Five Months of August

Dogs seem to come and go more frequently in my life than most. I’ve had 12 dogs as an adult. Three were rehomed, four passed away, and one went to live with my ex-husband. Currently, I have four dogs. 

Dezi was my husband’s dog before I met him, and I adopted Pepper when I separated from my ex. Then we got Nugget as a puppy in December of 2022. Three dogs felt manageable, probably because two of them are small and Dezi is older and less needy than a younger dog. But I felt like there was something missing. It seems as if my heart is continuously expanding to want “one more” thing to love and care for. And so, I got the itch for another dog. 

I found myself thinking of my first dog that was my own (rather than a family dog growing up). His name was Marley, and he was very special. He was an American Pitbull Terrier mix, absolutely gorgeous, incredibly gentle and tolerant, and just overall a very good dog. His only vice was separation anxiety, which was something we struggled with for most of his life. But it was worth it to me because Marley was amazing. 

He passed away at the age of 13, and since then I’ve had five pitties—that is, pitbull-type breed dogs. First there was Macy, who I actually got as a puppy before Marley passed away. She was what I referred to as my “soul dog.” While I don’t think there’s only one dog in a lifetime who can speak to a person’s soul, I do feel that some dogs are more special than others. At least, that has been my experience. For me, Marley and Macy were my first two soul-dogs. They held special places in my heart. 

Sadly, as Macy grew up she began to have unpredictable bouts of aggression towards other dogs. These were dogs who she grew up around, as well as others. And when it happened, she went for blood. One minute she could be innocently playing or cuddling with one of her doggie siblings, and the next minute something shifted and she was trying to kill them. We never understood why it happened, but we did everything we could to fix the problem. We did extensive training, and she responded very well. But, because her aggression wasn’t a habitual behavior but random episodes, training didn’t stop these attacks from happening. 

While I never worried that Macy would hurt one of her human family members intentionally, she did bite my ex when he tried to separate her from one of our other dogs during an attack. His injury was fairly serious, and we began to consider our options. We tried to rehome her, but a pitbull with aggression issues is nearly impossible to adopt out. After our second professional training program with her, which was followed shortly after by another attack in which my ex was once again bitten—we knew it was time to put her to sleep. 

Having to put a perfectly healthy, young, sweet dog to sleep was horrid. But we knew that it wasn’t safe to continue to have her around. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye to her.

The two other pitties I had with my ex were Moosey and Buddy. We got Moosey as a puppy, and he was very sweet and overall a good dog. For our family at the time, though, he turned out to be too much of a handful for us. So when my parents offered to take him as a trade for their older dog, Buddy, we jumped at the opportunity. Buddy is tolerant, gentle, playful, and loyal—a great dog to have in a family with young children. He wasn’t as great of a dog for a couple who liked to travel a lot, which is why my parents wanted to trade. We were all satisfied with this decision, and it worked out great. 

In my current marriage, I’ve had two pitties. One of them is brand new as of this post; we just got a puppy, who we’ve named Forrest. But before Forrest, there was Auggie. 

As I mentioned earlier, I began to feel a pull to get another dog this past summer. I was thinking a lot of Marley and how I wished I could find another doggo like him. Well, I looked, and I found August. 

August—Auggie for short—was also incredibly gorgeous and sweet. He was super tolerant of the kids, the cats, and other dogs. Nothing seemed to bother him. His demeanor was exactly what I knew pitbulls could be, at their very best. I loved him from the day I met him.

We adopted him from a couple who was looking to rehome him. He was about ten months old when we adopted him, and they said they were rehoming him for financial and family health reasons. When they said goodbye and we took him with us, they were visibly upset; it was clear that they loved him very much. But what happened in the month following our adoption of him made me suspicious that they gave him up for a very different reason. 

At his initial vet checkup, he had some unusual blood test results for his liver. We ended up doing many follow-up tests, the most serious of which was a very expensive imaging procedure. Finally, we had our answers. Auggie was diagnosed with multiple liver shunts. What this means is that his liver started growing new pathways for blood to be diverted from passing through. This meant that his liver was not serving him well—and the naturally occurring waste and toxins that it should have been filtering out were staying in his body and slowly poisoning him. We also learned early on that his liver was undersized, and when we learned about the shunts, I suspected that his unusually small liver was the reason they developed. 

Unfortunately, while congenital liver shunts (ones that a dog is born with, which are usually just a single shunt) are surgically repairable, multiple acquired shunts (ones that a dog develops, which can be many) are not treatable. The only options for treatment were basically palliative; he was put on a special diet and given a few different medications to help slow the process of him dying. After a couple of months of me making homemade dog food for him, I couldn’t do it any longer. The expense and the time was too much for us. We took him off the special diet and medications and decided to enjoy him for as long as we would have with him. 

I suspect that his previous owners knew about his condition. The prognosis for this is bleak; dogs with this condition can live up to two years, at the very most. The majority don’t get even that long. And I understand why his previous owners might not have wanted to be the ones to lose him that way—or the ones to make the decision to end his suffering. 

Ultimately, we had five months with August. During those months, we took him on camping adventures and gave him all the love we could. We watched and waited for the signs that he was beginning to feel the effects of his disease more acutely. 

The week that we knew it was time was rough on him. He had vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with blood in it, appetite loss, and general malaise. We could tell that he was just not feeling good. I came home one day and he ambled over to me in his usual “Eeyore” way and he put his head on my lap and looked at me in a way that told me it was time. It felt like he was telling me that he was ready, that he was tired and done. We took him to the vet to put him to sleep that night. 

Saying goodbye to Auggie was painful—as it always is. It is an unpleasantly surreal experience to watch a dog go from alive to gone, just like that. They have no idea what is coming. They are so innocent and trusting, and as human caretakers for them we have to be the ones to decide when to end their lives to prevent needless suffering. It feels like murder every time, to me. I have to constantly remind myself that I’m doing the right thing, the loving thing. 

In the weeks after losing August, I have continued to grieve. I’m still not done, and I don’t know how long it will take until I can think of him and smile instead of breaking down into tears. But one thing that I believe with dogs is that when you lose one, it gives you space to take in another. I debated whether getting a fourth dog (again) was a good idea. I knew that our lives would be simpler if we just stuck with the three that we already have. But, I also knew that I needed a pittie in my life. 

Three weeks after losing Auggie, we found Forrest posted online for adoption. We went to get him that same day. We’ve only had him for a few days now, but already we know that we found a really special one. He is definitely a puppy—mischievous and untrained—but for a puppy, he is incredibly easy so far. He is so affectionate and smart and just plain cute. He’s already captured our hearts.

I know that Forrest will never replace Auggie. Auggie will always be special to me, and I will always miss him and think about the years we should have had with him. But it does bring me a bit of comfort to know that without August leaving us so soon, we would not have found Forrest. The circle of life continues. With any luck, we will have many wonderful years with Forrest. And for that, I have August to thank.

Of course, this post is dedicated to my Auggie boy. I miss you, puppers. I love you and can’t wait to see you again at the rainbow bridge. Until then, have fun running around with Marley and Macy! 

Hello, Forrest.

Divergent: Part Two

As I mentioned in my last post, the term “neurodivergent” is one that resonates with me, and that I identify with. I wrote about my thoughts on neurodiversity, and how I experience it in my own life. For me, ADHD is a label I have embraced as a way of better understanding myself and the way my brain works. 

Before I get into it, I want to reemphasize that I am not diagnosed with ADHD. I have no interest in being diagnosed, and I have no interest in seeking treatment. I also don’t have the classic presentation of ADHD that many people think of, which includes difficulty with focus and attention, and hyperactivity. Those traits are in the name (ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder); but personally, I don’t see those things in myself as clearly as they usually are in people diagnosed with ADHD. Instead, I have many other traits that have been identified as common symptoms of ADHD. 

I can identify at least 21 specific ways that ADHD affects me, and there are probably more that I haven’t learned about or recognized yet. I see these differences as more of strengths than weaknesses, or at the very least they’re things I would consider quirks and part of my personality, rather than detriments. 

The more I learn about it, the more I realize that so many of my life choices have been affected by my brain working in a different way. Realizing this has given me a more positive view of myself and my life choices, both of which have been misunderstood by others more than a few times. Even if people around me don’t always understand my choices, that doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. Thinking and seeing the world and life differently isn’t inherently bad. Being different isn’t bad—that’s the spirit of the term neurodivergent, after all. 

I work hard to be a person who makes the world better, not worse; someone who is competent, caring, and considerate. So even if I choose paths in life that seem foolish or crazy or strange to others, I know that I am smart and sane and kind, and that I’m making the best choices I can– for reasons that make sense to me and my life— and that’s all that matters.

So, with that out of the way, I can now get into the details of what ADHD looks like in my life, and how it affects me.      

First off, ADHD is most likely the reason I tend to be a quitter. I have a history of quitting things when they start to feel too hard or scary, or I lose interest– even if I know that those feelings are likely temporary, and that there are benefits to continuing the thing that I want to quit. 

This quitting tendency includes hobbies or activities that I briefly participated in, like dance club, martial arts, or cheerleading. It includes volunteering opportunities that I was excited about for a while, but then decided to stop. It includes jobs I have had, the shortest being for only a few months and the longest for just over a year. It includes career paths I’ve tried to follow and businesses I’ve tried to start. It includes relationships, such as friendships that become too difficult or are giving me anxiety. It even includes pets– but more about that later. 

Basically, if I don’t like doing something, I quit it. There are pros and cons to that characteristic, in my opinion. I think it’s a good thing that I feel free to follow my instincts and focus on doing things I enjoy in life. But, it also means that I sometimes give up on things before I really should, and then I end up wishing I hadn’t. 

Socially, ADHD causes additional challenges for me. I have a high level of rejection sensitivity, and a tendency to over-analyze and dwell on negative or awkward social interactions. I kid you not– I am still haunted by that one time 12 years ago when I excitedly told my pastor he had the same Tupperware as me, and he looked at me with patronizing disinterest. (Why am I so weird?) I also have difficulty making and maintaining friendships, in part because of that rejection sensitivity, and in part because of social anxiety and being an introvert. I am also extremely sensitive in general. My feelings can get hurt quite easily, and I tend to be very hard on myself when I make mistakes or do something wrong. 

ADHD can cause people to have a low frustration tolerance, which is one thing I can very much relate to. I get overly upset when frustrated by things that others may feel are minor setbacks. A big example is when I can’t find something that I need; I tend to get way more upset than seems reasonable, and I can’t seem to control it. And while I do feel that I have a lot of patience usually (which becomes very necessary when you have five kids), I can also have a short fuse when overstimulated, overwhelmed, stressed, or frustrated. Sensory overload is something I experience very frequently, especially with noise and messes/clutter. These stimuli often cause emotional dysregulation for me, usually manifesting in anger explosions or shutting down and withdrawing from others. 

I am aware that I have anger issues, and I have known this about myself for a long time; but only recently have I realized that these problems likely stem from ADHD. They are a result of my brain working differently, rather than just me being a bad person. That means I can find tools and techniques to adapt, which gives me hope! 

There are so many things I can do to improve my emotional regulation challenges that come with ADHD. I can plan ahead for potentially frustrating situations and make changes to set myself up for success. I can designate easy-to-remember places for things and be strict about putting them where they belong, so that they don’t get lost. I can use noise-dampening ear plugs when things are getting too loud. I can build small chunks of time to decompress into my daily routines. I can set aside time to tidy up the house before bed (but keep it reasonable, so I don’t end up staying up too late and missing more sleep). I can also actively remind myself that the goal is never perfection, but improvement. 

Focus and attention are the more well-known problems that people with ADHD struggle with, and on the surface it never seemed to me as if this described me. But I have learned that there are many ways that ADHD can affect a person’s focus, and they aren’t all as obvious as being easily distractible. For example, I find it very difficult to switch tasks before I’m finished with whatever I’m currently working on, and I often feel an unproportional level of frustration or anger when I’m forced to do so. 

Conversely, I’ll often find that I’ve moved on to a new task before finishing the current one, which can happen for a variety of reasons; either I did the main bulk of the task and subconsciously considered it done before actually finishing the final parts, or I got caught in a chain reaction. As an example, I could be going to do the laundry but the washer is full, and the dryer is also full, and the basket is also full, so I need to fold the clean laundry first. But as I’m working on that, I will notice that the linen closet needs to be organized before I can put the clean laundry away, and then I end up organizing and tidying up the surrounding area as well. Before I know it, I’m being called away to do an entirely different task by one of my family members, and the laundry remains unfinished. 

Another subtle way that difficulty focusing can show up for me is being prone to clumsiness or accidentally injuring myself. I have realized that this happens because my brain is already moving on to the next task before I’ve physically finished the previous one, which leads to rushing or not paying attention to what my body is doing. (Just for laughs, I will share that the day I started writing this post, I got a cardboard paper cut underneath my fingernail, and later while eating a hamburger I was able to somehow flick a crumb into my eye– which didn’t hurt, per se, but it also didn’t feel good.)

People with ADHD can often struggle with mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. The reasons for this aren’t completely understood, but the result can be someone like me who oscillates between having too much mental energy, and having too little. These two ends of the spectrum are essentially my very boiled-down descriptions of anxiety and depression. When I’m feeling anxious, I’m like a shark who needs to keep moving so I don’t die. When I’m feeling depressed, I’m like a sad panda who is just trying to get through the day. Both stages tend to come and go fairly rapidly for me, lasting anywhere between a few hours to a few months. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, and it’s quite possible that ADHD is what fuels the ride. 

Insomnia is a symptom of ADHD, anxiety, and depression, so it should come as no surprise that I struggle with it. Sometimes I just can’t fall asleep until 3 AM, even though I’m tired, because my brain won’t rest or it simply decides to malfunction and forget how to sleep. Other times I’m in the midst of a bout of depression, and staying up late into the night gives me some level of feeling in control and at peace, or at least time to ruminate on all of my swirling emotions. Fortunately, (I guess?) years of sleep deprivation as a mom have conditioned me well to function on little or poor sleep. 

The biggest way that ADHD affects me is my need for novelty in life. This is thought to be a dopamine-seeking behavior common in people with ADHD. It’s also tied into other characteristics like hyperfixations, boredom, and impulsivity. What it looks like in my life is a very strong drive for making changes—often, the bigger the better. Combine that with my proclivity for quitting, and my anxiety and depression, and what you get is quite a concoction. 

I have a history of moving fairly often. I love rearranging, buying new things, and starting new systems or habits. I love taking things that are messy and making them clean, neat, and organized; that kind of change is so evident and satisfying! I enjoy redefining and refreshing my perspectives in life. I loved when I had a polyamorous lifestyle, because it meant there was always something shiny and new in my life. New flirtations, crushes, first dates, first kisses—talk about an abundant source for those dopamine hits I crave so much!

It’s also quite possible that I love having babies so much because of the constant change that they bring. There’s always a new stage to move on to, a new milestone, or a new parenting challenge to defeat. Plus, the very act of caregiving can be dopamine-boosting.  

But, the most visible and obvious manifestation of my ADHD-fueled need for change is something that’s caused me to build quite a reputation… as a crazy pet person. The number of pets that have come and gone in my life, even just as an adult, is astounding. Not including family/childhood pets, I’ve had eleven dogs (three currently), ten cats not including the three foster kittens I didn’t adopt, (I have seven cats currently), seven guinea pigs (none currently), five bunnies (none currently), seven rodents (four currently), six birds (two currently), three horses (one currently), and countless fish (none currently or hopefully ever again). That’s over 40 pets in the past 13 years! 

Now, I do have 17 pets as of this post, but you may be wondering what happened to the other 23+ animals that were at some point in my care over the past decade. Well, all of the fish died despite my best efforts, and 12 of the other animals passed away from old age (one dog, three rodents), illness (two dogs, one cat, one guinea pig), or accident (three guinea pigs); my dog Macy had to be put to sleep for severe and unpredictable aggression issues. The remaining 12 pets I had were rehomed, for a variety of reasons. 

Personally, I don’t believe that rehoming pets is wrong, or a negative thing when done right. I’ve always ensured that my rehomed pets went to new owners who would meet or exceed the level of care I gave them—which was always very high. I’ve never had a pet who seemed traumatized by being rehomed; that is to say, the pets I rehomed didn’t seem to suffer emotionally from transitioning to new owners, and they all ended up arguably happier in their new homes. I’ve always checked in on them afterwards to ensure they transitioned well, and I’ve always told the new owners that I would take the animal back if they ever needed to rehome them again. Basically, all of that to say that I have taken rehoming seriously and done it responsibly and with care. To me, the possibility of needing or wanting to rehome an animal in the future doesn’t make me afraid of adopting new pets, because I know there’s a net positive even when that happens. 

And yet, the constant change in my pet-life has been, at times, problematic. It caused a great deal of conflict with my ex-husband, and his lack of understanding and support for my choices when it came to pets was actually one of the “last straw” reasons for ending our marriage, as crazy as that sounds. I began to feel like a child who had to convince my “parent” that I was responsible enough for a new pet. I wanted to feel like an adult, who can be trusted to make my own life choices, for better or for worse. Not to mention that I wanted to feel like an equal partner, whose feelings and desires mattered just as much as my husband’s mattered to me. 

With my husband now, it has also caused conflict on numerous occasions. My pet obsession has been something that RJ, for the most post, understands, supports, and to some degree even shares with me. But, his biggest form of neurodivergence is arguably anxiety (although ADHD is a very close second, in my opinion). So at times, the idea of adding another pet or rehoming one has triggered an extremely unpleasant reaction in him, and caused some emotionally traumatic fights for us. Some of our fights about pets have left me feeling as if I have ended up in the same dynamic that I was in with my ex– the main thing I was trying to escape! Which of course, has been disheartening. Fortunately, we are actively working on these issues and have made great progress.

Even aside from the pet thing, I’ve observed that with both Cory and RJ, my need for novelty and my struggle with depression and anxiety has at times been misinterpreted as dissatisfaction with my life, or with my partner. 

I’ve been accused of “always wanting more” and “never being satisfied.” I’ve been told that I should work on myself to learn how to be content. I’ve been accused of steamrolling and manipulating my partner into decisions they don’t want. I’ve been told that I’m not “compatible” with my partner because I want things that they don’t. I’ve been told that nothing is ever enough for me. These are words that have wounded me deeply, and will take years to heal from. 

But, the truth that I often have to remind myself of is that I am not broken. I am not too much. I add far more positive things to the lives of my loved ones than negative ones. I am a good partner. I’m thoughtful and loving and empathetic—and imperfect. And that’s okay. 

So, yes. ADHD may have negative effects in my life. But I also recognize that many of the struggles I have are only struggles because society says they’re bad. Being a “quitter” is seen as a bad thing, but it also could be reframed as being adept at letting go of things that no longer serve me. Being someone who constantly seeks novelty and change could be seen as being impulsive and careless–or, it could be reframed as being adventurous and adaptable. 

Aside from the differences I’ve already described, ADHD also gives me more obvious strengths and advantages. I can hyper-focus on tasks, getting a ton done in relatively little time without running out of steam. When I procrastinate, I almost always do it productively; in other words, I may not always do the tasks I need to as soon as I should (hello, mountain of laundry), but at least I will be doing something productive (like reorganizing the pantry). 

My food fixations (common with ADHD) make things simple when it comes to meal-planning. As long as I have my 3-4 staple foods (whatever they may be at the time), I’m good to go. Variety isn’t really necessary for me, in the food department, so I’m easy to feed.   

One interesting aspect of ADHD is that it can cause caffeine to affect people differently. So, rather than wiring me, coffee actually helps me feel calm and improves my ability to sleep at night. This means I can drink a delicious latte every night before bed, if I so choose! Fortunately, coffee still gives me a much-needed energy boost in the morning, which means I also get to start my day with a routine that I look forward to. 

Another interesting and benign effect of ADHD is that I am prone to (harmless) binges and obsessions; this has given me a wide variety of specific knowledge, but also it’s just fun. If I can find great joy in baking ten dozen cookies in a day, then why not? It’s the simple things in life.

As with many people who have ADHD, I’m level-headed in crisis. I tend to be more calm and confident when I’m thrown into chaos, which is a great advantage when you have five kids and 17 pets. 

While having insomnia is a challenge, and I’d really like to be able to sleep when I need to, the other side of that coin is that I’m naturally a night owl (like many other people with ADHD). I like staying up late, and I can get so much done after everyone else is in bed. Often, the time I have at night is the only time I have to get chores done without constant interruptions, and if I’m lucky sometimes even a little bit of time to do things I enjoy, like writing. 

Last but not least, my need for novelty means that I’m good with change—in fact, I crave it! This can be seen as an advantage considering that life is full of changes. Most people fear them, but not me! It also means that life with me is never dull.

Ultimately, whether ADHD is considered a negative or a positive largely depends on one’s perspective. I feel that these things are all just part of who I am, and while some of them can be challenging at times, overall I do believe that they aren’t problems that need to be fixed. The world is not built for neurodivergent people, but that doesn’t mean that we need fixing. I think we can all agree that the world is very much in need of fixing.

And so, I’m going to keep being me–the gloriously chaotic, go-with-the-flow, productive, interesting, ever-changing phoenix that I am. 

Divergent: Part One

Sometimes, being different is a good thing. Differences are what make people and life so interesting, and allow us to learn and grow.

It was a couple of years ago that I first heard the term “neurodivergent.” My introduction to the term was through reading a trilogy of books called The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect, and The Rosie Result, which feature an autistic main character. The story explores the topic of neurodivergence with a humorous and heartfelt approach. After I read those books, I started hearing the word “neurodivergent” in popular culture more and more. If you didn’t already know, this is a thing now. (In all fairness, neurodivergence had actually been a thing presumably since humans came into existence, and the term was coined decades ago, but the awareness of it is now becoming more mainstream).

A great summary of what this term is all about is the following excerpt from the Verywell Mind article, “What Does It Mean to Be Neurodivergent?”

Neurodivergence is the term for when someone’s brain processes, learns, and/or behaves differently from what is considered ‘typical.’

Formerly considered a problem or abnormal, scientists now understand that neurodivergence isn’t inherently an issue for the individual and that it has a large societal benefit. Not all presentations of neurodivergence are a disability, like synesthesia, but all are a difference in how the brain works.

With this shift, practitioners are no longer treating neurodivergence as inherently an illness. They are instead viewing them as different methods of learning and processing information, some of which become disabilities in an inaccessible and ableist society.


“Neurodivergent,” in a nutshell, describes anyone whose mind works differently than what is considered “normal.” Of course, what is considered normal can vary across cultures and change with time. Like most labels, “neurodivergent” is a term that can be used in many different ways and for many different types of people. 

Most narrowly and originally, “neurodivergent” was used as an alternative or complementary term for people with autism. But more commonly and in recent years, the term has been used to describe people not only with autism spectrum disorder, but also people with ADHD, dyslexia, Down syndrome, Tourette’s, OCD, bipolar disorder, and many more mental conditions. 

Whether one has an official diagnosis or not has also become less important when using this term. Remember, neurodivergence is not a medical term or a legally protected term–it’s a social term, and its use has changed and expanded over time. 

An article from the Child Mind Institute explains:

“The term used to be used to describe people who either had a clinical diagnosis or were borderline, with symptoms that are near the clinical threshold for a diagnosis,” she explains. “More recently, what I’ve seen is broadening to include anybody who identifies with it. People who feel that they think or process outside of the box.”


Even with a diagnosis for something like autism or ADHD, every neurodivergent individual experiences life and the world uniquely. No two neurodivergent people are exactly the same–just as no two neurotypical people are exactly the same! We are all different in ways both big and small. 

As an article from BetterUp says:

The number of different ways a human brain can be wired is almost infinite. Diagnoses simply provide us with a kind of verbal shorthand. It’s a convenient way to refer to a specific set of symptoms or experiences that commonly occur together. Even within a diagnosis, two people’s experiences can range widely.


Considering that no two minds work exactly alike, using the term neurodivergent is becoming more and more a personal choice. For example, most loosely, neurodivergence can also encompass many other mental differences and conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, sensory processing disorders, and learning differences. 

And, while it has been used most often as an umbrella term for disorders, a mental difference doesn’t have to be a disorder to be considered neurodivergent. Things like non-heterosexuality, having a non-cisgender identity, synesthesia, being an empath, introversion, and possibly many more differences that could describe the mental workings of an individual, could all be considered neurodivergent. 

While mental illnesses and the non-disorder differences I listed may not be generally or popularly accepted forms of neurodiversity, I personally would advocate for this wider and more inclusive use of the term. Because ultimately, claiming that label for oneself is a personal choice. I know that not everyone likes labels, but for me, they add clarity and can be empowering! That is why I am proud to call myself neurodivergent.  

I believe that increasing awareness and reducing stigmatism of both neurodiversity and mental illness go hand in hand. The more we can understand ourselves and how our brains work, the better lives we can live. And the more we can understand others and how their brains work in ways that are both similar to and different than ours, the better we can make our world for everyone. Mental disorders can be a part of one’s identity, and that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. They can add strengths, as well as weaknesses, to one’s life.

That being said, it is important not to use the term to downplay the struggles of those with mental disorders. Some types of neurodivergency are not just differences, but disabilities. Those disabilities may be partially a result of living in an ableist society which is not designed for those who are different; but, they also can be innate, and debilitating in and of themselves. Seeking diagnosis and treatment can have great value for many, many people. I am not advocating for simply accepting the struggles that come with being different! I am only advocating for recognizing that being different isn’t always bad, and can in fact be a good thing in many cases, or at least in some ways.

So, with all of that explaining out of the way, I wanted to share a bit about my personal differences, or neurodiversity. 

I am neurodivergent in six ways that I know of right now. For me, these differences add both strengths and weaknesses to my day-to-day life. I use this label to encompass my ADHD, anxiety, and depression–the golden trifecta, as I jokingly think of it. I’m also an introvert and an empath, and I’m pansexual and polyamorous by nature. All of these labels are ones that I embrace because they are part of who I am, and they are ways that my mind works uniquely. They each come with drawbacks as well as advantages.

At first thought, I struggled to see a way that depression could add anything positive to a person’s life or to the world. But then I realized that empathy is a strength I can attribute, at least partially, to my depression-susceptible mind. My experiences with depression have allowed me to develop deeper empathy for the suffering of others, and an ability to think more profoundly about life. It’s even possible that my struggle with depression caused me to develop my empathic nature.

Depression shows up in my life as feeling down, sad, unmotivated, and just “over” life. It also brings feelings of guilt and inadequacy–especially mom-guilt. It makes me feel that I’m not enough, and that no matter what I do it will be wrong. It makes me lose interest in things I used to enjoy. It gives me insomnia. It makes me want to isolate myself socially (although that is also just part of being an introvert, and having social anxiety). And of course, the worst part of depression for me is suicidal ideation. It can take very little for me to spiral into not wanting to be alive anymore. So, those are the not-so-fun things to deal with. 

Depression is the label that I have used the longest. I have known that I struggle with depression since I was a teenager, although it wasn’t until further into my adulthood that I consciously accepted it. I would say depression is my second biggest form of neurodivergence. It is a disorder that I, personally, have chosen to seek treatment for. 

Although I also have anxiety, I struggle with it the least. For me, it shows up as restlessness, insomnia, feelings of dread, feeling the need to escape situations, excessive worrying about everyday things, muscle tension and headaches, and repetitive/racing thoughts. I also have a touch of social anxiety, but that’s pretty tangled up with introversion, depression, and ADHD. On a side note, I also have migraines, and it can be hard to distinguish my tension headaches from migraines, unless I have an aura or nausea, which indicate a migraine.

The ”positive” side of anxiety for me is that, in a strange way, it energizes me. The feeling of restlessness shows up as needing to be doing something productive, helping someone, or taking care of others. I get hits of dopamine through these activities, which seems to counteract my anxiety somewhat.

Another aspect of my neurodivergence is being an introvert. As I said earlier, some people count it and others don’t–but it doesn’t really matter what other people think. For me, I feel that it’s something that makes me different than what is considered “normal,” so it fits. My introversion shows up in a few different ways, some of which are similar to mild autism spectrum disorder. 

I have difficulty making eye contact and difficulty initiating or maintaining conversations. I have a very small social circle. I’m almost always happier at home (or in my home-away-from-home, aka Eleanor, my travel trailer). I don’t like meeting new people or being in crowds. I am a quiet person, in general, although when I’m comfortable with people I come out of my shell. Personally, I don’t see introversion as a weakness at all. It’s something that I like about myself. I’m never too busy talking to be a good listener, and that goes really well with my empathic nature. I have learned to be confident and comfortable in my own skin without needing to be loud about it. 

Being an empath is hands-down my favorite area of neurodivergence. What it means is that I am very highly attuned to the emotions of others, especially those I’m close to. It allows me to show compassion for others beyond what is probably considered common. I can tell when something is off with someone, and I have a powerful intuition. This makes me an excellent care-taker, partner, mother, and friend. It also means that I have a tendency to absorb the emotional energy of the people around me, which can be a big challenge. This is something that I have to be aware of and consciously reframe my thinking around all of the time. Taking responsibility for other people’s emotional states is not healthy, and can happen very easily–so I have to be careful and cognizant. 

Being pansexual and polyamorous wouldn’t be considered neurodivergent by most people (based on my research), but I believe that sexuality and gender identity are part of the way a person’s mind works. I believe they are ingrained, present at birth, and originating in the brain–and being non-cisgender and/or non-heterosexual is, by definition, “different” than the norm. (It’s called heteronormative, after all). Thus, I include it. My sexual identity is basically irrelevant to my daily life, because I am in a monogamous heterosexual relationship that I’m committed to for life. Nevertheless, I feel that it’s an important part of my identity. 

Out of all of my neurodivergent “labels,” ADHD resonates the most. I have many behaviors that can be associated with ADHD, including anxiety and depression themselves. It is not uncommon for all three to go together, with ADHD as the underlying root cause.

ADHD is a label that I only very recently embraced. I am not diagnosed, and I have no interest in seeking a diagnosis or treatment for it. This is my personal choice. I never felt that I had ADHD until I learned more about it over the past year. I learned about ways that ADHD shows up in people’s lives and behaviors, beyond the basic definition of having difficulty paying attention and hyperactivity. Realizing that there is a huge range of ADHD far beyond that small-box definition allowed me to see just how much I am affected by it. 

It’s such a big topic for me that I decided to write a whole separate post about it! That will be coming soon, so stay tuned. 


What Does It Mean to Be Neurodivergent? By Ariane Resnick, CNC

What Is Neurodiversity? By Caroline Miller

Types of Neurodiversity: Understanding How People See The World, By Allaya Cooks-Campbell

Like a Magnet Do

When I was younger and more idealistic, I believed that true beauty was on the inside. More so, I believed that everyone was beautiful because God made them. More importantly, I believed that a person’s character was far more important than physical beauty, especially by worldly standards, so much so that I felt appearances didn’t matter at all. In the search for a life partner, physical appearance meant little to nothing to me—or at least, that’s what I told myself. I never wanted to be vain or superficial. I wanted to be kind and encouraging. To make physical attraction important in my quest for love would make me the kind of person that I did not want to be, someone shallow and foolish. That is what I believed. 

I was raised to be a good Christian girl who cared about what people were like on the inside, rather than the outside. Seeking inner beauty for my romantic partner was godly. Of course, boys and men weren’t told to seek character above beauty, but is that really any surprise? No, the lesson was always for girls to operate on the higher moral ground. Boys will be boys, after all. But I digress. 

In romantic relationships, part of the purity culture I grew up with told me that I really shouldn’t even be a sexual being—until I was married, that is. Upon saying my vows, I was taught that I should immediately become interested in sex, so as to keep my husband satisfied. But before that point, and especially when it came to dating, I learned that lusting was sinful. And so, I suppressed my sexuality as much as I could, but that only led to it bursting out in moments when I inevitably lost my self-control. Those events were always followed by guilt, shame, and disgust. 

But I digress, again! My point is that physical and sexual attraction weren’t things I was taught were important or valuable. If anything, they were sinful. A G-rated comment about the attractiveness of someone whom you intended to pursue a romantic relationship with was pretty much the most that was considered morally acceptable. When in a romantic relationship before marriage, it was important to honor your partner by remaining pure. Impure thoughts led to impure actions! So, it was easier to keep things “pure” by not even thinking about physical attraction in the first place.

All of that to say that when I fell in love with my high school sweetheart, who would later become my husband and the father to three of my children, I didn’t really think much about attraction. I fell in love with who he was on the inside, and I found things about him that I could see as attractive. 

To be fair, I do still believe that character is more important than beauty. But, I also know now that attraction in a romantic and/or sexual relationship is actually quite important! At least for me, it is. I can’t speak for everyone, of course. 

Throughout my first marriage, I struggled with sexual dysfunction. I felt ambivalent about sex, at the best of times. At the worst of times, I felt skeeved out, icky, and wrong. Sex became something I felt obligated to do, and it wasn’t something I initiated more than a few times throughout our ten years of marriage. I just didn’t want to have sex. 

Don’t get me wrong—we did, obviously, have sex. We have three biological children together, after all! But our sex life was never exciting for me, and at times it became a source of great emotional turmoil. Don’t read what I’m not writing here—my ex-husband had all of the skills necessary to get the job done right! He was attentive, caring, and capable. It really wasn’t him, and I felt terrible that I couldn’t make myself feel what I was supposed to feel with and for my husband. 

Near the end, it got to the point that I began to think I was asexual. But shortly after that, we opened our marriage and became polyamorous, and it became very clear, very quickly, that I was in fact a highly sexual person. I just didn’t have a sexual attraction for him. And as it turns out, having sex with someone who I don’t feel attracted to makes me feel pretty icky.

Looking back on our relationship, I can see so many signs that he just didn’t do it for me. There were times when I found him attractive, and I don’t think that he’s an unattractive person whatsoever. He just didn’t give me that tickle in my belly, you know? And I should have known. Because he told me every single day how beautiful and hot he thought I was. I was never in doubt about his attraction to me. And every single time I was happy to hear it, but I also didn’t know what to say because I couldn’t in all honesty tell him that I felt the same way about him. I almost never complimented his appearance, because doing so would have felt forced and awkward. Instead, I told him that I loved him and appreciated him and focused on the things that I believed mattered more. 

Becoming poly introduced me to a whole new side of myself. I felt things I had never felt before. For once, I embraced those feelings of lust and desire and used them to make the world a more—ahem—loving place. In short, I came alive. Once I realized what I had been missing, I knew that I could never go back. 

For a short time, my ex-husband and I tried to maintain our sexual and romantic relationship. But it started to become harder and harder for me to force myself through the motions (god help me with these innuendos; I promise they aren’t intentional!) It didn’t take long for me to decide that I couldn’t be with him in that way anymore. We shifted into a platonic relationship and were planning to stay married. But, in the end, I wanted to pursue other relationships more than he was comfortable with, and it felt like it was time to call it instead of trying to keep something alive that was already dead.   

The story of my first marriage and subsequent divorce is one that I go over in my head a lot. There are so many facets of it to reflect on. There are so many what-ifs that I will never know the endings to. There are regrets and uncertainty and there is sadness and grief. But, the longer I’m with my new husband, the more clear it becomes to me that attraction for my partner is something I cannot just sweep under the rug. It matters to me. It adds so much to our relationship, and to my life.

RJ is, ironically, not someone who I was initially attracted to at first glance. From his online dating profile, I surmised that he was a sweet, smart, and interesting guy. But I also thought he was kind of goofy looking. (Sorry babe! You know that now I think you’re the hottest thing to walk the earth, but at first I wasn’t so sure.)

That all changed the moment we met in person. We spent a lot of time chatting beforehand and our banter was excellent. The chemistry was there, over text, but I had concerns about whether I would feel the spark in real life. Those concerns were obliterated on our first date. 

You see, attraction isn’t the same as vanity at all. Vanity is having beauty standards that are superficial and usually set by society and culture. Vanity is saying that you won’t date a fat person, or someone with scars, or someone with a certain skin tone. Vanity is not giving someone a chance solely because of their appearance. Vanity is when someone tells their partner that they aren’t attracted to them anymore because they’ve aged or gained weight or changed in some physical way. And all of that is bullshit assholery, by the way. 

But attraction is different. Attraction is a feeling you get when you have chemistry with someone—and it extends across the realms of the emotional, physical, and intellectual. Of course, there is also a more basic definition of attraction, which is simply appreciating someone’s physical appearance. And yes, that something that I still feel and can even enjoy feeling towards people who aren’t my husband, because it means nothing! I can appreciate a good-looking guy, gal, or non-binary individual as much as the next person. RJ has the same freedom, and it’s not something we have to hide. Oftentimes we can appreciate them together, in fact! A hot person is a hot person; we’re married, not dead as they say.

Being attracted to someone in a deeper way still has that physical aspect. It often starts there, but that isn’t where it stops. Deep attraction is like a magnet. That person draws you in, without even trying. Their very existence and the most mundane things that they do can get you going, because it’s them. You want them, in all of the ways. You crave their touch, and you feel no shame or inhibition when you’re intimate together because it feels right. Being physically close with them is how you were made to be. You’ve found your magnetic match, and whether they are someone who turns head wherever they go by their sheer hotness, or… not so much; it doesn’t matter because the way you feel for them pulls you in. That is deep attraction, and in a romantic relationship, it is important. For those of us who want partnership, we all deserve to find that person who lights us on fire (in a good way). 

I still believe in the “friends to lovers” path to romance, when it’s right. If you have the hots for your bestie, and they feel the same way, then hooray! Friendship can be a wonderful foundation for an amazing love story. But, if you don’t feel butterflies when they walk into the room, then pursuing something more with them is probably not going to end the way you hope it will.

Love can be powerful and deep and strong, even when it’s platonic. And you can fall in love with someone who you aren’t attracted to. You can also develop attraction over time with someone whom you love.

But for me, falling in love with someone who really does it for me has been an experience I wouldn’t trade away. We have a fire that just keeps on burning, and it is a powerful force of connection in our relationship. My attraction for my husband, my lover and eternal flame, is something I never take for granted.

I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do
Although my heart is falling too
I’m in love with your body

Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with the shape of you

“Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran

Spin the Wheel

It’s been a hot minute since I posted, and it’s not been for lack of inspiration. I have a note on my phone with seven different posts I want to write! But, life has been crazy. I’m fairly certain that life will be crazy for the foreseeable future. 

Life with five kids is a lot. For me, going from two to three was a challenging transition, and then going from three to four was just the gradual process of becoming a parental figure to my stepdaughter, Penny. She’s our oldest, so it wasn’t exactly the same as adding a new baby to the family. 

With Finley, I really feel the five. FIVE. It’s grueling, to be honest. 

You would think that co-parenting with four parents would be easier in a way. We only have four of our kids about 50% of the time, because the other 50% they are with their other parents. And in some ways, it is pretty awesome. We get to have some quiet nights with just Finley, and some nights with just Finley and Penny, and some nights with the Westys (that’s what we call my three kiddos from my previous marriage) and Finley, which is a different dynamic than when we have all five. 

Having times without all of the kids gives me and RJ the ability to decompress a bit and recharge for the next time we have them. When we have all of them, we call it “Kid Chaos,” and the name is fitting. It can feel a tad chaotic when you’re holding a baby, two kids are crying at once, and the other two are asking you for things. Oh, and there’s poop, too. Where? Just everywhere. In diapers, unflushed in toilets, in the dog’s crate, possibly on me somewhere. It’s par for the course. 

So the days when we have fewer kids are really helpful for our sanity—or what’s left of it.

But, in other ways, our co-parenting lifestyle is more challenging. The scheduling alone could be an Olympic sport. Even as someone who enjoys organization and lists and calendars and schedules, I can’t always keep track of who’s supposed to be where and when. I absolutely hate being the one who dropped the ball in the parenting game. 

The hardest part, though, is the emotional side of things. 

My mental state is drastically affected by which kids are with me on any given day. When it’s Kid Chaos, I automatically go into Mom Boss mode. I summon the patience and energy to keep things running (mostly) smoothly. I pull out some of my best parenting tactics and often find myself satisfied with my work at the end of the day. 

But, if Kid Chaos goes on too long, I run out of steam. I sometimes describe stress to my kids like air in a balloon. If you’re blowing up a balloon, and you keep adding more and more air, eventually it’s going to burst. If you stop adding air, and maybe even let some out, then you will be able to fill it up again later without it bursting. All the things in life that cause stress are like air that you’re adding to your balloon. Taking time to release some of that pressure—to pause, rest, and recharge—is important to prevent a blowup, AKA an emotional meltdown. 

So, needless to say, when Kid Chaos goes on longer than my personal balloon can handle, it doesn’t end well. Those are the days that I consider “bad parenting” days. Am I too hard on myself? Possibly. But in any case, yelling at my kids is not something I want to do, ever. So when I fail at keeping myself regulated and end up adding to the chaos with my own out-of-control emotions, I consider that a parenting fail.

When it’s time to bring the Westys to their dad, I usually have a complex tangle of emotions to process. I feel relief, because I can finally let some air out of my balloon. Even if my balloon didn’t survive, well, at least I have time to acquire a new one. (Metaphorically speaking…) When I get a break, I have a chance to mentally recover from any bad moments I had with the kids. That brings a sense of relief, because God only knows I need those breaks. 

But the feeling of relief is very quickly followed by guilt. Mom-guilt is a powerful force, and I have loads of it. There’s guilt over feeling relieved that I get a break from my kids. There’s guilt over needing a break at all. There’s guilt that I’m only half of a parent to the Westys, because I’m only with them half of the time—I know that this isn’t true, but it’s what that little voice in my head tells me. 

There’s guilt in knowing that our divorce has caused and continues to cause pain to my children, because they are sometimes upset during the transitions and often miss the parent who they aren’t with. There’s guilt in hearing my kids tell me that they wish we all lived together. There’s guilt in every meltdown, misbehavior, and moment of conflict, because what if it was caused by the trauma of our divorce? 

Guilt is heavy, indeed. 

Plain and simple sadness is also entangled in the ball of emotions. I’m sad that I’m not with my kids. I’m sad and nostalgic about the simplicity of our lives when we were a nuclear family. I’m sad knowing in my heart that Cory and I were not meant for each other forever, and nothing that I did or he did would have changed that. I’m sad knowing that the first part of my adult life was spent with Cory instead of RJ, and that the first part of RJ’s adult life was spent with Amber instead of me, and knowing that I still wouldn’t change a single thing because it brought me my kids exactly as they are. 

I’m sad that out of all our kids, only one will know what it’s like to have an intact family. I’m sad that I’ve done to my kids the one thing I never, ever wanted to do to them—and vowed never to do!—because I didn’t want them to experience the pain that I experienced as a child. I’m sad because I know that life just isn’t as simple as I once believed, and we can only do our best, and nothing is guaranteed, and things change in ways we can’t predict. 

I often find that when I’m with my kids, I feel stressed and overwhelmed, and yet somehow also energized and motivated. But when I’m not with all of them, I feel relieved, and yet also sad and anxious and depressed. It becomes this paradox where “I can’t live with them, and can’t live without them,” as they say. I’m unhappy in both situations, just in different ways. 

It can feel like each day I’m just spinning a wheel to see what it lands on. Chaos? Stress? Guilt? Sadness? Depression? Anxiety? 

Which will it be today? 

Of course, those aren’t the only things I feel. I feel joy and excitement, amusement, contentedness, satisfaction, and so many more positive things when I’m with my kids. They make me laugh, delight me with their adorableness, and warm my heart with their sweetness. Above all, when I’m with my kids, I feel love.

There is no love like a parent’s love for their child. I would do anything—anything—for my kids, and my highest priority in life is to take care of them. But also, there is no love like a child’s love for their parent. To your child, you are a hero. You are the one human in the world (or one of a very select few) that they need and love more than any other. You are the world to them. Even when they say they hate you, or that you’re mean, or any other angry and thoughtless thing that kids can sometimes spew at us parents, we still know that they love us and will forgive us. We can mess up again and again and again, but as long as we do our best and try, our kids will still think we hung the moon. That is such a privilege. 

To love and be loved as a mother is the most priceless gift. Despite the immense challenges that come with parenthood, I wouldn’t give it up for anything. My kids are my biggest source of both pain and joy in my daily life. They are everything.

So, onward I march. I’ll continue to take my days as they come, one at a time. I’ll continue to spin the wheel. Or maybe the wheel is spinning me? At this point, I don’t think it really matters. I’m just along for the ride. 

Finley’s Birth Story

Finley represents many things for me that are unique to him, out of all of my children. He is my bonus baby, my surprise blessing, the brother Cody never thought he’d have… not to mention the (biological) son RJ never thought he would have. Finley is like a bridge between two families—Westropps and Gentrys. He’s the final piece of the puzzle that has completed our beautiful, complex, chaotic blended family. He’s also the child that, just by coming into existence, made me eat my words once again. Because I said I was done! And the truth is, I was utterly done with having babies after my last one, Amelia—but then my whole life changed. 

When I met RJ and fell in love, everything changed. Pretty early on I knew I wanted to have a baby with him someday. Still, when Finley was conceived, it was a big surprise! It wasn’t the timing we’d planned, and I wasn’t exactly eager to go through pregnancy and birth again. But I believe that God’s plan and timing are perfect, and while I may not have planned for Finley at the time he was conceived, God did. RJ and I quickly moved from shock to excitement—and we were even more thrilled to find out we were having a boy. Three girls and two boys is a pretty amazing balance, and it felt so right for us. 

While this pregnancy and birth were exceedingly uncomfortable, we are overjoyed to have our son with us now. As always, this precious baby was worth every moment. And despite knowing that nobody really believes me anymore, I do mean it when I say I am now retired from making tiny humans.

Finley James Gentry was born on Monday, June 19th, 2023 at 9:22 AM. He was born at home, completely unmedicated, in about 10 hours from start to finish. He was 20 inches long and weighed 7 lbs 4 oz. Here’s how it all happened.

From the beginning of my pregnancy, I knew that I was likely in for a rough ride. My pregnancy with Cody wasn’t terribly uncomfortable—I had nausea for a little past the first trimester, and that was it. But with each pregnancy after that, it got worse. I was sick longer with Abigail, and with Amelia I didn’t have relief from pregnancy sickness until after she was born! I also had worse heartburn with each subsequent pregnancy, which further limited the kinds of foods I could eat. 

With Finley, I was once again nauseous and experienced moderate heartburn throughout my pregnancy. My mental health, which has been a struggle for most of my life, has often been worsened by the challenges of pregnancy and the postpartum period. This time was no exception, and feeling literally sick and tired for nine months, while navigating some pretty huge life changes and parenting four other children, took a heavy toll on me. 

In the final weeks of my pregnancy, I struggled with a lot of anxiety and depression around the waiting. It felt endless, but I also felt like even when Finley was born, I wasn’t sure that I would feel better about life in general. Life is hard, and I haven’t chosen the easiest path over the past couple of years. At times, I can get overwhelmed by it. So, in the days leading up to Finley’s birth, I was spending a lot of time by myself just trying to rest and cope. RJ has been taking care of so much so that I could make it through this time, and I am so thankful for such a caring, supportive partner. 

Even though I knew that statistically, I wasn’t likely to begin my birthing time until after reaching my guess date (40 weeks of pregnancy), I still was hoping that I would get lucky and have him a little early. After reaching term at 37 weeks, I desperately wanted to get to the finish line! But, of course, birth is unpredictable and pretty much out of anyone’s control—so nothing I did seemed to have any effect on getting things started. It was disheartening, and every day seemed to drag on endlessly. 

At 38 weeks, I had a prenatal appointment and asked for a cervical check and membrane sweep if possible. This is a fairly common method of encouraging birthing to begin, but it requires at least 1-2 CM of dilation. Most prenatal care providers don’t offer this induction technique until 39 to 40 weeks of pregnancy, and my midwife doesn’t typically do them until after 40 weeks. However, she also respects my informed decision making process and was willing to do it at 38 weeks; unfortunately, I wasn’t dilated at all so it couldn’t be done. 

At my next appointment at 39 weeks, we tried again and were able to do the sweep. She successfully encouraged my cervix to dilate from 1 CM to 2 CM, and that was encouraging. Membrane sweeping has been found to encourage birthing time to begin within 48 hours, so I was hopeful that it would do the trick. 

Every day after the sweep, I waited for my birthing time to start. RJ was able to do a sweep for me each night, after being given instructions and precautions by the midwife. (Ultimately, I suspect that the repeated sweeps are what triggered my birthing time to begin before my guess date!) But at the time, I didn’t know if it was having any effect. Occasionally I noticed more pressure waves that could have been my early birthing time, but they didn’t progress. It took four days until I did go into my active birthing time on Sunday, June 18th around 10:30 PM. 

I wasn’t sure if it was actually the real deal at first—as usual, since I can never tell for sure until I’m much further into my birthing time. But I had some bleeding earlier in the night, and then my pressure waves were forming a fairly consistent pattern, coming about every 5-15 minutes and lasting about 45-60 seconds. For me, that is about as good of a pattern as I usually get until I’m in transition (the final stage of dilation), so I was optimistic. But the most promising sign that my birthing time was for sure in progress was the intensity of the waves. When I feel the need to use my hypnosis to stay comfortable, and when I start feeling like vocalizing during my waves, that’s when I usually know the time has come. And, by 1:30 AM, I was doing both. Still, I was anxious about calling my midwife too soon and wasting everybody’s time, let alone getting my own hopes up. So I pushed myself to wait until 2 AM to wake up RJ and have him call the midwife, Christy. 

At that point, I was as sure as I could be, so we got things rolling. RJ called Christy, who then started getting her things together to head over to us. Then he set up the birthing pool, made the bed, and made other necessary preparations while we waited for her. I continued to work through my waves, and was feeling good at that point. All of the kids were with us that night, but they were fast asleep throughout the beginning of my birthing time.

When Christy arrived, she set up all of the birth supplies and then checked my dilation, something we’d previously discussed. While I believe that there are pros and cons to cervical checks during birthing time, I decided to request them periodically because in the past they’ve given me encouragement about my progress. Unfortunately, for this birth, they were the opposite of encouraging! I don’t think that the checks caused me not to progress, but learning that I wasn’t progressing as fast as I’d hoped was discouraging, nevertheless. 

At my first check, I’d been in active birthing time for about four hours. I was expecting this birth to be at least as fast as my last one (which was only six hours), so I was hoping to be close to full dilation already. But, I was only at 3-4 CM! I was discouraged to hear that, considering that I was already about 4 CM when RJ had done my sweep earlier that night. Still, I had enough energy to feel optimistic that things could progress quickly from there. Soon after that, my midwife’s assistant Ana arrived. The cool story with Ana is that she was part of my prenatal care team throughout my pregnancy with Amelia—with a completely different midwife, in a different county! It felt like a crazy coincidence to find out that she is one of Christy’s assistant’s now (and is now a fully licensed midwife, rather than a student). And, since she didn’t end up attending Amelia’s birth, it was really cool to have her here for Finley’s. With her arrival, we were all ready for baby to come. We also called my mother-in-law, Marsha, to come over and take care of the kids later, around 6:30 AM.

As the hours passed by and my pressure waves began to increase in intensity, my energy level started to fade. I’d had no sleep whatsoever that night, and the waves were powerful. My hypnosis was not keeping me as comfortable as I would have hoped. So, a few hours after my first cervical check, I asked for another one and found I was about 6-7 CM. That felt like insanely slow progress to me, and that was the point where I began to feel I was close to reaching my limit. 

This process repeated, with another couple of hours of very intense waves followed by another desperate cervical check. I was still at about 7-8 CM, and at that point I knew I couldn’t go on. I needed to be fully dilated and start pushing, but I wasn’t there yet. Christy offered to break my water, but I wasn’t confident in that plan because typically when the water breaks, the waves become even more intense. If that happens when fully dilated, then great, because you can start pushing baby out! But, my fear was that having more intense waves at that point, before being fully dilated, would be more than I could take. I was already at my breaking point. 

I started asking seriously about transferring to the hospital. At that point, I was ready for help. I fantasized about having an epidural and Pitocin and finally getting Finley out—just like I had ended up doing for my first birth, with Cody. For me, it wasn’t the end of the world, and I knew it would be okay. I just wanted to be done.  

At first, RJ encouraged me to fight the impulse to go to the hospital. He knew that having a home birth was my preference, and he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just in my “I can’t go on” stage of birth, which I had warned him would happen. But we continued to discuss it and I was adamant that this was what I needed at that point. I could tell he was anxious about the change of plans, but he supported me. The midwife started making preparations to begin the transfer, and was about to call the hospital when I suddenly felt a pop. It was a sensation I had felt before and I announced that my water had just broken. 

Everybody asked what I wanted to do then and I said I had “no fucking idea,” with an exasperated laugh. It was a ridiculous situation. There was a chance I would be able to get to the hospital in time for an epidural to help me through any more waves, in the case of continuing active birthing waves for possibly hours longer. However, in my past births, after the water broke I was always pushing soon after. Pushing waves and the pushing process were much more manageable for me, and I knew it wouldn’t be worth it to have an epidural just for that. I decided to have yet another cervical check to confirm my water was broken, since there wasn’t a lot of liquid on the pad I’d been sitting on despite the popping sensation.

Christy checked me and said she could still feel the bag of waters, and that I was still at about 7-8 CM. I said something like, “oh, okay so that was just some bullshit then,” and reaffirmed that I wanted to go to the hospital. But, as I was laying on the bed moments later working through another agonizing wave, I felt an even bigger pop and a huge gush of water. Ana could see the water rushing out, and we knew then for sure that my water actually had broken that time. 

We all laughed at the situation, and I was asked yet again if I still wanted to go to the hospital. At that point, I knew I needed to see what the next wave felt like, but it was highly unlikely we were going anywhere. Within a few minutes, the pushing wave I felt confirmed it. “We’re not going to make it, he’s coming here,” I announced. 

I’d already decided to push him out on the bed, instead of in the pool, since the pool had stopped helping with my comfort level hours before. I moved to my hands and knees and started pushing with my waves. I could feel him moving down, and RJ and Christy could see the beginning of his head. These waves were much more manageable, as I expected, and the feeling of moving him down and closer to birth was so much more productive and encouraging, which gave me the energy to keep going. A couple of times, I pushed him further down in between waves, which I suspect sped up the process further.

After about 20 minutes of pushing, he went from partway down my birth canal to crowning to head out within a single wave. As with one of my previous births (Abigail), his head came out but the rest of him was a little stuck. This time, I was prepared and knew exactly what to do—Christy had even discussed with us the plan we would follow ahead of time, in this situation. She unwrapped his cord from around his neck, quickly assessed his position, had me put one leg up in a runner’s lunge, and hooked his shoulder to assist me pushing him out. It only took a minute, and he was born. I scooped him up into my arms and sat back to rest and savor the reward of my labor. He was out! It felt like a miracle. 

After that, recovery was pretty straightforward. I had a proactive shot of Pitocin, as requested ahead of time, which helped quickly to deliver the placenta and control my bleeding. I didn’t need a single stitch this time, which was great to hear. The midwives cleaned us up and cleaned up the room, and then we did the newborn exam and settled in to rest and recover.

Of course, we had to introduce all of the kids to their new baby brother! They all came in and took turns admiring him. After we cut the umbilical cord, they took turns holding him. Penny’s mom, Amber, had arrived by then to take Penny for the rest of the day and she was kind enough to cook us a meal and take her turn admiring the baby. Although Cory couldn’t be there because he was out of town, I felt a lot of healing vibes for our blended family that day. To have Cory’s mom and Penny’s mom there supporting us was a powerful moment for me, and it meant a lot. We may be unconventional, but we are all part of this extended family now and I love it. 

Since Finley’s birth, we’ve both been doing great. Recovery has been easy and comfortable so far (other than some very uncomfortable afterpains, which fortunately are getting less and less each day). Finley is a professional nurser, and has had no problems getting plenty of milk around the clock. His siblings all adore him, and we are settling in nicely as a family. 

As always, God was a huge source of comfort for me throughout my pregnancy and birth. While my relationship with God has changed a lot over the past couple of years, I know that the core of who God is, and who God is for me, is still the same. They are the source of my hope when everything else seems dark, and the light that guides me ahead into my future. As I venture into this next chapter of balancing a wild amount of things all at once, and the ups and downs that come with that, I know that I want to seek God more and more as a source of strength, joy, hope, and purpose in my life. I believe that They are the reason I will not only survive, but thrive in the challenging yet beautiful months and years ahead. 

I am thankful for my amazing and wonderful partner, RJ, who will soon be my husband. He is loving, supportive, capable, and the best life partner I could ask for to do all of this with. I am thankful for my four biological children (four! Four humans have come out of me! How crazy is that!) and also for my awesome bonus daughter. Penelope, Cody, Abigail, Amelia, and Finley—you are my purpose in life, and having the privilege of loving and caring for you is something I will always be thankful for. And, I am also very thankful for the support network I have been blessed with in this life. Finley has come into my life at a time when I have so much to be thankful for, and I am so happy to bring him into the world under these circumstances. 

As always, pregnancy and birth were an absolute beast. But, I survived! And, also as always, this baby was worth every moment. 

Welcome to the world, Finley James. You are so very loved.

The Male Maturity Continuum

In this day and age, the bar has been raised for men when it comes to maturity. I don’t mean maturity in terms of outdated gender-stereotyped characteristics. Men of today are beginning to be held to a higher standard, and judged when they don’t meet it. Being “manly” no longer means acting tough, masking vulnerability, making displays of strength, or being catered to by others (especially women). Instead, men today are expected to be emotionally intelligent, competent at household chores, capable caregivers, responsible, and kind.

The changing expectations of men are revealing more and more of a creature popularly known as the “man-child.” Because we now expect more of men, it seems we are discovering that many men are in fact not fully grown to maturity in a number of ways. They are, sadly, stuck in a child-like stage of development. 

My theory is that there are in fact three general stages of male maturity, and the man-child is unfortunately not the worst of them. While grown-ass men are the gold standard of what we can hope for, there are still a frighteningly large number of men who fall far below that standard. Sometimes, man-child is not accurate—enter, the man-baby. 

Man-baby, man-child, and grown-ass man have several very important distinctions. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Areas of comparison will include emotional maturity, contribution to the home and childcare when applicable, conflict resolution skills, and overall competence in life. 

Man-baby is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to all of these areas. First of all, he doesn’t understand feelings. He either thinks they are silly and beneath him, pretending to have none whatsoever, or he believes that his feelings are of the utmost importance above the feelings of all others. When man-baby is upset, he throws tantrums. Sometimes, these tantrums can be silent, but don’t be mistaken. Refusing to communicate feelings is man-baby behavior, and giving the silent treatment is arguably no better than a full blown tantrum with shouting, crying, making threats, using unkind words, and maybe even throwing things. 

Man-child is more mature with his feelings than man-baby, but he still hasn’t reached his full potential. He may have smaller tantrums, or shorter-lived periods of giving the silent treatment. But man-child is different, because he catches himself in these moments of weakness (which most of us have from time to time—nobody is perfect!), and he course-corrects. Man-child is working on himself, and learning to be better.

Grown-ass man isn’t perfect either, of course. But he is emotionally mature and self-aware enough that he doesn’t fall into child-like behaviors during times of emotional stress. He uses healthy coping strategies and good communication, and he genuinely considers and cares about the feelings of others. 

Contribution to household chores and childcare, when applicable, is possibly the easiest area to spot the differences between the man-baby, man-child, and grown-ass man. Man-baby does not do chores—it is as simple as that. If asked to do a chore, in fact, he will be offended and liable to throw a tantrum. He will mansplain why he shouldn’t be expected to cook or clean or manage the home in any way, because he works outside of the home. He doesn’t understand that work inside the home is just as taxing, and often requires more time and energy. If he has a partner who works outside the home as well, he seems to disregard that and insist that household chores are “women’s work.” He is entitled, spoiled, and often ungrateful for his partner’s contributions. 

When it comes to childcare, man-baby is of no use. He is a baby himself, so he could not and should not be expected to care for children with any level of competence. Not only would he be unwilling to do so, but even if he were, it would not be a safe situation for the child. He would likely get distracted by video games, decide to take a nap, or otherwise neglect to care for the basic needs and safety of any child in his care. 

Man-child is a big improvement over man-baby when it comes to sharing a home. He doesn’t do chores on his own; that would require taking independent and equal responsibility for home management, which he still doesn’t do. But, when asked, man-child will usually help. He may at times have a bit of an attitude about it; he may complain that he’s tired, or sigh and groan, or simply “forget” to do what he’s been asked. Still, he is willing to help out, and that is better than nothing. 

He also is willing to help out with the children when necessary. He will babysit, step in to discipline at times, and be a present and significant part of special family moments. He doesn’t usually complain about these duties, because he knows that he chose to become a father and that these tasks come with the territory. Like all parents, of course, he does get worn out and understands that parenting is often times exhausting—but his understanding of this exhaustion is nowhere near as deep as his partner’s, since they are still the one handling the brunt of the childcare duties. 

Grown-ass man is once again the higher standard here. He doesn’t wait for his partner to ask him to “help” with chores. He doesn’t see it as “helping” at all, because he knows that he is equally responsibly for household chores. He is simply doing his part, and he doesn’t need to be managed by his partner like a child needs to be managed by their parent. Grown-ass man takes an enormous burden from his partner—not just the burden of doing endless chores, but the mental burden of single-handedly managing a home.

As a father, grown-ass man is an equal partner. He may or may not be the primary caregiver during the workday, depending on whether his partner works and what their family dynamic is, but in any case he is still a primary caregiver to his children because he is a fully invested parent. If he works outside of the home (figuratively or literally), he doesn’t finish work and then expect a “break” before assuming childcare duties. He knows that parenting is a full-time job, and he jumps right in. He is equally competent with his partner at all parenting responsibilities. He changes diapers without a second thought, kisses boo-boos, and talks about feelings with his kids. Grown-ass man is not just a glorified sperm donor like man-baby, or a babysitter like man-child. Grown-ass man is Dad. 

In conflict resolution, man-baby is pathetic. He doesn’t listen to other’s points of view or give them any consideration. He doesn’t communicate clearly, or sometimes at all. He believes it should be his way or the highway. Nobody wants to be stuck in a relationship with man-baby. 

Man-child is an improvement. He can still be often unreasonable and insensitive, and his communication skills are frequently lacking. But, he is once again learning. He realizes his mistakes (with help, sometimes), and he is capable of apologizing and trying to do better next time. When he has a problem that he would like his partner to address, he is able to bring it up in a way that is sensitive and constructive—eventually. His first attempts might be less than ideal.

Grown-ass man is a great communicator, empathetic, and open-minded. He doesn’t insist on his own way with things, and he truly cares more about his relationships than his process. He apologizes when he makes mistakes, and he advocates for himself in ways that are both assertive and kind. When his partner has a concern, he fully invests himself into his role of supporting them in whatever way is needed. 

Lastly, we can compare the men on this continuum in terms of their general competence in life. 

It comes as no surprise that man-baby is severely incompetent. Not only is he unwilling to contribute to the care of others, but he is incapable of even caring for himself. He expects others to do everything for him, and he doesn’t know the first thing about basic life skills. 

Of course, man-child isn’t as far from the mark as that. He possesses some life skills, especially in areas where he has been taught by others. Any skills that have been required of him for his job or basic functioning in life are present and in good working order. Skills that he hasn’t been required to learn, however, are lacking. He doesn’t take initiative to learn new things, or improve himself. And, even in areas where he is competent, he would rather let others do things for him when possible. 

Grown-ass man goes out of his way to learn new things, improve his competence, and become a more well-rounded person. He is good at many things, and not just things perceived as “masculine” activities. He knows how to handle himself in life, from his career to his finances to his relationships and beyond. He is a fully-functional adult. 

Now, while these stages of development are fairly easy to distinguish between, it is important to note that most men don’t fall into only one stage. Men can have times where they regress to man-baby and times when they act like the grown-ass men they biologically are. They can also have some areas in which they are total man-babies, but other areas where they are remarkably grown-ass.

And, to be fair, this spectrum of maturity is not limited to men. Women and non-binary people all have varying levels of maturity in various areas of their lives. It’s just fun to point out these challenges in men because, well, in our highly patriarchal society, men have so many unfair advantages and are often given so much more slack than women are that it can be therapeutic in a way to take them down a peg. Basically, as a woman, I am expected to be fully-grown as a general rule—yet men are often not treated this same way. It’s time to call out the man-babies and man-children. It’s time to ask for better. 

If you are a grown-ass man, then I know you know that you don’t deserve a gold medal for this. But even so, I do want to thank you. Because you are exhibiting a new, higher standard for men everywhere, and the more of you that are out there, the less we will have to put up with the men who aren’t meeting that standard. So thanks, and keep up the good work!  

If you are a man-baby, I don’t think you will have read this. You may not even know how to read. And if you do, I suspect, you find it to be a boring or unmanly activity. But if by some miracle you have read this, I know it is highly likely you are now extremely offended and probably defensive. But the truth is, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Just stop being a man-baby and act your age, alright? You’ll do a lot better in life that way.

Lastly, if you are a man-child, I want to congratulate you on progressing past infancy, and encourage you to continue your journey into maturity. Keep improving. It’s time to finish growing up! You can do it. 

Things I Thought I Knew

In 2020, I was pregnant with my daughter Amelia. It was my fourth pregnancy, but my third baby (my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage). Cory and I had our doubts about whether we should even get pregnant again, because we already had a son and a daughter, and our family felt like it could be complete at that. But, some part of me didn’t feel done, and we ultimately decided to go ahead and have a third kiddo. We’re both so glad that we did, because life is better with Mia in it! 

Throughout that pregnancy, though, as I suffered through my typical pregnancy sickness and heartburn and general discomfort, I vowed many times that it would be my last pregnancy. I felt very confident and at peace with that decision, and so did Cory. During Amelia’s birth, I vowed “never again.” After she was born, I started seriously considering adoption, which I saw as our only path to adding another child to our family one day. Cory and I weren’t sure if that’s what we even wanted, but we did know that getting pregnant again was not on the table for us.

So many times, I said that that pregnancy was my last. And I really meant it. So then how is it that I find myself here, three years later, pregnant with my fourth child? 

Well, as it turns out, there are the plans we make and then there are the plans that God makes for us. Or, if you prefer, there are more potential futures for us than we can ever really know. Sometimes our path in life changes dramatically in ways we could never have imagined or foreseen. That’s basically what happened to me. 

Now obviously, it wasn’t all just “fate.” I made choices, and those choices are what led to me being pregnant right now. I don’t regret it—I am thrilled to be having another baby, and this time, another boy! Finley is very much wanted. 

But looking back, it’s funny to see all the things I wrote and truly believed at the time. 

By the time Amelia turned one, my life was already beginning to change dramatically. Cory and I had opened our marriage to polyamory, and I had fallen in love with a new partner, RJ. Only a few months later, Cory and I decided to end our marriage. 

Divorce was always something that I believed wholeheartedly would never happen to me. I was determined to make my marriage last. It was practically my biggest life goal since I was a little girl—and yet, here I am now, divorced. So how did that happen?

Well basically, I realized that I wasn’t in love anymore. And while I always believed that love was a choice, and I could have continued to love Cory as my husband if I was determined to, the change was that I was no longer determined to. I realized that there was more available to me—more passion, excitement, and romance. I realized that sex didn’t have to feel like an obligation or something that made me feel icky. I realized that I could choose whatever I wanted to in life, and I could change my mind about things (even big things), and that it was okay to do that. I realized that divorce didn’t have to be a negative thing. For me and Cory, it wasn’t. 

Really, giving myself the freedom to choose and change all started with my religious deconstruction. Because my beliefs about God and the Bible and church were my bedrock. Yet, I was able to change those! If I could change those, then what else couldn’t I change? Everything was a possibility at that point. 

And so it happened like a chain reaction. I deconstructed my faith. That allowed me to become polyamorous, something that I feel was always a dormant part of me. Being poly allowed me to understand how I really felt about Cory, and it introduced me to RJ. Being with RJ changed how I felt about having another baby. Which has led to me here and now: unchurched, spiritually questioning, divorced, and pregnant again. If someone had told me a few years ago that this is where I’d be, I wouldn’t have believed them.

So, what do I believe now? The truth is, I’m still trying to figure that out. 

I still believe in God. I don’t believe that God is a male—how ridiculous of us to put God in a box so small as gender! I believe God is our creator (through scientific means, not magic). I believe God is good, and present to those who seek, and powerful, and mysterious. I believe God is everywhere and in everything good, and that God goes by many names. 

I was taught to believe that the God of the Bible is the only true God, and that he can only be known through believing in Jesus. Yet, I found myself unable to believe that a good and loving God could refuse to be in a relationship with anybody who didn’t guess correctly out of a vast number of options for religious and spiritual “truth.” 

I was raised as a Christian, but what if I had been raised Hindu, or Jewish, or Muslim, or Atheist? How could I be reasonably expected to believe that Christianity was the truth while my own religious foundation was made up? Even more ridiculous to me was the idea that one had to be the right type of Christian to find salvation—Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah’s witnesses were out, and even some types of Protestants weren’t quite on the right track to be certain of their eternal fate (according to my Evangelical background, that is). 

I began to ask myself, could it really be true that a good and loving God would condemn people who believe differently to an eternity in Hell? There is so much context behind what a person believes or doesn’t believe. And why, in the first place, is it even necessary for us to be saved by Jesus? Simply because we’re not perfect? Being perfect is impossible! How can we be punished for not doing the impossible? For me, it was equally impossible to make sense of all of that.

Beyond my theological concerns, there were my objections to the teachings and practices of the church as a whole. The sexism, homophobia, ableism, and nationalism that are taught and encouraged within the church; and the ignorant and irresponsible responses to huge social issues like COVID, gun violence, racism, and sexual assault were all huge problems for me. The weight of these social issues and the church’s role in them became too heavy, and I had to leave. 

I have spent over a year now not being a part of any church, and not having really any spiritual practices in my life at all. I guess I needed a break to sort everything out. But now, I am at the end of my deconstruction period and beginning to feel ready to rebuild something spiritual in my life. I may even start going to church again—but if I do, it will be a church that is progressive and therefore in line with my own moral compass, rather than aggressively opposing it. 

Anyway. My point with all of this is that there are things that I thought I knew, and as it turns out, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. If anything, the past couple of years have taught me that nothing in life is certain or permanent. Things change, and we change, and that’s just life. We can all only do our best with what we know at any given time. 

My life has changed so much, and truthfully there are times when I still mourn for my previous life. I had a good thing going. Everything felt certain and settled and neat. I didn’t feel adrift in a sea of unknowns, wondering how I got there and where the hell I was going.

But I know that I can never go back to that life. For better or worse, I am on a different path now. I am doing my best to live a life that has purpose, love, and joy woven throughout it. Does it always feel that way? No. Especially not when I’m in the middle of an ongoing depression and an uncomfortable pregnancy. Nevertheless, that is my goal and I am doing my best, which is all any of us can do. 

A Look Back at 2022

Last year brought more unexpected changes to my life than any year I can remember. My family, my pets, my home, my location, my future plans—they all changed drastically this past year. It’s been a lot. And for me, the queen of change, that is really saying something. 

Let’s dive in. 

In January, I was still, technically, polyamorous. I was married to Cory and living at home with him and the kids, while dating RJ. But RJ and I were making plans for a more serious future together. We were seeing each other about every other day, despite the hour and a half commute between us. What our future together looked like was very much up in the air, but I knew that I wanted to live with him and I was hoping that Cory would be amenable to having him move in with us. 

Meanwhile, Cory and I were still trying to figure out ourselves and what we wanted our marriage to be. And unfortunately, he wasn’t ready to invite RJ into our family and didn’t know if he ever would be. Because of this, along with many other factors, Cory and I officially decided to end our romantic relationship. 

Soon after, RJ asked me to be his nesting partner—even though he wasn’t ready to make that a reality, yet, he knew he wanted that someday. His marriage was ending, and the future he saw was one with me as his life partner. But his separation and divorce process was much more tumultuous than mine, and he hadn’t yet made any official moves to get that started.  

For me, watching the toxic environment of his home life was painful. At the same time, I felt a need to gain more independence in my own life and I felt it was time for me to move out. I could only do so financially if RJ moved in with me, but I knew I could scrape together the money to live on my own for a couple of months while RJ got things situated on his end. More than anything, I wanted to give him a safe and happy place to live, and I acted with my typical speed on that goal. By the end of the month, I was in my new apartment and hoping that RJ would join me there soon. 

Not living with my children was a huge transition for me, but I was determined to stay positive. I chose an apartment only 10 minutes away from the house, and began setting it up so that the kids could stay the night there with me a few nights each week. I also designed my schedule so that I spent a lot of time at the house. I wanted the kids to feel that we were still a family, and I didn’t want the changes to make them sad or feel stressed. 

Looking back on those months, it is honestly hard to write about. At the time, I was focused on finding a life for myself that was happy, while still trying to ensure that my kids were happy too. But a year later, I find myself worrying about what I have taken away from my kids, and how it will affect them for the rest of their lives—that’s something that is hard to live with. 

One thing I do know is that at the time, I was doing the best I could. And, on a happier note, January is when I met and adopted my dog, Pepper. She quickly became my close companion and emotional support animal.

In February, I was briefly employed as a social media poster on a small startup platform, which I very much enjoyed. Unfortunately, the job was temporary and didn’t lead to a longer-term position. I spent most of that month setting up my apartment and settling into my new routines, as well as continuing to drive back and forth to see RJ several times each week. 

That month, Cory and I also decided to dog-swap with my parents. As weird as that sounds, it was the right decision for us! Our puppy Moosey was too much for us to handle, and their older dog Buddy was no longer a great fit for their more active, traveling lifestyle. We happily took Buddy and gave them Moosey, which has been a positive change for everyone. Buddy is wonderful, and probably the most gentle, patient dog with the kids that I’ve ever known. Even though he isn’t mine—he technically belongs to Cory now—I still love and care for him very much. And Moosey is also very happy in his new home!

Sometime early in the year, Cory also got a roommate when he started renting out the spare room to a friend of my brother’s named Dean. He has a daughter who is a year younger than Abi, named Odessa, and they both became a part of our extended family throughout the past year. My kids have loved having Odessa around and playing with her just like they would a younger sister. 

In March, RJ moved in with me—but the defining moment of this was actually quite murky. He started spending more and more nights at the apartment and bringing more and more of his stuff there, but there wasn’t one day where he officially moved in. He started contributing to rent that month, so that’s when I consider him “moved in.” In March, we also got our second cockatiel, Eevee. Pikachu was very happy to have a new friend!

In April, nothing much was going on with me from an outside perspective. But emotionally it was a very challenging time for me. RJ and I were going through the beginnings of a very rocky stage in our relationship, and I was suffering from severe depression. I decided to start therapy (again), and for the first time I also started taking antidepressants. Their effectiveness, for me, wasn’t exactly obvious—but they didn’t not help, so I continued on them until I became pregnant and decided that the potential risks didn’t outweigh the benefits for me. For the first time in my life, though, I found a therapist who I can confidently say is helping me. I have continued to see her, and am very thankful for her. 

In May, RJ and I went on a trip to Las Vegas. We wanted to do something special and romantic to celebrate our commitment to each other, but since we weren’t divorced yet, we settled on a wedding-like commitment ceremony. We kept it just between us, but it was very meaningful even so. That month, RJ and I also took all the kids camping one weekend, and Cory joined us. That was significant to me because it was the beginning of our family truly blending together.

In June, I brought home my first foster kittens, who I named Gremlin and Scout. Gremlin was ugly and hairless, but very sweet. Within a few weeks, she started growing her hair back, and then within a few months she became a beautiful gray cat with a lovely coat of long, soft fur. We changed her name to Remi, and adopted both her and her brother. They are very sweet, well-mannered kitties.

In July, RJ’s daughter Penny turned 9. I also celebrated my birthday that month, and after turning 30 years old, I made a poor life decision and brought home a litter of four more foster kittens—who I was determined, at first, not to adopt. But alas, each kitten was claimed by one of our children as their own. And, after bottle-feeding them and nurturing them back to health for several weeks, we were all attached. I admitted defeat and we adopted those four, as well. Their names our Peanut, Milo, Dusty, and Stormy. Because of them, I have six cats. (For the record, Leo is also still around! He belongs to Cory now, though.) They are very friendly and sweet—but they are also extremely mischievous, and it can be quite stressful managing them at times. 

July was a particularly difficult month for my relationship with RJ. After spending most of our relationship up to that point being monogamous, we decided to revisit the possibility of being polyamorous again. After all, to me, being poly was a big part of my identity and something I wasn’t ready to give up. Unfortunately, since meeting me, RJ no longer felt that being poly was a part of his identity. For him, monogamy had become non-negotiable. We struggled with the issue for weeks, and our relationship barely survived. Ultimately, I chose to stay with RJ and give up poly, but the damage to our partnership was severe and we spent the next several months in couple’s therapy working through that as well as other issues that came up throughout the rest of the year. 

In August, Cody and Abi started school for the first time. Cody went into second grade, after being homeschooled up until then, and Abigail started Transitional Kindergarten (TK). They have thrived throughout this school year, and it has been a very positive change for them—and for me! Having the pressure of homeschooling taken off of me has been a big relief. In August, RJ and I also took a trip to visit my parents and he met them for the first time, which went well. At the end of the month, Cory turned 30. 

In September, Abi turned five and RJ turned 29, and we unknowingly conceived our baby, Finley. Also sometime around that month, Cory’s roommate Dean started dating a woman named Kendall, who has a toddler-aged son named Kaiser. They started to spend time in the house a lot, and it was always fun to have them around. Our blended-extended family was growing!

October was a big month. I found out I was pregnant, which (as already stated) was unplanned, but not unwelcome. It was shocking to me since I’ve never gotten pregnant unintentionally before. It was also well before our planned timeline for having a baby (which we did want to do, eventually). Nevertheless, we were still happy about the news. We decided on the name Finley right away. In October, we celebrated more birthdays as Cody turned 8 and Mia turned 2.

Much less happy events also happened in October, unfortunately. My dog Macy started attacking Buddy, unprovoked—and she caused serious damage to both him and Cory when he intervened. The first attack actually happened in July, but we thought it was a one-time thing until it happened two more times in October. That was the point at which we decided we had no choice but to put Macy down. We’d already attempted to rehome her, searching for over a month with no takers. After that, we put her in a board-and-train program for aggression rehabilitation, and the results seemed promising—until the next attack happened. 

We knew that it was likely that any future home would be unprepared for her aggressive behavior, even if we warned them, because she was so incredibly sweet most of the time towards both people and other dogs. Her attacks were unpredictable and vicious. We knew that the safest thing for her and everybody else was to end her life in the most peaceful and humane way possible. It was a horrible decision to have to make, and a horrible thing to have to do. I miss her very much.

The silver lining is that Buddy has made a full recovery from his injuries and is much happier and carefree now. He will be able to live out the rest of his years in peace and safety. Cory has unfortunately suffered permanent damage to his hand from being bitten, and Cody experienced emotional trauma from witnessing the attack and losing a pet he loved very much for a tragic reason. So I couldn’t say that the events were all for the best, not by a long shot. All I can say, confidently, is that I believe we did the right thing. And it wasn’t Macy’s fault. She didn’t deserve to die. It was simply the only safe choice for everyone involved. Part of me believes that she may have had a neurological problem that we could not detect, because her aggression was completely out of the blue when it happened. But whatever the reason, she was still a good dog and I will always love her. 

In November, RJ and Cory and I took all of the kids on a road trip to the snow. We had a great time! Then we came home and had Thanksgiving, which was also lots of fun. We were able to enjoy our delicious feast this year as a blended family, including our extended-roommate-family—six kids in all! It was a special Thanksgiving this year, which I will always cherish. 

In December, RJ and I, as well as Cory and the kids, all moved back to Orange County. It was a decision we’d all made together months before—Cory’s idea, and RJ’s eager request after I told him about it. Being able to live near his daughter again has been a dream come true for RJ. Moving over an hour away from her was extremely difficult for him, and I know that both him and Penny are much happier now. Cory is also very happy to be able to spend more time with his parents and brother, as well as have a stronger support network as a single dad. 

For me, the move was emotionally and physically challenging. Since about five weeks into my pregnancy, my nausea has been in effect in full force. Handling a move while managing pregnancy sickness was no easy task. In addition, the city that I left was the city that I chose and loved for the past 10+ years. Leaving it was hard for me, and I will probably always miss it. It felt like home.

Nevertheless, I knew that moving was the right choice for everybody else, and the importance of me being in the city I prefer pales in comparison to the importance of RJ being close to Penny and Cory being close to his family. I will adjust to being back in the place where I grew up, and I’m sure I will learn to love it. It may not feel like home yet, exactly, but at least it’s familiar. 

On Christmas Day, RJ finally (officially) asked me to marry him. While we were already planning on getting married, and have discussed it in detail many times as well as picked out our rings, I was still waiting for the “formal” proposal. He asked, and I said yes, and we exchanged rings. So now I can call him my fiancé—yay!   

Last but not least, to end the year with a bang, I had to make one final questionable life decision; get a puppy! RJ and I brought home a tiny 1 ½ pound Chihuahua puppy and named him Nugget. He has been a joy, and I am so glad we decided to get him. (Despite the fact that I already felt at-capacity with pets… I got that puppy fever and gave into it. Fortunately, he’s been a positive addition to our family.)

We closed the year with a party, which was also our first time spending intentional time with RJ’s ex-wife and her girlfriend. The relationship between RJ and Amber (and myself) has been difficult over the past year, but I think we all want to build something more harmonious for the future. And we started that off at a perfect time—celebrating the New Year together, and hopefully, the beginning of a new, more positive year ahead. 

Honestly, 2022 was a hard year for me. I experienced a depth of depression that I haven’t been to since I was a teenager, and it’s something I’m still wading through and trying to pull myself out of. My relationship with RJ has been anything but easy, and many of the changes in my life recently have been stressful and emotionally difficult. 

This was a year in which I made a lot of big decisions, doing my best to make sure they were the right ones. And yet, so many times I’ve looked back and felt that somehow, they were all wrong. Worse, it has felt like any decision would have been wrong. I’ve felt trapped, confused, broken, and stupid. I’ve felt that I have ruined everything. It is a good time for a new year, for me—clearly, I need a fresh start. 

But you know, that’s the thing about the New Year. The date on the calendar changes, yes… but it isn’t magic. Everything is still the same as it was before the clock struck midnight. So while, for some people, celebrating New Year’s fills them with a sense of hope and optimism, for me there is also a sense of defeat. If every choice I make is wrong, what good is a new year? It’s just one more thing for me to fuck up. 

On the other hand, I’m still here. I’m alive, and I have a lot to stay that way for. All I can do is my best, and keep moving forward. And so in that spirit, I have set some goals for the year. My focus is on bringing Finley into the world, taking care of my family, and hopefully, finding some peace for myself. (And maybe, just maybe, trying to avoid making any more changes or big decisions for a good long while.) I am hoping that 2023 is a better year than the last.  

Welcome to IDoNowWhat-Gram

I’ve recently decided to get off of social media. One of the big reasons is that social media has a toxic culture, in my opinion, of comparison and competition. Seeing how everyone else’s life looks from the outside (which is not a realistic representation of everyday life anyway,) can cause one’s own life to look a little less shiny in comparison. While I didn’t necessarily see this happening to me, I could see how subconsciously it might affect me negatively without me realizing it.

The main reason I decided to ditch Facebook and Instagram, though, is that I’ve made so many drastic changes in my life over the past year, and to be honest, I don’t really feel like explaining all of those changes to people who aren’t genuinely part of my life outside of social media.

Over the past year, I deconstructed my faith and left the Evangelical Christian Church. Cory and I opened our marriage, and ultimately decided to separate when we discovered that we weren’t romantically attracted to each other anymore. I’ve moved out, and Cory and I have transitioned to a friendly, supportive, and loving co-parenting relationship.

I also met and fell in love with someone else. RJ is someone who came into my life like a wrecking ball (in the best way). It was fireworks and a deep connection from the start, and he immediately became an extremely important part of my life. He is now my boyfriend and nesting partner, and we are making plans for our future together.

So to be genuine about who I am now and what my life is like would be a big shock to many people on my social media accounts—yet those people aren’t truly part of my life enough for me to take the time to tell them about what’s been going on with me in a more personal way. The people who are in my life know about these things already, so what’s the point?

I decided that it would be easier to just walk away from those platforms. But now, I’m finding myself with the urge to still post my favorite pictures and memories of my day-to-day life and special moments, and I have nowhere to do that. So, even though only a few people ever read this, I’m going to start doing that here. I like to be able to look back at the things I wrote—and now the pictures I’ll post here. Every month, I’ll do a photo dump and maybe write a little bit about the things I’ve been up to.

For this first post, since it’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to post on Instagram, I will do a photo dump from the past several months. 🙂 Enjoy!