Category Archives: Life

International Women’s Day, My experiments in equality

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
-Anne Lamott

I sat on the title for this post for a long time.
“Sexism experiment”
“The problem with a dirty name”
“My own social experiment”
“How to loose a guy in a month”
“My body, my choice”
“Nature Vs. Sexism”

But in the end, I decided to post on international women’s day, so I shall honor that.

Let me start by saying, that I do intend to “throw people under the bus”. But hey, like Anne Lamott said, you should have behaved better, and I won’t hold back my story, my feelings, or my writing for anyone. I also have no apologies for being blunt or honest about parts of my body. Just throwing that out there. I am not ashamed of any part of my body or any way that *I* choose to handle *MY* body.

Months ago I started a low key social experiment, I stopped wearing make up to work. The first day, I had just woken up late and decided not to take my make up bag with me to do on my break. I just went au natural. I got so many comments on how I looked different, tired, that my face was broken out, and that I looked better with make up on. So I did it again, and again, and again. Then randomly, one day I wore make up, not a lot, just enough to look different but not to actually tell I had make up on. And I was told how beautiful I was, how rosy my cheeks looked. The next day I went all out on make up. I was told I was wearing too much. I went without it, and told I should wear it. All by my male coworkers. I started to reverse the roles. I told them they looked tired, and that maybe they should start wearing make up. I got laughed at. I asked them why it was different for them than it was for me, the only answer they had was: “You’re a woman”.

The next month, I decided to try something else. After reading a new study showing that bras actually increase your chance of getting breast cancer, I stopped wearing them. right away I got remarks, but not what I expected. People started asking me if I put on weight, if I was pregnant again, if I should really be eating that. You see, I am a small chested woman, so without a bra making my chest look bigger, my chest and stomach are about the same size. Not wearing a bra made my boobs look smaller, and my stomach look bigger. These comments came from male AND female coworkers, on a daily basis. Always without couth. Always without thought or care of my feelings. It was perfectly okay to tell me that I looked fat, even months after giving birth. It started extending further, my family told me I looked fat, and I started to believe them. My self-esteem started to drop, and hasn’t truly recovered. But I refuse to start wearing a bra again. I’ve had days here and there where I felt ashamed, and put a bra on, but I took it off within hours. Why am I going to put myself in pain, and increase my chances of literal CANCER for other people to enjoy looking at me?

Last month I started a new experiment, I knew I needed time for this one, that I wouldn’t be able to put it into play until summer. I stopped shaving. As a young girl, I was taught as we all are that we need to shave, and that body hair on a woman is gross. When I came of “shaving age” I was obsessed with being “beautiful”. I shaved my legs, my privates, my arm pits, my arms. I wanted no body hair at all. I thought it made me beautiful. I look at my husband, or my brothers running around with body hair and wonder why their hair is natural, but mine is disgusting. When it physically hurts to shave, when I spend way too much damn money on a razor, when it literally doesn’t improve my happiness or quality of life at all, why do I do it? So I stopped. I just stopped. I figured I wouldn’t see the full extent of my social experiment until this summer, when I was in tank tops and a bathing suit and everyone could see my awesome leg and armpit hair. But after only a week, my own husband asked me if I was going to shave. When I explained to him that I was not and why, I was met with backlash. Will writing this and calling him out create more backlash? Probably, but that’s exactly why I need to talk about it. He said I needed to shave, and when I asked why he didn’t need to, he said because I wasn’t disgusted by his body hair, but he was disgusted by mine. That if I was disgusted by it, he would shave it. But it still didn’t answer my question, why was my body hair disgusting to him, but his wasn’t disgusting to him? Why is it, that when I stop doing as I’m told, and I let my body, MY BODY be natural it’s disgusting? We haven’t talked about it again, but I continue to rebel against what society has always told me. And you know what? I’m so comfortable! My skin is no longer red, and bumpy. No more cuts, or ingrown hairs. I feel, for maybe the first time ever, totally empowered by my own body.

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And yes, I do plan on dying it a crazy color when it’s long enough. Because it’s my body, and I want to.

So what does feminism look like to you? Are you a feminist? Have any of the above things ever happened to you? Have you ever questioned why you do some of the things you do? Do you actually enjoy them? Are you stuck thinking that you have to do something, just because you always have, and not because you actually want to? Question your everyday things. Fight back when people continue to tell you what you should do, man or woman. Keep moving forward, it’s the only way to show other people the inequalities that are at play every single day. So go out without make-up. Burn your bra. And stop buy $18 razors that hurt you. Or keep doing them, because YOU WANT TO. Be you.

Happy International Women’s Day. Today, Tomorrow and everyday.

The best is yet to come: 2017

“I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”
-Vincent Van Gogh

The new year is really just an arbitrary construct of time. But non the less, it’s easy to keep track of when things happen in your life based on the new year. It’s easy (for some) to say, “I’m going to start doing *insert goal here* on the first of the year”.

I’ve never been a resolution type of person, I set goals for myself often without time limits, and without major events being my start (like the new year).

I’ve been working on goals steadily the past few months, and been talking to Curtis about new goals. Here is what I hope for in 2017:

  1. To succeed in my transition to my new job. I just started at Central Market. I’m nervous, I’m excited, and I’m ready to work my ass off to succeed. They offer so many opportunities including leadership training, and chances to transfer to other stores in major cities (including Austin).
  2. To make plans, one way or another, to have another surrogacy journey, or not. I currently feel like this is a bit up in the air. There are really only two couples I’m interested in carrying for. One couple has expressed that they are not in a place to have a baby right now, and the other feels a little reluctant to talk about it right now. I’m okay with this either way. I’d love to experience another journey, but I’m cool with just living my life too. Whatever the way the wind blows, I’ll follow.
  3. I want to get more involved in the community. At Central Market there is a multitude of opportunities to volunteer for the community, I plan on volunteering a lot. And I plan to continue to be involved in politics, on both the state and federal levels.
  4. Curtis and I have been talking about becoming ‘minimalists’. It’s a long process, it’ll be hard, but we are making plans, and are going to take steps one day at a time. Downsizing, not ‘consuming’ so much, being happier with less. We’re also talking about finding alternate transportation, lowering our carbon footprint, and continuing on our path of healthy/clean eating. They will all take time, and they are all things we’ve already been working on, but the journey continues.
  5. I have another trip planned in August to go home! This time Curtis and the kids will be coming with me. For about a week to go to my family reunion and I’m trying to plan to be there for the fair! The kids haven’t been home since 2013.
  6. Yoga, yoga, yoga. Curtis and I both started doing yoga this year. We are so into it. It makes us feel amazing and we enjoy doing it together. I’d really like to step this up, and also start jogging again, god I actually REALLY love jogging!
  7. Get my business up and running. I finished my Doula Certification this year, but with my job at the Marriott, I haven’t felt ready to actually start my business and live my dream. But I am ready, and I am motivated.

So who knows what 2017 will hold for me. Who knows what it will hold for the world. Whatever the future holds, I embrace it with open arms and an open mind. In the past year I learned how to LIVE instead of just being alive. I hope to keep that momentum going in the coming year.

I wish you and your families health, happiness, hope and love in 2017.

2016: A year to remember

I remember coming into 2016 and thinking, ‘wow, this year is going to be such an amazing year’, and I wasn’t completely wrong. I met almost every personal goal I set for myself a year ago.

Curtis and I celebrated our 10 year “anniversary” in January, and our 9 year wedding anniversary in December. We also made a few steps toward being debt free! Yay!
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In March, almost two weeks “overdue”, I gave birth to little June bug. The day before my own daughters 9th birthday, Brooke and Joe finally got to hold their daughter. My pregnancy, labor and post-partum were all amazing. I ended up with another family that I never expected going into this, and I love them all so much.
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I told myself last January “up or out”. That I would move up in my career or find a new job. Well, I got a raise in April, and then after some stagnation I decided it was time for something new. I started my new job at Central Market right before the new year.
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Not only that, but I also completed my Doula Certification this year! Zen Mama Doula at your service!
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I went home in June and got to see NYC, June bug, and my mom get married. It was amazing.
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A friend took me to see one of my heros. Bill Nye The Science Guy!
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I got involved in politics and made my voice heard. I stood up for things I believe in.
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I said yes to things I was afraid of, and I catered the birthing center for a short time. I made new friends, I saw new things, I went new places. I lived. I spent more time with my family, I laughed more, I loved more.

2016 was hard for a lot of reasons. People died, people suffered, and human rights were questioned. But in my personal life, 2016 will be a year I will always look back on with a smile. With no regrets.

So here is to 2017. May it bring my family and I just as much joy and adventure.

When you feel like you don’t have a voice, find one.

Tonight I had a very humbling and eye opening experience. I attended an Anti-Trump protest.

I’ve never attended a protest before. I’ve thought about it lots of times, I cared about causes. I’ve written my pieces on social media. But I’ve never gotten involved, I’ve never thought my voice mattered.

I’m in mourning. Yes, mourning. At first I was in shock, then I was depressed, then I was angry and then I was bargaining to no one for this to be a nightmare. I’ve gone through this cycle a couple times in the past three days. Trying to understand, trying to process, TRYING to accept.

I turn on the news and see people protesting, and I feel the pull. I need to be a part of this. I need to have my voice be heard. But I’m scared. I’m scared that I don’t matter. I’m scared of being attacked and looked down on before of my beliefs, and I’m scared of “the system”. But then I stop. I am a white woman. I am privileged. How do the minorities feel right now? People I love. LGBTQ. Hispanics. African Americans. Muslims. Illegal immigrants. The disabled. I am a woman yes, and my rights are being questioned. Yes I have reason to be afraid. But others have it worse than I do.

Then I look at my children. “No” I tell myself. Not my children. Not my country.

So I looked into rallies. I looked for one in Fort Worth, my own streets where I feel safe. I find what I’m looking for, and I work myself up about it all day long.

At 6;30 I get dressed in my favorite shirt that shows the phrase “Feminism is the radial notion that women are people.” I grab a bandana as I’ve been instructed to do in order to cover my face. I take my ID incase the police ask for it, I tell friends where I will be and I set out the door. My husband decides to follow to protect me and document the event.

When I get downtown a fight is breaking out. A man with a confederate battle flag in hand is screaming at the peaceful protesters. He grabs a sign out of someones hand and throws it to the ground. A protester tries to grab his flag in retaliation. He jabs at them with it. The police come over and break it up before it gets out of hand and instructs the man to cross to the other side of the street. This is before I even join my fellow protesters.

I stand quietly at first, unsure of what to do or say. Curtis is with the media, not with the protesters. I am alone. Maybe I made a mistake? My adrenaline tells me that is not the case.

Standing on the stairs of city hall people are chanting. “Love trumps hate”. “Not my president”. Calls of “Show me what democracy looks like” is met with “This is what democracy looks like”. The chants change every few minutes. “Who’s streets?” is met with “Our streets”. “What do we want?” is met with “Justice”. “When do we want it?” is met with “Now”. The crowd claps in rhythm with every chant.

There are many signs being held up. Many saying things about the electoral college. Love trumps hate signs. I’m standing next to two young men holding hands on one side, and an older Hispanic woman on the other side. I walk around the crowd and introduce myself to a few people, without asking they tell me one by one why they are there. “End the racism! End the hate!” the crowd starts chanting as we leave our place on the steps and move into downtown. Some cars honk and show solidarity. Some by standers applaud and hold their arms up in support. Everyone is recording us on their phones. The media is everywhere. Some people are being interviewed. We chant and clap and walk peacefully on the sidewalks, the police guiding us safely the entire time. I’m thankful they are there.

Some people scream at us “FUCK YOU!” or “TRUMPS AMERICA!” It feels like a setback, but we get louder. “LOVE TRUMPS HATE!” I don’t have a sign, so I hold my hand up with a peace sign.

I meet a woman who looks to be my age. She has a little girl in a stroller. I tap her on the shoulder and say thank you. She says “It’s her future. She needs to know that we show love, and that we fought for better.” I hold back tears as we walk past a family with three children, what must all of the children think of us and our opposites? We get back to city hall and there an angry loud man, telling us to go fuck ourselves. That he voted for Trump and we lost and we were whine asses and we needed to get over it. We again chanted “LOVE TRUMPS HATE” to drowned him out.

Before we left, the organizer stood up and gave a beautiful short speech. And We all convinced them to hold another tomorrow.

My husband asked me, “What do you want to come of this?” and to put it simply,
I just want to be heard, and to not feel alone.
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What Makes A Family?

Though my Journey to carry June, and to give Brooke and Joe a daughter ended six months ago, our Journey together is far from over.

No I’m not talking about another baby (although that IS going to happen). No, I’m talking about this time in between new babies, and the relationship we have developed.

This past weekend Brooke and June came to Austin, it’s the first time they’ve been to Texas since June was born. Brooke E-mailed me a couple weeks ago and told me when they would be here and asked if we would like to visit. I was overjoyed! Of course we would love to see them! After replying telling her I would ask for time off of work, I sat back. I ended up being stuck in my own head. What if she was just being nice? What if she was worried that if she came to Texas and didn’t say anything to me I would be upset? What if she didn’t ACTUALLY want to see me?

She’s never given me any indication that any of these things are true. But we have a rare, and abnormal relationship. How many people have someone in their life that gave birth to their child, and isn’t their significant other or blood family? It’s different, and there are no hard or fast rules on how this relationship should be. We are in uncharted lands, wandering around, just figuring it out as we go.

I expressed my concerns to my best friend, who is in her own strange lands. A birth mother who has an open relationship with her daughter and the family raising her. She said that she often felt the same way, that my feelings were normal but that didn’t mean they were right. Her daughters parents loved her and enjoy the time they have together.

So was I being crazy? Does Brooke like to see and spend time with me? Or am I an attachment that’s hard to shake off?

Curtis, the boys and I drove to Austin (Emma got in big trouble in school and stayed with her grandmother for the weekend). I was nervous and excited to see Brooke and June, and also Brookes family. I walked up to the door and of course was met with big hugs from all. Junes grandmother had her when I walked in, and she handed her right off to me. There were many moments during the day when Brooke would have June in her arms and say “Oh look Aunt Chelsea wants to hold you!” and would hand her to me with no warning or without me asking. It was so nice. We talked about my new Doula business and I mentioned needing head shots done for my site. Alex (Brookes sister) pulled out her camera and took pictures of me, and my boys, and June. It was lovely. I met many of her friends who stopped in throughout the day. I was introduced many different ways:
“This is Junes Surrogate.” “This is the woman who gave birth to June.: “This is Chelsea, she birthed June.” It made me giggle how nonchalant she was about it.

 

We stayed up late eating, drinking wine, talking and playing card games. We talked about babies and how wonderful of a sleeper June Bug is. We talked about her moving to Texas someday and of Curtis’ future in films. We talked about Joe and we talked about my business. Her and her sister gave me the advice that I’ve been hearing a lot lately.

Be Confident.

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We finally went back to our hotel around 11 and we all slept like rocks. The next morning we got up and met Brooke and her brother for breakfast. Curtis held June (which he hadn’t really done, poor baby was afraid of his voice), and we enjoyed the little Austin Café. I was so sad to say goodbye, but I realized we already had our next TWO visits planned!

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Maybe I don’t all the answers on how our relationship should be. Maybe there isn’t “a way”. No matter what, I love seeing June and all of her family. I love them in all the ways you would love your own, even if they are different than you. I love to watch our relationships continue to grow and I look forward to all of the time we have together in the future.

I knew that I was giving someone else a family, I never knew I would get one in return.

Dear 15 year old me.

Dear Chelsea 2006,

Can I start by saying, get your shit together! I know you hurt, I know you’re struggling. I know that you feel all alone, that you cry yourself to sleep (when you do sleep) and you feel like all hope is lost. I know that 2005 was a hard year. I know you feel like it was the hardest year. For you, so far in your young life, it was. Even ten years later I often think about 2005 and all of the happiness and pain it brought. But Chelsea, you have no idea what’s in store. I have no regrets. So don’t worry about the little mistakes, don’t stress over the things out of your control, it all shapes who you will be.

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June 2006

 

This month you will get the biggest news of your entire life. It will rock your entire world. It will set your heart on fire. It will test your strength. But please my darling, know that you pass every test. You already know her name, this child you’re not yet aware of, growing inside of you. I promise you that she is worth the morning sickness, worth the cramps. She’s worth the stress and worry. I know that some people are going to do everything in their power to talk you out of having her, they’ll tell you that your life is over. They’ll tell you that you will never amount to anything and they’ll tell you that you won’t be a good mom. It’ll hurt, a lot, because it’ll be people you expected to support you, to love you. I am here to tell you:

I AM PROUD OF YOU! You are strong, so strong beyond your years.

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Pregnant with Emma, December 2006

 

You will be strong from the moment you see that blue line. You’ll march over to Curtis and tell him you are going to keep your baby. You’ll tell him that he can run and never look back. You won’t let him stay with you just because you’re pregnant. You won’t rely on anyone. But Chelsea, he loves you. He loves you so much more than you know. You’ll break his heart a couple times, and I hate you for that. I know that you don’t feel worthy of such love, I know that you don’t know how to love someone the way he loves you, but try. Try every single day, because he’s worth it. And guess what? Ten years later, he’s still here.

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You can do this. March 2007

 

Pregnancy is hard babe. Like, really freakin’ hard. But I know you’ll fight as hard as you can to be healthy for that baby girl. You won’t know it for many, many years but this pregnancy doesn’t just make you a mother. Someday, you’ll be obsessed with the thing you’re so scared of. Watch the damn birthing video! Stop being so stubborn! Ignorance is NOT bliss!

I know it’s your least favorite thing in the entire world when people say to you “babies having babies”. It pisses you off. ‘You are so not a baby, you’re like, so mature for your age.’ And yeah, although this is true to an extent you really are just a baby, having a baby. Don’t be mad, this too shall pass.

But not too quickly. Don’t rush. Slow down. You will miss these days. The days of baby Emma. Of fresh faced Curtis before the military. Sometimes, you’ll miss home. I don’t want to give away your entire future, but I’ll tell you this. You will see the world and all of it’s beautiful wonder. You will meet amazing people who change your life and shape the woman you become. You will have more babies. You will marry Curtis and fall madly in love with him more each day. You will change peoples lives. Yeah, you. You have made a difference in the world. And at 25, I promise you, we’re just getting started.

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The future. January 2016

 

I know you feel helpless right now. I know you cry yourself to sleep. I wish I could just wrap my arms around you and tell you how wonderful the future is. How all of the tears and sweat and blood and hard work pays off. It pays off more than your wildest dreams could have imagined. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are going to have an amazing life. Don’t worry about what other people think of you. I promise that it doesn’t matter. All that matters is your family, and yourself. Believe in yourself.

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You still have all this to come.

 

XOXO
Chelsea 2016

There’s no place like home

“Home is not where you are from, it is where you belong.
Some of us travel the whole world to find it. Others, find it in a person.”
-Beau Taplin

 

As many of you know, I recently took a trip home. By home, I mean New York. The place where I was born and raised.

I want to start at the very beginning, as I find that is the best place to start;
Manhattan New York.

I saw June bug for the first time since the day after she was born, and it was more than I could have dreamt of. I arrived at Brooke and Joes home and was already in awe of the city. I lived in New York state for 16+ years and never once made it to the city. I always dreamt of this place. I don’t remember when I first learned about the city, but growing up, I talked about moving there, working there, running away from home and going there. It was all I’ve ever wanted. My feelings were so validated.

I had received my birth video from our birth photographer the day before I left and held out on watching it. I wanted to experience it with Brooke and June. It was worth the wait. Brooke and I sat with June in between us. We were laughing and pointing out funny things we were so glad that Eva had captured. I teared up a bit, I can’t speak for Brooke.

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Aunt Chelsea loves you  June Bug.

 

Seeing June was awesome, and I felt like she really recognized my voice. She is such a happy, loved baby. She laughed when I blew raspberries on her belly, she smiled almost every time I talked to her. It was amazing. Brooke took me around her neighborhood, we got coffee and ice cream and sat at a park to feed June.

 

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She may kill me for this action shot.

 

After walking around for a couple hours we went back to the apartment and got dressed to go meet Joe for dinner some where called “Dirty French”. It was so good to see Joe, and strange in my world to see him all dressed up (he came straight from work). The menu was in all French and I am embarrassed to say, that I only understood one word, thanks to ‘The Little Mermaid’. But J&B are experts, so I let them order for me. It’s refreshing to not be picky at all and trust someone else to order food for you. Check that off of my “experiences everyone should have” list. By the way, the food was Delicious!

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After dinner Brooke handed me a little bag (it was two days before my birthday). Inside was a BEAUTIFUL Alex & Ani tree of life bracelet. I’ve worn it pretty much everyday since then.

We walked back to the apartment to put Joe and June to bed (it was about 9:30, remember that) and Brooke and I went out to hit the town! Our first stop was a bar called Mace. It was all fresh drink with real herbs and fruit and it was totally our scene. We joked that in order to be a bartender there you had to have tattoos and a man bun. Then we hit a couple other bars that were.. “younger”. I think we both felt a little out of place. Bright lights, loud music, crowded, just not our scene anymore. But we had a drink at each one and talked and talked and talked. It’s funny how far our relationship has come over the past 18 months. I remember a lot of conversations with long lulls where we didn’t know what to talk about or how to respond to each other. When we were still trying to figure each other out. We talked about our lives and our husbands. Our children and the future. We talked about our journey to June bug and our future journey to have a little boy. When we walked back to the apartment, we sat outside for a good half hour because just weren’t ready to stop talking.

I slept in June bugs room and volunteered to wake up with her in the morning. I had to be up at 6am anyway to catch my flight to Syracuse. Most of the time when I stay at someone else’s house it’s weird. You’re not used to their surroundings, their noises, their bed. But I slept sound and felt so comfortable. June bug didn’t wake up until 5am!!! Such a great baby. I changed her and fed her and snuggled with her for an hour while I waited for Brooke to wake up. It was so nice to have that time with her.

When Brooke woke up it was time to say goodbye. Our visit was short but oh so sweet. I knew that I would miss my second “family” but I will see them again soon I’m sure. (p.s. check off ‘take an uber’ from my list too!)

My next stop was Syracuse to see my mother and be with her for her wedding. I don’t want to write too much about this visit as it was a long time coming, and it was also two weeks long, but I do want to talk about “home”.

For many, many years I lived in a city named “Fulton”. It’s not where my mother lives, or where I spent a lot of time during my visit, but I did go there a few times as it’s where my sister, sister in law and many friends live. It was strange going there. I haven’t been there in over two years. The last time I was there, it wasn’t good memories being made. I went and saw Will, went to my spot by the river, visited a few friends, and just drove around looking at how the city has changed, and it’s changed a lot. So many things that were once there are gone, the city looked dirty and I saw a few people who looked homeless walking around.

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My favorite spot in Fulton.

 

As I sat and thought about the city that I once called home, a city that I sometimes long for, a realization came over me.
This is not home.

I have found my home, my forever place. The place that I want to raise my kids,  where I have a career that I love. A place that I’m comfortable and miss when I’m gone. Fort Worth. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would some day come to love Texas as much as I do. So I enjoyed my visit to New York in so many ways. I loved seeing my friends and family and I so loved being able to spend time with my mother. It’s been a long time coming, but at the end, I was more than ready to come home. To my real home…..
But maybe, someday… NYC…

It Takes A Village, To Raise A Woman

“Be a woman other women can trust. Have the courage to tell another woman direct when she has offended, hurt or disappointed you. Successful women have a tribe of loyal and honest women behind them. Not haters. Not backstabbers or women who whisper behind their back. Be a woman who lifts other women.”
-Sophia A. Nelson

I had a long few years, like 22 of them. Some of that is my fault, some a series of unfortunate events or circumstances out of my control. The past two years have also been long, but magic. I’m happy in my life right now, and I don’t think it’ll go away anytime soon. I’ve learned the true meaning of love. I’ve learned what it means to work hard and go after your dreams. I’ve learned how to take better care of myself, mentally and emotionally. I’ve learned that the only one in charge of my life, is me.
And some really amazing women taught me all that.

We don’t always have a positive influence or role models in our lives. But over the past couple years some really very special women have come into my life and taught me more than I thought there was to learn! They continue to amaze me every day. This post, is to talk about those women, their influence on my life, and to show them the love they so deserve.

Laney Sweet. I met Laney about a year ago. We met on a surrogate group and hit it off right away. She was my mirror, my long lost sister. She loved everything birth. A doula. A surrogate. A young mother. A wife. It was a perfect fit. I have enjoyed so many conversations with her about all aspects of life. There have been many days when I called her and she kept me sane, helped me work through a problem, encouraged me. Laney has always been encouraging in my journey to become a doula. Helping me find my place in the birth community. Overall just being a great friend (and my own personal doula)! She invited me to the birth of her surrobabe (who was born this past Wednesday the 27th). As I watched Laneys life, and the life of her intended parents change, it changed mine too. Because of Laney allowing me to be there when that beautiful little girl was born, I have never been so sure in my life that I want/need/am destined to be a doula. Thank you Laney, for taking me under your wing. For always encouraging me and helping me find my way. You are a wonderful friend and I will always love you for all you have done.

Carla Morrow. The very first time I saw Carla, it was at a Tarrant County Birth Network workshop about the different types of midwives and the life of a midwife. Carla looked radiant, happy and full of life. I saw her once in awhile at the birthing center while I was there for appointments but it wasn’t until close to the end of my pregnancy when I actually sat down with her for the first time. I already knew so much about her. Her birthing center, her awesome midwife skills, countless people adore this woman. As many people before me (I’m sure) I felt instantly connected to this amazing women. As my pregnancy progressed I enjoyed her more and more. After one appointment she asked if I was a doula. I answered that I was not, but hoped very much to be one someday. She asked what I did for a living and I told her that I was a chef. She said I should come cater the birthing center, and I laughed it off. Carla was on call when I had June bug. She was awesome. She trusts birth, she trusts women. She was kind of in the background through a lot of my labor, but you could feel her there. I trusted her with my life. When June went home her comment on catering was singing in the back of my head. I’m letting the cat of the bag on this “new job” now. Carla was serious, and now I get to be a part of her wonderful team, this team of fierce and wonderful women. She believes in me. She trusts me. She is such an inspiration to me. She lets me know that it’s okay to struggle sometimes, and that the best people in your life come when you least expect it. Thank you Carla, for being a part of my village. For believing in me and helping me follow my dreams. You have forever touched my heart.

Brooke Moreland. Brooke is so much more than my Intended Mother. Our relationship has grown so much over the past few months. As I learned more and more about who she really is, I felt closer and closer to her. She has become not only a friend but family. Every time I call her with exciting news about my life, she shares in my joy. She continues to encourage me to go after my dreams. She understands my need for a career, to find my place in the world. Thank you Brooke, for making sure that my family was always taken care of while I helped you build yours, even when you didn’t have to. For encouraging me and trusting me and for just being there.

Stephanie Wright. I met Stephanie while seeking employment with her through the Marriott. Within minutes of speaking to her I had already embarrassed myself beyond belief. She hired me right away. I felt a connection to her. When I first started working, I thought she hated me. She pushed me unlike I had ever been pushed. She kicked my ass. Looking back I couldn’t be more grateful for that. She made me the Chef I am today. Without her I never would have been able to go home to say good-bye to my grandmother when she passed away. She fought for me. When I told her about my impending surrogacy she opened herself to me and shared her past with me. She listened to me cry when things got hard and always encouraged me not to give up. When I had personal problems she was there. When times got tough she was there. She gives the best advice and doesn’t bullshit me. I can literally talk to her about anything. She was there when I was depressed. She was there when I was happy. She was there to share my joy when June was born and took care of me after the fact. And even now, even though she thinks I’m crazy for riding that roller coaster again, she’s by my side until the end. I will never, ever be able to thank you enough. For being my best friend, for being my mentor, for being my heterosexual life partner. For always listening and always loving me no matter how crazy I am. For teaching me and encouraging me. For being understanding. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life and sharing in mine. I love you forever.

Emma Claire Kimball. Though she will probably never read this, Emma is the most important woman in my life. She is the reason I am who I am. She has given me the strength that I need every single day to be a better person. She reminds me of where I came from and where I want to go. She is the reason I work so hard, why I continue to push myself even when I want to give up. I am determined to give her a better life, a happier life. I want her to never question if she is loved. I want her to know that not once in my life have I regretted having that beautiful baby girl at 15. I will give her the life she deserves, the mother she deserves. She will never question her beauty or her worth. She will never want for anything. She is strong and beautiful and smart. She is my daughter. My whole world.

The point in all of this is, I wasn’t always the woman I am today. And tomorrow I will be different still. I am always learning, always growing. And at least in some part, it’s because of these women. They are all amazing. They are all teaching me and loving me.
They are my village.

When a Good Man Goes To War

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”
-Art Williams

No one is perfect, we all know this to be true. But sometimes it’s even harder for us to see our shortcomings in a relationship. Most of the time we feel that all our problems are the fault of our significant other (SO) and surely we didn’t do anything wrong.

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Over the past few months I have talked to my husband more than I have in the past ten years. And I am listening, REALLY listening for the first time too. Three years ago we split up. It only last a short month before we found our way back and were dedicated to really put in all of our effort to fix our marriage. A lot of things were said and done during that time that we both wish we could take back, but we never understood why the other felt the ways that we did.

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It was years and years worth of built up mistakes that had never been talked about. There was so much animosity and resentment it’s no wonder that we had fallen apart. We talked, and we listened, for hours and hours as we both finally got out our feelings. We let go of each other shortcomings and began to recognize our own. It was amazing.

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Why am I writing this? Because I had very little example in my life of what a marriage should look like. What a healthy relationship looks like. How to be a good wife. What a good husband looks like. Let me say, that Curtis and I have been together longer than any relationship either of my parents have been in. So yes, I had very little example of how to make it even this far. I’m not an “advice columnist” type of person, but if I can help anyone in their relationship, help someone fight for love, well I will gladly help. Here is a few things I’ve learned in ten years with my husband:

  1. A teenager will never be a good spouse. I thought I was so grown up when I had Emma at 15. And even more grown up when Curtis and I got married when I was 16 and he was 18. No. No matter how much you go through as a child or teenager, it’s just impossible. You’re still going through puberty, you still think about what you want and trying to find out who you are. My advise is hold off. If you truly love each other there is no rush to get married, save it for when you’re really ready.
  2. Talk about everything, when you AREN’T fighting. Don’t try to make amends or tell your SO about issues while you’re fighting. When you’re fighting your defenses go up, you aren’t receptive. I’ve found that making yourself MORE vulnerable to your SO really helps. I like to have our disagreements sitting in a shower. Your naked, water is calming, and you have nothing holding you back, no distractions. When you aren’t fighting and you think of something that has been bothering you, talk about it. Let them know you aren’t looking for a fight but you need resolution.
  3. Put yourself first, but never forget about them. We all need “me” time. It’s good to have things just for yourself, friends, activities, work. But don’t ever make a decision that effects your “family unit” without thinking about them or talking to them first. And don’t get jealous when they need some time away. It’s not that they don’t want to spend time with you, but we ALL need that time away. It’s good for you both and at the end of the day, it gives you something to talk about. If you spend all of your time together, there is nothing new to talk about.
  4. Own up to your shortcomings. Don’t get offended when something that you did upset your SO. Put yourself in their shoes. Would this specific situation upset you if it were the other way around? Be honest with yourself. Stop and really think about it. Don’t ever be too stubborn to say you’re sorry.
  5. Stop keeping track of the past, let it go. Don’t keep having the same fight over and over again. Have it once, get all your feelings out on the table and make sure you’re being heard, don’t walk away until it is resolved and you can put it to rest, and don’t bring it into the next fight. Let. It. Go.
  6. Say I love you, and mean it. Get out of the habit, of saying it out of habit. When you say it, feel it. Know that it’s true. Let them know it’s true. Kiss them, hold them, feel your warmth and love. Don’t ever stop.
  7. Keep it OFF social media. Don’t ever complain about your relationship on facebook (or any other outlet). It’s okay to need to complain about your SO sometimes. Call your mom, call your best friend. Get it off your chest, get some insight and then let it go! When you complain on social media you belittle your SO for all to see, you give people a skewed perception of your relationship and SO. Remember that there are three sides to every story. Yours, his (or hers) and the truth. Don’t make your family/friends hate your SO because you’re pissed off in the minute.
  8. Support their dreams as if they are your own. Push them. Encourage them. Believe in them. Never let them stop fighting for what makes them happy and complete.
  9. Always remember, the best things in life are worth fighting for. You don’t throw away your favorite book because a page is ripped, you tape it, you repair it. Treat your relationship the same way. Do your best to make sure no pages tare, but if (and when) they do, repair it instead of throwing it away. It can last forever and the wear and tear remind you of how long you’ve had it, how much you love it. Never let it go.

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In my relationship, I’ve been the main offender to tearing pages. There have been many times in my relationship when I was just a bad wife. I didn’t put my husbands feelings into consideration. I did things for myself that hurt him. I was immature and ungrateful. Many days I have wondered why my husband has stuck by my side. But when you love someone so much, you’re willing to go to war for them. Sometimes you battle other people, sometimes you battle yourself, and sometimes you battle the demons of your SO. My husband is a good man, a great man. This man has been at war for a long time for me, and just over the past two or three years have I joined the fight. Out of ten years together, I have never been happier than I am now. I have never felt so loved, or given so much love. I have never talked so much, or listened so much. Our wounds are healing and we are nursing them for each other. We are happy. You can be too. It all starts with a choice. Of course it takes two, but if you truly love each other, when one sees the other putting in the effort, normally the other will follow.

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“There’s one thing I do know… and that is that I love you,… In spite of you and me and the whole silly world going to pieces around us, I love you. Because we’re alike. Bad lots, both of us. Selfish and shrewd. But able to look things in the eyes as we call them by their right names.”