On Being at Odds With That Which Has Made You Whole

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I never planned on having children, so the fact that I have 3 almost feels like I’ve been punked by one of those “never say never” situations. I remember being 18 in the women’s underwear section of Target with my mother and sister, arguing with my mother that I didn’t “owe” her any grandchildren. I had absolutely nothing to do with the physical event that led to my conception; that was purely her choice and I was determined then that mine would be absolutely no biological children. I preferred adoption, if I decided to have children at all. The aspiring world changer in me, freshly graduated from high school, had her sights set on joining the Peace Corp and from there, who knew where life would take me. I wanted to be free as a bird, on the front lines of a cause, making my voice heard, putting my hands to work for others, advancing justice while rocking out to Prince. Children? Pfffft. Continue reading

My Dear Addye, With All My Love, Susan

Hello, dear readers of Butterfly Confessions. Lauren of My Postpartum Voice here. I’ve recruited some of Addye’s friends to write posts for her blog while Addye babymoons with hear new little one. This letter is the first guest post and it’s written by the fabulous Susan of Learned Happiness. If you’d like to submit a guest post to be published while Addye is babymooning, email me at mypostpartumvoice (@) gmail with “For Butterfly Confessions” in the subject line!

Without further ado, I present Susan’s lovely words for Addye…..

 

My Dear Addye,

You and I have been friends for 3 years, now.  And in that time, I have watched you transform into a wholehearted woman.  You took chances with your life and made huge leaps of faith – faith in yourself more than any one person.  You have learned to be honest with yourself about who you are and who you want to be.  Your integrity has been hard-fought and is well-deserved.  You honor me with your friendship.

You said when you married Bert and took his name that it was the beginning of a new life – one written by you and you alone.  One that speaks to all you hold sacred and points to a fulfilling life with your family.  And this baby?  Is a part of that new life.  I can see it in your eyes – in the way you look at him and hold him.  I have experienced the hope brought by a new baby birthed in joy and a sense of calm.  It renews the spirit.  And I couldn’t have wished a better birth experience for you.

SusanQuoteRemember that no matter how good your birth (or how much you love that amazing tiny man), having a newborn is a special kind of torture.  The nights are long and the days are even longer.  And no matter how happy you are, it’s okay to be exhausted.  It’s okay to be emotional.  And it’s okay to still need help.  This is not a test of your spirit.  You are not being graded on how gracefully you weather the fourth trimester.  There will be beautiful moments and there will be unbearable ones.  And your tribe?  Will be standing beside you for both.

I hope with all of my heart that the darkness you fear is blotted out by your joy.  But if it’s not, if it all becomes too much, you are armed and you are never alone.

With all my love,
Susan

Confessing

I’m approaching week 38. Still contracting. Still not progressing much. As of Wednesday, after 15hrs of contractions? 1 1/2 cm and 50%. I startled my OB with my exclamation of “FUCK!” as he finished my cervical exam.

Distraction has been my focus-anything to take my mind off my body, and keep edginess away. Last night’s distraction wwas season 2 of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. This morning’s was scrubbing the grout between the tiles in kitchen til they were white. I found the rhythmic motion and sound of the scrubbing brush and soapy floor sparkling in the sunlight from the kitchen windows soothing as I went about it.

Bertski came back from the run I practically pushed him out the door to take, and we took the boys for a bike riding lesson on their newly acquired bikes at the middle school track down the street. They rode, they ran, I sat and soaked in the sun before making way around the track as Busta Rhymes & Talib Kweli blared through my headphones.

Just now, while laying here listening to my family snore the afternoon away, confessed these words via text to a dear friend who’s worried about how quiet I’ve been lately:

“I keep telling myself once I have the baby I’ll feel sane again. And not this anxious desperate person with thoughts that are too loud & too fast and who wants out of her body. I think that’s half the reason why I want to have him already. I haven’t felt like myself much of this pregnancy and that unnerves me. “

I know it’s normal for women to feel like they’re going mad with the waiting and anticipation of baby’s arrival and from the physical strain of the final weeks. I do. But I don’t like it. It’s unsettling. My mind can’t take it, it’s not wired to handle such things very well without help. (Meds, YAY!) I’m also an impatient person by nature and while my pain threshold is relatively high, being in pain and under physical stress daily is triggering for me mentally & emotionally.

I just want it to be over and have him in my arms and my own physical space back. I want my hormones adjusted, my mind off the hamster wheel and fully engaged with living and learning as a mother of three. I want newborn snuggles and laughter and to not be consumed with the obsessive, compelling need to have everything in its “right” place internally and externally, from my house to the cluttered corners of my mind. I want to feel like myself more often and be consumed with the goodness that’s taking up residence in life as the year prepares to close. I want to be present, not lost traipsing the corridors of my mind waiting for them to empty so I can breathe freely again.

I want to run. Not away to escape, but toward. To freedom. To the woman waiting for me on the other side of this. She’s fully enjoying the season that’s ahead and I’m desperate to join her.

But it I have to wait and somehow make patience my virtue until it’s time.

My body shakes with the hope that it’s soon. Very soon.

In Between

I woke up at 5:24 this morning and stumble-waddled my way through the dark for yet another trip to the bathroom.

I sat there, on the throne, looking at myself in the bathroom mirror through vision hazy from sleep, and whispered out loud, “It’s almost over.”

As soon as the words left my lips and drifted off into space, a mix of varied emotions weaved their way up from my toes to my belly where my hands were interlaced. My fingers tensed as each emotion swept through and around me, each one squeezing tightly and then releasing me much like the contractions I’ve been having the past six weeks.

So many contractions. 2 trips to L&D. Body pumped full of medications to stop them but they’ve refused to surrender. They are tenacious and stubborn, insistent on being present. Stronger and more frequent than Braxton Hicks, but not productive enough to fully initiate labor. They last for hours, pulsing and squeezing, tightening and releasing me sometimes one to two minutes apart, at others three to five, and at their slowest every twenty to thirty. They are overwhelming and tiring at their most frequent intervals and annoying at their slowest.

They are altogether frustrating, and their constant presence since week thirty have taken a toll on my psyche. At times they are all I can think about, my nerves on edge, trying to decide if I should call the nurse line and go in or just ride them out. Confusion and doubt often set in, intermingling with the pain, setting my OCD senses tingling and on high alert. My thoughts often ruminate during the more intense rounds and I often can’t tell if I’m losing my mind, responding mentally and emotionally as any pregnant woman in my situation would, or just being melodramatic & hormonal.

The past two weeks they’ve been accompanied by nausea, cramps, back aches, loose bowels, loss of appetite and a drop in weight-all of your textbook signs of your body preparing for birth & early labor. “Your labor will most likely be very slow in the beginning, much like your last,” said my OB last week. “Which we want, because we want to keep him in just another week or two longer. Your cervix is stubborn, which we need it to be right now. Hang in there. Let’s see what happens-hopefully next week we’ll start to see some big changes!”

So here I am, sitting on the toilet at 5:24am, at 35 weeks and 7 days, staring at the start of week 36 with an aching back and pulsing thighs…nauseated….exhausted yet mind abuzz with energy….body contracting physically and emotionally….forcing myself to whisper words to counteract the anxiety that has separated itself from the emotions pulsing around my belly and wound its way up to my chest, squeezing my heart until it feels as though it will burst from the constriction.

“It’s almost over.”

“Hang in there.”

“Pregnancy is a shitty and invasive force of Nature that always biologically beats my body into submission, but it’s worth the end result.”

The end result being my third child, another boy.

*************

After the anxiety passes my interlaced fingers tighten their hold on my belly and I feel the other emotions that remain creating a sense of heat around my womb, both inside and out.

Yes it’s almost over and there is excitement. There is anticipation. There is a desire for joy to meet me at the end when I peer into his eyes and behold the mystery behind them for the first time; the first glimpse into him, this tiny stranger, an extended combination of my husband and I that has been growing and squirming restlessly within me for nine months. There is hope. There is an eagerness to begin this new season of my life as a mother to him and his brothers, a mother of three. There is a shout wanting to shoot it’s way from my soul and burst forth from my lips in exaltation at what a year it’s been for me, for my husband, for the boys individually, and for our family as a whole. This child, this boy,  is the culmination of the new life we set out to build for ourselves back in April of 2012; when my husband and I sat in an IHOP in Philly, allowing restoration to heal our broken relationship. He is the embodiment of our new life as a whole unit, and the cairn directing our steps towards yet another new way forward for our family.

I’ve had each of my children during life altering transitions and significant periods of growth in my life, and timing of this child’s birth will be no different. What he embodies and signifies in my life at this moment are special to me, just like his brothers. Brennan healed my heart from my past, he is my empathy, my reincarnated self given another chance at a peaceful and full childhood, he showed me that I was good, and clean, and capable at motherhood and life. Alex is the one who challenged me in new and painful ways that were unexpected but oh so necessary. His entrance into my life dug itself deep into my core and unearthed in me things I had yet to see, and shone a harsh light on what I need to face and finally deal with. He shifted me as a woman, a mother, a believer…with him I was forced to throw all I thought I knew and carve out a new way of living and thinking. Alex taught me how to take care of myself and make my well-being a priority-a first for me. Alex pushed me out of the stagnant, boxed up life I had been living and out into a world I hadn’t let myself explore. He pushed me up and out of the rubble of the past 29 years and into wholeness-into my real self. I am the woman I am right at this very moment because I gave birth to him.

And here I am with this one. I know what he means to me personally, as a mother, and our life as a family in one sense…but he remains a complete mystery to me in another, which I find exciting and my being twinges with eagerness to learn and explore the world through his eyes as I have through his brothers.

*****************

And yet there is also fear of what’s to follow once we make our way back out through the hospital doors, and back to our home where the adjustment and shift of our family dynamic will begin to take shape; permanently rooting itself in our lives, our family.

Will I relapse? Will I catch it before it sucks me in?  What if I can’t get appointments or calls in to my therapist and psychiatrist because of how slow and overbooked the VA appointment system is? How will I handle the hard and the overwhelming task of meeting the needs of three children, who are all at very different stages and seasons of life? My husband being unavailable due to work obligations? Fluctuating hormones and fatigue?

And the boys: how will Alex adjust to the change and new presence, both as a three year old, and as a child who struggles with change and disruption of routine on the sensory level? Will his ABA based preschool be enough of an outlet for him? How will Brennan feel, as the oldest? So much of the focus has been on Alex and his therapies these past months, I often wonder if I’ve given him enough attention, and now with a newborn….

There is fear…despite all of the knowledge, support, and awareness I have, despite knowing that I’m at a much different place in life than I was when Alex was born and suffered through that first year…there is a lurking fear that sits and stares me directly in the eyes, making me all the more aware of the reality of my illness and how stress, change, and motherhood trigger it.

**********

So I am here at 5:24 in the early dark of morning, with foggy eyes squinting through the bright bathroom lights at my pregnant self, fingers tightly interlaced across my belly. Body and mind are engulfed in emotions that jar against each other, breathing deeply and staring back at what has been, and into what lies ahead. Feeling new life roll and jab in a space that is becoming too cramped and ready to be birthed. Ready but yet not ready. Craving for it to be over, yet continue on because what’s on the other side is still dark and unseen in a few areas. On the brink yet still stuck in the space and feelings between old and new. Waiting.

It’s Okay

It’s okay to have a mental illness…

…to need medication, even more than one, to manage it.

….to see a therapist for it.

…..to feel weak for having such shitty brain chemistry.

….to hate it for the impact it has on you, your relationships, your quality of life, your self-esteem, your perception of yourself and your worth.

….to be grateful for it for what it has taught you about yourself, your limits, your capabilities, your strengths…and for how it’s changed you.

…..to be scared because you have it, and to worry about everything that comes with it from the stigma it carries to the side effects of the medications you take.

….to be a parent with one. To want to have children, and have one, or many, despite living with one.

…..to take the safest medications possible for it during pregnancy and breastfeeding if that’s a choice you and your psychiatrist make.

….to be jealous of those who don’t have one, of their “normal” states.

…..to be resentful of your spouse because they don’t understand what it’s like for you to live with it daily.

…..to hurt for your spouse or loved one because you know what it’s like to live with it daily and you wish you could shield them from that part of you, spare them from seeing how deep your darkness can go or how high your brain can fly, and spare them the hurt the difficulty and weight of how heavy and distressing it can be to witness.

…..to love your spouse or loved one for standing by you as you manage the ups and downs, the nuances, the cracks and crevices of it.

….to be honest with your kids about it.

….to be yourself, to live your life fully, to create the life you want to live despite having it.

……to not let it define you.

……to embrace the parts of it that can help you grow, and learn, and empathize.

…….to feel strong because of it.

……to love yourself in spite of it.

It’s okay to have a mental illness. Don’t let anyone shame you for it. Don’t let stigma keep you silent and held hostage by it. It’s okay. As hard as it is, as dark as it can get, it doesn’t diminish who you are or what you’re capable of. It’s okay. It’s not your fault. Ever.

So take a deep, full breath, and say it out loud: “It’s okay.”

 

Three….

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Three years and five days ago, I went into labor on Easter night. Six to be exact. I had just finished eating and went into the kitchen when I felt the first contraction-THE contraction that my body used to inform my mind that it was time. As I gripped the counter top and exhaled my way through its duration, Mother Ezekiel’s words unearthed themselves from my memory and gripped my heart once again: “It’s time, ” she had whispered as she took my hand and drew me in close at the altar so I alone could hear the prayer on her heart for me…for us. “It’s time, and it’s going to be ok. All is well. It’s time for the baby to come and he will be such a blessing to you-oh how God LOVES this baby A’Driane, ” she said as her hands found their way to my belly and the small of my back.

Her grip was strong, yet gentle, much like the tone of her voice. I remember my heart breaking, releasing all of the turmoil that had been churning inside throughout my pregnancy. Her prayerful whispers of affirmation and encouragement were a soothing balm to my soul that had been bleeding quietly for months. I released the pain and weight of the depression I had been carrying and her arms encircled themselves around me, drawing me in yet even closer. Out of all of the altar calls I’d responded to in my life, that one was the most tender and beautiful. They were God’s arms holding me, it was God’s voice whispering healing and hope, affirming that despite the pain of the last month’s, my son and I were going to be ok.

My labor started that Easter night, at the end of my 36th week of pregnancy….and lasted for the following five days. Yes you read that correctly, people-FIVE DAYS. Even my OB couldn’t believe it. I was so desperate to move from 3 to 4 cm and be admitted to the hospital I left my OB’s office and instead of taking a walk as he suggested, I RAN. A. MILE. In a maternity dress and sandals as my sister tried to keep up w/Brennan in the stroller.

22 hours and five pushes later, there he was, Alex the Great, laying on my chest, jet black eyes squinting from the harsh delivery room lights….we had made it.

 

Today, he’s three and I’m always reminded of how I gave birth to him because every day he reminds me that he will do things in his own time, his own way, on his own terms. He’s not one to be rushed, pushed or prodded into anything be it a t-shirt or trying something for the first time. He is fiercely independent, bold, fearless even, but cautionary when it’s called for. He is a free thinker, stubborn like his father and I, adamant about having his way and never shy to voice his displeasure, but grows quiet when consumed with excitement. He’s an old man in a young man’s body, enjoying the simple pleasure of just sitting outside on the front step, observing all of the life going on around him. He trusts no one the way he does his big brother, and even we, Bertski and I have had to work diligently to earn his confidence.

He’s addicted to trains, cars and trucks. Want to see pure joy? Watch his entire body explode with it as one of his trains falls off of a “cliff”, be it the edge of the dining room table, the couch, or TV stand. Hear it in his laughter as you chase him around the house, or have him wrapped up in your arms as you tickle his belly.

Brennan saved me by healing my heart of wounds borne in childhood. Alex has saved me by forcing me to grow, mind, body and soul. As difficult as my pregnancy and first year postpartum were, carrying and giving birth to him helped me give birth to who I was underneath the wounds of my past. He’s the one who has given ME new life. Were it not for him, I wouldn’t be free of the tangles that kept me bound up in misery and ignorant of who I am. His birth led to me getting therapy and treatment and pushed me to grow and stretch in ways I didn’t think were possible. From the challenges that have come with mothering him while battling a mental illness, I’ve learned empathy, patience, grace, and that time is my friend and not my enemy. He’s taught me to slow down and LIVE.  He’s taught me to seek and not just rely on what I’ve always known. He’s helped me expand my perspective and worldview. From him I’ve learned how to be open and flexible to whatever may come my way.

From the joys that have come with being his mother and watching him evolve into the three year old little boy he is today, I’ve learned how to cherish every laugh, every smile, every expression of love bestowed upon me, big or small. He’s taught me how to value the simplest of things and how to be an individual. He’s challenged everything I thought I knew about life and parenting, and taught me how to endure.

I’d be lost without you my sweet boy. I’m so glad you’re here. Happy birthday son. I love you.

running from the quad copter.

running from the quad copter.

 

I’m Getting Married! Help Me Celebrate, Would Ya?

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My ring! Thank you Zales!

Guess who’s getting married y’all?

ME.

To Bertski.

If you’ve been a reader here for at least the past year, or know me personally, you know how huge this is considering how much he and I have been through the past three and a half years.  If you had walked up to me exactly a year ago today and told me that I’d be planning a wedding to the man I was separated from at the time, I would’ve shaken my head and walked away not believing any of it. We were so broken a year ago…barely able to speak to each other, both of our hearts raw from the emotional turmoil of a rocky relationship and dealing with my mental illness. I remember how I sat across from him and fought back tears and words that begged to be spoken as we ate dinner with the boys last New Year’s eve in Philly. I remember sitting in my car afterward, staring at myself in the rearview mirror at a red light, and seeing nothing but pain and loneliness in my eyes…it actually felt as though a knife was cutting through me and all I could think about was how I needed to let go of what was, and enter 2012 with open arms, forcing myself to embrace whatever it brought my way. “Let go…move forward,” were the words I used to describe my plans for the year when my therapist asked. “Well, I think that’s a good approach-you can’t embrace anything new if you’re still holding on to what was….and you can’t move toward anything if you’re focused on what’s behind you,” she replied.

I should call her and tell her how right and necessary her reply to me was at the time. As painful as they were to live out, her words helped me face the heartbreak I had been trying to ignore and parse my way through it, cleaning out all of the junk I’d let pile up in my heart in the process. It hurt like HELL, you hear me? HELL.

But I got through it. I let go. I forgave him. I embraced being his friend, and learned to love him unconditionally…..10 months later, here we are, living as a family in Austin….and getting married in March-the same month we decided to give our relationship one last try back in 2012.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around all that’s happened, and as I sit here thinking about it all, I just feel so much gratitude for the life we’re living at this moment-it’s a far cry from the devastation we had spent the last three years trying to just survive and recover from.

(deep breath)

8 weeks from now, we’ll be standing in an outdoor chapel, in front of those who have always supported us whether we were together or not, and vow to spend the rest of our lives with each other.

EIGHT WEEKS.

Needless to say I’m in full-blown wedding planning mode. (check out my pinterest wedding board!) Even though we’re keeping it a small and simple affair, there are still about a hundred “to-do” items and I’ve spent the last two weeks making reservations, emailing invites, talking to  dress designers, looking at rings….it’s been a whirlwind, but I’m doing my best to not be overwhelmed and enjoy this process because it’s exciting and I want to be present for every part of it.

Both Bertski and I keep saying how much we want that day and the coming weeks to be time of celebration, and every time I think of this, as corny as it sounds, my heart just swells with a joy I haven’t allowed myself to feel in a very, very long time.

So I’m spending the first 3 months of this year celebrating. Dancing, laughing, smiling…I’m giving myself fully to the freedom that’s found in it, and I’d love for you to join me!

How? Well, it’s simple, really. Our friends and family (and some of  YOU) have asked us about wedding gifts and such, so we created a gift registry….

BUT….

What we would really love, far more than an appliance, box of wine glasses, or the Big Bang Theory 400 question Trivia Game, is for people to help us celebrate our marriage by helping us give back. We feel like we’ve been given a tremendous gift, and yes, have been blessed beyond what we imagined these past months, so we’ve made it our goal this year to pay it forward in various ways.

This is where you come in….We have a list of charities and nonprofits that work to address issues that are personal to us or have affected us in some way. They are:

  • Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, NJ
  • Charity Water
  • Nothing but Nets

and the last one….the last one is Postpartum Progress, which many of you know pretty much saved my life after I had Alex, in more ways than one. It directed me to therapy and the treatment I needed, gave me a community of support I didn’t have, and introduced me to women who have become my best friends over the last two years. I honestly would not be here, Bertski and I would not be together if I hadn’t found Katherine Stone and the work she does with Postpartum Progress.

Would you consider making a donation to one of the above charities, especially to Postpartum Progress? It would mean so much to me and would help me give back all that I’ve been given as a result of Katherine’s dedication to making maternal mental health a priority….as well as help Bertski and I support organizations we feel are working hard to address hunger and disease prevention both here in the U.S. and abroad.

I know you probably think I’m crazy or tacky for doing this, but if you do make a donation of any kind, PLEASE email me and let me know. (dudley dot adriane at gmail dot com) I’d love to send you a card or something thanking you for celebrating with me, with us!

So…yeah. I’m getting married. I’M SO EXCITED! Be excited with me!

To learn more about any of the charities/nonprofits listed above, and make a donation, please visit these links:

Postpartum Progress: http://postpartumprogress.org/donate-postpartum-depression-2/ (you can also read the blog here: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/)

Cathedral Kitchen: http://cathedralkitchen.org/

Charity Water: http://www.charitywater.org/

Nothing but Nets: http://nothingbutnets.net/

This Christmas…It’s a Special One For Us Indeed

The holidays are always hard for me to get through for varying reasons, as I know they are for a lot of people, particularly those of us who live with mental illness.

The one thing that I’ve been focused on amidst all the frenzy of the holiday season and my own erratic moods is simply being grateful that life for the boys and I is not what it was this time last year. Bertski and I weren’t together and it was our first time navigating the tricky process of splitting the holidays with Alex. I hated it. It was lonely…I felt awful that I had contributed to my boys not being able to spend the holidays together, with both of their parents. Christmas was especially difficult for me, and also for Brennan. He kept asking when Alex was coming back, why Alex and Bertski were in Philly and not with us, and I kept fighting back tears and despairing thoughts. I felt hollow, emotionally cold, my mind was dark, and I just wanted it all to be over with. I was angry…bitterness had started to settle in my heart.

This Christmas, however, things are COMPLETELY different. If you’ve been reading along these past months, you know this. Instead of trying to navigate the ups and downs of co-parenting while forging lives independent of each other, Bertski and I are finally finding our way down a path that allows us to be parents AND a couple, building and living a family centric lifestyle-a first for both of us.

This Christmas I also find myself being grateful to say goodbye to life as a single mother and preparing myself to experience the holidays in the years to come as a wife. I don’t regret having to learn the ins and outs of parenting and how to balance the responsibility of it on both of my shoulders. The past 5 1/2 years have taught me a significant amount about myself…about life. It changed me into a new person, someone capable of doing things I didn’t think I’d be able to handle on my own.  I’m grateful for the life I lived as a single parent, but I’m also ready to say goodbye to it. I’m ready to move forward with someone not only willing to share the responsibility of parenting, but also willing to build a life with me. That’s huge for me. I’m used to people walking out of my life and removing me from theirs in one way or another, for varying reasons. I don’t always blame them, but it’s always left me feeling abandoned and unworthy of so many things-like having a family and a partner. To have someone see the value and worth I see in myself and decide to embrace and cherish it, cherish me, is the one gift I’ve begged for since I was a child and never received-until now.

When Bertski asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him I wanted nothing and it was the honest truth.  There is nothing material he would’ve purchased at a store that would’ve meant more to me than the gift of love I’ve found in our family and in my friends this year-my heart is too full to hold in anything else.

I hope that if you find yourself feeling lonely or down for whatever reason today you will be able to at least find one thing you can fix your mind on to get you through today and even into the new year just a few days away.  I hope that no matter what you find yourself struggling with in life today, that at least in one way, no matter how small or trivial it may seem, you are better than you were last year. Take some time to reflect on what that one thing make this day a special one for you, one that allows grace and gratitude to abide in your heart…it’s working for me :)

Merry Christmas y’all. Now…enjoy the brilliant weirdness that is Cee-Lo Green’s Magic Moment. Seriously.

Change Really Is Constant

Maybe I was being naive, but I thought once we moved here to Austin and got settled in, we’d be done with Mr. Change.  I mean after going through so much of it the last 8 months, and all of it permanently altering our lives, I thought our season was over once we moved into our apartment.

I was wrong. Dead wrong. I forgot that change is fluid, always there, weaving its way throughout our lives daily. It doesn’t matter if it’s life changing or something we wouldn’t think twice about or deem trivial, change is a constant companion in our journey through life.

Some of the changes we’ve experienced since moving here were planned, well-thought out and goals we set for ourselves. When we talked about moving here back in April, we sat down and talked about what kind of changes in our lifestyle we wanted to make. For example, we wanted to get back into being more active and doing the kinds of recreational activities we enjoy-running, hiking, being outside, exercising, yoga, taking the boys on bike rides, all of us learning how to swim, etc.

I’m happy to report that we’ve done that. We joined the YMCA in September and we’re addicted to it. The kids love going to the child watch play area and basketball courts, Brennan’s going to do track this winter, and both are being signed up for swimming lessons. I’m addicted to the rowing machine, Bertski to the strength training and BOTH of us are addicted to the running trail just across the street. People-I can leave my kids in the child watch at the Y and go run on the 3 mile trail that loops around Lady Bird Lake.  IT’S FREAKING GORGEOUS . What I love the most about it is that you see all kinds of people out there walking or running, whether they are in amazing shape, young, old, or trying to get into better shape. There’s such a huge focus on health here in Austin-you can see and feel it. It’s really been one of the best parts about our move. Being active is super easy in this city and we’re in love with it.

Some of the other changes that have happened have been surprising, incredible, and disappointingly difficult to deal with.

The surprising? Brennan being in school. Why? Well for one, he’s in school. Kindergarten. My baby boy has grown into an incredibly intelligent and dynamic 5-year-old BOY who goes to school. I knew when we moved here that he’d be going. But in the chaos of moving, it was just some intangible theory in the back of my mind. When it came time to walk him to his classroom I was a wreck. Bertski even teared up.

Something we didn’t know when we moved into our neighborhood was that we moved into the one with the best elementary school in the city. A huge part of why it’s so good is because it has access to money (it’s an affluent area, so the parents who are in the PTA pour a lot of money into the school-and they fundraise LIKE CRAZY.) which means they have access to a wealth of resources that other schools do not. Brennan goes to music, art, PE, spanish, and other “specials” offered during his school day in addition to his regular curriculum. His teacher rocks, keeps us well-informed of what’s going on week to week, and to say that Brennan is thriving there is an understatement. His mind has literally exploded with knowledge and he comes home every single day with a huge grin on his face as he tells us about what he learned.

That’s the incredible part. The surprising part? Kindergarten is a LOT of work, yo. We haven’t even gotten to the homework stage and I’m already terrified of the next 12 years. There are projects to do, (which is a first for us because I’m craft challenged) Teacher Appreciation lunches to bring food for, library volunteering to do, car lines to wait in (pause for a breath) school carnivals to attend and donate to, booths to work at said carnival, online resources to practice on, apps to download, music performances to go to…. are you getting what I’m saying? Trying to remember what’s due when, and all of the other details has been more overwhelming than I’d like to admit. I wasn’t expecting it to be this tough of a learning curve. But overall? It’s good. We’ll get through it.

Our lives overall are good. It’s been an incredible experience to have something that was just a dream and a plan become tangible and just plain awesome when you start to live it out. We’ve been so fortunate.

The really disappointing part? Well there are two. One-while Austin is a progressive city, the VA system here is not unfortunately. Actually it’s f*cking awful. I’ve never been to a place where they don’t have operators to answer the phones whether it be at a clinic, hospital, or whatever. It’s so frustrating when you’re in crisis and trying to get ahold of someone and a) no one answers the damn phone b) your new psychiatrist treats you like you’re inconveniencing them and doesn’t listen you, and c) you get the run around when it comes to treatment options or question the lack thereof. (ex: they don’t offer individual counseling. WTF?!)

More on that later, but the last disappointing change is that today Bertski started a new job and I’m a little sad about that. A lot of sad. Even though he spent a lot of time during the day previously working remote for his old client, he was still here and I found a lot of strength and comfort in that. The boys loved it, he loved it, I found relief in it and loved the routine we had developed. He already told me that this new contract is going to involve a lot of late nights, impossible to meet deadlines, and frenzy we’ve experienced with his previous contracts. That worries me, because it tires and stresses him out. He has less time to spend with us and on his side A.I. projects. In the past when he has a contract like this, any routine we’ve developed dissipates and we just kind of let things go. I’m hoping that as tough as this new contract will be, we’ll still be able to adapt ourselves to it and maintain what’s been working so well for us since moving here.

Whether it’s good or bad, large or small change is and will remain constant. I’m going to try to remember this and focus on learning to be even more adaptable to it as I move through these new stages of my life.