The Hart Home│I Wrote This 13 Years Ago Today

Facebook reminded me of this private note that I wrote myself 13 years ago today. It was my senior year of college. I was accepted into several graduate programs, one that was going to take me abroad for two years. My high school/college boyfriend of 5 years and I had broken up for the last time, it was such a period if change and coming into my own. I sometimes wonder how different my life would be if I had gone, but then I look at my two little boys and my husband and realize my life is really good so how can I ever think about changing it? This reminded me though of that after college life and that promise of all things new and exciting:

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“Graduate School”

I think back to my Sotheby’s interview (still nothing from them or Christie’s) and I remember walking through the streets of New York and feeling like this was going to become my world be it at Sotheby’s or elsewhere. I just felt it all fitting and making sense to me for the first time since I was at the Louvre in a tiny room with a cute curator who asked me what I wanted from life and art.

I never dreamed then that a year later I would be preparing to move to Paris. After all, I was the girl who loathed French class after freshman year of high school. When I got to college, I wanted nothing to do with it until I found art history and got accepted into Gopin’s class for the summer. It was like finding an old lover that knew me better then anything else I have dared to reach for in my lifetime.

It knew me. It knew me from the moment I stepped off my hellish flight from London and now I’m going back to be a EuroLush for two more years. I can only wonder what this is going to bring me. Will I fall in love? Will I meet the man I’m supposed to marry? Will I meet a best friend? Will I want to live there for the rest of my life? Will I be offered a position at the Wallace Collection or some other swanky auction house? Will I find where my soul lies?

I’m swaggering on the promise of a life about to be reborn away from anyone I have ever dared to love and it does upset me, but at the same time it brings with it such a sweet and lasting freedom. I have always lived in the past, afraid of letting go of old relationships and memories, but I feel as though that fear is slipping away and I am becoming the woman I always dared to be.

And I am doing this in Paris, London, Florence, and Brussels. I am living. I am living more so than I ever thought that I would.

View from my flat in Paris. Summer 2007.

The Hart Home│Ruin is a Gift, Ruin is the Road to Transformation

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love one of my favorite lines is this: ” Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”

In 2013, my life kind of fell apart much like it did when I had graduated from college. I was in an awful relationship that finally ended. I was acting as a French teacher though I wasn’t properly certified to be a French teacher and that too, abruptly ended when they found someone with the certificate to finish the year. The next 6 months brought with it so much change.

I finally landed a tenure track position that I was certified for. I met my husband. I enrolled in my master’s program. Within a year, my life was so completely different. What had started out as a really hard time quickly blossomed into what would become my real adult life. Within 2 years, I had bought my first house, moved out of my first single gal apartment and made a real commitment to my husband who was just my boyfriend then and I enrolled in my doctoral program.

Yesterday, my handsome baby boy stole my heart, even more, when he called me “mom.” And he called me mom all day because I made such a big deal every time he did. All he wanted yesterday was his mom and when I would put him down or not be by him, he was next to me in seconds with his big brown eyes fixed on me and his hands gripping my pants going “momomomomom.” I just can’t. He is the absolute best and I am so incredibly lucky that I get to be his mom.

Later yesterday evening, I took Logan outside to go get the mail from the mailbox and our entire front lawn was alive with what had to be 50-something dragonflies. We just stood and watched them zip all around us. When I was 19, I got a tattoo of a dragonfly on my hip. I got it because dragonflies are symbolic of transformation and at the time, I was transforming into a student of art history who was about to go live on her own in New Brunswick. I have always loved dragonflies and I have them throughout our home.

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Dragonflies by Gabriela Valencia

This afternoon, news came back from my mentor that my committee approved of my dissertation which means I am now, officially, only two steps away from being able to call myself Dr. My life is transforming again and by this time next year, I know that I am going to be in a very different place in my life altogether. Everything I have been working for since that point of ruin is transforming me into who I was meant to become and it is amazing and almost indescribable to finally be at this point.

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To anyone who ever said I couldn’t do it or I wouldn’t finish, take a look at this. I did all of this while pregnant and newly post-partum. I did it with no sleep and a newborn nursing from me every 2 hours. I did it because I dreamed it and I wanted it bad enough. I wanted to change my life and I did. As my mentor will always say, ONWARD!

 

The Hart Home│Why I Didn’t Marry Until My 30’s

I think the simplest reason why I put off marriage and even getting engaged until I was almost 30 was that I wanted to keep my 20’s for myself.

At my core, I am very artistic and I am a dreamer. I have so many dreams of what I want to do and where I want to go. I saw my 20’s as a time for me to enact those dreams before I settled down. I have said before how I have always wanted to be a wife and a mother, but I always knew that there would be a time for that and that was sometime after I had done everything I had wanted to do in my 20’s. Now, that’s not the say I didn’t want love in my 20’s, I definitely wanted to have a boyfriend that was my person, but I was nowhere near ready or in the mindset to settle down.

I wanted to travel with or without a boyfriend. I wanted to finish my education and get into a doctoral program. I wanted to live on my own with a couple cats and enjoy living on my own without roommates or a live-in boyfriend. I also wanted to buy my first house by myself. In many ways, I wanted to live my life as my own person before I became someone’s wife and someone’s mom. And your 20’s really is the absolute best time to do that because that decade of your life is such a transition time from being a college kid to a working adult with real-world responsibilities. I also wanted to know that if I had to go through life on my own, that I could do it by myself and that I was a solid, financially secure person outside of any relationship or entanglement.

I also wanted to make sure that I was with the right person when my time did come to marry. Without getting too into it here, I grew up in a marriage that was between two people that were not meant for each other and it was hard growing up in that space. And then when it finally exploded, my brother and I took the brunt of the fallout. In many ways, it was more me than my brother because I was the older one. We both have very different memories from that time in our lives.

What I took from that time in my life is that when I did have children, I wanted to make sure that they had a secure and loving relationship modeled for them so that when it became their turn to get married and start their own families, that they would know what it was supposed to be and look like. I was thankful to have found that love in my mid-20’s and that my husband got to be a part of my travels and my first time being out fully on my own and then joined me when I bought a house and together, we started a life together because, at that point, we were both ready for the next step in our lives.

In keeping my 20’s for myself, I think it made me a better wife and it definitely made me a better mother. It also gave my husband and I time to do so much stuff together. We backpacked through Europe, went to Disney World twice, got our first home together, had a lot of date nights and hangouts– we just enjoyed being together for several years. And now we’re an old married couple with a baby who spends their days watching Simple Songs of YouTube and we wouldn’t change any of it because we love having Logan and are enjoying family life.

I think everyone should wait until their 30’s or even late 20’s before they get married. Your 20’s are the best decade you’re going to have to be young, stupid and on an endless search of finding yourself. You’ll experience love and heartbreak, new jobs and opportunities and hopefully, a lot of adventure. Your 20’s are your time and I think if more people kept it like that, more people wouldn’t be getting divorced within the first few years of marriage because they will know who they truly are and what works and doesn’t work for them. You will become the most honest you have ever been when it comes to relationships and what you’re looking for. And you will be an accomplished person in your own right, outside of your marriage and your family.

And if you’re lucky you’ll meet your person and you’ll get to go home from your crazy days of responsibilities and dance to acoustic songs in your kitchen while your baby is asleep in the other room. I am excited to see where my settled self goes in this latest decade of my life and what I am writing about my 30’s when I hit my 40’s…ahhh!

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From our engagement photos at Asbury Park Convention Hall. November 2016.

Mental Health and Your PhD

I had not realized the toll my PhD had taken on my well-being until very recently.

As a PhD candidate you are always teaching or writing. Then, when you’re not you don’t know what to do with yourself and often, there is a sense of pervading guilt that you’re being “lazy” by not being involved with something.

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Because of this, completing a PhD is extremely isolating because you are spending your free time outside of teaching writing and/or reading which are solitary experiences. I also reached this point in my academic career where I realized I was in my early 30’s and if I wanted to be a mother, it was time to start my family. Being pregnant and then post-partum while I was entering my first quarter of dissertation was extremely taxing. I was dealing with all of the changes in my body and sleep deprivation as well as taking care of my son, it was a very trying time and one that I do not want to go back to.

Now that I at the end of it all, I am realizing how completely burnt out I am. I did a masters, a PhD, got married, bought and renovated a house and had a baby all within the last 6 years. I am exhausted. I am burnt out. And I have reached the point where I have realized that I need to unload something from my plate, I am going to have a full-fledged breakdown.

We are back from spring break today and for the first time in years, I actually took a spring break. I didn’t work on anything…not even a book review or dissertation editing. I hung out with my family and soaked in all the Logan time I could get and then balled my eyes out on the way into work this morning because all I wanted to do was stay home with my baby.

Years ago, an old boss told me that I should go into writing programming for organizations. She told me that I would be very good at that and would love working for myself. I keep thinking about that: getting serious about my own consulting practice. It really would be such an adventure and it would allow me to have more flexibility to be home more. I just don’t even know where I would start.

That’s a Wrap!

Yesterday, in the early hazy morning hours, I typed the final sentences to my 38,000 word, 135 page doctoral dissertation.

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The two glaring typos have since been fixed.

That is right. Yesterday morning, I finished writing my doctoral dissertation. I dedicated to my son because he was very much my dissertation baby. I got pregnant with him three months before I entered my doctoral comprehensive exam. I also dedicated it to my husband because he was the one that was there when I yelled and screamed and during that brief period when Logan was just born and hormones were raging when I declared I DIDN’T NEED A DOCTORATE. Guys, it’s really hard to write a doctoral dissertation and it’s almost impossible to do it when your body is in postpartum and your hormones are all over the place. If my husband hadn’t been there to force me into the basement and put up with my I TYPED 400 WORDS THIS AFTERNOON AND IF YOU SO MUCH AS TOUCH MY BOOKS….kind of rants than I don’t think I would have gotten to this point.

I chose to acknowledge all of the faculty that had helped me to get to this point and also my godparents. My uncle died when I was young, I was 12 years old, but he was the only other PhD in my family and it is because of him I set out on this crazy journey. I wanted to be the PhD of my family for my generation. I also included my aunt because she was such a foundation of my upbringing and she thought that I was never going to be able to complete this, but here I am. She died last June and it makes me sad that she never got to meet Logan or see that despite the intensity of a doctoral program, I have (almost) completed it.

What I am hoping to be my final quarter of dissertation begins on Monday. I am hopeful that I will attain mentor and committee approval within the first half and have my manuscript sent off to my dean and school quickly. I am hoping to defend my dissertation before the summer and if all goes smoothly, I will be graduating in Minneapolis in August.

My son has been sick with an upper respiratory infection and a double ear infection so sleep has not been something that I have been enjoying recently. I have been up with him or I have been writing this dissertation while being up with him. I was almost delirious yesterday with how bad my overall exhaustion was. Thankfully, my son slept last night and so did I because I had nothing to do and also my celebratory dinner with my husband and brother was enough to ease my stress and make me drowsy:

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Clearly, champagne and nachos are the only way you celebrate the end of a long 4-year journey. I don’t know what I am going to do with all of the time I am now going to have. I imagine that I will get to have more uninterrupted cuddle time with my son and spring and summertime adventures with him that will be so much fun and amazing because I will no longer have this monster of a study hanging over my head. I will just be able to focus on myself and my family.

But then there is also that side of me that has gotten myself to this point which makes me think how much farther can I go? I looked up this morning how many classes I would need to take in order to get my superintendent certificate.

It is one class.

I might be seeing that in my near future as well. Until then though, I am going to enjoy being a mom to the best little boy and reading all the for fun books that I can get my hands on this summer.

Now, I just can’t wait for those final approvals and an accepted defense.

As my mentor has told me throughout this process….ONWARD!

The Chop That Was Part II

When I started trying to get pregnant, I stopped dying my hair. At that point in my life I was becoming a mom and as such, I would worry about anything and everything from that point out. I used to love dying my hair. I had been doing it since I was 16. I have had every color from orange to purple to deep reds to black. Today, it is my natural dirty blonde and no longer hanging down my back but stopping at my shoulders:

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In college, when I was living in Paris, I had a girl I was living with embarrass me by pointing out the beginning of the gray hair that I already had. It was just a few strands at the time, but when she was loudly going off about in as we stood on a street corner surrounded by a bunch of people, it was just humiliating for me at 20 years old. It was also the first time I had noticed it.

By the time I was done with my masters program and was set up as a tenured teacher, the few strands had become a full on strip. Now, once that I had the baby, my slim strip was a full blown patch. When I went back to work my students even asked me if I had done it on purpose or if it was a birth mark. Instead of being embarrassed though, I have embraced my natural hair color and my big, white strip. I feel as though it is just part of this new season in my life.

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I never knew hair could be so liberating. Looking back at all the times I changed it though, they often coincided with hard parts of growing up: changes in jobs, ups and downs (and breakups) of relationships, moves, etc. This season in my life also marks one of the most settled ones of my life.

The Chop That Was

I am an old soul and as such, I have always been drawn to different times and old things.

I also have difficulties letting go.

Lately, it has been my hair. I had grown it out for our wedding and it was all the way down my back for the first time since I was little. Only, up until I had gotten engaged I was bleaching my hair to hide an every widening white streak that I have in the front. Half of my hair was so fried, but I was so attached to it.

It was the hair I had at my wedding nearly two years ago. It was the hair that I had throughout my pregnancy and through my nearly first year of motherhood. My aunt was still alive when I had that hair too…I had attached a lot of meaning to my hair.

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And so it took a great deal for me to finally cut off about 5, very damaged and burnt ends that are now in a bag in my car because I still couldn’t part with it, but I couldn’t wear it anymore.

It would mat up just by existing and brushing it often hurt because it would get and stay so knotted because it was so damaged. I feel like a new person today. My hair is light and curly and no longer two-toned. The chop, however stressful, was definitely needed and worth it.

Like most women, I feel like when I make a drastic change with my hair, I am making a step towards making a drastic change in my life. In many ways, this is already true. Another season of my life is ending and that is the part where I am a newly wed and a new mom. I am entering a phase of my life where my education will at last be complete and my focus will be on my family and my career.

God willing we will also be finally selling our townhouse and moving into our family house. As always, I am hoping this all will afford me more time to write and maybe even start that podcast that I have been day dreaming about doing lately. Now, I have a curly new hair cut to do it with.

My middle schoolers, the most honest (and sometimes mean) group of people in my life even said to me today that I now looked beautiful and my hair was no longer “just there.” I love them and their lack of filter for just about everything.

My New Favorite Phrase

I don’t know why some people take it upon themselves when they learn that a woman is pregnant or is a new mom to vomit all over them unsolicited parenting advice.

I have always found it to be one of the most annoying things about people who choose to do that.

They are a close second to the kinds of people who see you parenting one way and feel the need to comment about how they would do it or how you should do it. They are the absolute worst.

The great big reality of it all is that there are a million ways to parent and be successful at raising kids. And everyone is going to do it differently. When my mom took my son and I home from the hospital since my husband had to go back to work and I was abruptly discharged after almost dying, my mom tucked me into my house and waited for my husband to get home. Then she said to me, “you’ll figure it out. Call me when you want to talk and if not, I’ll call you in a couple days.”

And that was it. And she left me and my husband to figure out our son.

It was the best thing my mom could have done for us. She gave us room to figure out our son and the kinds of parents we were going to be. The truth is, I have taken some things from my mom that I remember growing up and I have added a lot of my own. I also became the kind of mom I never thought I would be: the co-sleeping, breast feeding, holistic kind of mom who believes her son is best at home with either myself or his dad or on the best days, both of us.

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And for our son, I think that is just what he needs. He is almost 6 1/2 months now. He loves food. He loves to cuddle. He loves to crawl and explore, everything. He sits and pulls himself up. He’s figured out how to transfer to other objects when he’s standing to move through the living room. He’s taken a few practice steps with his play stroller. He smiles all the time and loves to interact with the dogs and people. He screams and chatters up a storm. He belly laughs when he watches Behr do Behr things. He’s happy and healthy and secure. Which is exactly what I want him to be at 6 1/2 months old.

As a mother though, I will always get the commentary on what I should do  or how they would do it. However, I have also learned my new favorite response to people who think they have some sort of right to tell me how I raise my kid. And that is the following, very simple phrase:

“That is not how I am choosing to raise my son.”

Unfortunately, there will always be people who feel that they have some right to interject their thoughts or wants onto your child and your approach to parenting. They don’t, but they will continue to do it. So, I just learned to shut it down and keep on being the best mom I am being to my wonderful little boy who amazes me every single day.

Somewhere Between Sanity and Motherhood

I didn’t mean to take such a long break from writing, in fact, there is SO much I have wanted to write about, but I never seem to have the time anymore.

Our son was born a week before my birthday in August. I want to eventually write my birth story, but the entire ordeal was so traumatic that I still have problems even thinking about it. However, our little prince was absolutely worth it all:

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I had thought our boy would be my husband’s carbon copy, but he surprised me again in being mine with my husband’s dark brown eyes. He came into the world at almost 10 pounds and was 12 by his first doctors appointment. He is 5 months old this week and he loves to laugh at our dogs and snuggle. He talks up a storm and loves to be around people. I love watching him with his toys and how he figures out how to use them or how different sequences or choices make different noises. He is so incredibly smart.

I went back to work just before Thanksgiving and that has been the hardest part. I hate being away from him and I find that I just get through my days to get back to him and his smile.

I wrote my dissertation the entire time I was pregnant with him and then continued after I delivered and was half out of my mind recovering and learning how to breast feed him. It has been a wild ride for sure, but a of today I am half way through my dissertation journey and am eager to graduate next year. My PhD will take me to one last stop and that will be to Minneapolis for my graduation. Phil and I plan to take Logan and have our first family trip.

I am off for the holidays and I am enjoying every minute of being home. So, I guess I am now back to somewhere between my sanity and motherhood as we gear up for our next big adventure of selling out tiny house by the sea. I am excited and nervous for that move. I am ready to be in a big house and not have an hour commute, but I am also nervous about change and how much more work a big house is going to be.

Bring in on, though.

The Week That Was: Oh Baby & Doctoral Comps

My week started off with a trip to the ultrasound place. We both were looking forward to it for a week because we would have gotten the envelope that had the sex of our baby in it.

Only, baby had other plans. The moment that she put the wand on to my stomach, we looked up and saw that our baby is very much, in fact, a boy. Phil’s heart had been set on a gender reveal party next weekend, but after that, we pretty much called and told everyone our news.

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I knew he was a boy from the moment I found out that I was pregnant. Sometime in my late teens/early 20’s I had a dream that I was in a room with all of these babies. They all looked too small to even walk, so I was shocked to see them running around. I followed them up a flight of stairs until one fell backward and into my arms. I was amazed by how beautiful he was with his soft blond hair and huge blue eyes. A voice from behind me told me that his name was Dylan and that he “wasn’t ready for me yet.” Then I woke up.

I knew I had met my future son, and I knew eventually he would be ready for me. I just knew that this was him when my 5 pregnancy tests all turned positive. Only, Dylan never really fit him and for the longest time, I wanted to name my son John Dylan, John for my grandfather and Dylan for the dream. Phil is on this Phil the third thing, but I really feel that it’s too much to put on a kid and kids need their own names and their own identities.

We’ve been kicking around John Philip which I really love because it honors both grandfathers who are no longer with us and it gives our son his own identity. We have time to decide, but I’m really rooting for the latter choice. I was very close to my grandfather when he was alive and I know that I was his favorite. I took his death really hard in high school and in a lot of ways, I think losing him really put me on the path I took as an adult. He would be nearly 100 years old today. I wonder what he would think of all of this and how he must be up there smiling thinking about becoming a great-grandfather.

I thought this was going to be my big news for the week, but it seems that life also had other plans. Yesterday as I checked my phone for the time, I saw a gmail notification from my university. I didn’t breath the entire time the e-mail loaded. Coming in a whole FIVE DAYS before I was supposed to receive my results, it was the email containing my pass/fail notice on my doctoral comprehensive exam.

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And…I PASSED!!! I am officially a doctoral candidate and am now only waiting for my university to assign my doctoral mentor and committee before I plunge into dissertation. If I follow my plan, I will be done in a year and a half. I really can’t wait. I even hope I get there sooner because I am ready to be done and moving on with my life and career.

Pretty crazy week, eh?