Hope the Dog

This is the story of Hope….the dog! My whole adult life I wanted a dog but I refused to get one. I was always working like crazy and didn’t think it would be fair to get a dog just to keep it locked up for 12 hours a day. When I became pregnant with my youngest I got a new job that was 3 days a week. Even though I was still busy and heavily pregnant, I knew that it was finally the right time to adopt a long-awaited companion!

My husband was on board so we started looking. One of my friends from school who I follow on Facebook owns a doggy daycare and is an amazing person who rescues and fosters pups in need. I saw my future fur-baby’s face on her page and fell in love instantly! Her name was Hope which was funny to me because it was a name that my older daughter kept suggesting for our little one. I took it as a sign and set up an appointment to meet her.

When we came to her house Hope was so sweet and timid. She was still shaken from her neglectful start in life. She came from Georgia. Apparently her owner was murdered and the people close to them didn’t know what to do with the two dogs who were left behind so they made the unfortunate decision to abandon them in the woods. Hope and her “sister” Faith were picked up and taken to a kill shelter. My friend saw them online and decided to save them in the nick of time. She paid for them to be fed and vaccinated, medicated and boarded. The before picture of my baby was so sad to see. You could count her ribs, she was infested with worms, she was suffering cellulitis, and the pain in her innocent eyes was palpable.

We made an agreement, paid the adoption fee, and readied our home for our new family member. The poor baby was skiddish for a while. She was scared to go in the car because she didn’t know if it meant her whole life would be turned upside down yet again. I felt proud that we could give her a safe and loving forever home but, I didn’t realize just how much she would give back to us.

My pregnancy was really rough. I had morning sickness and undiagnosed anemia the entire time. The hallmarks of that pregnancy were nausea and isolation. Barely able to get out of bed, my world became very small and lonely. Once Hope was home we spent so much time just snuggling and building that bond of love and trust and comfort. She forced me to get up, get some fresh air and sunlight, and take her out, she was there to keep me company when I felt so alone. She would crawl up and snuggle in deeper when I cried. She would put her snout on my belly in a sign of love, protection and solidarity. She showed me so much love and compassion, more than anyone could have shown me with words.

When I told people that I was getting a puppy right before I was ready to have a baby they thought I was crazy! And it really was like having two babies at once. Sometimes I feel like puppies are harder, because at least babies sleep most of the time at first! But, we have absolutely no regrets! We don’t remember what life was like before her, she is such a part of our family and of each of us. We know she came at exactly the right time and like most things involving love, what we received was more than we ever could have given and we can’t imagine our family without Hope.

Do you have a pet adoption story? In what ways do they add to your life?

❤ Cait

Replacing Anxiety with Hope

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11

Since childhood I have struggled with depression and anxiety. Though they go hand in hand my depression was the main problem when I was young. I was at a tender age where I was learning that not everything in life is pleasant and when my parents divorced it filled my safe-feeling world of innocence with doubt. As I became older anxiety took the reigns and was unfortunately exacerbated by PTSD. I am a survivor of domestic abuse (a story for another post). My ex and I had a daughter as teenagers and after a traumatic stretch of time we separated. My second family in a few short years had crumbled before my eyes.

A couple of years passed and I moved on. I went to school and worked hard to provide for my daughter as a young, single mother but, put little thought into healing myself. Time went by and things got better. I met an amazing man, now my husband, that treated me well and showed me what it was like to truly be loved and respected. I grew up Catholic but had turned away from the Lord in my youthful angst. Once I was in a stable job and relationship, the feelings I ignored in order to put my life back together after the abuse started to come back up. I was experiencing flashbacks, waking up screaming with night terrors, and this is when my anxiety became crippling. I could feel the longing for the Lord in an empty place in my soul. He was calling me and so I sought Him out and he took me in (My testimony story for another post too!).

Fast forward a few years…I was in one of the happiest but, busiest times of my life! I was engaged to my husband, working full time in the medical field, taking college classes online, raising my daughter, and planning our wedding. I was thankful that my life was so full of positive things but, my anxiety had become a staple of my everyday life and was at an all time high. I was taking medication to ward off panic attacks up to 3 times a day.

About 4 months after our beautiful wedding we found out we were expecting a baby! I was so happy to have another chance at motherhood and to finally give my daughter a sibling after 9 years. As you mamas know, pregnancy changes your life in so many ways. One way for me was that I could no longer take my medication. That crutch that I had held for so long was kicked out from under me and my only option was to limp. I was forced to find other ways to cope.

When I felt my chest tighten and my heart race I resorted to breathing exercises, hot showers, or asked my husband to talk me down. Those things helped but, what brought healing was leaning on the Lord. I would come to him in desperate prayer, meditate on his promises and ask him to take my burdens and carry them for me. As I did this I entered into a deep and transformative life of prayer. I knew that God would help me through if only I would turn to him. As my trust in him grew my hope grew with it. My anxieties faded and before I realized it they had all but vanished. Anxiety was no longer was the staple of my life, instead it was hope.

Without all my time being spent worrying there was space in my heart and mind to receive the things the Lord was trying to reveal to me each day. So my trust, hope and faith grew deeper and deeper still. Sometimes I still get nervous when I worry about my children’s futures or when I don’t know how we will make it to pay day. But, instead of wallowing in my doubt I have hope! When the path ahead feels dark and unknown I try to remember where God has taken my life from where he found me. When I was bruised and broken hearted I never could have imagined the life I have been blessed with today. I trust in my heart of hearts that God has a plan for all of us, he is faithful, and he will help us to get through and provide for us every step of the way.

Do you suffer from anxiety? How do you deal with it?

If you or someone you know are in an abusive situation help is available. It is possible to move on, heal, and live a better life!

❤ Cait

 

Boobs Traveler

Last year I got an extraordinary gift! My dad paid for a ticket for my youngest daughter and I to come and visit him at his home in Florida! After a long New England winter I was more than happy to accept! I was excited to go but a bit nervous to leave the other half of the family up north while the little one and I enjoyed the fun and sun. I pushed back the guilt. I deserved a little rest and was determined not to get in my own way.

The day came and we made it to the airport. In the spirit of saving money I attempted to pack light and avoid checking bags. I also decided that the stroller would be too clunky compared to my comfy baby wrap (which she loves) plus, it freed up my hands. We didn’t have long until boarding time but it was a 6 am flight and I desperately needed a coffee. I waited in a long line for a $4 coffee I practically had to make myself and my babe was starting to squirm. “I’ve totally got this”, I thought to myself as I rushed back to the gate.

So there I was stomping through the airport, and what a sight I must have been! I had baby snug in her carrier on my chest, a hiking backpack filled to the brim on my back, a cross body purse on my hip, and an over stuffed diaper bag on my shoulder. She was crying and fussing and the let down feeling let me know what she was in need of. So I stopped for a moment and did what I knew I had to do; I pulled out my breast and let her feed as I continued with all of my gear still in tow to the gate. I had my reservations about feeding in public before. I had hid under blankets and stood in toilet stalls but during this trip all of my hesitation disappeared. My baby’s nutritional needs were much more important than my misplaced shame or other people’s perceptions about what was or was not appropriate.

Sure, I got a few looks but, I realized that most of the hang-ups I had were coming from within myself. Most people didn’t notice, didn’t care or gave me a knowing nod of solidarity or a smile of support. Once we were seated in the plane (me in the middle seat of course! Just my luck!) baby had fallen asleep and I was glad to have some time to exhale. The flight from Boston to Florida is thankfully short just about 3 hours. As we ascended the baby inevitably woke due to cabin pressure affecting her ears. The best way to relieve that was to cause her to swallow by feeding her and I did so without reservation. Hey, it was either see the boob, or hear the babe! If you have ever been on a plane with a crying baby you know that it was an easy choice! No one cared and I didn’t expose any more than the model on the cover of the magazine the woman next to me was reading.

When it was finally time to deplane the man that was sitting to my left helped me to get my carry-on and over stuffed backpack down from the overhead storage. I strapped my baby back to my chest, and he helped me put the backpack on my back while saying, “Wait a minute! You’re going to carry all of this yourself!? Are you sure you can really do that?” and I turned to him with a grateful smile and proudly exclaimed. “Yes, sir! I am a woman! I can do anything!” And we can, sisters! We can put aside our hang-ups to do whats best for our children, we can tenderly feed and comfort our babies and remain strong enough to carry the weight of our baggage. We can be soft and strong and fearless and amazing! Just as we were created to be!

What are your most memorable breastfeeding moments? Share below!

❤ Cait

 

 

Sharer’s Remorse

Have you ever experienced buyer’s remorse? Those yet to be worn stilettos in your closet tell me yes! As a writer I tend to suffer from sharer’s remorse. I will get inspired and excited and turn to social media as an outlet and end up posting a poem, opinion, or status more personal and meaningful than my usual funny cat memes. Then the neurosis begins! I hit post and read it over and over again (I’m an editor at heart). If I read it enough times I can convince myself that what I was so proud to post a few minutes ago is really lame! My introvert side deflates and drags my openness back into the safe dark turtle shell.

If you pay attention to the time stamps you will see that this was also the case with this very blog (and Instagram)! I created the account confident enough but the things I learned in my college writing classes became a hang up! What was my tone? Who is my audience and am I writing to their needs? Do I have authority to speak on these topics? I’m no expert. I struggle. Does anyone care what I have to say? How DO I feel about that?! WHO EVEN AM I?!

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As a people-pleaser by nature I have always struggled with others’ perceptions of me. I have always had a hard time fitting perfectly into the little labels, boxes and expectations that people put on one another (that I truly think NO ONE lives up to 100%). Am I too much of this? Not enough that? Alas, I am an enigma and always have been. In me as in everyone exists flesh and spirit, dark and light. I am a work in progress not yet complete. Even so, God has plans for me just as I am. He knows my heart. He created me (and you!) to reflect and spread his love in a very specific and individual way. The truth is that if I wait until I’m perfect I will be waiting forever. I don’t believe that is my purpose.

I am working toward being myself and loving myself fully, writing my truth and letting others appreciate it or not. Its okay to express my feelings! I am after all speaking on the world from behind my own eyes and examining MY own existence here and no one else’s. Yes, I’m flawed but maybe someone can relate. If I can help one person not feel so alone then its worth the potential criticism, and exposure of my innermost self (which is at its very core shy yet at the same time has so much to say). I know that if I want to connect with people in any genuine way that it requires honesty, transparency, and a bit of bravery. This passion wasn’t placed in my heart so I could hide it away. Gifts are meant to be shared.

Have you ever experienced sharer’s remorse? What are your passions and gifts? Comment below!

❤ Cait

The Kitchen Sink

We live in quite a fortunate time in history in terms of modern convenience. Of the many modern conveniences I enjoy each day a dishwasher is not one of them. With a growing family that means visiting the sink often to stay on top of the ever present pile of mugs and plates. Sure, there are times I’d prefer to toss them in the waste basket but soon I found the menial task had become a welcome reprieve.

The windowsill above the sink once held all of the hallmark nick-knacks of a well loved mama; assorted bottles of sand art, heart-shaped rocks, small potted herbs, perfect pine cones and gifts from little hearts and hands. One gift was a small cross that reads “Peace, be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10” One day I was on a re-arranging kick and I decided to (finally!) clear and clean the sill. I was moving all my chotchkies into an old shoebox but when I reached for the cross I hesitated, deciding to leave it where it was.

When I went back later on to do the dishes (again!) I read the message over and over. I found myself thinking deeply, staring through the humble kitchen window at the trees in the yard where my pets and children play. Warm water ran over, soothing my busy hands as I thanked God for the opportunity to be still and rest in his peace. By the time the last spoon hit the drying rack I felt my anxieties drain with the suds and dingy water. The little cross which I barely noticed before served as a gentle reminder and the chore became transformed.

Over time I have added other meaningful things to the sill and it has become a sort of altar in my home; a special place I go to pray over my family, water my herbs, offer up the work of my hands, and set my intentions for the day. It just goes to show anything can become meditative, prayerful and intentional even simple tasks. We don’t need only to be in church or on the mountain top to grow in our spirituality. God’s extraordinary presence can enrich even these ordinary parts of our lives and reveal a deeper meaning in the mundane. Now don’t get me wrong, I may not completely enjoy doing the dishes every day (every mom knows the “angry clean” LOL!) but I do know that if I approach this and all things in love, myself and those around me are simply better for it! Let’s let go of our expectations and allow God to reach us exactly where we are.

What do you do to fit in time for quiet contemplation? Comment below!

❤ Cait

 

 

A Letter to my Daughter on Her 10th Birthday (October, 2016)

Dear Autumn,

I can’t believe its been 10 whole years since you entered this world! When you did you brightened the lives of everyone around you. At home it was “The Autumn Show” every day. You were an extraordinarily gorgeous and happy baby. Everything about you was unique and beautiful and we couldn’t wait to see what you’d do next!

You were the sunshine in my days. I worked so hard and fought so hard to be the best mother I could for you. Your Step Father and I have dedicated our lives to providing for you and making you smile. You repay us daily with your love. We are so proud of who you are. You’re funny and sarcastic, sweet and tough, confident but humble, stubborn and kind. You are as colorful and bright as the season for which you are named. You are a daughter, the BEST big sister, an artist, a philanthropist, an author, an athlete, a friend.

And this is only the beginning. I know God has amazing plans for you. In the next 10 years of your life we will watch you grow into a young lady. We will watch as you take wing. But please remember no matter where life’s journey takes you there will always be a place in our hearts and home for you and you can always come back to it.
💗No matter how big you get, you will always fit perfectly in my arms.💗

Love Always,
Mom

The Highs & Lows of Pregnancy

This was written back in February and shared on my personal Facebook page. Our healthy, gorgeous baby girl was born May 31st, 2016.

So I try to keep a brave face but, I know you’ve all heard my complaints…This pregnancy hasn’t been all sunshine and daisy chains for me. My baby and myself are in perfect health but most of the time I have felt sick, exhausted and uncomfortable. Some days I don’t know how I’ll make it through the time I still have left. I never had that feel-good second trimester. Spending so much time in my bed (which I have dubbed my cave) can make me feel frustrated, isolated and lonely. And I don’t think I ever did get that glow! 😕

I get so excited when I can do things that make me feel normal. Even little things like a light walk, a lunch date, or a good hair day resemble my pre-pregnancy life and make all the difference to me! Even now as I look forward to my last trimester I have good and bad days but honestly, most are still pretty rough.

Despite these hurdles, the miracle of the life stirring within is never lost on me even for a moment. How awesome it is to anticipate the love my husband and I share personified in a cherished child. How my heart swells as he talks to her and melts when he says he hopes she looks like me. Seeing the way my daughter touches my belly adoringly and hearing the questions that bubble up in her inquisitive mind is so special. Even my cat purrs happily in my lap against the extra warmth of my body. This baby will be born into so much love and that alone is worth every difficult moment.

Even when it gets hard I remind myself to be present and enjoy this fleeting season of life instead of just wishing it away. I truly believe that pregnancy is designed like this for a reason. It prepares mothers to raise their children by offering experiences of sacrifice, joy, worry, and unconditional love from the moment of conception.

The opportunity to assist God in the creation of a new life and soul is truly humbling and such a gift. Pregnancy and motherhood is an incredible journey and one I feel so blessed to be able to continue. I feel like my dreams keep coming true and I know in my heart that the best is yet to come.

Have you experienced a particularly difficult time in pregnancy? Tell me about it in the comments!

❤ Cait

A year ago today…

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DISCLAIMER: After this photo I re-adjusted my baby carrier as it had sagged a bit from walking around the park (this style has ties and not buckles) Baby wearing is safest when baby is an inch or two higher up on the chest and close enough to kiss.

A year ago today a test confirmed what I already knew in my heart and tender tummy to be true, I was expecting a baby again after 9 years! In that moment so many thoughts and emotions swirled around me. I looked through happy tears at the blurry image of my proud husband’s face and he said, “We’re having a baby! There’s going to be a crib in here soon!” and I thought back to a daydream.

I was driving to pick up my eldest daughter after a particularly long and exhausting work day. At this time I was working full-time, taking classes at community college part-time  and planning my wedding (I tend to be anxious and not very organized sometimes!) and I was just stressed and exhausted with the go-go-go pace I had been keeping up for far too long. As I drove along my heart projected sweet visions on the walls of my mind..

Rocking my husband’s first child in the quiet morning light, breathing in that heady baby aroma, bird serenades carried in on the breeze of an open window, essential coffee smell mixing in from the kitchen. I snapped back to reality and immediately my attention was captured by a rainbow of color in the sky just ahead of me. Tucked among the usual white was a bright iridescent cloud! Rainbows have been significant to me in my spiritual life and it was as if God was reassuring me, reminding me that He knows the desires of my heart. That small passing brilliance, was to me the gentlest reminder to be patient and trust in His perfect timing.

After a wedding and one hell of a pregnancy my visions have come to fruition. Our baby daughter has changed our family for the better. Our hearts and arms are fuller because of her. Ten years with my first precious daughter went too quickly! I have learned that time can be hard on a mama’s heart. That knowing reminds me to savor each moment that much more. Even in the mess and stress, my mundane life is made magic in joy inexpressible and love unconditional.

When I mention the age difference between my girls sometimes people take on an exasperated tone and poke fun at me saying, “Wow! Starting all over again, huh?” and I say yes and my soul laughs as the smile in my heart blooms across my face.

Do any of you have a big age difference between your children? If so tell me about it in the comments!

❤ Cait