Because a switch flipped

12/20/2012 at 11:47 am | Posted in me | 28 Comments

This will be the last post I write for Pretty Swell.

I know this seems totally out of the blue, but it’s been weighing on my heart for a long time.

This website, as much as I love it, takes me away from my family. I spend A LOT of time writing, taking and editing photos, playing with the design and messing with the code. Not to mention promoting it through social media, which has always made me feel icky.

I’ve never been entirely comfortable sharing the intimate details of our life, and I’ve fallen into the trap of approaching my time with my girls as tweet-able and instagram-able and blog-able moments instead of just living in the moments as they are. I can’t do a craft project with Lily without grabbing my camera for a DIY post. Or push Sophie in the stroller without snapping a photo for Instagram. This is not the kind of mother — the kind of person — I want to be.

In an ideal world, I’d blog in the mornings before work or late at night when they’re sleeping. But *I* need to sleep. And as much as it pains me to write this, the truth is that I am often on my computer or iPhone trying to maintain this site and stay connected to my online community while I’m with my kids. And that sucks.

I love my real life. I want to give it the attention it deserves.

Because it could all be gone in a second.

Also, being a mommy blogger stresses me out. I just can’t keep up. I’m not happy when I blog, and more often than not, reading other blogs makes me feel bad about myself. Comparison is the thief of joy, and it’s almost impossible for me not to fall into that trap.

I’ve been so incredibly blessed to meet some amazing people — many of whom have become close friends — and work with wonderful companies whose products and missions I believe in, like North American Bear Company and Smart Balance and all the businesses who rallied for our Love to Zaria fundraiser. I also am forever grateful to have joined a kick-ass community of postpartum depression survivors, led by the ultimate warrior mom, Katherine Stone.

And I have the most awesome readers in all of the internet. You guys have lifted me up, cried with me and laughed out loud. You’ve also been incredibly patient with my ramblings and my monster photo posts. THANK YOU for everything.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen next.

I really need the creative outlet that this lovely little space provided, so I want to find a way to make that happen.

Just differently.

::::::::::::

“Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time
for the important things in her life.”
{Brian Andreas, Story People}

 

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The one I've been afraid to write

11/13/2012 at 5:31 pm | Posted in me | 10 Comments
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Because it’s about depression. And reading about depression is just not fun.

This blog is called pretty swell for a reason: because I want to focus on the good stuff.

But it’s time to get real(er) up in here. And maybe if there’s someone out there struggling with depression or anxiety, scouring the web looking for a sliver of comfort from a total stranger, this post will help. Just one person. You never know.

The first thing I need you to know is I AM FINE.

I always hesitate to write about my mental health because friends and family make up about 125 percent of my readership. I promise (especially to you, Mom and Dad) that when I am in a bad place, I get the help I need. I learned that lesson after Lily was born, and I’ve never let it go.

It’s hard to describe what’s been happening inside my head. Whether it’s the onset of fall, the stress of raising two kids under the age of five, or post-post-partum anxiety, maybe? Does that exist?

This darkness just keeps creeping on in.

Looking in from the outside, my life is pretty darn perfect. We have our health, jobs we love, a full pantry, family and friends who love us. Sure, it’s stressful, but not anywhere near the burden so many other people have to bear every single day. (This constantly makes me feel guilty for praying, by the way, for asking for help when so many others are in such dire need. More on that later.)

But the anxiety creeps in and fills up all the cracks that I wish were flooded with light instead.

I’m afraid of any number of terrible things happening to my kids. I worry that I’m failing them with every harsh or shouted word. Sleep is elusive. Deadlines crush me. And most days, even in truly happy times, my chest feels sort of tight.

But, in some ways, this is just me. I’ve been high-strung as long as I can remember. I’m just old enough now to know that I can do something about it, and feeling that way doesn’t have to be the norm.

So I met with my doctor and switched up my medication. And after a few weeks of silly crying (the kind where you know you shouldn’t be crying but can’t stop) from the chemistry change, I’m starting to see glimmers of the other side. I’m also practicing meditative breathing and trying to exercise more often. And hugging my kids is the best therapy of all. I seriously squeeze on them all day long.

And I feel better. I do.

It’s not sudden change. It’s slow and sort of surprising. Just last weekend in the mountains, I kept having these moments that knocked me over the head: I realized I was truly happy. I really felt it. And it was incredible.

So I continue to climb out of the pit, getting a little bit braver as I go. My anxiety can be paralyzing — like when I’m standing in the middle of my dirty kitchen trying to decide which pile of chores to tackle first — but I feel like I have more space in my brain to deal with it now.

Everything is starting to feel a little lighter. A little less big.

And I know I’m coming out on the other side because I’ve been here before. I can feel myself smiling. I hear myself laughing. And I’m relieved.

I just wish someone could promise me that it would stick. It’s tough trying to keep my eyes forward when I know how likely it is for me to slip back into the hole.

But I keep on.

Because I want more than anything to find peace. To feel like me.

November twelfth.

11/12/2012 at 9:53 pm | Posted in me | Leave a comment

Veterans Day.
On which I always think about my Poppi, and my heart becomes heavy with gratitude for every single person who has served our country. Especially those of you doing it right now. Thank you.

Monday.
One of my two special days each week with the girls. Marc got to stay home today and he let me sleep in. Bless him. While he worked on the cars (bless him again), we played with cousins, visited neighbors and took a walk to the grocery store. When we started to climb the B-I-G hill in our neighborhood — the one that means mommy can’t talk for a couple of minutes — Lily said from the stroller, “see you later mommy, good luck.” It was awesome and I snorted from laughing and huffing up the hill at the same time. And speaking of Lily awesomeness, check out this self-portrait I discovered on my phone. Such a gem:

The day before November 13.
Mister Monroe will be two months old tomorrow! I can hardly believe it. And I can’t wait to squeeze that little guy again.

Football night.
I’m due on the couch. There’s a hamper full of clean laundry and a sleepy husband waiting for me.

Goodnight, friends. Hope your November twelfth was just lovely.

When nothing is everything

11/06/2012 at 2:22 pm | Posted in me, Motherhood | 9 Comments
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I’M GETTING NOTHING DONE.

This lament runs through my mind every day. Especially when I’m home with the girls.

I know I’m not really getting nothing done. But the somethings that pile up can become too much to bear.

And I find myself scrubbing dishes as Sophie pulls on my legs. Or shouting to Lily from the mudroom, “I’ll be right there!” as I toss laundry into the dryer. She is always (ALWAYS) asking me to play with her. And in some cringe-worthy moments I’ll snap, “We made you a sister! Play with her!”

We didn’t choose for me to stay home two days a week to be a maid. Of course doing my part to prevent the house from becoming a pigsty is part of the deal. But I’m home to be with my kids. To spend more hours with them than I do sitting behind a desk. And I know how lucky I am to get to do this.

I just wish I could shut down that voice in my head. The one that tells me it’s more important, more pressing, to get stuff done.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Every mom friend I talk to shares this burden, whether she stays home with her kids or commutes to an office five days a week. There is ALWAYS a mountain of work waiting for us at home and children begging for attention at the same time.

It just feels so good — like my life is in order — to accomplish a small task. Clearing off the kitchen counter brings me peace. So does putting away clean laundry. It’s therapeutic. And oddly addicting.

But I got a wake-up call Sunday evening, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

While Marc was away last weekend, I stuffed those three days full of all sorts of fun activities for the girls. We visited with friends, played outside, made smoothies and watched movies. I even took Lily to the ballet. But on Sunday night, as Marc and I were corralling the girls for bed, Lily moped over to me, put her head in my lap and said, “I’ve been waiting all weekend for someone to play with me.”

I won’t lie to you. Her words split my heart wide open. Tears sprung to my eyes, and I put down the laundry I was folding (of course) to go upstairs.

But as I sat up there on my bed feeling stunned and confused by her comment, I saw the simple truth in it.

She is never more happy than when one of us lies on the floor and plays Candy Land or works a puzzle with her. She just wants me to play with her and to be fully present in that moment, even if it lasts just 15 minutes.

And as I thought back on the weekend and replayed Lily’s powerful little statement in my head, I realized I actually did spend a lot of time cleaning or cooking or tackling whatever task was bothering me most at any given moment. All the while asking Lily to play by herself for just five more minutes.

And the thing is, the house is still pretty much a mess. There’s new laundry. New dirty dishes. Toys splayed all over the playroom. Little bits of leaves tracked in from outside.

But, above all, there’s a little girl who needs something so simple. Time with me.

I need to work on this juggling act. Or better yet, put some stuff down to make more room in the rotation for Lily and Sophie.

This is not to say that I’m going to abandon my chores or not encourage my girls to carve out alone time during the day. I’m just going to try to reorder my priorities.

Because getting nothing done means more time with my kids.

And that’s everything.

Consider yourselves warned

10/30/2012 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Bloggy, me | 9 Comments
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November is National Blog Posting Month (or NaBloPoMo, which I can never type without looking at each word spelled out). To participate, you have to publish a blog post every single day for the month.

I’m going to give it a shot.

Life has sort of been kicking my butt lately, so I’ve been a little absent here. But now I’m starting to climb out of the muck, and I want to write more. I love this space. It’s like my favorite room in the house — the one that keeps getting reinvented because I can never make up my mind on the paint color or the toss pillows on the couch.

Not to mention writing here is one of the best forms of therapy there ever was.

So I’m going to do more of it. In November, that is. And maybe the exercise will lead me to new places, help me open up and get real-er. (Another thing I love about blogging: using silly words without worrying about being edited.)

To thank you in advance for your patience with my NaBloPoMo-ing, here are some lovely pictures of Sophie taken by my pal Cary:

Want to join me?
(you can do it)

NaBloPoMo November 2012

Thirty-seven

09/16/2012 at 9:42 pm | Posted in me | 5 Comments

You’ve been good to me so far, 37. But I’m going to need some time to get used to you.

You see, you scare me a little bit. You’re awfully close to 40. And some days I still feel like an awkward teenager fumbling my way through this world.

But this birthday weekend was awesome. It started with a pizza date with my sweet family and ended with Monroe snuggles. (And somewhere in the middle, a certain someone eating her way through the Greek Festival. A girl’s gotta celebrate.)

Not bad, 37. Not bad.

Here’s to hoping for even more happiness in this new year.

Still can't believe this happened

09/13/2012 at 2:05 pm | Posted in me | 11 Comments

I was driving along the interstate yesterday, on my way to a working moms’ luncheon in Cary, when out of nowhere a car came flying up beside me. The driver tapped on the horn to get my attention, as if I’d forgotten something on the top of the car or left my gas tank open (both of which have happened, natch).

So I looked over, expecting to see someone pointing or waving. Or maybe it’s someone I know, I thought with a smile.

Instead, I got this:

A very angry man, who, once he had my attention, effusively flipped me the bird, laid on his horn and seemed to be yelling at me. Then he accelerated off in a fit, flying across two lanes of traffic.

DOUBLE-YOU TEE EFF?

I wasn’t holding up traffic. I wasn’t speeding. I certainly wasn’t causing any trouble. In fact, I was hanging out in the right lane, just above the speed limit, getting ready to exit. And he hadn’t been tailgating me or anything. Just came up beside me out of nowhere.

So, why the rage?

Then it hit me.

The campaign bumper sticker on the back of my car.

Seriously.

I’m still rattled by the whole thing. If people are crazy enough — filled with enough venom — to accost me on a highway over a five-inch sticker on my back window, I can’t imagine what else could happen. What if my kids had been in the car with me? What if he swerved too close and hit us? Or jammed on his brakes in front of me, causing a horrible accident? Or worse?

I woke this morning with a pit still in my stomach. So after I packed the girls into the car for school, I walked around back and peeled off that sticker.

Not because I’m a wimp. Not because I believe any less in my candidate. But because I have no interest in being a target for strangers’ rage and putting my family at risk.

And that sucks.

But I can tell you this: on Election Day, my vote is my vote.

And no one can take that away from me.

I'll miss you

08/13/2012 at 3:08 pm | Posted in me | 10 Comments

The last couple of months have been rough. For a number of reasons, some big and some small. All of which are too private to share here. (I’m sorry).

This space has been such a wonderful comfort to me. An outlet. An escape, really. Whether I’m taking silly pictures of myself in a public bathroom or capturing nekkid baby tushie, it just feels good to dump my brain (and heart) here. So, thank you. For reading, writing back, cheering me on in my weight loss quest, dishing out fashion advice.

Extra big thank-you for that last one.

So I hope you’ll understand why the blog is going to be quiet for the week. I’m at my favorite place in the whole wide world, and I want to soak up every bit of healing power the ocean has to offer.

And collect “she-shells” with Lily.

And chase baby tushie.

And breathe.

But I’ll miss you.

xo!

It's not you. It's me.

06/28/2012 at 1:30 pm | Posted in me, weight loss | 13 Comments
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Dear MyFitnessPal,

I think it’s time we take a break. We’ve been hot and heavy for SEVEN STRAIGHT MONTHS, but I just can’t take any more logging. Deconstructing of meals. Trying to figure out fractions, ounces, grams.

It’s not you. It’s me.

I’ve lost more than 30 pounds. I’m healthy, happy and accustomed to a new lifestyle. I couldn’t have done it without you, of course. You kept me on my toes. Challenged me to log every single piece of food I’ve put in my mouth since December. Taught me everything I know about calories — how many I can eat without gaining weight, how many actually are in that restaurant salad I used to think was so healthy.

You encouraged me. Announced my victories. Made me so much more aware.

Like a little personal dietician tucked in my back pocket.

But it’s time for me to try this on my own.

I know I can do it. I went on vacation without you last week and managed to splurge without suffering for it. I ate fried shrimp, homemade pimento cheese and ice cream (not in one sitting!), but I knew to take it easy on other meals. And I exercised. It felt amazing to step on the scale a week later and discover that I hadn’t gained an ounce.

I’m ready to try this on my own.

But I know you’ll be there. Ready to welcome me back with open arms if I slip up. I might especially need you to be my date to the State Fair this fall. And I might booty call you as the holidays approach, because it’s difficult for me to avoid these or these.

Stay strong, MyFitnessPal. You won’t miss me for long. Millions of others are counting on you.

xoxo,
Suzanne

Steppin' Out: deja vu

06/10/2012 at 8:56 pm | Posted in me | 3 Comments

Yep. Here it is again! The blue stripey H&M top.

(Last time. The time before that.)

It’s becoming a thing. So why break the streak, right? Let’s see how many times I can wear it this summer and get away with it.

I’m in a weird place with my closet right now. Not much fits right. For a good reason (down 30 pounds and counting). I do consider myself lucky, but it’s also incredibly frustrating. I must have gone through a dozen different outfits for tonight’s family dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in town. I actually had to DUST OFF my favorite J Crew shirt dress — the one that hasn’t fit in five years — and it was too big. Most of my skirts look silly. And my pants are a joke. Don’t even get me started on how much room there is in my bras.

I’m getting my clothes altered in small batches, and I’m planning on splurging on good bras (and a good fitting) soon.

Until then, it’s me and the stripey shirt. Tonight’s skirt, necklace and sandals are from Target. Points for diversifying my stripey-shirt outfits, right?

I love this photo because it looks like the bosomy Italian lady is pouring olive oil on my head. And Marc sure is cute.

And here’s our little family of four. The girls looked divine tonight. Lily with her pocket dress and jellies, and Sophie with her chevron stripe dress and pink bloomers peeking out. She also had on teensy ballet flats, but they didn’t last long.

We had a wonderful, loud, chaotic time celebrating two birthdays and three early Father’s Days … more photos on the way soon!

 

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