What the Ocean Said

March 25, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
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The ocean waves were crashing at our feet, but my friends and I were more interested in the gifts those waves offered.

Each rush of salt water provided another message from the sea. To the average observer, the ocean was giving us shells that had been beaten down into in all shapes, sizes and states of disrepair.

But we knew better.

We knew that Mother Nature was sharing her secrets.shells

My friend Sara got a message as she searched for shells with shades of purple. The shape and size didn’t matter. Color speaks to Sara, and the ocean understands that we all find beauty in different ways. That’s why it provided her with shells with streaks of purple, spots of purple and just a hint of color.  The ocean knows that when we truly look for it, we can find beauty no matter where it is hidden.

My friend Betty got another message as she picked up shells for her yard and garden. Even though she’s already collected hundreds of shells for outdoor decorations, there is always room for more.  Each shell has the potential to fit into its own find its unique space.  None of the shells are perfect and many aren’t even considered attractive by most people, but collectively they make the world a more beautiful place. The ocean knows that is true for all of God’s creations.

My friend Venetta heard the ocean whispering to her as she sought shells with interesting textures. Some shells are rough with knots while others are as smooth as glass. Some resemble the shape they carried through most of their life while others look nothing like they once did. Some appear untouched by the ocean while others seem worn down. The ocean reminds us that none of us can control all the circumstances in our life, but we can control our responses. The ocean knows those responses will continue to shape us throughout our lives.

While my friends were looking for shells, I was thinking about the sand. Each grain was once a shell that has been broken into tiny pieces. One grain of sand generally goes unnoticed, but millions of grains of sand create vast beaches of exceptional beauty.

The ocean knows that we often don’t notice what is hidden in plain sight. We don’t see our child’s classmate who is struggling to read has a gift for music; we don’t realize that the neighbor kid is shooting baskets until midnight because his parents are fighting inside the house; we don’t recognize the quiet girl who would have strong opinions if only someone encouraged her to speak out; and we give little thought to the fact that a pregnant teen is carrying the future inside of  her. As individuals, these people may only make a small difference in the world. But when their skills, gifts and knowledge are supported by others, we can collectively make the world more like a beach – a place of exceptional beauty that everyone can appreciate.

That’s what the ocean said to me.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Flights and crying babies

March 23, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
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As I sat in my compact aisle seat, turning my phone on airplane mode, I heard it – the cries of a baby. And this one was producing shrieks so high and shrill they were previously thought impossible for human ears to detect. I heard heavy sighs and mumbles around me from passengers, lamenting their bad luck to be stuck on a plane with a baby.

That day’s plane ride ended up going fairly well. The baby only shrieked at the beginning and end of the flight. I was headed out of town for work, and was already missing my own little one. I was thankful the baby behaved well – not because I shared the same exasperated feelings as my fellow travelers, but because my own defenses were unnecessarily built up. I had prepared myself for one of my neighbors to make a sly comment about that baby or her momma, and I was ready to stand up for that mother in any way I could.

I know I am in the minority in my view on this topic, but crying babies (or toddlers) on planes do not bother me. Yes, there has been a time or two when a particularly horrific tantrum has set me on edge, but I try to hide it, because I don’t believe in being rude about babies on planes. Here’s why:

First of all, empathy is a marvelous thing, and showing some can help us be more understanding when we hear those cries. There are at least two people who need empathy in this situation: the baby, and his or her parent(s). In the experience relayed above, we were on a 7 a.m. flight. I asked myself: how many people are sitting on this flight, grumpy, tired, and/or going on a trip they’d rather not take? We all get a little cranky by the time we get on the plane, and babies are no exception. A crying baby is no worse than the rest of us, we as adults just keep our grievances silent (or, worse than crying, we sometimes take our grievances out on those around us).

Second, the mom, dad or whoever is with said baby deserves some empathy. I know some people think they would put a stop to such “bad” behavior, but I’ve never pretended I would know what to do with a screaming toddler. And anyone that is judging and has young children of his or her own…that’s just asking for bad karma. I know it’s not always the case, but I believe most parents are trying everything they can to keep their child calm, and it’s not like they can walk to another room.

Others might think that parents who know their child will not do well should not take them on a flight. Many may assume that if someone is on a flight with a child, they are going on vacation. That is far from true. I’ve learned that people fly for business, for pleasure, for duties and because of tragedies. You never know when someone is flying to bury a relative, or visit a sick friend. BUT, say those parents ARE going on vacation – families can take vacations that require flights too, and shouldn’t have to think about whether or not it inconveniences someone else.

And that brings me to my third and final point. Flying, while expensive, is a form of public transportation. And public transportation is not ideal when it comes to comfort or privacy. Flying comes with many inconveniences, all of which can be avoided by seeking alternate transportation.

I have not taken my baby on a plane yet. When the time comes, yes I will be stressed out. Yes, I will care what other people will think. And yes, I will expect people to get annoyed, and even make comments, if she starts to cry (see comment above – the price to pay for taking public transportation). But you won’t find me passing out candy and headphones to everyone on the plane. I’ll try my best to keep my child calm and happy, and if she throws a tantrum, I will be the most upset person on the flight. Those thoughts are what help me remain calm when I hear the cries of someone else’s baby on a plane.

The Personality Test

March 18, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
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I was feeling a bit stressed when my cell phone buzzed.

I gave it a brief glance thinking I wouldn’t answer. Then I noted that my 13-year old daughter was calling.

The clock showed 2:45, and she normally doesn’t call as soon as school lets out. I knew something had happened.

In that short span of time between noticing the caller i.d. and actually answering the phone,  I racked my brain for what I had, or hadn’t, done that had caused my latest parenting fail.

I expected drama on the other end of the phone. Instead, I got excitement.

My daughter was actually bubbling over with enthusiasm.

“Mom, she said, “we took a personality test in class today, and I’m an INFJ.”

She then regaled me with the positive and negative traits of her personality.

I was impressed. She WAS describing herself.

When she finally took a breath, she asked, “What are you?”

While I’ve taken the Myers Briggs test on more than one occasion, I couldn’t answer her question.

“I don’t know.” I said.

She was silent for a moment then said, “I thought you’d taken this test before.”

“It’s complicated,” I said.

I thought that put the matter to rest, but as soon as I said goodbye, my phone started buzzing again.

This time, I was receiving a text message from my husband.

“Your daughter and I are diplomats and your son is a virtuoso. Me – INFP; S- ISTP; K – INFJ.”

Despite my busy day at work, I felt compelled to text back.

“You bunch of introverts,” I replied.

My husband’s response was  predictable.

“What are you?”

I responded. “I forget.”

Here’s the thing. I hadn’t necessarily forgotten, I simply didn’t know.

On each occasion I’ve taken the Myers Briggs personality test, I’ve gotten a different answer.

That isn’t supposed to happen.

Personalities are supposed to be as stable as DNA. People are who they are. At least, they are who they are except for me.

While some people might think my inability to hold on to a defined personality means I’m unbalanced, I prefer to think that I’m a complicated individual who has a difficult time answering a question in a concrete manner.

There’s  always an “it depends.” It depends on the situation. It depends on my mood. Mostly, it depends on how much attention I’m actually paying to the questions being asked.  My mind has a tendency to wander when it comes to details.

My family wanted the details about my personality anyway.

I hadn’t even closed the garage door after arriving home from work when my daughter was already thrusting the computer at me. She insisted that I once again take the test.

As I did, she sat perched by my shoulder commenting on every answer.

The Question: “You usually think a lot before you speak.”

Me:” Disagree somewhat”

My daughter: “STRONGLY DISAGREE”

The Question: “You do not let your emotions show, even with close friends.”

Me: (I don’t have time to answer before my daughter yells).

My daughter: STRONGLY, STRONGLY, STRONGLY DISAGREE.

I began to think my daughter should just take the test for me, but instead we forged on together.

Later, I went back and took the test by myself. The result was the same.

For the moment, I’m an ENFP (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving). Apparently, that  means I have “extraverted intuition with introverted feeling.”

I have absolutely no idea what that means.

I’m hoping my daughter, the INFJ (the Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging) can explain it to me.

If not, I may just have to continue to stumble through life just being myself.

That has, after all, worked fairly well for the past 48 years.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The fun stage of baby

March 16, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
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AJ turned 7 months old last week and we’ve officially entered what I consider to be “the fun stage.” The last couple months have been downright fun. She’s grown from an infant into a real baby; a little human being with her own distinctive personality.7 months

As I’m writing this post, she’s sitting on our living room rug, “talking” to herself, looking at her hands, and rocking back and forth on all fours. Any day now she will take off across the floor. Just in the last two weeks, I’ve watched her learn to move to things out of her reach, usually through a combination of scooting, rolling and army crawling.

Everyone has his or her favorite stage of “baby;” for me things keep getting better the older AJ gets. The newborn stage was wonderful in its own way, but it also was challenging, emotional, exhausting and overwhelming. A newborn baby does almost nothing yet needs constant care. And, because of the traumatic experience of childbirth added with the never-ending cycle of sleepless nights, I felt like a shell of my real self.

Now, at 7 months, motherhood is still challenging, emotional, exhausting and sometimes overwhelming, but I’ve gotten more used to my new life. I feel like myself again. AJ still needs constant care, she’s a baby after all, but she is responsive, appreciative and loving.

A baby around this age starts reaching some of the really fun developmental milestones, physically, mentally and socially, which means every day brings something new and exciting. This is around the time when babies learn to crawl, pull up and sit on their own. It’s when they start to form syllables that will turn into words. It’s when they start eating food and learn to drink from a sippy cup.

Although AJ certainly can’t talk, and my dreams of teaching her baby sign language have been pretty much abandoned, she communicates with us. She changes her facial expression to show she’s happy to see us. She puts her arms out for us to pick her up. She bangs the tray on her high chair when she wants more food. She knows her name and (I think) is starting to learn other words.

And she LOVES to play. I had no idea how much fun playing with a baby could be. She wants to explore everything. You can see her mind working through the concentration on her face.

This stage does come with new challenges. I worry about her food schedule and if she’s eating enough. I worry about her development and if I’m encouraging her learning enough. It’s harder to take her places now because she doesn’t like to be constrained, and constantly wants to be entertained. She gets in to everything she can (and I know it will only get worse!). I’m always busy with all the tasks that need to be done for her.

Although I look back fondly on the time when AJ was a newborn, it was rough actually going through it. Not every day is sunshine and roses now, some days I feel like I’m doing all it takes just to survive, but I’m having fun. And I’m optimistically confident that as she continues to grow, life will continue to get sweeter and more fun.

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

The Button Box

March 11, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
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The button box wasn’t actually a box. It was a round basket in a strange shade of orange and gold.buttons

Despite its shape, we never called it the button basket. It was always the button box.

Growing up with a mother who wasn’t a collector of much of anything, the button box was magical to me.

If the weather was stormy or if I was stuck in bed with some childhood illness, I could spend hours going through the only treasure chest I knew. I would take off the lid, dip my hands into the jumbled contents, and let the buttons spill through my fingers as though they were precious jewels.

After admiring the contents, I would sort the buttons by color, size, and shape. Then I would create designs with the buttons while I imagine why they had landed in the button box. I became an archaeologist digging up my mother’s history by uncovering a small remnant of a favorite coat she no longer wore; the eyes of a stuffed animal from her childhood or the small pearl button from her high school prom dress.

I never wondered why my mom had collected so many buttons. I never even considered the possibility that she had an emotional attachment to the objects. She was a practical woman, and buttons were useful.

Except, most of the buttons in the button box weren’t very useful at all.

There were a few sets of buttons still packaged with price tags that were more reflective of the 1950’s than the 1970’s. Some buttons matched, but most were singularly odd: a red heart, a large black square, a plaid, cloth-covered disc. I couldn’t imagine my mother would sew them onto anything she was making or mending.

On  rare occasions, Mom would take out the button box, riffle through it, and pull out what she needed. More often, however, she went to the store and bought the exact buttons she wanted

And yet, she kept that box and saved those buttons because she considered them valuable. Then, she shared her treasure with me because she thought I was valuable too.

And that’s the magic of motherhood– the appreciation that the greatest gifts we pass on to our children aren’t the ones that cost money but instead are the ones that require us to give pieces of ourselves to the next generation.

The magic of childhood is appreciating those gifts.

And the magic of family is appreciating why those gifts are so important.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The better to see you with, my dear

March 9, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
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For the first time in my life, I need glasses.

No, they didn't come in that box

No, they didn’t come in that box

Although I’ve been complaining for months that I cannot see while driving at night, my vision changes snuck up on me. Any new mom knows there is a kind of tired that literally makes your eyes cross. So any time I wasn’t able to see something, I figured it was the exhaustion setting in.

For the past several weeks, I’ve had a headache almost every day. Again, I thought it was due to the lack of sleep and my body craving caffeine. About a week and a half ago I attended a presentation and realized I couldn’t see the presenter’s face. That’s when it hit me that I might need to see a professional. And viola, new glasses and a new world I didn’t even realize I was missing!

Yes, it’s true, being pregnant and breastfeeding can change your vision. According to my thorough research (Google-searching), these changes are mostly temporary. So, will my vision go back to normal when I stop nursing? It’s hard to tell. Although many articles say not to invest in glasses or contacts since the changes could be temporary, I politely declined that advice as I cannot even see the stoplights without my glasses.

This isn’t the first unexpected after-effect of having a baby I’ve experienced. Many new moms will find themselves losing an unusually large amount of hair. It turns out, when you are pregnant, you lose less hair due to hormones. Once a woman has her baby, her hair cycle will play catch up, resulting in extra hair loss until the cycle is back to normal.

I also have aches and pains in places I didn’t used to. Since having AJ, my knees have not been the same. I’m not sure if it was the extra weight I was carrying around for months or something else, but my knees feel like they’ve aged 15 years. I can’t twist, squat or bend like I once could.

All in all, I’m not the same as I once was. Getting back to your normal self after having a baby isn’t just about losing the baby weight, although that’s challenging enough as it is. The fact of the matter is our bodies are not the same after we have a baby, and for many of us our bodies will never be “the same” again. Skin sags in places it didn’t use to, scars and stretch marks tattoo our bodies like battle wounds. We may get acne, seem to lose our hair or even experience vision changes.

But here’s the good news: My arms are strong and toned from carrying AJ. My face may be getting a few wrinkles, but it’s because I’m constantly smiling. I’ve found new beauty in myself through AJ’s features that are similar to my own. I appreciate my body and what it can do more than ever before.

Babies or not, our bodies age and change, so at least I can blame my worsening eyesight on having a baby, instead of old age!

When Being Cold Became Cool

March 4, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
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My car dashboard indicated that the outside temperature was only two degrees, but the students streaming into the middle and high schools seemed almost oblivious,

Most were dressed in jeans and hoodies with no coats. A few of the boys  wore shorts, and a few girls wore skirts with no tights or leggings. Even in my warm car with heated seats, seeing those bare legs made me shiver.

Not one student wore a hat or gloves, although some had their hands shoved into pockets as they walked to school from a nearby neighborhood.

My own two children were only wearing light jackets, but at least they were wearing some type of outerwear, which was more than most of their peers. I felt a swell of parental pride as I dropped each of them off at their respective schools. They might not be wearing hats, but at least they both had enough sense to wear long sleeves and long pants.

Based on what most students were wearing that frigid morning, I’m guessing parents and common sense have an equal amount of influence over teenagers’ clothing choices. Gone are the times when we had could protect our children from harsh weather elements.

The day after my son was born in early April, I was preparing him to leave the hospital and head home for the first time.

The nurse charged with monitoring our departure was obviously displeased. Before I nestled Shepherd into his car seat, she intervened.

“Your not letting him go outside like that?” she asked with a distinct note of disapproval.

I looked at my son and simply nodded.

“There’s a chill in the air,” she declared as she picked up a blanket and tucked it around Shepherd with an expertise I was sure I’d never have.

I felt as thought I’d already flunked Motherhood 101. I hadn’t known that exposing my son’s bare face and hands to 60 degree weather was cause for alarm. If only I could have flashed forward almost 17 years, I would have been laughing at both the nurse and myself.

Babies are tough. Kids are tougher. And parents have to be the toughest of all, no matter what the weather.

We may have to be tough, but we don’t have to be cool since being cool apparently requires enduring frigid temperatures while pretending to be unaffected. I’m perfectly content to be the weird mom who covers herself in coats, scarfs, hats and gloves.

I have no need to be cold and no desire to be cool.

I do, however, have a burning desire to ensure my kids make decisions based on their own well-being rather than on the prevailing styles.

The light jackets they wore on that incredibly frigid morning indicate that I just may be making slight progress toward that goal.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

It takes a village

March 2, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
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Last Friday, a wild idea popped into my head and I decided to venture out of the house for dinner and some shopping. That meant packing what seemed like enough supplies for an entire weekend and wrangling a screaming baby into her car seat (which she’s recently decided to hate). An hour later we were on our way.

I must have been quite a site as I walked in to the restaurant. I was the first one of my group there, and was balancing purse, diaper bag, and baby. Since AJ can sit on her own now, I decided to try to put her in a high chair for the first time. With one hand securing AJ on my lap, I tried to correctly place our high chair cover on the chair with the other. It was at this point a nice gentleman walked over to me and asked, “Ma’am, do you need some help?”

“NoI’mfinethankyou,” I quickly muttered, surprised by him and a little embarrassed that it was so obvious that I DID need help. But as my husband knows all too well, I hate asking for help.

Even in school, I rarely asked questions, because I didn’t want help from the teachers; I wanted to figure it out on my own.

So, when AJ was born, I thought I could do it all on my own. That notion was quickly squashed, but even now I’m still having trouble asking for, or accepting, help. Which is one of the reasons I’m so grateful for all the help I do receive from my friends, family, our daycare, and even strangers.

When it comes to raising (or rearing, if you want to go the grammatically correct route) children, it truly does take a village. Chris and I are fortunate to have so many people who not only care about AJ but who are willing to drop whatever they are doing and rush to our aide.

From grandparents who go above and beyond their call of duty to the strangers who gave up their seat for us while we were waiting for a table at lunch, it’s inspiring how willing and ready others are to help us in our journey.

Some days I wake up and I’ve got it all together, but others I wonder how, and if, I’m going to make it. It’s those “survival days” when I start to think maybe I’m not cut out for this motherhood thing. Every mom has been there, and we all make it through, many times with a little help from those close to us.

Later that evening, I went up to the man who offered to help and I thanked him. I admitted I was flustered and he caught me by surprise. I wanted to make sure he knew his offer was appreciated, because if I’m lucky enough for someone to offer help, I should take it without embarrassment.

Even supermoms need help sometimes, because as the saying goes, “it takes a village.”

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

The Birthday Present

February 25, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
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As a kid, I loved my birthday.

I loved getting special attention, eating cake, opening presents and even having the occasional birthday party. In the birthdaydark ages when  I was growing up, we didn’t expect birthday parties every year, and we certainly didn’t expect elaborate parties. Our moms blew up a few balloons and invited the neighbor kids over to play games and eat homemade birthday cake.

After I hit the magical age of 21, I cared less and less about birthdays. By the time I was 30, everyone expected me to be in a bad mood on the day I was expected to celebrate.

To me, birthdays were simply  reminders that I was getting older and hadn’t achieved as much as someone my age should have.

I had come to adopt my father’s philosophy about birthdays. He always wondered why we made such a big deal about the day we were born when we didn’t do any of the actual work.

The year that he and my mother were married, he actually sent flowers to my grandmother on my mom’s birthday thanking her what had happened 25 years earlier, Apparently, my grandmother thought he was a little strange, so he never sent her flowers again.  But he did continue to raise the same questions from time to time.

I embraced my dad’s philosophy before and after I had my own children.

I considered throwing birthday parties for my kids to be the ultimate test of parenthood. Like most tests, they kept me up at night with worry,and I never enjoyed them. I just didn’t get why birthdays were such a big deal.

That changed a few days ago with one phone call

My friend Stefani, who had been battling cancer for years, had been given 48 hours to live during the week when I was turning 48 years old.

My friend, who threw amazing birthday parties for her daughters and who celebrated her life to the fullest, died the week when I was prepared to once again complain that I was yet another year older.

My friend, who  had grown to  appreciate the importance of holding our children close, celebrating every moment and creating memories that can live beyond our last breath, gave me one last birthday present.

She reminded me that birthdays aren’t intended to be a reminder of our march toward old age but are actually intended to be a celebration of survival, perseverance and the people who have loved and  supported us during those difficult times.

This year, I’m celebrating my birthday because I know Stef would have excepted nothing less.

Here’s to you Stef.

Cheers.

 

To the person who keyed our car

February 23, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
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“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” – L.R. Knost

Sunday was a special day for us. It was AJ’s baptism. She was getting baptized in the church where I was baptized; where we were married. I was nervous.

The baptism was wonderful; our friends and family joined us in celebration. When we left church to head to my parents’ house for a special lunch, we found your mark.

For some reason or another, you decided to key the word “rude” on our car. First of all, I’m sorry if we did anything that you thought was so rude that you needed to do that. Because of the snowy day and our necessary early arrival, there was no one around when we parked and walked in to church that morning. We don’t know who you are or where you came from, or why you did what you did. Was it something we did? Or did you happen to pick our car at random?

I would be lying if I said that what you did didn’t hurt my feelings. You tainted our special morning. But my feelings have been hurt by others before, and are likely to be hurt again. We quickly forgot all about it once we joined our family to celebrate.

I’ve been where you are. I’ve been angry; and when I was I behaved worse than you, for rather than lashing out at strangers, I lashed out at family and friends. I’ve hurt others by my own actions, and although I’m sure those whom I hurt thought I was personally targeting them, I was not. I was being insecure and dealing with my own problems in the wrong way. I’m sure I will slip and hurt someone else again; it’s human nature.

It would likely be easier for me to call you a jerk and be done with it. But that’s not the example I want to set for my daughter, and that’s not how I want to live my life. Instead (and maybe because it’s Sunday), I forgive you.

I don’t know why people do what they do. I might be making this a tad overdramatic; after all in the grand scheme of things, this offense was very minor, and you are probably just someone who was bored. I’m just trying to make a point. I cannot control what you or anyone else does. I can only control my own actions. And I choose to forgive and move on.

So I forgive you, truly. And, if you are hurting, or need love, I invite you to take 10 or so more steps next Sunday and walk inside our church. I promise you will be welcomed.

Sincerely, a fellow human being.

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.