Categories
IRL motherhood op ed

Before and After. Thoughts on life before quarantine and “new normals”

People keep talking about the new normal we’re going to have to adjust to when things start to open back up. I have mixed feelings about this phrase because I have mixed feelings about what life in quarantine has been like. The things I will miss and the things I won’t miss if and when life starts to resemble before.

Before quarantine I would stop into a favorite coffee shop for a latte and a treat. Sometimes I’d meet friends. Sometimes I would simply be taking a moment for myself between errands.

Most of these coffee shops will let me pick up these goodies to go, but I haven’t taken advantage of this because it seems like it was never about the latte, it was about the place and the people.

These days my morning starts with making a big pot of coffee to share with my husband who is working from home (though it sounds like he’ll be going back to the office soon). In between meetings we meet in the kitchen and pour another cup and chat about our day so far and discuss dinner. Usually he makes us bacon and eggs for lunch. I’ll be honest, this new ritual is something I’ll miss when he goes back to work.

Right before the spring break that never really ended I chaperoned a field trip to the planetarium with my fifth grader. It’s a favorite field trip of mine and I’m glad it wasn’t one of the many that was cancelled.

I miss volunteering in the kid’s classes, serving lunch to their smiling faces, going on field trips and catching up with school moms. We chat on Facebook but it’s not the same.

That said, I don’t miss the early morning rush or the driving from activity to activity at all. I secretly love having the kids at home all day. Don’t get me wrong, my introvert frequently burns out from the chatter, but I don’t hate midday cuddles and late bedtimes.

Before quarantine I bought a travel watercolor set so that I could paint on the go. That entire sentence seems foreign to me now.

I also carried around a book to read in the car during school pick up because nighttime reading was often sacrificed because of exhaustion. These days I have all the time I need for hobbies. I’m reading three books at a time. I play video games every day, y’all. We watch family movies multiple times a week.

I don’t miss being tired from running errands and saying yes to too many things. I don’t miss the busy. I love a lot of things about this forced slow down. And yet…

I do miss going to Target to look at absolutely nothing. I miss shopping without a mask. I miss a trip to the grocery store not leaving me emotionally exhausted for at least an hour. I miss seeing friends and kissing babies and smiling at cashiers and not cringing about 6 feet of separation.

I know it feels petty to complain about little things like wanting to grab coffee at Starbucks or visit a friend. But we all know it’s not about that really. It’s about being able to breathe and stretch and exist in the world – to smile and laugh and hug each other. That’s all I want.

Categories
news op ed soapbox

What Would The First Lady Say? 10 Quotes for Moving Forward.

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Is anyone else just exhausted with the world right now? I’m not going to get political because ugh my heart is just not hearing it right now and I think that you can already find those kinds of words on literally every corner of the internet right now.

But if you are running low on motivation and momentum and just need to hear something to pick you back up again so you can log onto Facebook without hurting somebody, keep scrolling. I’ve often found that many of the first ladies of our country’s history are the real rock stars in the White House.

I’ve found myself turning to them a lot these past few months – they are a wellspring of motivation and as I dug into the internet this morning I found loads of amazing quotes from First Ladies over the years. Here are some of my favorites:

Michelle Obama

To get yourself off the floor and moving forward.

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Eleanor Roosevelt

For when you are feeling down on yourself or feeling the need to defend your opinions.

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Martha Washington

For when you can’t seem to find that happy anywhere!

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Abigail Adams

When you find yourself in discussion with people you don’t agree with.

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Laura Bush

Because we are more united than the Media wants us to believe.

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Rosalynn Carter

For when you want to know what you can do to make a difference.

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Categories
family fun op ed

What do your clothes say about you?

I was folding my daughter’s laundry last night and chuckling to myself over the absolute cuteness and chaos of the various patterns of leggings she has amassed lately.

Being a terribly fashionable seven year old diva, she has a lot of opinions about her wardrobe these days and other than financing her endeavors, I don’t have an awful lot of involvement over her outfit selections these days. She’s a spunky risk taker with a love for vibrant colors and sparkly patterns.

16114083_10101111748668966_3215905868438196703_nIn some ways I feel like this description doesn’t just describe her fashion sense, it describes her whole personality. Everything about my daughter is sparkly and colorful. She’s a vibrant person from her headband to her tippy toes. She laughs hard, dances always and can’t even brush her teeth without singing. She makes her own rules and lives by her own ideals – for better or worse some days!

I snapped a picture of her leggings and posted it on Instagram and Facebook, and then kept folding but I also kept thing…. If her wardrobe could be considered an extension of her personality – is the same true for the rest of the family? Does my husband have a plaid / khaki personality? Is my ten year old essentially a pile of t-shirts and running pants on the bedroom floor? What does my wardrobe say about me?

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Curiosity piqued, I went upstairs and took a picture of the blouses in my closet. If legging are the defining statement of my daughter’s wardrobe, my tops are definitely mine. And while the colors are more muted (I’m going through a black and gray season and I’m not sure if it’s because of the weather or more permanent – time will tell), I’m also really proud of this little wardrobe of mine. I’ve been working hard to curate a closet of clothes I love, even going so far as to find hangers that I love so they can have the luxe treatment while they wait for their day in rotation.

It’s true, I love a black t-shirt and the colors that sneak into my wardrobe are somewhat rare these days but I also see a closet full of shirts that are buttery soft and well fitting. They are carefully selected team players that don’t shout for attention but spend their day taking care of the not unimportant task of making me feel comfortable and well cared for while I take care of the people around me.

What do you think your wardrobe says about you?

Categories
health & beauty op ed

5 Little Happiness Boosting Ideas.

this is how we do

Lately I’ve been feeling weighed down by the little itty bits of every day life. The kids and marriage are great, I have wonderful friends, my family is doing well and the weather is gorgeous. The mental checklist of “Big Happy Things” can be checked and double checked. So the blahs are coming from the little things – the ruts and routines that we fall into and repeat daily because we haven’t asked ourselves why recently.

So I’ve been taking baby steps towards cutting out any ruts that aren’t working as a routine for myself or my family and reevaluating those itty bitty details of daily life. How can I cultivate habits that build me up instead of slowly draining me. Here are some of my ideas.

  1. Clutter for me is often a big culprit to my over all mood. Sometimes, when a room has gotten out of control, I can feel my mood darken just by walking into it. Piles of clutter are an unfortunately common occurrence in our home (yours too?) and though I’ve never found a way to eliminate it entirely, I do try to find new ideas to tackle certain areas and improve their functionality. A new basket to hold the 8,000 remotes in the living room, a bulletin board to hang up all the random schedules and important school information. Or even just finding an actual home for the things in our house which seem to be nomadic by default.
  2. Drama shows are addictive but as someone who tends to get highly absorbed by the lives of the characters in these shows, sometimes there are just too many fictional people to worry about. Lately I’ve been gravitating towards comedies and I’ve been slowly cutting down on shows that don’t make me laugh / leave me feeling happy, like the dramas that have been too dramatic and are weighing on my soul. If you are flipping through your DVR and feel any animosity towards watching a backlog of shows that have recorded, give yourself the freedom to walk away. 
  3. Similarly, read something happy. There is plenty of time for lofty literary fiction or thought provoking non-fiction. If you need a lift, I highly recommend reading something funny. I love all the new celebrity / comedian memoirs that have been coming out lately and picked up a copy of Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch at the used book store this week. The first pages of the book instantly made me smile – just what the doctor ordered!
  4. Listen to an uplifting song and if possible, dance. Liven up mundane chores or long commutes with music that makes you happy. If the morning DJ on your daily commute irritates you, stop listening to the station and find something else. Take a break from paperwork and have a mini jam session until your head is back in the game. I recommend: Katy Perry, Meghan Trainor or Iggy Azalea these days but I’m guessing you already have a few songs in mind of your own.
  5. If all else fails, get outside and take a walk or do some laps at the gym. Exercise is a great mood lifter even though up until the workout, it usually feels like a terrible idea to me – I never regret getting in a good walk. Bonus boost: listen to those uplifting tunes while you walk or find a good friend to walk with you. Then it feels less like exercise and more like a break.

These are just a few of my favorite ways to lift my mood.

What are your favorite tricks for getting happy?

Categories
entertainment op ed poetry

Music vs. Poetry.

music vs poetry

We’d spent the afternoon explaining The Beatles and Yoko Ono to the kids. The casual lecture lingered on throughout dinner to cover peace activism and the Civil Rights Movement because we’re huge nerds who have a hard time staying on topic. We watched Imagine by John Lennon on Youtube, followed by BNL’s You Can Be My Yoko Ono and talked about communism and the Cold War. Once we’d thoroughly bored our four and eight year old, we headed into the kitchen to clean up the dishes from dinner.

The BNL lyrics continued to linger in my mind and I sang softly as I rinsed dishes, my husband joining in. Hopefully I sounded better than Yoko Ono, but this is not confirmed. After I’d sung one of the lines, he laughed and commented, “You don’t hear the music in your head when you sing, do you?

It wasn’t a jab or a criticism really, just a comment on how differently our brains work. One clear distinction between my husband and I (apart from the height difference and the facial hair) is that when it comes to music – the actual instrumental stuff is what’s most important to him at the end of the day and for me it’s about the lyrics.

I commented that night that without the lyrics, Imagine by John Lennon wouldn’t be remembered and appreciated by the general public, thus lyrics win. Dan argued that without the music it wouldn’t be remembered either, that poetry is not as widely followed as music, thus music wins. I heartily disagreed so he asked for examples of poetry that one would assume EVERYONE knows. At which point I turned into a sarcastic 4th grader.

Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore! I stammered out awkwardly, to which he argued that this was a linguistic something or other big words here and not a real poem.

Roses are red, violets are blue, I countered. A nursery rhyme he insisted, it doesn’t count.

How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways! Hah! I thought, good luck ignoring Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He ignored it. I continued.

There once was a man from Nantucket!

I was making his point for him and I knew it so started quoting e.e. cummings, a favorite of mine, even though I know that his poetry is nowhere near as widely followed as John Lennon or The Beatles (though no less extraordinary) but who cares?? Poetry is music, it’s just more subtle – you have to find the rhythm on your own.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

BY E. E. CUMMINGS

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

What do you think? Poetry or music?

What’s your favorite poem?

What’s your favorite song?

Categories
op ed writing

The perfect line.

this is me staring at my shoes so I won't see you judging me.
this is me staring at my shoes so I won’t see you judging me.

You know when you read a line in a book, blog post or buzzfeed article, etc. that is just so perfect that it will not leave your mind. You keep whispering it over and over – in your mind though, not out loud because you’re not crazy… Okay, maybe once or twice out loud just to see how the words feel in your mouth. And maybe you read it out loud to your husband or best friend just to see if it’s as legendary to them as it is to you. Life changing, really. 

But usually they just kinda stare at you for a minute and then go back to reading their own book with their own perfect lines or they placate you and agree it’s fantastic but you know they are just trying to make you feel better.

But the line won’t leave you because it’s brilliant and pure and nothing has ever been said that well before. It’s a game changer, really. You think about maybe borrowing it and using it yourself somewhere but probably it will lose all of it’s magic then because it will never really be perfect again once everyone starts using it. It will just turn into YOLO or selfie and it will totally jump the shark and become, like, ohmigod, so yesterday. Whatev.

Some examples of recent perfect lines:

He ran his hand through his hair. Like he was confirming that it was still messy.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Am I crazy or is this the perfect description? I feel like in these two sentences I now understand and know Levi completely. I can instantly picture him and remember guys that were just like this. Yeah I totally read it out loud to my husband and re-read it at least five times because it just…

Another one that keeps invading my brain I think I’ve maybe read a few times now and it’s probably like a major thing that everyone is saying and now I can’t remember where exactly I read it most recently but a quick search of the ole google confirms that all the feels or just the feels or feels is a whole verbal party that I was never invited to, you know, like always. And now that I know how opressively hipster and trendy it is, I will probably never use the word ever again. But…

You know???

Okay, it’s share time. Tell me your “perfect line” that you can’t get out of your head and I’ll try to squeal and admire it appropriately – no placating whatevs, promise.

Categories
op ed

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Sometimes when I’m on the internet I read something that is so amazing, clever, refreshing, heartbreaking, informative, special, memorable, adorable or some mixture of the lot that I think, “Thank god for the internet – bringing us all closer together.” Sometimes when I am talking to a loved one online that would be difficult to talk to offline, I am so so grateful for the technology that offers me just such a luxury.  The internet can be an amazing source of news, communication, information and – well, let’s face it – distractions. I am grateful for it.

But sometimes the distractions and the information, communication and clutter feel overwhelming to me. Sometimes the world feels a little too small and the sheer amount of sad news that you cannot help but trip over online is deafening. Sometimes there is so much bad news, so much drama (personal or political) that my soul feels numb to it. Like there is a limit to how much information my heart can take in before it shuts down and declares that it’s had enough.

It’s not that the news is any less sad than the other ten million sad stories – or that the drama is no less deserving of speculation and compassionate support. But some days I just cannot do it. I don’t want to hear it and I can not bear to add my own thoughts to these conversations – to voice my opinion at an ocean of people who may or may not agree with me that are all clamoring to have their voices heard. I’ve heard it all, some days. And some days there just doesn’t seem to be anything left to say.

Maybe tomorrow those voices will not sound so stale. That feeling of being underwater, watching the world tumble by from below will vanish and my heart will not balk at the notion of more. Maybe an hour from now I will read a story that truly resonates with me in a way that cannot be ignored and I’ll find myself back on a soap box with the rest of the world, impassioned and earnest and oblivious of how cliched it can all feel – maybe I’ll be able to silence that voice inside of me that keeps saying, “Haven’t we already read this one? Haven’t we played this game before?

Maybe I’m just feeling a little off after being stuck at home for several days with a sprained foot – maybe the winter doldrums are just wreaking havoc on my normally sunny disposition. Maybe we should ignore this post and get back to our Farmvilles and Instagrams and the latest Crazy News Blurb that’s taking our Facebook feed by storm. You know the one.

 

Categories
motherhood op ed

the summer rant.

sunset

Summer so far has been more draining than fun as I continue to try and find my rhythm with both kids at home and instead find…

An exhausted, small girl who refuses to nap and instead spends the typical nap time hours absolutely losing it for several hours and making everyone around her more tired in the process…

A son who clearly misses the hustle and bustle of school days and is bored at home with us…

A car that has been giving me the weirdest forms of grief – hey, why can’t I turn off any of the interior lights at all? and oh look, the trunk was left open last night in a rain storm and is soaked… yay

Rain storms like every damn day that prevent us from going to anything outdoors for fear of being soaked through…

A random spree of super fun injuries inflicted on myself by stupid things like biscuit cans and cardboard boxes… A total lack of going to the gym or doing anything for me….

A crazy dog who likes to poop in places he shouldn’t and is generally acting like a dog….

And a mom who is slowly starting to lose her cool (read: her cool has completely left the building) and has ceased to be fun in any way….

So the few sacred hours that are left in between all of this ridiculousness seems to be spent at the bank, picking up milk, cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry, taking the dog to the vet to get his flea, tick & heartworm meds, changing diapers, trying to encourage potty training with minimal success, and… damn, it’s time to make dinner again.

Where are my leisurely mornings at the beach and zoo and playground and splash pad and other things that are awesome that I can’t think of right now?

Where are my long summer nights of BBQs and fireflies and sprinklers and summer movies?

Where is MY summer vacation because so far all I’m seeing is MORE work, MORE errands and MORE temper tantrums (both from the kids and me)…

I swear I liked summer once but so far this one has been pretty pathetic.

Disclaimer: I know I’m over reacting and that we are probably doing tons of fun things that I’m not acknowledging right now because that kind of gets in the way of venting and feeling sorry for myself. I know that these days are long and these seasons are short and that obviously I’ve been home with both kids before and should be handling it better than this and that most of the time I probably totally am handling it better than this. It has been a long day and it’s only noon. Did I mention the lack of naps? And the poop? And the soaked trunk and the injuries? I will be fine. The summer will be awesome, at some point, I’m sure. In the meantime… Blergh.

Categories
op ed

Too Much Of a Good Thing.

I recently switched grocery stores. I had nothing against the store I was going to – they have a massive selection and their prices are stellar, but it’s also very crowded despite being open literally 24/7 and they only take cash or debit card. Not a big deal, but you know, there’s that. I still thought I was in love with my grocery store and it wasn’t until one random weekend when things changed.

We were driving past a grocery store in the next town over that I’d kept thinking about checking out and we had a bit of time to kill so I asked hubby to pull into their lot and see what the fuss was all about. The only thing I really knew about the store was that their commercials state that someone will bring your groceries to your car for you. I’m an able bodied momma and didn’t think that could be necessary but I was intrigued.

The store was like a breath of fresh air. Much smaller than the store I’ve been going to with prices that are affordable, if not as excellent as the store I’d been going to. Their selection was very good, but smaller than my current store. And yet… I kind of liked that. Sometimes it is overwhelming to walk through a bread aisle that has like 50 varieties to choose from. Does anyone really need 50 choices of bread of yogurt? Surely 10 is sufficient. I made mental notes as we walked through and found that we could definitely shop here and still get all of our favorite brands or something very similar.

So I decided to challenge myself to give this new store a shot, to get used to the layout and see if I’d still be happy with them a few weeks later. So far, the answer is a resounding yes. I love the smaller layout and found that less choices actually does make my life a bit easier. They still have more than enough variety for me but not to an overwhelming degree. I love that it is less crowded than my old grocery store and though I think I am spending a little more money it’s still within my budget. Plus, they really do walk the groceries out to my car each time. Is this necessary? Not at all – but the small act of generosity, mixed with a calmer shopping experience and friendlier employees makes going to the grocery store a little less stressful and with a three year old in tow, I’ll take any help I can get!

The other day I ran into our old grocery store to grab a few things and found myself overwhelmed by the crowd all over again. I’d sort of acclimated to the chaos of the store after shopping there regularly for a couple of years but now that I know what else is out there, it was off putting. The gigantic parking lot that was always crowded apart from a few times a day suddenly seemed ridiculous when the small lot of my new grocery store always has plenty of spots. No longer acclimated to their level of crazy, the difference was obvious.

So, this all has me thinking about that phrase too much of a good thing. It seems to be a seriously problem here in America where we have too much junk food, too much crap television to watch, too many things to spend our money on, too many activities to enroll our kids in. We are a society that always clamors for more, more, more but I think it would be very healthy for us all to do less, less, less. Maybe less variety would be very good for us.

Maybe the problem that American Idol is facing is not just poor judging choices but simply the reality that they are no longer the only fish in their pond and that America and the world is struggling to keep up with the fifteen singing competitions on television. Some may watch all of them with glee, but most people are going to choose one or the other at some point and the ratings for each show will reflect that. I think the problem with their ratings is that they still expect to match the ratings they saw when they were starting out on top.

Maybe the reason that so many people are facing financial troubles is because commercials and retailers are telling us that we need more when we don’t. When there is so much out there to buy, our choices don’t seem as excessive as they are because there is still so much out there that we haven’t bought yet. I know there are also more serious problems like unemployment and a high cost of living, but many of us would be able to save a lot more money if we simply spent less – myself included.

What do you think?

Do you ever find yourself suffering from too much of a good thing?