I was trying to decide what to write for this week’s post. For inspiration, I headed over to my friend’s blog. I liked her “About Me” section and thought it might be fun to do something similar. Here goes.
Name: Kiki. It all started when I was talking to my sister on the phone. She told her son, (who was not even two years old at the time),”Say Hi to Aunt Kristy… Can you say Aunt Kristy… Aunt Kristy…”
“Kiki!” he blurted out. Well, the name stuck. For a while, I was Kiki, then I became Aunt Kiki, once my nephew got a bit older. Now, all of my nieces and nephews call me Aunt Kiki. Some kids who aren’t my nieces or nephews also call me Aunt Kiki. I don’t mind at all.
How to get in touch with me: leave a comment (pretty please?!) Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Food: chocolate, hands down. My current favorite meal is artichoke risotto (it sounds a lot fancier than it is!). I make an easy version of this in my slow cooker. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and delicious. It’s definitely Kristy-proof. I’m not very domestic, but I’m learning.
Movie: I love Casablanca, Fools Rush In, The Princess Bride, Definitely Maybe. I grew up watching When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. Apparently I love rom coms.
TV show: Dr. Phil (hey, don’t judge), Once Upon a Time, Doctor Who, X-Files, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones. My husband and I binge-watch shows on Netflix.
Book: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Giver, Harry Potter series, Twilight series, Hunger Games series. For a while there, I didn’t read much for pleasure. But I’m starting to again.
Color: Purple is my favorite, followed by blue, then green. In that order.
Band: I usually get tired of listening to one sound for too long a period of time. Back when people used to listen to cds, I would switch out a cd long before it ended. Some bands/artists I could stand for more than three songs in a row: Sam Cooke, UB40, Beyonce/Destiny’s Child, Norah Jones, Fleetwood Mac, Pink, Elvis
Season: Summer. To me, there are two seasons. Summer and Not Summer. That said, I do enjoy the small window in the fall when the air is slightly brisk and the leaves are changing. That lasts maybe a couple of weeks around here though. I also love a good snowfall. However, where I live, we usually only get maybe three good snowfalls a year.
Animal: I love most animals, but cats of all varieties are probably my favorite. Wild and domesticated.
Soda: ginger ale. I just love ginger ale. Added bonus: it’s caffeine-free!
City: Aw man, I can’t pick just one! I love San Diego, Stuttgart (Germany), Paris, Barcelona, Berlin… I lived in Stuttgart for three years. At least once a month, I would travel to a different European city.
Flower: Lilies – the white ones that smell amazing. Once, I was in a hallway in a government building, when I smelled fresh lilies. I saw someone in the hallway and I said to him, “I swear I smell lilies… is that weird?” He motioned for me to follow him. He then opened a huge steel door behind him. Inside, there was a HUGE bouquet of beautiful lilies. I mean, there were at least two dozen lilies in there. The folks in the office said that someone had sent lilies to their coworker, but no one knew knew who they were from. A mystery!
Recent major life change: I recently left the Navy after 12 years so I could stay home with my son. I am now in the Reserves.
Guilty pleasure: fashion. I love watching fashion and beauty videos on YouTube. I also looove getting comments on my blog.
I was watching my baby son sleep, and I noticed him making “nursing motions” with his mouth. He was obviously dreaming. It made me wonder…
Our little one, at 12 days old: http://www.rebeccadanzenbaker.com/newborns
What do babies dream of?
Blue animals with cotton candy clouds,
A world where darkness never shrouds,
An endless supply of tasty milk,
Diapers made only of silk,
Forever snuggling in their mothers’ arms,
Acres of petting zoos and rolling farms,
Soaring as airplanes in their fathers’ hands,
Someday traveling to foreign lands,
A never-ending game of peekaboo,
An ever-lasting supply of teethers and toys to chew,
Myriad stuffed animals who cuddle and talk back,
Never having to worry if they are “on track,”
Someday growing up,
Finally learning to drink from a cup,
Conversing with another baby?
Connecting with others, maybe?
Perhaps, instead, their dreams are not images, but feelings,
And much more important than our everyday dealings.
Comfort, security, and peace.
Love, and the space to just… release.
Maybe this is what babies dream of.
My son, at about three and a half months old.
When I was pregnant, I prepared for my baby in all of the obvious ways (setting up the nursery, making sure we had appropriate baby supplies, reading baby books, etc.). I learned that newborns (as in, age 0-3 months) can be incredibly trying at times. Here’s a list of those ways I found that it can make newborn babies “difficult to love.”
1. They need to be fed every 2-4 hours, around the clock. This makes you exhausted, short-tempered, and moody.
2. They’re not as interactive as four-month-old infants are. Dr. Karp in “Happiest Baby on the Block” reminds us of the huge difference between a four-day-old and a four-month-old. Brand new babies don’t yet have the ability to turn their heads, smile back at you, or coo. Their eyes can’t see beyond a couple of feet in front them, so their eyes can’t yet follow you through a room.
This lack of feedback can make it seem as though your baby doesn’t love you back. Believe me, they do! They just haven’t developed enough to show you yet.
3. Newborns can be “ugly.” They still have the look of a fetus, not the round cheeked, soft glow of an infant. Dr. Harvey Karp calls this the “fourth trimester” in his book, The Happiest Baby on the Block (which I highly recommend). On page 9, he even refers to newborns as “creatures.” An added bonus: newborns often have acne, rashes, and peeling skin. As I learned of this, I mentally prepared to have an “ugly” baby with a face only a mama would love!
Now, please don’t get me wrong here. Babies are beautiful. But we have all seen commercials or TV shows with a gorgeous “newborn,” born with rosy cheeks and a big smile. Plus, we’ve seen those images of a beautiful mother in a perfect house holding her baby in her arms, peacefully feeding him or her a bottle, giving a knowing smile as her little drifts off to sleep. Sigh. Life is much more messy, frantic, and exhausting than this. And in turn more wonderful.
4. Some newborns cry A LOT. When I was pregnant, a friend of mine told me that her baby cried the entire first four months of her life. My friend said she tried everything to soothe her baby, and NOTHING worked. When she offered to give us a few baby items, I asked, “Are you sure you’re not going to have any more kids?”
“NO!” she answered. It was such a strong response that it stayed with me. At the time, it rattled me a bit. Now, I can look back on it with a half smile, because now I know.
5. Your relationship with your partner will probably shift to the back burner for a while. And this can make you feel isolated and angry.
Our baby is now four months old, and my husband and I are just beginning to talk about date nights again, and carving out time for ourselves as a couple.
As you can imagine, after learning all of this, I mentally prepared for the birth of my son. I steeled myself for the possibility that the first three or four months of my son’s life would be awful for us. I gave myself pep talks, and told my future self to just “hang in there, you’ll get through it.”
What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was just how much of a joy he was, even in those early months.
He loved to be held. He wanted to be near us all the time. Not only that, it was wonderful to see him grow and change each day. Each week, he looked so different from the week before. Seeing him smile (and not just sleep grins) for the first time was wonderful. Now, at four months old, he smiles at us every morning, and many times throughout the day also. My love for him has grown as I’ve gotten to know him.
In my tired haze, recovering from a c-section, I was able to still enjoy those early months with my son. It’s time with him that really goes by too quickly. I love him with all of my heart.
Man, does my life look different nowadays.
A year and a half ago, I married my husband. I instantly became stepmother to my now 12-year-old stepson. In February 2016, I gave birth to my son. I’ve been on maternity leave since. Next month, I’ll be leaving the Navy (and transitioning into the Reserves). So, I went from being a naval officer to a stay-at-home mom in a couple of years’ time.
A friend asked me how I like staying home with the baby. To which I replied, “Sometimes I feel like I’m going out of my mind, but I’m really glad I won’t miss any milestones.” (I love my son dearly, but he doesn’t talk.) My new life feels strange sometimes. Some days it feels like I’ll be going back to work soon, and other days I just don’t know what to do next. Play with the baby? Clean the house? Meet a friend for lunch? Write in my blog? I’ve never had this much say (or lack of structure) in my own time before. And it feels weird.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s exactly what I wanted. But that doesn’t make it any less of an adjustment. When people ask me what I do, I still say, “I’m in the Navy” (which is technically true until the end of next month). Which leads to a discussion about going back to work.
I’m not sure exactly why I want others to know I’m a naval officer. Maybe it’s because I’m proud of my accomplishment. Or because it took some time and effort to become one. Or because I dedicated 12 years of my life to being one. And it seems as though I’m dismissing that effort just in how I answer one question.
I can’t seem to stay, “I stay home with my son” as my first (and only) answer. Being a mother is much harder, and more rewarding, than my career in the Navy has been. There is also no set hours, time off, breaks, or holidays. I should be proud of “just” being a stay at home mom. Yet I feel the need to elaborate.
Maybe as I settle into this new role, I’ll answer the question of “What do you do?” a bit better. Until then, maybe I’ll learn not to care so much about what other people think.
My husband and I are expecting our first baby together (due in about two weeks-eek!), and we are super excited.
Earlier in my pregnancy, my husband and I were in the mall one day, and we happened to see a Buy Buy Baby. We thought, “let’s just go in and check it out.” Well, as soon as we walked in, I looked around at all of the baby stuff, and it felt like it went on for miles. Clothes, diapers, furniture, bath items, toys, gadgets… Every spare inch of the store was covered, and my, were those walls high! I immediately felt overwhelmed. I almost cried. In fact, I believe there were a couple of tears.
I thought to myself, all of this stuff exists just for babies?! How in the world are we ever going to get ready in time? How am I going to decide what we need to have versus what would just be nice to have? Are we going to have enough room in our two-bedroom apartment? And, finally, how are we going to be able to afford all of this stuff?
We walked around the nursery displays, which were oh-so-cute, but expensive. Finally, we left, and I felt… defeated. I realized I had my work cut out for me.
In the days and weeks that followed, well-intended friends and family started asking questions like, “Have you finished your registry for your baby shower?” or “Is your nursery all ready?” Baby websites I had signed up for sent daily emails with seemingly never-ending To Do lists.
I turned to Google. I looked up just what the baby really needed. I found Lucie’s List, which turned out to be a big help. I used the recommendations from Lucie’s List to build our registry. I talked to my husband for his input. Once we made progress on the registry, I began to feel better.
I also searched YouTube for “nursery on a budget.” I was particularly interested in nurseries in small spaces. I watched several videos, and I liked this one and this one. Seeing those videos made me think, “I can do this.” I also built a nursery board on Pinterest to start collecting ideas.
Over time, we received a lot of baby gifts from friends and family. We also received barely used items from friends with toddlers, happy to be rid of some of the baby stuff that was now cluttering their homes. Because of this generosity, my husband and I found that we didn’t have to spend nearly as much money as I thought we did.
Over time, we slowly built our baby stuff inventory. For a while, we stored it in the spare bedroom. Then we transformed it into the nursery.
Sometimes, I ask my husband, “What did people do before all of this baby stuff was invented?” I mean, do people really need all of this stuff?
Is anyone else out there feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of baby supplies out there? What did you do that helped?
A Lot of Life Change
I’ve had a lot of life change in a short amount of time. In Spring 2014, I finished my Master’s degree. A couple of months later, my beloved cat of 11 years unexpectedly passed away from kidney failure and other issues.
Later that year, I married my amazing husband, Brett. I inherited my now 12-year-old stepson, who lives about five hours away.
In the same weekend, I was promoted to a new rank in the military.
Then, Brett and I made the huge decision for me to leave my career as an active duty naval officer.
In the meantime, Brett and I became pregnant with our first child together. I am now 22 weeks along. We plan to move to another state to be closer to my stepson in about a year and a half.
Therefore, in a few short months, my life will look very different than it does now, and wildly different than it did just a few years ago. A lot has changed already: my last name (which is hyphenated), my decision-making, my priorities, my personal space, my time, my weekends, and even my friends. Whew!
While As I reflect (Kiki Reflects, get it? hee hee) on my life, the biggest change, for me, is the inward one: my identity. Many of these changes are ones I wanted and therefore actively sought. And in a way, that’s scary. It’s scary because I finally became an active participant in my own life.
Living a Lie
Before I met Brett, I was at a position I hated, working in a toxic environment, in a location I didn’t want to be in, in an unfulfilling relationship. I was so unhappy, and I felt as though I had little control in my own life. As a result, I went into “survival mode.” At work, I pretended I was okay, that this career and life was what I wanted. I trudged on with my schoolwork, steadily earning my Master’s degree in a field I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to continue in. I kept myself busy, earning additional certificates and attending courses. I was very successful, earning top grades in school and top marks in my career. But it wasn’t what I wanted.
I was living a lie. I had these secret goals and desires, yet my daily actions weren’t furthering any of them. It felt like a storm was consistently brewing inside of me. I often felt like a caged animal.
Then, I asked myself, deep down, what my dreams were. I found that I wanted to get married and have kids someday. I didn’t want a career in the Navy anymore. I wanted a creative outlet. I wanted to help others, particularly in the field of pyschology. I looked at my life and began changing it to look more of the way I wanted it to look.
Taking Steps Towards My Dreams
First, I ended the unfufilling, long-distance relationship I was in at the time. The one where I was emotionally drained after most interactions. The one with no clear future. The one where my dreams were seen as silly and stupid. It was difficult to end, but so freeing. It freed up space for more meaningful relationships. It allowed me to meet my soulmate.
Then, I met Brett. When we started dating, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is amazing. This is the way it’s supposed to be.” Our values aligned and I felt as though I could be myself, and that was okay. Not to mention that Brett happened to be the most attractive man I had ever dated, on the inside as well as out. I hate to admit, but Brett was the first one I was 100% honest with about my goals for the future. One of those goals was to get married and have kids someday. To my surprise, he didn’t run!
Brett encouraged me to pursue my dreams. To do that, I needed to free up more space in my life. I stopped selling cosmetics (something that didn’t really feel like me). I stopped teaching yoga for a while. I finally finished my Master’s degree (it took me four years of being a part-time student by the way. Man am I glad that’s over).
On Christmas day, 2013, Brett proposed (yay!), and we planned a beautiful wedding.
Our wedding was the happiest day of my life… until we discovered we were pregnant. Brett and I also worked hard to pay off all of our debt to become debt-free. Once we did that, we decided it was the right time for me to put in my paperwork to separate from the Navy.
A Sense of Peace
Therefore, even though my life is currently a hubbub of excitement, with a lot of life change, I feel more peaceful than I have in years. Because I finally had the courage to say what my dreams were. Out loud. Because someone else believed in me and encouraged me to follow those dreams. And because I am finally taking steps towards fulfilling those dreams.
What am I going to do after the Navy? I don’t have an exact plan for that yet. It’s going to involve something among being a wife and mother, writing, photography, and studying psychology. For the very first time in my entire life, I don’t have an exact plan. And I’m okay with that.
Our Little Announcement
I’m 15 weeks pregnant and my expected delivery date is 29 January 2016. My husband and I are super excited! I’ve been meaning to write a post announcing our pregnancy for a while now. However, in my first trimester (from just shy of six weeks onward), I felt pretty miserable most of the time. Nausea. Acid Reflux. Fatigue. Ugh. Even the sight of food made me feel sick.
Now those symptoms appear to be waning. My food aversions aren’t quite as strong too.
Believe it or not, back in the spring, I actually felt myself getting pregnant. Shortly after ovulating, I got a mild cramping I had never felt before. My breasts also became tender, and the tenderness never went away. I was a bit moody too. Plus, my instincts were telling me I was pregnant. I had this strange, subtle feeling I was.
Then, one Monday after I took my Navy physical training test at work, I took one of those early detection pregnancy tests that’s supposed to tell if you’re pregnant several days before your period. It read, in evil, mocking letters, “Not Pregnant.”
I was crushed.
I thought for sure I was pregnant. Not only was I unhappy I wasn’t pregnant, I was upset that my instincts were wrong. When preparing dinner, I opened the fridge and saw the high end bottle of red wine (yes, we keep red wine in the fridge) my friend had given us as a wedding gift. “Well,” I said to myself, “since I’m not pregnant, I might as well enjoy this wine.” I poured myself and my husband, Brett, a glass. It was exquisite. The best glass of wine I had ever had. Between the two of us, we finished the bottle over two nights. We savored each sip.
The following weekend was Memorial Day. Brett and I drove down to North Carolina to spend the weekend with my stepson and in-laws at the beach. Brett and I stayed in Brett’s Aunt’s trailer not far from the water. I carried feminine products with me because I was expecting to get my period while on that trip.
My period never came.
So, on 24 May, Brett and I stopped at CVS and bought (another) pregnancy test. I had mixed emotions about it. My breast tenderness and moodiness hadn’t gone away. But that negative test still lingered in the back of my mind. We brought the test to the trailer and I took it. First off, it took the longest to process of any pregnancy test I had taken before. From the angle I was at, it looked like it was flashing between “Pregnant” and “Not Pregnant.” “How could it torture me like this?! Just put me out of my misery!” I angrily thought to myself.
Then, the test settled on “Pregnant,” but it still had an hourglass next to it. “What the heck?! Does that mean it’s still thinking?” The seconds/minutes I waited seemed to stretch on forever. Finally, the hourglass disappeared, and in it’s place was a weeks estimator. It read “1-2.”
As in, I was 1-2 weeks pregnant!! It turns out the earlier test was a false negative!
“Brett!” I shouted, holding the pregnancy test, as though it were some sort of magic wand. “Brett! Brett!” It took me a few moments to figure out he was outside the trailer. I tried opening the trailer door, but somehow, I couldn’t unlock it. It was as though my brain had stopped working. I kept trying to open the door when Brett walked in through the other door, a sliding glass door.
I walked over to him, my eyes full of hope and joy. “I’m pregnant!” I said, holding up the test as proof I wasn’t making it up.
Brett smiled in that understated way of his (a nice contrast to my usual melodrama), hugged me close, and said “I love you.”
“I love you too,” I told him. A few minutes afterwards, Brett was so excited and loved how happy I was that he started filming me on his cell phone. I think he wanted to capture the moment forever. You can watch it here .
Later, I wrote in my journal:
I can’t believe it. It’s like I’m in the middle of a great dream and don’t want to wake up. I’m so happy. I’ve been wanting to be a mother for a very long time. To find myself here, married to an incredible guy, and expecting a baby… I am beside myself with joy. Sheer joy.
I was working long hours at the Pentagon (including nights and weekends), finishing my Master’s degree, and teaching a couple of yoga classes. I was an Arbonne Independent Consultant, and pretty active at the time. The little free time I had was devoted to my boyfriend (now husband) and his son, who lives several hours away in another state.
Whenever someone asked me how I was doing, my response was always, “Busy.” My friends stopped inviting me out because I was almost always too busy to go. I stopped traveling to visit family (except for my future stepson) because I no longer had the time. I didn’t read books for fun because it seemed as though I was always behind in reading for school. I felt as though I had no control over my life or my time. The most I could concentrate on was what my very next thing or assignment was.
My now-husband told me I was “overbooking” myself. Overbooking — this was a concept I had never considered before.
It was shortly after that conversation that I came across this article by Joshua Becker called A Helpful Guide to Becoming Unbusy. At first, becoming “unbusy” seemed like a luxury I couldn’t afford. Surely, this article didn’t apply to someone who was finishing their degree?!
Man, did unbusy sound wonderful though! As I looked around at my life, at everything that was going on, the concept started to sink in. I realized my husband and Mr. Becker were right.
It was that moment I knew I needed change. I decided to devote the next year to becoming unbusy. I stripped away the elements of my life that caused the most stress. First was when I transferred to a less hectic position outside of the Pentagon. Next, I put the Arbonne consulting on an indefinite pause. That helped a lot.
Then, on Christmas day in 2013, my then-boyfriend proposed. Yay!! Now, I really had to prioritize! I knew planning on upcoming wedding was going to keep me busy, but not having the time I wanted to devote to it would be worse. I made the difficult decision to stop teaching yoga for a while.
In early Spring 2014, I finally finished my Master’s degree. Now that I had additional free time, I was able to devote it to my fiancee (at the time), his son, and planning our wedding together. Although I wasn’t quite unbusy yet, I felt a lot better. I no longer felt as though I was scrambling. I had rearranged my priorities with the things I wanted most at the top.
My husband and I were married in late 2014, with my 11-year-old stepson as our Best Man. In the months that followed, we were able to enjoy ourselves and live with much less stress.
For the first time in years, I’m able to look around my life and decide where I want it to go. From here, we have made several huge life changes, including paying off our debt.
Now, I am slowly starting add more things I enjoy back into my life. I’m reading for fun, (Hello, 50 Shades!), teaching yoga, and traveling again. As I do, I’m trying to shape my life into what I want it look, instead of allowing my mismanaged priorities to shape me. Life is too short to spend it shuffling from one thing to the next without enjoying yourself.
Word of my upcoming separation from active duty naval service is making its way through my friends and family. Inevitably, the next question I get is something along the lines of, “What will you do next?”
I’m not sure I can answer this question myself yet. From moment to moment, I daydream about myself as the following:
a) A stay-at-home wonder mom and homemaker, taking care of my 11-year-old stepson and new baby’s (disclaimer: I would need to get pregant first!) every need, reading stories, preparing delicious vegan gluten-free meals, and doing all of the “home stuff,” like cleaning and doing laundry. Images of me and my family smiling at each other. A lot. And doing homemade crafts and bicycling outside.
b) An ueber peaceful, meditative yoga teacher. A lot of zen. And enlightenment. And cool yoga clothes. And midday meetups with fellow yoga teachers and students at my favorite vegan restaurants in the Washington DC area (Hello, Busboys n’ Poets and The Loving Hut!). (Disclaimer: I teach one yoga class per week now, which at the end of May, will increase to three classes per week, so this could totally happen. Yeah.)
c) Building this blog so much that I could actually call it my profession. In public. At the very least, I would need to figure out how to add a Facebook and Twitter buttons to my blog postings. And finish signing up for a Twitter account. Would definitely need better graphics too. And a cleaner layout. And more material. Note to self: look up more YouTube videos on how to make my blog prettier.
d) Finally writing that book about my late dad. Long, peaceful afternoons typing away on my Mac, pausing to call my mom every once in a while to let her know how much progress I’m making and how great the book is going. Fame and success once the book gets published. Instant New York Times bestseller. People recognizing me in the streets as “that awesome writer.” Yeah, that could happen.
e) Going back to school with the goal of becoming a psychologist. School appears in my head the way I see it on tv nowadays: perfect weather, hip clothes and shoes, engaging discussions with cool fellow students and teachers, and homework that always gets itself done without too much trouble. In the future, I become like Dr. Phil, but without the tv show. Yeah, that would be awesome. I could do that.
In all seriousness, I don’t think the list above is necessarily mutually exclusive. Could I look forward to a dream that incorporates several (or maybe all?) of the items listed above? In what order do I go about trying to achieve them? How do I accomplish these things, and still be an awesome wife to my incredible husband?
In Jeff Goins’ the “Art of Work,” he talks about the “portfolio life.” This concept applies when your life is not made up of merely one vocation, but several. Goins is not just a writer, just a public speaker, or just a blogger. He’s a combination of all of these things. Maybe that could be in the cards for me in my future?
Several years ago, I felt called to a higher purpose; however, I wasn’t sure what that meant. One thing I was sure of: I wanted to leave my job and do something else, like writing, counseling, or teaching yoga. However, I couldn’t leave because I felt trapped, like a caged animal.
There were several reasons I felt this, the main reason being finances. I had student loans to pay back, as well as a hefty car payment. I quickly realized that, to have more freedom, meant I needed to be financially free first.
Therefore, I started paying down my debt. While my husband and I were dating, he started paying down his debt too. Just taking steps towards financial freedom made the daily rat race of going to work bearable again.
Then, after we got married, we attacked our debt together. Now, we are proud to say we are debt-free!
Paying off our debt gave me the confidence to submit my resignation letter from active duty naval service. It as though a weight has been lifted and I find myself freer and more peaceful.
Now, I ask you, are you in a job/career that is leaving you feeling less-than-fulfilled? If so, what is keeping you there? And what can you do about it?