Just as we are now

:: MaisleyNienhuis@gmail.com ::

She won’t need it for a while, considering she’s only five months old, but I wanted her to have an email address just in case {and a clean one without any numbers or silly characters}.

Although, around the year 2030, will email even be a thing? Or will she just simply write her note into thin air and it will transfer by virtual reality to the intended recipient’s air space {ya heard it here first}.

Or maybe we will go retro and snail mail will be cool again.

Anyways, my sister wrote Maisley a really sweet email. It was about how she wishes Maiz could hang out with us as we are now. By “us” she means the four of us sisters, parents, our husbands and friends.

I so wish she could see us now too.

The way we still act like kids. The way we laugh so hard around the kitchen table that snorting is always inevitable. The way we go all-out for parties and showers for our friends. The way we constantly reminisce about funny stories from our childhood and the thrill of a new person in our circle to share them with. The way we are carefree and enjoy nothing more than a flight of beers at a brewery and a wood fired pizza. The way we are mostly weird with a sprinkle of cool.The way us and all of our friends are hilariously trying to navigate this parenting thing with no manual.

The way we dance like crazy in front her, jumping up and down, making the most ridiculous faces, all for a little giggle. The way we take her everywhere we go as our adventure buddy. The way we smile at her, sing to her and tell her we love her. The way we snuggle her close and kiss her cheeks until she can’t stand it anymore.

The way we are now, in our 20’s and early 30’s. The hidden years that children assume never existed for their parents. After all, your parents to you are only mom and dad. They never dated other people, never had drunken nights out and definitely never made bad decisions.

When she becomes old enough to realize how cool we are and want us as friends, things will be different than they are now. Not bad, just different. Maybe even better.

I still wish she could see us now.

I guess I will casually drop this note into her inbox.

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30 Years Young

20 wasn’t so long ago, and it was also a lifetime ago.

Many days in my early 20’s were marked with independence and freedom. My mid 20’s with uncertainty, exploration and career growth. And my late 20’s were filled with unconditional love, I do’s and a baby. I graduated college at 21, lived in Australia at 23, ran a marathon at 26 and had a baby at 29.

While sometimes I look back in disbelief and think “Who was that girl?!”, I know my core being is threaded through each of those years.

Turning 30 isn’t so scary. Maybe it’s because I watched so much Friends in my 20’s that being 30 seems pretty cool. Or maybe it’s because overall, I’m happy with how I lived in my 20’s.

My only complaint is how quickly the years whisked away. And I don’t think time is stopping for a coffee break anytime soon.

When our daughter Maisley was first born, she had three veins on her left hand that were darker than the rest, crossing in almost a tic-tac-toe fashion. As she enters four months of life, the once prominent markings are starting to fade.

Sometimes I feel overwhelming sad knowing these moments and years are fleeting, and that I can’t grasp them anymore than I am. Her giggle and the way she looks and feels right now, right in this moment, won’t happen ever again.

Sometimes I wish a day away because life is hard. But I won’t do that anymore. Not in my 30’s.

Ryan surprised me and planned a trip to Lake Arrowhead for my birthday. We got stuck in the snow and for a brief second my fatalistic mind thought, “This is it. This is how it ends”. But alas, we made it to the cabin. At dinner, everyone went around the room and said their favorite thing about me. I was embarrassed, but also proud.

Ryan told me that I’m the bravest person he knows. He remembers me walking with my pillow clutched to my chest through security at LAX airport when I moved to Australia. It’s the nicest thing he could say about me.

Sometimes I don’t feel brave. Sometimes I feel afraid. Afraid of success, afraid of failure, afraid that I’m not the mom I want to be, afraid that I’m losing direction in my career. Knowing that he believes in me and that my family believes in me, gives me the confidence to keep pushing and keep trying.

While time will do as she pleases, fast and slow, slow and fast, I will live boldly in this next decade. Unapologetic. I will live not for pleasing, but for growth, for my family, my faith and for my greater purpose. I will live with love and keep trying to be better at the little things and the big things.

I’ve got nothin’ but love and gratitude for you 20’s, but I’m ready for the next adventure.

 

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For Jack.

A legend;
humble in his adventures,
wild at heart,
a shipmate,
friend to many.


High wispy clouds,
a golden haze on the horizon.
Deep blue water,
an oasis of childhood memories.

Waves crashed on the three arch bay,
ebb and flow,
ebb and flow.
Bringing in peace,
washing away grief.

Family and friends gathered;
from every season,
from every adventure,
from many parts of the world.

We all shared him in common.

Beers on the beach,
that’s what he would do.

Everyone gripped their memories;
Ray Bans covered wet eyes.

Who loved him and he never knew?
Whose life did he change?

A hundred surfers took to the water;
a circle of stories, a prayer, wild flowers.
Ashes forever amongst the ocean,
forever amongst us.

Live like him;
don’t be afraid,
ignore the chatter,
burn bright,
to the fullest.

For Jack.

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It’s About Time

I am so overly aware that my time as a new mom is precious.

“The days are long but the years are short. Enjoy it. It goes by too fast!”, they say. 

Time is an interesting character. A thing of its own. Ticking away either much too slow or way too fast.

I feel at the mercy of time, now more than ever.

Whether it’s a good time or a hard time, it’s just for a period of time. The feelings and tasks of the moment are fleeting, growing and changing. Big struggles become tiny blips. Happy moments become fond memories.

I hear so many people say, “I will be happy once ____ happens.” _____ can be that new job, new house, your newborn sleeping through the night, your school year to be over, etc.

But what if ___ happens and you’re not happy?

I vow not to wish away the present, but to find joy in the moment, whatever that moment in time brings.

The Mustn’ts

Shel Silverstein and poetry in general has been on my heart a lot lately.  As a new mama, I hope my baby girl sees the world this way:

“Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WONT’S
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.” – Shel Silverstein

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Nesting : The Birds & Me

There’s a Mourning Dove or “Love Dove” nesting right outside my front door.

I had been hearing her sweet cooing for a few weeks, and as I walked outside yesterday, she came rushing and flapping toward me in full mama protection mode. I was a little frightened by her to be honest. When I came back and saw her peacefully resting in her loose nest of twigs and branches, I understood the former commotion.

Our Love Dove’s two-week incubation seems like a drop in the bucket compared to my current 9 month gestational journey.  However, as I continue to see her everyday, I can’t help but notice the symbolism of motherhood soon to be hatching upon our home.

I have a self-admitted wandering spirit.  It’s something I love about myself that has been cultivated through years of travel and living abroad. But it’s also something that can leave me feeling unsettled, craving constant newness and change.

On any given free weekend, I am typically filling up the calendar with short road trips, adventures, or new happenings in our city. I don’t let the grass grow under my feet for too long, or whatever they say.

I always day dream of moving to a new city or raising my kids as cultured Europeans with my husband’s family in Holland. We talk about the small loft we would share and the important work we would do, the people we would meet and the amazing food we would eat.

But right now, in my third trimester of incubation, I am content. More than I ever have been.

I have this innate feeling of wanting to be home and stay close to home. I want to be here in Carlsbad, working and fiddling around the house. It’s such a foreign yet content feeling.

I have always had this fear of “settling down”. The phrase inherently feels opposite of the way I want to live my life. Who wants to simply “settle” for anything?

But maybe with the growth of new life and a change of seasons, I’m not as afraid. My husband reminds me that we will always travel, and that we will never lose our sense of adventure. We will just have to hire a bigger rental car.

I think I’m nesting too. 

Fire & Ice : A Writer’s Muse

Mother Nature rules the roost on this island. She decides when Geyser will explode into the air, when the next volcanic eruption will transform the land, when the tectonic plates will shift and when the northern lights will dance. I felt small and insignificant, figuratively and literally next to the dramatic and fierce landscape, at the mercy of Her. A risk taker, enjoying a land that emitted a quiet, impending doom.

I couldn’t help but notice geometric patterns tagging the landscape; an ikat rug amidst the frozen lake, leopard print covering the mountain side. The bright colored roofs on a gloomy day made me giddy with childlike wonder and enamor.  The vibrant street-art filled the otherwise boring walls with a funky personality of opinion and depth. The volcano formed scenery reminded me of agro crag from Nickelodeon’s GUTS. Tales of mischievous elves and the hidden people ran through my mind as I gazed into the mountainside, feeling confident of their presence.

The dramatic landscape and the feeling of unpredictability in this country fosters raw, vulnerable art. A transformative aroma in the air, a feeling begging for fresh thought and nurtured ideas.

Iceland: the perfect setting for a writing retreat.

As I arrived home and unpacked my suitcase labeled ‘heavy’ by airport staff, the only thing I found left untouched was my little green book, Brave Enough, by Cheryl Strayed. She was scheduled to attend our writing retreat in Iceland, and of course, sign my book, but much to everyone’s disappointment, had the stomach flu and couldn’t make it.

The writers were reassured with an Icelandic saying, þetta reddast, meaning it will work out.

This little book represented a theme for my week at the retreat. What I thought would be my experience, was something quite different. Something more, defined not just by one person but an entire country, like-minded friends, authors and mouth-watering brown bread.

Self-discovery as a new writer was my heart-tugging purpose for attending the retreat. Looking back, a quite lofty goal. I have been seeking direction and clarity in my new full-time pursuit as a freelance copywriter/blogger/newsletterist/non-fiction short story teller, and this seemed like the perfect setting for exploration.

Wednesday to Sunday in the small, big city of Reykjavik were dedicated to writing, workshops, receptions and tours. I was intimidated by all of my accomplished co-writers, legitimized by their published work and extensive background. Were they nervous like me? Were they undercover introverts who love their alone time but also feel rejuvenated by fresh conversation and connection?

I knew I would have to explain myself as a writer and this made me a little anxious. As if someone was going to discover that I wasn’t actually a writer? In reality, being surrounded by so many honest and vulnerable people was a huge relief. These were my people

When I explained my current situation of career ambiguity (like some kind of a prognosis) to a man of 60-years, he just nodded his head in understanding and agreement.  He explained that he has done all types of writing in his career, and that was the best part about it. You don’t need to have just one formula.

One of the novelists, Adelle Waldman, recalled her humble beginnings saying, “I used to be just a girl with a word document.”

Maybe I’m in that phase.

I captured so many other important, tasty bits of knowledge throughout the retreat. Here is a small sampling:

  • If something disturbs you, write about it
  • Be humble in front of the world
  • You have an idea, now find the story
  • What is something you are too afraid to ever write about. Write about that.
  • Don’t mistake the good feeling of finishing something, with actually being finished
  • Emotional responses are not your friend
  • Writing is the only art form where you can inhabit the body and mind of another human, real or fake
  • Open yourself to condemnation and shame, and trust in everyone’s humanity
  • Know the difference between a confession (deep/dark) versus a revelation (how something changed you)
  • Ask yourself the question, “Who am I really?”
  • Be brave in your writing

I am brave. I am brave. I had to be brave traveling alone at 22 weeks pregnant. Brave to be vulnerable and true in sharing who I am. Brave to take the leap into a career of the heart.

Now, to take my real-life bravery and translate it into my writing, and my pursuit of new writing opportunities. My challenge and purpose is clear.

We were treated to a small Skype session with Cheryl Strayed at the end of the retreat. It all worked out. And I left with so much more than a signed book.

A soul brimming with creativity, motivation and bravery.

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Photo Credit: Lucy Rogers

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