31 January 2017

Dear Bloggers & Writers: This Isn't "Business As Usual"

I’ve been trying for a while to compose the following thoughts that have been on my mind and to say that it’s been difficult would be a huge understatement. I’ve tried every approach known to man to express what I’m feeling without coming across as harsh but in the end, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because I’m not being true to myself and my voice and while yes, my blog is a place where I discuss the ups and downs of parenting, it’s also a place where I discuss life openly, honestly and bravely. I’ve never backed down from this stance so I’m not going to start now.

As you may have noticed lately, our democracy, nation and humanity is imploding. Daily, we are being pushed towards the brink of economic, civil and global disaster. Our government is literally breaking into a million pieces with no relief in sight. Women, families, working parents, children and minorities are under attack like we’ve ever seen pre-Ronald Regan era. Having said all of this, I must ask…

Where are the bloggers and writers?

But to the bloggers and writers staying “on brand” and operating like business as usual, like nothing is happening? I’m sorry, I can’t support that. The majority of you to whom I speak are women. How can you not speak up? Do you not realize that the only reason you’re able to have a voice, or a business, or a “side hustle” is because of the women who came before you in protest to give it to you? Be brave. Buck up. People want to talk about this! Find your voice and share it because honestly, all our lives are depending on it.


You have a platform. You have a voice. The two go hand in hand. I know what you’re thinking: “But I don’t do that on my blog or website. I don’t usually write about that.” So, you don’t stand up for what is right? Interesting.

“I have a brand to maintain.” No one cares. Sorry, they don’t. People are living paycheck to paycheck, fretting about how they’re going to afford health insurance and for some families, how they’re going to stay together without being literally ripped apart by Trump’s immigration policy. “The struggle is real” is no longer a cute little hashtag to use for all our perfectly poised pictures but a reality for millions of Americans. It is in fact a “struggle.” So, no. Unless you’re going to tell me how to wear those cute little ankle booties in a march, or which is the best lipstick to wear while telling Trump to pucker up and kiss my ass, or the best scarf selection for those cold morning protests, or the best wine pairings to partake of while planning the resistance, I don’t have time. I’m tired AF seeing recipes, yoga, travel and fashion posts like the damn world isn’t burning to the ground.



And that’s my frustration now. Do I expect that everyone should be posting political commentary 24/7? No. Do I think that on some level we as bloggers and writers should all be standing up to talk about the issues, our fears, and our feelings about recent events? YES. If you can use your platform to sell all kinds of mindless shit no one really needs, pimp brands that do only one thing – make their companies richer, and make a dollar for yourself, then you can use your same influential voice to speak up for the issues and things that truly matter in this life. Here’s how you do it…

Write a post about the organizations you’re supporting right now and why. Actually, DO a comedic piece about which wines, beers or beverages you enjoy while trying to take in the daily news. This is humor and keeping things light while still talking about the issues. Write a post about your recentparticipation in a march or protest and why you decided to be involved. Use your blog to share a sample letter that you can use to send to your local and state representatives. This is the perfect post to share that really reaches those people who may want to be involved but don’t know where to start. If you post DIY material, show us how to make the best political signs. Share your thoughts on an issue that is important to you and why it affects others, good or bad. Share a post on how to spread love and peace during turbulent times. The point is, find a method of support that works for you and DO IT.

But to the bloggers and writers staying “on brand” and operating like business as usual, like nothing is happening? I’m sorry, I can’t support that. The majority of you to whom I speak are women. How can you not speak up? Do you not realize that the only reason you’re able to have a voice, or a business, or a “side hustle” is because of the women who came before you in protest to give it to you? Be brave. Buck up. People want to talk about this! Find your voice and share it because honestly, all our lives are depending on it.


“Our lives end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.


30 January 2017

I'm a Mom with Depression: 5 Ways I Cope

Depression is silent and deadly and sneaks up on you like a thief in the night and that's its mode of operation - you never know when it is going to sneak back into your life. Having said this, I want to share some tips and pieces of advice that I've learned along the way over my years in dealing with my depression and more so since becoming a mom.
As most of you may know, I am a mother who battles depression. It's a topic that I've touched on lightly from time to time but in all honesty, I haven't talked about it as much as I should and I feel bad about that and want to change it. I know that depression can be a difficult topic for most mothers to even admit they have, let alone talk about, but the fact of the matter is that this issue simply isn't talked about enough in parenting circles and it should be.


All too often, women and mothers suffer in silence with depression and even though we are in the year 2017, the topic of mothers who suffer from depression is treated as if we're still stuck in the 1950s. It's almost as if it's still the dirty little secret that we're not supposed to talk about, a taboo if you will.


As moms, we become gold medal winners for harboring secrets. Some secrets are small like hiding in the pantry for just a sliver of peace and quiet or how we skip pages of bedtime stories at the end of long days just so we can get the little devils to bed faster and get some much-needed down time. You know, innocent little white lies.


And the bigger secrets? Well, sometimes we just keep those buried deep down inside for fear of them ever seeing the light of day. Worse, we keep them hidden from the world for fear of judgement, ridicule, and unfortunately, to keep from being perceived by others as a mom who can't keep her shit together. You know the secrets I'm talking about - secrets like depression. These secrets stay bubbling just under the surface and in return, cause a slow and painful death to the mothers who hold them in. 


I know because this used to be me.


For the longest time, I felt ashamed because I'm on anti-depressants, sought therapy, and found myself not enjoying every single aspect of being a mom or finding joy with parenthood in general. I think the largest contributor to this was becoming a first-time mom. Right from the moment a woman finds out she's pregnant, most go through the normal nesting process that looks something like this:



  • Read all the baby books.
  • Take all the classes
  • Listen to all the advice of family and friends
  • Decorate the nursery & baby proof the home
  • Read more baby books


Sound familiar? And while all of this is great {I'm not advocating otherwise} there is absolutely no book, person, or class that can adequately prepare you for the biggest life-altering journey that you are about to embark on - parenthood.


For some first-time mothers, they adjust beautifully but if we're being honest, I think the majority of mothers struggle with becoming a parent and in return, most struggle and fight depression whether it be a single bout of PPD or a depression that lasts longer. And it's easy to see why. You and your partner have just welcomed a new baby {a human life!} into your world and from the moment they are born, your life as you used to know it is gone. It's a very bitter, exhausting, emotionally and physically draining pill to swallow.





So how do we win?


Well, I'll be honest with you - I don't know if anyone ever fully "wins" or beats depression after all, it is a disease that has to be managed just like any illness. And I don't say that to be negative or to be a downer. I say it because it's the truth and it is reality. Depression is silent and deadly and sneaks up on you like a thief in the night and that's its mode of operation - you never know when it is going to sneak back into your life. Having said this, I want to share some tips and pieces of advice that I've learned along the way over my years in dealing with my depression and more so since becoming a mom:


Get Help. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help for depression. If anyone - and I do mean anyone - tells you otherwise, run from them as fast as your feet will take you. If you’re going to tackle your depression, the one thing you have to understand is that IT. IS. A. DISEASE. You can't help your depression any more than you can help the color of your eyes. Look at is this way - if you were a diabetic, wouldn't you take insulin to manage your diabetes to live a happy and productive life? It's the same thing. Depression is a disease and you will need help to fight it. The reality is that you cannot do it on your own. 


Avoid Depression Triggers Like the Plague. Over the many years that I've battled my depression, I've come to find that there are certain things in life that will trigger my depression. And while I can't avoid everything in life, I've come to learn and recognize the things that set me off so that I can avoid the traps and pitfalls that follow. Learn what your triggers are and do your best to avoid them.


Minimize Stress. Ok, I admit - this is a tricky one. Being a parent alone is stressful enough let alone dealing with depression however, I believe most stress incurred in our lives is brought on by none other than ourselves. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Learn to recognize your limits and stick to them. You have to be willing to put yourself and your well-being first if you truly want to battle depression successfully. There is absolutely no shame in not juggling it all. If you take anything away from this post please let it be this - you can't be everything to everyone. Learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and use them to your advantage. If this means cutting back on commitments or telling people "No" then DO. IT. Life will go on and the world will keep spinning, I promise. I've always maintained that I'd rather do a few things well then do a lot of things that turn out to be crap. 





Build A Strong Support Group & Network. It's nice to have friends or family who can spill out the generic platitudes when you're suffering with depression. That's great, and I don't take anything away from their efforts, but it’s essential to find people, friends, or professionals who are going through the same battles you are who are able to truly understand what you're going through and need in order to battle your depression. It's true that these people may not be able to immediately fix what's wrong but they will certainly be the ones who will rally beside you when times get hard and you will know that they are coming from a perspective of experience instead of just trying to get you to "snap out of it." Having a network that is a safe place for you to be able to express yourself freely without fear of retribution is priority number one in managing your depression.


Do Not be Afraid to Rely on Medicine. Depression is a beast. It is unforgiving and it is relentless and while that organic herbal rub may work great for your cuts, sores, and glowing complexion it's not going to do much to get you through your depression. Get rest and exercise and if need be, get medicine. There is no shame in this! If you had a migraine, would you let yourself suffer? Modern medicine is a marvelous thing. There are so many advances and choices now in the world of depression meds that many have minimal to no side effects. I take one pill daily that has changed my life dramatically and for the better. It doesn't interfere with my life at all. In some ways, it has given me my life back. Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor to find the best med{s} that works best for you.


Last but certainly not least, take each day one at a time. Learning to live with and battle depression as a mother is a journey. Learn to be honest with yourself and accept that some days will be good and others...well...not so much. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that - it's okay. There is nothing "wrong" with you. You are beautifully created women doing amazing work in your homes and in the world. Sometimes we all need a little help and there is no shame in that.


I hope that by talking about depression, I can connect with other moms who are going through the same struggles and who are in the same boat of fighting depression, anxiety, irritability, and the sadness that creeps into our lives, mostly inexplicably. Moms who wonder why - even when their lives seem to be picture perfect - why do they feel this way? I had a therapist once who told me that every mother she counsels asks this very same question.



So know that if you're asking it too, you're not alone and it's okay. I hope this post helps you to know and understand this and encourages you to share your own stories so that we can begin to chip away at this horrible and unfounded stigma of depression.



26 January 2017

Three Thoughts on Thursday

… I’m so over JORD sponsorship posts. It’s great that so many bloggers have had the opportunity to work with this brand but if I’m being honest, it’s overkill. You’re probably thinking right now, “Well, you’re talking about it so they made you take notice” and yes, they did however – not in a good way. There is such a thing as negative marketing and oversaturation because I can tell you with 100% confidence: I will never buy a JORD watch.


I’m so over JORD sponsorship posts. It’s great that so many bloggers have had the opportunity to work with this brand but if I’m being honest, it’s overkill. You’re probably thinking right now, “Well, you’re talking about it so they made you take notice” and yes, they did however – not in a good way. There is such a thing as negative marketing and oversaturation because I can tell you with 100% confidence: I will never buy a JORD watch.


Over the past week, I’ve lost 44 “friends,” followers and acquaintances across my personal social media channels. Most of them peaced out on Saturday while I was posting from the Women’s March in Pittsburgh. I’ll admit that there used to be a time when this would have bothered me. I would have spent useless amounts of time trying to reconcile and compartmentalize why someone wouldn’t want to associate with me. But now? Now I COULD CARE LESS. I’m finally at an age in my life where I’m comfortable in my own skin and make no apologies for who I am. And, why should I?! Quality over quantity. That’s where you’ll find your tribe.


Why do parents insist on sharing pictures of their kid’s nasty, bloody, hole-filled mouths after losing teeth? Call me crazy but I’ve never once looked at one of these pictures and thought, “How adorable!” Quite the opposite, actually and they seem to be multiplying like BeBe’s kids on Facebook and IG these days. Little Johnny loses a tooth. Mommy grabs the camera and snaps a few shots of Johnny’s mouth including the bare socket where said tooth once sat and immediately posts to social media. Am I crazy to think this is a little much and a whole lot nasty? By all means, celebrate the milestones but I don’t need to see that. No one does.

What’s on your mind this week? 

23 January 2017

Why I Marched: Women's March on Washington - Pittsburgh

I marched because I care about women and the struggles, that even in the year 2017, we still face daily. I care about how women are treated and viewed. I care about being seen in a world where women and young girls are told and taught to stop being bossy, stop making a scene, and don’t rock the boat. Be a lady. I marched because we now have a President and administration who proved time and time again through their campaign in talk and in action how little respect they have for women, people of color, people with disabilities, and those with differing religious views. Most of all, I marched for my own daughter.
This weekend, I had the honor of marching in the Women’s March on Washington in Pittsburgh. To say it was an amazingly powerful day would be a huge understatement. Honestly, I don’t know if there’s one word, or any blog post, that could accurately describe the meaning and impact of Saturday. Not only did women from all over our country march, but women from all over the WORLD participated; France, Australia, South Africa, Great Britain, New Zealand, and every state in the USA, some states with multiple marches. Powerful, right? This global initiative simply proves the WORLD’S hesitation, fear and disgust of our new President and his administration.


Before I go any further, let me share with you the mission of the Women’s March so you know how it got started so you can understand its importance. From the Women’s March Facebook page:


“On January 21, 2017 we will unite in Washington, DC for the Women’s March on Washington. We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families, recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us: immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, and survivors of sexual assault. Our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear. 

In the spirit of democracy and in honor of the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us. 

We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all. HEAR OUR VOICE.”




Considering that all women are different, have different lifestyles and different things that affect them, their families and their friends daily, it’s hard to say *this* is the reason all women marched. I can only tell you why *I* marched. It’s not because I’m a “sore loser” or a “cry baby.” It’s not because I see life through rose-colored glasses and expect everything in life to be fair all the time and go my way, and it’s not because I’m a “whiny liberal.”


It’s quite the opposite, really.


I marched because I care about our country and all its people. I marched for those asking, “Will my marriage still be legal?” I marched for those asking, “How will I be able to afford health care for me and my family?” I marched for those worried about their safety as a woman, man or child of color. I marched for all the moms who send their children off to school every day asking, “Will my transgender child be safe at school?” I marched for women everywhere asking, “Will Roe vs. Wade be overturned? What about my rights for my own body?” I marched for families wondering where they will find and desperately seeking affordable, safe housing. I marched for those worried and concerned about the increase of militarization of police. I marched for those individuals struggling to make it through the day with mental illness who have no resources or funds to take care of themselves.




I marched because I care about women and the struggles, that even in the year 2017, we still face daily. I care about how women are treated and viewed. I care about being seen in a world where women and young girls are told and taught to stop being bossy, stop making a scene, and don’t rock the boat. Be a lady. I marched because we now have a President and administration who proved time and time again through their campaign in talk and in action how little respect they have for women, people of color, people with disabilities, and those with differing religious views.


Most of all, I marched for my own daughter.


I want my daughter to know that she is her own divine creature in this world. She is strong, brave, courageous and important. I want her to know that it’s no one’s business but her own what she does with her body, including her choice to carry or not carry a child. I want her to know without a shadow of a doubt that she is free, empowered and a powerful force to be reckoned with in this life. I want her – and all young girls – to know that myself and millions of other women fought for them, their rights, and their futures – just like the generations of women who came before us. 

So, no. I won’t simply “be quiet” or “just move on” or “accept it.” There’s nothing more beautiful in our country than peaceful, organized, legal dissent and democracy in action. You know what's not so beautiful? That people apparently have a HUGE problem with women stepping up to the plate STILL in the year 2017 and that’s unfortunate. I am prepared to fight back and will keep doing so until my last breath. Keep marching, keep speaking, keep going.























"A woman is like a tea bag—you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water." 
—Eleanor Roosevelt










16 January 2017

5 Unique (And Non-Cheesy) Ways To Show Love on Valentine's Day

This Valentine’s Day, or any other day really, remind your significant other, family member or friend how much you care about them by doing some of these thoughtful gestures.
The season of manufactured, retail-induced love is upon us and while I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, I do like to flip the switch on old St. Valentine by using the “holiday” to tell the people I love most how much I appreciate them and love having them in my life instead of focusing on the material aspect of Valentine’s Day.


Along this line, it takes a little effort to be creative in showing love and appreciation when you’re looking to spend next to nothing on gifts, trinkets, etc. Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about genuine love so shouldn’t your emotions and efforts really show it? For me personally, I will never find the value of love in a price tag. Materialistic things do not impress me. Some of the best gifts I’ve ever received have been handmade, free or thoughtful gestures.


This Valentine’s Day, or any other day really, remind your significant other, family member or friend how much you care about them by doing some of these thoughtful gestures.





Make their life easier. Have a friend who is a new mom? Cook dinner for her, help her with the laundry, babysit so she can get a shower or alone time or simply bring her a coffee and keep her company. Have a neighbor who is elderly? Bake cookies for them, shovel their driveway if it’s snowing or take them a meal. Have a spouse who’s stressed? Take on some of their responsibilities at home to lighten their load, cook their favorite meal or give them an evening of pampering.


Make a Valentine’s Day Advent for your spouse. Just as you would do for Christmas, make an advent calendar leading up to Valentine’s Day. If you want to buy a few little trinkets to go along with this then so be it but really, you could use this as an opportunity to write something you love or appreciate about your spouse for each day. Imagine how great you would feel if you had a compliment or sentiment of love to wake up to every morning?



Practice random acts of kindness. Spread the love not only to those you know, but to those you don’t know, too. Buy the person’s coffee behind you in the drive-thru, leave a letter or card of appreciation in your mailbox for the mail man/woman, make a small donation to the charity of your choice or volunteer your time to an organization that needs an extra set of hands. Put your love and appreciation into action!



Put away the electronics. For one day, give the special people in your life your uninterrupted, undivided attention. The world won’t stop spinning if you fail to post to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Ban all phones, laptops and iPads and talk to one another. Tell the people in your life who mean the most to you how much you love and appreciate them because one day, they will be gone. Tell them now how much you love them! 

Write it out. In this day and age of advanced technology, it’s so easy to dilute our emotions down to a short text or email. Take the time to write your spouse, family member or friend an actual letter, something they can keep with them always to look back on and read when they need a little encouragement or reminder of your love and appreciation. To me, there is nothing sexier than when a man puts pen to paper to tell his sweetheart how he feels. I think us humans long for this personal touch in our lives and technology has done all but remove it from every aspect of our daily lives. Write down how you feel about your loved one. They will treasure it always.  


What unique ways do you show your love and appreciation for Valentine’s Day? 

11 January 2017

Letters to Madeline: 15 Things You Should Know About Your Mom



I thought it important to share with you a few honest facts about yours truly. After all, we’re going to be together for a long, long time. Right now, you know me as “mommy” but sweetie, I’m so much more than that person, and you deserve to know the genuine truth of who I am. I’m also Courtney, my own person, and I’ve been living my own life for a long time now – even before you were even thought of.
Dear Maddy, 

In as much as this blog is a place to talk about the ups and downs of parenting, life and kiddos, it is also somewhat of a journal for you to look back on to see how much I bitched about not getting any sleep, drinking copious amounts of coffee and my crazy, chaotic life in general as a full-time working mom.


I kid, I kid.


But really, even though my blog has been a journal for me and a way to connect and share with so many other amazing moms, it has also been a vault of treasures for you to look back on and (hopefully) laugh and smile (considering past posts such as this, I can only hope you'll laugh!) Whether it’s good, bad or ugly, you will know it has all been genuine and I think that’s what’s important.

Madeline, you will find that true, genuine people are very rare to find in this world. I often feel smitten when I find people who are honestly able to live life as themselves without apology, excuse or hesitation. To be yourself takes courage, commitment and strength because this world and the people in it will try to change you to convince you that it’s better or cooler to be the “it” thing of the moment. 


Don’t fall for any of it. It’s all lies. 


Yes, you will go through the awkward stages of figuring out who you really are but once you find yourself, hold tight to it and never EVER let go. Don’t forget yourself.


Along these lines of being genuine, I thought it important to share with you a few honest facts about yours truly. After all, we’re going to be together for a long, long time. Right now, you know me as “mommy” but sweetie, I’m so much more than that person, and you deserve to know the genuine truth of who I am. I’m also Courtney, my own person, and I’ve been living my own life for a long time now – even before you were even thought of. It would be easy to gloss over myself and solely think of only you (which I do to a point) but you deserve to see an example of a woman aiming to live a complete life, just not as half a person. So, for better or for worse, here are a few things you should know about your mom…


…I don’t like odd numbers. I’m pretty OCD about this. I don’t know why or how this came to be but for me, I like things nice and even.


…People think I’m a very outgoing and a social extravert but honestly, I have to work hard to be this way. My natural tendency is to be somewhat private and reserved. I can also be very shy around people I don’t know.


…Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then a lawyer. Then the President of the United States. Somehow, I ended up in the marketing and communications field and at 40, I still have no clue what I want to be when I grow up. You could say that I suffer from career wanderlust.


…You were never a part of my life plan. I never thought for a moment that I would have the chance to be a parent. I had resided myself to thinking that I would live a life without children. You were the most splendid, amazing, beautiful surprise of my life. You don’t remind me of all my fears in parenting. From the moment you were born, when I look at you, you have been and will always be my reason for everything.




…In the order of the things I love most in my life, under you, God and daddy comes the great State of Tennessee. This is a love affair that will never die. Your mommy is a Volunteer through and through. 



…I’ve been married…and divorced. I’ve learned a lot about love the hard way and while there is a part of me that hopes you never have to, I know that one day someone will break your heart and I’m here to tell you – it will be okay. The pain will come, but it will go and you will pull yourself up by the bootstraps and keep moving forward. You will learn a lot about yourself but most importantly, you will learn for yourself the most important qualities in finding the perfect mate.


…I expect a lot from you. I will ride your ass like Tonto. Yes, I want you to have a happy and carefree childhood but it’s mine and your father’s responsibility to raise you and quite honestly, the world doesn’t need any more assholes. Your father and I expect you to carry yourself in a certain way that not only takes care of you but shows others that you care for them as well.


…I have a very bad habit of eating away my sorrows. I’m working on fixing that but it’s still challenging.


 …I cuss. A lot. I’m trying hard to work on this around you but damnit, some habits are hard to break.


…Growing up, your mommy was a HUGE tomboy. Skateboards, playing in creeks and hanging out with the boys in our neighborhood made me the happiest.


…I don’t like raisins and applesauce. Your grandma will try to convince you otherwise).


…I do LOVE Mexican food, Sushi and bacon.


…My biggest pet peeves are people who blow their nose at the dinner table, someone talking to me while I’m trying to read or use the bathroom and liars.


...All I’ve ever needed to know about life can be summed up in this statement: Never let anyone with bad eye brows or an Alabama fan tell you shit about life.


…I am a hopeless optimist. This may very well get on your nerves at times but when you figure out that looking at the glass half full instead of empty makes life a little sweeter and easier, you’ll thank me.

Love,
Mommy


If you missed the earlier installments of ‘Letters to Madeline’ you can read them here: