Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Day 366...

... of 366. Which means this is blog is a wrap. And I'm sad to see it end. Really. 

I loved coming here and working out my days in words. I loved capturing this time in the boys' lives, day by day, often telling their stories in their words, full of sweet idiosyncrasies, so transient. I loved hearing from friends that they could totally relate to my world, as it seemed parallel to theirs. And I love that I have this record of my 36th year. 

I just turned 37. 

This year really was a good was a good one. No, I did not accomplish all I set out to do. I'm still afraid of sharks and driving in most metropolitan areas, I have not learned to sew like my Mom and I'm not sure my running pace has improved at all. 

But I definitely am more grateful. I am so very grateful I get to share my life with three quirky, fun, smart, passionate, loud guys. I am grateful for the family I was born into and the family I've chosen in my closest friends. I am thankful for all of my friends and so glad that I've reconnected with many of them this year. 

I know that I'm incredibly lucky to be doing work I love. I am even luckier in that I like my co-workers. A lot. 

I am grateful for good health - all around. For finally figuring out how to get back to dancing (and for Jon who made that happen). For music. For libraries. For the fact that my two little boys love music and libraries. I could go on and on. But I won't. 

Because it's time to move on. I'm 37 now. It's Day 1 and I'm aiming for another awesome year, one guided by new goals. No, I won't be writing about it here... but maybe I will write about it here. Periodically. We'll see. Join me if you'd like. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day 365

So tonight, after good many moments of anti-grace, I opened up an Energizing Green Yogi tea packet (it took all I had not to uncork a bottle of wine), and got this guy: "Grace brings contentment."

Teas readings
Awesome. Wise. But how the hell do you get grace? Is it something learned? I bet maybe if you practice really hard you can acquire grace. And I don't seem to have much time for practicing things. (Though I'd better start practicing my  dances - cause rumor has it, I'm spaced front-and-center in two pieces at the Flynn showcase performance next Monday night... and I'm still trying to learn some of the choreography we covered when I was sick. And find a fedora. Anyone? Anyone?)

But actually I've been working hard at keeping calm(er) while carrying on - and I do think it helps. Sure, I may still be showing somewhat subtle signs of freak-outs: biting my lip while reviewing a to-do list ... pretzel-wrapping a kid - who socked me in the arm and refused to sit in time out - in my legs (not one of my proudest moments, for sure), sobbing ... Right: subtle is just sometimes.

...  but when I work hard, the effort of staying calm creates awareness somehow. I notice how others are keeping their shit together. I feel the solidarity and see the silent (or not-so-silent) shows of support of others who've been there, or who are there with me now.

And knowing that we're all in this together... that makes me calm. er. Calmer. And a little more content.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The real Day 364

I am grateful for this guy. (The one behind the Santa suit.)

He's a fantastic father, great partner, faithful bud to Demps and ├╝ber-awesome in-law (to other Miccos). He's rarely the "perp" in instances of inequality that seem to plague many, if not most, relationships, especially after kids. (Guess that means...). He's an anal engineer with concern for international conflicts, an appreciation for all things art and a sharp wit. He knows that, for me, running and dancing are nearly as necessary for keeping on as food and water are. And he claims to PREFER women with bodacious bottoms who gravitate toward nerdy glasses and have a tendency to chop off their hair every three years or so.

Lucky me.

Tell me: who are you grateful for today? (and why?)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day "364" (again, not really)

Swipe on bright-red lipstick.
Paint my fingernails poppy.
Slip on a pair of scarlet cashmere socks (that one's Olin's).
Pour a glass of pinot. 

Apparently my most common strategies for embracing the day with a sense of empowerment—and powering down happily (er... the wine)—center around the color red

It's funny how little rituals (of all colors) can boost your confidence, instantly enhance your mood...

... like how drinking from my Danmade Ninja monkey mug makes me feel like I know how to pick out awesome things and truly appreciate them... Or how writing with an Ink Joy pen makes me feel organized. 

... like how continuously framing a potentially hive-inducing work project as a  fantastically exhilarating opportunity (and being lucky enough to be working with people who reinforce that idea) keeps excitement from dissolving into anxiety.

... and like how celebrating sparkly new snow with two wide-eyed little boys, I forget about slippery roads and scraping windows and really start to feel what I was trying so hard to sound enthusiastic saying...  "Isn't it beautiful?" 

Because, really, it is. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 364 (again... and still not really)

My little boys lately are seeming not so little. More and more, Jules is showing moments of maturity: some come in the form of Buddha-like insights, others in stern safety reminders shouted at Kai... Kai who of late has taken to wearing his Mets hat everywhere. And a Batman cape - often with nothing underneath. 

But they're still little boys - who snuggle, who squabble over the Christmas train, who want to be read to and rocked, who spontaneously reach for each others' hands, who find all sorts of "treasures" and sneak them into my pockets. Which I love. So much it makes me teary to think that this tender time will end - soon. And I worry that during so many of these sweet moments I've been too tired and distracted and too concerned about "bad" behavior to have savored them thoroughly.

And so I save these little pebbles and stash these tiny wood chips on shelves in my office. #importantreminders

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day "364" (but not really)

Tonight, when I was reading J books/tucking him into bed, he said to me, "Daddy always wants to run faster than me but I tell him all the time, 'it doesn't matter who wins, it's about having fun.'"


First, let the record show that Olin is not a freakishly competitive man who sprints past his four-and-a-half-old shouting over his shoulder that the kid can suck his dust. (Jules, in fact, was flipping the players in this conversation around.) But I loved this little PSA. And perhaps I needed it... 

I have this toxic tendency to focus on the goal and forget about the joy of the journey. I have this inclination to see the thing that isn't "perfect" among all that really is. I do this in all sorts of situations... and I aim my critiques at all sorts of people: family members, friends, colleagues and, not least of all, myself. I get annoyed with myself for being too loud, too frank, too self-absorbed, too messy, too work-focused, too lazy, too distractible. I can convince myself - usually temporarily - that I am a bad mom, a bad friend, a bad daughter, sister, dog owner, a bad writer/editor, etc. 

Here's the irony: I earned a master's degree in part teaching people how to feel good about themselves, how to transform negative thoughts into positive ones, how to squash catastrophic thinking, how to acknowledge their victories, big and small,  and to move on quickly when they weren't happy with how they were behaving. And, in fact, I was quite good at it.

Next week I'm on to a new year, with new resolutions. And right now, I'm resolving to notice what's  good, what's beautiful, what's right, what's true, what's inspiring and what's authentically awesome. About everything and everyone around me. And about myself. #37goals
So right.

PS: While we're embracing imperfection... I'm like a whole week off with my math. No clue where that happened. But I knew it would. And now my sloppy math is making me smile. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 359

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the official end date of my "Vegan Till Thanksgiving" experiment... which has been a totally enlightening and fun challenge.

Before I list what I learned in the process, a couple of confessions (my Catholic upbringing has raised me to reveal these sorts of transgressions): 

  • I splashed real milk into my coffee on three occasions.
  • I ate many, many bittersweet chocolate chips (which I assumed were vegan and then learned that the brand I bought were not). 
Now... what I learned: 
  • I can live without ice cream and cheese pretty easily. This came as a major shock to me.
  • I'm not a huge fan of non-dairy "milk" products, particularly in my coffee. The coconut milk creamer was acceptable; soy lattes (purchased only out - I only bought almond milk and coconut milk creamer at home) were good. 
Last day for coconut milk creamer in this Danmade cup
  • I drink less coffee and more green tea when I'm not doing dairy.
  • I eat more and less healthfully when I'm following a vegan diet: more vegetables and beans and far fewer saturated fats (and fatty "junk") but probably more carb-y snacks, like tortilla chips and Triscuits. Also... 
  • For me a vegan diet is not a way to shed pounds. I didn't weigh in (weight loss wasn't a goal) but suspect I stayed the same or gained, as I ate loads of avocados and nuts - which are staples in my diet typically anyway - and extra servings of higher-cal carbs (wild rice, say) in place of fish.
  • Speaking of fish, I missed it a lot - particularly when we went out for sushi to celebrate Lauren's new job. (I ordered a sweet potato tempura roll - again, not as healthy as my typical yellowtail scallion... but perhaps comparable to a spicy tuna).
  • Eating out wasn't as hard as I thought it'd be. At the Bluebird Tavern (not really a "vegetarian" place) I had the most amazing meal... just requested that my roasted beet salad come without the cheese and the dressing and that they leave the smoked bacon butter off the Pickled Tomatoes on Toast. Which were AMAZING.
  • I should have been better about taking a multivitamin. (I did OK with the calcium supplement and somewhat OK with the omega-3s but didn't pick up a multi till last week). And when my arm broke out in hives the other night after prolonged content with a wet sweatshirt sleeve (incurred during bath-time duty) I was convinced I had a vitamin B12 deficiency and would soon start seeing signs of irreversible nerve damage. Ridiculous given that I'd had my fair share of fortified veggie products.
  • I have such respect for the commitment it takes to follow a 100% vegan diet (looking at you, Shannon and Mindy!)
  • I thought even more about where my food comes than I normally do. The other night, when the boys didn't want to finish their milk at dinner, I found myself saying, "it's fine if you don't want to finish but next time let's not take so much. The cows work really hard to make that milk." 
Upshot of the entire experiment: Tomorrow, I will feast on turkey and everything else on Mike B's table. Yum! After that, I will live on a little more vegan than I was in October - "veganish,"  a la Mark Bittman, as a friend pointed out. (Here's what's definitely coming back: milk in my coffee, fish, non-vegan foods served by friends, probably yogurt, definitely "good" cheeses.) 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 356

People are always doing insanely nice things for me: Kate sends me random packages, Ri constantly helps with the boys, my mom spends weeks researching and sewing Halloween costumes for the boys, Jon picks up lengths and lengths of my slack. 

But lately, it seems, I'm being showered with kindness. The other day Megan showed up at school with a gift bag full of Yogi tea. For me! (I'd been admiring the images of their messages on Instagram.) A few days later Liz sent me the packing lists (below) she'd seen and picked up because they made her think of me.

And today  - biting off more than I could chew - I took both boys  and Dempsey to the playground. The boys were clamoring all over the new equipment (thank you Kelli, Sarah and April!) and I was trying to make sure no one broke a leg -  or worse. Demps (who was on a leash that wasn't in my hand) was running up to everyone, greeting them excitedly. I was keeping an eye to make sure he wasn't bothering anyone, still trying to watch the boys. Which was pretty unsuccessful. Just as I was starting to feel like this was a bad idea (with good intentions), Digs ran up to the man leaning against a rock. The man who kicked him.

In response, I asked the man to please not kick my dog, which lead to a very unpleasant conversation altercation. I was shocked. I was in Burlington where people just don't kick dogs—even if I was in the wrong, which was I was, as Dempsey was off leash. But I apologized... expecting to get an apology back. And I didn't. 

But what I did get - when my friends saw that I was upset - was the kindest show of social support: my peeps made me laugh, helped me feel less guilty for my bad judgement and held Demps when Kai seemed stuck in a compromising position that required me to have both hands free. 

Good people. So many good, thoughtful people in my world. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 352

I used to think that if you worked hard enough, you could do whatever you want to do, be whomever you want to be. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for infusing such (helpful) confidence and to all of my great mentors who reinforced it.

Now I know that my simple theory about hard work isn't that simple. There's that issue of DNA, that which defines you. That which you can't outsmart absolutely. 

So I guess the lesson to pass along is to embrace your blessings and laugh off the rest. And how easy that is...  well, I guess it depends on your DNA. Dammit.

This morning, I walked into this.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day 345

This week has been busy. I had a date with my favorite 36-year-old. We went to the Bluebird Tavern. There, the Pickled Tomatoes on Toast are incredible, even without the smoked bacon butter. 

We took Kai, who'd been crying for an hour, to the doctor - on a Sunday - to have his ears checked. They were all clear. We went for a family walk through the woods. Which was mostly miserable. Until we got to the top of the trail and I pulled out the thermos of cocoa. 

I had a date with my favorite four-year-old. We picked out books at the library and swung by the bookstore to hear Christina read (have you gotten your copy of A Field Guide to Now yet? No? Do it. Now.) We stopped for a cupcake

I suffered through round two of the stomach flu. I drank mint tea. I got better. 

I danced to Tom Waits. Had some very productive days at work. 

I voted. With a 2-year-old. Who said "there's an eye!" every time I colored in an oval. I watched the results roll in. I held my breath. I exhaled.   

I watched Jules teach Kai how to play "cut the pickle." I smiled wide when Kai told me, "Jules is my friend." 

These are good days. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 341

Happy #36 Olin!!! This one is a milestone: 36 was JO's football number. He was a cornerback. He was a Carmel Ram. I'm a numbers person. So I recognize stuff like this. And let's not forget that this is a 36 celebration... and this is 366days of... 36. 

Last year, for JO's, we celebrated with a crazy cake made by a (then three-and-a-half-year-old) Jules. Funfetti (Jon's fave. No comment). Topped more candy than you could possibly imagine. So this year, I decided to take a half-day to repeat the situation/establish tradition and prep the lasagna for dinner with Chris and Ri. I picked up both boys at lunchtime. Julian announced that we had all of the candy we needed, at home in his loot bag. I was proud. And psyched. This might mean an easier way of navigating around rationing him out a piece of candy every day until Christmas.

Happy 36, Olin! Today. The now-traditional cake-by-Julian (and sort of Kai, who mostly subtracted icing and toppings) celebration was last night. 

At home, things got crazy. Kai wanted in on the action and I wanted to include him but supervising a a 4- and a 2-year-old cracking eggs (with salmonella potential) is beyond my scope of parenting skills. So I put on a video for Kai. And then Jules wanted to watch it. I let him. They wanted to watch another one. I felt annoyance creeping up my throat, started feeling itchy. Why did I leave work early? I had tons of stuff to finish. I tersely reminded them that I didn't pick up anyone early to watch videos. Then I realized that I sounded like a tightly-wound cliche and reminded myself that Kai is already a "big and strong big kid" who gets out of bed and walks downstairs in the morning. I went back to the kitchen to crack and mix myself. A few moments later, Julian joined me. Lesson learned. Chill out.

The real fun came with the decorating. Jules was a rockstar: unwrapping snack-size packs of licorice and Swedish fish and M&Ms, cutting fun-sized Nestle bars into small chunks with his safety scissors (not the most hygienic of cakes). I wrote a message in icing: "Happy Cake Day, Olin." (Jules wanted it to say Olin.) Kai did his part by swiping off the message with his shirt sleeve and then proceeding to "drink" a small container of orange Halloween sprinkles "all gone." Which I let happen. Because this was a special day. In the end, the cake was perfect. And the boys were overflowing with excitement - which make for much wrestling and climbing and running, eventually in superhero capes. 

I am grateful for this tradition. And grateful for Olin, who appreciates these small gestures and whose favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because it's all about family and friends and gratitude. November is a great time to focus on gratitude. And this year, November is also my vegan test run. I'm doing it: aiming to be vegan through Thanksgiving (just me, not the boys - but we eat a largely plant-based diet so it's easy to blend). Several peeps have asked me why, and I don't have a really awesome answer. The short one is this: I've aspired to eat "more vegan" for awhile. 

Maybe it's because Dempsey's eyes are human. Maybe I know that there are benefits to following healthful  plant-based diet, having written/edited a lot on this topic, including this book (which I edited) and this article (which I wrote). Maybe it's just because I love vegan cookbooks, especially this one. Or because I have several friends who follow vegan diets and keep bringing the most amazing dishes to girls' nights and book club gatherings. Whatever the reason, I'm trying a vegan diet till Thanksgiving. And I'd be grateful for any suggestions and favorite recipes. 

Last night was also the annual lasagna JO birthday dinner. I also served pasta with marinara, topped this vegan cheese alternative (nutritional yeast, mixed with ground toasted walnuts and salt). YUM. Thanks, Mindy!
Kai "likes juice." And I love oats. Katie sent me an amazing pumpkin steel-cut oat slowcooker recipe and I adapted slightly. To this:  5 1/2 cups of water + 1 1/2 water + 1 can of pumpkin + 3 TBSP maple syrup + cinnamon + nutmeg. Cook on low for 6 hours. Add raisins and toasted walnuts. 
New Moon latte. With soy. Sweeter than milk. More than acceptable substitute. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day 325

Good things to remember ...
1. Costumes make everything more fun. So do great friends.
2. A little rain is no reason to stay inside.
3. Art = Happiness.
4. Look up at the sky. It is amazing.
5. Never underestimate the other guy. Or you.
6. Planning to catch up on work on Sunday nights is a bad idea. (Stop that.)

That is all.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Day 322

I've let 11 days lapse without a post. In part because I've set some rules of engagement. Time flies so fast and sometimes I feel like I spend so much of it tethered to this device, or that one, missing what's most important, the goings-on as they unfold. So I vowed to unplug more. And I have. A bit.

And in the last almost-two-weeks...

I've flown across the country, marveling at the fact that we can actually do that: be whisked through the air, offered a birds-eye view of life below. How small it all looks. How small we all are, really, in the big grand scheme. It makes you think. 

I spent wonderful days with my mom, Grandma Kath, grateful that my boys have her in their lives, a different kind of mom than me. A better one in lots of ways.

I became obsessed with a house. A house that is not my own. One that most likely will never be my house. It's not that I like it better than my house. But I like it. And I like imagining that it could be my house. Probably because that sort of imagining entertains my brain. Which isn't so entertaining to Jon. Which I totally get.

I cried. Parenting is hard, and opening the door to self doubt lets in a lot of shit that's better shut out. Just do it. Keep moving. Don't show weakness. Beginnings of a new manifesto (some of it borrowed... thank you, Nike.)

I saw my dear friend and her awesome kids, which reminded me that with certain people it doesn't matter how long you go without seeing each other or how short your meetings are, they're among your favorite peeps for reasons that transcend day-to-day circumstances.

I learned of others' losses - really major, heartbreaking losses. Several of them. I cried for people I hardly know. I could only imagine their pain. 

I spent the whole night of the last presidential debate slave to a stomach bug. Damn daycare germs. It was ugly. For HOURS. Through the night. I stayed home from work the next day and slept most of it. I rented a movie: The Painted Veil. It was good. It was about cholera. The irony. 

I stressed about work. I collaborated with colleagues. Really amazing, smart people who know the meaning of team. I am lucky.

I've landed at a place that's more content and grateful than the one I was circling around 10 days ago. But I suspect that the cycle will begin afresh. Up and down. High and low. Because, well, that's sort of how I roll... 

We can fly. Isn't that amazing? 
I spent half my childhood in a gym like this.
My boys are lucky to have Grandma Kath.
The miles (and miles) their moms have seen together... 
Jules' surprise pink petals softened the blow of Sunday night blues.
With some better perspective.
Jules: "Mama, It's bare."
Me: What? Thinking he's talking of an animal. An imaginary friend.
Jules: "The tree." Pointing to this guy up here. "There's only one leaf left."
Kai: "It's bare. It's a Mama Bear and a Papa Bear."
THIS is why I blog.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 311

I use the word "awesome" entirely too much. (I once worked at a teen magazine - what do you expect?) But there is so much in the world - and in my world - that is  awesome. Awesome in the true definition of the word.

Things like...

This sky (and I captured not even a fraction of its majesty on our drive down to New York Friday evening:

And this bridge. Any bridge for that matter (said with a nod to Olin and structural engineers everywhere): 

The fact that these kids exist (to play with a deflated b-ball found at the park)... these offspring of two sets of Forest Hills roommates who swapped roommates and made them. (Um, I think this must sound weird and strangely inappropriate. Translation: Approximately a dozen years ago, HT and I met Todd-o and Olin at the Irish Cottage in Forest Hills. The rest is history.)

Like I said, stuff like this: incredibly awesome. I am grateful. So grateful. Always grateful. But often not in the moment. In fact, rarely in the moment. I get stuck in the weeds (the tantrums, the demands for daddy, the laundry and the clutter). And the same thing happens at work (OK, no demands for daddy there). I get overwhelmed. I get sad. These days, easily and often. I lose sight of the big picture. Of the awesomeness. The true awesomeness. How to keep that close? You tell me: How how do you keep  your head in the clouds (keeping dreaming, wondering, marveling)?  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 307

Yesterday on the Instagram feed of some random photographer whom I follow but do not know, I saw this quote: "Comparison is the thief of joy." Teddy Roosevelt.

And I thought, yessssss

I've been there, measuring myself up against the Joneses, thinking things like, 
Wow, she's like 25, and has produced four novels and four children, WTF have I been doing?   
All my organic chemistry study buddies are making a gazillion dollars a year as chemical engineers and anesthesiologists while I am earning the same word-rate as I made in 2000... to write about carrots. 

Why didn't I stick with teaching dance - or get that MFA instead of the MS? That creative life seems so much... better. 

Then I get real: I count my blessings. I acknowledge that I have a great life, that I have accomplished many of my goals, that I am truly happy for these other highly successful people. And then I mostly move on. 

So I was thinking this... and suddenly I was realizing that comparisons, done right, don't thieve joy at all. They can inspire, they can empower, they can highlight the unique qualities that make you - or the people you love - awesome. 

You can compare yourself to that co-worker who does not necessarily have extraordinarily mad athletic skills and who just rocked her first marathon and think, "I can do that."

You can watch your friend grow an awesome business and realize, "If I am willing to focus all of my energy and loads of time into that one passion that consumes me, I can do that too." 

You can make caramel apples, using the recipe from EatingWell, compare them to the photo and say, "These look like shit  - probably because was too impatient to thoroughly dry the apples. But they taste great, so who cares?" And then realize - happily - that you're not a TOTAL control freak. 

You can look at your two little boys and recognize how the same they are  - and how so very different. How one is sensitive, passionate and uber-perceptive and the other, an ever-pleasant hot-mess who can smile himself out of any sticky situation. A Bert & Ernie of sorts. (They actually dressed as the duo last Halloween.)

And through comparison, you begin to pinpoint the awesome qualities that define each of them, those two boys you love so fiercely. You love them the same. But differently. I get it now, Mom. Maybe you don't really have a favorite. (But I still think it's Kate. And that's cool... )

#fail - or not? 

Guess which one? (Hint: he's sort of our Bert)

And Ernie... 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Day 304

Jon's parents came to visit this weekend - it was the last time we'll see them before they head to their "alligator house" in Calabash, North Carolina. We all were looking forward to the visit - Jules and Kai, especially. Grandma Val and Papa Jon were supposed to arrive at 10 a.m. but rolled in closer to 11. During this hour of waiting, which coincided with a downpour outside, unfortunately... 1) Julian sat in the bay window impatiently watching for their red Highlander and 2) the little-boy energy in this house increased to explosive levels. When my in-laws arrived, pent-up excitement erupted into hugs and kisses, songs and show-and-tell situations. And after all of those positive ways of channeling energy had run their course, the boys started rolling around on the floor and beating the shit out of each other. All in good fun, of course. Until Jules slammed Kai's head against something and suddenly everyone was crying. Including me. Not really. But close.

Bless them, my in-laws volunteered to shuttle the boys out somewhere so that we could "get some stuff done." (Later we learned it was to the mall for merry-go-rounds and candy.) They left. Jon and I breathed in a collective sigh of relief, exhaled a few breaths of gratitude and decided, "chores be damned... we're going out." And we drove through the South End neighborhoods where, right now, we're scheming to live and we stopped for a leisurely lunch at The Spot (nice work, Chantal, if you're reading!)... 

Now it's Sunday afternoon, our house is still a mess, there's enough dirty laundry round here to clothe an unhygienic army...I should be watching gamification videos or writing content instead of blogging, also what I should have been doing an hour ago when I let Jules watch a video and snuggled next to him with my Kindle while Kai napped. Chris and Ri are arriving in an hour for family dinner and the Patriots game. 

But whatever. Buzz off "coulds" and "shoulds" - we're all going to be dead soon. Sounds morbid, yes, but it's really just a more direct way of saying "life's too short," no? 

Here's to seizing lazy days. (And being okay with the idea that I'll probably be working tonight past midnight.)

Psst... Sister Kate: I bought you one of these mugs. xo

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 302

The other day Jules asked me if we knew everyone in Vermont. 

It's a funny question because sometimes it feels like the answer is yes. Burlington, in particular, is a relatively small community and, because our lives right now are focused on places and activities that are family-friendly - farmer's markets and farms, playgrounds and the ECHO - we tend to keep running into the same people over and over. And for better or worse, I'm the kind of person who believes that, if our paths have crossed (in person or otherwise), two or more times, I should know you. So I introduce myself. (If you've been a target and felt accosted, um, I'm sorry.) In any case, we know a lot of people in Vermont--or at least this little corner of it. 

But what constantly surprises me is how many new people I keep meeting - many of them friends of friends who've been moving in circles concentric to mine for years. Which seems crazy. And then I remind myself that, for almost half a decade,  I've been living under a little rock that is a needy young family. (Don't get me wrong, this has been awesome. Most of the time.)

I'm a classic extrovert, and I need to be connecting constantly to keep happy. Hunkering down at home, no doubt, is a big part of why I have felt so ambivalent about staying in Vermont these last few years. But lately I've been able to dip back into the worlds that feed my spirit: I'm dancing again. I'm going to out to hear live music, to book readings and art exhibits. I'm lingering over long dinners with old friends: irreverent ones with creative tendencies, my favorite kind of people.

And I remember now: This town, this state, is packed with passionate people who make me feel normal. And engaged. Inspired. 

So, no, Jules: We don't know everyone in Vermont. But the more people we meet, the more I love this place. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 300

It's late and I'm tired and tomorrow is going to be a long (but not at all in a bad way - guest lecturing at UVM, Christina's book party, date with Manova and, um, work)... but it's Day 300. How can I skip Day 300? In the interest of capturing things fast, I'm bullet-pointing it. Here's what I discovered today:
  • Watching a Presidential debate counts as a bona fide date, as it demonstrates that, indeed, Jon and I are on the same page. And that we each think the other is pretty effing funny. (Even if we're the only ones.)
  • Speaking of love (yeah, I was) and crushes: apparently this all starts when you're four-ish. It's then when your "heart starts beating really fast" when you see your favorite girl. The girl that you love more than ice cream but not more than gummies, the one who is approximately 20 years your senior. 
  • I don't really want a pixie cut. What I really want is the sort of reverse mullet - party in the front, business in the back (with an little Alfalfa situation at the crown) - that was my last cut. Hannah - if you happen to be reading -  I take full responsibility for this current style ... you perfectly executed my "go short! go short! my hair grows superfast!" direction. But here's a good visual for next time:  
I love this haircut. And these earrings. And the guy on the left.
(The dark under-eye circles and big zit on my neck - not so much.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 299

Dear Me,
Next time you feel that icky, itchy, angry, anxious feeling, stop spinning. Do one of the following:

1. Dance to Tom Waits. (Thanks Lo!)

2. Take off the ugly shoes and put on the motorcycle boots.

3. Ask Kai who the vice president of the United States is. (His answer: Batman.)

That is all.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 297

Today started off great (helping cute, cooperative kids make whole-grain pancakes and art, lots of snugs) and ended badly. Those who witnessed the drama at a certain birthday party know what I'm talking about. And it didn't get better at home. 

But now the house is quiet and I'm able to piece together some perspective. It helps to think of yesterday: our annual apple-picking chili "cook-off" fest.

Backstory: My family has an awesome tradition of apple picking - I actually wrote about it for EatingWell a few years ago - which inspired me and Jon to start our own apple-picking tradition with our family, here in Vermont. Before we had kids. 

Here's how it's been going, for the last six or so years: A bunch of us hop in cars mid-morning and caravan to the islands. Our first stop is Allenholm, where we visit the yak that isn't (just this year, we discovered that it was a Scotland Highland) and hang out with the horses and donkeys while we wait for the tractor that will drive us back to the orchards. In the rows of trees, we pick for 10 minutes or so - Cortlands for us, and I pretend they're organic (they're not) - and then settle in on blankets to feast on wine, cheese, peanut butter, from a big plastic tub that Nate always brings, and, of course, apples. (We skipped the picnic this year: it was a rainy day.) Then, in a progressive dinner of sorts, we walk down the road to Hackett's for course number two: cider and cider donuts. There, we pick out pumpkins and mums and, when it's not wet, play on the on-site playground before loading back up for Burlington.

Later we gather at someone's house - this year, Chris and Ri's - for chili (several kinds, as it's sort of a "contest") and baked goods: apple crisp and apple pie, a la mode (except for Jon). I make the pastry part and everyone chips in peeling and chopping apples for the fillings. 

I cannot put into words how much this annual tradition means to me - at least not tonight (I'm fried). But the pictures below do a pretty good job of capturing it.  xoxo 

When I look at this photo, I can't help but think about how my 2009 essay in EatingWell talks about how I hope Julian will someday pick apples with a little sib. This almost makes me teary. 
Ri and Lauren sipping cider (or coffee?)
"I picked it!" (Kai was so proud of himself.)
Silly faces. (Kai was too obsessed with drinking "warm" chocolate through a straw to participate.) We missed Chris and Mikey, who were at a football game, this year.
"Really, ignorant humans: you all thought I was a yak?"
First pie of the year before it went in the oven. (Missed the shot after it came out.)
"I want that one."
The wig was a new touch for 2012. Will it stick? Only time will tell. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 294

I deal in words. But numbers move me. Literally. I run faster on the treadmill or toting my iPhone with an app that allows me to see (or hear via a mechanical-coach voice) that I have a chance to break my personal-best pace. I lost my post-pregnancy pounds after both boys were born by tallying the calories of what I ate - and I sort of saw it as a fun game. Sort. Of. (Now, when my jeans start to get snug, I use an app to do that.) I kind of like budgeting money. 

Last night, Jon presented his case study to me. I didn't understand 86% of his words ... because they were numbers - and Greek symbols - (look up and see!) But the fact that he can speak this language so fluently is quite sexy, I think.

I totally dig the fact that reading on a Kindle allows me to see exactly how far into my book I am.  (Right now, for instance, I'm through 67% of Kristyn Kusek Lewis's new book, How Lucky You Are. Good stuff.) Earlier this week, I learned that my wellness screening results put me at a "health-related age" of 32. I am 36.8. This should have made me happy but instead, here's what I thought: "Next year [when I'm 37.8], I want to have a 'health-related age' of 29. Bet I can get there if I meditate or something..." Ha!

And speaking of being 36.8 years old, I am on Day 294 of the 366 days of my 36th year. (Assuming I haven't messed up the math. I deal in words, remember?) This means that, by definition, this blog is about to end soon. Which sort of makes me sad. What next? 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Day 292

He was screaming my name as I walked through the door after dance class.

First thought: Oh no... One of those nights. It was 9:30. And we'd already had one of those mornings.

I headed for the stairs, preparing for requests for water, the fan, more music... in whatever the night's random order might be.

"He has something for you," Jon called to me from the other room.

Jules met me in the doorway of his bedroom, where just outside - in the fully lit (!) hallway - Demps stood guard. He was beaming, in avocado-green lumberjack-monkey PJs. Sort of shyly, he extended his little hand which held a carefully taped purple package.

"I made it for you, Mama. It's art for your work. And I wrapped it so you couldn't see it. Like Christmas."

Wrapped it he did. When I gently unfolded the Scotch-secured construction-paper outer envelope, there, inside, was another present, packaged up in a gold-embossed elephant design, paper I purchased years ago when my friend Beth was selling it as a fundraiser for little Marty's pre-school. Marty will be 11 in a couple of weeks. Damn.

While Jules leaned in proudly, I got to the center of my surprise: a piece of driftwood, artfully colored with what looks to have been lush oil-based crayons. Apparently he made it at school, "the end of the day, Mama" and, according to Jon, insisted on spending most of the evening wrapping it up. For me. (Which means a lot to this Mama of a Daddy's boy.)

I will cherish it forever.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Day 291

Oscillation defines me these days. 

I look forward to the day when everyone in this house (including Tina the fluffy cat) can wipe his/her own @ss ...  but then I get nearly teary thinking our days of diapers will soon be done. (Gross but true.)

Some moments, I want to move into an old Victorian, or a modern bungalow with few walls, downtown somewhere... or back in Pennsylvania. Then I think about my NNE posse, the proximity to the bike path, the house where Jon and I grew from two twenty-somethings with a bad-ass orange tabby who hailed from Harlem (RIP Chuck)  into a family of four (humans) with the sweetest Dempsey dog and two quirky kitty sisters. I can't imagine living anywhere else. Which alarms me. I don't nest. Settle in. I'm the girl who pretty much kept her college dorm room decorating to a poster or two because I was going to move along in two semesters. And I always expected to live in this house just a few years. Yet here I am. 

My dance class makes me feel alive, like "me"; my online gamification course, interested, eager, thrilled by possibilities. And then I consider what maybe I should be doing instead: coming straight home to kick around a soccer ball while it's still a little bit light outside, investing my energies into investigating four-year-old behavior, looking into kindergartens. Sleeping more so I'm not so snippy. Or doing work that's tied to actual deadlines and deliveries. 

And then there's that work: so many cool projects, ones that allow me to use both sides of my brain, to draw from all of my disparate interests and the patchwork of "liberal arts" experiences I've pieced together over the years. It's awesome. And engaging. And exhausting. And then I start to wonder: should I be expending so much energy on this right now

These - these - are the thoughts that have been muddling around in my brain for days. And, then, today, when I opened my lunchbox (a hand-me-down from Julian, no less), I found this a little yellow taxicab. 

And for whatever reason, I felt better about it all. I realize that this makes no sense. 
But this is what it is. And then I started thinking: maybe the comfort of lunchbox surprise had to do with the idea that I'd started thinking of the little car as the manifestation of an important message... 

That I'm still me - the girl who loves New York City and the fulfilling career that started there and being a mom to two crazy little boys in Vermont.

When I walked through the door at the end of the day home, Kai welcomed me with, "Mom, how was your work today?" So sweetly, punctuated with his double-dimple smile. Like he really wanted to hear about my day at the office. Like he loved his little life in which both of his parents work. And kind of a lot. 

And after the boys were in bed, I reached into my mailbox to find a single hot-pink envelope, which held inside this card from my godmother, "Aunt" Judy. 

Inside she'd written ... "It reminded me of of your blog entry and how I often I felt this way while working." 

Here's the thing: My childhood memories of Aunt Judy - Mark's mom and basically a second mother to me and my sibs - was that she was there, always, with homemade baked goods and Band-Aids and the best books. Cheerly loudly in the bleachers. Offering advice in just the right ways. And all the while she was working as a school librarian and working on her PhD.  

I'm going to choose to intepret this second surprise of the day as follows: Give up the guilt. Work really hard to be present. There's not enough time to waste any of it second-guessing. And if you need a reminder of just how fast things change, peep that old dot-matrix up there. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Day 288

My brain often doesn't work in straight lines. Um, if you know me, I don't need to tell you this.

Sometimes a mind that operates like a pinball machine is awesome (I've been called creative). But sometimes - when you really need to make forward progress, and quickly - a tendency to spin off in all different directions just sucks. That was the case this morning.

I knew I needed to run. But I felt like I didn't have time. So I sat and I forced and ... nothing. And then I called it: If I didn't run, I'd be parked in this same seat, surrounded by all of this same sh*t, with a mostly blank screen come 4:50 when I need to go get the boys.

Here, seat + sh*t: 

So I grabbed Digs and we jogged down to the bridge and back. Four miles later, my brain is thinking like this: 

Now, to work...

PS: Why waste time blog-documenting this? Proof that I can't afford NOT to run the next time I come to a creative crossroads like this.