Job Searching: A Shot in the Dark?
Without further ado….let’s talk about jobs, baby!
This feature of job hunting has always bothered me quite a bit. I’ve always thought more people would have fulfilling careers rather than hated jobs if the process itself permitted more transparency between applicant and hiring company and if more recruitment firms approached the task as “matchmaking” rather than applying the all-powerful keyword search to uploaded resumes.
Imagine my surprise and glee when, in searching for writing positions, I found a Talent Recruitment Agency called Onward Search. From the moment you land on their homepage, there is an obvious and tangible difference between this company and most other talent and job aggregates I have encountered. Onward Search has an entirely urban feel, which is likely part of what attracted me, both because of my age and my creative discipline. It is interactive and inviting and manages to say, “Hey, grab a latte and come chat with me–we’ll figure out the perfect fit for you!”
Rather than simply uploading a resume (and certainly without employing the dreaded copy and paste that obliterates all the formatting you painstakingly created as a reflection of your truest self for hiring companies), Onward Search makes the resume submission process a conversation between friends. On the job search feature, locations and categories are simple to navigate and understand and results are clear and easy to peruse. When you choose “Submit a Resume”, you are prompted with a few basic questions (name, professional area, etc), and then you are offered a box to do something I’ve never seen: describe your ideal position. This is an opportunity for you to talk about who you are, what makes you tick, and what you’re looking for in an employer. Then, you are contacted by a recruiter to continue the conversation and discuss matches.
Now, I’ve not yet been contacted by Onward Search for that conversation, so I’ll have to update the post later with how they perform in the continuing stages of the job search, but I hypothesize that it will be with remarkable personability and attention to detail. I’d also venture to guess that they have fantastically happy clients among both employers and applicants.
I feel comfortable making these assumptions because, from the very first step, Onward Search makes the applicant feel that they are important and that they are not just a number–another uploaded, faceless resume. Rather than just asking the hiring companies what they are looking for in an applicant, they ask the applicant what an ideal job would look like. I think this takes the recruitment process up quite a few steps from mail order bride to, at the very least, a mutual swipe right.
So, for those of you out there scouring the job market, take a gander at Onward Search, if they operate in the area in which you are searching for employment, and tell me what you think!
Abundtant Love Allergen Friendly Baking
Since holiday baking is now upon us, and we often find ourselves in need of a last minute baked good for one party or another, I thought I’d share some Abundtant Love with you first.
Guess what? Abundtant Love has JUST such a product! So, when Thing 2’s class Halloween party snuck up on me and I was reminded that I’d volunteered to make the cupcakes in an effort to ensure they would be something my child could actually have, I reached into my product stash from GFAF and pulled it out.
These mixes come together so very easily, and they actually taste good! Sometimes, the world of allergen friendly food can be less than delicious, but this stuff was amazing. In fact, Thing 2’s teachers even commented on how much the kids loved the cupcakes. Total mom win!
Now, I just used the basic mix, as is, and didn’t try anything fancy with it. But, one of the things I love is that the Abundtant Love webpage has variations, suggestions and tips. So you don’t even have to come up with your own creative options when your brain can only focus on getting the baking done so you can sleep before the children are up jumping on your face…(come on–that can’t just be MY kids…)
The proof from a picky child? Here’s an exact conversation I had with Thing 1 this morning:
Me: “Hey Ethan, remember those giant cupcakes I made for your sister’s class and let you eat one of? What word would you use to describe them?”
Thing 1: “Uh. Yummy.”
And there you have it.
Oh, and for those who truly are gluten free? They sell vanilla extract too!
GFAF Expo — Dallas
Read on for details about the event, as well as coupon codes and a ticket giveaway!
When we first found out that Thing 1 had MSPI, I was lost and, honestly, a bit overwhelmed. We had to find replacements for his favorite foods: Cheetos, yogurt, Goldfish, and string cheese, to name a few (no wonder he was barfing all the time…), and finding substitutes that taste good enough a 2 year old will accept them? A tricky prospect at best.
Fast forward 3 years and we discovered that Thing 2 had a severe dairy allergy (hello epi-pen!) and our entire house became essentially dairy free.
Google became my best friend. Grocery trips were an undertaking best handled without the kids, as it took forever to read through all the product labels. Gradually, I began finding products we loved and followed them on social media, which helped lead me to other allergen friendly brands. Now, I can whip through grocery shopping like a pro, and I keep a mental Rolodex of allergen friendly (and distinctly NON friendly) products, but an expo like GFAF? Wow, that would have been an amazing boon for our allergy journey!
From their website:
What do you get with your Expo Ticket?
- Entry into the vendor fair with over 100 brands
- Valuable coupons at the vendor booths
- Samples from the vendors
- Discounted products available for purchase
- Informative classes related to the gluten free and allergen-friendly lifestyle
- Free reusable bag to carry your goodies
- Meet your favorite vendors, authors and bloggers”
Ready to buy your tickets? Do it before September 16th and you get 30% off! Just click below!
#WinItWednesday: Let’s get HAPPY!
I’m going to keep this fairly simple. To enter, comment below with one GOOD thing that has happened for you this week. That’s it! Tomorrow morning, I’ll let random.org pick a winner.
I’ll start: This week, I wrote a book review I was particularly fond of, and the author tweeted me back about how much she liked it. So much happy! (I’m a nerd. I know.)
Ok, your turn. Oh, and the prize: 3 Happy Family Fiber & Protein pouches, 1 bag of Happy Yogis, a coupon for a free pack of Happy Family Nutrition Shakes, and a Happy Family tote bag!
Have a great day, y’all!
It Takes A Village
In her session about thriving after PMADs, Kate Kripke told us about wolves. About how, after a mother gives birth, the pack brings food to her and her pups. More than that, mama wolf gets to take a break while another female stays with her pups. And ok, yes, in the human world, we bring each other casseroles and, sometimes, someone volunteers to watch the baby for an hour or two so mom can take a shower or get groceries or a nap. But those facts don’t quite illustrate a key concept that Kate shared with us quite like the wolf story does. That concept is: It is not natural to mother in isolation.
It is not natural to mother in isolation. Let’s think about that for a moment. These days, new mothers are advised to stay home with their babies for a certain period of time to protect them from contagions. And now, online forums are a thriving community. New and expecting moms flock to places like Baby Center to ask each other questions, vent, and even just connect with another human being who gets it. Why? Because there is, I believe, a primitive part of us that is searching–yearning–for a tribe. A place we can connect without judgement. Where we are accepted for who we are, not just what we do.
This weekend, I found my tribe. I found my place, my people. We came from across the country (and even a few moms from other countries!), we sat together, and we bonded. We drank, we talked, we laughed, we cried, we hugged. We told each other things we’ve maybe never told another person, and we did it without fear or shame. Why? Because we also held one another. We told each other, “Hey, mama. I see your brave.”
Before we left, Katherine Stone warned us that, when we got home, we might feel lost. We might feel alone. We might even fear that we’d fallen back into the despair of our maternal mental illnesses. She also told us to give ourselves time. Time to adjust back to the “real world”, where we looked around and wondered, “where are my people?”. Because coming back from this beautiful conference of personal connection? For me, it was a bit like being shoved from a warm, cozy cocoon directly into the sunlight. In winter. Naked. With all your bandages ripped off and wounds bared to the elements.
I’m still a bit raw. Still a bit lonely. Still yearning for “my people”. But, bit by bit, my eyes are adjusting to the sun. I’ve made arrangements to have my wounds tended. And I’ve promised to keep myself wrapped in the blanket of self care. And when the light starts to feel a little to bright, the wounds start to itch on the way to healing, or the blanket starts to feel a bit threadbare? I know that, always, my tribe of Warrior Moms has got my back.
#WarriorMomCon: A Debrief
When addressing the “why” of the Warrior Mom’s Conference, Katherine explained that there are two reasons. The first reason is YOU (the mother who has survived–who is climbing back up out of the darkness of perinatal emotional complications). The second reason is all the other moms who will fall off the edge of that cliff. They need some of us, their fellow adventurers in the wilderness of motherhood, to circle back around and pull them out. Those of us who are beginning to see the sunlight on the horizon can be the safety rope that keeps other moms from sliding too far.
And so…we have #WarriorMomCon, where we learn to tie off, to smooth our own frays, and where we can maybe even grab a climbing buddy or fifty.
We began with the Educate & Empower session, where we learned some of the basics of perinatal emotional complications: stats (including a presentation on the startling disparity between the numbers among different ethnic groups), risk factors, treatments, and community supports. In short, the explanation of why maternal mental health is such a crucial and impactful topic. And let me tell you, even suffering as I have with my own experience did not quite give me the “Oh shit” moment that I had when faced with the stark reality of these numbers and basic truths.
During lunch, I got to participate in a focus group on some exciting new tools coming to make it easier for pregnant and new moms (and their loved ones) to recognize and find help for maternal mental illness. I can’t say much more, but I CAN say that I’m truly excited by the concepts I saw, as well as by the fact that the target audience for these tools was sought out for feedback. If they do, in fact, incorporate our feedback? This will not be the standard doctor’s office pamphlet fare that you look at and wonder, “Who comes up with this shit? Do they even really understand who they’re talking to?!”
I think, because of where I am in my own personal journey, one of my favorite sessions (from which, as I mentioned, I’ll be sharing some exercises that I found to be particularly helpful and enlightening) was Thriving After Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs). In this session, we learned the concept of self-FULLness (as opposed to what we mothers often perceive as self-ISHness) and what things moms who thrive are doing that help them go beyond just surviving to actually enjoying the ride. The key takeaway? Moms who thrive love and respect themselves. It sounds so simple. But you guys? It’s not. And I get that it’s not. And that’s why I want to explore this topic in more depth with you later.
Because moms who suffer from maternal mental illness are not just middle class white women, (and those who ARE, like myself, can feel a little lost about how to reach out to their sisters in a sensitive way) I was thrilled to see a session on expanding outreach to underserved communities. In order to truly effect a revolution in maternal mental health, we have to be sure that, in our efforts to support and connect, we are recognizing and identifiying cultural differences and the ways in which they impact a mother’s ability to get help (as well as the methods of help that will be most effective).
A Crack in the Armor: A Warrior Dad Story
Yesterday, I was having a particularly rough time and whining to Mr. TFT about my anxiety, stress and exhaustion. His response? “Well, check out what I just sent you. Maybe that will help.” When I opened what he’d sent me? I started crying, because, you guys? It was HIS side of MY story. HIS story, really. And it hurt to read. To remember the pain, the struggle, and all the things I missed. It hurt to know that I had put my family through that. But at the same time, it was a beautiful reminder of what I tell other moms all the time: You are not alone. Whether it’s a husband, a friend, a parent, a sibling, or an internet support group you’ve never met in person (HOLLA to the other Postpartum Progress Warrior Moms). It was also a good reminder to myself not to feed the stigma that we are working so hard to break. Maternal mental illness is NOT something we put our families through–that implies, in my mind, an active choice. It’s an illness, like any other.
And now, without further ado, Mr. TFT’s story.
Using this as armor has often protected me, but it isn’t impenetrable. It does degrade and in two instances it failed me entirely. The two moments of my life that I was afraid. Not horror movie jump scare afraid. Not weird sound when you’re home alone afraid, but truly dreading the next beat of your heart, uncertain what that moment will unveil.
The first happened when my wife was 22 weeks pregnant with our first child. The abdominal pain came in waves, slowly at first but becoming more frequent and rapidly. A call to her nurse yielded instructions no future parent wants to hear. “Go to the ER, you might be in labor.” That’s when the mind goes into rapid fire, when most people start to panic. Fortunately the armor still held, so I helped my wife into the car and we hurriedly drove to the hospital. As she lay there hooked up, still in pain, I listened to the beating heart of my little boy uncertain if it would be my last opportunity. My father frequently told me when I was growing up that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. That day we were lucky. It was not labor, but another medical issue far easier treated. Our little boy would yet have the opportunity to terrorize his parents, which he does to great effect.
The second time happened just days after we welcomed our precious daughter into this crazy world. After coming home from having an epidural blood patch my wife laid down for some rest. She slept hard which I was thankful for, she definitely needed the rest. When she awoke, well when she awoke our entire lives changed. She trembled from head to toe. Every thought, every word was a worry, where’s my baby, is she hurt, is she breathing, what’s wrong with me. Over and over. The panic wouldn’t relent. After several hours trying to help herrelax and at the urging of the women’s hospital nurse, who was consulted to see if this could be a result of the EBP, we went to the ER. As we sat in the tiny room in the ER my armor was battered and cracked. My wife wasn’t in control. My smart, witty wife had only one thing on her mind and that was that everything was falling apart. The doctor recommended an injection that would physically calm her, but the worry would persist and the breastfeeding would end. I’m not certain what our other options really were, but I was willing to sacrifice the boat if it would save my wife. She took the shot.
Unfortunately this day we were not lucky. The past two years have been a battle, a struggle for every inch of ground. The casualties have been measured in time. Time my wife lost in those first months that she can barely recollect. The moments missed as our daughter went through her series of firsts. The times where family walks were force of habit rather than moments of peace and joy. The constant anxiety, the worries about details not worth mentioning otherwise. Every day I see my wife, through her eyes the fight for control. The struggle to be herself. Some days I see her achieve incredible victories, others a routing defeat. When her breathing picks up and you can see the worry set in, she’ll tell me; I’m having an attack. My response is always the same, what can I do to help? Her answer is always the same; nothing. So I give her space if that’s what she wants, or I sit by her side and I wait. I don’t really know how much it helps but I wait. My wife is fighting a war in which I cannot directly engage. My armor protects me, but does not extend beyond.
I’m proud of my wife. For days upon days she’s fought and I see the progress. She dismisses it, but it’s clear to me. This is a war she’s winning. Slower than we hoped, but winning none the less. I think for the rest of our days my wife will fight battles, skirmish on the fringes. Some times it will knock her down, others elevate her to amazing heights. She’s strong and smart and stubb-… persistent. And whatever happens, wherever the path leads I will support her. Postpartum anxiety does not define her, it is not her core. She is my wife, she is our children’s mother, she is Amber.
To join a team for the 3rd Annual Postpartum Progress Climb Out of the Darkness this Saturday, June 20th (no, it’s not too late!) or to make a donation, go here.
For those of you just joining us, please check out the Warrior Mom stories we’ve shared so far this week:
My Story (from the archives)
For those just joining in, on Monday, we shared Jessica’s story, and yesterday we heard Stephanie’s story. Today is Alissa’s day, and this is her story.
My name is Alissa and my story begins before my pregnancy with my first daughter Emma, and even before the miscarriage of my first pregnancy. I have suffered with anxiety and depression since my late teens. I took medication on and off for many years and attended counseling on and off as needed during these years.
After trying for more than a year to get pregnant after our miscarriage, the day finally came when we could tell family and friends we were expecting again. I was in counseling at the time and was also taking medication for my anxiety. So I was actually a bit ahead of the game with having some support already in place. Which makes me think how the grips of these disorders can still wreak havoc on someone who is somewhat prepared.
A few weeks into my pregnancy I started to have more symptoms; increased anxiety, racing thoughts, unable to relax, excess energy and irritability. It was at this time I was diagnosed with Bipolar II. I was started on a new medication, which was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. With the help of my psychiatrist and counselor, who both are involved with treating women with perinatal mood disorders; we decided that the most important thing was for me to be at my healthiest so my baby could be healthy. The new medication was a life changing experience for me. I finally was feeling more “normal” than I had in years, which told us I probably struggled with Bipolar II for much longer than I thought. Please, please, realize that many pregnant women struggle and suffer DURING their pregnancy, not just after.
After my first trimester of evening nausea I was doing well. The pregnancy itself was uneventful. I had a delivery that had some challenges and stressful moments, but nothing too out of the ordinary for what others would call a “normal” birth.
Life was definitely not easy with a newborn, as I think all mothers can attest to. Many sleepless nights, (which come to find out was one of the things that made my post partum symptoms soooo much worse), a readmission to the hospital due to Emma having jaundice, breastfeeding struggles, hormonal changes and all the other stuff that comes along with being a new mom.
About 2-1/2 months after the birth of my daughter my life was becoming increasingly more difficult. I was just not feeling myself again. My symptoms had started to increase. I was unable to fall asleep due to racing thoughts and anxiety. Anything from what I had to do the next day to what if the baby stops breathing during the night. I remember just lying there listening to the baby monitor for her to make a noise to put my mind at ease and telling myself after I hear her make one more sound I can then fall asleep, what a vicious cycle that was. I had a hard time staying on a task, sitting still, and was unable to concentrate on any one thing. I had racing thoughts and my irritability was off the charts. Usually the irritability was taken out on my husband and I would usually end up crying every evening. Severe irritability was one of my biggest symptoms and seemed to peak in the evening. I felt at times like I was losing control and was scared that I would lose total control and never find my way back to myself. I feared that I could not handle being a mom and that my daughter would be better off with anyone other than me. At this point I was in my deepest depths of despair. I was scared, felt alone, and didn’t know how to communicate such scary thoughts to anyone. But for some reason, I picked up the phone and called my counselor.
My counselor and I decided that I and my medication needed to be more closely monitored and she referred me to a facility and program that she helped start. It is called the Mother Baby Program at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. The program was a daytime only program and I was allowed to bring my daughter with me. It was there that I learned many coping strategies to help deal with what I was experiencing and ways to help manage my symptoms. This program was life changing to say the least. They had a nursery right next door to the room where we met and it gave me permission to work on myself. That gift of working on me is what allowed me to be a better mom to my daughter. It was a much needed break that also helped me feel recharged. I stayed in the program for 4 days and was sent home with so many new tools to help me cope with what I was going through.
For the next 8 months I had many ups and downs, but had a better understanding on how to handle them. Things were far from perfect, but I was doing what I needed to do to get better. Seeing my psychiatrist and counselor on a regular basis, I joined a postpartum adjustment group at the local hospital and sought out family and friends for help and support. Reaching out to family and friends was one of the hardest things I had to do, but in the end it was one of the biggest helps for me personally. I also found Postpartum Progress. They had a website where moms could talk to one another about what they were experiencing and could get questions answered. It was so amazing the support I found from the articles, blogs, and facebook pages of Postpartum Progress. I realized that I was truly not alone in this and that I would get better.
I remember having a date night with my husband when my daughter was about 10-11 months old. I remember saying to him, “I feel like things are getting better, I can actually look back at my situation months ago and view it from the outside looking in now. Because when you are “in it” you can’t see a way out, you can’t look at it objectively, you’re just stuck.” It was then I knew there was hope for getting better and hope for healing from this.
Fast forward to today…..Being a mom of a lovely 12 week old boy is great, but really it’s also pretty scary knowing what I went through; check that, A LOT SCARY. But what I do know is that I have a plan in place, friends and family who love and support me and know what signs to look out for this time around, organizations like PostPartum Progress Inc. and their Warrior Moms, a local postpartum adjustment group that I still go to till this day, and other moms who know exactly what I am going through. I continued to take medication throughout my pregnancy with my son and I am currently still taking medication now. Taking medication is the best decision for me and my situation. I am still experiencing anxiety with this postpartum period and continue to see my counselor every 2 weeks or so to check in and to continue to work on coping skills to help with my symptoms.
I hope other women out there share their stories with other moms to show how common perinatal mood disorders are and that they are not alone in their suffering. This is why I share my story, so that other women don’t feel alone, isolated, and fearful. And so that they reach out for help and support.
If you would like to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To join or donate to the Climb Out of the Darkness, go here.
When the Joy Fades: Stephanie’s Story
The pure glow continued as I was moved from Labor & Delivery into Recovery. I saw elation on my husband’s face as he got to push the lullaby button marking the birth of our baby girl. That lullaby plays throughout the hospital, a little joy. Little did I know how much that lullaby would mean to me.
I held her… My Sophia Faye, my Wise Fairy. She was so small but so beautiful. I treasured her coos and even embraced her cries. I was on a high and hoped I would never come down. She stayed with me until bedtime so I could attempt to get as much sleep as possible before returning home where my sleepless nights would begin. One night I awoke and started to freak because it was 5 hours since she was brought to me for feeding. The worry was beginning. Where was my baby girl?! I made Jimmy go get her. The nurses didn’t bring her because she was asleep and one thing you learn is never wake a sleeping baby.
The day came to bring her home. This child I brought forth into the world. Seriously, people were entrusting her life to me?! I felt like a child myself and I was 26. Things seemed to be going well until Jimmy was called in to work. Some 2 weeks off. His boss claimed it was because our child arrived 2.5 weeks early. Out of the 10 days he should’ve been home with me, he was home 4 of them. My mother did come to help.
Feeding was another issue. My baby girl had no issues latching but she just felt like it was sleepy time once she did. Okay, no problem, I would supplement with formula. Even then I began to worry she wasn’t gaining weight. I began to worry that she didn’t cry enough. I worried she was too hot or too cold. With all this worry, I started to have issues sleeping. This should’ve been clue #1.
Two weeks after her birth the Baby Blues I was experiencing quickly turned into Postpartum Depression. Aside from lack of sleep, I was barely eating and whatever went in me was quickly thrown up. Crying was an event that occurred at least 6 times a day. Then the thoughts moved in.
“What have I done?!”
“Her crying makes me want to rip my hair out.”
“They’d be better off without me.”
“I hate her. I hate myself for hating her. “
“I can’t stand to be around her, I can’t stand to be around me.”
“I wish I could turn back time.”
“I’m going to run away!”
That last thought plagued my mind for the 2 weeks before entering myself in short term psych for the first time. I planned everything from when, to going to the bank to withdraw money, but always froze on where to go. I was torn. I didn’t want to be alone but I didn’t want Jimmy or my parents to find out.
Exactly 1 month after my baby girl was born I was brought to the emergency room by my mother. Jimmy left work to meet us there and my sister was watching Sophia. In the ER I began to tremble like I never have before. The anxiety kicked in. Silly me wanted to come because I was worried I was malnourished since I was constantly vomiting. Once in the room the only doctor brought to me was the psychiatrist. The same psychiatrist I just recently saw for a consult. She questioned me and felt I needed to be admitted. Her next question was, “Are you willing to admit yourself?”
I thought about this. I thought about what I was doing to Jimmy, my mother, my father, my sister, and Sophia. Reluctantly, I answered yes.
This was the beginning to me getting better. This was day 1 of twelve days I would be there. 12 days of therapy. 12 days of playing with my medication. 12 days of discovering things about me. 12 days to understand the Postpartum Depression that overtook me like an alien.
Stephanie’s story was originally shared here.
If you’d like to join us in our 3rd Annual Climb Out of the Darkness to raise awareness for perinatal mood disorders, like postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, or if you’d like to make a donation, you can find more details here.