It’s Pumpkin Spice Equinox, Bitches.

I am literally shitting pumpkin spiced foods and beverages out my ears at this point, that is how much I am up in this fall business.

I have been for weeks.

Every year, I find myself here. Writing a blog post about how fucking fabulous fall is. Others have done the same, about decorative gourds season, and about the bliss that comes with the best fucking season of all seasons to ever exist.

Eventually I get sick of it. I tire of the maple candles and the apple picking and the farm stands and the pumpkin spiced flavors and the basic bitch UGG boots. Then I move on to Hallmark movies and cherry and cinnamon flavor palettes and holiday music and putting my tree up before Thanksgiving.

But for now, it’s fall. It’s fall and I am in my zone.

I’ve reached the point where I stop procrastinating on the Halloween costumes, and they begin to take their final form. My two oldest kids – 15 and 11 – still dress up to please their brother, and I am ready. I am ready to sew, tuck, pin, and hot glue that shit together like the most Pinteresty Mom you’ve ever known.

My fall display has been out on the front porch for several weeks now, but I’m ready for phase two: excessive fall display. I’m talking hay bails, I’m talking corn stalks, I’m talking fucking potted marigolds.

Two weeks before Halloween, it will morph to Halloween-themed.

November 1st, we move back to excessive fall display with a flair of Thanksgiving.

And about a week before Thanksgiving, the Christmas bonanza takes over and my fall display moves to the table for Thanksgiving dinner.

I have a system. I’m ready. It’s go time.

As I am typing this, I’m actually – legitimately – sitting here, yelling -nay, screaming – in my Steroid Starla voice: LET’S DO THIS! LET’S GO! Because fall is my jam, and I’ve got my canning gear out.

Literally. I’m ready to make some pickles. To pickle some watermelon rinds. To give salsa and pesto and spaghetti sauce another go around. To make up some fucking fruit butters and canned pie fillings. I hate cooking, and I especially loathe the heat and load of canning. And yet the thought of spending an entire day over a steaming pot of vinegar and boiling water has tingles shooting out of every hole of my Martha Stewart reading – water bath canning – yes, I can do this and no, none of us are going to get a deadly intestinal disease from improper processing – head.

And the icing on this fall’s apple cake is: we seem to have escaped our typical, autumnal heat wave. For quite a few years, it would be a muggy 105 degrees for several weeks through September and October. We would slog around in the heat, wondering how we could ever celebrate autumn when it feels like we live on the equator in the middle of summer.

But – fingers crossed – with the exception of a couple days of heat here, and a few days of humidity there – it is cooling down.

Cooling down for, you guessed it: layers.

The thing I’m loving this year is the new appreciation for basic ass girls like me being into this shit. Like finally people are standing up to the naysayers of all-things-pumpkin spice and proclaiming: NO! You will not make fun of me for enjoying the fusion of nutmeg and cloves! NO! You will accept and embrace the addition of cinnamon to create a trifecta of flavors that have literally been around for centuries. “You know pumpkin spice doesn’t even have pumpkin in it!” the naysayers proclaim, and finally we are there, ready to respond: no shit … it’s called pumpkin spice because it’s the spice used in pumpkin pie, you ignorant, nutmeg-hating twats.

So today is the first day of fall and I’m feeling fabulous about it. I’ve got crafts staged in the garage, and pumpkin spice pancake mix prepped in the fridge for breakfast. It’s Pumpkin Spice Equinox, bitches.

Please Stop Telling Me I Should Do Things For A Living

The title, alone, sounds ridiculous. Please stop telling me I should do things for a living? What do I expect – to sit around and do nothing as a grown ass adult?

No. That’s not what I mean at all.

A couple weeks ago, we had a little family and friend get together for my toddler’s second birthday. It wasn’t too extravagant. About 20 people came by. We had burgers and broccoli cheese soup, a cake, and a donut display. Truth be told, he slept for 75% of it, having started his nap that day a little late.

As I always do: I made the party set up a little on the extra side. The table of desserts and foods looked Pinterest-perfect, which truth be told I always do. Not because I feel that I have to, but simply because I want to. It’s what I do to feel alive.

Yes. I want to have personalized water bottles and theme-specific drink glasses. Yes, DIY tables cape projects actually make me feel like I’m living my best life. This is just something that’s important to me as a parent, to give my kids some of these fun picturesque memories that I didn’t have as a child.

Sue me.

Just as with all parties I throw, meals I cook, or hostess gifts I bring, the comments almost immediately rolled in:

 Oh Heather, you should do this for a living! Seriously you should get into event planning, think of how much money you could make if you did this for a real job!

You are doing too much for someone that doesn’t get paid!

Imagine how nice this party would be if you were getting a paycheck to throw it!

[Insert drawn out eye roll]

I completely get that this is meant to be a compliment, and isn’t it just so late-stage millennial of me to be offended by something someone said that was meant to be nice?

But honestly: is there ever going to come a point when a woman can be a mom and have that be enough?

As in this is just what mom does – she throws parties, and those parties are extra.

Or when a woman, who is a mom, does something nice and it’s just a part of what she does as a mom – not something she should do in another sphere for a financial payoff; will that ever just be enough? That Mom did something really nice for us?

And really, when did we fall into this black hole of equating the things people do solely by how much money they bring in?

When people tell me that I should event plan or personalize shop or bake for a living, they are telling me that what I am actually doing for a living – raising and educating three human beings while running a household so my husband can pursue his dream job – is of little or no value to them. Like it’s temporary, or just something I do for fun while figuring out what I’ll do when I become a real adult.

Every time I am told that I should do something else for a living than what I am actually doing, a little piece inside of me breaks in half and turns on itself. What if what I do has no value?

Moreover: what if my children heard someone say that to me (which they have)? Will they begin to find no value in anything I do? If they want to do what I do when they grow up, will they feel as worthless as this makes me feel?

And the big one: what in the hell am I doing spending all this time with people who share values I don’t espouse, or want to raise my kids to learn?

There’s a folly to it all because it is meant to be a compliment: that I do something so well I could make money by doing it professionally. But does it really teach our children the value we want to teach them – that something is only really valuable if it brings home a paycheck? And, taking it a step further, that if someone does something for free they are either wasting their time and energy, or not contributing to some grander vision?

I’ve asked so many questions, to which I have one answer: a mother’s contribution is not defined by how much money she does or does not contribute to the household budget.

As I said, I do these parties, the Sunday dinners, the homemade gifts because I want to. The things I do that I do not get paid for as a stay at home mom go well beyond that, too. It’s the homeschooling, the Mom Therapist Mode. The extra curricular activity taxi cab driver. The scheduler-medication administrator-personal chef- laundry woman-housekeeper. It’s all of it.

Becoming a stay at home mom was the most valuable decision I ever made, and one even my husband continues to believe is not what I really want. Women have come so far, how could I ever want to define my life as just a mom? You could do so much more if you did something for a living.

Please stop telling me to do things for a living. As I see it, I am. I’m doing a lot of things for a living – not for a paycheck or a promotion. But to live.

From Now On, I’ll Do Me

I haven’t had much time to write for the last few months. I’ve written, just not on my blog.

Still, I hadn’t realized how long it’s been since I checked in with you guys until a couple weeks ago.

My daughter was playing a for-fun tennis match with a friend, and the friend’s dad asked me: “so, have you been doing much writing lately?” My response was plainly “no,” and then I remembered I had written the obituary for my husband’s grandfather (who recently passed away at the age of 90). So kind of.

But I couldn’t remember the last time I had written on this blog, so I checked and it’s been …well, a while.

I started making my usual excuses, the ones I always make when it’s been a while. If you read through some old posts, you’ll see them. I’ve been busy. I have three kids. My life is crazy. Blah blah blah.

Those things are all true, but in the past no matter how busy I have been, I have always found the time to write. It has been a few years since that was the case, though. For years now you could scroll through my blog posts and see little spurts of zany, fun, self-deprecating Heather, broken up by large swaths of absence.

The real truth is that I haven’t written in those voids because I’ve been living someone else’s life.

That someone else was so worried about what everyone else thought about her, she’d make herself sick over little things like what someone thought of her eyeshadow color, or whether she wore make up at all for that matter.

She handmade every Christmas gift for all immediate and distant family several years in a row, because  she didn’t have a real job, so what else did she have to do?

She made her family go for an entire 18 months without eating a single meal out of the house. Because mom’s cooking is better, and better for you (spoiler: it’s actually not, on both counts).

For a brief period of time, every free moment she had was spent volunteering in the community for organizations she didn’t give a care about, doing volunteer work that she had no interest in; fully immersing herself into the belly of the beast of each organization as if any of it had any bearing on her own life whatsofuckingever.

Every party was a blow-out Pinterest party. Every corner of the house was spotless.

Everything about life was exactly the way other people wanted it to be. I was living a life that was not one for me; rather someone else carrying out her life, which was entirely for other people, in my body.

What a bunch of shit.

This person that worried about what everyone else thought about her was the biggest shit of the shit. I’m certain that this came about as a result of years, now, of being berated and bullied by people in my community and immediate surrounding (that’s a nice way of saying “family”), but it also is the complete antitheses of who I am to always worry about what others think of me.

Especially over some of the trivial shit I worried the most about.

I’ve actually been so concerned with what other people thought that I’ve intentionally written blogs containing no swear words. I censored myself to be more palatable to people that don’t like words like “hell” and “damn.”

Then all of a sudden, I heard myself say aloud about a week ago “language please” to my dad, and I didn’t even recognize my voice.

Handmade Christmas gifts are shit too. Like literally and figuratively.

Really, who wants some crappy, homemade DIY gift when I could just as easily give them a gift card to Hooters?

And I’m not even good at making things either, like I would knit a scarf and it would unravel while I wrapped the piece of crap in a DIY Christmas gift bag, whose trimmings also fell off before Christmas came.

Seriously, fuck that DIY Christmas crap. It’s like ten times more expensive to make things you could just as easily buy anyway.

I won’t even get into the thing about the 18 month eating out hiatus.

Okay, yes I will. This one I am proud to say faded fast when I got pregnant with Andrew. Between being too lazy to peel carrots, and way too nauseous to consider eating any of my crap cooking, the eating out hiatus got turned on its head quickly.

That doesn’t erase the memory of those terrible, and costly, 18 months, though. I got this idea that it would save money to make things at home, but that’s a total and complete lie. It’s only cheaper to eat at home if you have one kid and eat Hungry Man TV dinners every night. Fruits? Vegetables? Lean proteins? That shit’s expensive, and newsflash a salad at your local salad spot tastes a million times better, and is considerably cheaper, than throwing it together at home.

Moreover, my cooking is about as predictable as Trump’s Tweets. You know they’ll be there, but how good/bad/volatile the reaction is always a gamble. One of my kids one night looked at the meal I made, shook her head, said “mommy no, mommy no” and straight up threw her dinner – plate, silverware, and all – in the trash.

It’s shit.

The volunteering was pretty bad too, because it spoke to that larger issue I have had over the past few years, that need to justify my existence to other people by doing things and impressing people. As if raising two kids, or just being Heather, isn’t enough.

Unlike the 18 month eating out hiatus, I actually don’t want to get into this one, because – frankly – I’m ashamed of myself for going there.

I will, however, say that to make up for those couple years of doing so many things I had no interest in doing, I plan to spend the next few doing absolutely nothing. Not. A. Got. Damned. Thing.

What’s left?

Pinterest parties are shit. Seriously, you spend like tons of money on food labels and dessert tables, for what? People to make comments about how fancy it is, or to not even notice any of your hard work. I’ll never forget the time we had my uncle over for dinner, and I made some fancy table layout, and he kept going “what’s this?” like oh my fuck why did I spend so much time personalizing napkin rings when I could have just ordered pizza and everyone could have eaten off of paper towels?

I get having a cute little layout, whatever; but at least buy things you can use again.

Keeping the house cleanish is still a sticking point for me, but this idea that when people come over I have to remove every speckle of dust from my shutters upstairs, in rooms no one will even go into, is for the bees. My home is the condition it’s going to be in. If you came to see it and not me, well then you are welcome to leave.

If you are in to all of this stuff: into the volunteering and the Pinterest parties and the house cleaning and the impressions and all – that’s totally cool. It’s just not my jam. No matter how much I tried to force it to be, I just couldn’t.

As the saying goes: you do you. From now on, I’ll be over here, though, doing me.

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I Did One DIY Project For Easter. One. Not Twelve. Not Twenty. Just One.

And even then, it nearly killed me.

I don’t mean that it was dangerous or wracked with mishap that could have severed my head or anything. I mean I hated doing it so much, I could have died.

I literally could have died. Literally. Not figuratively, like a spiritual death. I mean laid down on the floor and just stopped breathing – that is how over DIY projects I am these days.

(I did burn my finger on my glue gun, so maybe it was a little dangerous too.)

I think I’ve really evolved over time. First I hated Pinterest and all this perfect Mommy -DIYs everything crap. Then I felt guilt for that, or guilt for something, and went all Pinterest Mom crazy. Like everything was over the top DIY and perfect with all its perfection. Now I’m back to hating it, but mostly because I’m lazy and just over doing things.

Like any things.

So my devolving to this slovenly lard ass who would rather just buy something online than have to actually go and burn my fingers off with my glue gun again…it has been a slow one. It’s gone piece by piece, so that no one will ever notice that I went from DIYing everything to DIYing nothing. My theory is that the change will have been so slow that it will be hard to even remember that this wasn’t the way things were all along.

This Easter, I am officially down to the end game. The goal of DIYing absolutely nothing is within reach. In this – the final phase – I did but one DIY project.

And if I was going to be totally honest about it, I’d admit that the only reason I did it was to save money.

We gift all of the kids in my husband’s side of the family every major holiday. That’s Christmas and mini-Christmas, aka Easter. (Just kidding, we don’t consider it to be mini-Christmas, although I do find that a lot of people have turned it into that…)

Now at eight kids besides our own, this is starting to add up. And especially with holidays like Easter, it’s always the wrapping that makes the expense out of control. The baskets, the extra large eggs…whatever I wrap the Easter goods in for these kids, it always ends up being a hefty chunk of the overall cost.

So I made my own bags this year. Out of burlap. Burlap and buttons and some leftover chalkboard tags I had from something else.

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I hated every minute of it too, so I hope those kids realize how much effort went in to even convincing myself to make the bags to save the money. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I could give the gifts in CVS and Trader Joes bags – those kids would probably never notice.

This raised a bigger issue, though, in my mind: how has it come to this? How has it come to the point where I hate doing DIY projects so badly that I would prefer to lay down and cease to exist? What happened to that Heather that just a few years ago would hand-paint the wrapping paper, and cut party cheese into shapes that went along with the party theme?

It’s possible that I burned myself out, as I do in so many other areas of life. But it’s also, and more likely to be the case, just a sign of this new era of parenting I am in – the my kids don’t want shit to do with me anymore phase. The themed parties aren’t really what they do anymore, now it’s all cellphones and God mom why do you have to embarrass us. So I may as well just stop caring about some of this dumb DIY stuff that doesn’t do anything but cost me frustration and heartache, and – apparently – embarrass them.

(Newsflash: everything embarrasses them.)

There’s also the distinct possibility that I am just on a Pinterest hiatus. That it’s only a matter of time before I am back in the saddle and DIYing everything to the point that other mothers hate me for all that I do.

I’ve written about this many times before, and I am most certain that I will write about it again. But just one DIY project this Easter. Not twelve. Not twenty. Not even two…just…one… I can’t help but think that is a sign of a much different and terrifying time to come.

For if I am no longer a Pinterest Mom, well then what kind of a mom have I become?

I Think I’m A Pinterest Mom

Counting the Deviled Egg Disaster of Easter 2015 as the recent (and glaring) exception, I think I’m a Pinterest Mom. And even so, the Deviled Egg Disaster of Easter 2015 was inspired by the famed pin site.

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It was like Night of the Living Dead meets a traditional, holiday appetizer.

When my husband said that the only thing he cared about on Easter was that I make a lot of deviled eggs; oh and by the way can you make those guacamole ones?; oh hey you should do those colored ones you did a few years ago…; oooh look at those bleu cheese buffalo spiced deviled eggs … well you can see I was overwhelmed. I also saw a pin where the person made the deviled eggs look like baby chicks, and immediately felt up for the challenge. This is around where it fell apart – I was just in way over my head.

It also didn’t help a single bit that my husband’s cousin and his wife showed up with this bullshit cheese and chartreuse platter. I call it bullshit because it was SO. DAMN. AMAZING that it put everyone else’s nonsense to shame. I could have brought in a watermelon carving fashioned in the likeness of Jesus Christ himself, and it wouldn’t compare to that goddamned cheese and chartreuse platter.  They actually hand-carved the platters at home, out of what I can only assume was wood they gathered from the homes of the gods on Mount Olympus.

So you can see, in the case of the Deviled Egg Disaster of Easter 2015, I was set up to fail from all sides. But this isn’t the normal course of affairs.

Usually I’m all over baking homemade dog treats, making my own laundry detergent, and hanging cutesy signs through out the house – that I happened to cross-stitch or paint out of, naturally, up-cycled materials I already had around the house.

Consider Exhibits A and B. After spending hours working on these, I can’t help but wonder if (a) anyone in my house will ever pay attention to them; or, (b) just how insane others will think I am when they visit the house.

I mean really… sock buddy system? How annoyingly cute can we get here?

Exhibit A

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Exhibit B

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Birthday parties aren’t just birthday parties anymore. They are events. Events where every food item is perfectly labeled.

Exhibit C

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Themes and color schemes are strictly adhered to.

Exhibit D

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And there is always – ALWAYS – a dessert table.

Exhibit E

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In Exhibit F you’ll see I’ve created a monogram for our family. It’s a fusion of our last name initials (P and S), and has taken over our house in monogrammed towels, wall letter art, and the labels I put on everything.

I actually have a day set each month to make more of those labels.

Exhibit F

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As time goes on, I’m making more and more from scratch. I’m getting to the point of needing nothing more than a cow, and I will be fully sufficient. I can for canning season. I make homemade dog food, from-scratch Chex Mix, and homemade butter.

Yes – moving on to Exhibit G, now – I make my own butter. As in I churn it.

Exhibit G

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And on the off chance that I’ve missed a beat, or something comes up like the Deviled Egg Disaster of Easter 2015, I feel that I have failed. Failed miserably – not only as a Pinterest user, or a Pinterest mom, but as a human being altogether.

tumblr_n0o4rm1zP71somw7ho1_500Why? Because like many of you, I can’t help but compare myself, both to others as well as to that vast world of pins and pictures and examples of the far greater things out there. As I see it, Pinterest is just the new era of Better Homes and Gardens and Modern Woman magazines. And this is why women have been comparing themselves for ages.

We could talk about the social problems with this for ages, the fact that it happens is just that: a simple fact. No matter how many positivity-be-myself-and-love-it articles I read on Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, a part of me is always going to wonder if I could do as well as the others.

But it isn’t just a matter of self-comparison, because – quite frankly – a lot of the time I couldn’t give a lick about what others do. It’s more like a challenge. There is better out there, and I know I can do better. So I’m going to (unless it has anything to do with deviled eggs).

So I think I’m a Pinterest Mom. That means that a lot of you hate me. Like really-really hate me; like you’ve written your own articles about how I’m a big asshole making everyone else look like a pile of crap.

And here I am, feeling like my own pile of crap because of a fucking cheese platter.

Well there are a few saving graces, here. (One) is that a lot of my Pinterest projects likely come out looking more like the Deviled Egg Disaster of Easter 2015 than I’m able to admit. (Two) is that unlike a lot of people I know, I can only keep up charades for a relatively short period of time. Which means that before we know it I’ll be back to my bargain basement decorating skills, coupled with parties that consist of no more than a bucket of chicken on my cluttered dining room table.

As I get ready to make a Moving Day Binder out of printables I printed off Pinterest tomorrow (that is, literally, the only thing I have planned for the entire day), I hold steadfast in my hope that this Pinterest Mom phase will pass quickly.

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The Next Stage

10616161_791205745733_6681853197444697170_nI was at Barnes and Noble yesterday. I know what you’re all thinking – but wait, we thought you hated going anywhere during the holidays! Well, I do. But I had to go to Barnes and Noble to get what was apparently the last, mangled copy of the map of the world in all of Southern California. To finish a Christmas present I had been stalling since I finished all the rest of the shopping back in October.

So I was at Barnes and Noble and it was a mob scene. A mob scene at 1 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, which sort of makes me question whether or not anyone in my community works to be able to afford to spend so much money at the local Barnes and Noble. I mean, shouldn’t all of those people have been at work?

Nonetheless, I got my map and several other things I absolutely did not go to Barnes and Noble for, and headed to the check out line for the most miserable 45 minutes of my life. Towards the end, as I was close enough to the cash register to make eye contact with the employees as three of them aimlessly wandered around behind the register station, pretending to do something else, while one, lone cashier checked out the seven billion customers – when I was that close, I heard someone behind me approach people further back in the line. “Oh my God, we haven’t seen you guys in YEARS!” she shrieked as though they were – quite literally – separated still by miles, and then they started the old game of catch up that in a nutshell involved platitudes and niceties.

As if this experience could not have gotten any worse, these were the final moments of my time in line yesterday at my local, overcrowded Barnes and Noble.

Then it happened. Right as I was starting to walk up to the cashier, I heard one of the catcher-uppers say “and Joanie will be coming home from college for Christmas break tomorrow!” And in that little statement, made by a complete stranger and completely irrelevant to my life, I was hit with the striking realization that I probably should have made several years ago. Somewhere around the time I left graduate school five years ago, maybe earlier than that.

I will never go home from college for Christmas break again.

As I drove home – another 45 minute task, because every person with a car in Southern California apparently drives around and clogs up traffic on Tuesday afternoons as well – I realized just how many stages of my life are over. I’ve never really come to terms with this, or thought about it so seriously. Accepted it into my heart and soul that there are chapters of my life so fully completed that they have been burned up, never to be read again. At least by me.

Not only will I never go home from college for Christmas break again; I will never experience the butterflies of a first date. I will never have that “new mom” feel again, just as the thrills of skipping class to hang out at the local McDonalds with the other high school seniors are gone forever.

Admittedly, I have noticed signs of the ushering in of this next era of life. But have I never noticed before when one door closed and a new one opened? I don’t believe so. At least I don’t remember noticing the passing of time in the same way that I did yesterday.

The signs have been there, though.

A few weeks ago, I realized that I rarely wear make up anymore, unless of course we’re going somewhere. And even then I find a way to justify wearing none. Or just some mascara.

My outfits used to be coordinated perfectly – I’m not even sure why. I’ve never cared much for what people think of me, and yet my underpants always matched my belt. In this new stage of life, though, it’s all yoga pants, mom jeans, and stretchies. Tucked into slippers that could pass for moccasins. Paired with a tank top that has a bra in it.

I noticed this about a month ago when I was at the mall and realized that I can’t remember the last time I wore a Victoria’s Secret bra.

Someone at a family party a while back was talking about going to a bar and out to play pool, and actually planning to get home around 3 in the morning. I remember thinking – in earnest – to myself that nothing good ever happens after midnight, which is something my grandmother used to say.

I felt so disgusted at the idea of doing anything other than watching Netflix and reading a book, that I immediately looked for an excuse for us to go home and do just that.

More importantly, while I definitely have memories involving college and high school and growing up and going out, I still can’t remember what my life was like before becoming a mom. I actually have no idea what I was doing with my time.  And I don’t mean to sound diminishing to those that aren’t mothers, or to sound so cliche. But really in this new stage of my life, being a mom is not only my job but who I have become.

I’m a wife and mom. That’s about it.

I feel so ordinary, and there was a time in my life when to be ordinary would have been like spiritual death. But that time is over and I am fine with my new chapter in life. In fact, I have never been happier.

When I was younger, I wanted to make something of myself. Be something – be someone. But I think I had a very skewed idea of what it was to be someone. Rather than be known or famous or a published author or an accomplished painter, or someone everyone knows and writes about in history books and is remembered for generations to come… being someone really just meant being myself.

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In this new stage I am myself, and very few people know me. I’ve accomplished very little and have many talents. Not one of them results in a paycheck and that’s totally cool. I don’t wear make up often, and prefer comfortable moccasin-style slippers over high heels, even when high heels are the status quo.

And when it is my turn to run into people at the local Barnes and Noble that I haven’t seen in ages, my most exciting update on what I’m doing with myself and my life will be simply that I’m a wife and a mom. Some may find that meaningless or boring, but that’s what I’m doing, and it’s the most Me I’ve been in years.