almost cancelled

Sitting, watching Iron Chef during the few sacred minutes I have when both kids are asleep at the same time (it’s truly holy!), my eyes started blurring a bit. Getting kinda wonky and cross eyed, hard to focus. I know what that means. After a month worth of blogging about how great I’m doing with migraine life, here I was, facing the very beginnings of a migraine attack.

Within 20 minutes my fingers started tingling, I started pounding water (lukewarm not cold because I can get it in faster). With the tingling creeping to my hand and traveling up my forearm I decided I had to break my life rule — NEVER wake sleeping babies. Desperate times call for desperate measures and my sleeping three-year-old was in the way of me getting to my supply of magnesium, the one thing that just might hold back the pain.

I popped my head into the bedroom and saw she was awake anyway (halleujah) and raced to my bathroom as a barage of “mommy, what are you doing?” questions followed. I sent the princess downstairs to grab my cell phone. By the time she got back, there was magnesium in my belly and on my calves and I curled up in bed next to her. Turning on Peppa Pig, she laid there, while I rolled over and willed the pain to not come. Tingling continued, through my shoulder, up the side of my neck, to the back of my head and like a slow moving tide, made it’s way up and over my scalp.

I woke, 35 minutes later, to Bubba crying. I’d fallen asleep, and let my daughter have more screen time then I’m typically comfortable with. I felt hung over, like I’d woken up from a bad night of good cocktails, but the tingling never made it to my eyeball. That’s where the pain hits, and where it sits, sometimes for two full days but this time, by the grace of God and Tabby’s patience, I knocked the migraine out before it really started hurting and I couldn’t come back from the pain spiral.

Climbing out of bed to grab little man, I felt heavy, my head and my body felt like I was moving through a slow moving river. We made our way downstairs and I looked over at the Instant Pot I’d set up on the counter, hours ago, ready to make dinner.

With Lukas out of town, I’d planned to cook dinner for our neighbors who have become family. With the pain encroaching in my head, the obvious answer was to cancel. In the past, that’s what I always did… cancel.

This time, before sending the “need to cancel” text, I paused. After writing a month’s worth of migraine posts, focusing on how depression and migraine are so interconnected in my life, I challenged myself. Why cancel?

Well, I don’t want to entertain people while I’m hurting. VA, you know these people require no entertainment.

Well, I don’t want to cook dinner for anyone. VA, you have to cook dinner for you and the kids anyway. It’s the instant pot, it’s easy, there’s no extra effort to have more join.

Well, I don’t want to be in pain around people. VA, you have your two little people you’ll be around anyway. And wouldn’t it be better if Tabby had someone else to talk to instead of her hurting mama?

Well, I don’t want to be a bad version of myself around anyone. VA, these people aren’t just “anyone”. You’re allowed to be yourself with them, even if yourself is fussy and in pain.

I didn’t get too much farther. That’s all I needed to put the phone down and trust that the neighbors I had been investing in were people who I didn’t have to be “the best version of me” around.

They walked into my house an hour later with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts. I’d bought the wrong noodles for the recipe and later burnt my Instant Pot Spaghetti (how did that even happen??) and I told them it might be awful, but they gobbled up bowls, anyway. We sat at our dining room table and they talked to the kids (which was a much needed reprieve for my hurting head) and talked to me about stuff that got my mind off the hurting.

At 5:30 I took James upstairs for his bath time and the three ladies (a mother, daughter and granddaughter — how cool is that??) stayed with my girl. Once little man was asleep, I made my way back down the stairs to find my kitchen completely cleaned (cleaner than I ever would have gotten it on a good day!) and Veatra, our resident neighborhood hairstylist, putting “fairy hair” into Tabby’s locks. HOW AMAZING ARE THEY???? Goodness, I love them dearly.

This is why we neighbor. This is why we invite people into our lives who live in physical proximity. It’s not easy, it takes vulnerability and opening ourselves up to exposure, which always means opening up to risk of hurt, awkwardness, and uncomfortable situations. BUT. Y’all…it’s been so worth it.

Yes the clean kitchen was nice, and the camaraderie at dinner, and the hairstyle for Tabs…those things were great. Even better was what the night communicated to the deepest parts of my soul. I am loved, I am cared for, and I am not alone. Even on my worst days, when I may show up as the worst version of myself, I am still chosen by people who’s house is spitting distance from my own. And with that hindsight, it’s pretty crazy to think I almost cancelled.

xoxo, va

dear Mrs. Obama

While scrolling through the internet one day, I stumbled upon an opportunity to contact the Obama family. I almost scrolled to the next page but stopped. What would I say to them if I had a chance? Would my note actually be read? Probably not, but at least I could try. Try because, after watching the Becoming documentary, I recognized my own role in the pain the family experienced. Yes, I’m just a little tiny white woman from the south, my impact was small. Microscopic, even.

But… was my role really that small?

Hi Mrs. Obama!

I want to say thank you and I’m sorry. I didn’t vote for your husband, actually, I was one of those folks who was pretty vocally against him, pretty vocally against you, as well. After watching your Becoming Netflix documentary last year I was blown away with how ignorant I’d been. In 2008, I believed what the media said about you guys, I was sucked into the criminalizing rhetoric. I justified my racist thoughts because I was against his “policy”. And for that, I am sad.

Sad I didn’t get to cheer for you guys when you were in the White House. Sad I didn’t get to vote for a man, a family, who I now see, understand and know, ABSOLUTELY belonged there (and who I wish could be there again!). I’m sad it’s taken me this long to expose myself to the amazing speeches and work the two of you did while in office, work you continue to do and that I’m learning from like a dry sponge soaking it all in. As a white woman who’s grown up in the south, my ignorance has been on full display for most of my life and I’m blessed that by God’s grace, He’s allowing me to see it and repent for it, to continue to repent for it, something I know I’ll be doing all my life as I let Him undo this yuck that’s been instilled in me from my neighborhood, my community, and my country, from an early age. I didn’t know then, but that’s not good enough. I want to know, I want to learn. Thank you for your courage in standing up to the ugliness that we spewed in your direction. Thank you for your bravery. You stared into faces like mine and did the thing God had called you to do, anyway.

I didn’t get a chance to be a part of history when your husband became President but I learned, I got better, because of your story, I’ve done both. I was able to participate in this past monumental election. My husband and I took our two-year-old daughter to drive around Atlanta while we all honked horns at Biden and Harris’ election. We teared up. We felt like love won that day. As the mother of a daughter, I was able to watch Harris’ speech and again, tear up, knowing I would be able to proudly tell her when she’s older that the world changed that day and that her mommy got to be a part of it. A tiny, microscopic part of the right side of history, where I believe, in 2008, I was on the wrong one. I’m sorry for my ignorance. I’m sorry for being a part of the “them” that hurt your family. I wish I could take it back, but since I can’t, I’ll just move forward and do better. I promise to do better.

Thank you again, Mrs. Obama, I’m thankful you are in this world because you make it better place!!!

I never heard back from my email, nor did I expect to get a response. In writing group, we learn to write for the one — even if that one is yourself. The one for that piece of writing was myself. I needed to write it, I needed to apologize, I needed to repent. Michelle Obama didn’t need my note. She didn’t need my apology. She didn’t need my repentant attitude. She doesn’t need anything from me, personally. What she needs from me is to be a part of the whole group of white people pushing to not forget, to keep learning, to keep pressing into the discomfort that is the race conversation in this country.

One I forget about, more than I’m proud to admit, but one I want to keep engaging in and to keep fighting to bring to the forefront of my mind. IT IS SO EASY to get sidetracked, to lose focus, to get off course in the pursuit to be an advocate for justice.

On our way home from a fantastic week visiting my parents in St. Simons, here’s a shot of my four people at the beach…

…Lukas mentioned a podcast he’d heard about, called Love Thy Neighborhood. Y’all KNOW how much I love neighboring so I jumped on the bandwagon and was surprised at what we uncovered. A GEM. At least, it’s a gem for the likes of me who is questioning a lot of the narratives I’ve believed about faith, the Gospel, God, grace, and more, as I’ve learned some ugly truths about what people like me have done to people in the margins, under the banner of Jesus’ name.

I appreciate the podcast host’s perspective. It doesn’t seem as polarizing or extreme as a lot of the other content you find on these types of topics. I plan to listen to more podcast episodes in the future and only have one official episode under my belt, so can’t say I wave a banner of THE BIGGEST FAN (yet?) but it was thought provoking and educational. A glimpse into the history of the American church, especially in the south (aka where I was born, raised and went to college), where a whole bunch of white people used a whole bunch of power to protect their way of life against a whole bunch of people that didn’t look like them.

My letter to Mrs. Obama feels, well, a little silly, and yet, it’s the culmination of a A LOT of thought provoking soul work where I’ve had to look at my own racist tendencies square in the face. Like a bicep being strengthened at the gym, my muscle of learning about racial justice (and injustice!) will never be finished or complete. Rather, it’s a desire I have to constantly invest in relational strength with the people around me, never giving up on not forgetting.

If you’d like to join me in not forgetting, click here for the podcast episode I listened to. Or here, here, or here for three other episodes that are high on my “listen to next” list. Or if you are unsure about all this race conversation, it makes you MEGA uncomfortable (don’t worry, I’ve been there!!), and you aren’t sure where to even begin, check out this post that shows you where I began my learning journey. If you have specific questions, I promise to be a safe, listening ear, for you to ask them. PS if you know my mom, she’s a really safe place on this topic and pushes herself to not forget, as well! In the deepest part of my gut, heart and Spirit, I believe that until white people (me, us, and maybe you staring at your cell phone screen) start talking about race, regularly and often, we will not see Kingdom shaking change on Earth as it is in Heaven.

xoxo, va

two peas in a…bedroom

Getting James and Tabby sleeping in the same room has been a dream of mine. There are selfish reasons, like how we have 3 bedrooms upstairs in our new house — one for us, one for the kids and one for the playroom. If we want the guest suite we have in the basement (another dream!), then we can’t have a playroom down there. If we don’t have a playroom downstairs and we don’t have one upstairs, our living room becomes a playroom (more like a nightmare!). And then there are other reasons — like the stuff I’ve learned from mama friends ahead of me — benefits in lessons of conflict resolution, bonding, learning to accommodate someone else in their space and set boundaries for themselves, accordingly.

Having the two kids, sleeping in the same room, was always something I worked towards. In how we talked to Tabby when James was in my belly, laying expectations for her to share a room with her brother, in how I set up and managed their schedules and in what furniture we bought (bunk beds) when moving to the new space.

Oh and tents — tents are a MUST! We started using the SlumberPod (tent on the left) when we traveled with baby Tabby and she loved it so much we upgraded to a big girl version when she got out of the pack and play. James got used to the tent during our house buying drama and he loves it so much, we never transitioned him back to the crib.

It hasn’t been easy. It’s been a pain in the arse at times, and yet, Spirit kept leading my mama gut, one “next right thing” baby step at a time, to get the kids in the same room. I thought we’d have them in the same room when James was WAY younger. As I sit here and go back down memory lane this past year, I think of all the small steps we took to make it happen. I’ve tried to type them out but they are so small, the changes unable to even be captured in words they were so incremental, hardly even noticeable, and yet, I see the milestones. The first time we moved James out of our room to be with her, the first time we let Tabby sleep with us because James was having a regression night, the first time I sat in the rocking chair with both kids to prep for bedtime, the first time Tabby tiptoed out of the bedroom and shut the door quietly, the first time James cried and didn’t wake Tabby up, the first time Tabby cried and didn’t wake James up.

Bedtime was definitely easier than nap time. Nap time took months to work through the kinks. The days Tabby slept in our room or the playroom to not disturb her brother. The times I barked at her to go back downstairs because James was struggling (not my finest parenting moments). And then, just days before James’ first birthday, it happened. THEY TOOK A NAP IN THE SAME ROOM AT THE SAME TIME.

I’d crossed the finish line of my first “parenting with two kids” mama marathon. Twelve months of doubts and tears and hope and optimism and feelings of failure. Days I questioned was it worth it and should we just move them into separate rooms, always holding the shred of the dream close, tight, willing to let go if it wasn’t working but committed to trying everything before giving up on the dream. I’d done the hard work. We’d done the hard work. We fought for something together and made it happen. We are warriors. I am a warrior.

In college, there was “the va”. A hand motion/tongue thing I did so many times, a bestie who thought I was awesome before I believed it, myself, named it after me. Here’s a collage of pics, borrowed from my “Bye 20’s” post showing off a few of the many times I’d stick my hand up and tongue out to signify “This is awesome!”

An awesome hair cut, a birthday celebration, beer pong win, Auburn victory, road trip, night out, anything where the moment deserved a “THIS IS AWESOME”. So a few weeks ago at nap time, even though I hadn’t done “the va” in a looooooooong time, when I closed the door on my kids sleeping in the same room, at the same time, it was the only thing that felt appropriate. I FREAKING DID IT.

I’m an amateur parent. This is a new gig for me, I’m only 3.5 years into being a mom and only 393 days into this whole “parenting two kids” thing. Any expert will tell you if you’re striving for a goal, you HAVE to celebrate the wins. Big wins, small wins, even finding microscopic wins in the sea of failure. Being a mom feels like failing, a lot. There’s no dashboard on my computer that gives me a score for how I’m doing as a mom. There’s no wearable tracker that helps me know I’m “red/yellow/green” in motherhood. There’s no boss giving me a bonus check for my performance.

Sure, I look at my kids and think THEY ARE AWESOME, we must be doing a great job, but that’s a slippery slop because let’s be real, measuring my worth as a mom in the behavior of my kids is a **warning***warning** danger zone opportunity for disaster. Thank you years and years of therapy to help me identify when I’m doing this!!!

Who knows how long James and Tabs will be sleeping in the same room? It might be never again (if tomorrow is another hot mess nap time like today, I might jump ship on the single bedroom dream pretty dang quick) or they might be together for years to come.

For now, I’m celebrating this win. I did it, THEY DID IT.

The way they love each other already, is something to marvel at. James is obsessed with his sister, follows her around everywhere, wants to do everything she does, and is totally confused when she’s not around. Tabby is obsessed with him in her own way, a little more low key about it, slightly envious of having to share her mama, but heaven help the person who hurts her “Bubba”. They are my two peas in a…bedroom…and I’m so proud to be their mom!

xoxo, va

migraine life (part 4: getting better at it)

PART 1: The Beginning
PART 2: The “Other Way”
PART 3: Chronic Pain Consequences
PART 3B: Reality

“Does it get any easier?”

“No, but you get better at it.”

Life with migraine hasn’t necessarily gotten easier, but I’ve gotten better at managing it. I know what foods to eat and what to stay away from. I recognize when I’m close to my threshold (aka pain threshold) BEFORE I get to pain level. I know the warning signs. I feel my head literally getting heavy, like now, right now, in this moment as I type this.

The way I communicate this to myself and others is “my head is heavy”. If there was a two armed scale in my brain it would be tipped heavily to the right side. I feel pressure, behind my right eye ball, up and over my skull, down the back, towards my spinal cord. It feels, well, heavy. Magnesium. Glare glasses. CBD oil. TONS of water. Super “migraine friendly” diet. Laying down, or at least sitting to rest a bit. Deep breaths. Reminding myself I’m not in control and that’s okay. These are my primary tools in my wellness arsenal for migraine I pull out at the first warning signs.

Interestingly enough? The past 5 days, I’ve also experienced depression symptoms. Not enjoying things like I used to, decreased appetite, sadness or anger for no reason, brain fog. In the same way I pay attention to the warning signs for migraine, I recognize depression warning signs as yellow flags that lead to action. When is the last time I got physical exercise? How about sunshine? Have I had a therapy appointment recently? Called a friend? Prioritized alone time?

The goal is always to cut off migraine before it hits pain level that affects daily functioning, and to cut off depression before it gets there, as well. I’ve gotten really good at doing so. I’ve been forced to get comfortable with the life changes I’ve had to make in order to care for myself. Like asking for help, admitting my limitations, accepting that this is a part of my life, every single day. Yes it’s a daily part of life AND when managed it can stay a small gnat in my ear instead of an elephant on my back.

Several years ago, a full weekend, out of town, with a different schedule than normal, weird foods and lots of time in the sun would have caused me a whole bunch of social anxiety. What if I’m in pain? Will I act like a brat? Will I be friendly? I only see these people a few days a year, will I be able to hold it together? These questions used to make me spiral, turning something as simple as a three day family reunion into a seemingly impossible-to-pull-off excursion.

Not this year, though. Nope! This year, equipped with all the tools I’ve learned, I went into our annual family time feeling strong. “Bigga Bigga” — what we call our annual family gathering (the name given years and years ago by the now extremely tall, college attending “almost-not-a-teenager anymore” white t-shirt wearing fella on the right side of this pic) — felt way more doable.

Was it perfect? Nah, when is family time ever that? But when the harder moments cropped up, I had tools to cope. I’d made phone calls ahead of time to clarify expectations. I communicated what my kids (and therefore, me!) needed in regards to sleep and food, to function well. I asked for what I needed before I got to desperate level (I went to a sushi lunch all by myself in the middle of one of the family days!!) Lukas and I worked together, supporting the other in getting our individual needs met while staying present with family and being as flexible as possible to maximize time together. And you know what? It was awesome! I left with a full heart, having connected with family I don’t see very often, and the best part — getting to experience my kids bringing so much joy and smiles to the group.

Lately I’ve taken moments to stop and find myself soaking in my reality — I love my life. I love my life, not because it’s free of hard stuff, but because I’ve gotten so much better at coping.

“I’m not afraid of the storm because I’m learning to sail my ship.”

This quote has been posted in my bathroom for several years as I’ve focused, not on making the “waves” calmer around me (aka trying to manage everything to make it easier and less tumultuous) but using my time and energy to equip myself to navigate the waves when they are big and crashing.

Cause here’s the thing — whether it’s migraine or depression or a break up or death of a loved one or becoming a mother or waiting to become one or a move or parenting challenges or social unrest or a hurricane or job loss or surgery (or another surgery!) or a crisis of faith religion — there will always be waves out of my control, waves that WILL rock my boat. It doesn’t matter how much time, energy and MONEY, I spend to make things easier, to make myself more comfortable, there will always be things that threaten to knock me over.

While laying in bed last night, I rolled over and told Lukas I needed to tell him something. Something, from my years learning to cope and manage depression, I knew I needed to say out loud. I didn’t want to do it, and almost didn’t, but rolled over and said “I don’t want to tell you but I know I have to”. He met me where I was in the dark (literally and figuratively) and we talked through it together. He reminded me I was okay, and, most importantly, that I wasn’t alone. Lukas is a physical representation of the ever-present God who loves me.

“…this God is in it for the long haul. We will not be abandoned.” That’s a really easy thing to repeat. My Christian upbringing has taught me to TRUST GOD. Trust Him, just do it. He’s worthy of my trust. YES…AND…it’s hard at times. I sit on the “other side” of a lot of those “wave crashing” things I listed above so I have hindsight. Hindsight to declare with confidence that God has never left my side, that He’s been with me through the long haul and that I’ve never been abandoned. It’s easy to sit here, in the bright of day, with a good night’s sleep under my belt, finishing this post to you, to see that. And yet, in the dark of the night, when all was quiet, it was hard to cling to that truth. It was hard to find that truth by myself.

Hard doesn’t mean wrong. Just because it’s hard to trust God doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong, doesn’t mean I love God any less, doesn’t mean I’m being a bad Christian. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean He loves me any less, either.

Trusting God, thriving with migraine and depression, learning to sail my ship — it all hasn’t gotten any easier. But, over time, I’ve gotten better at it.

And you will, too, I promise. Keep going. Don’t give up on yourself. And if things feel too hard, fight to roll over in the dark and tell someone you don’t want to, but you need to talk about it. Make the phone call, grab a lifeline, get the help. You might not believe what I’m about to say right now but I’m going to say it anyway. Pretend I’m shouting this from giant speakers attached to the side of a helicopter as I fly around you declaring to the world —

You are absolutely, 100% worth it.

You are not broken, you are not wrong, you are not messed up.

You are exactly who you are, right now, in this moment, for such a time as this.

Your pain matters.

Your story matters.

The world needs you…we need you.

This won’t get any easier, but you WILL get better at it.

xoxo, va