Uh oh! Do I have baby fever?

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This weekend, my fiancé Adam and I went to meet the 2 1/2 week old baby of one of our friends.

It was one of those “baby greeting” type parties, which I admit I have never attended before, and it was a first for us as a couple. Although we have a few friends who have kids, we don’t really interact with children on a regular basis.

The friends we are closest to, who have two toddlers, are pretty great parents. But they’re also really good about having a life outside of their role as parents, so whenever we hang out, the kids are either with their grandma or busy entertaining themselves in the other room.

We also have more distant friends who have a 1 year old (or, well, I guess he’s older now?) but we don’t see them very often. So when it came to this weekend and our interaction with this newborn, I don’t think Adam and I were fully prepared for it.

We arrived at our friend’s house just as mom started breastfeeding, so we didn’t get to meet the baby right away. Instead, we chatted with the new dad and some of the other guests, had a few snacks and eventually went outside to admire the backyard of their new home and play cornhole (don’t ask).

It was a fun way to spend an afternoon and, of course, eventually it came time to meet the baby. I actually got to hold the little boy for the better part of 10 minutes or so… and afterwards, our friend (who took a picture of me) sent it to Adam with the line, “be careful, she might want one of these!”

Setting aside the blatant sexism of that statement, what he said was true: Yes, I do want a baby… Someday.

The truth is that I have known for sure that I wanted to be a mom since I was 26 years old. Before that, I thought it might be something I wanted… but at some point exactly five years ago, I realized that motherhood is not something that was an option for me. It’s something I deeply, definitely want to be a part of my life one day. This was, of course, long before I met my now partner and future husband, who I have known for just over a year.

Knowing that you definitely want a kid someday makes dating very interesting. Not for nothing, but marriage and kids would often come up within the first few dates because, well, I don’t believe in wasting a person’s time or them wasting mine. I’m a big believer in what Dan Savage says about deal breakers: If you have more than five deal breakers, then you’re the problem. But I never had that many. I just knew that having a family with my future partner was at the top of my list.

Luckily, when the conversation with Adam came up about a month or so into dating, it went well. Obviously. We agreed that we want babies someday, but definitely not today. I remember at the time, both of us talked in vague “maybe in five years” kind of terms.

Now things are a little different, though. It’s been a year since that conversation, we’re very much in love and planning to get married. Someday, we know we will start a family… but as our relationship grows, so does my desire to start a family with him.

I actually recently wrote about my fear of infertility for Cafe Mom. In that article, I talk about how I know I definitely want a baby but I don’t want my desire for a child to negatively impact my relationship. He’s not ready, I’m not really ready either, but there’s a little voice in the back of my head that frequently reminds me of my age.

I’m 31 years old now and, well, biology is what it is.

I don’t want to wait forever to have a child, especially because IVF is an expensive reality for many women and being infertile is scary to me. Ideally, I want us to have a child through natural means. And I hope that it won’t be a difficult, tedious process. I’ve heard stories of couples who go through multiple rounds of IVF, who struggle to conceive, who fight and even sometimes break up in the middle of the process because it is damn fucking hard.

I can’t imagine Adam and I ever breaking up, but at the same time I don’t want us to go through this difficult struggle when we are finally ready to have a child, either.

So while the biological clock is ticking, I just have to sit here and hope that it doesn’t tick by too fast. To be honest, the one feeling I remember clearly when I held that adorable baby boy this weekend is that I’m not ready to be a mom, to be responsible for another life, to hold a baby every day for… well, a while.

But I’m getting closer. Our relationship is getting closer. And I guess that’s something to look forward to. Or be terrified of. Or all of the above, perhaps?

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Here’s what I learned about partying sober since I gave up alcohol

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When I first gave up alcohol and went into recovery in July 2015, I didn’t know all of the changes that it would bring to my life. However, one of the more obvious changes are socializing sober.

When I was in New Orleans last September for my baby brother’s birthday (and having fun in the cute restaurant bathroom in the picture above), I realized just how different my life had become in the last year. I’ve learned a lot about maintaining a happy and alcohol-free life in this time, but it hasn’t always been easy.

For one, I had a few minor relapses between October 2015 and my last one in April 2016 (which I wrote about here). Minor in that they didn’t fully send me back into drinking full-time but rather were a 2-3 day binge episode. Not great, but I recovered and now haven’t had a drop in over a year.

The second struggle was re-establishing a social life and learning how to navigate the world that I was so used to in a brand new way.

One of the things that I have always said was amazing about my recovery is that my friends completely rallied for me. They supported me, heard my stories, comforted me and generally had my back. They knew I was embarking on a new and scary journey, and they made it clear that they would continue to be there for me.

I know that this is one of the luckiest things that an addict can go through because many addicts who I met weren’t so lucky. I heard many stories in meetings and online of people who lost all of their friends the minute they quit drinking.

And I get why: Your friends are used to you in a certain way and they’re likely used to socializing in a certain way. Even though my true friends supported my recovery, I was faced with others who weren’t so great about my drinking. People who questioned how bad it was (it was bad, trust me, otherwise I wouldn’t have admitted to it publicly) and who simply didn’t know how to have fun with me anymore.

Well, let me tell you: Sober people can still have fun!

I was just as social and fun before I had a problem with alcohol, and I’d like to think I am still as fun as I was back then. In fact, most of my interactions with friends and alcohol had been pretty normal. We drank wine with dinner, had cocktails on the weekend, indulged in happy hour occasionally, went out dancing and had some drinks, etc.

Yes, I occasionally got drunk and partied a little too hard, but my problematic drinking really mostly happened at home when I was alone and stressed out. I binge drank all by myself as a way to shut out the world, and that’s when I knew that I needed help.

So I sought help, my world changed and things have been… well, mostly better ever since.

But partying while sober is still tricky, and I bet it will continue to be for a long time. I’m still relatively early in my recovery and, because I’ve kept almost all of the friends I had before, I don’t have any sober friends.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does occasionally provide some challenges when I want to hang out with my friends and not have alcohol become an issue. And it especially can become an issue when I am in a new group who may not know why I don’t drink or even that I don’t drink.

But instead of becoming a hermit or totally giving up valuable friendships simply because they still drink and I don’t, I have started to implement some strategies for enjoying parties even when you’re not drinking.

And since I am a writer and love to share about things, including and especially my recovery journey, I wrote about it for one of my favorite food websites, The Kitchn. Here is my story titled Teetotal Like a Boss: Tips for Enjoying a Party When You’re Not Drinking.

One of my favorite things about writing that story is that I got to talk to some other women in recovery for their own tips. The other favorite part is that you actually do NOT have to be in recovery in order to enjoy these tips. Some people simply don’t drink because they never liked alcohol, others don’t drink because of medical issues and some don’t drink because they’re pregnant or hoping to become pregnant soon.

There’s lots of reasons for not drinking, actually. Recovery is just mine.

But I’m still hoping that my tips for partying while sober will help others. And remember my very last, but very much not least, tip: Have fun – and prove that you don’t need alcohol to do it.

That’s my plan, anyway.

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How to choose to be happier in our crappy world (VIDEO)

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my portfolio site, IrinaGonzalez.com. Thank you!

Happiness is something that humans think about a lot. At least I do.

For years now, I have been saying that “happiness is a choice and it’s a choice that I make (almost) every day.” That’s still true, of course, but sometimes that kind of thinking gets away from me.

Look, there’s no two ways about it: The world is currently not a happy place.

There’s untold chaos, which isn’t exactly anything new, but now that chaos is complemented by a particularly hairy situation in the country which I call home: the United States of America.

In case you are living under a rock, our president of just under 100 days is not well liked by people like me… You know, basically anyone with a brain, an appreciation for science, the environment or any kind of diversity. As an American citizen and immigrant, I am not a fan and I truly wish that the American public hadn’t elected this racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic pseudo-tyrant into office. But it is what it is, and I for one certainly plan to spend the next four or so years resisting.

Enough about my politics though… This post is about happiness. About why we seek it and how we find it and, most of all, how we recognize it.

And that’s the key word: How to recognize happiness.

I honestly think that is one of the hardest things about “being happy.” It’s not that we are clueless about what happiness means, but I do think that we have much higher expectations for it than we possibly should. And that’s part of the problem: our expectations.

Recently, a video titled “An Algorithm for Happiness” made the rounds on Facebook. When I watched this fascinating video, something clicked in my brain and reminded me how to be happy.

The truth is, primarily because of what is going on in the world right now and the election of President Orange Cheeto Dumpsterfire (my all-time favorite moniker for #45, since I can’t actually bring myself to say or type his name), I haven’t been my usual happy self.

Sure, I’ve had a lot of happy things going on in my life: I bought a car, celebrated mine and my partner Adam’s 31st birthdays and I’ve had some pretty great successes in my career. But in general, I have been angry and grumpy and sometimes what I jokingly call an “angry feminist.” And those feelings are totally okay, of course, because we must acknowledge and honor our feelings.

But… at the same time, being an unhappy bitch sometimes can be mentally taxing and ultimately harmful to our overall selves.

A week ago, I celebrated my one year anniversary since my last relapse in recovery. You see, I’m an alcoholic. I entered rehab in July of 2015 and I have been working on sobriety ever since. It’s been a mostly successful and occasionally bumpy road, but I am proud of the progress I’ve made.

How does that relate to happiness, you ask?

Well… Although I no longer attend meetings, I don’t remember getting to know many addicts who were happy. Which makes sense, of course, because if you’re happy, why would you need to dull yourself with drugs and alcohol? You don’t, and that’s the point.

As I watched the video talking about the algorithm for happiness, I was reminded of some of the lessons I learned through recovery, primarily the lessons of cognitive behavioral therapy, which strives to teach you how to think differently about your issues.

To be honest, I was never a fan of AA or NA meetings, but I did thoroughly enjoy Smart Recovery – and cognitive behavioral therapy is exactly why. When I went through one-on-one- therapy for my alcohol addiction, it was with a CBT therapist too, and it’s a system that has really worked for me.

The reason that CBT has worked for me in terms of my alcoholism and happiness is because I learned how to reframe my thinking. In this video, the Google executive uses the example of a glass to demonstrate how we think about happiness.

He argues that happiness is looking at the half-full side of the glass and being grateful for it and looking at the half-empty side of the class and asking “Can I do anything about it?” and, if not, “Can I accept it?”

This kind of thinking is absolutely critical to understanding happiness and how it works in your life.

He goes on to explain that happiness isn’t actually about how much water is in the glass, but what you think about how much water is in the glass. LIGHTBULB MOMENT!

When I watched that, I realize just how much my happiness had to do with CBT and recovery and how much it had to do with the current state of the world and my thinking about it.

Adam recently pointed out that I am not the same happy-go-lucky girl that he met almost a year ago. And in a lot of ways, it’s true. Although I reasoned that there’s many, many reasons for it (most of them beginning with the man currently sitting in the White House’s main room), some of it is also my thinking about what is currently going on.

To be honest, it made me feel bad that the world has come to such a dark place and it’s made me feel even worse that I have lost some deep down belief in hope and the goodness of people because of the current situation.

But that’s not fair to the world, and that’s not really fair to all of the people who are doing good work now. I strive to be one of those people and, after watching the video below, I realized that there is more that I could be doing to help make the world a slightly happier place.

The first part starts with me. It starts with reframing how I view the world – even just a little bit – and recognizing that there IS still hope and there IS still good here.

To be honest, it’s a lesson that I expect to have to learn and relearn for the next four years. But you have to start somewhere, right? And I choose to start with being happy today, and happier than I was yesterday.

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my portfolio site and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!