Great Expectations: Mama and the City

Nadia Venus is behind Mama and the City, a blog about the juggling act of being a mom with one chiquita, a full-time professional and a photography hobbyist. In addition to sharing her observations from around the city, she discusses her family, which has fostered a special comfort writing about her mother and the experience of growing up with a parent who has Bipolar Manic Disorder. But it’s not all drama, this Mexican is always — siempre — on the hunt for a great taco.
Starting Sept 2, and every first Monday of the month, come and join Nadia for #WhyFakeItJustMakeIt, a recipe link-up party to share (and find) decadent recipes.
Thanks for joining me here, Nadia!
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While You Still Love Me

 Querida princesa,

You are almost three. To me, you are still small. But when I look back at all those baby photos, I’m stunned at how fast time passes. You were so tiny, and beautiful, and perfect. I need to get better at appreciating you while you still love me.

Every week you are getting more vocal. I don’t pretend to take credit for that, considering you started going to daycare when I returned to work. Someone else had the luxury of seeing your face light up with new ideas, of watching your reactions when you tried new things. Someone else put in the time to teach you new words, and to listen to you repeat them, over and over, until you got them right. I won’t take credit for these things, and I’m okay with that.

I can’t believe you are almost three.

From week to week — sometimes from day to day — I see changes. You show better coordination, and you are able to execute tasks more successfully. You are becoming more independent. You are needing less and less of my presence, but when you want my attention you demand it: to acknowledge success, rather than to provide help. It gets annoying sometimes, especially when you talk over an adult conversation, but your screams of “Mommy, LOOK AT ME!” are like tacos to me. I will never tire of them.

So, I hug you. And you hug me back… Sometimes.

I say that I love you. I ask you to reciprocate, to build a habit of this loving connection. But mostly, I want to hear the words, “I love you mommy” from your perfect little mouth.

And I squeeze you one more time, because a hug and a word will never express the intensity of what I really feel for you. I could hold you for a thousand years and never fully voice that feeling.

Holy crap. You are almost three.

I am afraid. I’m afraid of you finding my love and my words embarrassing, sooner than I expect it. I don’t mean embarrassed in front of friends, I mean when it’s only you and me. I know it’s coming. I know it’s part of you growing up. And I know it will break my heart.

To be honest, I’m also afraid of me. Afraid of losing my patience and trust in you as you go through life and experience emotional changes. After all, you are expected to morph. I did it and it was hard. I’m afraid of losing the connection we share now. I’m afraid of missing your love.

These things, though, are visions in the distant future. For now, mi vida, you are almost three. So small, so beautiful, so perfect.

All I can do is continue to hug you, to squeeze you, to love you. I’m hoping that by preaching how much I love you and how often you need to say it back to me I am able to tattoo this onto your heart and engrave it onto your soul. Because one day you will cross that fine line where you realize it is time to stop being mama’s little girl. It will be time to grow, time to fly away and be yourself. Until then, you are mine to care for, to hold and to love, and you will teach me to be a better recipient. All while you still love me.

– Mommy

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Follow Nadia on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Great Expectations: According to Denise

Denise, of According to Denise, is a mom of a son and daughter, stepmom of three boys, wife and part-time-from-home software engineer. She’s the kind of person that you feel like you have known forever, that you can chat with online for a good part of the day, even if you haven’t actually met in real life. She seems real, and relatable, and is always so easy to talk to. I just love her!

Thanks so much for being here today, Denise!

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Michelangelo is my favorite ninja turtle.  I was in high school when the live action movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out and I’m comfortable admitting that I saw it and loved it.  I mean, come on, giant turtles who crack cheesy jokes and kick butt, what’s not to love?  My two youngest have recently discovered the animated series on TV and have become somewhat obsessed with ninja turtles.  They run around the house “ninja training” and talk about the pizza loving turtles pretty regularly.

So what do I do?  I immediately buy the movies so we could watch them together.  Apparently there are four in total though I only knew about the first two.

We watched the first one and it was so nice to see them enjoy something that I enjoyed when I was younger.  We snuggled and talked about how we all think Mikey is the coolest ninja turtle and how it is weird that in the TV show he makes gross combinations of food that always include pizza but in the movie they just eat regular pizza.  And we all say along together “I love being a turtle!”

I have always loved movies and TV.  When I was a kid I would watch all kinds of movies with my parents and brother.  A love of movies is something that has connected me with my Dad especially all my life.  My oldest stepson is also a big movie fan and so it is something we can connect over.  We have movie nights every weekend my stepsons are here.

I really enjoy sharing old favorites with the kids.  I watch their faces to see if they catch the jokes or love the parts that I really hope they do.

When they ask to rewatch one of my all time favorites, it makes me happy because I feel like we have a little something special that makes us a little closer.

Maybe one day when they have their own kids and their little ones discover the latest incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles they will share that their favorite turtle is Michelangelo and so is their Mom’s and they will snuggle and talk and laugh feel a little bit closer.
According To Denise
Get to know Denise on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Great Expectations: Rubber Chicken Madness

Kim writes at Rubber Chicken Madness, and I knew the name of her blog long before I had the opportunity to meet the amazing woman behind it and looong before I found out that she lives close by, in Kansas City. Isn’t it funny how that works sometimes?

Kim is a single mom of boys, and you can read about her story here. You should get to know her, but in a nutshell, she’s a single, working mom of boys, striving to find the perfection in her rubber chicken madness (<—–the story behind her blog name is really cute. We’ll wait while you go read it.)

Thank you so much for being here with us, Kim, as most of us prepare for the first days of school (SIGH).

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Every year, I promise myself I won’t do it.

Every year, I fail.

In less than two weeks, I’ll be standing in the hallway at school, watching the kiddos walk in on the first day of this new school year. New backpacks, first day of school shirts, new shoes and bright smiles.

There are invariably some tears down in Kindergarten, but we hand the sad mommies a Kleenex and, before long, they’re okay again. There are likely some tears of joy in other areas as mommies get their days back to themselves.

I will stand outside the doors to my library watching this sweet parade of freshly scrubbed faces.

There will be shy waves and exuberant hugs, and quick chats about books read over the summer.

I hope there will also be celebrations of, “Guess what? I read a book all by myself this summer!”

And I will have to choke back tears.

Each little face.

Each little smile.

Each little person is so full of amazing potential that my heart gets overwhelmed.

We are on the cusp of a brand new learning year.

We are ready to tackle reading and writing and math.

We are ready to log on and create.

And to experiment.

And explore.

Make new friends.

Welcome back the old.

Two weeks before this moment, I will have had to pry myself out of my house to return to work. I will have been resistant because I like being home with my own kids. I will have struggled with getting out of the house and to school by 7:45.  I will have taken deep breaths and begun to try to tackle the impossibly long to do list.

But not one tiny bit of that will matter.

The dawning of a new year will eclipse all the resistance and I will be filled with such anticipation of what we can accomplish as learners this year.

Each child.

Learning each day.

Growing into a unique person full of ideas of their own.

And the great expectations of the year about to unfold will overwhelm me with possibilities.

A tear will slip out.

And a Kindergarten mommy will smile and hand me a Kleenex.

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Photo Credit: Mark McQuade

Feel free to stalk Kim on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Great Expectations: Alma Boheme

Alma writes at Alma Boheme, and she’s one of the most beautiful souls I’ve met in this crazy blogging world. She’s beautiful inside and out, and she creates beauty with her knitting. She’s the mom of two extraordinary children, the King and the Princess, and wife to the Captain (who’s extremely talented himself). She’s a native New Yorker residing in gorgeous Savannah, and has settled into the southern way of life. You’ll see what I mean when you read her words below.

Thank you so much for gracing us here, Alma!

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Life Signs

Life for me was governed by the clock, work, a 2 hour a day commute, coffee and corporate attire in a big city. Doing the hustle … hustle… hustle … dance. I did not even have the time to consider that this was not the life I had planned for me. I just knew I had to hustle to get things done every day. At the end of the day I laid down in bed saying “ I don’t think I can do it anymore” and “something has to change”, but then I would forget and get up and do the hustle dance all over again.

Life has a way of intervening with a sense of humor. Losing my job was a blessing in disguise. I finally had time, time to face the demons that were eating my brain whispering things like  “loser” “failure” and tell them to take a hike. I was scared still, I was the main bread winner in the house and all of the sudden I was free? Free to feel, free to cry, free to get angry, and laugh at it all (while flippin the bird). Time to think and re-evaluate. I never thought I could feel pure joy sitting in a room and be still in silence without voices of worry in my head. Boom! I can read  a book, lose my head knitting the day away, and most importantly time with my kids. “So this is good, I’m good”, I thought “I’m goooood”.

“Life is what happens when you are making other plans” … that Lennon quote suddenly slapped me in the face. It happens quietly and subtly when you least expect it … one day while I was having dinner with my family my son made a joke and I laughed so hard I cried… no, I bawled. So hard I could not catch my breath and no sound came out. Everything came crashing down on me and when I came up for air it was all clear to me. Alma this is day one of your life, my inner voice chimed in. My kids were concerned, “what’s wrong with mommy?” “I thought she was laughing” “mom? mom? are you ok?” I looked up with tears in my eyes and said “ I am the happiest I have ever been”. The pasta got cold, while their faces of disbelief lingered and my mascara smeared… Alma woke up.

Life since then has changed, unexpectedly. I am now a stay at home mom who is still learning the ropes. Truthfully, in my lifetime this is the hardest job I have ever had. At the end of most days I can’t remember if I showered or shaved. I purposely indulge my daughter in endless crafts projects so I don’t have to play with ponies again. I pray that I make edible meals and hope they all go to bed happy. Still, its the most rewarding job I have ever had. In the midst of all this, we moved to a new state, live in a bigger place, have a backyard (yes, it deserves a mention from this city girl) and a second bathroom. The extra time in my hands gave the luxury to indulge in my obsession with my hands. This knitter made herself a studio space at home and is the owner of an online shop. Looking back I am glad to have traded the hamster wheel in the city for my porch swing in the south.

Get to know Alma on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and check out her beautiful wares on Etsy

Great Expectations: Angie Kinghorn

Angie Kinghorn is a former lawyer-turned-writer/SAHM, married to a practicing lawyer, and mom to newly graduated twins, a boy and a girl. She writes about her battle with postpartum depression and is published in various anthologies. Angie is smart, witty, and tough as nails.

Today, Angie is talking about her love affair with the minivan, but don’t be fooled….it’s tried to kill her in the past. Thankfully, it wasn’t successful. Thanks for being here, Angie!

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I never expected to love my minivan.

As we drove away from the dealership, I cried like the babies we were preparing to have, wailing to my husband that I missed my Passat. I may or may not have looked for it in the pre-owned section of the dealership when I took the van in for its first oil change.

Our lives were expanding – no, exploding – in girth, from the minivan I wasn’t convinced would fit in the garage, to mountains of baby gear, to my belly (which, at the 22 weeks or so we got the minivan, measured 32 weeks, leaving me looking almost full term and perhaps a bit, as my sister so delicately put it, “like a beached whale”).

The minivan represented that explosion, the end of the sexy period of life when cars were cool.

Little did I realize I’d approached the end of cool. Really, can you even claim to be striving for cool when you’re potty training two kids and don’t hesitate to pull over in any neighborhood so they can perch on a portable potty in the back of the minivan? Or when your idea of an exciting outing is piling everyone in the minivan, turning on the DVD player and jamming out to Baby Einstein while driving across town to the drive-thru Starbucks?

Yeah, I gave up cool, but I found “it makes my life easier.” Which, as a mother of young kids, is cool.

Those sliding doors? God, they’re beautiful. My kids can’t ding anybody’s car. I can park in compact spaces. I can glide up to school and drop off my kids with the push of a button. And if the kids forget to close the door? I’ve got it. Seriously, it’s beautiful. So beautiful and utilitarian that I’ve actually named my minivan. She’s Wanda. I’ve never even thought to name a car before Wanda.

I realized how much I’ve come to adore Wanda when my husband took her out of town and left me with his Camry. It felt like driving a go-cart at pavement level. Apparently I’ve forgotten how to reverse without a backup camera. I stared resolutely at the dash in his car, expecting images to appear. And there’s no place to put anything. You can barely fit a person or two in there.

Truth be told I’m not sure I’ll ever go back from a minivan. There’s no need to pack lightly—we can cram everything in. I’m (almost) always prepared. Yes, I carry hydrogen peroxide, sterile gauze pads, Band-Aids, and antibiotic ointment in the car. Doesn’t everybody? And the spare thermometer, bug spray, sunscreen, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and children’s Benadryl – that’s just sensible. My husband no longer makes fun of the things that live in the van after one of the kids threw up on the road. That, my dear, is why one should always carry Ziplocks, trash bags, Lysol, baby wipes, and changes of clothing.

And when you’re not hauling strollers, you can use that helpful third row for a nap in the preschool parking lot or the carpool line. Just be sure to set an alarm on your phone so you don’t sleep through pickup. (A tip I picked up from, um, a friend.)

A friend of mine told me she was getting a Suburban because she “didn’t want to look like a mom.” I extolled the virtues of everything remotely minivan related before realizing she was never going to get a minivan.

“I just can’t stand the idea of looking like a mom,” she said.

“That cat’s out of the bag the minute you’re out with two kids in a double stroller who call you ‘Mommy.’” I responded. “It doesn’t matter what you drive.”

She and I aren’t that close anymore.

You can retain a sense of self and be a mom, even a mom who drives a minivan. My radio plays Pearl Jam and Eminem just as well as Kidz Bop.

I didn’t expect to love my minivan. But I could never have expected how much I’d love my kids and being a mother, and perhaps the two go hand in hand.

Get to know Angie on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Great Expectations: Lollygag Blog

If you haven’t met Keely, you’re missing out. I haven’t known her very long (okay, I’ve never “met” her in real life), but she’s one of my favorite people. She writes at Lollygag Blog, and she’s hilarious. She’s a playwright, she’s a mom of two and one on the way, she’s a wife. She keeps the perfect balance between writing the hard stuff and writing the breezy stuff, all in a way that makes you think that yeah, everything’s gonna be alright. I absolutely love that about her….her space on the Internet really is “more fun than your 9th birthday.”

Thank you so much for gracing us here today, Keely!

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The Disappearance Of Down Time

This morning, I scraped seasonal gel clings from my kitchen window. They had melted and fused to the glass, acting as a catch-all for gnats, dust, and the occasional flying cat hair. I tugged at the stubborn corners, telling myself that I was better than this. That I used to be better than this.

Because the gel clings were Easter bunnies and carrots, and they had been there since March.

Eleven years ago, I began my job as a (really, really good) nanny. I was a pre-Pinterest craft maven, and knew how to prepare organic, gluten-free snacks that looked just like Dora and Elmo. Not that we had time to watch TV; we were way too busy sketching at the Art Museum, building paper cup sailboats at the lakefront, and napping in blanket tents which spanned entire bedrooms. I knew kids, babies, nap schedules, and doctor visits. And when I became pregnant with my firstborn, I knew I’d be an ace parent. How could I fail? Aside from the whole “birthing” thing, what was left to figure out that I hadn’t mastered?

Turns out, some other things I knew included: Ending my workday at 5pm. Sleeping in on weekends. Showering solo in the mornings and cooking meals for myself without toddlers climbing directly into my nostril. Regrouping, recovering, and recharging.

I had never planned on the disappearance of down time. This meant that, while on vacation, my only trips to the bathroom would include hovering a preschooler over a questionable toilet, begging her not to touch anything, while simultaneously marveling at the proximity of my face to an auto-flush sensor. At the doctor’s office, having the nurses take my kids to feed the fish so I could go pee into a cup would feel like a solo day at the spa. I may as well have been a former lumberjack, I was so poorly prepped for the sheer In Your Face-itude of 24/7 childcare; especially when an unfair proportion of those 24s and 7s include sanitizing wall splatter at 3am. My goal-oriented brain operated rather well within the structure of a traditional Monday through Friday schedule, leaving me plenty of time (and hands) to sort out the Everything Else. In my new life, the lines between time of day and day of week blurred into one big stew of non-stop action, with a nice side dish of panicking about the future.

While I had guessed at how full my heart could get, I couldn’t have imagined the finite capacity of my grey matter. And that sometimes meant that items previously of the utmost importance (showering during daylight hours) would jump off of my brain cliff like so many lemmings. I sometimes wouldn’t even realize what I had failed to do until the middle of the night. (“Have I showered? Have I seen the cat this week?”)

I know that my kids don’t care what season’s decorations grace our home; they’re just stoked to spend the entire day with me (even if I spend a confusing amount of time weeping at gel clings). I know that my older daughter is thrilled to no longer be playing third fiddle [car seat?] to another family’s series of lessons and activities, the way she had to as a baby. And I know that having happy kids is kinda the whole point, even if the other day’s arts project consisted of fishing an entire box of pasta from the radiator.

So I’ll just choose to be happy about the fact that my kids are happy. At least until I find myself folding a winter wonderland nightgown this August, taking me firmly out of the running for World’s Most Efficient Mother. Which is just as well.

That title would look really lame on a mug.

Do yourselves a favor and get to know Keely at her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Great Expectations: Lapinskas Land

Tara writes at her blog, Adventures in Lapinskas Land. In her words, “I’m just a person, like anyone else, writing down my life for your entertainment.  Plus, blogging is cheaper than therapy.” I wholeheartedly agree.

She’s a wife and a working mom to two little girls, a couple of adorable dancers. She’s doing a fantastic (and inspirational) job losing weight, and is a loyal #iPPPer (which, of course, I love). Tara shares great stories and pictures of her family, and I adore following along.

Thank you for sharing here today, Tara!

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I was 25 years old.  Newly married, freshly graduated from college.  Trying to figure out what to do with my life.  That was when my doctor told me that I would need fertility drugs to get pregnant.  I believe the conversation went something like this: “Are you trying to get pregnant?” Me: “No.  Not necessarily trying to stop it, but, not trying either.”  Doctor: “Let me know when you want to get pregnant, we’ll get you started on fertility drugs.”  This was due to a recent diagnosis of PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome).

I was surprised, but really not ready for kids yet.  So, it was kind of okay.  I mean – okay until I was ready to make a decision and really try to get pregnant.  Until then, I thought, let’s have some fun!  Plus – I still did not have my career path lined up.  I had spent the last year of college just trying to graduate and get married.  I had not planned for the life I would have of post-graduate wedded bliss.

So, 2 months later I was pregnant.

I had pictured pregnancy as this interesting science experiment type of deal.  I mean, how weird is it to have a child growing inside your body?  Of course, I knew I would be blissfully happy, making flower wreaths to wear in my hair as the sun shone down on my perfect, yet pregnant body.  And I would talk to my baby, and read to my baby, while still in the womb.  Play music for the baby.  My husband would be just as enamored of the pregnancy and baby as I was.  Harps would play, we’d have a hippie-type love circle, birds would sing and mosquitos would never bite again.

And then I found out what pregnancy is really like.  And I swear, the older women around me, pointed and laughed at me when they re-canted their earlier comments about pregnancy.   Before I was pregnant, they all told me how fun, and great pregnancy was.  Then laughed at the torture that I was going through, and told me how much they disliked being pregnant.  Liars!!  Truth in advertising – I should totally sue them.

Pregnancy started as the most terrifying moment in my life.  Seeing those two lines on a stick made me break down in tears.  This was really happening!  I was going to be responsible for a person.  Um, plus, how was this baby supposed to get out of my body again?  TERR-IF-IED!

Shortly after I came to terms with my reality, the vomiting set in.  Like, guerrilla-style vomiting.  I would be sitting, trying to control the nausea, when suddenly, I would be vomiting.  I puked in both cars, every part of the bathroom except the toilet, the garbage can, almost tagged the cat once.  She had the good sense to run as soon as I moved.  Hit the computer, the floor, and even the bed.  That one was the best, since it happened after we were home with the baby.  That was when morning sickness finally ended for me – at home, with the baby.  Those jackasses said morning sickness would only last the first trimester.  My cat, rug, and bedspread beg to differ.

Did I mention the anger?  I had pictured sunshine and flowers.  What I got was an angry woman, always on the verge of a breakdown of yelling, or plotting revenge on everyone.  I couldn’t stand to be touched.  I hated when people would tell me that based on the way I was carrying, they could determine the sex.  Ugh – don’t look at me hard enough to determine how I’m carrying!

My family came over one day, but hadn’t called.  I was in the shower.  I pretended not to know they were outside because I was that spiteful that they hadn’t called me.

I almost killed the grocery lady when she asked when I was due.  “3 days ago.” I growled.  She took a step back and said, “Um, ok.  Can I help you out then?”  Growling again, “No.  Maybe carrying all this crap around will get labor started.”

I routinely told my child that she was evicted.  Her lease was up.  Get out.  GET OUT!!

And then she finally decided to move out.  I had pictured labor being somewhat easier.  I would power through like a champ.  I would only labor for about 5 hours, and push like 3 times.  The baby would just pop out.

Labor started just after midnight.  The contractions so painful, they woke me from sleep.  I called the doc, and since I was only a week late, they said, come on in.  By the time we got to the hospital, a few hours after it had started, I was dilated to a whopping 1 cm. Whoo hoo!

They ended up breaking my water.  I got my first dose of epidural about 9 hours into this ordeal, when I hit 3 cm.  After laboring all day and into the night, I finally hit 10 cm about 10 pm.  Those sadists at the hospital turned the epidural down, and upped the pitocin, almost as a celebration to start pushing.  My contractions were constant.  They did not come in waves.  I did not get breaks in between.  My only memory from this time is my husband holding a tub for me to throw up in, and me being in so much pain I bit him.  Oh yeah.  I.BIT.HIM.

After about 2.5 hours of pushing, they had decided progress was too slow, the baby was stuck with her head through the cervix, and her shoulders wouldn’t come out.  Plus, there seemed to be a lot of blood.  I could not sign the c-section agreement fast enough.  Finally, my baby was out, about 24 hours after labor had started.  She ruptured my uterus, and they had to pull her back through my cervix.  So, after they worked on me for about an hour, I got to meet my daughter for the first time.  My husband was already feeding her.  She was beautiful – exactly as I had pictured.  My eyes and nose, his lips and coloring.  She was 8 pounds, 7 ounces, 22 inches long.  And finally here, which meant pregnancy was OVER!

Even though my expectations for a fun, loving, happy pregnancy never came to fruition, being that unhappy for so long taught me how to truly appreciate my sweet, happy, quiet baby.  Plus, after all that, I’ll have to make sure we torture her as a teenager.  Payback’s a bitch, right?

Follow the Lapinskas Land saga at Tara’s blog, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Great Expectations: The Average Supermom

I’ve been following Sean, the Average Supermom, on Twitter for as long as I can remember, but finally got to meet her in person at Blissdom this year. And I am so happy I did. She’s completely down to earth, gorgeous, funny, real, and FUN. She’s a Texan, a wife, and a mom to her own sassy pants girl. She’s practically a rocket scientist (at least in my eyes), working in the space industry. Just wait, you’ll see!

Thanks SO much for stopping by with your story today, Sean!

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All throughout high school my expectation was that I would go off to college. I spent hours slaving over SAT prep books in the counselor’s office. I took college catalogs home for leisurely reading. UC Santa Cruz and UT Austin were my ideal campuses with their laid back lifestyles yet stellar education programs. I expected to be an architect. With a perfectly balanced left and right brain the combination of art and engineering were a perfect fit.

In the spring of my senior year, I crammed for the SAT every chance I had. When the test day arrived, I aced it with near perfect, equal scores on both math and comprehension. My dream was so close that I woke up some mornings expecting to find myself in a dorm.

The counselor at my school helped me fill out college applications. We even threw in a few lame schools (Sul Ross and Southwest Texas State WTF?!) to appease my dad. With my test scores and my straight A’s I knew it was a done deal. And it was. It was too easy.

My acceptance letter to UT arrived in February of 1993. My nerves were so shot that I fumbled to open the envelope. When I saw the word ‘congratulations’ my heart screamed. I think I screamed. It was an out of body experience. But I was quickly brought back down to Earth.

“You didn’t get in, did you,” my dad snarked. He was always so positive.

“No, I DID! I got in to UT! Do you know how hard it is to get into UT as a freshman?” my cheeks ached from smiling.

“Huh, well, no daughter of mine is going off to a big school like that,” he snidely mused. “I’m not paying for it and I’m not going to sign any of your financial aid forms for you to be able to go.”

Dreams, expectations, whisked swiftly away.

“You’ll go to community college and we’ll see what happens.” Decision made. There was no changing this dictator’s rule.

And that’s where my life took a drastic turn.

Within two weeks, I was dating the bad boy in school. I dated 100’s of guys in high school, but this was my chance for a ticket out. He was going to be a Marine, after all, and we’d live the military life – happily ever after. But, soon after we started dating seriously, my dad forced me to move to Houston (actually packed my belongings while I was out of town one week and moved while I was gone!) and to go to community college. I felt betrayed. I felt small. I felt helpless. But I wasn’t. I knew he wasn’t in control of my future and it was up to me to make my life my own. So, naturally, I ran away in the middle of the night and got married that October.

It was a bold move. And it was a complete failure. We separated the following June, though I wish it had happened much sooner. From there, my only option was to move back in with my dad and go back to that damn school. So I made another bold move – I enlisted in the Air Force.

My only goal for my enlistment was to leave for Basic Training as soon as possible. I didn’t care about my job or anything else. The sergeant at the processing center wasn’t feeling it.

“You aced the ASVAB and you can pretty much pick any job you want,” he told me.

“What leaves tomorrow?”

“Ha! Seriously? You can pick any job – why don’t you look through your options and we will see what the departure dates look like.” He wasn’t amused by my urgency.

“No, what leaves tomorrow? Or as soon as possible? My only goal is to leave.”

“Well, if you want to leave in three days, you can go to dental hygienist training or something called space systems operations training,” He still wasn’t amused by my urgency.

“I hate teeth. I’ll take that space job.”

And that’s how I went on to spend the past 19 years working on various space programs from the Air Force to NASA to commercial space companies. I met my husband in the Air Force and we have a beautiful daughter, a beautiful home and a great life. I’ve made this life for myself under no one else’s terms. I guess when it comes to my happiness, I’m pretty fearless. We are given one life to live (as far as I know) and the only terms you should live by are your own.

Do yourselves a favor and get to know Sean by checking out her blog, liking her on Facebook, and following her on Twitter.

Great Expectations: The Life of K

I “met” Kamerine when she started linking up with #iPPP, and she’s been a loyal linker ever since. Her blog is called The Life of K, where she writes about her life as a wife and mom of two adorable kids. She’s also Canadian, eh, which I actually didn’t realize. But it makes sense, given her gorgeous surroundings. She wears many many hats, along with those of wife and mother…she’s a doula, scientist, runner, and writer of experiences.

I’m so happy to be able to introduce you to Kamerine today! If you don’t know her, you should…she’s absolutely sweet as pie.

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You know the saying “always a bridesmaid, never a bride”? That’s not me at all. Never mind the fact that I’ve been both a bride once and a bridesmaid once, it’s the sentiment I’m talking about. I haven’t been a bridesmaid often because I’m not a good friend.

I expected to grow old with my best friend from when I was 5. Or my 3 best friends from when I was 10. By high school I think part of me knew I wasn’t great at the whole friendship thing because I just couldn’t wait to get to university to start over. Who did I want to be? Who were my forever friends?

I got to university and I did what I always do: stay on the fringe. I made friends, lots of them, I was friendly with everyone from my dorm, but didn’t make any great friends. That left me scrambling to find roommates when groups were forming and I wasn’t included. I ended up living with strangers who became friends, but not forever friends.

I spent the next three years wishing I was back in my home town, wishing for university to be over, so I could move on and move in with my then-boyfriend. I sailed through university never cultivating good friendships because everything felt so temporary. I made friends and went out and enjoyed myself, but I didn’t dig in.

I finished university, grabbed my degree, and ran home. I was married after a couple months to my best friend. At the time we were hanging out with a group of guys my husband knows from high school. Over the years the group expanded to include girlfriends. We were the first of that group to get married and the first to have kids. Once we had our first baby we drifted away from that group, unable or unwilling to do the things we always did together.

The group now is still intact, most of the guys are now married and some have kids. You’d think we would have reconnected now that we’re in similar stages, but we haven’t, and I think it’s because we were never great friends in the first place.

That’s the thing: we were never great friends because I wasn’t a good friend. I was, and still am in a way, looking forward to the next big thing. I am unable to live in the moment and really look around me.

Don’t get me wrong though. It’s not that I don’t have any friends. I have lots of friends, some really great ones too. I just expected to have that group of people who have known me my whole life, or a roommate from university that I bonded with, or a friend from a sports team from when I was young.

I’m lucky to have found one forever friend in my husband, but I never found the forever friends I’ve always been looking for, that I always expected I’d have. At least I don’t have a closet full of dresses I’ll never wear again.

Get to know Kamerine by keeping up with her blog, finding her on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Great Expectations: Jennifer P. Williams

I’ve mentioned Jennifer here before, after I met her at Blissdom. She’s a Texan, wife, and working mother of two (a boy and a girl), and writes at Jennifer P. Williams. She’s a smart, hilarious, won’t take crap from anybody southerner, and she doesn’t pull any punches. She tells it like it is, with sass and grace. She writes creative fiction as well, and has started a summer series that I’m excited to keep reading.

Jennifer is also the co-author of Mom and Mommer, a real, relatable weight-loss blog. Here, Jennifer and Jodi talk about the good, bad, and ugly of trying to get and stay healthy.

Thanks for sharing with us today, Jennifer!

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I’m a planner. Events, work schedules, potential conversations, arguments that will never happen… You name it. I plan it. Most of my plans never see fruition. Because most of my plans are based on expectations of what may happen.

When I was fourteen, I expected to never get married. To me, love was not a real thing. Then I met David and he changed all of that.

When I was 20, I expected to finish college and start my career within a couple of years. It was a four year degree after all. Real life got in the way of that plan, and it ended up taking me six more years to finish school.

I never expected to move away from our small home town area. Oh no, I expected to stay right where I was and find a good job. Graduation found me accepting a job offer in Houston.

I never expected to forgive my dad for all of the pain I blamed him for growing up. Maturity and the toll of carrying so much emotional baggage weakened my resolve. I found myself not only forgiving, but hoping to be forgiven as well.

With school behind me and well on my way to a successful career as an auditor, I expected that I would finally be able to have a baby. Seven years of infertility taught me a lot about unfulfilled expectations.

I always expected, in some part of my mind, that my marriage wouldn’t last. Not because I didn’t love David or because I didn’t want to be with him, but because that’s what people do. They get divorced. Thankfully, I married a man that was able to flip my expectations completely around. In July we will celebrate 23 years together.

Throwing myself 100 percent into my career for a large accounting firm had me traveling all over the world, which is something I had for sure never expected. But after it happened, I never expected that I would do anything else. Then I became a mom, and everything I knew about life changed in an instant. All of the previous great expectations I had for my life were flipped on their head overnight.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the road to an unhappy life is one focused on unmet expectations. As I’ve gotten older, and left my well-laid plans in the dust of a full life, I’ve learned that God has so much more good for us than we could ever anticipate. No expectation I could ever dream of will measure up to what He has planned for me.

If you are mired in a list of unmet expectations, I have one life lesson I want to pass along. Focus on what you’ve been given. Not what you’ve missed.

You can follow Jennifer at her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter, and “like” the Mom and Mommer Facebook page while you’re at it!