ladyfest dayton 2018.

a very sweaty room full of people, most of them friends I love so much.

a little stumble in the beginning.

and a last minute decision to go on stage barefoot.

thanks to my sweet girl for always capturing my performances.

ladyfest was one for the books. here’s a video of my piece and of me looking like I sat in a sauna.

32 flavors of grace.

word of the year:

grace (noun).

  1. elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action:
  2. a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment:
  3. favor or goodwill.
  4. mercy; clemency; pardon:
  5. moral strength:

my year started in a flood of beginnings. not just your typical new year’s resolutions but a divorce, a new job, and a new(ish) relationship all at once. pile that on to my existing mama life schedule and my forever attempt to maintain balance. to say I was overwhelmed, would be a gigantic understatement. being on the precipice of change can be the most exciting but I believe it’s how you hold it together while these changes unfold that says the most about you.

I think winter may be the best time for such things, honestly. the harshness of the cold is a reminder that it takes work to thrive. we can sit in our times of dormancy and allow the growth to stir below the surface but we cannot forget to thaw and bloom. it is easy to allow the ground to hold a grudge against the sun for all those grey days. so, I chose GRACE as my word of the year, hoping that Spring would arrive in abundance and summer and I would have a good laugh about all that wind and rain. surely, with many definitions to choose from, Grace, would be fitting for all the seasons had to offer me.

without diving too far into any one of my big life changes, I will say I have learned a lot:

a lot about taking up space & taking my time.

about asking for what I need and being open to actually receiving those things.

about how I wish to curate my life.

as a mama, I have three sets of eyes on all choices I make. I had somehow convinced myself that it was better to be content with what I had than to fail at reaching for better, for demanding better. I had not allowed myself the grace in failing. moving through these new things in my life, I’ve had to start paying attention to my phraseology. self-talk can be a mortifying mirror with which our kids reflect back how we feel about ourselves. I made a conscious effort to speak to myself the way I speak to them- with trust, honesty, and a realistic expectation of our capabilities. I watched my kids talk gentler with me as I became more open with them about how our future would be playing out. it’s always humbling to watch them learn the lessons alongside me.

I have also tried my best to invest the same communication with my partner, my friends, and all the other grown humans I encounter. the sooner we are all on the same page, the sooner we can move forward with positive energy. but you cannot force it. adults…it’s gonna be a struggle. Grace is not a luxury we often grant ourselves which projects into something we are not able to grant others. and, at the end of the day, you can only do that for yourself. it’s up to everyone else to perceive and reciprocate. once it’s tossed into the universe, you have to let it play out. which has been another lesson for me this year. I am not always at fault for how things come back to me. there are far too many factors involved. this is the grace of movement, of allowing things to come and go. I know I do not always make this easy, for myself or for others. not everyone gets the same dose of grace. but it has been a new practice of mine to apologize to all of us, where I otherwise would have retreated.

as summer ends and fall arrives to lay down all the “stuff” of this year, I can honestly say it’s sorting itself out. the divorce is final and my brand new, chosen last name (see first blog post) is an actual legal thing. (screams internally) the job is a most perfect fit for our family even when the schedule and work drives me insane. and the relationship is pleasantly private and managing to survive the twists and turns even when it has done the most evolving. I have seen how these changes were meant for me to endure concurrently. it was less about the what of the chaos and more about remaining who I am despite it.

I am not without failure. the lessons are still pouring in. my story still holds a lot of forgiveness.

and this year was hard. real hard. but I think I’m ready for the harsher seasons and the promise of another year to grow, fuller and wilder.

gracefully,

Eliot.

roadtrips 2.0

three little humans.

one week of summer break.

and a single mama budget.

I am probably insane. but this year we tackled our second east coast road trip as a family. I researched a lot of destinations and finally set my eyes on Cape Cod. New England has always been on my short list of dream spots but it isn’t notoriously budget friendly and I was not sure if there would be many points of interest to the littles other than the beach. I like a good challenge though, so this is how I made it happen…

PLANNING.

lots and lots of planning and mapping out and list making goes in to how I prepare for a vacation whether it’s a solo adventure or with the family. maybe everyone doesn’t get as jazzed about excel spreadsheets and drafting lists as I do but there are so many great resources if you have/take the time to look.

here are a few of my go-to resources-

Pinterest- use key phrases like family friendly, budget, must see, and definitely must eat!

Instagram- follow local and travel hashtags for the area

ask around- the absolute best way to find out what to do is to ask someone who’s done it. find other moms and friends who have travelled to the area. put your feelers out for what touristy things are worth it and which ones to pass up. I always refer to my trips as the PostCard Tour of *location* because I want to find half tried and true vacation spots and half hidden gems

google maps- sounds tedious, but once you’ve selected some itinerary items you can build on them efficiently by researching what is nearby. that way mapping out for routes for that day can maximize what you’re able to fit in.

the most important factor in choosing our adventures is that each of my littles feels included in the process. I ask them simple questions before making concrete decisions- what is one thing you want to see and one thing you want to eat? from here, I choose our accommodations to be as centrally located and cost effective as I can for what we plan to do during our stay. summer in cape cod was slim picking but we were able to stay close by in Fairhaven, Mass. now, I begin putting it all on paper.

I always lay out a weekly itinerary. figure out which days will be best to leave and return as well as how many full days we will have to explore once our driving route is planned. we have never flown as a family because I like the option of stopping whenever we want but laying out this itinerary is also good to see if certain days are cheaper for flights. this helps for several other reasons too: some places will be closed on certain days or have limited hours and you never want to end up somewhere great only to find out it is closed, you cannot predict the weather but you can surely prepare for it, and you can break up your days based on areas of town or nearby cities you want to visit to get the most out of your time. example: for us, we knew the beach was a must but that Boston was a short hour drive away. onto our itinerary it went.

next, I window shop the area for points of interest, restaurants, roadside attractions, museums, etc. this can get out of control quickly when there’s a lot to see! it’s also one of my favorite parts of planning. I write them all down and make note of any important details about the locations like hours, admission, recommended menu items, and parking tips. this trip I got really fancy, grouping them together on the list by purpose that way I didn’t end up with 35 coffee shops I had to get a latte from but no good place to get fresh seafood. balancing the itinerary is super important. little humans wear out easily and the budget stretches further when I have an idea of where my money will be spent before I get there.

I throw all my favorite places onto a map. from there I can start to get an idea of where to spend our time. since our AirBnb was within an hour of a ton of cool places so this step was tough. I have a bad habit of over packing our days because I want to see everything! I usually group itinerary items together by proximity and deciding what will be worth the visit and what just isn’t practical. most larger cities have designated neighborhoods you can use as a guide. example: the squares in Savannah, boroughs of Cape Cod, or districts of Boston. I’ve told myself it is okay to over plan as long as I don’t stress too much about missing out on things once we get there. everything is gonna take longer than what I’ve plan for, but spontaneity and being present with my family is something I won’t regret. it’s a lesson I’m learning the more we travel.

laying out my routes to and from our main destination comes after mostly because I want to spend the bulk of our budget on our full days but try to plan one big pit stop, no more than 3-4 hours long, on each leg of the drive. depending on the kids ages, more stops could mean more opportunities to find roadside attractions. we chose Hershey Chocolate World, in Hershey part for the way there. it was exactly halfway through the trip and we loved it! for the way home, I was a little more ambitious and drove into NYC. it made for a long drive home, through the night, but the littles slept and it was more than worth it. pinterest is my favorite place to find hidden gems along the way. search a city on the map and see what other travelers have found there. street art, kitschy restaurants, world’s largest lumberjack. odds are, there’s something beautiful or interesting I don’t want to miss out on that gives the kids a break from sitting in the car.  google maps will be your best friend for this because you can plug in multiple stops along your route.

lastly, I make a budget. not everyone needs to do this and that’s great, but if you do just realize you will go over budget. it’s another situation that can cause stress if you let it. eating with children comes with a multitude of challenges and pop up expenses. my littles aren’t super picky but they are very opinionated. luckily, they are also very accommodating to what each of them want and will go along with most anything. food definitely took up the majority of our budget because we love trying new things and wanted to make the most of being Oceanside. we also have certain, cheaper, souvenirs that I have made it a habit to cherish and seek out with them. we collect Christmas ornaments and magnets. that way they are invested in choosing those items and are less likely to ask for the tourist trap souvenirs. parking was the area of the budget that I thought I prepared for adequately and definitely didn’t. most places will have a yelp review posted with tips if you’re lucky but it never hurts to call and ask if parking info isn’t listed on the website. for beaches, there should be city/state/park websites with details. money is the least fun thing to talk about when trying to explore and enjoy. planning is the best way for me to make it as simple as possible.

there you have it! an overview of the process gives plenty of room for customization but this is how I go about it, for the most part. next week, I will post our itinerary and some recommendations on the travel page (go to the menu to find) as well as my favorite photos from our trip. ❤ travelling with my little humans has been the most beautiful way to see the world through six more eyes and I wouldn’t trade these memories for anything!!

safe travels,

Eliot & the Wilder Ones

mama, do my thighs touch?

the first time I questioned the validity of my body, of the space it took up, I was in middle school. a boy told my best friend that she had nice legs. he said not a word to me. I sat back down at my desk watching the way my pale skin spread and covered the chair. took inventory of the other preteen legs and how they held shape, looked more tan, and had Less. with this simple situation the fascination began with my need to be less as a way to be more. at 32, I, of course, know better that to blame the boy for triggering this mental and emotional pattern that would continue my whole life.

this morning I sent my middle little girl off to sixth grade. clothed in enthusiasm and pride in her outfit choice. a girl prepared to take on middle school. she is strong and smart and funny. her love of herself extends just as far as her love of her friends and family. I admire and envy this quality in my sweet girl. but, do I fear that the end of her self-love is near? honestly… yea. it has me dissecting their conversations and paying special attention to how I talk about myself in front of them.

I over heard my youngest ask her sister if a pair of her shorts were too short the other day. the dress code for school was on the brain as we rapidly approached the end of their summer wardrobe freedom. I let them wear whatever they want, for the most part, and feel that school policies are antiquated and sexist. but, that’s a story for another day. as they rifled through their closet putting nothing back where they found it and executing the highest pitch excitement two girls can muster, I crept nearer hoping they wanted my advice. instead, my 9 year old spun around in her cartoon underwear atop a pile of discarded selections and asked, “mama, do my thighs touch when I stand like this? maybe that’s why I only like leggings and not jeans mom.”

now, let’s pretend that I had a reasonable response. that I was able to correct her for even asking because she’s beautiful and perfect in this body of hers. that I hugged her and reminded her how loving herself is a harder lesson to relearn as an adult so this negative talk had better get squashed. but, I sat on her bed and folded up clothes and asked her who told her that it mattered. I knew the answer. she had heard me on vacation complaining about my “bikini body” and how my thighs used to touch when I was fit and how I was thankful that being “thick & healthy” was in style now because these thighs of mine are blah, blah, blah.

having to answer for my bad habits at the cost of my girl’s is a game changer.

I have always talked very openly about my eating disorder recovery. doing a yearly check-in where I purge my thoughts and feelings on this self-propelled process of calling a thing what it is and making it better. this works for me. I know that I have to come home to myself so it’s best that I keep it tidy and treat it with care. up thirty pounds (give or take) from my smallest adult weight, I posted a transformation photo a last year. I had done a few modeling spots and was feeling confident in my curves and the new found sexiness that I could own. tucked away were the less present obsessive behaviors. diverted were times when I would restrict or limit. for the most part I was in control. I counted last year a success. enough to say I was moving through the disease as a battle and into it as a place of progress.

deep sigh. this is recovery.

being better has meant coming to terms with ED as an evolving disease. as it has morphed and disguised itself into healthy habits and #treatyourself and indulging in a society of often misguided self-care. I am starting to recognize that my behaviors have shifted from actual addictive behavior to an addiction to recovery. whoa, sounds weird, but in a social media climate that shoves natural lifestyle and acceptance down your throat it is easier to keep up the facade of recovery, even when I am not feeling at home in my skin. the mom community is perhaps the worst place for it, in my opinion. the life we live becomes only a small sliver of the life we curate for others to admire, criticize, and emulate. as if raising little humans isn’t hard enough, we also have to be picture perfect mamas with organic meals and eco friendly homes and little humans clad in conscious clothing. in reality, it has been a way for me use my disease as fashion, as trend. it demands to be stated that this is my experience only. truth- as hard as I am still working to maintain it is a bit discouraging to admit that I would love to lose weight if it weren’t so damn cool to be happy with who you are.

ultimately, I really am okay with where I am at with my body. I practice taking up space. the language in which I speak to myself is dramatically different, not perfect, but better. I keep myself, my home tidy.

call my current place in recovery regression, if I must, but I also call it awareness and grace. because I’m choosing to see the slip ups as an opportunity to change the way my girls will learn to love themselves. stopping to check myself because it is clear that I am already passing along some negative habits. by honoring the bad with the good and knowing which wins.

the year of BIG things.

“If I’m gonna tell a real story,

I’m gonna start with my name.”     -Kendrick Lamar

for the past decade, my name has been the most trivial aspect of my self.

trading it instead for mom. or calling sordid acquaintances by it. scribbling it on various paper works.

never has it felt my own or done much at all to describe who I am, who I’ve grown to be.

I had to think about how much my name actually means to me? the answer- not much. I wish it did. I would love to have a legacy denoted by a surname or a deep connection with the meaning behind my first name. other than the last name I share with my children, there’s not much else I like about it- sorry mom.

the way I see it, names are given to us by virtual strangers before we have any history to attribute to them. we spend most of our lives trying to live up to this title. presenting ourselves, name first, in almost every encounter. but what happens when our name is dictated by life not birth, can that be a liberation?

I believe it will be.

in the very near future, I will be divorced. my children’s last name will then be shared with their dad’s new wife. coincidentally, her name is also Stephanie. (trust me, this has gotten a few laughs.) I feel more unsettled about this aspect of the life change than I anticipated. my name will no longer be my own- whether I like it or not.  after struggling with the loss of this connection, I decided to craft a pen name, turned legal name (soon), approved by my littles and this is the place it begins.

when I ended my writing of 2017, on a magical night of poetry and read under my birth name for the last time, it felt like a release of all the topics and token words I had used to make my way through healing, like home and whiskey and ghosts, that seem to have found their way in to every single piece of writing on my old blog. they felt recycled and insincere by the end of this chapter in my life.  the piece I read that night ended with the lines, “I know I am a place to worship, even at my most empty. So, when I look my love and grief in eyes for the last time, full of more stillness than sacrifice, I will finally change my/our name.”

with that, I start 2018 by taking a breath. choosing to live a life full of captured opportunities, gratefulness for what is truly meant for me, and contentment in my own life. sitting in my hard-earned happiness until the words come back to me.