talker. Some of my friends prefer email or text, and once I learn their preferred method of communication – their phone love language, so to speak – then I can keep in touch with them at their pace. If it’s a text, I can dash off a quick, “Hey, I’m here, and I miss you.” If it’s an email, I can sum up my week with a few paragraphs and start a volley.  My mother has a friend two states away she writes to every single day – not long missives, but short notes to keep the fires of their friendship going. 

It might mean more than you think it does. Five minutes is worth a lot.

Do you have five minutes? Go.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Favorites: September 12

I spent the week at an aviation conference representing Airport Improvement magazine, and it was nice to see all of my friends in the industry. I haven't seen many of them since the last event, before I left my full-time job, and they asked me how I was doing. Many remarked how relaxed and happy I looked. I FEEL happy, and I feel fulfilled, and I feel so very lucky to be able to work part time and still spend good quality time with my son. He just turned five, and it's a fun age.

Can I tell you how excited I am to be published in my first book?  It's called My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends. I keep looking at the byline with my name in print. The essays in this book are so beautiful, and I'm proud to be included. This review from Nina Badzin is an excellent summary of the book with highlights from many of the individual essays. 

Speaking of books, if you're a parent, chances are that you picked up What To Expect While You're Expecting at some point. I dog-eared mine, keeping references and looking back to it as my go-to resource when I was pregnant. Sometimes, it was like WebMD for pregnancy if I looked at the possibilities of what could go wrong and I would feel like I was mired in mud.

When my son was born, I gathered up all of the parenting books I could find - especially books on teaching babies how to sleep - and read them like crazy. In the midst of postpartum anxiety, the depth and breadth of conflicting advice started driving me crazy, and I lost my patience and donated them all to Goodwill.

I hadn't picked up a parenting book since.

And then I had a lucky break, because Dr. Deborah Gilboa sent me a copy of her new book. Deborah is a friend of mine, so I agreed to read it. I picked it up on a recent trip out of town and read it from cover to cover, thumbing back to sections I wanted to read again. It surprised me how much I enjoyed the book and also how useful I found it - and believe I will find it going forward. This one will stay in my library until my son is grown; each chapter covers various age ranges with simple solutions and suggestions to help navigate both the calm and rough waters of parenthood. I felt as though I could pick up the book and open it to any page and find comfort there. I felt as though she empowered me to be a better parent and be more confident in my decisions.

Deborah's book, Get the Behavior You Want... Without Being the Parent You Hate can be found at Amazon.

* * *
More excellent reading from around the web:

Tracy's approach to sleepovers makes a lot of sense to me... but her 11-year-old daughter doesn't necessarily agree.

It doesn't hurt to smile - Katrina's essay on kindness tips from a beloved octogenarian is spot-on and a great reminder. I found myself smiling at strangers at the airport this week.

My son is growing so rapidly, this one hit me right in the heart:

Friendship, in its loveliest forms, from Bethany Meyer:

In case you missed it on my page, this post from Liz at Mom-101 on domestic violence is incredibly powerful.

Nicole's essay on divorce and feeding the souls of her children is heartbreakingly beautiful.

Sarah Reinhart always brings light to my life. I love her words and her images.

Lastly, if you are the parent of a child with autism or know a parent of a child with autism who is afraid to travel by air, this article is for you - I was honored to write on this topic for Airport Improvement magazine, and I love to see the airports doing great things for families.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are.


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