Like A Spirit in the Night

When I was eight years old I saved up enough money to buy my first horse. I remember working so, so hard. I obsessed over the ledger that I kept, ticking off each little drop in the bucket as I neared my goal. When my horse finally arrived on my parents farm I felt like my future was stepping off the back of that trailer. That. Big. Of. A. Deal. For me, my horse became my freedom. I was a raging, longing little kid, who just ached to be big, and wild, and free. My horse was all of those things, and for a few hours he could just sweep me away to a world where grass waved in the wind like a sea of emerald green and his hooves didn't pound the ground so much as they nearly flew. We were a funny couple, he and I. Me, with my gangly, late blooming body and inability to shut up, ever, even to him. And he with his kind of arabian, quarter horsy grade look and stumpy legs. But we were best friends. I had to put him down when I was seventeen. I stayed with the vet and held his head through the whole process. There's a part of me that wishes I hadn't. I had watched a lot of animals die (I grew up on a farm guys. It happens), but I had never watched something that had a piece of my heart leave this world. Afterwards, I stood in the shower, cried a bit, and basically never mentioned it again. I only told a few, and barely admitted that I was upset. It's life. This shit happens.

I mentioned in my last post that this has been an emotional month. I've seen and experienced so much loss, and so much joy, that I feel as if my heart will explode at times. Something I've realized through it, and it's been nagging in the back of my mind for a while, is that I don't think I really know how to handle loss. I don't know if that's a cultural thing, or if it's just me, but the following are a few thoughts I've had as I've processed, and I really don't have enough motivation to put them into a cohesive post.

- I experience the world in a deeply emotional, spiritual way. It's just who I am. I recount my life as series of incredibly detailed memories, because those memories are like tiny treasures holding my past. Unlocking them, browsing through them, and sometimes healing them, is important to me, because for me, the past is not in the past. I carry a part of it with me all of the time. When a good friend of mine left this world last year I longed to go back and unlock his memories. To share them with people who carried pieces of him too. To ache together that a piece of the vivid patchwork of our lives was no longer there, and could no longer enter our lives again and make us something other than we were before. That was the first time I began to realize that culturally, or perhaps just personally, there was very little space for that.

- Death sucks. It just does. It doesn't matter if a person dies in the womb, or at the end of 95 years, someone still aches for their departure from this world. It doesn't matter if you believe in a afterlife, or Jesus, or heaven or hell, you will still ache. It will still hurt. And it should.

- Death also makes me thankful. I look at my loved ones more often, and want to make a conscious effort to remember them well. I guess one of the things that connects us all in our sorrow, is that if we're close enough to see someone else's, it doesn't take a far stretch of the imagination to realize that "that could be me." To realize, just for a moment, that their pain could be our own, and how then can we keep from mourning with them?

- Why them, and not us? That thought plagues me. Why did your baby stop breathing and never recover and mine was resuscitated and sits with me now? I weep because my joy and your loss are so similar and yet so far apart, and so unfair.

- Life is also beautiful. It holds so much. So much vibrance, and love, and beauty. Those memories I hold, those are worth keeping close to my heart. They remind me of the immense power of even a short life, and I wouldn't give anything for them.

I'm going to leave it there. I believe in honesty, and openness, and while I try to be real in this little piece of the internet I haven't often shared my questions or my aches. Bear with me.


Confict in Action: Dresses and Pants

I've always loved the dress/slip over pants look, but I've never felt like I could pull it off. I've tried a couple of times, and I feel like it always just ends up looking like a bag-over-pants version. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this, but I was into it today. I love the strappy details and flowing whites. There's something so romantic about it, without losing a bit of an edgy appeal.

Wearing Forever 21 slip and bra, American Eagle jeggings that I cut off and distressed, and Jeffrey Campbell Hells. 

Confessions of a Tired Mom

Jane Shenandoah, my daughter of the stars. 
This is you, at two years old,
Wearing vintage glasses and being totally silly.
You're sassy and wild, deep down.
You've got a will like steel. 
You're learning to shape it, and care for it.
And it's hard sometimes,
I know.
But someday, it's going to take you to places,
That are wild, and free, 
Like you. 



If there's one word that describes my last few weeks it's this: tired. I've been using an app called Stop, Breath and Think the last week or so and every time it asks me how I'm feeling today I spend at least 5 minutes searching for that word under all of the options (it's not there, by the way, but I still look for it every single time. Slow learner maybe?). Almost exactly a year ago I was having some scary physical issues, which ended up being diagnosed as stress induced. I was exhausted all of the time (a sharp contrast to my normal self), experiencing heart palpitations and pain in my chest, and having a hard time breathing. I've taken a lot of steps to take better care of myself since that time, and I'm much better, but there's still a lingering "crash" that happens when I allow myself to get too stressed out about too many things. These past few weeks I've felt the remnant of that, and I've had to remind myself that even the things I do for myself, like this blog, can find themselves on my mental list of things that "need" to be done, and things that need to be stressed over when they're not accomplished. So I've been a little MIA, and I'm learning to be ok with the fact that it's simply a reality of this phase of life from time to time. Sometimes the necessities in life eat up all there is of you, and while that isn't healthy for long periods of time, I'm beginning to understand, and be ok with the fact that it's just how it is for me, right now, at this little point in time. 

Also, age two is hard, guys. Maybe it's not hard for everyone, or maybe "hard" looks different in different situations. And maybe, if I weren't trying to accomplish some of my own dreams at the same time that I'm trying to mostly stay with a two year old at home, it wouldn't be as hard. I don't know. But regardless, the last several months have added up to a constant level of underlying exhaustion. Jane Shenandoah is the most beautiful little thing to enter my life. I lay with her at night when she's asleep and tell her that I'm sorry for not knowing what the hell I'm doing sometimes. For telling her I have to work instead of play (and then she says "PLAY?!" in her sleep) sometimes, and for being frustrated with my and Dirk's hearted headed, strong will, manifesting in her. I still find that I have so many expectations for who she is and who she will be, instead of learning who she is as we go along. My parents took my siblings and I everywhere with them when we were growing up (business meetings, EVERYTHING), and I have fully expected to be able to do the same. But this girl, this girl isn't me. Or my husband, or my siblings. She's different, and I've been pushing against some of that since the day she came into this world. 

Jane came into this world with a plan about how things should go. I still remember my sweet friend Jenny Anne holding her the first time she met her, and watching her fight to do everything herself as a squirming one month old. She looked at her and said "oh my, you're so strong, and you know exactly where you want to go in this world, don't you?" no truer words have ever been spoken. To spite all of that, I've still hung on to the idea that if I just parent well, stay firm, be consistent, she will be able to function the way I want her to. Sure, things will blow up occasionally, but we will still be able to sail into a meeting, clad with an ipad, and get shit done, at least part of the time. It took the last consultation that I tried that at, going exactly the opposite of how I had planned it, for reality to really hit me hard: this is not my failure as a parent, or her failure as a child...this is who this child IS. If I'm honest, I've seen it all along, and I probably should have come to terms with it a little sooner. 

We took Jane on a three week European vacation with my whole family through four countries, traveling entirely by train, when she was 4 months old. Given the circumstances she did incredibly well. I, on the other hand, was kind of a basket case. I was breast feeding exclusively (TMI, I know. Just wait, it gets better), partially because I believed that was best for my baby and partially because this was how my mom did it and it worked for her and she fed us wherever and when ever and all was right in the world. However, like I've mentioned before, Jane has always had her own plans for things, and at this particular point in time her view on the situation was that she needed to be fed every three hours (exactly every three hours. No sooner, no later), oh and by the way, everything needed to also be completely silent. Little old french man over there talking? Yes, you, please shut up. Her view was also that if everything couldn't be completely silent then she would not be able to eat, and would then proceed to scream at the top of her lungs. So here Jane and I were, battling all through Europe, on an endless string of awkward feeding situations, with both of our stubbornness fighting it out. Until Italy. When I undressed for the third time in the last 10 minutes, on a train that was literally shoulder to shoulder full of loud italian commuters, my child screamed at the top of her lungs which translated to "SHUT UP OR I WON'T EAT" and I'm pretty sure we spilled milk on our neighbor, I finally had the thought "why am I doing this?" Why am I fighting her. Why don't we have a bottle. Why don't we try something else. Why am I about to lose my shit just because I wan't this child to be someone she's not. Let's get real. 

If I'm honest, there's also a lot of me that's afraid of what people will think. I cried my eyes out the day I decided to wean Jane. Partially because it hurt to give that up, and partially because I felt like I was failing in everyone else's eyes (for the record she literally didn't care. At all. She stopped in one day and never looked back). And I know that plays a part in my ongoing struggle. I know what the old ladies in the grocery are thinking when my child screams and pitches a fit, and I desperately want them to know that they're wrong, sometimes even at my child's expense. I want them to know that my will is strong, and that I have literally NEVER given into her when she acts like this, yet, her will is strong too, and she still does it. Over, and over again. But here I am again, making choices based on someone else, and keeping myself from being able to actually get to know my daughter because of silly expectations and a sometimes crippling need for approval.

I had a really beautiful talk with my mom this week. I told her that I loved how they raised us, but that I also had inadvertently come to view it as the standard, and that I finally realized that I felt that something was wrong if things didn't look exactly the same. I've realized this before, and now I'm just facing it again, in different place, and a different time. I'm remembering to love this girl for who she is, right now, and accept the person she's going to be. I want to give her an image of life, and freedom, and grace, instead of my crushing expectations that need to be lived up to. 

Here's to getting to know these little people we bring into the world, in the same way we want to be known ourselves. 

Love Story: An Evening with Katch Silva Photography

This love is near, and wild, and subdued and passionate. And, as T.S. Eliot said, this love is silent. It's a beautiful aspect of familiarity, but I've found that sometimes, though not often, it's an excuse to fail to mark the memories of a life simply lived together. Dirk and I are terrible at being photographed together. We take pictures of each other, and of Jane, and of those around us, but we rarely make sure that there is a visual marker of our lives together. In fact, our wedding day was the last time we had any set of photos dedicated just to us, so when we got an opportunity to hang out with photographer Katch Silva and her husband Cory and have some photos taken a few weeks ago, I was super excited. Seeing these images has been a beautiful experience for both of us. Katch is amazing and so good at what she does, her ability to capture a moment is incredible. Make sure you check out her site and set aside some time to browse, your time will be well spent. You can also see a few more photos of us HERE.

We went to Sunset rock, on Lookout Mountain, and it was just so incredibly beautiful. Although I absolutely hate heights, I love the wildness and freedom in those moments when you feel that you might possibly just be on top of the world. 

I'm wearing all Free People, from several seasons ago.

When your money helps to heal: Trades of Hope

Extreme poverty, sex trafficking, war, and illness are only a few of the evils that many women around the world face. They're trapped, broken, hurting, and completely unable to escape, very often simply due to a lack of opportunity. Trades of Hope is an organization that is dedicated to trying to give these women a source of income and support. The organization is made up representatives in the U.S. who help to sell products made by struggling women in a variety of situations all over the world (you can go HERE to learn more about them). My friend Drew Dotson is an entrepreneur here in the U.S. and has done an amazing job spreading the message and work of this company.

These are the "Inca Earrings" made by women in extreme poverty in Peru. When I wear them I'm reminded of the hands that made them, and the story that they have to tell. Everything tells a story, somethings just bear a little more ache than others. It may just be me, but I'm so quick to ignore organizations like this. Because I feel so removed from the pain that my purchase is supposed to help I can sometimes believe that it doesn't matter at all. I've been rethinking that lately, and learning to remember that sometimes even the tiniest bit really does help. It really does lend its self to something better, or at least something moving in the right direction. Which is really a huge win. This little piece of jewelry isn't supporting sweatshop workers, or exploiting women, in fact it's a tiny drop in a big bucket fighting to end those things.

Please check out Drew's site and the products she carries HERE. There is a huge variety, and each piece carries meaning and value reaching far beyond each of us.

I styled these with an H&M button up from a clothing swap, H&M high waisted leggings (Here), 
and thrifted shoes.