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When I found out we were pregnant, something resonated in me:  “Do it differently, Amanda.”

As I’ve previously shared, I’d always been terrified I’d end up the neurotic mom from ‘Modern Family.’ Was I going to lose myself?  Would I become a high maintenance control freak? Would my life revolve around my children?  Would I end up trying to keep up with the Jones’ like our American culture demands? Would financial constraints turn me into a resentful monster?  

Part of me also couldn’t shake icky feelings from my days as a server in Los Angeles, waiting on moms who expected everyone’s existence to revolve around their very special children.  A-very special children.  Or rather, audacious moms and dads, that expected you to be a babysitter, allowing kids to play in the middle of an aisle with an entire backpack of sprawled out toys while you’re serving hot coffee in a tight diner setting.  UGH.  It can leave a bad taste in your mouth for sure.  

But when a friend recently asked what I meant by wanting to do motherhood differently, I was dumbfounded to be at a loss.  What the heck did I mean?  Where does this idea resonate from? Am I just totally full of shit?!  My kid is sure to the color on the walls– I’m not that naive, but how do I want to do it differently?  

In the brief moments I have to actually connect with Baby Soul, I let this idea marinate.  I asked my friend Stacer (now Aunt Stacer!!!) to send me articles about unconventional parenting and like the pro that she is, she has supplied me with articles and podcasts about living minimally, or selling everything to travel the world.  Thus far, I’ve hinted to my sweetie, nothing says good parenting like zip lining through the jungles of Africa and he wasn’t having it.  HE NEVER LETS ME DO ANYTHING!!!!  *hogs remote to watch 127th hour of HGTV* 😉

Before getting pregnant I watched ‘Captain Fantastic.’  SUCH A GOOD MOVIE!!  It’s such an unknown, little independent gem.  If I had the Harvard education and insane physique, I would be over the moon to raise my kids off the grid in the mountains.  Well, “Power to the people!” minus the plot twists.  😉  

Talking with my BF (now Aunt BF!!!) about our shared love of this movie, she suggested I read some queer parenting literature.  After scratching my head for a minute, she mentioned it’s Unconventional Parenting 101.  DUH.  Very true! That’s kind of a brilliant idea. 

I also began thinking about parents I did admire.  Friends that have traveled to Mexico or Italy with their newborn and haven’t let being parents stop them.  Parents that brought their kids to every social party their friends were throwing because having kids wasn’t going to stop them from a social life.  Parents that are still making music videos or auditioning despite being moms and dads.  Parents where the mom brings home the bacon and dad plays Mr. Mom.  Etc, etc, etc… 

In a podcast, I remember Elizabeth Gilbert (now Aunt Liz!!!!)  sharing a story about her mother going into her room and shutting the door behind her two kids.  They knew that for an hour every day, it was mommy’s writing time.  Soon, mommy’s writing time became Liz’s writing time and she still recalls the impact that had on her as a young girl.  She didn’t view it as selfish or mean, it’s just what mom does and it taught them to play on their own and develop their own creativity. WHAT A GIFT!!!

In my ‘Psychic Teachers’ podcast with Deb Bowen and Samantha Fey (LOVE THIS PODCAST!), Samantha talks about doing the same.  Once nap time was over for her girls at a certain age, she introduced ‘alone time.’  The girls would spend an hour a day doing their own thing alone in their room.  They write, they listen to music, etc. This allows their mom to spend time mediating or having the alone time she desperately needs as a psychic to cleanse and get her work done. Not to mention the girls have learned to love it as well!

Obviously, I’m still figuring it out (and have a sneaky suspicion I will be for the rest of my life 😉 ) but what I do know is that I don’t want to live in fear.  I would love for my kid to backpack through Europe after high school. I would love for Baby Soul to learn to fix cars and ride motorbikes like her dad.  Why not a Mother/Baby Soul photography adventure through Brazil?  Maybe a culinary adventure through Paris?  (Nothing says ‘Make mommy dinner, kid!’ like French cheeses!)  Maybe hiking the PCT?  Maybe it just means we don’t let our (potential) daughter watch Disney princess movies because there’s more to life than finding a man.  I don’t know! 

Painting an elephant in Jaipur would be pretty cool to do with Baby Soul? (Ten year visa!) The men who take care of these elephants in India literally live with them in their cement ‘houses.’ The elephants are so well loved, they are practically family members.

But I will love this adventure…  🙂  And I would LOVE to hear what ‘doing it different’ means to you.  Any ideas you’ve had or stories you’d like to share, it would be a LOT of fun to brainstorm.  Not to mention would help a sista’ out.  xoxo

 

 

 

 

Pregnant.  I stared at the little plus sign for quite a while.  Am I sure it’s a plus?  I was running on such adrenaline, is it possible I made a mistake?  Do I just want it to be a plus and it’s not a plus?  I can’t believe I actually want it to be a plus…. Do I really want it to be a plus? Who am I????

Back in college with my girlfriends, our goal was to get degrees, an education and rack up a slew of fun experiences, but there is a joke in Christian college that women are mostly at school for their ‘MRS. Degree.’  And ooooooh, I was soooo on board for that major!  Amongst my friends, we all wanted to be married, find our ‘soul mate’ and have a gaggle of children.  

However, after NOT meeting Mr. Perfect at Christian college, I moved to LA to pursue acting.  I figured if I wasn’t going to get married out of college like everyone else, I wasn’t going to put my life on hold.  As I soon learned, finding my ‘soul mate’ was going to be a challenge. LA is not the kind of place where you’re going to find a laundry list of good guys, Christian or not. With a host of gorgeous women to choose from, in an incredibly (can-be) superficial environment, there really is no incentive for men to get married.  I was chunky, shy, lacked confidence and it just never worked out for me.  So I kept making choices outside the marriage box. 

Another year went by, and then five.  Ten. I continued to get older.  When you see that marriage might be something that never happens for you, you begin to see your life differently.  You lessen your tunnel vision.  The box opens and there is a whole world out there, outside of kids.  Few women get to see it really– wild possibility outside of the cultural norm. I widened my dreams to include travel and adventuring.  I learned that living passionately and choosing directions different than most energized me.  Twenty years later, I found myself asking if I even wanted kids.  I could barely relate to my 23 year old self.  

Then I unexpectedly met my honey at the age of 36, we got married at 38 and the baby inquiries rolled in.  I realized I still had time.  Very little time, but time.  There was a lot of pressure.  I am older.  Could we even have kids? When we talked about kids we decided we wanted them but we’d always kind of laughed nervously about it and never made any plans, mostly due to the financial monster that lurked behind the idea. It’s crazy to open your door to that guy.  We’d never be able to afford to have kids.  Let’s let the universe decide!  If it happens, it happens… And then it doesn’t have to be our fault. Ha!

I went to see my psychic while I was visiting in Los Angeles.  She was terrible! She answered none of my questions.  Instead, she told me there was a ‘baby soul lurking out there that wants you to be her mommy.’

Ummm…  

I ignored that and asked her if I should play the lottery.  Do I have lucky numbers?  When do I get rich?  She said that all of the creative things we had been talking about won’t happen for a few years really anyway, so why not have a baby girl!  

I told her that my husband and I were on board with letting the universe decide and she shut that down pretty quick.  She said that the baby wants to know it is safe and that you’re excited and more than “Egh, whatever, kid.”  She said we’d need to take responsibility and invite her.  None of this sounded like a surprise financial windfall from a deceased, unknown relative to me. 

I mentioned to the psychic that I felt like, for many reasons, I was finally discovering myself for the first time and that my life was just beginning.   I had all of these creative aspirations, I didn’t want to feel like my life was being put on hold again. She drew some cards, took a breath and then said that this child is ‘gifted intuitive’ and while I don’t exactly remember what she said…  what I heard was… This baby is going to make you laugh.  This baby is going to be a muse.  This baby is going to help heal.  This baby is going to get you out of your head.  This baby is going to teach you how to love yourself, others and the world around you.  This baby will breathe new life, not suck it out of you. 

It is A LOT these ears have put on Baby Soul. Ha! 

I always thought I was going to have a little girl.  I think it’s the close connection I had with my mom as a child.  Yet, in all of my adventuring I had never allowed myself the idea that a child would do anything but drain me and make me crazy. I imagined myself as the neurotic mom on ‘Modern Family’ and I immediately hated the idea of that person.  Or, the opposite, that I would entirely put my life on hold and live for my child, like I see soooo many women do.  I think I just needed to hear somebody say that this was going to be an inspired thing… even add to my existence? 

*Mind Blown*

So, here we are… After the shock wore off, an excited reality has set in.  Again, I have lessened my tunnel vision.  The box has opened and this time there is a whole world in front of me that shows a different kind of adventure where all of my loves, and a new love,  will meet. Once again I am energized by choosing a path different than what I had envisioned for myself, choosing a path that feels scary but true. There is a plus sign and with it comes an intuitive, little Aquarius baby!  We’ve been calling her Baby Soul. 

 

October was a terrific whirlwind and to be frank, totally kicked my ass!  I was prepping desserts for the event at our local theater, I had a friend in town, I was transitioning into a new job and had hardly gotten any sleep.  All that to say, our trip to Los Angeles and drive down the coast, to put it quaintly, was hardly planned.   All I really knew was that Lliam was planning our first two nights, the rest was totally open and eventually we would make it to Los Angeles.  

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We were so behind on laundry and packing, we didn’t leave till mid morning that first Monday.  Whenever I road trip, I always leave bright and early with a big cup of coffee, and sometimes even my favorite song at the time on pause ready to go.  That was not this trip.  Ha!  Thankfully, my dear friend Tammy put together this awesome little snack pack for us.  I never thought we’d get into it, with so many intentions of eating our way down the coast…  But as we soon learned, there were a lot of things that were going to be unexpected on this trip! 

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For starters, it downpoured as soon as we got on the road. Despite our late start, the non-stop rain, and windy roads that made me want to barf, we eventually made it to Klickitat– population 400.  It is a beautiful little nook of a place, and Lliam knew of a campground. There was still daylight when we arrived which concerned me a little bit.  To get down the coast and enjoy all the ‘great spots’ to see south of us in California, I was beginning to worry that we should have gone farther our first night.  Regardless, we hadn’t yet stopped all day so we were ravenous by the time we arrived.  There was one place in Klickitat to eat: The Huntington Steakhouse.  

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I’m no stranger to a good dive bar…  And maybe it was the scarcity of the season, the deathly quiet hunter drinking solo, the smell of rotted, warped ceilings or the creepy dull noise of Dallas Cowboys football in the background… but I was kind of terrified.  I couldn’t help but think this was either a Dexter kill room location or the most amazing dive bar I’d ever been to!  The jury was still out when Krampus arrived… 

 

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The entire ceiling was covered in ‘graffiti.’ I couldn’t fathom that this place ever had people in it, let alone became enough of a ‘party place’ that it would have ‘3am party graffiti,’ but clearly this was the place to be (at some point in the night and at some point in the year). Living in a tourist town, I get the ebb and flows of the season, so this was especially fascinating. Various signatures, phone numbers and crazy stories talking about the ‘greatest night of my life’, going back decades even, were scrawled on the rotted ceiling.   

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We ordered burgers and fries and a couple of beers (which I hear is a mistake because supposedly the steaks are truly awesome).  After our bellies were full, knowing we had reached our destination, we were able to stop long enough to remember, ‘Oh, right.  We get to relax now.’

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We opted out of the Duck Fart Cheesecake.  Lliam was ‘full’, a concept I’m not sure I’ve ever understood.  This added to some ‘feelings’ I had been experiencing throughout the day and previous month.  You have to understand that my intention of driving down to Los Angeles was initially a romantic one.  It involved me and my dreamboat inner adventurer.  Okay, and Hannah Honda.  A titillating threesome!  This was to be the kick off of the traveling portion of this website.  I would get to document experiences and eat new foods, photographing places I’d been to previously but didn’t have a DSLR at the time.   Whatever I felt like doing!  Whatever I felt like sharing!  Exciting…  I love flying solo!  

When Lliam said he was able to go, I was excited because I love my honey… and yet… I was also concerned.  He kept calling it ‘our vacation.’  It made my eye twitch.  A vacation is what you do with cocktail drinks in the Keys.  Adventuring, as a woman on her own, requires some fearlessness, your hands behind the wheel, a few breathless moments,  a whiff of audacity… Not that a totally safe trip down the coast is like peeing on a train in India but you’re not supposed to be entirely comfortable.  ‘A vacation’ is totally comfortable.

Needless to say, on MY adventure, whether or not I was full, I would have dove head first into anything called Duck Fart Cheesecake.  I mean, how could you NOT?  It’s practically a dare!  Sadly, the “I ate the Duckfart Cheesecake and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” part of the adventure never happened and I did my best to let it go.  We got to our campsite and set up for the night.  It was cold. And it was raining…still.  What was this– October??? Oh.  Right. 

The next morning we got started… you know, again… ‘early enough.’  I hadn’t slept well.  Lliam told me we were really close to Portland.  He had been at the helm; I had no idea we were so close! Portland is home to many amazing eateries but one of my favorites of all time is a Lebanese restaurant called Nicholas Restaurant.  It is, by far, one of the most amazing eating experiences I’ve ever had.  At seven thirty in the morning, on a ‘vacation,’ however, Lebanese food wasn’t going to happen. On MY adventure, I would have kept going the night before or I would have hung out in Portland for a few hours to eat at this amazing place.  Food is part of the adventure to me. I am totally THAT girl. 

I was grateful, however, when Lliam found us Mugs Coffeeshop in Bingen for breakfast.  It was dry.  It was warm.  They had a bathroom.  I wanted to lay my head on this sweet, soft puppy and commiserate on how we ‘couldn’t even’ today.  It took a little longer than we thought as they were pretty slammed but we’d make up time on the road… Right?

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We finally get back on Route 14 and I trepidatiously throw out the word ‘donuts.’  Could we squeeze it in? I mean, if you can’t Lebanese, at least you can donut (the other t-shirt in progress), because Portland is also home to Blue Star Donuts! While I was a little nervous about making a stop so early in the day, after we really hadn’t gone that far, Lliam said that sounded fun.  A win!!!  I kept trying to explain the pictures I would need to take because ‘really this is, you know, a work trip.’  

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A few minutes later, he mentions he had planned to stop at Beacon Rock right up the road.  Um… Okaaaaay. Sure, cool.  Quick photo op. Here’s where I’m going to say, dear friends, that it’s not that I didn’t want my honey’s input on the trip. Not at all.  It’s that I didn’t want his input to be a surprise! He then says there’s a mile trail up this big rock with great views at the top like we have all the time in the world!!!  My mind became a calculator and I started doing the math on miles, hours, minutes, etc.  This was not part of the day’s plan!  He never mentioned it!  I wasn’t going to give up the donuts!  NOT AFTER MISSING DUCK FART CHEESECAKE. 

With another late start, a lot of miles to go before we sleep and a stop in Portland half an hour away, how on earth were we ever going to get down the coast to enjoy all the places I actually wanted to photograph let alone arrive on time for our friends’ Halloween party!? It was also windy and cold!  I wasn’t dressed for hiking or a trail or whatever the #!$% this thing was… Putting all of these things together, my mind began freaking out.  And freaking out is NOT how I like to adventure. I’m not sure how much he knew I was in my head but I just kept telling myself there were donuts on the end of this stupid hike. I also knew how much my mind was being a little shit. 

Note:  Maybe after I take a photoshop class, I’ll know how to remove the purple from the bars of this photograph.  Lightroom brushes weren’t having it! 

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As much as I hated to admit it, despite the cold and nasty wind, the fresh air did me some good;  And God knows, I will do anything for a donut. 

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Everything around us was gorgeous.  I knew being present and grateful was a better solution.  But it’s always so annoying to drop the ego!!!

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I mean, if it wasn’t for my sweetie, I would have missed beautiful Beacon Rock!  

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There would have been no Klickitat campground.  No beautiful, windy, barfy drive. Certainly no steakhouse with a back of house kill room. 

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I totally would have missed this cute slug!!!  My honey is always so curious and always looks around.  He catches the little things I miss constantly. 

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The trail continued to climb and climb… Every time I began to question how long we were gone, I just let it go like a tried and true Disney Princess. 

 

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I later read on Wikipedia that in 1805 Lewis & Clark were here along the Columbia River, measuring the tides to know how close they were to the ocean.  I’m not gonna lie… They kinda had the adventure thing down.  Maybe we weren’t so far off? I began questioning if I really needed to put my adventuring into a box… 

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What if I let go of my plans and expectations and decided I was just on vacation with my hubby?  Would that be the worst thing in the world?  

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Far from it.  While I  might not have gotten any real work done, it would definitely be night and day more enjoyable!  

Note:  Lliam’s face in this picture cracks me up… He just needs some bear skins and he would look like Leonardo in ‘The Revenant.’  Ha!   🙂

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Beacon Rock is a an 848 feet tall monolith composed of basalt.  Lewis & Clark actually named it Beaten Rock, then later renamed it Beacon Rock.  It was also known as Castle Rock for a while (random!) but changed back to Beacon Rock in 1915.  It was also 1915 when Henry Biddle purchased the rock for $1 with the sole purpose of creating a trail to the top.  Construction took three years and the trail consisted of 51 switchbacks, handrails and bridges. 

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As you can see, the trip to the top was totally a waste of time… Worst day EVER. 

 

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Let this be a reminder to all of us that get stuck in our heads when traveling… Sometimes its good to change up our expectations.  You might actually end up in the steps of great explorers without even knowing it.   

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Thanks for coming along with me… Portland is next!  Where are YOU headed!???