Self-Love

Dear Liam,

This is a picture of me, 23-and-a-half years old.

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I took this self-portrait (can I avoid using the word “selfie” here?) a week ago today. It seems like a rather silly thing to say that sharing this photograph is a big accomplishment for me. People take pictures of themselves all the time- it’s a part of our “front facing camera” culture. But whenever I become the subject of my pictures, or any pictures for that matter, an intense anxiety takes over.
 
I’m an extremely self-conscious person. I’ve carried this trait with me for a while, since I was about eight years old. Most of the time I’m fine, but out of the blue a switch flips- I’m aware that everyone around me can see me. I remember that I have a body and a face and a voice that I’m in control of but will never truly experience as an outsider. I choke up, I get nervous sweats, I suddenly feel claustrophobic. It’s like stage fright- except that the entire world is my audience and I am perpetually the performer. Youd think that maybe seeing pictures of myself would help, that Id be able to say, Look! Youre a person, just like everyone else.  But all I can see are those telling signs that Im not comfortable. See my mouth, how Im trying not to show my teeth? Or my hands, sticking out like that. Why did I think that would look natural?
 
Sometimes, I get a hold of myself quickly. I’ve found I can abate these feelings with a simple reminder: I am more aware of my physicality than anyone else. I try to look at myself from a distance. I stop zooming in on my face, stop pressing my nose to the mirror. And when I do that, I can relax. I really do like myself. I’m no narcissist, but I have come to love my appearance with a certain fondness. My physical appearance is not exactly like anyone else’s, and isnt that in itself beautiful?
 
But self-love can be an exhausting exercise. It’s hard to have to run through this whole spiel every time I get that feeling. Besides, you dont always have the time to give yourself that pep talk. One easy way to avoid all of this hassle? Avoid the camera. If I’m not having my picture taken, I don’t have to feel that anxiety. And why does anybody want to see my face, anyways? I’m defined by more than my appearance alone. So here, look at the son I’m raising. Here, look at the art I’m creating. Here, look at the places I’m going and the things that we’re doing. 
 
There’s nothing wrong with doing that- except that I’m using it as a crutch. Sure, I am much more than my physical body. But I am also that physical body. I cannot hide that, no matter how hard I try- that’s just how it is. That’s being a person. So if I have a picture of myself that I think is as beautiful as a picture of a fern, or a book, or of you, and refuse to share it? I’m just letting my anxiety control me. 
 
Here are my goals: that loving myself becomes more and more natural. That my self-consciouness will not always be so present, will not always be such a burden. That I will not have to talk myself up to see that I am a subject worth documenting and sharing.
 
There may come a time when you start to see yourself a little too closely. You might be having a conversation with someone, you might be in a room full of people, or maybe you are just drinking a cup of coffee alone in your kitchen and suddenly you remember. “I have a face. I have a body. I am a person who exists outside of my own thoughts.” And you might begin to feel that sinister anxiety take over you.
 
My advice? Go find a sunny spot, set up your camera and take a picture of yourself. E-mail me that picture, or whatever people are doing 20 years from now. Remember that you are always worth being seen. Remember that I always want to see you.
xoxoxo
mama

Today I Am Very Emotional Thanks To Star Wars

WARNING: This was written during an extreme vortex of complicated emotions as a result of watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Dear Liam,

This morning, sitting in the movie theater with my head slightly tilted up towards the screen, I was transported back in time to my grandmother’s den. Five years old, the words STAR WARS appearing in bold yellow, those first notes of the main title march ringing in my ears, my stomach pressed against the dark green carpet, my head slightly tilted up.

One day, I’ll be happy to tell you all of the Star Wars centered quirks and obsessions of my childhood. How I dreamed of becoming a director who would make the final Star Wars trilogy.  One day, I can tell you how as a teenager I became discouraged by my own limitations, jaded by the filmmaking industry (and Star Wars itself!) and how I gave up on my dreams.

It was a little heartbreaking to sit in the crowd today and think about that. I started to trace back every step in my life that took me further away from that dream and felt really small. And then I had a big thought, a lengthy thought that I will tell you all about right now:

Though sometimes you might be blinded, though sometimes you might be lost, though sometimes you might feel scared: if you truly love something, you will always find your way back.

I have always wanted to tell stories- especially in a way that combines words and images. But because I’m not a professional filmmaker or production designer or graphic artist… oftentimes I look at my little sketchbook sitting on my little desk in the corner of my bedroom and I forget why I’m making art. I focus on the things I lack instead. And then I start to feel really lost, like what turn did I take to get here? Which makes me scared. Have I been fooling myself all along? And just like a few Star Wars heroes… I think about just giving up on it all, walking away and trying something else.

But I am not meant to do something else. Even if I haven’t gotten a degree or written a book or achieved whatever accolades I’m convinced I need to be “for real”… I am meant to tell stories. 

The crazy thing is: I do that all the time. Most of my day is telling you a story- telling you “Hey! Look at this amazing cool thing. Look at this magical piece of our world, let’s explore it! Let’s talk about it! Let me tell you what I know about it!” Whether it’s in sharing a book or a movie or a part of nature or a family tradition… I’m constantly crafting your universe.

So yeah, my name wasn’t on The Force Awakens’ rolling credits like I dreamed about when I was five years old. But one day there will be an end credit to your movie- your life- and it will say: Created by Ashley Beresch. Me! Your mom.

xoxoxo

mama

Small Breaks

Dear Liam,

You’ve broken your leg (again)!

Last week you slipped on one of Cassie’s toys. It was a stunt that Papa says looked just like the slipping-on-a-banana-peel gag- limbs splayed, mouth wide open in shock.  We thought it was surely just a sprain… but nope, you managed to get a small, barely noticeable fracture to your tibia.

On the bright side of things, we’re lucky enough not endure another SPICA situation. Your cast just goes mid-thigh and they were able to skip a sedative to put it on.  The fracture has nothing to do with your bones- you don’t have any disease or growth problem which is reassuring. We also get go back at 3 weeks (Christmas Eve!) for your follow-up, which is half as long as last time. But on the other hand… you’re several pounds heavier and a few inches taller than you were 6 months ago, so schlepping you around is a whole lot tougher. The doctor assured us you’d be able to walk, but so far you’re hesitant. “Oh mama. Liam no walk. I broke my leg. Big boo-boo, got a cast. Liam no walk! Cast is so big. Too heavy, it no work!” Your great vocabulary and ability to speak your mind are awfully wearing when you’re being stubborn or particular.

I keep telling myself “It’s just a small break!”.  A small break not just in regards to the bone, but also to our routine. We’re practically experts on how to handle this anyways. I’m finding it important to give myself a break too. Between the pneumonia and this, it’s been a struggle to keep everything in balance. It’s easy for me to hold on to the little anxieties, letting them stack up until they’re crushing me.I’m working on letting go. On not letting the half-finished chores or unswept floors or incomplete doodles get to me.

I’ll have to let you know how it goes…

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Sometimes the small breaks provide the nicest small pleasures.

xoxo
mama

Long Weekend

Dear Liam,

I love the end-of-the-year holiday rollcall. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Papa’s birthday, Christmas, New Years- it’s two months of joyful preparation and celebrating. Of course, no season is without some speed bumps. This year, it’s been your never-ending cold that had us in the ER on Thanksgiving morning. Pneumonia! (Amongst all the things I was thankful for this Thanksgiving, having great insurance through Papa’s job was one of them. I hope that when you’re old enough to read this, it seems excessive that I’m thankful for affordable, quality healthcare.)

Thankfully, we were discharged in time to enjoy our turkey dinner with family. It has been a long weekend of restless nights turned lazy days full of reading books, watching movies, and snuggling. We made it out yesterday for Small Business Saturday, which is near and dear to my heart. My parents owned a small shop and then a small monthly publication. As a teenager, I always worked odd hours at their store. I wrote articles for and distributed their paper, shelved books at my uncle’s books beloved bookstore, worked weekends at local coffeeshops. I know how much hard work and devotion goes into making that dream happen- putting it all out there just to be at the mercy of your customers. It makes me feel good to support our local businesses, even in our own little way.

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Watching the parade with popsicles and Papa.
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A kind stranger in L5P gave you his awesome paper airplane.

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Here you are with your new toy. It is an exercise in patience.

A few other things not to forget:

-Right now, your favorite color is orange
-You are fiercely defiant
-Your favorite stuffed animal is a tiger who you call “My Cat”
-You refuse to let me speak German, but have no problem going back and forth between it and English when talking to us and my mind is constantly blown by that
-You could live on animal crackers, Cheez-its and oranges
-You have an amazing memory retention for lyrics, but sometimes your take is hilarious. An example:

Me: “Sweet baby Jesus” (sung from Kanye West/Jay-Z’s “Made In America”)

You: “Sweet baby Cheez-it! Oh Mama. I know what. More Cheez-its?”

It’s been an interesting long weekend. Here’s to you getting healthy soon!

xoxoxoxo
mama
p.s.:

Here’s a look at you, exactly two years ago picking out our first Christmas tree together. I’ve been watching other people put theirs up all week and can’t wait for us to get ours!

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Lately

Dear Liam,

After what has felt like weeks of rain, today was beautiful. The kind of weather where you don’t have to turn on the heat or the AC, where the perfect amount of sunshine pours through the windows. Things have been tough lately- battling off the moody weather blues on top of seasonal viruses, dealing with temper tantrums and the “terrible twos,” and trying desperately to keep some sort of normal schedule in our lives. Lately, 6:00 rolls around and I’m feeling completely drained. But this evening, instead of saying “Sure, one episode of Little Einsteins won’t kill you…” I picked myself up and we went for a walk with our neighbors. We waved to kids on their bicycles and the ducks on the lake, we picked flowers and made tiny bouquets, we talked about the changing seasons. We came home, took a bath, put on our beloved tiger pajamas and had a last-minute dance party to get out the wiggles. Then we curled up in our little rocking chair and snuggled until you were just awake enough to walk yourself to bed and climb in. Sometimes it just takes one bright, sunny day to make things feel right again.

///

Here are some things we have been doing lately:

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Side notes: You like to have this album on the record player at all times. You could spend 15 uninterrupted minutes banging on your tiny drum kit. You have the best ear- you’re always the first to say “Did you hear that? What was that noise?!”. You can count to 13 and know all the letters of the alphabet. You’re diligently learning how to be polite- I love it when you say “Thanks mama!” exactly when I need to hear it.

Lots of love, little guy.

xoxoxo

mama

Lately

Dear Liam,

Here’s what’s been going on lately:

We briefly recouped from our beach trip before Aunt Emily and Ben came to stay with us for a week. You loved them instantly, constantly wanting to be in their presence (and have their attention). You still have the tiniest limp, but that doesn’t slow you down. You jump and run in circles and recently learned how to walk backwards. I’m constantly amazed at how fearless you are. You have quickly learned how to make full sentences, your favorites being “Mama hold me now” and “I want it, yes!”. We’re still working on our pleases and thank yous…

You’re becoming more attached to your toys,  particularly your stuffed animals. You have a small crew of 6 that have to be in the crib, positioned around your head like a halo. In good news- the pacifier and blanket have been confined to the crib! No more “ditty” permanently fixed in your mouth, no more dragging your poor blankets around by their tags all day long. This is a huge accomplishment- as preschool approaches, I’ve been worried about leaving those safety nets behind.

And preschool! You start in a week! I know I should be terrified, conflicted, and ready to give up our deposit and keep you at home- but frankly, I’m excited. You need to have something more than me in your life, and two mornings a week without Mama and Papa seems like a fair deal! Though I will admit, shopping for tiny backpacks has me a little choked up. And I’m 99% sure I’ll cry when I take your picture on the first day.

You can be such a tough toddler to handle sometimes. You’re ferociously stubborn, extremely particular, and VERY vocal. I often find myself struggling to be your equalizer. And I am constantly learning just how much more patient I can be. But when you are sweet, you are so very sweet. You squeeze my cheeks together and plant a drooly kiss on my face and it’s like a reset button has been pressed.

Plus, you love broccoli. So I can’t rag on you too much.

//

I didn’t take a lot of pictures, but I think I got the most important parts of the past few weeks: milkshakes, human swings, date night at the drive-in (feat. more milkshakes), and you wearing your Uncle Adam’s Ramones onesie.

xoxoxo

mama

Vacation

Dear Liam,

Sometimes you have the opportunity to escape for a little bit. Always take it. We just got back from spending a week with family on Anna Maria Island, a place we often vacationed when I was little. It was your first time going to the “big water!”. A friend asked me today if I felt relaxed or just exhausted- after all, traveling with a toddler can be hell. The answer is yes, I am a little tired on the surface. But deep down, my heart is full and my soul feels rested.

It’s always funny to see past and present overlapping. As a kid I never imagined that in a decade or so I’d be bringing my own family to this beach, sharing a cozy bungalow with some of the people I love most in this world. Maybe we didn’t get the best sleep in our lives that first night. Maybe the beloved ice cream store of my childhood was closed for vacation (where do people who live in paradise go for vacation?). Maybe we occasionally got that sad, premature nostalgia that this would all be over soon and the real world was awaiting our return. But we couldn’t let those things phase us. How could they after hearing you giggle as the ocean’s waves tickled your feet for the first time? After watching a sea turtle make her slow trek up the sand to lay her eggs? Or after your Papa found the perfect sand dollar right as the sun dipped under the horizon?

Papa and I took a walk on the beach one night, Jupiter and Venus as big as the streetlights back home.  Under our feet, the waves exposed tiny coquina clams who furiously dug themselves back into the sand. The cloudless sky was streaked with stars- more than we’ve seen for longer than I can remember. As parents we often marvel at how tiny you are and yet how much you have grown- and there I was, doing the same to myself. How small was I then, standing on that same shore, and how big I am now. And yet, how small I still am! I am ever grateful for moments that make it impossible to ignore exactly what and where I am. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget your place in the universe.  

In case you ever forget your place, little one, always know you have someone here to remind you.

xoxoxo

mama

Summertime (Spica Week 4 + Beyond)

Dear Liam,

There are the things that I love about the summer- lazing around the pool, the smell of sunscreen, cooling off with a drink on the back porch after a long day. And then there are the things that I hate, like the heat, the mosquitos, the heat, the constant sweating, the heat… Atlanta has officially bid adieu to milder temperatures and behold: a weekly forecast where no high is below 92. All I can say is thank God that your cast is off.

Oh yeah, the cast is off!

The past week has flown by- we’ve tried to pack in as many activities as possible to celebrate the end of Spica’s reign. We had our follow-up appointment last Monday, when it was deemed that everything was healed and the cast could come off. You were sadly mistaken when you thought that the cast saw machine was a vacuum… but you held up like a champ for the removal!  And I managed to make it back home without passing out from the stench. You’d managed to get a good bit of pee in there over the weekend and it reeked. It took three baths for your normal scent to return! But seriously, I’m amazed at how quickly you’ve healed from all of this and so thankful for how little it has phased you. Had this happened when you were at all older, I feel like there would have been some longer lasting effects. It seems that we’ve weaned from the popsicle-and-Pooh diet and you’re back to your normal, bouncy self.

So after weeks of being cooped up with not much to do, I think it’s been really good for us to get some sun on our skin. And I’ll try not to complain about the heat too much, I promise.

xoxoxo

mama

(p.s: this letter marks one year of my project for you! happy anniversary!)

Fingers Crossed (SPICA Cast Week 2.75)

Dear Liam,

We have made it to the (fingers crossed) final week. This time next Monday we’ll be driving to the surgeon’s office to get some new x-rays and (again, fingers crossed) get that cast off! Are you ready? I am READY.  Last week, I think we were all feeling the anxiety/exhaustion kicking in. Looking at the calendar I would count the days and freak out. 13 more days?!? How were we going to make it?!

There’s something about being able to say “one more week” that makes everything seem a little brighter.

Or maybe I’m just tired of feeling tired. One of my biggest flaws is my tendency to let my emotions rule me- particularly the negative ones. Yeah, I know- Mama’s not perfect? What?! But this is something I’ve struggled with for a while. When a few things start getting hard, everything feels hard. When I’m having trouble solving one problem, everything becomes impossible.

The good thing is that there are ways to overcome the overwhelming. For me, it’s part getting organized and part letting things go. Making a grocery list instead of winging it, writing out a weekly schedule so I have something to look forward to every day- those are things that help me feel in control. But it’s also about learning that you can’t control everything. You do your best and let the rest go.

We have survived 20 days with this thing- we can totally handle 7 more. Fingers crossed.

///

I’ve been really bad about taking decent of pictures of you lately. We’ve spent a lot of this week lounging around watching The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh over and over again (I could write a freakin’ thesis on this movie). Here are a few snaps from our past week and a half:

xoxoxo

mama