STOP! Stop Comparing Yourself to Her.

Anyone on my Facebook knows that I feel there is great importance in lifting others up, especially women. While that sounds great in theory, it seems to be something that is difficult for us. Why is that?

Think about this, ladies; when you see an attractive woman walk by, what are your first thoughts and feelings? As you stand next to each other in line at your favorite coffee shop or at the grocery store checkout, can you easily throw out a “Hey girl, cute shoes/shirt/purse/hair/lipstick!” at her? Or do you quietly judge her in your head because you are automatically comparing yourself to her. Or better yet, comparing her great parts to your flaws? In my experience as a woman, the latter is much easier, but why?

In my post, I Am More Than My Cleavage, I talk about media, advertising, and the objectification of women. In that post, I was talking about the sexualization of women/girls and all the problems that causes. This post is similar because again, the media plays a HUGE part in this. It is in our faces constantly that we are supposed to be pretty, thin, curvy, confident, have perfect hair, have perfect teeth, have clear skin, be perfect mommies, be fashionable, be a sex goddess, be perfect wives/relatives/friends, and a million other unattainable perfections. This constant “in your face” media makes it damn hard to just be happy with ourselves and happy with the woman we walk by on the street.

One area I personally struggle in is being a mom. For a ton of reasons (none of which I will list here) I often feel a pang of jealousy when I see another mom doing something great. It used to really cause negative feelings in me. I would see something posted on Facebook and I immediately would think to myself about how that mom was just being boastful. Over the years though, I have grown a lot. In that growth, I can now recognize that my negative feelings for other women are so very often a reflection of my own feelings of failure. It had nothing to do with them, I just didn’t realize it. In fact, none of that was even a conscious thought until I’d reconnected with someone I used to be friends with. She is an amazing wife and mother of 5 children, and it clearly shows on her Facebook account. On Sunday, just as I was getting ready to make pancakes, eggs, and bacon for my family for breakfast, my friend’s status showed, “Drinking mint tea and my morning smoothie! Breakfast: Fried potatoes with garlic, pepper, red and green bell peppers and onion, cinnamon rolls I made last night, bacon, sausage, English muffins and I have these fruits ready to there liking: Cantaloupe, cherries, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, sliced up pink lady apples, green and red grapes, sliced oranges, peaches, cherry tomatoes and bananas. Veggie choices: Spinach leaves, celery and carrot sticks, red and green bell pepper, sliced raw broccoli, cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, green beans, snow peas, sliced cauliflower, cubed squash, buttered asparagus and raspberries. Three different yogurts, six cheeses, coconut milk or whole dairy milk and nuts galore to choose from! Now for these people to wake up, anytime now, serious!” For a split second, I thought oh my goodness, why can’t I be like that?! I immediately redirected my thinking and remembered that she is just that freaking awesome and it’s okay that she is amazing. It is also okay that my kids were “just” getting pancakes, eggs, and bacon. We were both feeding our families out of love and that is what matters.

Advertising works hard at making us hate ourselves. It does this because they want to sell products. Buy this teeth whitener, that brand of clothing, this brand of makeup, this diet supplement, and that bra. . . The list is endless because it is effective.  It’s mentally exhausting worrying about it and how we compare to others, and it requires conscious effort to remind ourselves that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Ladies, it is not easy to remember with all that is in our faces every single day that we are all worthy and we do not need to compare ourselves, but it is worth the effort. There will always be someone else that is more pretty, has better hair, has a more flattering figure, etc., but those other women DO NOT affect you. Embrace the differences, lift each other up, compliment what you like in others, and go to sleep at night knowing that those around you don’t make you any less of the amazing woman you are. 

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Rest Peacefully, My Child

I’ve heard before that grief is like a drunk family member leaving a get together. He’s announced he’s leaving and he’s got his hand on the door and all of his stuff in his hands, but then he steps back in and he just keeps talking. The process then repeats. That’s exactly what grief is like. Just when you think you can pull yourself together and it’s all going to be okay and that grief is going to leave, it steps right back into the living room and sets his stuff back down.  

It’s been almost 12 years since I held my baby, rocked her, and sang to her as she took her last breaths here on earth. That’s 11 birthdays, 11 Christmases, 11 Mother’s Days, and so much more missed. Countless kisses, learning to ride a bike, booboos I can soothe, “I love you, Mommy”, moments of watching her sleep peacefully, brushing her hair, late night snuggles and talks, school concerts, and dancing in the kitchen have all been taken from me.

When my sweet baby first passed, I thought I was going to die from heartache. I thought there would literally be a chance that I would close my eyes and drift off to sleep and my heart would just stop beating because it hurt so badly. I prayed every night that God would bring her to me in my dreams so that I could snuggle and nurse her and breathe in her sweet baby aroma even if only for a moment. He didn’t though and almost 12 years later, I still wish that He would.

I used to write her poems. I wrote them randomly at first and then I wrote them on her birthdays and the anniversaries of her entering Heaven. Writing has always been my coping mechanism to help the chaos in my soul and losing her has been no different.

I initially started out writing this post with an entirely different plan and story to tell, but I just can’t right now. Instead, I’m baring my already naked soul to you all in a different way. Some day I will tell that story, but for today, I’m just sharing some old posts and poems.

For her 9th birthday I wrote:

Another One
I have a heartache, for which there is no cure,
I know a pain that most never will.
It claws, and it burns, and it tears me apart,
Yet, for it’s hurt, there is no pill.

It doesn’t matter how many years pass,
This day always takes me right back.
Back to the day you came into this world,
Up until the day that you passed.

You should be turning 9 years,
But you never even made it to three months old.
I didn’t get enough time with your precious smile,
Didn’t get enough time with you to hold.

I ache every day for you,
But on this day the ache is a little more fierce.
I miss you, and I love you,
And forever my heart, with grief, is pierced.

Happy ninth birthday, Gracie,
This poem is all I get to do.
So until next year’s day,
Know that Mama truly loves and misses you.
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For the 10th anniversary of her passing, I wrote:

It’s been 3,652 days. 522 weeks. 10 years. 1 decade since I held you in my arms as you took your last breath. In some ways, it seemed to fly by. In other ways, the time crawled. Every moment of the last ten years my heart has ached with the loss of you. Here I am, all these years later, and I still feel like I have a gaping wound in my soul. It will never heal. That hole will never be closed. I love and miss you with all that I am, Gracie. I’m in no hurry to leave this earth, but I’m joyous knowing that when I do, we’ll be reunited and enjoy eternity together in His kingdom. ♡

For her 8th birthday, the day before it I wrote:

Tomorrow
I just cried so hard it felt like the world was gonna end.
Tomorrow, we were supposed to celebrate the day you turn eight,
But instead, I remember every moment of your two months that I can,
And even after all these years, I still can’t believe this was your fate.

Missing you, I think and wonder about you so much.
Would you prefer your hair short or long, worn up, down, in braids, or in curls?
Would you be the girl outside playing sports and getting dirty,
Or would you be the one trying on dress after pretty dress, turning in the mirror and watching as it twirls?

A million questions I will never have the answers to,
Yet they constantly plague my heart and mind anyway.
These are not the thoughts and pains I should be having to endure
As we celebrate what should be your happy birthday.

Gracie, I’ll miss you each day that I have breath in me.
Forever on this earth, I’ll have a gaping hole in my heart.
But, my sweet baby girl, don’t you worry,
I take comfort in the knowledge that there will come a day we will no longer be apart.

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In January of 2006, I wrote:

In Time

My life must continue now,
Even though grief tore it apart.
The pain was enough to kill me
I thought I’d die from a broken heart.
But my family needs me stable.
My kids need me to be strong.
I know I’ve gotten better
‘Cause in the beginning, I thought I couldn’t go on.
I thank the Lord for every day,
Each day is a gift from God above.
I’ve gotten where I am now
From his all-powerful, never ending love.
Someday, I will see her again,
And a joyful reunion it will be.
Because, in time, life will continue.
It will be my family, Gracie, and me.
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In 2013, I wrote:

Never should a mother out live her child,
Never should a mother have this ache in her soul.
Forever and always part of me will be broken,
Because without you I’m never quite whole.

My sweet, precious baby,
Without you, I should not be.
My whole heart aches for the loss of you,
This pain, I’ll never be free.

As your birthday nears once again,
The pain is once again brand new.
Because no matter what joy life brings me,
I’ll always be without you.

Gracie ****** *****, I love you with all that I am,
And I live a life with a wound in my chest,
Because no matter what comes my way,
I’ll always feel pain, knowing I laid my sweet baby to rest.10487201_1446806232264022_1392835415485502560_n

I’m never going to be the same. I’m never going to not hurt. I’m never going to get to a point where I’m suddenly all better. For the rest of my entire life, I will deeply miss her, I will ache intensely, and I will be incomplete.

Happy birthday once again, my sweet angel. There will never be enough words to tell you how much I truly love you and will forever. Rest peacefully with the angels until I see you again…PhotoGrid_1469225388613

Love,
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We Are Enough

It is crazy to me that I have to say this, but it is not okay to treat women like objects without feelings. Women are more than a pretty (or not so pretty) face walking by you. While I am currently working on a blog post about how women view and treat other women and how the media has an impact on how we feel about ourselves and each other, I had to interrupt my progress on that one to write this similar one.

I had the most disrespectful thing happen to me last night that has happened to me in quite a while. I stopped by the gas station on my way home from work and when I got out of my rig, I heard the noise of people behind me. Naturally, I turned to look for the source. As I turned over my right shoulder, there was a couple in a vehicle next to mine and I made eye contact with the driver. If this would have been then end of it, nothing about this stop would have been noteworthy, but in that split second that we made eye contact, he then barked at me. Yes, you read that right, he barked at me like a dog. I was so shocked that it didn’t even register with me until I was several steps further and around the corner out of sight. As I stood in line to pay for my purchase, I developed a lump in my throat. What made this man feel that it was okay to bark at me like I’m a dog? What made him feel that it was okay to deliver that blow to my self-esteem simply for looking his direction? The mean look in his eye as he did this stayed with me as I pondered his intentional hurtfulness while still in line.

While he obviously did not say anything to me, I took his barking as his way of saying I’m ugly and don’t deserve to look at him. In no way was I “checking him out” or doing anything other than instinctively looking in the direction that I’d heard noise. He didn’t know me or anything about me. And yet, somehow, he felt comfortable insulting me.

Initially, his barking at me stung my feelings. I thought right away about feeling fat and feeling like I don’t have the best clothing lately due to weight gain. I thought about my sloppy ponytail and my muffin top. It was uncomfortable walking back to my rig, and I wanted to rush so that he didn’t have a chance to say anything to me on my way back out. On the drive home though, I thought, I don’t have to let his ugly actions affect me and how I feel about myself! He does not get to have that power!

In American society, we are drowning in media and advertisement exposure. We need perfect hair, skin, and teeth. We need the newest fashions, the best products, and to buy, buy, buy. Advertising is effective because we are now constantly being told we NEED these things to be desirable, to be good women, and to attain unobtainable perfection. We are constantly faced with the photoshopped versions of beauty on every glossy magazine cover, on every clothing website, and even on ads on the side of the city bus.

We can rise above this, ladies. You don’t need to be a consumer to be a good woman, a good partner, a good employee, a good mom, a good sister, or a good anything else. Smile brightly, laugh loudly, and hold your beautiful head up high everywhere you go, because YOU own your beauty and happiness. Don’t let anyone else rob you of it.

While there are mean and hurtful people out in the world, we do not have to let them hold power over us. As women, we have a hard enough time feeling good about ourselves and feeling like we are enough. We deserve to think positively about ourselves. Please don’t let the mean-spirited people of the world steal your happiness and confidence. We deserve to KNOW that we are enough— with every stretch mark, every roll, every varicose vein, and every freckle, mole, & scar.

You. Are. Enough.

I. Am. Enough.

We. Are. Enough.

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You Can Just Call Me Badass

Life has been busy lately between work, kids and home life, and freelance writing. It’s been so busy, in fact, that I haven’t sat down to write out of pleasure in a while. I’ve had some things on my mind lately, and I figured it was time to sit down and bang this post out.

Most people know how difficult it is dating as a single parent. In fact, if you don’t know this, I’m going to assume you live under a rock—a very large, dense rock at that. It’s HARD. To find someone, fall in love, blend families, and then live life in blissful peace is the equivalent of our modern-day fairytale because it’s pretty rare that that’s how it works out.

One reason dating is so difficult is because we live in a society that encourages fast paced living, self-indulgence, and frequent changes. You don’t like your car? Trade it in and get a new one! Tired of your job? Quit and find a different one! Aren’t happy in your relationship/marriage? Leave and find a new one! It’s no wonder that there are so many single parents and broken families out there. Dating is hard enough without adding in children’s laundry, daily football practice, piano lessons, dirty faces, and whines of “Moooommmmyy” or “Daaaaddddyy” in the middle of first and second dates and those first few sweet and yet awkward phone calls.

I personally have had a couple serious relationships after my marriage with my children’s father ended, and I’ve also had some time casually dating. Let me tell you what, that shit sucks! In fact, I was seeing someone last year and we were a few dates in. . .and then he witnessed my son have a rather large meltdown. Apparently that was enough for him because the next day, he texted me and said he needed to “take a step back.” So, back into the dating pool I went.

At this point, I was just over the whole thing. I wasn’t looking for casual sex, but that seemed to be all that was desired on all of the popular dating apps. I was a single mom of 3 teenagers, working 2 jobs to make ends meet, and was tired in every way possible. I wanted to find a partner, but it was not going to be through a dating website, and I’d lost pretty much all faith that it would happen at all. Then, a miracle happened. I met B.

We had a lot in common and much that was different too. While I had been in the dating game for a while (around 7 years since I had split with my ex-husband), he was brand new to dating. There were speed bumps and signs that pointed to maybe we shouldn’t get involved, but we were both enamored from the beginning, and so we pushed forward anyway and decided to become an official couple. In that decision, we have obviously become involved with each other’s children. Have I mentioned yet that dating as a single parent is hard…?

When you are in a brand new relationship, it’s easy to get lost in the stars in your eyes and the mush in your heart, but let’s face it, real life doesn’t stop just because you’re falling in love, and one giant reality is children.

When B and I met, my children were 15, 14, and almost 13. Teenagers are hard enough, but as I mentioned before, I have one kiddo that tends to make men turn tail and run. My son is an amazing person and full of charm and charisma normally, but in his hard moments, he is a handful to say the least. I love him and all of my children with all that I am, but I’m more than a mom. I am a woman and I have needs that go beyond my children. I need to be loved, to be desired, to be held, to be listened to, to be emotionally supported, and to be paid attention to from another adult. I never would want to put my children on the back burner, but I wanted a partner in my life too. But if I said that I wasn’t scared as hell about finding someone who fit everything I needed AND was able to handle my son (and children in general), I’d be lying my cute little skirt off. To make it even harder, I was downright terrified that I would fall in love, become vulnerable, let my children fall in love and become vulnerable, and then go through yet another heartache together again.

For B, he was pretty much brand new out of his failed marriage. He was still understandably hurting, tender, and guarded. His 2 children are much younger than mine and he feared not only being hurt in the same ways his ex had hurt him, but he naturally feared his children would get hurt too. They are so young that dating and then enduring another breakup would be so difficult for them to understand. He didn’t want to go through pain again, and he didn’t want his children to experience anymore pain. All of this is totally normal.

So there we were, 2 messes, 2 families, 2 grown up hearts, and 5 young hearts being meshed together. We were scared and yet we moved fairly fast in many ways because…well, LOVE! Before we knew it, we were neck-deep in this appointment, that school event, diapers and potty training, sibling rivalry, dishes, laundry, and grocery shopping together.

B has handled my son’s meltdowns with amazing patience. I have changed his son’s diapers and helped potty train. He has regularly picked up my children from their bus stop and listened with love and support to me complain about my children’s father not paying child support. I have cleaned up his children’s vomit from the stomach flu and listened to him with love and support complain everything unfair at his job. He relates to my children in a way no one ever has and provides support to them. We plan birthdays and holidays together, we discuss parenting, discipline, and consequences together, and we work out our finances to maintain our home and provide for our children—all together. He lifts me up with his silliness and humor, and I keep him grounded with my seriousness, and we navigate life this way TOGETHER.

So, while I’ve rambled a long time about my own personal experience at dating as a single parent, I’m now getting to my real point. To my children, B is just B. He is Mama’s boyfriend. To B’s children, I am just Niki. I am Daddy’s girlfriend. Language evolves over time, and it wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t raise families and cohabit in one household without being married. Because of this, there is no in between word for what B and I are to each other’s children. We are not step parents; we haven’t quite earned that title yet, but we are so much more than just our children’s parent’s significant other. I know there are so many people all over that also fall into this category. So I think there needs to be a word invented that covers those of us in the middle area. When you wipe butts, drive to appointments, cook, get in the middle of kids fighting, deal with bed wetting, buy clothing, and handle pretty much every aspect of parenting for your partner’s children, you are more than just a girl/boyfriend.

We were recently at B’s child’s birthday party and as I was telling people about all of the last minute errand running, putting together presents, and all of the other chaos that happens to all parents right before big events like this, I mentioned my desire for that word and to write this blog post about it.

B suddenly looked over and said, “There is a word already.” I was shocked and thought he knew something I didn’t.

“What is it then?” I questioned.

He then looked me in the eye and said, “Badass. You’re a badass, and so am I.”

And you know what? He’s totally right. It’s not quite the word I was looking for, but it couldn’t be more accurate. We. Are. Badasses.

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