you + me forever, kid

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

  As I write this, I know I can't yet hit "publish." Soon enough, though, it'll be different. The world (orrrr just my Facebook friends, it's whatever) will know. Those beyond just our close friends and family will start to understand why my clothes are fitting a little tighter...beyond my sudden affinity for Cheesy Gordita Crunches. For now though, I'll cling to my secret for just a tiny bit longer.

Hi, Baby Branch. We've been waiting for this moment for so long. 💗

  On April 15, I was driving home from Austin from my new sister-in-law's bachelorette party (I DIDN'T KNOW I WAS PREGNANT, OK?!) when I got a notification from my Glow app. For the past six-seven months, Taylor and I had been casually not not-trying for a baby (a Twig, if you will) and honestly, nothing was happening. Right on time, Mother Nature blew on through each month and I would be lying if I said we hadn't begun to worry. Taylor started early with his two children--by just 19, he was a married father of two. At that same time, I was 13 and my life amounted to not much more than frosted lip gloss and Nsync songs. Now, at 28, I found myself inching closer and closer to that time in my life where I felt as ready [as you can be] for momma-hood and at 34, I knew my husband felt his own biological clock was ticking. We have one kid going off to college in the fall and another starting high school at the same time. Was it just too late for a little one of our own?

   Fast-forward to Austin and that app. I spent the weekend having a blast, dancing in the world's most uncomfortable but also completely-worth-it hot pink heels and celebrating our Branch-to-be. On the way home, I'm navigating my way through traffic (shout out to that small town life and kinda forgetting how to be a defensive driver) when I notice the screen of my phone light up. Glow, an app used to track a woman's fertility, was notifying me that I was six days late for my period. "Did you forget to log?" it asked. I stopped. My heart started beating faster. And I began to think.

   I had been late before but it had never amounted to anything. For some reason though, as my mind began to race through the possibilities, I knew that this time, it was different. 30 minutes later, I swooped into the Target parking lot in Temple and made a beeline for the pregnancy tests. Immediately after paying, I was seated alone in a public restroom stall with a glowing blue cross symbol in my right hand and a second unused test in my left. It was positive. My eyes filled with happy tears as my heart continued its whole nervous, racing palpitation thing. So, what now?

   Not knowing quite what to do, I waited in line at the Target Starbucks for a passion fruit tea (first ever craving? Maybe?) as I began to formulate a master plan. Aimlessly, I wandered over to the dressing rooms and asked an employee if they happened to have any t-shirts with the word "mom" written on them. Surely enough, there was one, a navy blue tee with a circle of stars and the phrase "I'm a mom. What's your superpower?" splashed across the front. I quickly grabbed the shirt and then made my way to the coffee mugs where I found one that had the word "mom" written in various languages across it. With my new finds in hand, I ran over to the self-checkout and then sat in my car. For like, a really long time. With the AC blasting and shadows of the sun on my skin, I finally began to breathe. I. Was. Pregnant. Whoa.

   I still had almost an hour-long drive before I made it home to Gatesville where I knew my husband awaited me. I mindlessly listened to music as I drove, unable to concentrate on much more than the road in front of me. Finally, I pulled into the driveway and walked into our backyard where Taylor, his son, Ethan, and good friend, Kris, were cleaning catfish. No, there's nothing quite like planning to tell your hubby that you're pregnant while he's covered in blood, guts and pure STANK. ;)

   After saying my hellos, I ran into our bedroom and nervously changed into the t-shirt I just bought. I quickly slipped on a hoodie over it and raced into the kitchen where I began furiously knocking on the backyard window to catch Taylor's attention. It worked. Kinda. Confused, he started motioning for me to come outside and I impatiently shook my head 'no' and gestured for him to come inside instead. After some charade-style negotiating, I ran back into the bathroom where I waited to make my grand entrance. Finally, in walks Taylor and out walks me, hoodie off and announcement on full display.

   "Do you like my new shirt?" I asked incredulously. Cue the stunned silence, shocked expression and "Babe...are you serious?!" as he cautiously ran over to hug me. I whipped out the test to assure him and we both sat, stunned, nervous, unsure, yet over-the-moon.

   Although I planned to wait to tell my parents in person, my inpatient self couldn't quite handle it and I ended up Facetiming them that evening...again with the happy tears and confusion from my father over what exactly the weirdly shaped stick with ClearBlue written on it meant.

   Later that week, Taylor and I called ahead to a family favorite, Buffalo Wild Wings, to inform the staff of a little plan we had. After picking Faith up from a student council conference she had attended for a few days, we and the kids walked into BDubs for an unassuming evening of chicken wings and [not] beer. We got seated by our waitress at a table for five, high chair and kids' coloring sheet included. "Oh, I thought you guys were a party of five," she said. "Well, not until December!", I responded. Pro tip: announcing you're pregnant is always made better by wings.

 Also, knowing that I literally cannot keep my mouth shut about anything when it comes to her, I made sure to FaceTime my best friend, Renee, under the guise of showing her the "new coffee mug I got her for her first Mother's Day" (a totally FaceTime-worthy moment, obvs) and suddenly holding up a second matching mug while slipping in a casual "oh, I got myself one, too...." 😉 The reactions were worth every bit of my impatient inability to keep really, really good feelings to myself for very long.

   So today I sit, 13 weeks pregnant, ending my first trimester with steady nausea, a pinched nerve in my hip, a scattered mind and constant lack of energy and yet somehow I feel happy, fulfilled and abundantly blessed. A week ago, I had my second OBGYN appointment and we got to hear Baby Branch's strong, steady, fast heartbeat, a sound unlike any I've ever known. It's real. It's happening. It's ours.

   Twig, you have my word that your daddy, sister, brother and I will love you to the moon and back, to every corner of the Earth, through every inch of the seas. Momma is scared, excited, nervous, hopeful but most importantly, hopelessly in love. Daddy's done this whole thing before but it's been awhile. ;) Bear with us, baby. We're in this together. From now until forever.

I will always love you, sweet, sweet, child of mine, and I cannot wait to meet you. I am so lucky that I get to bring you into this world and guide you through any and all terrain the best I know how. I'm so eager to get to know you and get to love you.

All my heart and every bit of my soul,

k i n d n e s s

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

   I'm not an overtly political person. I don't rant on Facebook, I don't engage in hateful debate with those who have differing views and other than a select few, no one really knows my party affiliation. My job requires it. {A biased journalist just ain't a journalist, y'all.} But what I do know, regardless of what political party you may identify with or what policies you support, is this: kindness matters. Tolerance matters. Compassion matters.
   I could care less what religion you are or the color of your skin but if you're hateful, ungrateful or the least bit condescending? Lordy lordy, that's when my skin starts to crawl. Like caterpillar-on-your bare-skin kinda crawl. Blame it on my roots (the Texas kind, not the overgrown highlights sitting not-so-pretty on my head right now) but when I pass a stranger on the sidewalk, I smile. When someone holds open the door for me, I thank them. I greet others with a "yes m'am/no sir"and as hard as it may sometimes be, I always try to look a person in the eyes and keep a friendly smile on my face.

*FYI, that's no small feat when you have a severe case of RBF and bad eyesight. Seriously, if y'all ever think I'm mean-mugging you, know it's probably because I left my glasses at home and am squinting to see 2 inches in front of my face.

 When I eventually have children, I think the number one thing I wish for them isn't wealth, good work ethic or a college education (and I mean, I would love all of the above for them) but it's simply to be N I C E. To treat others equally out of the goodness of their hearts. I am someone who is constantly intimidated by beautiful, powerful, picture-esque women. Totally not proud to admit it! But I am. It's sad but the second I see a super pretty girl, (and at the same time, an attractive guy) I automatically have my guard up, thinking there's no possible way they have a nice bone in their body.

   That's not right.

    It may be human nature, sure, but what does that say about the state of humanity when you don't automatically assume a good looking or well-dressed person, or someone in any position of power, is even approachable?  I'm legit surprised when I meet an intimidating person and they're actually friendly, open and genuine. I know I'm noooowhere near perfect, I've had my moments, and goodness knows I can be stubborn, sarcastic and jealous (among other things but I mean, this is my blog so surely I can't bash myself too hard, right? 😉) but if someone were to ever tell me I'm mean? Or hateful? Or just straight up not a nice person? I really don't think there's a quicker way to sucker-punch my heart.

   Spread kindness around like confetti. Smile more. Make friends. Seek out the people that others ignore. Talk to everyone. Throw out compliments like those shirts they shoot out of cannon things at a baseball game. (Not a good analogy? No? Just me?)


   When you're in a mood, guess what? That spreads. I'm one of those people that soaks up the vibes put out around me like a sponge. If you're angry, I feel it. If you're happy, perky and upbeat? I'm as cheerful as they come in turn. Be mindful of what energy you carry. And like I said...
   Don't kill them with kindess. Revive them with it.

a letter to my-16 year-old self

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Oh, poor, sweet, 16 year-old-me with the hot pink and purple braces and flip-flop heels,

   A word of advice? You'll never be good at getting your eyeliner straight but anything is better than the Avril Lavigne raccoon eyes you've got goin'. That fabric choker you're wearing? That'll actually come back in style. The size-too-small Hollister shirt that says something about being a beach babe when you live in Texas? That won't.
   The girls that are mean to you now won't matter to you after you graduate and they probably all married guys with names like Dale who [barely] work for their grandfather's law firm and think a fun night out is trading their tassled loafers for their boat shoes.
   You will get to travel to so many amazing places in your lifetime. A whole, beautiful world exists outside of Lamar High School. Don't get too wrapped up in the drama. And for goodness sake, your heart will mend! This is not the end all, be all. You could have saved yourself a lot of tears if you had just listened to your parents. (I know, I know, you're pretty bad at that.) You'll also continue to really have a thing for guys who's names start with the letter "T."
    You know how you're able to eat junk food all day long and you practically live at Taco Bell and you never gain any weight? (shout out to Nacho Bell Grandes!) Yeeeah. That's all about to end. One day, you'll actually have a gym membership and you'll order 'skinny cocktails.' Yes, you, the one people accuse of having an eating disorder when you actually go to the snack machine three times a day for a king-sized candy bar and a Dr. Pepper between meals. Oh, how the boney have fallen. Also, you'll forever be a little lanky. Own it.
   When you turn 18, you'll go get a tiny star tattooed on your hip that's not even remotely straight and you'll pay $40 for it. Don't do that again. When you're 19, you and your two best friends will then go get matching tattoos of a swirly-heart because you completely lack creativity and you'll think it's sOoOoo CuTe. Don't do that again either.
   Your first car will be your mom's old one that she drove you to kindergarten in. Eventually, it'll get backed into by your drunk uncle and you'll have to crawl through the passenger side door to even get in it. Just be thankful you have a car. Oh, and you won't get your license until you're 18, your next car will be the size of a shoe-box and you'll never really be that good of a driver. Plus, you'll get hit while you're in a parking space like 5 different times over the years. I don't know what you did to deserve that kinda karma but whatever it is, try not to let that happen, k?
   That dream you have of being a famous actress one day? That won't happen but the other one about being a writer will. When you were a kid and you made your own little newspaper called The Kaley Khronicles that no one but your parents read? One day, you'll be the editor of an actual paper that thousands of people subscribe to. Be proud, stay humble and try actually committing to your blog in the meantime.
    The sound of people chewing will forever drive you crazy. Don't try to fight it, girl.
   You won't have kids by 25 like you imagine but you will have made some great memories and met some wonderful people. Live in the moment. Take more pictures. Never take these years for granted because even though you think times can be tough, you'll always come out stronger, happier and overall, better.
   Britney Spears goes crazy and shaves her head soon. So, that sucks.
   Your grandmother passes away this year. You've already lost your dad's parents. Granddaddy will leave us in March of 2011. Cherish them with every little fiber of your being. You'll fly to Nebraska to make surprise visits to Grandma Floy when you're older, too. You'll even get to be there for her 80th birthday. She is a treasure. Hug her tight.
   You're still obsessed with dogs and you'll always cry more at dogs dying in movies than when people do. I don't know what that says about you but it's probably not good.
   You'll move to a small town when you're 25 and you'll find yourself at Walmart way more than you'd like to. Take advantage of the Ft. Worth shopping and Dallas sushi while you can.
   Also, try not to sound as stuck up as you just did in your day-to-day life.
   Continue to be kind, smile at strangers and treat everyone with compassion and respect. Being nice will never be any less important to you than it is now. You don't know everyone's story and if you did, you might understand their actions a little bit better. Be who God made you to be--a good person with a big heart, big dreams, a fire in your soul and an intense love of red velvet cupcakes.
   You will be okay. You got this, girl.

Love, 28-year-old you who drinks way too much coffee and eats oatmeal for breakfast everyday because you're really just that exciting

work in p r o g r e s s

Monday, January 29, 2018

   This poor, poor blog. I told myself I was going to commit to maintaining it. I did. And then I didn't. Then I said I would again. And then I didn't again. So now, here we are, and I'm giving it yet another go. I feel like my blog and I are a doomed high school relationship waiting to happen but, like any hopeless 16-year-old, I'm back with high expectations and unrealistic standards. ;)
   On the real though, if you've noticed a little increase in my social media presence, this is why. Deleted Instagram live videos included. (Long story short, I had a few glasses of wine, my dog was being cute, I went live, she stopped being cute and I stopped acting like I'm capable of not being awkward.) You can't blog without branding and seeing as how I'm pretty new at this, taking a crack at this social media/branding thing is where you'll find me...aka I'm upping my fashion game and that's just how I'm justifying it to my wallet. Which brings me to...
    Life update! In November, I was promoted to news editor of our paper and I couldn't possibly love my job more. That's starting to spill over into other facets of my life, too; just last week, I re-committed to working out {shout out to all that holiday eating, amirite?] and already, the fruits of my labor are starting to pay off. That. Feels. Good. Something else I'm turning my focus to? Finances. Try as I might, I've never been the best at saving my $$$. I've definitely gotten better over the years, don't get me wrong!  Fun fact: once, when I was a teenager, I was in San Francisco with my best friend and spent $130 on Justin Timberlake jeans (there is such a thing) and they didn't even fit but I was so desperate to have them that I bought them anyway and if that doesn't say a lot about how far I've come, I don't know what will.
   Fun fact 2: I may or may not do it all over again. It's JT. Come on.
   That being said...

   Does anyone have any suggestions on budgeting apps/websites/books or articles?  

I'm looking to completely start fresh and get back on track with my spending and easily organize my bills in a way that my little 500-miles-a-minute mind can keep on top of. I can remember the date and time of each new episode of This Is Us but I'll be danged if I can't tell you which date my phone bill drafts out or the exact amount of my cable bill! Setting alarms or reminders won't work, y'all. Just ask my snooze button.

Until next time, (which is hopefully in a few days. Hopefully.)