Strong Women Series: Tackling Addiction with Compassion

Every day, millions of lives are touched by the disease of addiction. Whether personally, or through the eyes of family members or dear friends, many of us have watched and hoped while those we love fight their battle with addiction. According to the Surgeon General’s 2016 report, Facing Addiction in America, one in seven Americans will experience a problem with alcohol or drug abuse in their lifetimes, approximately 20 million Americans have current substance use disorders, and 78 Americans are dying from overdose every day.  Addiction knows no boundaries, and touches all walks of life and socioeconomic statuses, from celebrity to poverty.

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Introducing Mary Page Shinholser

It is through this lens, that I am proud to introduce an amazing woman that I most definitely look up to, despite being almost 9 years older than her.  I first came to know Mary Page Shinholser through Crossfit, about a year ago, and found the more I got to know her, the more I admired her. I had only heard bits and pieces of her story, but I always found her energy positive and relatable.

One of the many reasons Mary Page is a hero to me is because she clearly answered a call from the universe to help, and teaches from her own personal experiences with addiction and empowers people to reclaim their world from its clutches.  Another is that she follows this call inexhaustibly, never failing to touch people and remind them that they are NOT ALONE. Ever.

In her words…

Here is Mary Page Shinholser’s story, in her own words:

Hello blog world! I’m here to tell you a little about me, what I do in the addiction and recovery field, and why it matters.

My experience in this world is long and personal. I have lost count of the funerals I have been to of those who have overdosed or had an addiction-related death. Some of the most amazing people in my life are in recovery. My father, step mother, three uncles, both grandfathers, a few good friends, two cousins, and a former boyfriend all are in recovery from Substance Use Disorders (SUD). They are kind, hard working, and compassionate people that as a child, I looked forward to spending the evenings with, either at Narcotics Anonymous meetings after school in a basement church, at cookouts, campouts, or holiday parties. I used to write some of my parent’s friends letters while they were in jail.  

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Me and my Father

I was always proud of the world I grew up in. I had a fantastic childhood. I vividly remember my very first drug talk at the age of seven, and my first drug test. Drug tests were kept on top of our fridge, and my first one was administered at the age of 12. I knew no different, in fact I was shocked to find out that most other kids didn’t grow up the way I did.

The first time I experienced the stigma attached to the disease of addiction (yes, disease, I’ll touch on that a bit later), was in middle school. I wanted to have a sleep over and my friend’s parents wouldn’t let her come over to my house because, she said “my mom said no because your dad is a drug addict.” I didn’t understand, and my little broken heart said “my dad is NOT a drug addict. He’s in NA, he is clean, and has been clean since before I was born! HE WORKED THE STEPS!” I was distraught. I cried, a lot. I guess that is where the educator in me was first born. 

Fast forward 15 years. I’m teaching 8th grade civics and economics and loving it. When I was told by the county that I wouldn’t have a job the following school year, I was absolutely crushed. Here I was, finally loving what I do and I was damn good at it. I had a 94% SOL passing rate, (do you know how hard that is to achieve with middle schoolers obsessed with Instagram and Fortnite?) I was coaching Track and Field, and I was making a difference. 

Throughout this period in my life, the opioid epidemic was at an all time high, and it really pissed me off. I heard this little voice in the back of my head saying, “Mary Page. DO. SOMETHING.” Well, the universe heard me. Soon after that, I had a recruiter reach out to me on LinkedIn and asked me, “Have you ever thought about teaching people about addiction and recovery?”

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Me with my Dad and Stepmom

“Well, Hell YEAH!” I thought, and a few interviews later, I received an offer that I just could not refuse. I landed a Community Relations role with a treatment center that truly is on a mission to provide the best high-level treatment and care in the field. #winningforeveryone

My job is to travel around the state of Virginia, let people know who I am, who we are, what we do, and how we do it. I get to talk to people in probation and parole, inmates, counselors, doctors, lawyers, politicians, school counselors, and beyond. I not only get to teach people about treatment, but I also get to give people hope. I get to tell people they’re not alone. I get to give people a first, second, third, or fourth chance at a better life. Most importantly, however, I get to educate people into getting the right treatment options for them. And if we are not right for them, I point them in the direction of the best fit for their recovery.

What is SUD?

SUD is categorized and defined as a disorder and mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association and is listed in the most recent version of the DSM-5. There are three subclassifications (mild, moderate, and severe) that fall into four major categories: impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria.

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Photo Credit The Recovery Research Institute

Addiction is not a one size fits all disease. There is no single treatment that works for everyone who walks through our doors. There is no chemotherapy, blood transfusion, surgery, or transplant that can cure it. It is pure hard work. Tackling recovery, whether it’s your first time or your twentieth, is majorly hard. It is emotional and it is raw.

In a way, I have found my purpose in life through this new role I am in. I want to educate people not only on addiction, but also on mental illness in general. There are so many diseases and disorders out there that people know nothing about, but cast judgement upon it, which makes it so much harder for people to reach out and get the help they need. If I can reach one small group of people, or even just one person, and let them know, “Hey, I see you. I will help you. I love you, and you are not nor will you ever be alone. I will fight with you and I will fight for you,” then I can sleep soundly at night.  

I want to end this post with two things. First, if you or anyone you know are struggling or even showing small signs of SUD, reach out and ask for help. It is out there and it is closer than you think. Second, be kind and be compassionate.

The human race has mastered the art of covering things up with a smile. You never know when you’ll be faced with SUD head on, but I can guarantee you this; this community is strong, this community is welcoming, and this community is filled with fighters.

I will say it again, so you can hear it. You are Not Alone.

Feeling Inspired?

Big thanks to Mary Page for telling her inspiring story! For more resources and further reading on SUD and addiction, check out the Surgeon General’s full report on Addiction in America, or this fantastic TED talk by Johann Hari. And please, pay your knowledge and compassion forward. Share the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website and free confidential helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) with those you love. The SAMHSA offers 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Let’s commit to saying it loud, together: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Stay tuned, because Mary Page has an awesome Podcast launching later this month entitled “Ment”. It will primarily focus on mental and behavioral health issues that fly under the radar. People who have suffered from these disorders will be given a platform to share their stories, how they reached a point to seek recovery, and how their recovery is thriving. The hope behind this new endeavor for Mary Page is to pay recovery forward. To allow people to know that you are “Ment” to be right where you are in your journey.  You can look for more updates as they come on our Real As A Mother social media sites.

 

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Kristy is a birth doula, massage therapist, homesteader, mother of two, and supporter of strong women in Virginia.

 

 

PostPartum Rage Is A Real Thing.

A couple of weeks ago, an article came across my newsfeed that stopped me dead in my tracks. We have discussed postpartum depression and anxiety here on the blog to help normalize the conversations about those two particular, and VERY prevalent, states of motherhood. But, what about those of us who have had both of those things manifest differently? What about those of us that cannot pinpoint what it is that we are feeling, leaving us confused, feeling isolated, and abnormal? What if our symptoms are not only sadness, stress, or anxiety? (as if that isn’t enough…sheesh)

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Photo Credit to Actify Neurotherapies

Commonly known symptoms of PPD and PPA are mentioned above, but with one caveat. The Anger/Rage category that is seemingly brushed over for the other symptoms listed here. My own postpartum manic anxiety turned into something I had never even knew existed until a couple of weeks ago…….it was FULL. BLOWN. RAGE.

Have you ever just been having a normal conversation, and something triggers you and you have this overwhelming anger that makes your ears turn bright red, your blood boil, and before you know it, your whole family is crying because you’ve screamed for the last five minutes without knowing what you’ve said or even why?

Have you found yourself trying like hell to not throw something across the room when the toilet seat is peed on and you forget to check before you sit, and end up throwing said object anyway?

I have.

Hi, my name is Kristy, and I am just realizing that I have suffered from PostPartum Rage for 7 years.

People don’t often talk about this ugly symptom of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, because it describes a state of mind that is downright hard to talk about. To watch someone from the outside go through such uncontrollable anger must just look wrong. We have images within us that create this patient, loving, and kind image of a person that we hope to be as mothers.  I know that was my intention upon having children.  However, the “inner monster” that would come out of me during moments where I could not control my environmental triggers had other plans. It would create a panic that would lead to confusion, then frustration. Then, the trigger event happens and then boom….pop goes the mommy.

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Photo Credit New Scientist

I try to think back on all the times that I could feel my friends and family’s eyes on me, as I was triggered by the kids, dog, losing my keys or cell phone, or whatever. It was almost as if, in an instant, I would watch myself from outside my body. Normalcy would give way to rage, rage ended always in guilt, and all throughout this cycle, my inner voice is begging me,

200“Stop it this ISN’T a big deal! Breathe. Just please Breath.”

 

After my episode was over, I would go immediately into the depression cycle over the way I had “behaved” because I should have control over it. I would be so embarrassed for my family, that I’d regularly cry by myself or with my husband for significant periods of time over the next day or so. I’d then chalk it up to a bad day, pick myself up, and tell myself I’d never let it happen again.

But it always did.

The things is, I could not control it. It had its raging claws stuck in my brain, puppeteering me through episodes that could last seemingly for hours.

Thanks to Carolyn Wagner and her post on Motherly on a particularly bad day, I read what seem like a perfect description for what my postpartum symptoms were. I could never solidly say I was depressed or anxious all the time, but one thing I could always rely on, was having an anger button with a hair trigger.

When broken down though, Wagner explains it most perfectly by saying,

“In overwhelmed,  guilt 

I mean, Ding friggin’ ding. In one paragraph, I was given the gift I had always needed…… to feel UNDERSTOOD.

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She goes on to say that it “  

But how can this be? I am a strong woman. I have a support system. I have a great life, with GREAT kids. BUT, none of my friends or family had ever mentioned this type of symptom before. I hadn’t really even seen it as a doula!  I allowed that feeling of abnormality assist in isolating my rage, as I saw myself separate from my peers.  This is what created room for false perception to take over within me. AKA, self- judgement.

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After I peeled myself off the floor in a fit of tears, I immediately shared it on social media with Carolyn’s words still echoing in my head. The feedback was almost instant.

I really am not alone.

This symptom doesn’t go unnoticed, but it does seemingly get brushed under the rug in conversation. I believe it is more taboo because it is ugly, uncomfortable, and well……..angry.  Until now, I had felt that I had part monster inside of me. I even called it “Monster Mommy” while

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Photo from Readers Digest

apologizing to my family after calming down from an episode. Since I have been gifted a jumping off point towards being more informed about Postpartum Rage, I can now start creating awareness of its episodes within myself and with my support system. With this mindful awareness, I can understand what sets me off at it’s core, and avoid getting myself into those situations.

 

In cases where triggers are unavoidable, I have enlisted the help of my husband. As per the article, I would track when and what would set me off. We came up with a code phrase, “you are spinning” to alert my brain to what is about to happen. And, I dare say, it has been a powerful helper. We worked together to find one that wouldn’t cause the trigger to go off more immediately such as “calm down” or “you’re getting upset”   <shutter….jaw clench……okay just breath>

No matter what it is you do, there are a few things I want you to know:

  1. It’s okay. And it is okay to talk about it.  Please know that others need to know that this is a SYMPTOM, which means it can be treated.  You can ask your care provider to help you through this time. But please, have a true discussion about it.
  2. There is help. If you are a partner, friend, or family member of someone and you read this, please know that your partner doesn’t want to have this symptom anymore than you or your kids want her to. So don’t be afraid to ask whoever you can for help with it.
  3. You are loved. Self care is extremely important as parents. So, I am letting you know that  shifting into a self-care routine is vital to managing this. Your loved ones will thank your newfound self-care awareness when you learn how to tell when you need a break before you explode.
  4. A recurring theme of mine is that you’re never alone. Ever. And this is no exception.

                              ….It takes a village.

 

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Kristy is a doula, self-care advocate, struggle-bus rider, and mom of 2 in Virginia

 

The Silver Lining To My PUPPS Nightmare

Everything happens for a reason

….or so people say.

I had always longed to be a mother. I dreamed of pregnancy, a little baby bump, and a group of like-minded women to with whom to hang out and help raise our little ones in friendship, unicorns, and rainbows.

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What a wonderful portrait of “what to expect when you are expecting”… am I right? In fact, we even joked amongst the four of us here at Real As A M*ther that I would be the one with half a dozen kids and a goofy husband that made me endlessly laugh until I cried and doted on me daily. Perfection.

DSC01327So when my wonderfully hilarious, awesome, doting husband and I got married, it was natural for me to not want to wait to start this family I’d been craving. By the blessed powers that be, within 6 months I had the exciting news to tell my friends and family…..

I experienced the normal first pregnancy woes in the beginning. Morning sickness, nausea, food aversions, being super tired, and reallllllly missing wine. But overall, things were looking great. We relocated to a town outside of the city, and my husband hand-made the baby’s crib and dresser.

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I mean, the man is hilarious, awesome, and talented. What can I say?

When I was about four months along, we went to visit Christiana, who was living in Japan! It was an amazing, globe-trotting, babymoon trip where my tiny baby belly began to show while posing for picturesque photos overlooking Japanese pagodas. Pregnancy dreams, on. track.

When we got home, however, life threw my dream a giant curveball. I was on a walk around town, when my calves began to itch. I sat down at our quaint town hall fountain and saw that it looked as though I had been bitten by 30 mosquitos simultaneously. I just chalked it up to summer, and maybe… heat rash?  But the itching persisted.

Within two weeks, it had spread. My inner thighs, underarms, and belly had broken out in a rash. It felt as though I had just slept in a den of mosquitos and chiggers. After calling my midwife, I started taking some liver cleansing teas/supplements. I got some special soaps to help calm it down, and tried oatmeal baths. Nothing helped. Not. A. Thing.

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Post Biopsy

I was about 20 weeks along when I saw a specialist that, along with my midwife, decided after bloodwork and a biopsy and although it rarely occurs this early, that I had PUPPPS.

Like many of you right now, I had this reaction.

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‘da heck d’you just say?

According to Healthline.com, “Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) rash is an itchy rash that appears in stretch marks of the stomach during late pregnancy.”

Stretch marks, you say? I was 18 weeks! I hadn’t barely even begun to show, much less stretch. And this was systemic, not on my belly! But, at least I had some sort of explanation that calmed me down. Thinking, ok now let’s get rid of this mess, I said,

“Ok, doc, what can I do?”

“Well, the only cure, is delivery” <heart sinks>

So basically, what I was being told was this: I was going to itch like this for 20 more weeks. 

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20 Weeks: just the beginning

4 more weeks went by, which felt like an eternity. The rash got so bad that I could not sleep, eat, or even wear clothes. I had to take cool/cold showers because the heat would spread the rash to a new area, which I kept finding out the hard way as it spread all over my body. It was on the soles of my feet, palms of my hands, even in my nail beds and on my eyelids. The longest I went without solid sleep was 7 whole days. I don’t even remember if I was hungry.

I, did, however, hold tightly onto the fact that I needed to drink water. I remember having thoughts of “I don’t want the amniotic fluid to get low, and that be the reason I have to get a C-Section,” which was a huge fear for me. That was the only coherent thought I remember having during this time.

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It was when my mom found me naked on my kitchen floor at 24 weeks (I was lying there because it was cool and clothes made the itching turn to burning pain) that she scooped me up and into the car. I have no recollection of this event, but she took me to the doctor and demanded an appointment right then and there. I had lost 20 pounds, the baby wasn’t gaining any weight, and I was put under the care of a neonatal specialist. I was delusional, depressed, suicidal, and covered in what looked like oozing poison ivy.

At this point, desperation kicked in, (mostly from my husband and parents because I had checked out) and a steroid regimen was put into place. I was on Prednisone until my 30th week and experienced so much relief. The rash was kept at bay and the baby was monitored regularly to make sure the medicine didn’t cause any problems.

Thinking I was in the clear, I weaned off my medication because I was so worried about steroids affecting the baby. Around Thanksgiving, however, it came back with a vengeance. At it’s worst, I could literally peel the layers of my skin off with a tissue. I immediately started the steroids again, and the rash was mostly cleared up in about two weeks.

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Belly scarring at 37 weeks

When I went into labor at 37 weeks and 6 days, I had such relief. Where most women are fearful of the unknown, I was prepared and ready for the natural pain and hormone release I had learned about through my teacher of The Bradley Method.

Most of me has forgotten about just how incredibly difficult that pregnancy was. In fact, I am only reminded when I have bad cycles now, because the rash creeps back up under my upper arms and on my legs, raised and irritated ghost shadows of such a dark time in my life.

We still don’t know what causes it. But, some risk factors for developing PUPPPS are:

  1. Carrying a boy: we didn’t know at the time but…check
  2. Being Caucasian: check
  3. First pregnancy: check
  4. Maternal hypertension: undiagnosed but with no sleep…check
  5. Multiples
  6. Rapid or higher than usual weight gain

While I did not fit into the category of the last two risk factors, my mind got to thinking about why my personal case was so different. The only reason I came up with, ties back to the beginning of this post. Because… everything happens for a reason.

It was through this tough and terrible time that I learned about prenatal herbal supplements, and how and why they work. I learned a valuable lesson in the blend of a cooperative maternal care team, and their strategies for helping. I learned the importance of relying on medical intervention, because it saved my life, my son’s life, and my sanity. But the most important gift this experience gave me was the fact that I knew I wanted to help support other women through pregnancy and birth.

I tell this story because it is important to look back and find gratitude in the lessons we are given in this lifetime. Even though I did not know this going through it, I am certain that this time of suffering gave birth to the compassion for women in their childbearing years that I had never known was inside of me. It gave me the tools for empathy that one can only develop while in the depths of great personal struggle.

DSC01829.jpgNow, I feel healing each time I help a woman accept and trust in her body through the pregnancy process. I am energized by watching her awaken to the power within her, and I am both blissfully honored and overwhelmed each time I watch her hold her baby. Because no matter what type of pregnancy, what kind of prenatal education we choose, how or where we labor and birth, or what the birth outcome is, I am reminded in that moment, women are bound together as one. And that is my most ultimate, and ever-present, silver lining.

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Kristy is a certified massage therapist, doula, homesteader and mother to 2 kids in Virginia.

Crazy Chicken Lady

So you know that one neighbor whose garden is flush with edible landscape, where noises come from animals and kids everyday when they are outside, and whose chicken tractor moves every week to a different location to start the growth of new grass? Yup, that’s me. Hi, I’m Kristy, and I am a proud crazy chicken lady.

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I decided that since there are a million posts about chickens all over the inter web, I’d share with you all a personal story about how I found out that I care very deeply about my chickens.

It was an amazing early summer evening, the kind where the nights are still semi chilly and humidity hasn’t plagued us with it’s relentless wet blanket effect.  We had spent the day outside, ate dinner on our deck, and had just begun to doze off to a cool breeze from the open window when we heard the noise…

The horrible sound of a chicken distress call. Which, if you are so blissfully unfamiliar, is a saucy mix between a fog horn and what I would imagine would be the Blair Witch stubbing her (does this particular haunt have a gender?) long and writhing toe.

“Holy S$#&, the chickens are getting attacked!” I jump out of bed screaming to get the flashlight to shine down while my husband rushes to get on suitable clothing for saving the day. That is when we see its ringed tail dragging my favorite chicken towards the fence.

“It’s a BLEEP BLEEP BLEEPing Raccoon” This is where I feel like I must have sounded like an old lady in curlers and nightgown in a 60’s western with only a couple teeth and a shaking fist “Get that sumbitch, babe. It’s got my favorite chicken!” The flashlight scared the beast off, thankfully, and we trudged outside to see what was left of the rest of the flock.

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I heard my husband shout, shouted “She’s still alive!”. Much to our surprise, a little tan Buff Orpington was crouched down by the fence. This is amazing if you’ve ever had chickens and a raccoon attack has plagued your coop. It rarely ends well for the fowl if they even can be found.  Anyway, my husband picked her up and tried to put her back in the coop. She flailed and flapped, clearly in distress. (ummmmmmm, duh)  In hindsight she was probably thinking,

“Holy crap, dude, that’s literally the scene of the crime and you’re asking me to just waltz right back in there! NOT COOL, tall guy, not cool.”

When I reopened the door, she jumped right into my arms. I knew something wasn’t right. We made her a “coop” in the garage where she would be safe from looming mischievousness, and from her coop-mates that love to pick on an injured chicken. Assessing her injuries, we noticed a huge bite taken out of her side and her thigh with layers of muscle, fat, and skin missing. Her left side had been literally skinned down to the breast and of course, feathers were everywhere. My heart just sank. I knew there was little to no chance that she’d make it.

The next morning, I vowed to her (Natalie is her name), that I would do everything in my power to help her. I got the cat crate out, and hauled her to the only vet in town that would see her. I got antibiotics and pain medicine and had to administer them every 8 hours for three weeks. Say What now? The vet told me it was her only chance.

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A little backstory here. When I got Natalie (she was the only chick I named) she had a broken right hip. She was a hatchling that I assume got injured during transport. Normally, these chicks don’t survive. But Natalie did. She was small, hobbling, and loyal to her “sisters” from day one. She thrived despite them leaving her alone at night by herself under the heat lamp. She pushed her way into that flock, and climbed her way into the middle of the pecking order.  She was a fighter, and I was gonna be damned if I was gonna let a dumb ole raccoon take away all she worked to establish.

So, I did it. Every eight hours, pain medicine and antibiotics. Getting a chicken to swallow one, let alone TWO big pills may have been the hardest part of it all! Each day, Natalie started to show signs of progress. The wound was drying up and scabbing over. I’d talk to her and syringe her some water to keep her hydrated. She eventually began to nibble on some food.

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After about a month, we introduced her very delicately back into the brood. Chickens can be the meanest of mean-girls when it comes to re-inclusion, so we would let Natalie graze next to the coop, and visa versa. To our surprise, the other hens came running to her, seemingly as amazed as we were that she was alive. When it was finally time to move her back in, they had all accepted her and she was right in with them up on the perch during bedtime.

She is now the most vigilant hen I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. She, long necked and eyes peering, is the first to call out to her sisters when she thinks there is danger. Although she keeps her distance from me, she always shoots me an eye while the others just devour their food as if to say, “I see you lady. And thanks”

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“You guys hide, I GOT this”

The moral of this story is two-fold.

  1. Even though most people told me to give up on her, I wouldn’t. We don’t give up on those we love. No matter what form of life they take, life deserves at least a chance to keep going.

  2. Even when you least expect it, however you hobble yourself back into your “people”, trust they will love and welcome your broken self back with open arms and a warm nesting spot they’ve been saving for you.

Who’d a thunk such great life reminders could come from a chicken?

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Kristy is a certified massage therapist, doula, homesteader and mother to 2 human children and 5 chickens in Virginia.

Welcome to Real

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In the beginning

Once upon a time (circa 2000), in a faraway land (Maryland), four young ladies found their soulmates in high school. No, not dudes. Best friends who balance each other in the best way and support each other through (literal and figurative) thick and thin.

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Fast forward 18 years…  We are now a doctor, a lawyer, a doula, and a financial planner deep in the weeds of young motherhood who learned to laugh together, cry together, learn together, and support each other through this season of life via one (in our humble opinion) very real, very wise, and brilliantly entertaining text chain, which is the foundation of much of this blog’s content.

We decided one day, on a whim, to start sharing our collective experience – the good, the bad and the ugly – with other people out there. The core value: keeping it #real with advice on parenthood, health, home, style, money and just whatever else comes up. LockersToLittles was that flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants adventure and wow, that was somethin’ else!

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That blog life

The last 3 months have been a profound learning experience. We’ve laughed our buns off, cried in frustration and all 4 of us have learned more about ourselves than any of us thought possible. And most importantly, we discovered that there are other people out there who want to share our experience – you!! Wow! Our feedback and followers have blown us away with their support, ideas, and general awesomeness over and over.

We are taking that feedback and blasting off into a whole new level of the blogosphere peeps! You spoke and we have listened are are ready to serve.

To Infinity and Beyond

We are here to help others grow into the best version of themselves, and in the process are working to do the same. The best workouts for moms with no time? We gotcha. Best way to save for retirement no matter what age you start? You bet! Kids won’t eat vegetables? Coming to the rescue! Wondering what’s up with eating brie in pregnancy? #answeredthat. Just want to commiserate about this season in life being hard AF sometimes??? Oh yeah. Between the 4 of us we’ve had a whole lot of life happen and if it hasn’t happened to us, trust us, we know a guy.

People! The sky is the limit. Or is it?

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So if you haven’t visited with us before, then WELCOME. To all our returning followers, THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS. You’ve been with us this far and we cannot wait to share what we have in store with you.

To reach our much desired goals, we need YOU! Please enjoy and visit or lightly stalk us on our various social media outlets. Got a topic you want covered? Give us a comment, girl! Share your experiences, this is #momtribe and #parentlife and we’re all in this together. Oh, and share! ALLLLLLLL the sharing!

Welcome to REAL AS A M*THER!

xo, Annie, Christiana, Kristy and Margo

 

Dear Mom, I see you.

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My mom and my son.

Mom,

Gush-y-ness is almost bursting out of me just when I phonetically begin to say the word. The smile of endearment that presides every time you enter my thoughts, blows the whistle on the teenager you once knew, who would protest your protection and tell you to “go away”. The one who knew better than you, and the one who stubbornly and willfully “went my own way” in times you wanted me to go yours because you knew I’d benefit from your wisdom. The confident lioness of young womanhood who played all the sports, had the lifelong friends she’d always wanted, and the family that was nuclear.

That smile has a second agenda. It also reveals the broken, battered, unappreciated, rattled, and worn-too- thin woman that currently calls herself a young mother of young children. Ok, maybe not so young at 34, but young-ish. A woman drowning in her responsibilities, not gracefully, and making ultimate mistakes that may or may not be founded in anything but simple selfishness. The one who is struggling and cautiously pacing through learning the necessary lessons in respect, gratitude, positive parenting, and overall happiness from the foundation of family, unconditional love, loyalty, and respect that you have given me.

The one who has the uncanny ability to forget who she is, guilt herself, and throw away remembering the DAILY good she performs in order to feel the almost masochistic weight of the “it wasn’t good enough.”

The one who is now referring to herself in the third person, because maybe that part of me, isn’t really real.

Scratch that. she IS real. And she is enough. And she is beaming with pride to call herself your daughter.

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That I can open my arms to that part of me, is because of you. You love unconditionally and accept all of me at a capacity that I am so profoundly lucky to know. I see you.

I am writing to you, about you, so you can see who you are in my eyes. I write of my brokenness so you can KNOW that you had every part in creating the strength in me to see the imperfection, and tackle it. To fall onto that foundation that you’ve so preciously and delicately worked with me to build.


4151_683495597259_329027_nI write to you to show you that you are my way-shower, my example of what defines grace and sacrifice. But who also personifies a silent power that I never knew existed until I became a mother. I see you.

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I often hear people refer to you as “angelic”. Your heart is both understanding and practically constructive in the same breath. It is peacemaking, authentic, and wise. It is all shades of happiness, and dynamically persistent in the acceptance of all with which you are facing.

People always say, “What until you have kids.” And they are right. I could never understand what blessings could lie behind the characteristic of beautiful patience. I have always watched, in awe, your ability to quiet your mind, and open your mouth to reveal the most perfectly and divinely guided words. A shining example of outwardly expressed love. I see you.

You’ve walked with me through all of my trials and tribulations. First, through childhood, through shyness and tom-boyhood. Always holding me close, and letting the leash out little perfect inch by little perfect inch. You supported me through adolescence, finding the most subtle and gentle ways to nurture me into this new body, and to tell me that I needed to actually shower every once in a while.

Drove me, every day, to school (piano, basketball, lacrosse, dance, music, variety show practice, games, tournaments, etc)from the country, just so I would get to have the experiences I deserved. These were the memories for which you sacrificed your mornings and afternoons. Hell, your whole weekend sometimes. I never once saw the wear of that sacrifice of time on your face. I saw a woman who, without a shadow of a doubt, would always be there for me. Whose pride for her kids, for her life, for her part in the decision to give us this opportunity to have the world more open to us, overshadowed what I know now was ultimately painstakingly sacrificially beautiful.  I see you.

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Who was it that yelled to (not at) me to please take care of myself after surgery, and not overdo it? I saw it then as trying to control me. I see it now for it’s pleading love. The resonance of experienced nursing knowledge in your voice that I had a future in front of me. I had college sports at my feet, and not to ruin my chance to have that opportunity.

I see your sleepless nights of worry through college. Your courage to let me go. A brave mother who let me make my mistakes to learn to truly live. Mistakes in love, in education, and in life.

You walked with me in the journey through Massage School. Learning a new passion for energy work and discovering that you’re pretty badass at trusting your intuition. You showed me that I have an outlet for my human angst in prayer and meditation. And most importantly, in God.

It was you that introduced me to the concept of soul family so that I never have to feel alone, so long as I have a moment to reach out to them. You’ve only grown stronger in that ever since, making spiritual and soul connections that feed you, and build you stronger. Making your faith a priority among a lot of things. Not just a faith in Spirit. A faith in yourself, your family, and your son and daughter. I see you.

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And you did all this through the debilitation of your own pain. You never ever left my side as a mother. Even when the worries of your body’s betrayal left you emotionally weathered and physically exhausted, you never left our side. Not once. I so see you. This was the greatest lesson I ever could learn about the breadths of self that had been undiscoverable to me until my blinders were removed. You courageously walked down an aisle with stairs one gracefully and smiling step at a time, to watch me marry the man that reminds me so much of you and your strength. You didn’t even flinch. You were in so much pain but I never saw it. Sweet sacrifice. I see you. You were so amazing that day, and added everything to the happiness and whimsicality of it.

You gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever been given the day you told me that you, too, have been broken. Someone who seems to me to be the portrait of perfection. To know that you felt anything but that, in body and mind, and came out of the other side not only stronger and more sure of who you are, but also posturing towards happiness, was everything to me. You shared that you came out with a bigger capacity for compassion for others. If actions speak louder than words, then your day to day must be pretty loud, Mom.

Somedays, I feel as though I am that little girl who cried on the bus in first grade, homesick for my mother and my bed. Homesick for her soft hand stroking my head and back. Homesick in this big and scary world for what would make me feel whole, safe, and loved. But then, I remember you. I remember that I don’t care if you hate the photos I am posting, I want to share with the world the person who reminds me of all that I can be capable. Of the qualities that are within me, ready to be utilized at any moment.

I see you, Mom. You were are there, so vividly and immediately, in the moment that I became a mother myself; honoring my strength and wistfully studying your grandson in your arms. It was that day that I knew that I had always had the person I want to be in front of me. It is now that I finally know, I have that person IN me, as well. I am a part of you, as you are of me. I can be enough. I am enough as a mother, because I have been learning its embodiment from birth. My vision is loaded with images of what it looks like to be a mother, memories that create feelings of just what exactly that word means to me. What you, mean to me.

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I wish I knew then what I know now. As I try to stay above water in a world that seems judgemental and impossibly navigated as a mother of two, every bump and bruise I receive that sends me running back to “home”. That place I wish to run now lies within me. It is the part of me that is you. That is brave, silent and patient, strong yet gentle. Angelic, warm and inviting. Open and divine with ambitiously positive and fervent nurturance. Glowingly proudly with a heroic view of the world she has helped build, and hardworking to adjust to its ebbs and flows. You are timelessly beautiful. Breathtakingly loving, and kind just on time. That is who I see. Both in you and now, in the mirror. This bond of sisterhood, of soul connection, runs deep within us.

My proudest moment of my life will be the day I can say,

“My God, I am becoming my mother.” with a grin of resilience, fortitude, and pride in my co-creation, as I cannot think of anything better to be in this whole world.

Because I am your daughter, I see you alive in me.

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Yours with benevolence,

Your daughter.  Kristy

Kristy, Au Naturale: “The Road to Serenity is Ahead” No Judgement Journaling

*Explicit language warning 😀 in this post…

IMG_9854I don’t feel like I am alone in this when I say that I have the best of intentions when it comes to making the time to write in my journal  all my journals. Mustering the courage to write my truth has always seemed too daunting a task. Faced with a blank page and SO MANY FEELINGS?

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so many journals, so little time

But… where do I start? What do I say? Somehow, my therapy via written word always finds a way of brushing itself aside with “I don’t have the time right now. Maybe later” and “Its 2:38 am, I should sleep. Ok, now its 3:02, 3:15, I’ll totally fall asleep because I’m so tired.”

Or, the all time most frequent anti-journaling monster…..distraction.

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Why should I journal anyways?? Before I got myself on the journaling wagon, I read a bunch of information about the benefits of journaling in PsychCentral.com articles, books and even Huffington post. Why bother? Here’s a few reasons:

  1. Writing can be an impressive way of challenging the mind to find words that otherwise may not be used in your everyday speech. Thus, expanding your vocabulary and your brainpower. (higher IQ levels for the win)
  2. Writing can also help boost your memory by actively beckoning the mind to remember events or ideas and then recalling them to the present.
  3. Bringing you into a state of mindfulness, journaling can create a level of self-awareness of just how deeply an issue, situation, or an emotion is felt. It helps you truthfully live in these experiences, so that you may be able to relate more appropriately to others.  Empathizing can be a powerful tool in emotional development. Being in the present moment, as well, can help to subdue the gravity of worries of the past, or the fiery pangs of the anxious ones to come. In essence, it’s helping you figure out your sh*&, so you can learn handy tools in dealing with your well-being going forward, and stop lamenting the worries of yesterday. (see what I did there?? I never use “lamenting” when I’m speaking to people. BRAIN BOOST POINTS)
  4. Others benefits, according to the PsychCentral.com article, can be related to problem solving, clarity of thoughts and feelings that can help you to know yourself better, and improving your interpersonal relationship communication.
  5. Sleep!!

So I touched on sleep above. Err, lack of sleep, rather.  Has anyone had those glorious nights where your kids are happily nuzzled cozy in their beds and sleeping all night, yet YOU can’t sleep because your mind is running around anazlying and worrying about everything and anything?

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The process of journaling has also been found to decrease the stressors that typically affect one’s ability to rest peacefully through the healing power of RELEASE. Dr. James Pennebaker authors a book titled, Writing to Heal, in which he expresses the true art of unblocking emotional barriers and traumas. We can give them a voice to be heard, understood, and therefore not over analyzed in our minds. He explains that writing exercises can

leave you with a stronger sense of value in the world, and the ability to accept that life can be good–even when it is sometimes bad.

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I know all this and yet…. Think of an excuse, and I’ve said it to myself to avoid journaling my thoughts and emotions that cause me stress and at their worst, keep me from sleeping. Truth is, if I just took five minutes out of my day to write that “thing” that is sucking my awareness into it down on paper, the huge monstrosity of looped thought may just exit my brain altogether. And hopefully, for good.

Here is the kicker: Journaling is also an awesome lesson in self-discipline. And with self-discipline, practice makes perfect.

I’ve admittedly been highly unsuccessful at keeping up with any journal.  It wasn’t that “I sucked at journaling” self judgey much? I just felt so overwhelmed with it, that I never even began to try. Frustration would set in before any therapeutic benefit could be reached.  The answer was that I hadn’t yet been connected to a journal that fit my personality/emotional needs.

It was through a gift from a dear friend that changed my perspective on that feeling. Suddenly, I was given a daily theme, a dated logbook with meditations, and small practical guidance to look within myself.  I found the points above were key factors in my adherence to writing behaviors. Helpful and simple tools, like this one below, are very powerful.

So, going through these insightful motions of jotting down my physical, emotional, and psychological thoughts for that day and relating them to an intention was my Aha! moment. I loved it, and looked forward to the time in bed right before I fell asleep when I could journal.

So, to Recap what we have learned:

  1. Keeping a journal is a healthy and awesome way to release emotional blockages and enhance your super smartness (which you already have a level of that for reading our blog;))
  2. You’ll need to find a journal that excites you, enticing you to make the time to use it as the tool it can be.
  3. Start slow. Pick a theme or an emotion to narrow in on in order to really understand it.
  4. Write quickly, without judgement, and in a space that can feel private and safe.
  5. Enjoy the process of opening up to yourself. You might be surprised at how in tune you become with your inner workings.

I’ll use my current theme as an example.  It is related to one of my favorite books, the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck The title speaks for itself. Buy it. Read it. Live it. You will thank me.

The Journal, also a gift, called “Zen as F*CK” A Journal For Practicing The Mindful Art of Not Giving A SH*T”, has me laughing like an awesomely carefree mad scientist and I am 514B7Y42PML._AC_US218_LOVING it. Each page can take less than 20 minutes. I find myself smiling when I am done, accomplished in my mindfulness task for that day.

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One of the factors that I never found in my research about writing therapy, was the amazing affect it has had on my hopefulness. In the last 2-3 months since beginning this practice, albeit not daily but almost, I am slowly rediscovering who I was always meant to be. I am finding a woman who knows how to be confident in feeling happy, kind, warm, and balanced. Oh, and hilarious. Definitely hilarious. (if you can’t laugh at yourself, right?) And to think, it wasn’t that I found any old journal and started writing.  This all started to happened because,

          a journal helped me find my way back to me.

-Psssst, and I totally dig this new me. She’s kinda awesome.

I hope you take this time to rediscover you through the art of writing. Because chances are, you’re freaking incredible. Have an amazing voyage!

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Kristy is a doula, massage therapist, mom of 2 and homesteader in Virginia.