Moms, Let’s Help Ourselves

We often forget that moms are individuals with a past and identity before having children. That moment when she finds out she’s pregnant, the focus immediately shifts from “me” to “we”, and that feeling only intensifies the older the child becomes. Therefore, in order to truly give something back to the moms in our lives, one must simply let her figure out how best she can renew herself. Everyone is different, the needs of one mom vary from one to another. One mom might need a night out with girlfriends, another a long hot bath and a good novel. The cure for what ails is bio-individual, but the need is undeniably there.

When I first became a mother, I was overwhelmed by the realization of that responsibility. Breastfeeding, tummy time, around the clock feedings and diaper changes all contributed to a culture shock I had mentally prepared for but not emotionally connected to yet. I felt extremely tired and the weight of responsibility was leveling. I had always been strong, but this new life as a mom required a higher, more intense level of resiliency I hadn’t acquired yet. I had to adapt, and I wasn’t sure how to do it. I was a fighting a losing battle against the tide, and I felt myself being pulled under.

It wasn’t until I had healed enough from giving birth and could workout, that I saw my first respite from the pull of the metaphorical undertow. The road became a lifeline to my former self to pull out of the constant drudgery of mundane daily tasks that motherhood requires. In the 30-60 minutes I was out on the pavement I felt lighter and lighter. Each step was a reclamation of my former self, and I breathed in the freedom I felt had escaped me. When I returned home, tired and exhilarated at the same time, I was at peace with my life again, and happy to dive into diaper changes, cuddling and even teething meltdowns.

Running and eventually yoga, weight lifting, and meditation, were the outlets I needed to be whole again–another mother may have a completely different set of requirements. I use myself as an example because it’s what I know for sure. What I also know without doubt is that as women, we are intrinsically selfless creatures. Sometimes we give so much of ourselves that the cup becomes empty, and that is where it becomes a matter of health.

Health is more than what is on our plates. It’s found in our relationships, our career, our connection with a higher power, and of course nutrition and exercise. It takes going inward to find out how we as mothers are doing in each of these categories, and then making the appropriate changes to make ourselves healthy and happy.

It may sound extreme at first for her to take 30-60 minutes for herself every single day, but if you think of the mother as the center of the home, it makes perfect sense to nurture her. The health and happiness of a home is almost always directly related to the sense of wellbeing of the mother. But no one can help a mother, she has to do the work and find what she needs to help herself. So mothers, do the internal work, and families support her. The result is a scenario where everyone wins, and the potential of every family member can be fully realized

A Letter to My Husband on Father’s Day

Dear Husband,

We met eight years ago in the most unlikely of places–Las Vegas. I observed this tall, dark, and handsome man talking to my friend, and something happened internally to me. Your face seemed familiar, your Southern accent drew me in, and the way you looked at me slowed down the constant chatter in my mind. You shook my soul in mere minutes, and I hadn’t even spoken a word to you yet. After I found the courage to approach you, we talked and didn’t stop talking until…

Read the rest where it’s been published on Red Tricycle.

 

DC’s Water Birth Story

When I was a child, my mother would tell me the story of my birth on my birthday. Even though by the time I was six, I knew it by heart, she always indulged me because she knew it made me feel special. As one of four kids, we constantly fought for attention (and the best cereal), and so she knew by telling me the details of that day, I was made to feel important on my birthday. I wanted to carry on the tradition while the memories are still relatively fresh, and detail my experience of bringing DC into the world so that he will always have it, and feel special too.

My youngest son, DC, (i.e. Douglas Clifford after his grandfathers) turns two years old on Sunday. If you’ve ever met DC you know that he is someone that plays by his own rules, and no manner of chiding, begging, or bribing will make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. There is a great deal of academic debate on the topic of nature vs nurture in determining the character and personality of an individual, but I have the opinion that most of who we are, and how we behave is derivative of nature. DC is so diametrically different in demeanor from his more timid and acquiescent brother, that sometimes I wonder how they can be related. Personalities aside, his birth, as is often the case, was indicative of his determined and independent personality.

Days before my due date (January 30th), my parents drove from Florida to help with soon-to-be older brother Nash for when the time came for me to leave for the hospital. Life was fairly unchanged, my pregnancy had been easy, and I was able to run, work, and sleep normally. On January 28th, my husband, Sam, left for an overnight work conference. Thankfully it was in Atlanta where we live. I spent the evening with my parents re-watching old episodes of Game of Thrones as they caught up on Jon Snow’s influence over the Wildlings, and then went to bed. I remember feeling extremely alert and having trouble falling asleep, but around 11 pm, I finally did. Around 1 am, I woke up with strong cramps, and I knew DC had decided to make his appearance while his father was away for the night at a conference. I was beginning to know DC.

Nash’s birth had taken exactly eight hours, so I knew I had time. I called Sam and he, in his quintessential, easy-going manner, said “Ok, tell me when your water breaks and I’ll leave.” (We naively thought this birth would go exactly as Nash’s had, where the water breaking with him had signaled us to leave.) I went downstairs and turned on the t.v. which woke up my concerned parents. I told them to go back to bed and rest because labor had just started and we wouldn’t need to leave the house for a few more hours. Adorably, both of them got out of bed and stayed with me, and so we decided the best course of action was to finish the Game of Thrones marathon. Finally, the contractions had become powerful enough to warrant a drive to the hospital, even though my water still hadn’t broken like it had with Nash. Since Sam was staying overnight at the conference hotel, my dad took me, and luckily we had just skirted the infamous Atlanta morning traffic.

There were a lot of vehicles on the road despite the early hour, and the winter sky was still dark. When we arrived at the hospital, my dad ran towards the Labor and Delivery entrance to see if we could enter there, or be forced to go through the main ER entrance because it was so early. While I waited for him, I texted my sisters, who both immediately texted me back with words of encouragement, solidarity, and love. I felt as if they were in the car with me, comforting and guiding me along. Soon my dad was running back to the car and leading me out of the cold and into Labor and Delivery.

At 6:30 am we checked-in at the hospital, and I was given a comfortable room, fitted with a large birthing pool. The midwife asked if I wanted to wait to fill the pool, warning that warm water will sometimes delay the progress of the labor. I smiled, and politely asked her to fill it up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my dad more miserable, and even though I wasn’t making any noise, he told me that just knowing I was in pain was torture for him as a parent. I told him to go to get some coffee, and I labored alone for a few more hours as women have done since the beginning of time.

My reliance on meditation carried me through the continuous waves of pain. I focused only on my breath, and imagined the safe delivery of my baby. I trusted in my body and the process, and knew that I would be fine. I never allowed fearful thoughts to take over, even when it was hard for me to catch my breath. I treated the pain like riding a wave, trusting that I wouldn’t drown. I let go completely and let my body guide me. The warm birthing pool was essential for keeping me comfortable and allowed me to easily change positions  as needed. The hours flew by and soon the sun was shining through the cracks of the closed blinds.

The midwife and nurses came in periodically to check the unborn baby’s vitals, acknowledging that all was well. Sam arrived at the hospital around 9:30 am, after not escaping the aforementioned traffic. DC was born an hour later in the birthing pool, and as soon as the cold air touched him, he cried out loud and strong. I know that I was waiting for Sam to arrive in order to give birth, and I still jokingly rebuke him for extending what would have been a perfectly fast and easy labor because he had work obligations.

DC came into the world happy and healthy, and we knew that our family was complete. Later in the day, my parents brought Nash in to visit us, and upon seeing them, I burst into tears. I broke down, not from exhaustion or the hormonal crash (which is very real) but because some of the most important people in my life, individuals whom I love the most, were all in the same room–every one of them feeling this intense, palpable love for this newest member of the family. It was a perfect moment that I will never forget.

We left the hospital the next day, and life ever since has been one chaotic but beautiful wild ride, thanks in great part, to the unbelievably cute and indefatigably rebellious DC.


A Review of the Tesla Model X

Background

The decision to purchase the Tesla Model X was not one we came to lightly. Aside from the initially staggering price tag, it requires a complete overhaul of the way you think about traditional modes of transportation. We were already familiar with electric vehicles, having owned a Nissan Leaf for a few years, but understandably that was like transitioning from a bike with training wheels  to a special edition Ducati.

We conducted copious amounts of research on the Model X before setting foot in the dealership to determine if the price was truly justified. We soon discovered that not only was it worth it, but that owning one would connect us to a community of forward thinkers who are changing the world for the better. This video produced by Tesla sealed the deal.

The Buying Process

Consistent with a complete deviation from the traditional vehicle, the buying process was just as unique and refreshing.  We started by visiting the Tesla store at Lenox Mall. Unlike every other dealership model, this felt like a non-predatory, educational experience. We were greeted by Apple Store-esque employees, who effused a genuine sense of enthusiasm and curiosity about the Tesla and our shared interest in it. We spoke at length with one such individual, Nick, who coordinated an appointment for an at-home test drive. A few days later, Nick came by (after-hours no less) and spent almost two hours explaining the Tesla’s features and letting us drive through the neighborhood–impressing all the dog-walking neighbors.

That night after debating the pros and cons, we decided to take the leap and order our custom Tesla. Again, here is an instance where this company has innovated the buying process, making it easy and bereft of any feeling of subjugation to a targeted sales agenda. We customized our Tesla, choosing six seats, the larger 22″ wheels, the premium upgrade package,  autopilot, and designated the interior and exterior to be all black. Cumulatively, there weren’t that many decisions to make, but ultimately there were enough to create a sense of ownership and artistic design. If you are purchasing a new Model X or S, use this link to receive $1,000 off.

The Waiting

It truly is the hardest part. From the moment we clicked “Order” and paid the $2,500 production deposit, it was approximately two months before we saw our vehicle in the driveway. Upon ordering, we were immediately assigned a designated point of contact, (“POC”) to guide us through the financing, production, and delivery process. We also received electronic updates on the vehicle’s stage of production, i.e. “Ordering”, “Confirmation”, “In-Production”, “Production Completed”, and “Delivery”. The production stage was by far the longest, and during this time we sated our thirst by daily visits the Tesla Motors Club Forum.

It was there that we commiserated with others in the same stages of production experiencing similar longings, and were simultaneously invigorated with stories and experiences from others who had already received their Teslas, and were more impressed than they had expected. Like any group of individuals, there were those with a more negative view of the  waiting requirement, whereas others understood the reasoning and value behind extended waiting due to the full auto-pilot upgrade and a more vigorous quality control approach.

The Delivery

The waiting period only made the day of delivery that much more exciting. We were contacted by our designated POC to schedule an appointment to pick-up our Tesla, sign paperwork, and take the 2-hour training. The forum had prepared us for what training would entail,  covering everything from opening and closing the frunk (front trunk as there is no need for an engine) to the major duties of the 14″ control panel that quite literally controls all aspects of the vehicle. It was somewhat daunting at first, but we were comforted by the fact that the manual is also located on the control panel, and anything we forget is easily searchable.

Key Features

There are too many to list in detail here, but my favorites include the Falcon wing doors, the navigation (which indicates the location of all Tesla and non-affiliated chargers), the adjustable suspension, full autopilot capabilities, Slacker streaming radio, and the ability to schedule charging (electricity is cheaper between 11pm and 12am). Additionally, your phone’s calendar can link to the Tesla and it will remind you of an event and ask if you’d like it to navigate you there.  Lastly, when Tesla releases software updates improving the vehicle’s energy consumption or simply a new phone icon on the control panel, installing is as easy and intuitive as an iPhone update.

Conclusion

We recently tested our new vehicle on a 5-hour road trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Beaufort, South Carolina, and the results surprised us. I thought having to stop in Macon and Savannah to recharge would be irritating and time-consuming, but the reality is that it gave us time to stretch our legs, witness a little history, eat at an amazing local spot frequented by Harrison Ford, The Rookery, and bond with other Tesla enthusiasts. The result was a return the classical experience of a true road trip. Our family enjoyed every minute, and consequently it was one of the best trips we have ever had together.

Do Weights Not Cardio 

My story is not unique, I am like most people in that I want to look fit and feel amazing in my own skin. We all want that right? The goal is pretty much the same, the challenge arises in how to get there, and in the most efficient way possible.  

After years of exclusively doing cardio to achieve my goals, I have come to the realization that much of that was time wasted. Gone are the days of long runs in punishing weather to attain that feeling of accomplishment for the day. Now I have completely changed gears and the results have already been amazing. A change from cardio-centric workouts to weight lifting using a Smith Machine and dumbells has  drastically changed the shape and strength of my body. I use a great app, 5×5 StrongLifts to guide me on proper form, what I should be doing and how much I should be lifting. 

Research shows that you still achieve all the benefits from an elevated heart rate by lifting weights as you would from cardio, in addition to powerful fat burning properties that last up to a day after lifting! And more muscle means a higher metabolism and a more efficient fat burning machine. 

If the scientific evidence isn’t enough to convince you to change up your gym routine, then let your body sway you. When I was running, I was slim to be sure, but I had no shape and I wasn’t truly physically strong. I suppose it was when I had children, that I realized how much I needed to strengthen every part of my body. My arms, core (which protects the back) and legs all needed reinforcement in order to keep up with highly active kids. I owed it to them and to myself to rise to the task and be the best I could be. And being happy with what you see in the mirror, especially after having kids, is a huge confidence booster. How you feel about your appearance affects how you interact with your family, coworkers, local barista and the rest of the world. And if you emit positivity and joy because you truly feel good, who knows what new things you’ll attract into your life. 

So do not be afraid to let go of old workout habits, because the benefits of weightlifting can be life changing and not exclusive to just your appearance. 

Momming is Hard

I have a confession. It is not what mothers are supposed to say. It is “wrong”. But I believe in living an authentic life, and so with that, comes revealing things that you normally would not in order to maintaining a shiny veneer for your family, Facebook friends and colleagues. My big, dirty secret is that I am a working mother, and I would not have it any other way. Well, unless that meant I could keep my kids in daycare AND not work, in that case, sign me up.

See, doesn’t that come across as backwards, mean, and lazy? I imagine readers thinking why would she even have kids if she was not going to raise them herself? What is the point? I would see it that way too…before having children.

Now I know what mothers have known for a long time, but perhaps never really talked about because there was simply no advantage to revealing weakness, especially if it did not change your circumstances. But I can freely say, with absolutely zero reservation, that being a mom is HARD. Not the love part. Loving your children is the easiest, most natural inclination there is (thanks mother nature). I loved my two the moment I found out I was pregnant, and meeting them at the birth only confirmed my adoration for these little souls. However, I am not talking about maternal love. I am speaking instead about the day-to-day GRIND of being a mother. It is an entirely different and savage animal. It takes patience (something I am self-aware enough to know that I intrinsically lack), fortitude, physical strength, mental and emotional balance in the face of obstacles, and of course sheer willpower to do what needs to be done even though it may be the last thing you want to do at that moment.

For example, last night my oldest son Nash did not want to go to bed. I was exhausted after my reveille at 4am with his younger brother. Nash sensed my weakness and instead of complying with my firm, (yet obviously not convincing enough) demands that he go brush his teeth, use the potty and go to bed, he happily said “No mommy”. Mommy looks tired, the iPad could be mine all night, teeth brushing be damned! (So I imagine he said to himself). And it could have turned out that way, I was that tired.  But then I would feel like I was failing, and he is only four for Gods sake, and I need to get it together and get him to listen to me!!! (So I imagine the range of emotions coursing through my body put to words in the milliseconds after he said no). After a brief, albeit boisterous, back and forth, Nash did what I asked him to do and was asleep within minutes of laying down. Goodnight.

I use this mundane, everyday experience, to illustrate my point. It is such an honor to be responsible for another life, one that you had a part in creating, but the long days of doing what has to be done in order to keep life going, is incredibly tough, and I am so thankful that I have a full-time job to release me from that drudgery, at least temporarily. And in that space I grant myself through work completely unrelated to motherhood, there is room for reflection and growth. I believe, because it is absolutely true for me, a mother who creates space for herself to nurture her selfish desires and curiosity about life, brings so much more richness to her and her children’s lives, and the result is that everyone benefits from it in the end.

I am incredibly happy to be a mother. Everyday I am challenged, I learn something new about humanity, become more empathetic and grounded, and release any remaining vestiges of my ego due to some embarrassing event at a store or restaurant. I am a better person because I am so tightly bonded to these other humans, but I am not ashamed to admit that come Monday morning after a long weekend with the kids, I am ready to drop them off at school with a kiss and get to work so I can think without distraction, or take a sip of hot coffee without having to break up a fight.

Motherhood is a wild, ever-evolving time in the life of a woman. It comes with so many challenges, ones that no one can really prepare you for. My little sister is thinking about having her first baby, and even though I feel like I’m constantly telling her about what new craziness I’m experiencing with my boys, I am so excited for her because I know her life is really about to begin. She will be elevated to another dimension of stress, sleeplessness, and aggravation, but with that also comes the emergence of a love for another person that I know I had never experienced before in my life. It is truly indescribable but also so incredibly simple, you just love them completely. I tell my sister that it is this instinctive, powerful drive that keeps me going when motherhood gets tough, but I also tell her to not quit her day job.