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I wrote this post several months ago but found it today and still got smacked in the face by it.


Last week, up to my elbows in soapy water and covered head to toe in the mess of motherhood, I lost it. Full on tears dripping into the clean dishes lost it.

And the most maddening part of all was that I ruined those clean dishes (not really, I totes put them in the cabinet anyway) for a phantom. For a nothing. For an imagined problem that nags at women and moms with an incessant chirping of you are not doing enough!

I am surrounded by strong, ambitious superwomen. They inspire me continually. But because we have been numbered and categorized since our first breath, my instinct is to begin numbering and categorizing the theirs against the mines. This friend does this job, and this job, and raises this baby, and volunteers there. That friend works there, works out that many days, earned that degree, and takes her baby to the library. That girl wakes up at this time, works those hours, cooks those meals, and always wears mascara.

And, inevitably, what follows is the conclusion that

I am not doing enough.   


What is “enough?” How am I supposed to know when I’ve reached it? When I can’t put down the computer until midnight every night? When I have to find someone to watch Addison five days a week? When I have structured, age-appropriate Pinterest activities planned and prepped for her every morning when she wakes up? When my husband comes home to a hot, home cooked, edible (<– key word) meal every night of the week?

Why are we am I in an all-consuming, head-down, relentless pursuit of a goal that is wholly subjective and indefinable? What am I even chasing? If I look up, what is ahead that drives me to justify neglecting the truly valuable in anticipation of some fleeting, self-prescribed merit?

Stop. Look to the left and to the right. That is the goal. Those are the milestones that build a city of memories, a lifetime of timely pauses and spare minutes. The race is not against mothers or friends or women who do things that I can’t or never will. The race is with them, a shared marathon with some paving the way, others coming behind and the  beautiful synchronization of friends striding beside you. Swooping in with home cooked meals that will taste better than any concoction you could dream up. Busting out their own hot glue gun and ribbon when you don’t have any more space in your head for DIY crafts. Walking into your house and scooping up your baby with the warmest familiarity.

Time to enjoy the space between afternoon naps and dinner, with a swing in the yard or wagon ride in the driveway, is not


or insignificant.

It is not a consolation for not having more important commitments.

It is


and so much more.

When responsibilities are met, and the must-get-done’s are done,
breathing, deep and slow, for a minute or an afternoon, is okay.

When did it stop being nourishing and start being indulgent to read a novel that wasn’t accompanied by a test that counted toward a degree, to take a nap because you were up three times with an unhappy baby or just because you are tired, to let the laundry pile up one more day because a lunch date with your daughter is way more fun?

I have freelance projects every week.
I am a full-time mother.
I volunteer at my church.
I take care of Addison while Clayton volunteers at our church.
I handle the cooking (or ordering) of our meals, the cleaning of our house, and the organizing of our schedule.
I keep my body healthy.
I go to a small group once a week.
I see friends and family as much as I can.
I write sporadically on a blog.

In what universe would this collection of identities not be enough?  I feel so compelled to fill in the gaps of every hour in order to feel accomplished, to be sure I am making the most of my time. But I know in my head that making the most of my time is defined by what and who gets most of my time. And I don’t what that to be a computer. Or a stranger. Or a brochure or web page that will wither and die.

Making something requires an intent to create, a choice to design a life that has some growing room, some space around the edges to relax for awhile. To allow for minutes that spring up when a cat finds its way into the backyard and needs to be watched through the back door, when the play area at the mall is completely empty for the first time ever, when your kid discovers how to flip over her toy table and climb on top of it but can only get down with a Mama’s hand.

Those seconds will sprint right past you if you are not so very diligent in making time for them.

And I have told myself I do not want to miss them.

I do not want more clients if it means less time with Addison, I do not want more volunteer commitments if the joy of giving is replaced by dread, I do not want quiet moments with my husband at the end of each day to be hijacked by exhaustion.

I want to find enough

laughter surprises spontaneity fulfillment joy confidence beauty

right here in this moment. Because I am certain it is there. I just have to stop and look.


Do it big.

Duuuuude. natl champs screen


I can’t stop smiling. Is there such thing as an elation hangover that lasts for like a month? Because that’s what I have. But instead of a headache, I have a permagrin and the giggles and sometimes full tear ducts when I catch that shot of Jimbo hoisting the crystal football over his head with his eyes closed or when I see the parking lot outside of Doak Campbell stadium packed with people welcoming the team back to Tally. If I’d had one more millisecond to contemplate it, I would have made the 4 hour drive with Addison yesterday to greet them.

Let’s back up. I was stomach-twisting nervous in the morning, so I got in a workout while Addison napped to clear my head and keep the anxiety at bay. That was important since I was such a vital component of FSU’s game plan. My parents arrived mid-workout and waited for Addison to wake up before removing her from the inevitable cone of profanity.

My garage obviously needed to know who I was rooting for.

My garage obviously needed to know who I was rooting for.

I had a few hours to kill so I made some stops in search of cold weather FSU gear. We were watching the game at an outdoor restaurant and the temps were going to be around 35. Stellar planning, as usual. I bought several correctly-colored-but-team-neutral sweaters but ultimately couldn’t bear not having FSU displayed prominently. The floor length puffer jacket would just have to do its job over a t-shirt and cardigan. Plus, I knew my head would be warm.


We arrived a solid 90 minutes before kick off to eat and tremble and pace.

If you have a television or access to any social media outlet, I’m assuming you know how things played out. If it was 9:30 p.m. on Monday night and you posted about The Bachelor, it’s safe to say our friendship is irreparably damaged.

Three quarters of rage and disbelief and antisocial behavior from one alumna.

Crouching Seminole, Hidden Offense

Crouching Seminole, Hidden Offense

And then a fourth quarter that  will live on in college football history.

arms up

Followed by a jumping, screaming, high-fiving, hugging, wife-carried-out-into-the-streets-of-Tampa celebration that hasn’t exactly ended in my mind.


C N crazy face

group1 (2)

How many consecutive days can one wear FSU apparel? I figure I have at least a month until people start making conspicuous comments in public.

It was a major concern for all of us if we didn't let you know our official BCS ranking via our index fingers for the rest of the evening.

It was a major concern for all of us if we didn’t let you know our official BCS ranking via our index fingers for the rest of the evening.

Fun tidbit: Downtown Tampa has a tall skyscraper, the SunTrust building, that is lit up for Bucs, USF, Rays and Lightning games in the team colors. When we were heading towards the restaurant I mentioned that ”they should have done the SunTrust building in garnet and gold,” not realizing that peak was ablaze in FSU colors. I was giddy when I saw it and said that if we won, we were going downtown to take pictures with it. Behold.

Professional photog skills from the car

Professional photog skills from the car

Mission: Accomplished

Mission: Accomplished

We (my SIL and I, the boys were totes poopers after 1 a.m.) wanted to party into the morning, but it was a Monday night and the two spots we crashed were already closed.

I still have grand plans to make my way to Tallahassee for some kind of celebration. And I shall keep partying it up until I have no more party left in me. Probably around week eight of next season when we get upset by Notre Dame or something.

And one last time for blogland…

F-L-O-R-I-D-A    S-T-A-T-E
Florida State, Florida State, Florida State

Automation Frustration

Shifting gears out of the deep end, you know what is one of my biggest pet peeves? Automatic bathroom appliances in public bathrooms. I have lived 29 years and have probably been determining the appropriate amount of hand soap for myself for about 26 of those years. I don’t need a fake machine brain to portion out a dollop of soap at a time. That soap dispenser has no idea what may have taken place seconds before someone required its services.

And the towel dispensers. Oh my word. Those things can push me over the edge. The motion sensor must be a millimeter wide and my spindly little wrists are not substantial enough to activate it. I can never, ever, ever perform that sassy wave and grab that people with presumably meatier wrists have mastered. I am reduced to banging and upper body calisthenics to see that tiny red light, and then just as I am filled with glee at my success, the wheel stops. The paper towel for my dripping wet hands is the size of a toilet paper square. By the time my sopping hands can finagle it out of the machine, it’s nothing but wet, crumbling shreds. And there are still giant beads of water falling from my fingertips and pooling on the floor.

Not to mention the automatic toilet flusher. Flush when I blink or turn my head 3 degrees to the right, but not when I am finished peeing and frantically waving my hand in front of the sensor. There is a line of women outside that door and they can probably see my shadow of insanity in this stall. Finally, we all know the end result is a ninja kick to the miniscule manual black button. For some reason it feels like a failure of womanhood to use it.

My deepest fear is what may be coming next: automated toilet paper dispensers. Cannot, will not tolerate it. I’d rather pay to use public restrooms. I’ll take up a second job for my Bathroom Budget, but PLEASE do not mess with my toilet paper.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

Dear Gym,
I remember that sunny first day we met. I was a barely legal, eager college freshman fresh out of a years-long relationship with organized sports. I was looking for something else, something new. You were a two-story behemoth, a state-of-the-art glass and cement mecca only costing me the courage to walk through those two sets of front doors.

At first things were grand. Sure, I saw the lines of sorority girls waiting for ellipticals on the second floor, but if I stayed mostly on the ground level I never had to cross their paths. Except waiting for a hand dryer in the bathroom when I was dripping sweat on the linoleum and their eyeliner was still somehow perfectly in tact. But I digress.

I’ll admit we had some sweet, sweet memories. In the tiny corner with the girl-sized free weights, it felt like it was just you and me sometimes. And the birthing/adductor machine positioned right in front of the mirrors made for some extra special supersets. You didn’t even bat an eye when I began bringing my blonde, affectionate buddy. Or followed him into the man weight room and did some chest presses.

You were good to me for a time, gym.

But times change.

The last two times we met up, it was different. The fluorescent lighting was distracting, not enticing. The floor to ceiling mirrors were intrusive, not convenient. The employees were pretentious, not perky.

I’ve always equated you with being healthy: if I just had that gym membership, I would automatically be living healthier. Even if we didn’t see each other for months at a time, the card hanging from my key ring would tell the world that I WORK OUT. Or, at the very least, I have access to a facility that provides fitness equipment on which I could perform exercises for the betterment of my physical appearance. How healthy is that?!

But alas, that card has not been scanned enough to pay for the gas it takes to come see you. And when I have made it there, I don’t feel like I belong any more. I fall into that forgotten age bracket between the majority of gym aficionados–not a spandex-clad 22-year-old and not a water-aerobicising 72-year-old.

From my inconspicuous perch on a second floor treadmill at this newest location, I took a good long look at my fellow Sunday afternoon constituents. I was disheartened. And entertained. Most work outs could be completed in half the time if gym goers would replace subtly flexing in the mirror with actually lifting heavy things. I guess they need to be absolutely sure those curls are working? Like, immediately. Someone also needs to kindly drop a map in the bags of all the men so that they learn to locate the leg machines.

It suddenly hit me that what I once saw as a communal space to honor and improve your body now felt like a temple designed to worship it. That’s not a religious service I’d like to attend, no matter how sculpted those deltoids look in your DIY cut off t-shirt.

And how is no one else sweating in here?!?!

Since it was already hella difficult for me to maintain a rational body image after having a baby, it no longer seems like an encouraging space to put myself in regularly. You make me feel uncomfortable, okay? I can’t wear mismatched clothes without feeling self conscious, make eye contact with anyone, or eat in front of you. That’s not very judgment-less, now is it?


I call B.S.

I call B.S.

I mean, I don’t like to cut and run, so of course we’ll see each other during the two month cancellation processing period. Just don’t get all desperate and try to change my mind with your smooth treadmills, ice cold water fountains and childcare. Oh, the childcare. That bright spot in the dark, toddlerhood-encroaching night. Must stay focused.

As you may have suspected, yes, there is someone else. I call it the garage. And a craigslisted weights set and pull up bar I’ve been cozying up to. The bells and whistles have lost their luster, and I’ve decided to downgrade from sprawling to simple. I hope that you’ll understand.

But even if you don’t, I’m going to need that $40 a month back.

Sweaty Hugs for Life,
N. Noa


The weekend celebrating labor (oh, is that not what we were doing? I think I still need to Wikipedia this holiday) was full of partying well past  Addison’s 8 p.m. bedtime. My parents were out of town and my brother and sister-in-law accompanied us to most of our hang outs, so our babysitters were spoken for. Rude. The peanut was in our possession through all of our wilding.

Friday Clayton had to work a high school football game. We thought we had time to sneak in a quick dinner before he had to leave, but that time flew by and I was left widowed at a table with our 13-month old. I love her, but she doesn’t exactly reciprocate the sarcastic banter to which I am so accustomed in Friday night conversation. She also ate all of my soup.

I am really ramping up the campaign to become the Fun Parent (this is a hopeless pursuit, I’m well aware), so even though it was coming up on bottle thirty, we hit the play area at the mall for about 20 minutes. I am so fun! So fun that I follow on Addison’s heels, body check the older kids roughhousing in our vicinity, and re-direct her from any apparatus higher than six inches off the ground.

Saturday I lost my mind for a bit, and then we had my brother and SIL over because 1. I’d made pulled pork earlier in the week and had some left = no cooking/buying dinner, 2. Hanging out with them is just about as comfortable as hanging out by ourselves but with four extra hands to tackle a sprinting Addison and 3. I don’t feel that bad if I haven’t cleaned the bathroom.

Uncle T needed a knowledgeable consultant for his fantasy draft.

Uncle T needed a knowledgeable consultant for his fantasy draft.

We spent Sunday running around as usual–Clayton had an early rehearsal at church, I drove a sleeping Addison across the city and back before the service, and we had a family lunch at my Grandma’s house. It’s been several years since the fam has had a chubby baby to fawn over, so most of our gatherings morph into the Addison show. This was no exception, and we spent a good hour sitting in a circle just watching that kid waddle from person to person, cell phone to cell phone, dirty shoe to dirty shoe. I felt sort of guilty, but then I decided that everyone should be thanking me for letting them spend their Sunday in such an awesome fashion. Girlfriend is more entertaining than any Bravo rerun airing at 2 p.m. on a weekend.

That night we met up with friends to check out a Labor Day boat parade and fireworks show. Thankfully our babies didn’t burst into tears at the fireworks, but there was some upper arm clinging from Max and wide eyed Mama reaching from Addison. They got over it pretty quickly once the “house band” started up. Unfortunately, the band had mistakenly grabbed their Rock Band video game controllers–the mini piano with a shoulder strap cannot be a real thing–instead of their actual instruments, but they played enough catchy Third Eye Blind so that most people didn’t notice. Also, PSA: drunk women, don’t try to dance with our children.

A C mark max fireworks

A Nat fireworks

One of the many, many ways that life has changed since we said goodbye to the DINK lifestyle (Dual Income, No Kids…saw it on Facebook), is football season. I didn’t realize how dysfunctional game day would look until we attempted to host a little cook out/football party for FSU’s first game Monday night.

Forcibly restraining her arms for one picture with the bow.

Forcibly restraining her arms for one picture with the bow.

Prior to the nugget, we’d cozy up in our booth at a sports bar a half hour before the game, choose which draft we’d be toasting or crying into for the next three hours, and that would be that. Maybe we’d get some queso at halftime, but the general equation was simple enough.

My how times change. Monday, right around kickoff, there were three babies under two toddling around directly in front of the t.v., one deciding to drag a dining room chair across the tile drowning out any hope of hearing pre-game commentary. Not long after, the microwave was beeping to alert me the water for Addison’s bottle was ready, friends were trying to gather their stuff and head home with their infant, and my best friend was trying to fashion a makeshift crib in our master bedroom with extra pillows and blankets.

It was an interesting first quarter.

Our childless FSU friends joined us, undoubtedly for the only time, and sat quietly amid the diapered chaos.

In direct contrast to the clanging and banging of the first half, once the kids went to bed, it was an exercise in vocal self restraint. No cheers or jeers could rise above a whisper for fear of waking the tiny scream machines. We’d dimmed the lights to help the kiddos unwind during bottle time, creating a soft, romantic hue enjoyed by the 9 adults gathered around the flat screen.

Despite the garnet-tinted awkwardness, it ended up being a pretty fun night with old and new friends, capped off with a big, fat W: a Well slept baby. Kidding, FSU shook the dust off and Jameis Winston made us cry happy tears of hopeful non-Manuel/Weatherford/Rixness. We’re Miley-level* desperate for a QB worth the hype. Fingers crossed, hips a’twerkin’!

Happy Two More Months ‘Til Fall in Florida!

*Last week, like the good mom blogger I am (gag), I penned An Open Letter to Miley. I was never sure about posting it, mainly because every other site across this party in the U-S-A had written about it. I decided against it because by that logic, I’d have to write An Open Letter to Katy Perry, An Open Letter to Lady Gaga, An Open Letter to Topanga Lawrence for that Maxim Cover, An Open Letter to Des the Bachelorette for Giving All Three Suitors the Key to the Fantasy Suite, and so on and so on. Ain’t nobody got time or enough twerking jokes for that. Clearly, if I don’t want my daughter to grow up in an overtly sexual, please-stop-dry-humping-that-other-woman’s-husband, um-dude-why-are-you-letting-this-bikini-clad-confused-twentysomething-dry-hump-you society, it’s time to move. To the 1940′s. But you can be SURE that Addison’s Mama and Daddy would have gotten one glimpse of that rehearsal and pulled that child off the stage by her outstretched tongue. And God help Mr. Thicke if Miley had Tony for an older brother. The end.

On Sunday, in the cafeteria of a middle school transformed to a church atrium,
my little girl, my fair-skinned, auburn-haired baby,
waddled across linoleum towards an expanse of tiled freedom,
trailed close behind by the narrow calves of an older girl chasing her with shared glee
pinching the oh-so-pinchable sides of my baby’s belly
and laughing a little girl’s laugh.

The girls reversed, and bee-lined back to mothers wasting time before getting back to
lunch making, diaper changing, nap fighting.
And the girls began to twirl
in cotton dresses skimming ankles,
the older swooshing in a large vibrant dance,
a younger sister joining,
my part-Spanish, part-her-father’s daughter watching with wild, eager eyes
this game she must learn,
this dance that spins and spins,
these brown-skinned girls that squealed and played
in the same high-pitched, reckless,
bouncing-off-the-wall-of-windows way
that my little lady often prefers.

My baby, with green-gray eyes and gold-flecked hair,
clapping, squealing, eager to be dancing
with other A-named girls.

There was so much sameness,
there in the different shades of skin and hair and eyes,
there in the twirling and escaping
and joining of hands.
And on a sunny Sunday morning,
I hoped that the mother of those girls who took my baby’s breath away
with laughter
and chasing
could hear the faintest sound
of history pounding deep in bones
of a ‘beautiful symphony of brotherhood’
tapped in quick-step rhythm
by little girls’ twirling toes.

“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 1963

Before 30 Wish List

I originally wanted to list 30 things to do before I was 30. Either because I am so prematurely accomplished or because I am detestably uncreative, I could only think of 10.

  1. Run a 5k in less than 30 minutes. (So close.)
  2. See college friends. If you think I’m talking about you, I probably am. Football season usually makes this easier since we take advantage of anyone we know still living in Tallahassee willing to put us up for FSU games.
  3. Make a few new friends. Gals of Tampa, get ready for a stammering, inaudible, likely inappropriate greeting comin’ at ya.
  4. Get out of my comfort zone. By accomplishing #3, I will most certainly take care of this one.
  5. Find a recipe to master. My husband should say, “Natalie makes the best [corn dogs, café con leche, pea soup or something equally as awesome and surprising].”
  6. Participate in at least one service project face to face. Writing a check is important, but getting my hands dirty is a must sometimes.
  7. Think of an idea for a novel. Write a chapter or two, solely to say casually, “I’m working on my book” for the next 10 years.
  8. Run another half marathon.
  9. Visit somewhere for the first time. California. Greece. Omaha. I don’t really care where.
  10. Read (or re-read) a couple of classics. Don’t persecute me for this, but I have not read one book by Jane Austen.

For what it’s worth

I watch and I read, until it overwhelms. Then I pull away.

But something pulls me back, a soul’s magnet, to the story that no one believes is the stuff of reality, a story that is not pulled from a dark book but from an anonymous town on a winter morning.

Maybe because I am a parent,
because my dear friends are teachers,
my father is a principal,
my brother works in a school,
because I am human,
because of all of these things

I grieve for Newtown, my town, your town, our town.

I grieve for parents paralyzed with an unimaginable sorrow and an impossible journey ahead. I grieve for families who will trudge through endless questions in a never ending quest for answers that will not come.

The collective broken heart of a country reassures me that my feelings are shared, my experience is your experience. So distant but so unmistakably connected. In these first days, flashes of the utmost terror weigh heavy on my spirit at all times. I see in my daughter’s bright eyes the mirror of such innocence stolen, futures aglow with promise that will not be realized. The very hope of a country.

There is anger to own. At an intent we are desperate to rationalize but cannot. How do we understand the unthinkable? How do we process without glorifying?
There is fear to accept in this new normal.
There is helplessness to tame when the mind says, “Do! Fix! Heal!” But so little can be done. Fixed. Healed.
There is sadness in its most basic form. Deep, aching sadness.

I am so small against such great tragedy.

What is there to do? What is there to say? Where is there to go from here? I am haunted by the chilling reality of evil, of not being able to escape it in this life, of being incapable of protecting my child from these horrors. How do you grasp that, and still move? Still nurture independence? Still encourage dreams and hope?

But how do you look at your baby’s precious face and not cling to hope? At our darkest hour, it is these very faces that remind us we MUST move. We must hope. We must be more than this. If not for myself—because that is simply not enough right now—for her. For them.

That which I claim to be my stronghold, the unwavering part of my self, comes face to face with upheaval, with trembling despite the Truth that it is okay. How can it be?

When I stumble through these questions, when I grasp clumsily to make sense of a moment that bears none, the only solace I find is that you, they, even myself, are not looking at my finite mind for explanations. My reasoning is not what families will turn to. My words will do little to help; I can’t even find them most of the time. My arms do not reach that far, into a grief that deep. My heart tells me that there is no comfort to be found for twenty-seven hurting families (yes, he too had a family). I see a darkness too unbearable to receive peace.

And still. Peace can come. Comfort can find them. It will be the kind that should not exist, but does. Because it is bigger than what we can ever understand. It is there because this is not beyond Him.

It is beyond me. And that is exactly as it should be.

I am still searching and processing. Shedding tears and worrying. Praying without words because I don’t even know where to begin.