Letting Go of Mommy Guilt

I’m fairly new to the mom game. My precious sweet pea was born on May 27, just over seven weeks ago. I can’t claim to have a plethora of knowledge and wisdom about motherhood, but already I have tasted my fair share of things that can make a new (or seasoned) mom feel like they’ve failed their child. During the weeks that have passed, I have found myself scouring the internet for articles and blogs that would offer me encouragement, and I found plenty—but what’s one more? I’m writing this for anyone who searched like I did, who couldn’t read or absorb enough, who wished there was just one more something to encourage them. I’m writing this for you.

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Evelyn came into this world like a wrecking ball. I’ll spare you the details, but she was born on her side and she injured me pretty significantly. I didn’t care though because I had this beautiful squishy, slippery, squalling little angel in my arms and literally everything but her and her daddy disappeared. I don’t even remember the buzz of nurses doing their routine tasks. I don’t remember the sights or sounds. I just remember her. I remember my husband cutting my sports bra off of me because there was no way to take it off with the IV in my arm. I remember bringing her to my breast with shaky hands, terrified to hold her incorrectly, clumsily trying to show her how to nurse when I didn’t even know how myself. I remember asking for help because her little mouth wouldn’t open wide enough. And that’s when the source of my mommy guilt began.

Her top lip wouldn’t flange out properly. She bit me; she sucked frantically. She bruised me black and blue. We went through over an hour of this before my nurse finally shook her head and said, “Alright, this isn’t working. She’s already injured you pretty badly and if you keep trying, it’s going to be impossible to nurse her in the days to come. Let’s take a break and try a few other things.”

This was when she suggested a nipple shield. Didn’t work. In defeat, I begged her to tell me if my baby would starve, and to be honest. Don’t tell me her tummy is tiny and she’ll be fine for a day or two. Don’t assure me that one or two drops is enough. I don’t buy it. Tell me the truth. “She isn’t going to starve, but you’re not able to extract enough colostrum. With your permission, I’d like to bring you some supplemental formula. She won’t need much, just a few mLs. In the meantime I will help you get in contact with a lactation consultant. They aren’t here over the weekend, but you can bring her in next week.”

First of all, what kind of birthing hospital doesn’t have lactation consultants over the weekend? But anyway….

After talking it over with my husband, we reluctantly agreed.

You see, before she was born, I had an image in my head of how this would go. She would latch beautifully, nursing to her heart’s content. I would finally know what the sacred act of feeding your child with your body felt like. In a few days I would experience the “bowling ball boobs” every mom talks about. I would whine about how much they hurt. It would be perfect. But it didn’t happen that way.

It was four or five days before we were able to see the lactation consultant. I sat in the rocking chair, so exhausted that I was hardly able to focus on what she was saying to me. “Pump every two hours.” “Let me show you how to use the shield properly.” “Make sure she opens wide.” She said a million other things I don’t remember. We tried several times to latch her, and eventually I had tears streaming down my face. It still wasn’t working. “Have her checked for a lip tie,” she suggested. So at her first appointment with her pediatrician, that’s what we did.

“She doesn’t have one,” we were told. “But she still hasn’t gained a single ounce. In fact, she weighs less now than she did when you left the hospital. You need to make sure you are pumping and supplementing or she’s going to get dehydrated.”

My first dose of mommy guilt. I was starving my child, even though I thought she was getting enough food. 

Another week passed. Another lactation appointment. Another weight check. Still not gaining. “I want you to see a specialist about her mouth,” we were told. “Pediatricians hardly ever diagnose this properly.”

A few days later we were sitting down with the specialist, watching her examine our daughter. “See this?” she said after she had her assistant take photos of every nook of Evelyn’s mouth. “She has a significant tongue tie. Her upper lip is actually okay, but her cheeks are tied as well. She isn’t able to lift her tongue adequately to nurse, and her cheeks prevent her from flanging her lip properly. Babies begin learning to suck very early in the womb, and the habit she’s formed is a habit that will be hard to break, but eventually she will learn.”

She explained that the procedure was very simple: she would use a laser to cut the ties, and since babies hardly have the nerve development in those areas to feel it, she would mainly cry from being restrained. She warned us that after the procedure we would have a very fussy baby for a couple days. Her tongue would have to learn how to lift properly, and like any muscle, it would become fatigued. We would wonder if we had done the right thing. She gave us her personal phone number to call if we were distraught with worry. “Don’t text me. Call me. I want you to hear the sincerity in my voice when I tell you she will be okay.”

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Evelyn in her fancy protective eyewear.

This woman was an angel. I could have hugged her for her compassion. She said we could stay with Evelyn during the procedure (which would only take about two minutes total, and most of that would just consist of getting her in the proper position), but I couldn’t do it. On two hours of sleep, shaky with malnutrition, I sat in the next room and cried into my hands while she screamed, feeling my husband gently stroking my hair.

My second dose of mommy guilt. I couldn’t be with my child when she was scared.

The doctor brought her in, swaddled and whimpering, and told me to try and nurse her. She immediately latched and it was flawless. I rocked her and wept while she finally nursed like she needed to, seeing her fall asleep from her mother’s comfort.

“She isn’t sore yet. You might notice a regression in her ability to latch for a few days, but don’t get discouraged. It could be weeks before she relearns how to move her tongue.”

We thanked her probably half a dozen times before we left. Evelyn’s recovery wasn’t nearly as bad as we expected. She had one inconsolable period of about an hour, but her fussiness was surprisingly minor over the next few days. We were finally nursing, but there was one problem: it had been about two weeks since she was born. My supply of milk was already stunted. Thus began several more weeks of cramming my body full of supplements, pumping every couple of hours, three more lactation appointments, and spending days nursing and nursing and nursing. I even developed an allergy to fenugreek, but I kept taking it. “Keep with it! If you stay consistent, your supply will catch up.” Friends and family believed in me, and it almost made me believe as well, but in the end, it just didn’t happen.

I will never be able to nurse her exclusively. I’m so  thankful that I did the work though, because at least for now, I am able to feed her about half of what she needs before supplementation. But we can’t really nurse because she gets confused switching between the bottle and the breast, so I will have to pump. Last night I sat down and had a good cry. I said goodbye to the nursing relationship I had always dreamt of.

Third dose of mommy guilt: knowing I can no longer offer her that comfort she craves. 

A million thoughts run through my head every day. What if we had caught this sooner? What if I didn’t try hard enough? What if I am admitting defeat because it’s somehow easier for me to stop trying so hard? I know my sanity is important, and that’s why I have to take a step back and accept what is and what has to be.

 

I will likely always have regrets. But my child is fed. She’s gaining weight. She’s thriving. And in the end, that’s all that matters. That’s what makes me a good mother.

If things haven’t gone according to plan for you, know that you are still doing everything you can for your baby. Your baby won’t remember your supply issues, or that your birth wasn’t what you hoped it would be, or that you couldn’t be in the room with him or her during difficult procedures. Don’t let the guilt you’re feeling affect the precious moments you can spend with your baby. That’s my fourth dose of mommy guilt: crying in the bathtub several times when I could have been snuggling my daughter. Embrace these beautiful, messy, terrifying, exhausting first weeks and months. You’ll never get them back.

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For now, stay little.

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Every time she moves, I’m filled with wonder and awe. Each new sensation of her kicking and pushing against my palms floods me with love. My husband always knows when I’m feeling her because a peaceful smile is on my face.

Tonight I was watching her dance in my belly and I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness.

I’ve been sitting here for nearly an hour trying to articulate what’s in my heart. I can only hope my words adequately express what I’m feeling: not just for me, but for every woman who has ever felt this complex and confusing emotion. Let me start from the beginning.

We waited so long for her. We spent years walking a tightrope between despair and hope, barely able to keep ourselves from falling into a place where we knew we would give up forever. Every mother who got her wish, and even the ones who didn’t wish for it at all, stirred a feeling of resentment within me. The ones who weren’t grateful made me bitter. The ones who enthusiastically proclaimed their pregnancies to the world cut me down, one by one. Oh, I tried to be happy for them—and in a way I was. But each time, I ached. Each time, I wondered, “Why can’t it be me?”

And then on a sunny September day, completely and utterly to my surprise, it was my turn.

Seeing the test line slowly appear was the most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced. Dozens, if not hundreds of tests had all disappointed me in the past. Sometimes I think I was addicted to testing just so I could feel that momentary and fleeting hope that something would be different this time. It always ended the same—I would squint and reason with myself, thinking there might be a line, only for the stark white space to remind me that motherhood would probably never be within my grasp. But not that day. That day, it was there. And all the times I tricked myself into seeing something suddenly felt so silly because as faint as it was, there was no denying it.

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I tested again and again for over a week, just to watch the lines get darker. As much as it filled me with joy, I also experienced a feeling of impending heartbreak. I told my friends, “I’m so afraid of losing this because after all this time, it feels too good to be true.” The time we waited for our first ultrasound was pure torture. I was almost certain I would see a blighted ovum or that it would be an ectopic pregnancy. On the way into the clinic, I actually told myself it would be the case so it wouldn’t be such a blow to my heart when it was confirmed. Instead, there she was. Our little gummy bear.

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From that point on, I found it easier to rest and bond with this miracle. My first trimester was very difficult. Morning sickness and exhaustion took a toll on me physically, but I was still so thankful. Every night I’d lay my hand on my stomach and thank God for trusting me with this new life.

I felt her move for the first time during my sixteenth week. By seventeen weeks, she was kicking. People kept telling me, “Enjoy every moment; it goes by so quickly.” And I kept thinking, “How could I possibly enjoy it even more than I am?”

Now, at twenty-three weeks, I understand why they said that. Because there comes a point when you realize this thing that feels so eternal is only going to last a few more months. Tonight, as I lay watching her move, I was stricken by a new feeling of grief that I never expected. I will never experience this with her again when it’s over. I will never again feel those sweet little hiccups and kicks when I drink something cold or take a bath.

Yes, there will be such joy when she’s in my arms, and I cannot wait for that day. I can’t wait to see her and smell her; to feel her soft skin under my fingers. I can’t wait to nurse her and experience the earth shattering love so many mothers talk about. That “I would die for her” feeling will be so powerful and all consuming. But this . . . this time when she’s safe inside of me and she never has to know pain or sadness; a time when she can just be with me . . . I will miss it when it’s gone.

Soon she will be on the outside, becoming her own person. She’ll be testing my patience and making me laugh a moment later. She’ll grow from a baby to a child, and from a child to a woman. I hope she’ll be one of my best friends. There is so much joy to come.

But for now, I’m sad. And I hope I never, ever forget what these precious moments feel like.

Baby girl, you are so, so loved. Even after all the years we waited for you, we will never feel like we can express it enough.

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Books! Babies! Life!

Hello friends! It’s been a couple months! I encountered an unexpected interruption while in the midst of writing the final installment to The Rain Trilogy, and I’m here now to tell you what it was!

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Ultrasound at 9 weeks, 3 days

That’s right! After over four years of disappointment and heartache, my husband and I are finally expecting our first baby! Words can’t even express our thankfulness and excitement! Now at 12 weeks, I felt it was time to tell my readers.

With this miracle came a myriad of symptoms that made concentrating on work very difficult (not that I’m complaining; it’s all just part of this beautiful process). But I’m happy to say my energy is improving and I’m feeling much more creative, so it’s time to finish the story you’ve been waiting (very patiently) for! I have six months left to finish this book and work with my publisher to get the entire trilogy ready for re-release under their name! Needless to say, it’s time to get busy.

I am forever grateful for your patience as I’ve made this transition from the indie-publishing world. Release dates had to be rearranged; stories have to be edited. But I promise to keep delivering my best work in a more consistent rhythm as soon as this trilogy is fully released. If only I could show each and every one of you how thankful I am for your support!

As I enter this journey to motherhood and settle into my new niche as a published author, I expect the road to be a bit bumpy, but I am also so excited to share many more stories with you. And trust me, I have many more in the works.

So glad to be back!

xo

How’s your forward-fold these days?

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There were many things that kept me from practicing yoga for many years. Even though the practice had always intrigued me, I had a few hangups that kept me from stepping onto the mat, and the biggest of which was my lack of flexibility.

I can’t even tell you the number of times I have cursed my short hamstrings and stubborn hip-flexors. While my fellow yogi’s were happily folding forward to lie flat on their shins, I was struggling to even reach my shins with my fingertips. Despite all of my hard work, there were days when I honestly believed my hamstrings were shrinking. So I kept stretching, I kept focusing on my breath, and I kept reaching.

And my fold got a little better. But barely.

I will likely never have a classic yogi body, nor will I likely ever be able to fold myself into unimaginable positions with the greatest of ease. I am nearly thirty and just now beginning to unlock my muscles. I wasn’t a dancer or a gymnast. I spent most of my life curled up with a book or at a computer writing books (both of which will chronically shorten your hamstrings if you don’t take care of them). I do believe I will become a lot more flexible. But it’s going to take time and dedication, and most of all, willingness to commit to the practice without becoming discouraged by the things I can’t do.

That’s what it really boils down to, friends. It doesn’t matter if you can only reach your knees. It doesn’t matter if you have to bend your legs in down dog. It doesn’t matter if your chaturanga looks like a gimpy seal flopping down onto the floor. As I’ve said before, the reason yoga is called a practice is because you never stop learning or improving. Before each session, remind yourself that your responsibility is only to grow and learn; not to focus on what you can’t do. As time passes, you will be able to do so much more than when you first braved a yoga class.

To wrap this up, I would like to give you beginners a few pointers you can implement in your own practice to improve your forward-fold:

1. Point your sitz bones (ischial tuberosity) at the wall behind you.

Standing straight, pivot your upper body forward, tilting your pelvis as you do. Imagine a string tied from the bottom of your pelvis to the wall behind you as you rotate your thighs inward, creating space in your hips and lower back.

2. Keep a soft bend in your knees.

You don’t need to lock up here. Keep your knees supple.

3. Flatten your back and lengthen through your neck.

Draw your shoulders back away from your ears and really lengthen all the way from the top of your head to the very bottom of your sitz bones. Fold forward this way as far as you can, avoiding any sharp pains. If you feel pain, ease up and keep the stretch as deep as you can without straining your muscles. The body’s natural reaction to pain is to compensate by moving away from it, which can mean tucking your pelvis and losing your form. Be gentle here and don’t rush it!

For an added stretch, place a yoga block under one of your feet while in your fold, then slowly and gently straighten that leg as much as you can. The muscles in your lower back all the way down to your hamstring will tell you all about it! Embrace that deep stretch and repeat on the other side. Lean on a chair if you need to, and remember to maintain your form.

If you want to deepen your fold, bend your knees as much as you need to and bring your torso to your thighs. Let your head hang. Maintain that stretch in the backs of your legs.

Hold until you feel a gentle release in your muscles, and then slowly straighten.

There is no need to cram yourself into this posture, and doing so will only force your hamstrings to lock up to protect themselves. Remember, the goal is not the floor! The goal is merely to improve your flexibility day by day.

I hope this post has helped you! Feel free to share your own yoga advice below!

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Allison J. Kennedy is the author of four booksThe Choice recently debuted through her publisher and has caught fire amongst her young-adult readership. Follow her blog for information about her novels, updates on her yoga journey, and occasional tips and tutorials. 

Why do you punish yourself for failing?

  
I ate three brownies today and I don’t hate myself for it. 

Fitness junkies, why do you do what you do? What keeps you going? I want to share what inspires me and why I have abandoned the desire to ever be a size four. 

Over the past year, I went through several changes physically and mentally. I became stronger and better educated about diet and exercise. My body transformed and I reached goals I never thought I could reach, and I made new goals I am finally confident enough to strive for. Each pound that melted away revealed new muscles; proof that the hard work I was putting in was paying off. But there was one thing I was lacking, and it was the one thing that made me cry when the scale tipped the other way after a solid week of eating clean and challenging myself with cardio.

That thing was a lack of grace for myself in the event of failure.

I knew I had done everything right. I knew there was no reason for me to gain weight that week. But for whatever reason, whether a misalignment in the stars or the nasty Oklahoma humidity clinging to my hair, I did gain weight. And I hated myself for it. I hated that I couldn’t see a difference in the mirror. I hated that I was plateauing. 

The next week, I shifted things around and found a method that worked for me. But I realized something very valuable that day: I am hopefully going to be on this planet for at least another seventy to eighty years, and in those coming decades, I am going to change a lot. My great-grandmother lived to 107, so why shouldn’t I? I am going to grow in ways and weaken in others. I am going to make mistakes and I am going to scale mountains. I am going to take care of my body along the way, and I am going to forgive myself if I never have a six pack. 

Guys, I can’t explain to you how big of a revelation this is for me and why it grieves me so deeply that other people can’t cut themselves some slack in their efforts to obtain the perfect physique. You should feel beautiful, and if looking like a bikini model makes you feel that way, then more power to you! But while you’re developing that body, can you honestly say you would still love yourself and have the capacity to feel beautiful even if your goals were intercepted by something unforeseen? 

I am not trying to condemn anyone who sees their journey that way. I strongly encourage a healthy, fit lifestyle for everyone. But I also encourage you to look at yourself from a new angle today. Why are you so dead set on being fit? Are you doing it because it’s the only way you feel good about yourself? Or are you doing it because you also value your body and you understand it’s the only one you’ll ever have?

Yoga has taught me to have patience with myself. It’s taught me that as with any form of exercise, there will never be a moment when anyone does it perfectly. There will never be a moment when anyone stops learning. That’s why it’s called a “practice.” And there will never be a moment when our hard work means something until we recognize that it isn’t the end result that matters, but the journey. You are hopefully going to die of old age one day and not from sickness or injury. Your perfect body isn’t going to matter then. Sorry, but it won’t. If that is all you cared about; if that was all that made you feel beautiful, your sagging skin and weak bones are going to make for a depressing trek down the mountain you climbed for so long. 

True worth starts inside of us. True beauty isn’t physical. Self-punishment doesn’t have to be an outward thing; even chewing ourselves out mentally can be so damaging to our own self-esteem. Let your fitness journey reflect that inner beauty, and see where it takes you. It’ll translate on the outside just like you want it to… but you won’t hate yourself for falling short now and then. And the best part of all is that if you do fail, you won’t feel like giving up altogether. Like I said, I ate three brownies today. I can forgive myself because I am hormonal and I turn into a raging chocoholic on those days. Also, it’s chocolate. And I had a moment of self-loathing before realizing three brownies won’t undo all my hard work. I smiled, finished the last bite, and made a grocery list that primarily includes clean foods. 

See you on the mat (or in the gym) tomorrow!

And please tell me where your journey has taken you! I would love to hear your stories. 

xx

Allison J. Kennedy is the author of four booksThe Choice recently debuted through her publisher and has caught fire amongst her young-adult readership. Follow her blog for information about her novels, updates on her fitness journey, and occasional tips and tutorials. 

Dream, dream, dream…

When I was a kid, my friends often told me the things I suggested doing were weird. They wanted to play house, assigning titles to all involved: “You’ll be the mother, she’ll be the father,” and so on. It was never enough for me. I would play the mother, but only if she owned a pet dragon named Emerald (because she had green eyes), or only if she had a secret friendship with Peter Pan. I was on the receiving end of some strange looks, but my mind was always bursting with creativity, and it couldn’t be contained.

I maintained a barely passing GPA for the duration of my time in school. When I dedicated myself to my work, I was capable of good grades just like my classmates. But my mind was always somewhere else. Perhaps I had a touch of ADD, but I like to think my mind preferred traveling to different worlds and lands, pondering what it would be like to live there. The things I imagined were real to me: not in an “I don’t know real from imaginary” sort of way, but in a way I never thought anyone else could understand. It was something that brought joy to me in my lonely youth. And I write books today not only because I can live in those dreams, but also because other people finally want to live in them too.

I think we all have a dreamer inside of us. Even those of us who see things in black and white are capable of creating something beautiful. But this doesn’t have to be limited to artists; this truth can be for anyone who has a hope for their future. To a medical student, the idea of one day being a doctor is something so real to them that they could reach out and touch it. The purpose of this post is not only to encourage people to dream big, but also to encourage other people who do. Don’t discredit the aspirations of your friends, no matter how astronomical their ideas may seem. What’s silly to you might be very real to them, and dreams should be nurtured, no matter how big or small.

Time will always keep moving; will it slip through your fingers?

  
I have just come out of a two week hibernation in which I spent no mental energy on anything… not even writing books. And let me tell you: it was a much needed break.

It got me thinking—how much of our lives are wasted every day, surrendered to the daily grind of exhausting work and extravagant goals? Don’t get me wrong: I believe having goals is essential to living a productive life, and clearly we all need to work. Whether you are breaking the skin on your hands under a hot sun, typing at a computer, or raising a family… life must go on. A life with no direction would be quite fruitless (depending on who you ask). But I think it’s equally important to rest. 
I have had so much on my plate lately that I was literally beginning to resent book writing. Resent. I was sick of this thing that has always been my deepest, most undying passion in life! Work, work, work. Edits, rewrites, details, deadlines. Meanwhile each day was slipping by, less fulfilling than the day before, and I knew I needed to take some time to refocus.

I did a whole lot of yoga. I painted. I wrote poems. I kept the house clean and took daily naps. I binge-watched Parenthood. And I realized there is no point in writing if I am losing myself to the demand of deadlines and other things that stomp out the spark of my creativity. 

I am now able to return to my writing with rejuvenated ambition, knowing once again that it is what I am meant to do. During my time off, I realized all I wanted to do was write! But I had space in my mind to actually create the foundations of new stories and be excited about them. It feels so good!

If you are losing yourself to your work; if the things you used to love are suffocating you, take a step back and understand that while you are working yourself to the bone, your life is still going on. Your days are still numbered. You can never get that time back. There has to be a way to plan for the future, take care of your responsibilities, and enjoy your time on this planet. Your loved ones deserve to see you happy and so do you. It’s time to feel alive. Otherwise, what’s the point?

5 Reasons Pixie Cuts Rule

Ever since I took the plunge and chopped off my glorious locks, I have been asked all sorts of questions:

“What does it feel like?”

“Do you regret it?”

“How long does it take to style?”

I’ve also received some (mostly welcome) feedback:

“It’s so cute! I wish I had the guts to do it!”

“You look so edgy!”

“I think pixie cuts look too masculine.”

To each their own! It took a lot of courage to cut my hair, but I’m so glad I did. Not only was it emotionally empowering in so many ways, but it was also something I had wanted to do for years. I was just too scared until one day I decided to let go of that fear and embrace the future. I wanted to write this for anyone who might be considering taking this bold step!

Pixie cuts are not subtle. If a woman walks into the room with daringly short hair (even a bob stands out!), you’re going to notice her. This hair screams confidence and implies that the woman wearing it doesn’t need the security blanket that long hair often provides. She’s bold and stylish, and she doesn’t care if you approve or not.

The truth, for me at least, is there are days when I do feel a little less feminine. Maybe my hair isn’t laying right or I didn’t have time to put on makeup. Then there are other days when I literally feel on top of the world, regardless of what I’m wearing. Be warned: pixie cuts aren’t for the faint of heart. You should be sure before jumping in because growing your hair from the pixie stage can be a long and painfully awkward process. But you should also do it if it’s something you want! You’ll never know if you love it unless you try it… and as the saying goes, it’ll always grow back!

I’ve had my style for about a year and a half. Are there days when I miss my long hair? Sure! But I think I can say with confidence that I will never grow it back. It took me years to find “my style,” and now that I have, I can’t imagine myself any other way. My hair lets my personality shine through. I feel like we all want that for ourselves; sometimes we just don’t know what direction to take. So if you are considering a pixie cut, you’ve come to the right place!

5 Reasons Pixie Cuts Rule:

1. They are versatile.

You can make your pixie as edgy or as soft as you want it to be. You can wear it longer and tousle it with a bit of saltwater spray like Kaley Cuoco, crop it short like Michelle Williams or Charlize Theron, spike it up like this girl, or make it soft like Anne Hathaway or Ginnifer Goodwin. The possibilities are endless! Honestly, I have some of my best hair days when I’ve slept on it. Don’t rule it out just because you think it might require too much maintenance.

Women often think you have to have a certain face shape for this cut. I personally believe there is a pixie for almost every face. Just ask your stylist what he/she thinks would flatter you the best!

2. Easy to style.

I’ll admit that it took me a while to figure out exactly what routine works for me. But I had a lot of fun in the meantime! My hair looked different almost every day, and now I know what my go-to style is: short on the sides and back; messy and long on the top. Texture-wise, my hair is mostly straight with loose waves. This actually works in my favor because sometimes I can skip the blowdryer and let it air dry if I’m lazy! If you have stubborn, frizzy hair… this might not be the best cut for you. You can still wear it, but it might require more time to style. From the time I turn on the blowdryer to when I add my finishing product, it takes anywhere from 5-7 minutes; about the same amount of time I would have spent doing a cute ponytail or tossing some mousse in my wet hair when it was long. Not too shabby!

3. It’s different.

When I see a woman with a pixie cut, she really stands out to me. Why? Because I have realized how few women are actually daring enough to cut their hair this short! Clearly not all women want their hair this short, but for those who do, it can be a scary step to take. But I will say: I have never felt like other women disapprove of my style. If anything, I sense admiration from strangers. I am a happily married woman, so I wasn’t really concerned about the opinions of other men, but it was actually a pleasant surprise to realize men still think I look feminine. More men compliment my hair than women. I totally didn’t expect that! So if you’re a single woman who is afraid men won’t find you appealing, I assure you… they still will. And besides, if a man won’t give you a second thought just because he isn’t into short hair, he’s missing out!

But really… the truth is that it doesn’t matter what other people think. If you want it, rock it! I personally didn’t choose this style to impress anyone. But the approval has been a nice surprise.

4. Your hair will always be healthy.

Seriously. You’ll be cutting it too often for it to have a chance to accumulate split ends. So go crazy with it! Try new products! Be adventurous with your flatiron!

5. You will be glad you tried it, even if you decide it isn’t for you.

My husband heard me express my curiosity about this cut for years before I finally gathered the courage to do it. When I first cut it, I felt naked. I remember walking into Walmart immediately after my appointment to buy a styling product for my new ‘do… only to wonder if everyone was staring at me. Did I look awful? Did I look like a boy? Was I crazy for doing this? It took a while to realize that not all stares mean people are turned off by my hair. Now when I walk into a store, I can do so with confidence.

Listen, the truth is that no matter how you wear your hair, your makeup, or your clothes, you have to do it confidently. Then you will shine through! It will make your individuality appealing because you believe in it! I could add so many more positive things about pixie cuts to this list, like the fact that you can play up your makeup and clothing even more than usual, and that short hair is much cooler in the summer. But I think you get the idea. It’s worth it to try it just once if it’s something you think you might like. If in doubt, opt for a longer version of the cut so the grow out process won’t be as tedious. That’s what I did in the beginning.

It wouldn’t be fair to give you this list without also listing a few cons. So here they are:

1. You’ll have to visit the salon more often.

My hair grows super fast. I get trims every 3-5 weeks. Most people can go every 6. If that isn’t feasible for you, you might not enjoy this cut.

2. You will have to say goodbye to your favorite long styles.

I mean, this is a given. But I didn’t realize how much I would miss all the creative braids and updo options that long hair provides. You have to embrace the versatility of short hair. Have a blast with headbands, clips, and accent braids if your bangs are long enough. There are still a lot of options!

3. Sometimes you will wish your hair could grow overnight.

It’s true. There are days when I wish I could snap my fingers and have my long hair back. I’ll be set on growing it out for a solid week or two, and then my love for my short hair returns. Sometimes you’ll feel indecisive. But if short hair is for you, you’ll know it way more often than you doubt it.

There it is, ladies! Remember, if this is something you’ve considered for a long time, it’s probably time to try it. If you are feeling impulsive and this is the first time you’ve even thought about cutting your hair off, I would recommend giving it a few days before making your appointment. Sometimes buying a new shirt is all it takes to satisfy the wild urge to try something new. But no matter what, embrace it! It’s so liberating!

Here are a few pictures to show you the evolution of my pixie.

This was immediately after my first appointment! I opted for a longer style so I could see how it felt.
This was immediately after my first appointment! I opted for a longer style so I could see how it felt.
A few months later. Shorter on the sides, tucked behind my ears.
A few months later. Shorter on the sides, tucked behind my ears.
Last fall! This is the main way I have worn my pixie.
Last fall! This is the main way I have worn my pixie.
And... my most recent style! Even shorter on the sides and extra long on top. This is by far my favorite version.
And… my most recent style! Even shorter on the sides and extra long on top. This is by far my favorite version.
Now let’s hear your stories! Have you taken the plunge, and what do you think about short hair? And if you’ve come here because you’re considering it, has this article helped you decide?

“A woman who changes her hair is about to change her life.”

-Coco Chanel

The Choice by Allison J. Kennedy is a sensitive and hopeful YA read about a tough, relevant topic

Handheld Dream

Sometimes you read a book for pleasure. Sometimes you read a book to gain empathy and insight into a situation. Sometimes you read a book to heal. I’m not sure which reason you have for reading The Choice, but I think it is an important addition to the conversation we should all be having about rape and victims who protect themselves through remaining silent. The author’s approach is sensitive and her message is hopeful, so don’t be afraid to pick this one up just because the subject is one most people would rather ignore. While this is a topic covered in two of my favorite YA books of all time, Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Choice brings up issues and conflicts that those books didn’t address, including a more complete understanding of the fallout from this crime.

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Goodreads Summary

How do you heal…

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When did you stop dreaming?

This is one of those posts that might mean more to me than anyone else. But earlier today I started thinking about how most writers are born from their experiences, and how it looks different for everyone. But this isn’t just for writers; it’s for every artist, young and old. If you’ve ever stopped dreaming, find a way to start again.

There was a span of a couple years in my childhood that was absolutely magical. If memory serves me correctly, I was between four and six. I don’t remember playing with my friends or drawing on the walls, although I’m sure I did both. Those two years are filled with memories of my grandfather.

Let me tell you… Grandpa Gene was not a man who related much with children. He had five of his own and all of them will say that he was a hard man: hard working, and yes, he provided for them. But the softness toward his children that every father should have just wasn’t there. When grandchildren came along, that didn’t change. Until me.

I don’t say that to say I’m anyone special. But I’m writing this with tears in my eyes because twenty-something years later, I still miss my grandpa as much as the day he died. Because he inspired me. He played make-believe with me. He caught me repeatedly every time I wanted to jump from the attic because I wanted to feel like a bird. He spent hours with me in his greenhouse teaching me about all the baby trees he was going to donate to the forest service. When I came to Grandpa’s house, his hard face lit up. I don’t know why, but I made Grandpa smile.

I first started making up stories in my head one of the times I sat on a stool in Grandpa’s greenhouse. He was telling me all about the science behind growing trees, and I was imagining tiny little Native Americans wandering between them, riding their tiny horses and building tiny teepees. One time I told him one of my stories, and he played along: “Maybe they’re friends with this tribe over here,” he said, pointing to a palate of baby evergreens or spruces. “Do you think the chiefs like each other?” I would touch the delicate saplings, thinking about how one day their baby-soft needles would be prickly and their trunks would smell like sap. I wondered if I would ever wander between them too.

Our relationship was special and magical. We made up stories together in a back and forth sort of way; I’d start it, he’d make up the middle, and I’d end it. I really believe that Grandpa Gene is the reason I’m a writer today. Sometimes I have this deep longing for him to read my stories and tell me what he thinks about them. He was a writer too, and a painter. I’d like to think he’d be proud.

When he died, I was in severe denial until I saw him in his casket. I watched my mother fix his hair and his glasses, and suddenly I was wailing so loudly that I had to be escorted away. Other traumatic things happened that year that caused me to withdraw into myself. I didn’t want to create anything anymore. At six years old, I stopped dreaming.

Grief is a powerful thing. I slept with his flannel shirt until I was at least nine. As far as best friends go, Grandpa Gene took the cake. When he was gone, I went through several years of feeling like a puzzle piece with bent up edges. I didn’t fit anywhere. I was empty and didn’t know how to tell anyone how I felt. I was misplaced and struggled to understand myself. Even at that age, I knew I wasn’t thinking like a normal child. Sure I still played and learned and grew… but my passion for creating things was gone. There wasn’t anyone else on the planet who “got” me like he did.

Puberty came around, and life became even more awkward and complicated. But one day when I was eleven or twelve, I was looking through my things and came across Grandpa’s antique typewriter. It didn’t work, but sometimes I sat in my room and typed away as if the words would stick around forever. Soon my passion for making up stories sparked like a fire and I started writing down everything I could in notebooks. Once again, our special bond was inspiring me. I was set free, and now that I’m older and a little wiser, I understand why Grandpa was so closed off to most people. I really believe that he, like a lot of artistic people, felt misunderstood or reluctant to put aside his duties as a man and dream like he wanted to. But we understood each other, and we dreamed together.

So Grandpa, I know you’ll never get to read this, but thank you. I wish you were here.

grandpa