Have you ever felt like you just don’t belong, no matter where you go? This week, F, T and I drove down to southern VA for my side of the family’s beach vacation. And like clockwork, it is once again leaving me more and more confused about who I am and who my village is.

A couple weeks ago, at our marriage counselor’s, we were talking about how incredibly important it is to have a tribe. A village. It turns out that we are really lacking that. The way that the void manifest’s itself is strain on our marriage. Without a larger village, F and I are like our own very very small village. We lean on one another and no one else. And of course, with only two of us, we just don’t have the resources to make it work. We aren’t enough. After the session, I broke down to Ford crying. It felt like there was this need really really deep inside of me but I’d never looked it square in the face; Once it was brought to the surface, the ache was deafening.

Every time I’d have a bad day at work or a big fight with F, part of me used to find solace in the idea that I still was loved by my family– my parents and my sisters. This trip has made me doubt that, to say the least. That can do scary things to a girl’s brain. To be ostracised by even her own family. To dread the mornings even on vacation. I want– I need– so badly to just be able to be myself and be loved as such. But who can do that? Is that an attainable desire?

I think the scariest part is that I don’t see an end. I don’t see a fix. There is no real solution to this problem. Family is one of those things that you’re born into; If it’s good, you’re lucky. If it’s not, you’ve got to find a village in the wider world. And for this introvert, it feels like the chances of that happening are slim.

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For 17 months, I’ve been on the verge of tears. Before that, really- because it was while I was pregnant, too. The tears sometimes flow, when I can’t hold them any longer. When the river steadily rises until it overflows onto my face, and my family, and the tissues that my husband brings me. If only I knew what I was upset about- then I could stop being so sad. But it’s nothing, really. The truth is that I’m just sad. All the fucking time. No matter if I’m laughing, or kissing, or celebrating- it’s there, like a dark demon stalking my every move. I thought it had to be temporary, because you’re only “post-partum” for so long. I thought if I just took my medicine, it would slowly creep back into the hole from which it came. Or maybe if I just let it out- if I gave in to the tears wholly and unabashedly- then, eventually, they would run out. But none of that has been true. They are an endless river, just waiting to swell and overtake me. There is no end in sight, no matter how old Thaddeus gets. I’ve tried what feels like every solution in the book, and none of them work. The one thing I haven’t given a fighting chance is prayer. I haven’t had the guts, I guess. I’m too scared, I guess. Because I know, deep down, that prayer will break me open further before it mends me. And I simply don’t know how much further I can be torn apart. I want a different solution- a less painful one. I want healing, now. But with each day that passes, it seems that I just can’t close my eyes any longer. One day I’ll face it, I’m sure. Today, though, seems too hard. 

Mama, bare

Those first days of your first childs life. They are devoid of time… You float off into your own small little universe. Just you, baby, and papa. 

We had a c-section after a grueling 36 hours of labor. I stayed in the hospital for 3 days but it felt like an eternity. There were people- always, people. The nurses, my family, the guy cleaning up the dinner trays. When Ford would go to work, I’d be alone. I knew Thaddeus so well already. I knew he had a fighters spirit and a lovers heart. Every inch of his soul was good.
When I finally got home, my mother-in-law came over every day for a week. She did the laundry, and the dishes, and changed Thaddeus’s diaper. And I breastfed. That was all I did because it was all I could do. It took up so much damn time. I felt like such an awful person when I just wanted to let him cry because I couldn’t stand pulling up my shirt one more time. And when she left, my mother came for a week. It wasn’t until Thaddeus was 3 weeks old that I finally knew what it was like to be alone with him. Really, truly alone. It was so terrible and so wonderful. There is nothing harder than being a mother for the first time and having no clue how and no energy to soothe your baby. But at the same time, when I was finally alone, I breathed a sigh of relief. Whatever I did, would be okay. I had no one to which I had to turn and ask if I was doing it right. Whatever I did… It would have to be right. There was no alternative. And that is when I finally realized that I had known all along. Through all my doubts and tears and failures, I had this knowledge built into my bones, just waiting to be beackoned. I was waiting for the birth, the birth of the mother in me. 

Faulty body 

It’s a hard night. There is a strange juxtaposition in my life… I love my sisters so damn much, but whenever I’m around them, I start hating myself. All four of them are those women with the amazing bodies who bounce back immediately after pregnancy. They are all so gorgeous and I can’t help but compare. My sister Becca had a baby 10 weeks ago. I had a baby 10 months ago. Guess who looks better? *hint* it isn’t me. Does anyone else feel like all the pictures are a lie? Like you’re only pretty when there is an Instagram filter? I actually feel ASHAMED when I am seen in real life and I’m just not that pretty. I NEED to remember that my sole purpose in life is not to have a perfect body. My purpose in life is not prettiness. 

I want so badly to just be able to enjoy myself when I’m with them. But the devil has such a fucking hold on this part of my heart. I want to let it go. I WILL let it go. The worst part is that even when I was my skinniest, I still was consumed. I still thought about it constantly. Dear Jesus. Please. I beg of you. Let me love my body. Expel the devil from my mind, and let me see how beautiful I really am. 

Don’t Forget to Dream

One of the first reasons that I fell in love with my husband was his ability to dream, and dream big. And even more astonishing was his ability to follow through on those dreams. Never afraid of discomfort, he always figures out how to make the least expected dreams work. Thanks be to God that I get to join him on his adventures.

I strongly believe that putting your dreams down in ink or speaking them aloud has profound power. It is the first step in realizing them. So I will now be doing just that. Today, on the day after Mother’s Day, as a 25-year-old, in a job where my dreams are crushed on a daily basis, I am here, putting my dreams out for the world to catch.

1. I dream of chickens. Beautiful, heirloom hens that give my family eggs of all different colors.

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2. I dream of designing. Whether it be graphic design, or interior design, or surface pattern design… doesn’t really matter. But I want it to be my job to use the creative alleys of my brain.

3. I dream of bees. A wooden hive in my backyard, and a couple kids that will collect sweet golden honey.brigid

4. I dream children. I want my family to be a tribe of love and adventure. I want Thaddeus to be the oldest of many.

5. I dream of yoga. I want to get better. I want to teach. I want my body to be limber and svelte.

6. I dream of dancing. I want to learn the art of contemporary dance.

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7. I dream of action. The struggles of being a mother in 2015 in America are real and raw. I want to change that, and bring support to mothers all over our beautiful country. I want to fight for their right to chose either work or home, or both.

8. I dream of intimacy. With my husband, I dream that we will find a cure for the pain, and a freedom in our love.

9. I dream of creating. To design my own home, nestled in the blue ridge mountians, close enough to both our families, but far out in the clean air. I see light and wood and love.

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What dream is on your heart, today?

The tribe of five

I know, I know, I’m a day late, but I got my wisdom teeth out yesterday so get over it! Of all the random, made-up holidays, #nationalsiblingsday has got to be the best. When I think of my sisters, the first thing that comes to mind is *lucky*. I’ve always felt so special to be one of the Collins sisters…It felt like we were a tribe and I was just lucky to be in it. Each of my sisters brings me so much joy and inspiration and without them I would be so different… I am happy and confident and self-assured because they love me. They are my best friends and the best women I know.

7 Dave-Ramsey-Inspired Tips to Really Help You Curb Spending

My husband and I have been listening to Dave Ramsey as of late, in an effort to curb spending so we can start saving. We both feel trapped, because neither of us can do anything risky, such as take a low-paying job or plan a trip out west, when we are tied down to a million payments. We have to make a lot of money to support this lifestyle, and yet we aren’t even getting what we really want! For me, a lot of it has to do with emotional spending. When I feel self-conscious, or upset, the easiest way to cheer myself up is to get online and buy something adorable. And with Amazon Prime or Target RedCard, there is no shipping, so I can just get online and buy something. So instead of really living the life of my dreams, where I am able to work with passion and travel with passion, I am stuck in a rut with a bunch of cute trinkets that I keep having to clean up. It is such a slow way to die. So, without futher ado, here are a couple tricks I’ve discovered as I’ve been going on my journey to frugality. (And it is a journey, friends. A journey with a long road ahead!)

1. Unsubscribe. Take an hour (or two) and unsubscribe from every promotional email list for which you’ve ever signed up. Just go through your trash folder and knock em’ off, one by one. It is SO hard to resist a sale, even though we all know that no sale can ever really save us money… without taking some money first! So get that digital clutter out of your inbox and start off the day without a million little temptations. Out of sight, out of mind. julia-kostreva-desktop-designlovefest-soul-xs 2. Go on a spending freeze. Do you ever have those times where you binge shop like no body’s business and then feel super guilty? *raises hand* Sometimes my husband and I will go on a spending freeze, where we don’t buy anything except groceries (notice I didn’t say food… I’m looking at you, Chipotle). We tried to do it for a month once and it didn’t work in the least. So take it in smaller chunks… a day at a time is a great place to start and build up to a week. Everything, except groceries, can wait a week. It causes you to be innovative and trust that you can live without. Run out of conditioner? Use some coconut oil! Catch my drift?

3. Have a spending day. The one thing about Amazon Prime that I truly dislike, is the temptation to buy every little thing that comes to mind, right when it comes to mind. Like cottonballs, or coffee, or little boy’s suspenders. I can just log on, and press “buy now.” No shipping and hardly any thought- let alone feeling- goes into the purchase. The myth that Amazon would like you to believe is that this will save you time and money. They are completely playing you (and me too). You end up with a bunch of things you hardly use or don’t work well for your life. And you don’t really feel like sending it back… so the junk piles up. Instead, keep a running tally of things that you need to buy. Have one day a week that you sit down and do the shopping, online when possible. I guarantee you that at least a couple of those purchases you thought you absolutely needed will fall by the wayside (read: little boy’s suspenders). The rest of stuff you actually do need, you’ll be able to get all at once, which will cut down on any shipping fees, and the best part is that you will actually know how much money you are spending a week on MISC. Also, you won’t be on the internet shopping throughout the week, so you won’t be drawn to stuff you never would have thought you needed anyway.

4. Ignore the sales. This one is SUPER tough for me. But this has the same sort of principal that Dave Ramsey applies to credit cards: the amount you save is completely nullified by the amount you will spend. The company is counting on you spending money with them that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Read that again: that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Meaning… had their been no sale, you never would have spend $100 at Gap. The $20 you save has nothing on the $100 you wasted. *The one exception I have for this is: if there is one article of clothing or item that you are just dyyyying to have, you can wait for that to go on sale. Just don’t get distracted and buy 3 other shirts just because they are on sale, too.

5. Cancel your credit cards. Dave Ramsey just comes out and says this one. Like, a LOT. For the longest time, I always pushed it aside. I have always paid off my balance every month, so I thought it didn’t apply to me. But the reason he tells you to cut up your credit cards is because swiping a credit card has no emotions tied to it. And the “points” or “miles” you gain by spending with a credit card pale in comparison to the money you spend because you don’t feel anything. If you think about how much you will save by just paying with cash or debit cards, you’ll be able to afford a MUCH nicer vacation with that money.

6. Don’t feel “frugal shame.” I am totally guilty of being embarrassed by being frugal. For instance, if I am out with some friends, I hate to be the only one to buy the PBR, when everyone else is getting a craft beer. Or I hate being the one to suggest going to a cheap restaurant. Or I REALLY hate being the one giving the inexpensive birthday gift. But if you compare yourself to, say- your sisters or your parents- you will not live within your means. You will begin living within their means, which you can’t afford. Don’t compare yourself. Period. Just asses where you are, and what you can afford! There is no shame in that, and try to remember that everyone has been exactly where you are.

7. Envision your payoff. Do whatever you need to do to envision the payoff at the end of saving. Whether it be a new car, a trip to the beach, or just a debt-free life, envision it!

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all images via Design Love Fest

Switching to Marquette

After WAY TOO MUCH necessitated abstinence, and constant “fertile signs”, we decided to give another method of NFP a try. It says a lot about NFP politics that it took us that long. It seems to me that every method touts their way as “the best.” So we hadn’t even heard of Marquette, until I posted something on a NFP facebook group. So far, it hasn’t helped… but I have hope. Marquette Method uses the ClearBlue Fertility Monitor to measure your LH and Estrogen hormones. In that way, it determines your “peak”. After that peak (plus 3 days for safety), you are free to use the rest of the month! FREEDOMMMMMM! So what happens if it doesn’t read a “peak”? That is precisely what happened to me last month. It basically means a loss of about $30 (each stick is about $1.50 and if you test for 20 days…) and an entire month of abstinence. However, there are several things I did “wrong” that I think messed up the monitors reading. So, that is why I’m hopeful. I’m on day 5 of my current cycle, so testing begins again tomorrow. fingers crossed!

P.S. Marquette considers the first 5 days of your cycle infertile (assuming you had a confirmed peak last cycle). So we are able to use those days! AMAZING!

Stop counting 

Progress is slow. And it can come with grace, if you let it. Stop beating yourself up about whatever you did or didn’t do tonight. It’s ok! You’re changing, but it might be slow. Patience sweet one. 

Life lately.

He squeals and screams, just playing with his voice that is new. “Ma ma,” I tell him. “Ma ma ma.”

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Little fingers grasp mama’s necklace while he nurses.

Mischievous baby smirk.

His first snowfall was so much fun!

Happy Valentines day!  

Thank god for in laws who take T for the night so we could get a date! These are becoming so precious, which makes them all the more fun 🙂

Baby baths are the best kind. 

Always, always, always on papa’s shoulders.

What have you been up to lately?