It’s tough to be a lady.

Specifically, it’s tough to be both a woman and a mother — to be both desirable and nurturing; to be fun and exciting and sexy and young and responsible; to maintain aspects of my personality that you wouldn’t associate with motherhood; to care for myself and my child; to breastfeed and to be comfortable breastfeeding in public but not breastfeeding anywhere and not wearing too many low-cut shirts and to stop breastfeeding at a time that’s most socially acceptable, regardless of the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for one year or longer.

It’s so hard to be the perfect mother.

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Am I sexy? Am I Mufasa? I don’t even know, guys.

Then, I add dating to the mix. And I’m not only caring for myself and my child…but I’m caring for you, too. You want me to respond to all your texts, but “oh my god that lady isn’t even paying attention to her child because she’s staring at her iPhone.” I have to pay attention to you, but “holy shit your kid just poked himself in the eye with a straw while he was in your arms and you didn’t even see it.” I have to magically hear and see everything. I have to strike the perfect balance between going out and showing my friends I still exist and that I care about them and staying in and ensuring that my son — my new toddler who’s just learning to stand up on his own — has stable routines and bedtime stories. And then I have to make time for you.

I don’t want that to be a chore.

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What even is that? A stick? Why do you have a stick?

Dating is fun. I enjoy it so much. I love going out to dinner and getting to know new people. I love cooking together and drinking wine and baking cookies and making out and having sex. I love going back and forth with stupid interview questions as we try to determine if we’re compatible for each other and if we could see ourselves spending the rest of our lives together. I love the friends I’ve made and the food I’ve eaten and even the lovely conversations I’ve had with people that I may never speak to again. I love the new phrases I’ve learned in Hebrew and the opportunities to practice my Arabic and the legal lingo that I’ve picked up along the way. I’ve had an amazing experience. I had never truly experienced dating before. I’d always just fallen into relationships. It wasn’t until I moved to DC that I really started to date. And I love it.

But then all of a sudden it gets so…complicated.

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asdf;j I enjoy spending time with you and can’t we just keep things the same and remember what I said about serious conversations?

And maybe the conversation just needs to be, “Hey, I want something more serious than you do, and if you’re not interested in that then I need to move on.” As sad as that would make me, I completely respect your needs. But I’m not going to be the one to say it because that’s not what I want.

I’m one of those people who loves the journey more than the destination.

There’s someone else in my life who I’ve become so close with over the last few months, someone who is intelligent who I enjoy talking to and venting to and challenging and being challenged by. You’re wonderful. I can see myself with you, down the road, maybe forever. And we do that — we picture our lives together, and we talk about the places that we’ll live and the kids we’ll adopt. And as much as I love picturing my future with you, I don’t necessarily know that I’m ready to commit to that future. So when you tell me that you’re confused and that you don’t know what I want, maybe it’s because I don’t really want anything at all. Or I just don’t want it all right now.

I’m a full-time mom with a full-time job, and I serve on the board of a local nonprofit. I love to volunteer, maybe to a fault. I cook and clean and take care of a household. I’m helping someone learn to walk, and I’m working on creating a safer world for women and girls and boys and men and people who may not identify as any of the above. I want to tackle poverty and human trafficking and violence against women. All of that takes up 100% of my time.

So I don’t want to have to work too hard for a relationship. I just want something that’s fun and easy and flexible. I don’t want to ask you to go out of your way for me because I know I don’t have the capacity to go out of my way for you right now. I don’t want to work that hard because I work so hard all day, and at the end of the day, I just want to cuddle with some wine and I don’t really want to think about it.

At least right now. I don’t know how I’ll feel in a month or a year or two years. I just know that that’s where I stand right now.

But then I look back at that book you made me and think, maybe I need to find a way to work harder on this one.

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50 pages filled with 50 things you like about me — but it really says more about you: the way you listen, the things you notice, how much you care. <3

I think my next relationship will be very much long-term. I’ve jumped into a million relationships before, and I don’t feel the need to leap so quickly this time. But I don’t have to have that all figured out tonight. In the meantime, here’s an adorable picture of me and Max dressed as characters from Up.

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Happy 1st birthday, Max!

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Still hasn’t quite mastered the flying thing.

Sleep, pretty darling, do not cry.

I guess I didn’t want the day to pass without saying something,
writing something down,
feeling something.

I had a pretty good day.
I spent time with loved ones.
I drank good wine and ate fresh-baked cookies.
But of course, in the back of my mind, I think to myself:
fuck.
Today, two years ago, I lost my best friend.

I just want to be able to call him.
I just want one more Sunday morning in his white Honda Civic,
blasting Breakfast with the Beatles and eating hash browns from McDonald’s.

It’s funny the things you remember about someone when they’re gone.
I think about the barbecues we had,
I think about falling asleep in the movie theater when we went to see
that Benjamin Button movie.
I slept through the whole beginning, and then I woke up and watched the rest.

We used to have so many movie nights —
it was me, Kerry, Joseph, Gretchen.
Sometimes Richard, sometimes Zech, sometimes Bess.
For two years, we spent almost every day together
and then every night.
And when we were apart, we’d call each other.
It’s almost pathetic how codependent we must’ve become.
And when the Coalition fell apart, we kinda fell apart, too.
But I’d still go back,
and when I needed to watch a movie for a class, I’d go to Kerry’s.
We’d watch the classics together,
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Citizen Kane.
We’d spend hours playing Scrabble and listening to the Beatles
and the Doors and Dylan.
I wish I still had all those videos I took at 14 Below.

Everything has changed.
I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy.
But sometimes I feel so empty.
I love you and miss you so much.

I don’t wanna cry, but I guess it’s better that I waited ’til after bedtime.

Black Bean Quinoa Enchilada Bake & the “Up” Mailbox

My favorite way to find a new recipe is to type the ingredients from my cupboard into Google and see what I can make with what I have. It usually still requires a trip to either my trusty Capitol Food Mart (or sometimes aaalll the way to the O Street Market Giant), but it’s still a nice thrifty cheat for cooking dinner.

Now, as I mentioned previously, I’m organizing Max’s first birthday party, and the theme is Up, which was Max’s first word. In keeping with the theme, I’ll be serving food from South America.

Fortunately, I’ve already perfected just the dish.

Black Bean Quinoa Enchilada Bake

Ingredients
1 cup quinoa
1 onion
1 cup frozen corn
2 cans black beans
2 cans green enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
cilantro
a teensy bit of lime juice
seasonings: salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Boil the quinoa in 2 cups of water, until water is absorbed.
  3. Chop your onion and your jalapeno.
  4. BABY’S HUNGRY NOW! FEED HIM NOW!
  5. Toss child scraps of bacon that were cooked before you started making dinner because God forbid you fail to offer a pre-dinner snack.
  6. Heat tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, and saute onions, garlic, and jalapenos.
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  7. Add corn to your veggie pan, and cook for another five minutes or so.
  8. Make sure your baby is not dead; pull him away from the plugs.

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    #motheroftheyear

  9. Why, oh why, must you play with plugs? Distract baby with corn popper.
  10. What a timeless tool of entertainment.
  11. It’s probably time to add the salt, pepper, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, and cilantro to your veggie mix. Then, stir.
  12. Repeat step #8 — and also step #5.
  13. Don’t worry about spoiling his dinner; if your child is anything like mine then he’s basically a vacuum. Anyway, this dish freezes well.
  14. Move the cooked quinoa to a bowl, and cook the black beans (I use the same pot because you’re going to mix them anyway, and there’s no reason to wash two pots. Ain’t no momma got time for that.)
  15. Probably shouldn’t have left your bacon plate so close to the edge of the table, where your tiny demon could reach it. That’s a goner now. Throw it away.
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  16. “Wahhhh the plate I broke made a loud noise.”
  17. Hug your demon.
  18. Combine the quinoa, beans, and then the veggies in your casserole dish. Stir, and pour in the enchilada sauce. Add 1 1/4 cups of cheese, and stir some more.
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  19. Top with the rest of the cheese, and bake for 30 minutes.
  20. Voila! You’ve got your delicious dish – garnish with cilantro and other toppings as you wish.
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Kid-tested, mother-approved.

In other news, I’m working on decorations for the party. I’ve already bought some props for our costumes as well as an actual helium balloon tank to blow up millions of balloons (that’s the primary decoration). I haven’t completely decided what I’m going to do with the door, but I know that I want to have the Up mailbox outside.

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I’ve started to work on recreating this mailbox by using a Shutterfly box and some white paint. I cut the top off the box and cut the ends so that they’d be curved. I also cut the top part of each side so that the height would match with the ends.

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Then I painted the box white.

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Ta-da!

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Next, I had to come up with a way to make the top of my mailbox. I tried to use white paper, but it was way too flimsy.

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#fail

So I bought white foam sheets, glued the ends of each sheet, and stuck them into my mailbox.

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It’s not completely perfect, but I didn’t really need it to be. Here’s the finished product:

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What kids need most

I don’t have all the money in the world. I don’t have a big house, and I can’t send my son to the most expensive schools. I can’t give him everything; if I could, I probably would, and I don’t think that would make him a better, happier, more well-adjusted, or more well-behaved child.

There’s really only one trick to this whole parenting thing: love ‘em.

(And maybe also make sure they don’t eat poisonous plants.)

Max and I have had the most lovely weekend. He napped at Starbucks while I read my hipster feminist novel. We hung out at the library and read some new books (as well as a few books he picked out that we already have at home). We played in the Shaw Library playroom — maybe my new favorite space — and we ate and read some of Cesar Chavez’s life story at Busboys & Poets. We watched part of Hook, and I bawled at the scene where the Lost Boys realize that it really is indeed Peter Pan. Then, today, we went to Southeast DC to visit the Playseum, play drums, dress up as spacepeople, and eat Mexican food.

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Signs that living in Bloomingdale has finally gotten to me. #hipsterfeminist

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We had a lot of fun – they even had books at the Playseum for parents prepping for the toddler years! But, as I was posting 12 million photos on Instagram to show the world how adorable my child is and how great of a mom I am, it occurred to me that I don’t have to spend every waking second entertaining my son. We don’t have to visit a children’s museum or ride a water taxi every weekend. He doesn’t need to own every toy (and in fact, he has more than enough toys, so in lieu of birthday presents, he’s/I’m asking folks to give to the City Kids Wilderness Project — an organization that gives underserved and at-risk DC kids an opportunity to experience outdoor adventures; it fit really well with the birthday party theme). Max would be perfectly content playing and reading and dressing up in spacesuits at home.

Though, of course, my way makes for better pictures.

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IMG_6921IMG_2099I have a lot of fun with parenting, and I imagine all of the children’s museums and petting zoos and ferris wheels and all of the other fun things that we do are only going to become even more fun as Max grows up and learns to, well, walk.

I guess I’m just saying that, even if you don’t have a local children’s museum or you don’t have the money to give your kids all the toys in the world (they really don’t need all the toys) or you just don’t have any interest in those things, you can just let them play with the pots and pans and remember that the most important thing you’ll ever do for them is give them your time, hug them when they cry, cheer them on when they try something new, and just love them.

Max and the Pots

Introducing Max and the Pots with the brand new single, “He Bangs, He Bangs”

I know that’s easy for me to say as the mother of a really quiet, even-tempered, borderline perfect one-year-old, but I think a lot about the upcoming toddler years and about discipline and about the ways that Max pushes me even now — crying when he can’t play with the phone (usually because I have to answer a call), getting incredibly upset if I have to put him down (every now and then, a lady just has to pee…or like rest her arms). For the past week, Max seems to spend a good amount of time each night just howling unless I’ll hold him. I thought it was because he was teething, but I realized that teething pain doesn’t just go away the second you give a child a hug (and come back the second the hug ends). I read up on what was happening and learned that babies around his age become really cranky and clingy just before they reach a milestone that furthers their independence. Different people will have different approaches to handling this irritability. I found myself on Amazon stocking up on all of the positive parenting/positive discipline books for the toddler years (along with a few alternative parenting books), and then I read this short article on AhaParenting.com that gave me the guidance that I was looking for.

“Your son is trying to communicate something he can’t communicate any other way. He is not ‘throwing fits’ to get your attention. He is throwing fits because he is 11 months old and feels so passionately about everything, and simply doesn’t have the capacity to control himself yet.” – Dr. Laura Markham

In summary? Say yes as much as possible. Be human, and treat your kids as human. When you have to say no, explain why and offer comfort for the disappointment that will inevitably follow.

“When we ignore tantrums, kids tantrum more. When we ‘give in’ to tantrums by giving the child what he is tantrumming for, they tantrum more. But when we respond to the unhappiness our child is expressing by offering him comfort and understanding, they tantrum less. So please don’t worry that comforting him will make his tantrumming worse.”

Nothing bad ever came from hugs and love.

Intervening vs. ending violence

It’s fascinating to me to think about all the ways that my life in DC has helped me challenge, analyze, and overcome views that had been so deeply ingrained in me — views that were so important to me, views that were so impenetrable by empathy and humanity and, ironically, impenetrable by reason.

I was not a feminist. I was in denial of racism. I was not empathetic. I blamed poverty on people who were poor. And it took me years of unraveling insecurities about my own identity, about my own victimhood, to be able to see the systems in place that keep some people poor and keep others in power. It took total immersion in an ultra-progressive environment, where I befriended and interviewed and chronicled the stories of people who experienced hunger, homelessness, addiction, mental illness, disability, illiteracy, domestic violence. I had to reconcile my beliefs about personal responsibility with the lived experiences of the people that I’d come to know — and with my own lived experience. I am so different now than I was three years ago. I’m so much stronger now.

Today, I read a few articles challenging the concept of bystander intervention. It’s an idea that I’ve really come to believe in as part of my work to end street harassment. A few months ago, a friend asked me what he was supposed to do if he witnessed someone being harassed on the street, and I shared what I’d learned about bystander intervention. To me, it doesn’t mean confronting the perp; it means saying something to the person experiencing harassment to show them that you support them, that they’re not alone. Something as simple as “You ok, sis?” He raised the point that bystander intervention could be viewed as harassment in itself, or it could even be taken as an insult, e.g. he feared that he’d come off as a chauvinist treating the victim as a damsel in distress. It was an interesting point that I hadn’t previously considered, but I reiterated that it’s important to just show support for the victim without necessarily coming to the rescue by confronting the harasser. Just asking “Are you okay?” can signal to the victim that s/he will be OK while indirectly telling the harasser that the behavior is unacceptable, inappropriate, and even threatening — which I think most harassers don’t even realize.

While reading a few articles tonight doesn’t completely change my views, it does shed light on some of the holes in the concept of bystander intervention. For example, the idea of intervention holds victims and witnesses responsible for preventing sexual harassment and assault rather than holding the perpetrator accountable.

“bystander intervention appears less as a weapon in the fight against sexual assault and more like an evolved form of victim blaming.”The Failure of Bystander Intervention

On one hand, I completely understand this point – we don’t need to stop rape victims from being raped; we need to stop rapists from raping. But on the other hand, why shouldn’t we do what’s within our power to stop sexual harassment and assault from happening right now as we work toward a long-term solution to end violence?

“One-size-fits-all intervention models can often escalate the levels of violence far beyond what the initial assault may have entailed.” – TFBI

We know this is true. We saw it in San Francisco, Albayrak’s death in Gemany. But we’ve also seen examples of bystander intervention that directly stopped sexual harassment and assault. Should witnesses feel the need to put their lives at risk by intervening? No, I don’t think so. Ideally, asking a victim if s/he’s OK would not exacerbate the situation, but truly ideally, the situation wouldn’t exist in the first place. So anti-sexual violence activists argue that we need to focus efforts on eliminating rape culture and our culture of violence. The problem with that solution, of course, is that it’s going to take a lot of time, and a lot of sexual violence is going to happen in the meantime. Bystander intervention gives you an immediate solution that arguably contributes toward the long-term goal of ending sexual violence.

“A community immersed in bystander intervention not only makes it much more difficult for perpetrators to attack; it also sends a clear message to rapists that what they are doing is not OK, which moves us towards broader cultural change.” - The Guardian

I don’t think I’m going to have an answer tonight, but it’s an interesting question that I want to keep considering.

In other news, I’m getting ready for Max’s first birthday party at the end of this month. His first word was “Up,” so naturally, I’m planning to throw an “Up”-themed birthday party — meaning SO MANY BALLOONS. I already bought a helium balloon tank and some props for our costumes. Max is going to be the Boy Scout from the movie, and I’m working on learning to sew merit badges for each of his milestones, e.g. crawling, first word, clapping, and eating solid foods. The hardest part, though, has been finalizing the guest list. A lot of our good friends are coming to the party — at least 15 people, all of whom have really been involved in Max’s life in so many ways.

And then there’s the question of who shouldn’t be invited.

You’ve done a good job this year, but maybe you’ve already pushed me so far too many times that it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s just too little too late.

Living life, hitting goals, and making resolutions

I love smiley people.

In any city, you can find your people. There will be plenty of people who are not your people, but you can find the right ones in the kinds of places you’d like to be.

For me, it’s the smiley people. Not everyone in DC is smiley; most people are not. But I found something wrong with people in New York and Los Angeles and every other city I’ve visited, and at the end of the day, you just have to realize that you’re not going to like everybody. You’re not going to arrive in a place where everyone thinks the same way you do, where everyone behaves the same way you do, where everyone shares your beliefs and values — and who would want to live in a place like that anyway? DC isn’t perfect. It’s the kind of city where a lot of people care very much about your connections and your background and how well-read you are. There’s a little bit of ignorance and a lot of arrogance; there’s a lot of poverty and a ton of money; not all the streets are safe; the bars are filled with frat boys; the service isn’t very good most of the time, and the hipsters want you to pay a million dollars for coffee that it took them at least an hour to pour. There is a lot of room for improvement. But in the summertime, when it gets so hot, you can head to a free pool at a local rec center. When you’re starving for intellectual conversation, you can head to any bookshop or coffee shop or meetup or probably even any bar on trivia night because DC is filled with incredibly smart people who can recommend a good book or share their thoughtful opinions on the latest Supreme Court ruling. You’ll find the only other person in the world who knows how Socrates died or read Frankenstein as many times as you did. You’ll find alum from your small, or large, university at the DC bar dedicated to watching your alma mater play football. You’ll find people who care about the things that you care about — whether that’s saving the world, ending street harassment, running 5Ks, or playing Taboo.

DC isn’t perfect. But it’s so perfect for me right now — and for quite a few years to come.

So here it is: The post I’ve been meaning to write about the new year and my new goals. I’ve started it a couple of times, but I wasn’t truly inspired then (and when I was, my post got deleted). It wasn’t really the right time. I wasn’t really ready to start the new year. i needed some time to recover from last year.

Recover in the best way possible, of course.

in the last two days of 2014, I raised over $120,000 to fund efforts to end human trafficking in the US and across the globe — breaking fundraising records at Polaris that I know I’ll break again next year. It’s a little unreal that I’ve actually accomplished the career goal I set for myself this year: I wanted to work for an organization that’s ending human trafficking and violence against women. Now, here I am — fundraising for a leading nonprofit in the fight against modern slavery and serving on the board of a fast-growing local nonprofit working to end sexual harassment and assault in DC. It’s amazing how everything in my life just fell into place.

Last year, I was so excited to have Max and become a mom, but I had serious doubts about my ability to work and parent; I was fearful about how motherhood would affect my potential to advance in my career; I worried about what I might’ve been giving up. I made a decision to put my career on hold while I focused on being the best mother I could be. And then, this year, I put my heart and soul into motherhood — breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, reading, singing, talking, playing and learning how to be a mom from all of the best parenting books and blogs I could find. And still, somehow, I got my dream job.

So, it’s been a great year.

In many ways, my son has taught me how to live. He has taught me to be patient and perseverant, but he’s also taught me how to enjoy my life outside of work. I used to derive so much of my self-worth and self-love from success at work. I liked hitting goals, reaching benchmarks, and reaping the glory. I was driven, and I was loud about my accomplishments.

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OK so some things don’t actually change.

I still love to achieve my goals — and celebrate my accomplishments. But it’s no longer the only thing that matters to me. When I don’t go to work, I go to the park. Or I go the Children’s Museum. Or I go to see Zoo Lights. Or I ride the ferris wheel.

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Capital Ferris Wheel, National Harbor, 12/2014

There are a million things I love to do with my free time when, before, I liked feeling so important that I needed to check my email the second I woke up in the morning and right before I went to sleep. I liked having so much on my plate that it seemed like the world would crumble if I took a vacation. I liked pushing myself to the brink — and then further.

When I had Max, I had to decide what kind of working mother I wanted to be. Some people separate their home and work lives completely; others integrate work and home (I know this because I read The Working Mother’s Guide to Life, and it guided all of my calculated decision-making processes on parenting style, child care, housing, employment, and probably various other things). I knew immediately that I couldn’t lead two separate lives. I work in a field that’s incredibly passion-driven; there’s not a lot of money in it, but there’s a lot of heart. I’ll always bring work home, and I like feeling at home in the workplace, too.

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work-life balance

And then there’s just motherhood: a whole job in itself — the most wonderful and fulfilling one. It has been incredible to watch Max grow and learn and crawl and now SPEAK! It seems like just yesterday that my five-day-old was discovering his feet and today, he can almost stand.

Being a mom has helped me learn to rediscover things I used to love from a time before I’d lost myself to depression, drinking, and domestic violence. I love to be crafty and thrifty. I love to bake cookies and casseroles. I love dressing up in clever and elaborate costumes.

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I even sort of love the holidays.

When I first started this post, it was mostly just a list of Max’s milestones: the first time he smiled, his first time at a restaurant, the first time he rolled over (albeit with some difficulty), the list goes on. But it occurred to me — partially as a result of the last few months’ of rediscovering myself as a young, attractive, energetic 25-year-old woman and partially due to a thought-provoking conversation with a lady who always reminds me to evaluate and reevaluate my life to figure out where I want to go (the same lady who inspired me to work for Polaris) — I am more than just Max’s mother.

American society gives women who are moms, and particularly single moms, a really hard time about this balance. There’s a lot of pressure to prove yourself as a mother but not to fall behind in any other area of your life. You can be a full-time mom, but you’ll face criticism for not working. You can be a working mom, and you’ll face criticism for not being available to your child at all times. While I’m fortunate enough to have an incredibly supportive work environment, I face criticism from people I know, people i’ve considered close friends, and plenty of strangers. Even the teachers at Max’s daycare sometimes fault me for my inability to *poof* just appear the second they call to let me know he’s out of milk (really? no phone call when he was on his last bottle?). There have been times in the past that I’ve struggled with this balance, that i’ve preferred to be home with baby rather than at work, or I’ve preferred to be at work rather than at a doctor’s appointment for a fake ear infection. I’m sure that I’ll struggle with it in the future as well.

But, for now, I’ve accepted myself. i’m happy with the way i’ve helped my son grow and develop, both physically and emotionally, and I’m happy with my successes at work. Max has taught me that sometimes you just have to topple over and topple over and topple over before you’re ready to sit up tall.

Just to complicate things, I’ve added dating into the mix. So here I am, trying to be the best mother and the best fundraiser and the best advocate against sexual harassment and assault — and also present and reliable and eager enough to pursue some sort of functioning relationship. And I’m not quite there, for a million reasons. I have met people that I like very much — people who are funny and kind and giving and smart. But I don’t know if I want a relationship, or if I can handle a relationship, or if I’ve ever enjoyed relationships. I’m not willing to work that hard, and I can blame it on the million other responsibilities that I have to prioritize, but I know: I’ve never wanted to work that hard. I’ve never really been in a relationship that wasn’t incredibly convenient for me. I have layers and layers of intimacy issues, topped with a fairly recent history of domestic violence that makes me feel more guarded and less likely to let anyone in.

But did I ever?

Having my son was a game-changer. The second I found out I was pregnant, I knew I was in love. He makes me feel a way I’ve never felt before — so complete and so elated — like I have an incredible sense of purpose, like my life has gained new meaning.

I just don’t know if this love will translate into my ability to feel real love for others.

This year, I’m setting resolutions for myself that aren’t like the ones I’ve set in the past. I’m not going to pledge to lose weight or exercise more. I’m not going to set career goals or plan to learn new skills — though I hope that both of these things that come up this year. I am setting resolutions that’ll push me to dig deeper and work harder on myself.

2015 Resolutions

  1. Be flaky. You don’t have to respond to every text message and return every phone call in a timely manner, or ever. You don’t have to make it to every holiday party or every birthday party. It’s okay if you agree to something and then decide later that you don’t actually have the mental or physical capacity for it — or you just don’t want to do it anymore. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits because you’re worried about what people will think. Flake when you want to, flake when you have to. Flake, flake, flake it off.
  2. Be intimate. Acknowledge the reasons you’ve become so detached, and slowly chip away at the trauma that’s helped you build up your guard. You don’t have to lower your standards to feel safe. You don’t have to find love right away. You don’t have to sit through dates with people you don’t like. You don’t have to feel obligated. Sex doesn’t have to be so empty. Form friendships, build trust, and have patience.
  3. Find the things you love about the things you think you hate. If Bao Bao can do it, so can you. Embrace the cold. Embrace the hipsters. Embrace the grumpy faces. Figure out what you don’t love about them; recognize why it bothers you and how you can better appreciate them for their place in your world.
  4. Find home. It might mean staying right where you are, it might mean moving down the street, and it might mean moving halfway across the world. Wherever it might be, find the place where you can feel most comfortable, most secure, happiest, and warmest (on the inside).

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would you forgive me, love?

It’s become sort of an annual tradition for me to write a year in review post, one that looks back at how I’ve changed and what I’ve accomplished over the year and then looks forward at how I’d like to grow in the new year.

This is not that post.

But I have been feeling introspective.

I’ve been critical of myself over the last two months. I know exactly why. I haven’t been doing all of the things I think I should be doing. I’ve been dating and drinking and going places without Max. And I feel guilty. For a long time, I focused on him with every second that I had when I wasn’t at work. Now, I’m focusing on me, too. I’m taking more time away from him, and while he’s still generally cheerful, I think he’s been upset more often because I’ve been around less. He gets upset sometimes just because I’ve put him down, like he thinks I’ll leave. I’ve been telling myself that I deserve to treat myself because it’s the busiest, most stressful time at work, and it had been almost a year since I’d really done anything for me. But telling myself that is strange because it makes it seem like I don’t enjoy spending time with him, when I do. I’d be happy to spend every second with him, always. I’m trying to reconcile that fact with some of my other wants and needs.

And I’ve been critical of others. I’ve been snappy and rude to certain people (read: one person). I don’t want to be. I don’t know why I become mean sometimes. In fact, that’s a lie: I know exactly why. Someone does something, maybe something small, that upsets me, and instead of communicating with them about it, I let it fester inside until I notice all of the other things I don’t like about them, all of the other things they do that upset me, and I complain, and when I complain, I notice it more. But I don’t say anything to the person who’s doing the thing in the first place.

I guess it won’t be a big deal in the new year, hopefully. I just want to communicate better.

I feel like I relapsed when I turned 25. That was the moment when I realized that, I’d been forgetting myself. I’d planned this big vacation, and I hadn’t even really told anyone that it was my birthday. I celebrated, but I didn’t really make it a point to celebrate with anyone, and if it hadn’t been for my good friend Mike, I probably wouldn’t have. That bothered me because my birthday has always been so important to me, and this year, I forgot to make it a big deal. I’d completely forgotten about myself for about a year.

And now I feel like I’ve gone too far in the opposite direction. I have lots of friends having babies right now, and I’m hoping that will help me find a better balance.

What I’m saying is that, in the last month, I’ve been a person that I just don’t want to be. And I worry about the confluence of factors that turns me into that person: the cold weather,… God, I was going to name some other things, but I literally think it might just be the weather that makes me feel so stressed and unhappy.

I’m not ready to move (mainly because every time I sign onto idealist, it says there are 0 nonprofit jobs in Honolulu — like, literally zero), but cold weather affects me in such an awful way. I just want sunshine all the time, but I don’t want to live in LA. Is that really so much to ask?

I also want to buy a house. But I can’t buy a home in a place that gets cold. I literally cannot.

It’ll be fun for the next four years. We’ll celebrate Christmas, and maybe it’ll snow. Max can experience sledding and snowman-making. And then we’ll leave forever and never feel the temperature drop below 50 degrees again and everything will be wonderful.

okay, I’ve gotten my criticisms of myself and my life out of the way. Next up: a post about all of the things that I do like about myself and my life right now (and, despite this incredibly negative post, there are a lot of things) + my latest round of New Year’s resolutions.