Somebody’s Hazel Jane

2BW

Dear daughter,

You are my Hazel Jane.

As I begin writing this, you are safely nuzzled on my chest, your miniature nose and lips burrowed in my neck—a feeling for which I’m sure I’ll never find words. Sometimes you smile at me when you see me coming, filling me with both joy and unworthiness. Other times you bury your head in my arms, like the comfort of a hug before you learn to actually hug. How special you make me feel, knowing the one I love most in this world feels the same about me, at least for right now. Every time your little lungs fill with air, this fragile heart inside me fills with a little more love. The thought of someone treating you with anything but kindness is more than I can bear to ponder. I will rejoice with you in the easy times, fight for you in the hard times and love you in all times. Your life has led me to vulnerability outwardly inexplicable. Words cannot suffice, for it is only inside myself, locked in my own emotions and feelings that I can understand the depth to which your small yet immeasurable spirit has changed me. As my mom keeps telling me, you won’t understand how much I love you until you have a you of your own.

You are my Hazel Jane.

While your delicate spirit was gently swaddled inside my swollen yet secure belly, your dad and I occasionally asked ourselves, “What kind of world are we bringing her into?” The past few years have piloted us out of naiveté, for we are personally, nationally and globally aware that, baby girl, we delivered you into one broken place.

We live in a world where we ignore poverty and idolize violence. Encourage greed and endorse entitlement. It’s a world in which we recognize success in the form of money and power and fame instead of kindness, compassion and selflessness. People are shooting each other. Hate is acceptable rhetoric. Racism is rampant. People need a homeland and we won’t share ours. Girls are sold as property. Privilege is winning. Intolerance is growing. Fear is overpowering.

How could I bring you, my delightful innocent, my Hazel Jane, into such a place?

Oh, but daughter, there’s another world we live in, too. A world your dad and I believe in. A world that already exists though often seemingly shadowed by the other. A world where reconciliation becomes reality. Where dialogue changes fear into friendships. Where outstretched arms bring peace and unconditional love is above all else. Above ourselves. In this world, redemption sits just around the corner. We just have to push fear aside, peek our head around that corner and hope others will follow.

Hazel Jane, it’s our promise to you that from those first moments when we giddily brought you into your first breaths until the day we take our last, we will give every effort to usher you in to both of these worlds. Where sorrow and hope intermingle. Where reality and optimism coexist. Where despair is inescapably bordered by faith. Where we live for the good of all people and not just for our own people.

I believe in this world. I believe in you. I believe in you to be a part of both worlds. To understand the depths of pain in one but live in the realized hope of the other. To fight for this hope. I believe in you to help create restoration. To give thanks for and celebrate our differences. To use your life in a way that enhances other lives. I pray you’re unafraid to take on the responsibility of bearing others’ burdens, because you live within the confidence that your burdens have already been bared.

I believe in a world where everybody is somebody’s Hazel Jane.

When you see a picture of a hungry child, that’s not a picture. That’s somebody’s Hazel Jane.

When you drive by the sign on the corner that asks for food, that’s not a homeless man. That’s somebody’s Hazel Jane.

When a fellow student wears dirty jackets, gets teased by others and frustrates the teacher, that little girl is somebody’s Hazel Jane.

When the couple next to you at a restaurant dons a beard and a headscarf, they aren’t ‘weird,’ they are somebody’s Hazel Jane.

So peek your head around that corner, and rejoice with them in the easy times, fight for them in the hard times and love them in all times. Yes, this is a broken place, little one. But it’s still a beautiful place. Just look around, find it, and be one, sent by the One, who sustains, creates and multiplies the beauty.

Tonight as we relished in your favorite activity—staring at your reflection in the mirror—with each new bounce and look you giggled with thrill and clasped your pudgy little hands together in pure joy. It is my promise to you, that if you will open those hands to embrace and serve all types of people, you’ll find more joy than you could ever dream.

You are my Hazel Jane.

Love,
Mom

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33 weeks

Reflections on week 33 …  and life in general:

I threw a fit in the middle of taking these pictures. They weren’t turning out the way my head said they should. Being reunited with Opal after 5 weeks, a swelling baby belly, and the fact that Walker was still here on this earth, I just wanted some fun family photos Sunday afternoon. But Opal wasn’t cooperating. Walker was squinting. I was experiencing flabby arm body image issues. And the sun, the sun we’d been aching to see for weeks, threw me overboard. There was too much light. There were too many shadows. It was too bright or too dark to capture the vision voyaging through my head.

I wanted picture perfect. The picture perfect of the Internet that says these non-professional photos capture our real life in our perfectly curated home and our effortlessly styled outfits. The kind with captions that say it’s been a rough day but here’s a beautiful picture of my family in front of this awesome ivy wall we just happened upon. I wanted that picture perfect. And it just wasn’t happening. But a marital argument, that did start happening.

So into our bedroom I went. I launched (the only word to describe it these days) myself into our bed, on my left side of course, and the waterworks began to make their appearance. Some might contend the tears were only overemotional products of pregnancy hormones, but I must disagree. The door slam, yes, maybe I’ll blame that one on the hormones, but the tears, no. Those tears were tangible reactions to the reality of the weekend. A weekend that loudly proclaimed our life is not picture perfect. A weekend so intertwined with light and shadows that it left me wondering how I could feel so joyous yet so anxious about life at the same time.  Shadows: not so gentle reminders of what’s important.

On Friday around lunchtime Walker called to tell me he had been in a pretty serious accident. As I left my classroom crying, three teachers swiftly ushered me into a private room to collect myself and convince me it was okay to leave school. As I made my way upon the wreckage scene, I saw just what he meant by serious. There was his truck and the path it had clearly taken through two small trees, into a telephone pole and finally into a larger tree. Worse than I had thought, but there stood Walker alive and well and calming to my soul. In that moment, nothing else mattered.Light: an overwhelming burst or a tender glow of what really matters.

The next morning we found ourselves surrounded by friends and family, many who came long distances, to shower us with affection and gifts at our baby shower in Waco. Given by 4 of my closest friends, the shower was Pinterestly decorated and filled with so much love that all we could feel was special. But as I sat there opening generous gift after generous gift, I recognized that more important to me was their presence. It meant more than any gift card or swaddle blanket I received. For me, their generosity came in many forms, but most importantly in the realization that we were surrounded by close to 30 people who chose to dedicate a couple of hours to say ‘I love you’ by simply showing up.It’s so easy to want picture perfect. To desire a life that resembles a grid of dreamily curated Instagram pictures all shot in that golden hour of the setting sun. A life that disguises what it really means to live. Picture perfect tells us that stylish maternity clothes, impeccable nursery decor, scenic backgrounds and exotic travels actually matter. Don’t get me wrong, I love and enjoy beautiful pictures, but we so easily believe that these things are life and so easily forget that each new breath we are able to draw not only gives life but is life.

Our life may not be picture perfect, but it sure is a stunning picture of life. Full of light that lingers even into the shadows. Full of shadows that trickle into the light. A life that constantly reminds us to be thankful for light and for shadows, for without both, neither exists. We must brave the shadows to grasp the joy of the light.  Sometimes it takes a wreck and a baby shower all within 24 hours to remind us that being present in the lives of others and having them present in ours can never be taken for granted. That in all moments, nothing else matters. That reality reveals a more beautiful masterpiece than any edited photo ever could. That abundant life is ultimately revealed through the mingling of life and shadows. May we be have the courage to be witnesses of both. Baby of ours, you’ve been in our lives for 33 weeks. Thank you for being a constant source of light through any shadow that has come our way.

Sing

how great is our God, SING with me how great is our God
and all will SEE, how great is our God

One Saturday morning last fall I accompanied 26 students from the high school where I teach to a local animal shelter to help supervise their volunteer efforts. In the midst of snapping pictures of cages being hosed down and rambunctious dogs being walked, I stopped in my tracks as I listened to a voice circulating from the next room. It was an employee singing, soulfully and genuinely, while he mopped the concrete floor of the kitten room.

As I stood still and silent, afraid any movement might deter him, I soon realized that my presence, and probably nothing else for that matter, can deter a man who sings while he works.

Such joy, such fulfillment radiating from him to others even during the mundane task of mopping cat urine. Sometimes we meet people who teach us that life is even better than we think it is. That there’s reason to rejoice in the routine. Sometimes these people lend us new vision.

I want to sing while I work.

I want to sing while I clean.

I want to sing while I grocery shop.

I want to sing while I do laundry.

I want to sing, even a subtle melody, while I cry.

I want to sing while I live.

So that others may see. IMG_1199
Their favorite way of taking out the trash together! A little dramatic but a lot entertaining.

Surrender

Sometimes I write…and then get the courage to publish later…

A few Saturdays back, a small group of friends and I met for brunch. Our group gets together yes, for girl time, but also to intentionally discuss certain questions and topics. One question brought up holiday schedules and another led to a discussion about Santa, but then came the last question.

“What does your prayer of surrender look like?”

I was jokingly asked to answer this one. In normal Katelyn fashion, I was unable to give an answer on the spot. Wait, let’s go back to Santa?

It’s funny, I think I first started composing this blog in October, long before our brunch discussion came to be. The thoughts were there and the words were forming, but I couldn’t finish. But maybe now, 12 months into this hell of a year, I’m brave enough to say that even while writing these thoughts, I really wasn’t so sure I believed them. Maybe now, I’m brave enough to reveal our many imperfections and to quietly whisper that, by faith and choice, I finally believe this to be true.

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

I originally began writing these words to the gentle noise of Walker strumming his guitar upstairs. I was writing. He was strumming. Because we were both grieving in our own personal ways.

On that Friday night in October, we unexpectedly found ourselves sitting on the edge of our bathtub, my arm around his, throwing wadded and wet tissues into the toilet. Well that, and consequently scolding Opal for attempting to eat the missed shots.

For some reason, we thought ourselves strong enough to watch The Fault in Our Stars, the movie version of the novel about childhood cancer. The one that so accurately and emotionally let us into a world that though we tried, we could never fully understand. We miss you, friend, and that night our irrepressible sobs reminded us just how much.

There is a line in The Fault in our Stars that’s become too familiar to us this year.

Pain must be felt.

2014 has proved this so. For us. And for so many others.

We’ve seen death and disease sweep down in the cruelest of ways, at times to us personally and in other times to those we care about. We’ve watched families and friendships be forcefully ripped apart, leaving jagged seams and irreparable holes. We’ve experienced our church scandalized by tragedy, and watched the media proudly make life hell for all involved. We were bystanders as adults and youth alike fled from our pews without even a quick goodbye. We stood shocked as strangers and friends showed up in the midst of crisis, while those we just knew would show up, well, they never did. And then there were the weeks the entire world went haywire. Iraq. Ukraine. Ebola. The border children crisis. Missing planes. Ferguson.

The bitterness crept in just as plainly as it did in my words above. We smiled in front of the curtain while behind the scenes soon became strangers to ourselves. Complaining too much, criticizing too often, loving too little. Looking back, I see two people unwilling to even look for glimpses of good, because with all the pain in us and around us, survivor’s guilt told us not to. Even with all the good things happening, too, our weary hearts wondered ‘When will the next bad thing happen?’

But, we’re learning.Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Yes, pain must be felt. Circumstances arise and they leave you helpless, but I think today, on the last day of the year, we can confidently declare that while they can leave us helpless, they do not have the power to leave us hopeless. This year has changed us, but we have the power to choose how it changed us. Pain can demand to be felt. But pain cannot demand to be lived. Grief is long lasting. It can and does last a lifetime. But joy.

Joy is eternal.

I write these words not because our skies are now abundantly blue.

We began this year with death. And now, again, we are leaving this year with death.

I write these words because through all the unexpected back roads we’ve taken on our journey these past 12 months, I can shakily say that joy, in fact, does not come in the morning. Joy is present even through our darkest of nights.

Joy, much like love, is not something we are meant to feel. Joy is something we are called to do, to recognize and accept, to seek out, to give to others. We must boldly notice it in the midst of a new baby or in the gathering of family at a graveside. In the monotony of a job or in the old couple laughing in the car next to us.

It doesn’t always look the way we want or expect. Sometimes it’s almost unrecognizable. But it’s there. Prompting us to remember that

Great loss means there was once an even greater presence.

Grief reminds us we had the opportunity to love someone with every fiber of our being.

Pain reveals we had the privilege to believe in someone or something so deeply that now we must relearn to live without.

Loss. Grief. Pain. We feel them deeply. Our tears are real and our anguish is tangible.

But.

Joy says look for me. I am here through it all.

So maybe, just maybe this nutso year called 2014, has gradually and unsteadily revealed not only the agony of this world and our own imperfections, but perhaps it has also taught us about the relief that comes with embracing a surrender prayer.

A prayer that says I will stop resisting and surrender to the reality that joy is always there. That these are my circumstances, good or bad. I promise to feel the pain profoundly, but I will obediently seek out the beauty in it all. That there is community even in the loneliness, contentment in the longing, laughter in the tears, hope in the despair, and life even in death. That this is life, and amidst the suffering, heartache and disappointment, I will stay open, stay vulnerable, and be present through it all. I will continue to love and believe and risk. I surrender. I surrender to life. Because come what may, life is abundantly good.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

My life outside the internet: Christmas edition

A new series called My Life Outside the Internet. Because I refuse to be a part of the dishonest Internet game any longer.20131221-073552.jpgEveryone is posting photos of their adorable home Christmas décor, and I’m like there is literally not one space in my house clean enough to sit, much less take a picture.

Everyone is busting out statuses and Instagrams of Christmas cheer, and I’m thinking ‘Teenager, you need to slowly back away from me, run, and pretend we never saw each other.”

Everyone is posting pictures of immaculately wrapped Christmas presents, and last night I found a baby shower gift I have yet to wrap…over a month after the shower.

Everyone is snapping pictures of their festive fingernail polishes, and I’m just wishing this toenail fungus would go away.

Everyone (well maybe just my favorite blogger) dyed her hair from dark brown to bleach blonde last week and it looks incredible, and I’m remembering when I went to the hair salon last month and wasn’t charged because I left with my hair such a disaster.

Everyone (well maybe just two of my good friends) were texting about the gourmet-ish meals they made last week while I was sitting on my dog hair-covered couch eating Ramen and Cheetos as a 27-year old.

Everyone is debuting stylin’ winter garb of boots and scarves and hats, and I’m just wishing I would unpack that suitcase I took to Arizona over a month ago.

Everyone’s lives are looking so perfect on the internet these days, and I’m wondering if I’m the only one who is so far behind on cleaning, gifting, cooking, sleeping and pretty much life in general?

And then there’s the real stuff.

The real emotions I feel as I walk beside my 19-year old friend living in the end stages of cancer.

The real feelings of helplessness as I watch friends battle anxiety and depression.

The real feelings of failure as I physically can’t be in as many places as people are asking me to be.

The real tears streaming from stories about Syria.

The real inability to be ourselves and fully express who we are and what we believe.

The real unfulfillment of feeling creatively claustrophobic in a job and the powerless feeling of being overwhelmed as the to-do list piles up.

The real feelings of betrayal toward a Christian institution that wronged a friend to an unforgiving degree.

The real angst-ridden confrontation in my thoughts of how to best befriend those that I know are lonely.

The real lack of words I can express when talking to friends experiencing fertility problems and miscarriages.

For this to be the most wonderful time of the year, it’s sure an easy season to feel less than. To compare myself in ways I didn’t even know I cared about. Insecurities, self-loathing, stress, chaos, worry and self-doubt seem to be enhanced in the glow of these merry and bright days.

But a sob story this is not. It’s simply a look into a real life that does not stop as the Christmas carols start.

I’ve been trying to take myself back to the manger. I say ‘trying’ because this socially connected world we live in can make it almost impossible to remember that while I am less than, He is more than. But. I’m trying.

I’ve been imagining the scene in my head almost daily. Imagining how different it must have been from what those familiar songs lead us to believe.

For a silent night it was not. A holy night, yes, but a silent night, no.

It was anything but perfectly planned, perfectly executed or perfectly put together. There were messes. There was stress. There was pain.

I’ve tried to envision Mary and Joseph scrounging to find a place to deliver a baby. The anxiety and uncertainty of their unborn child’s safety only adding to the strain of a birth. I see Mary hunched in shock as the contractions set in while Joseph’s wide yet tired eyes burst forth from his helpless reaction. The solidarity they might feel as she clenches his dusty hand with all of her might and they both taste the salty sweat drip from their brow.  The unsteady cries of a young girl wondering if she will even make it through the night. Mary and Joseph labored through real fear and real pain to bring forth a perfect being into their frightfully imperfect reality.

And born from that exhausting, terrifying night came hope for creation evermore.

Immanuel. God with us.

Most of my days are not Internet worthy. All is not usually calm and all is not always bright. For a silent life I do not live. A holy one I strive for, yes, but a silent one it is not. It’s tiring and messy and emotional. But hopefully it is this way because I am laboring to share a perfect hope and peace and joy with others found in their own frightfully imperfect reality.

Immanuel. God with us. God revealed in us.

So as we expectantly wait a few more days to celebrate Love come down, we remember that just like Mary we will make it through the night. That in the midst of those exhausting, terrifying hours shines the One who will banish night itself. And somewhere in the midst of our laughter and tears, our joy and sorrow, our satisfaction and hunger, we proclaim that Jesus in fact is not the reason for the season. He is quite simply the reason. And we messily, shakily, chaotically banish the night for others.

Last week I unbelievably found 6, yes 6, empty toilet paper rolls scattered around our bathroom floor. Maybe if I had done any sort of laundry in the last 4 weeks I would have seen them sooner, but no, I left those dirty clothes piling in the bathroom, and I didn’t get to those toilet paper rolls when I should have. And you know what?

It’s ok.20131221-073603.jpg

Bananas & Tortillas

Blogtember: Describe a distinct moment when your life took a turn.

And there he came, around the corner.

I’ve been known to talk about Walmart before, and the trend continues.

Last Sunday night I made my way to the superstore in hopes of a simple grocery collection for the week. I trekked through the produce only to stumble upon the banana stand…with no bananas. I guess if you count yellow and brown mushpots as bananas, then there were technically 5 or 6 bundles for my choosing.

Next came the nuts. I had a healthy dish in mind that required pine nuts. I think the biggest surprise here is the whole ‘I had a dish’ part, but moving on…Out. Walmart was out. Of pine nuts?

At least I can have a turkey wrap for lunch tomorrow. Hahaha, how could you be so naive, Katelyn? Why on earth would you think Walmart would have any tortillas for your choosing? Shelf upon shelf of empty, tortilla-less space stared back at me in cruelty.

Salad? Well yes, if I wanted to spend $5 on spinach that was set to expire the next day.

All of this after my phone somehow deleted my entire grocery list.

I think it was the tortillas that sent me into a full on temper tantrum. I began flooding Walker’s phone with pictures of empty shelves and battered fruit. I walked around sulking, and my gosh I wish it had been the quiet kind. No, I chose to speak my mind. To myself. With people around. There are some strangers out there telling someone a story about a girl who just might die without her pine nuts.

How could Walmart do this to me? Don’t the managers know I work tomorrow, and how dare I have to make a second grocery trip after a long Monday at school? I was fuming. And pitying myself.

I even ran into a co-worker. Oh, Lord.

And there he came, around the corner.

A middle-aged man also hoping for a simple grocery collection for the week. A middle-aged man with obvious signs of having suffered a stroke at some point in his life. A man pushing his shopping cart with one arm and limping with each step down the aisle. A man waiting for the traffic jam to pass, because he can’t run them over weave in an out like the rest of us.

And with his turn around the corner, my life took a turn, too.

It’s these everyday ‘drastic’ turns that seem to point me in the right direction. These moments tend to mold me and shape my life more than any one, distinct event or circumstance.

I was in Walmart, a store that literally (used in the correct sense) has anything I could ever need to sustain me, but with the absence of bananas, I broke into a full out pity rage.

I’ve travelled to Africa where the weather determines sustainability. I’ve been to the border where food of plenty is not a theme. I’v volunteered in downtown Lufkin where people wait in a long line, rain or shine, to receive groceries. But don’t deny me my spinach. Don’t do that to me.

And with his turn, I turned.

My ground returned underneath me. I no longer floated around the store like a god, thinking I deserved better. I began walking on even ground with those around me. Waiting patiently to move through the aisles, smiling at those I passed, and remembering that my inability to make a certain dish is pretty much the absolute smallest problem in the entire world.

It’s in these moments I realize how pathetic I really am. Complaining and sulking about things that others wish to be their only problems.

Oftentimes I dread going to Walmart. But most times I learn more about myself than I wish to know. The issue has more to do with my entitled self than the store itself.  I’m reminded that I’m no better than any other person in that crowd of people trying to get their groceries. That the shoppers who bought the pine nuts before me deserve them just as much as I do, probably more. And that Walmart cannot ruin my life, only my terrible attitude can.

My life right now is pretty easy in comparison. Is it not my responsibility and joy to make others’ lives easier, too? One day my life won’t be so carefree, and I hope I don’t run into someone like myself that night. If someone ever tells you a story about a raging banana-holic, tell them she’s sorry. 

He came around the corner, and he changed my life.

photoI was going to post my pictures of empty shelves that I sent Walker that night, but this seemed entirely more productive.

May Reflections

may copyDear Blog Every Day in May,

You were so hard. I loved you. And I hated you. When I first decided to take part in the challenge, I assumed everyone would stop reading my blog out of annoyance of my every day posting. Whoa, hello opposite day! So many people went out of their way to tell me how much they enjoyed what I was doing, so many thanks to them for the encouragement!

Blogging every day turned out to be a challenge in more ways than one. The obvious was finding the creativity, time and energy to write an actual post every 24 hours that I felt proud to publish. Some days it just didn’t happen, but I managed to get it out the next day…or the next. There’s still two topics I’m waiting to write- “Letting go” and “A letter to your readers.” You forced me to expand my writing process. Usually thoughts come to me, I think for a few days, I write, come back to it, edit, come back and publish. You didn’t give me that luxury, and it helped me grow. While there were some nights I dreaded pushing publish because I felt rushed and knew it wasn’t my best work, you forced me to practice sitting down, take on a topic and do the best I could in limited time. Sometimes I felt inadequate and other times I beat myself up for not getting a post out on time, but you helped me improve in areas that my own self discipline doesn’t always dictate, and for anything that helps develop my writing, I am grateful.

Toward the end of the month, you got a little heavy for me. Posts like this and that were quite frankly unpleasant. My thoughts wouldn’t turn off. Instead of stopping at my top 3 worst traits, my mind spent the next few days focusing on all of my bad characteristics. Constantly thinking of new ones. It got ugly in there. And then this post, wow, I’m still recovering. Since then I’ve thought of every single topic I want to publicly rant about but can’t. With Walker’s ministerial position and my own desire for harmony and positivity, I got frustrated with the idea that I’m not really allowed to rant. But in the end, I’m beyond happy to have that accountability. I’d rather not be known for ranting, offending or in some cases being downright annoying. Let’s be clear though, there is a difference in ranting verses raising awareness and speaking up for something worthy.

You forced me to push myself and open up, to lean into vulnerability and to meditate on topics I normally wouldn’t. You made me remember back, applaud others, fine tune my creativity and look past perfection. I loved linking up and seeing what other bloggers were saying about your crazy topics. You were hard and sometimes draining, but I’m actually going to miss you. I’m hoping you’ve encouraged me to write more, expand my subject areas and express myself without the need for perfection every time. So, thanks Blog Every Day in May, I hope we meet again! Just not in June.

Goodbye May. Hello Summer.

Love, Katelyn

Trichotillomania

Thursday’s Blog Every Day in May: Something difficult about your “lot in life” and how you’re working to overcome it.

I feel ridiculous writing about this ‘difficult’ lot of mine, because when I think about the lots of so many others, I’ve had a wonderful life that warrants no complaints. But so the prompt stands and here I go.eyelashes1Trichotillomania. An impulse control disorder. The irresistible urge to pull out hair.

I have it.

Or, I deal with it.

Only a handful (maybe 2) actually know I struggle with this, but if you’ve ever been in a room with me for more than 5 minutes, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed.

I can’t tell you how I felt reading this article about actress Olivia Munn. With every line I just kept thinking, ‘Yes! Me too! That’s me!’ Sometimes it feels so good to identify with someone, and that’s why I’m choosing this ‘lot’ to write about. Because if she can help me, maybe I can help you. We’re all in this together.

It all started in 3rd grade with picking out my eyelashes. Since then it has grown into eyelashes, eyebrows and the little hairs on my chin. Fortunately, I’ve never had the urge to pull my head hair or to eat it, but I know others do, and I understand why you can’t just stop like everyone wants you to.

Besides ‘I love you’  and ‘Show ’em no mercy’ (on the soccer field) I’d say the most repeated phrase in my house growing up was ‘Stop picking,’ ‘Get your hands off your face,’ or my personal favorite ‘Katie Carroll I’m going to cut your fingers off.’ Always said with love of course.

I’ve been been in counseling as a child, tried wearing gloves, kept charts of how many hairs came out per day, found objects for rubbing to keep my hands occupied, jelly to keep my fingers slippery, plain ol’ self control and much more. But alas, I’m now 26 and still pick, pick, picking away.

Growing up there were many times I had visible chunks missing from my brows and lashes. I’ll never forget the day in 7th grade when a boy asked me why I was missing all my eyelashes on one side. He was just curious and meant no harm, but that was the day I realized, ‘Oh, other people notice I do this.’ It’s also the day I got really good at applying eyeliner to both my eyes and brows. I’m an expert filler-inner! eyelashesI still struggle every day. Under normal circumstances, I’ve somehow managed to control which hairs I target. I’ve trained myself to go after the stray eyebrows that I would pluck with tweezers anyway. Or the little chin hairs that shouldn’t be there in the first place! But under stressful circumstances, all hairs are free game, and my fingers go to town. In the last 2 weeks for example, I’ve almost decreased by eyebrow size by half, but more than likely you’d never notice. I’m an expert with eyeliner, remember?

Picking for me is both pleasurable and destructive. I love, yes love, the way it feels when that tiny hair pulls out of my face. The deeper the root, the better it feels. Some might even call it pain. There is something in me that has to get that hair out. If I find one I want to pull, I can’t think about anything else. Every ounce of my focus goes into that hair for however long it takes. And it feels so good. It’s a relief. And then I start over and over and over. But when the stress is high and hairs are flying every which way, it becomes destructive. Because I hate the way I feel afterward. I hate what I’ve just done, no matter how good it felt.

And the truth is, while I have my trichotillomania under control in the sense that you could look at me and not notice, I would love to stop. Completely. And I’m assuming my parents want that, too. My hands constantly so close to my face causes breakouts. I feel unprofessional when sitting in a room full of adults, and then there’s me clawing at my face like a cat with a ball of yarn. But mostly, I think I’d just like some control.

But really, I’m not ashamed. Or even embarrassed. It’s just who I am and what I struggle with. We’ve all got something, this just happens to be mine. And yours happens to be yours. Good thing we’re all in this together.

The other reason I wrote about this topic is selfish. In college I wrote this article about goals and accountability. (Don’t laugh/cringe at my writing. I’ve already done that enough.) I vividly remember wanting to quit halfway through training, and the only thing that kept me going was that article.

So maybe, just maybe, when I feel like picking that little brow that no one can see but me, I’ll think of this post and resist the urge. Accountability. And that little win will turn into a major victory. And the only plucking I’ll do will be by way of tweezers. Right after I press publish, of course, because nobody wants to know how many eyebrows lost their life while writing this…happyPS. I owe a thank you to my parents, who for almost 20 years now have not given up on helping me. The amount of breath they’ve spent on telling me to keep my hands off my face is exhausting to think about. A thank you to my few friends who have the courage to say ‘Stop picking’ because they know it’s what I need. But also a thank you to those friends who just let me to pick, allowing me to be me and face it at my own pace, not theirs. And to Walker who does both, but who you should ask to pronounce ‘trichotillomania.’ It’s worth your time.

Why I Write

Blog Every Day in May day 4: A favorite quote and why you love it.

Sometimes I come across quotes that make me think ‘could this world get any cheesier?’ while others leave me inspired and some make me laugh. But every so often I find a quote that speaks well beyond the conviction to stop dreaming and start doing. Some quotes—like this simple one—dig straight into my being and say this is who you are.quoteI’m a writer.

People speak, others sing and some paint, but me—I write. I’ve been writing my whole life long, and a few people tell me I do it well. I studied journalism in undergrad and currently write freelance pieces, but why I really click the keys is a story of my existence. Most days, I write for survival, for my natural inclination is to stay silent. No one knows who I am, truly, without reading my writings. Not my husband, not my parents, not my closest friends—not even myself.

When I look in the rear view mirror and see a bicycle gang of children atop a hill, I start to feel. As their faces become dim silhouettes in the setting sun, the oranges and pinks of my emotions begin to weave in and out of concrete words, and my sensations are given meaning; and I write. And after having written, I finally understand that those fading silhouettes brought me back to a wonderful childhood while also reminding me it was over long ago.

Each time I write a piece I’m proud enough to share, a deep fear envelops me, and I worry I will never produce again. But then life happens, it always happens, and I write.

I write to understand the world, to make sense of who I am and to discover what it means to live. I write to help others share their stories and to remind us all that we are in this together. I write to be fully alive in my experiences and to allow the violinist in my mind to pluck strings from here and from there and compose a piece of who I am.

Somehow my vulnerability turns into bravery, and at last I feel free.

I write to allow myself to figure out what I believe, and sometimes, good writing helps others discover what they believe. It’s not always easy, in fact it never is, but some people dance and others teach, but me—I feel, I write, I find myself.

Sunday night thoughts: Living for the Weekdays

photoI don’t want to be a weekend girl.

Do I want to relish in all the perks that Saturday and Sunday bring? Ummm, yeah, duh.

Do I want to wake up next to my boo with no alarm? Wear my pajamas as if they are a space suit ready to kill me if I take them off? Eat donuts and processed food because somehow the harmful effects can’t touch me ‘til Monday? Delight in the freedom of small adventures and time with friends?

Yes to the heck ya  X 100.

But I don’t want to be a weekend girl.

I don’t want to count the days as if the weekend is my source of life. Wednesday—3 more days. Thursday—2 more days. Friday—the party boat of life sets sail.

But what do I want?

I want to look forward to the weekend without overlooking the weekdays.

So what will I do?

I will wake up Monday morning shouting IT’S MONDAY! IT’S MONDAY! I will make choices on TUESDAY. Choices to say hello in the hallways, to encourage anyone and everyone, to demonstrate compassion, to hand out grace. I will appreciate another WEDNESDAY. Appreciate the day not because of the circumstances, but because it’s another day I can give love because I am loved. On THURSDAY I will learn from others, embrace everyone, exclude no one, celebrate creativity and recognize beauty in my surroundings. And on FRIDAY, I will look back at the week seeing not wants and hopes but moves and actions. I will see days peppered with both success and failure, but mostly with extraordinary effort.

I also know this week I will grow weary. I will become annoyed at a student and watch the second hand tick slowly by. Dirty dishes will loiter the coffee table for days, and the toilet paper will pile up without ever making it on the roller. I will hurt and see others hurt. I will stress. I will fail. I will long for the weekend.

But I don’t want to be a weekend girl.

So somehow, through life-giving grace, I won’t just make it through the day, I will experience the day for all it holds. I will take each step knowing the next is nothing short of a gift. And I will remember that all of my ‘will do’s’ are only possible because of His ‘has done.’

Tomorrow is Monday. I hope Walker is ready for a 6 a.m. operatic ballad proclaiming the joy of a new week. Or maybe I’ll just dry my hair and fasten my shoes as normal and give him a kiss goodbye. Declaring the greatness of a new and merciful day in the ordinary opportunities. In the everyday.

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