Red Alert

The house was dark and quiet as I started to get ready for bed down in the basement bathroom. I was just about to brush my teeth when I heard the sound of movement upstairs. Ours is an old house and I can tell be the sound of the creaking wood floors who is moving and where they were going.

A child. Headed to the bathroom. I’d been out for the night and didn’t see either of the kids before bed, so I went upstairs to give a quick hug to whichever one was moving. My son stood in the bathroom, looking pale and shaky, the smell of vomit heavy in the air.

My hope that he had made it to the bathroom before we barfed was in vain. His bed (a cursed loft bed, ideal for being a total nightmare in circumstances like this) was a biohazard crime scene. This not being my first time at the all night barf rodeo, I quickly woke up my husband and we went into sick kid triage mode. Get the big bowl, point sickling in the direction of the bathroom to wait for the cleaning crew to finish stage one clean up: strip the bed, assess the assorted stuffed animals and pillows and decide which get the washing machine and which get the trash bag, grab baking soda and paper towels for the mattress.

The work stops as the patient begins to dry heave. Negotiations commence to determine who is saying home from work tomorrow. Rinse the bowl again. Lay a towel splash zone around the makeshift bed for patient zero. We’ve done this before. We’ll do it again.

It isn’t until Miles is settled down that the strand of anxiety I have about child illness starts to unravel. Vomiting illness are the biggest trigger. It only takes a few minutes before I start to imagine that Ev will be sick too and then me and then my husband (even though he has an immune system of steel usually). What if its Norovirus and we sink into an endless cycle of GI distress? What if the grown ups become too sick to take care of the kids? What if I can’t go to work for a day, a week, a month? Oh God. Does my stomach feel weird now? Maybe? Did he share my drink today? Or was that yesterday? If it was yesterday, was he already sick but we just didn’t know it.

It is super fun that I often feel anxiety as a stomach ache with bonus rumble tummy.

My anxiety over kids getting sick started when I was in grad school and only had class a few times a month (they would go all day) and missing even one or two classes would result in having to drop the class and start over next semester. As each class session drew closer, I’d become hyper sensitive to every cough or sniffle from the kids. A kid who didn’t finish their snack or said they had a tummy ache would make me feel sweaty and want to run for the nearest motel.

I made it through grad school and I have enough sick time at work that I could handle missing some days so there’s no reason for me to feel the swell of panic when I think about a kid with a stomach bug. I’m a reasonable person. I know that kids are gonna get sick. This is not a big deal.

It is super fun that anxiety doesn’t listen to reason.

I’m keeping him company now, taking the first shift so my husband can sleep a bit. I’m doing the thing mothers have done since time began — keeping the night watch over a sick one. If centuries of mothers have done it without a Xanax, I suppose I can too.

It’s gonna be a long night.

 

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Shake it Off

My daughter and I are having a dance party in the kitchen. She pumps her little arms and wiggles her bottom, braids flying. I shimmy next to her, my socks slipping on the tile floor. My son covers his eyes as he finds the sight of our dancing to be deeply, profoundly embarrassing.

“I like this song, Mama! What is this song?”

The song was a new one from Taylor Swift and it’s catchy as hell. I like it too.

For Ev, liking the song is happily uncomplicated. Does it make her want to move her booty? Are the lyrics easy to learn the words to so she can sing along? Can she hear it on the radio in the car while we drive to Target? Yes? DONE. It’s her new favorite.

But what about me? I think Taylor Swift is talented and smart but I also think she’s pretty problematic. I wish she’d stop playing the perpetual victim. I wish she didn’t have moments of tone deaf cultural appropriation. I wish her feminism was more nuanced. I wish she’d leave Kanye West alone.

I also kind of want to get her new CD.

I suppose I could order the CD from Amazon, which is also on my list of problematic faves. My husband has requested that I not buy him anything from Amazon because he feels like they are bad for writers. I suspect he’s probably right. They’re also probably bad for the environment and bad for small businesses, and hard on their employees. But, I’ve got that Prime membership and the two-day shipping is so handy and I can’t find that one brand of notebooks I like anywhere in town, so…

I won’t order pizza from Papa John’s but my kids like Domino’s better.

I avoid Wal-Mart, but I also think Target is just a more pleasant shopping experience.

I won’t shop at Hobby Lobby, but I’ve never shopped there anyways.

I don’t listen to Chris Brown but I listen to plenty of other hip-hop artists who aren’t afraid to call a woman a bitch or a ho. I won’t watch a Woody Allen movie but I’m afraid to consider how many TV shows or movies I like that are connected to Harvey Weinstein (or Kevin Spacey, or Louis C.K., or an Affleck, or whomever is the most recent sleazebag to get unmasked).

For the last few years, I’ve felt like I’m at a constant low simmer of anger at the State of Things. I’m mad about the President. I’m mad about how frustratingly common stories of sexual harassment and violence are among women I know. I’m mad police keep killing people of color and are never held accountable. Sometimes the anger turns to a boil and I wonder if my family won’t be better off just living on an island somewhere. Sometimes the anger feels exhausting.

I try to channel the anger into action. I vote. I send a donation to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. I get into fights on Facebook with strangers and family members who say racist or offensive things (I’m not sure if this more a form of activism or insanity). I’m trying to be a good ally. I’m trying to know more and do better. I’m trying to acknowledge my privilege, and to listen to the voices of people of color and people who are disabled and people who are in the LGBTQ community. I’m trying to be more mindful of all the ways I’ve been complicit in a culture that feels increasingly toxic and broken.

But sometimes I just want to eat some chicken nuggets and listen to songs about ex-boyfriends.

So I’ve been wrestling today with some questions I just don’t know how to answer.

Can you separate the art from the artist?

Do boycotts of products and companies actually work?

Is it possible to be a consumer in a capitalist country and not end up giving money to companies or people who hate things you love or support things you hate?

I’m not a very mindful consumer. I don’t like Papa John’s because people were talking about it on Twitter and it reminded me that I think the owner is an asshole. Have I done any research to make sure that the people who own Domino’s aren’t also assholes? Nope. Did I vaguely remember that Denny’s has had a pretty racist past? Yes. Did I still take my niece there when she was craving pancakes? Well, I think you know the answer to that question.

If I’m being honest, I don’t want to think critically about where all my money goes. I don’t feel like I’ve got the bandwidth to check out the social, economic, political, and environmental impact buying this brand of toilet paper or than bag of cheese. I’ve got outrage fatigue and I don’t see that getting better anytime soon. If I think about it too much, I get annoyed with myself and the State of Things again and it makes me just want to eat some Ben & Jerry’s (they’re still cool, right? We haven’t found out that Ben has been trying to force Jerry to touch his Chunky Monkey, right?).

I’m not sure how to shake this off.

Election Night

In 2008, I went to an election night party at a friend’s house. My son was a baby and spent the night alternately being passed around for snuggles and laying on the rug, eating his fat feet. When Obama won, I looked at my son and sobbed. I thought about my late father-in-law, who entered the military when it was still segregated. I thought about how interracial marriage was still illegal in 22 states when my husband was born. And now, here was my beautiful boy, about to grow up with a president who looked like him.

I think it goes without saying that I miss having Obama as president every day.

In 2016, I went to an election night party a friend’s house. My daughter was already tucked into bed for the night but I was already looking forward to waking up the next day and telling her that we had a woman president. Instead I went to bed with an anxious heart and then woke up the next day feeling heartbroken and angry. I got into a fight with my Trump supporter father on Facebook and I still haven’t spoken to him since.

It’s discouraging to think that Trump has, in fact, ended up being EXACTLY as bad as I feared he would that first day.

We had a mayoral election yesterday and, oh, there was a candidate I wanted so badly to win. He’s smart and progressive and when we met him over the summer he was incredibly engaged and friendly to Miles, who of course wanted to ask him a million questions. His name is Melvin Carter and he happens to be African American.

Would you be stunned to learn that toward the end of the campaign he became the target of some racist ass bullshit? In our particular election, the racist ass bullshit came from the police union, who were endorsing another candidate and attempting to blame Mr. Carter for the increase in gun violence in our city… because his house got burgled and two handguns belonging to his father (a former police officer) were stolen.

Anyways, it was a whole ugly thing and I tried to have faith that people in my city would see through it but I was so nervous. Melvin was clearly the best candidate in the field but 2016 happened. Being the best candidate in the field feels like it doesn’t matter when there are rich white guys in the race.

But then last night, he won.

HE WON.

The best candidate in the field, a 38 year old African American guy, won. And all over the country other really interesting and exciting candidates won too. And I got to go to bed feeling a little, tiny, maybe a bit hopeful again for the first time in 364 days.

(Don’t get me wrong — the world is still a trash can fire and this isn’t evidence that things are getting magically better. But there at least there is this one small good thing)

I’m not sure how long this feeling will last — probably just until Trump tweets again. But it felt good.

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Things I Think on Sunday Nights

I should get ready for bed. It’s getting late. I should definitely get ready for bed now.

15 minutes later…

Okay, one more crack at the geography quiz and then I’m really going to get ready for bed.

15 minutes later…

I have to be at work in about eight hours. Bed would be a smart place to go.

15 minutes and one fruitless search for this Korean dish I made once and can’t remember A) what it was called and B) what exactly was in it later…

I’m NOT going to have any Halloween candy. I should brush my teeth and go to bed.

10 minutes and a Kit Kat later….

Okay, if I got to bed now, I can still get a solid six hours of sleep and I am very tired. But maybe I’ll write a quick blog post first..

(EVERY. DAMN. SUNDAY. NIGHT)

 

Winging It

My children were in the dining room, taking a small break from annoying each other to eat their respective dinners. My son was eating some baby carrots. My daughter was eating some Greek yogurt with almonds and dark chocolate mixed in. I was in the kitchen trying to figure out what I wanted for dinner when I heard Miles, his voice dripping with distain, say to Ev, “You know that chocolate has lots of calories, sugar, and carbs, right?”

He’s only 9 but the mansplaining is strong with this one. #Blessed

I popped my head out of the kitchen and cheerfully chirped “Yep, and remember our bodies need carbs, calories, and even some sugar.”

Ev, who is only 5, nodded vigorously and added “Yeah, and we need fat too!”

I assured her that she was right and went back to the kitchen. When I came out with their drinks, Miles was standing so he could show Ev that his belly was flatter than hers, that he was skinnier. My girl, my strong and solid girl, pulled up her shirt and tried to suck in her belly, tried to shrink her self. I told him to sit down. I told her that she was healthy and strong and had a great belly.

They went back to eating and I went back to the kitchen and tried not to freak out. I tried not to think about how much I hated being bigger than my skinny sibling. I tried not to think about all the times I’ve been self-conscious about what I eat and who I ate it in front of. I tried not to think about making myself throw up chocolate ice cream when I was 10 because I didn’t know how to not eat it in the first place. I threw it up because I wanted, even then, to be thin more than anything… but I still wanted that ice cream. I tried not to remember sneaking forbidden foods and eating in secret.

Good god, I have wasted so much time thinking about my weight.

The carb and calories talk comes from school. We don’t talk about food that way in our house. I’ve worked hard not to assign morality to food. We’re not “being bad” when we have dessert. We aren’t “being good” when we have a salad. We don’t have rules about having to clear our plates. There aren’t really foods that are off limits. I’m pro snacks, pro vegetables, pro pizza and popcorn for dinner on Friday nights. Mostly, I think our approach to food is working. The kids are both healthy and they both still have Halloween candy left over from last year in the cupboard. They don’t binge. They seem to be able to self-regulate and to stop eating when they get full. They like treats but don’t go crazy about it.

I’m not quite there myself, but I’m better than I used to be.

I’ve never said anything negative about my (fat, round, strong, sometimes frustrating) body in front of Ev. I want to save her from the years I’ve spent hating myself. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing the right stuff in this respect. A lot of time it feels like I’m just winging it. I’m nervous about her being in school, where apparently calories and carbs are a part of the curriculum. I wonder when kids start using fat as an insult? I wonder when she’ll hear it used against her? I’m damn sure that I don’t want it ever used against her in this house, especially not by the brother that she worships.

After dinner, I put Ev in the tub and sat Miles down for what I suspect is the first of many conversations we’ll have about stuff like this. I told him to stop talking about what Ev eats, to not make being skinnier a subject for competition, and to make sure that he wasn’t ever commenting on anyone’s size or shape. I told him that I used to cry almost every day because I was worried I wasn’t skinny enough. He patted me on the arm but didn’t say anything. I don’t know if it sunk in or if he understands. I think he both believes that being skinny is better than being fat and that he loves to snuggle with his fat mom and doesn’t want me to be sad about my weight.

I let him get off the couch and he disappeared into the kitchen, saying “I’m going to bring you something special!”

He came back with a box of Junior Mints. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I really, really hope I don’t screw this part up.

 

 

Celine and Poutine

Last week I ditched my beloved children and husband and spent in six days in Montreal, Canada with one of my dearest friends, E. We’ve been friends for 17 years and have taken many trips together, all of which were fun and marked by our truly impressive ability to get hopelessly lost. Spoiler alert: we got lost on this trip too, so some traditions were built to last.

A lot of our time in Montreal was spent walking around and looking at cool buildings, including the Notre-Dame Basilica. This is the inside of this obviously hideous building:

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We walked in and I reverently whispered “I bet money this is where Celine Dion got married” and, yep, it totally was.

I’m kind of in love with these houses

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We spotted those beauties on our three hour bike tour of Plateau area of Montreal. I highly recommend the tour, especially if your vacation has involved multiple trips to a cheap but tasty bakery in Chinatown.

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On our last night in Montreal, post bike ride, E and I went on a hunt for smoked meat and poutine for dinner as we’d been told that it was a must do. We ended up at a 24 hour poutine place (a concept that I’m sure has made many a drunk person happy, I’m sure) and as we waited for our order, a Celine song started to play on the radio. I felt like had really hit peak Canadian at that moment.

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Pictured: Brisket BLT and poutine with onions, bacon, cheese curds, swiss cheese, and sour cream. Not pictured: my quiet gratitude that I had chosen to wear stretchy pants that day.

My only sadness about this trip is that I failed to meet Justin Trudeau and convince him to annex Minnesota into Canada. That would really have been a terrific souvenir. Alas, my kids had to settle for some Kinder Surprise eggs instead of universal healthcare. Maybe next time.

Books: Delightful and Not So Much

One of the best things about finishing grad school a year and a half ago is that I’ve become a reader again. Don’t get me wrong, I read a ton during grad school — journal articles, books on research methods, other people’s dissertations — but I barely read for fun. Reading for pleasure just made me feel guilty for not working on my dissertation. But now I’m back to my old self, which means I have a book in my purse at all times and a giant stack of next books lined up.

When it comes to books, I tend to think of myself as a pretty generous reader. I don’t expect every book to be the next great American novel. I’ll give a book at least 50-75 pages to suck me in and I’m much more likely to finish a so-so book than set aside. This is partially because I’m a pretty fast reader so even a bad book is only a commitment of a day or so and partially because my heart’s biggest hope is to someday finish writing a novel of my own.

(Have I ever admitted that here? I can’t remember. I’m fairly bashful about this dream, like I’m wishing to become the world’s first plus size 39-year-old Olympic gymnast. I fear being given gently concerned looks in response to sharing this tenderest hope.)

The hopeful novelist in me feels like every book, good or bad, can tell me a little about how to be a writer — how to write dialouge that actually sounds like how people talk, the merits of writing in first versus third person, how to give your characters a sense of place, and so on. So I don’t usually give up too easily, which is how you know that Best Supporting Role by Sue Margolis is TERRIBLE

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The story is supposed to be about a woman whose husband, a gambling addict, dies. She is penniless and ends up running a lingrie store and trying to rebuild her life. I am on board with this premise as a light weight, easy read, romantic comedy kind of story. Here’s what happens in the first 10 pages:

  • We get the entire story of how the main character and her husband met to the day he died.
  • We find out that the husband loved her because she “looked like a Jewish princess” but, not as the author points out, a “JAP” with a fake nose and plastic boobs.
  • A major plot point happens when the main character, the one who looks like a Jewish princess, is out Christmas shopping. For Christmas presents. So, is she Jewish but celebrates Christmas for a reason not mentioned? Or is the author kind of anti- Semitic? These are not questions I want to have to consider on page 7 of a book that should be light and airy.
  • The reader discovers that the author doesn’t know how to write dialogue that sounds like how human people who are married to each other talk.
  • The husband character is found out to have massive gambling debts. The wife confronts him, he promises to do something about it. He is panicked and distraught. They fight. The police show up (on Christmas Eve) and inform her that a suicidal person has jumped from the 30th floor of a building. The reader already knows he is gonna die, so suicide seems like a believable possibility. Only, that isn’t how he died. The jumper LANDED ON HIM. Yes. The jumper, who survives falling 30 stories and landing on a plot device, squashes him flat and he dies instantly. In his pockets are gambling notes (whatever those are) and several hundred dollars — for Christmas presents. Oh c’mon now.

This book is terrible. It made me actively angry with myself for spending $4.98 to buy it on the clearance shelf. The only upside is that if more than one person thought this was worth publishing (and IT ISN’T) then maybe there is hope for my as yet unwritten novel.

On the total other end of the spectrum was a book that I just found delightful, filled with characters I was rooting for. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell will be your jam if you are the kind of person who enjoys watching the movie You’ve Got Mail on a rainy day while you are sick.

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I really enjoy Rainbow Rowell’s books generally and one of the things I think she does really well is write ordinary characters who are living unexceptional lives. Nobody in this book is going to change the world or do something that makes them famous or special. Their story is simple — how do two people find their ways to each other — but I just liked the characters so much. The ending was also wholly satisfying.

I also just finished Landline by the same author and it was fine. But I read it after Attachments, so it was a bit of a let down because I liked that one so much.

Have you read any books you’d recommend lately? We’re entering peak reading season for me. I have some upcoming travel, sans children, and I plan to bring far too many books with me but I can always add one more to my suitcase if there is something you’d suggest!

Game Changers

I’ve been blogging off and on (mostly off, if I’m being honest) for over a decade, which means I’ve probably been reading blogs for closer to 15 years. I love blogs because I love good writing and I love spaces where you get to take a peek into someone else’s life. The list of blogs I read regularly has dwindled quite a bit as many of my past favorite writers either stopped blogging or became too insufferable to even hate read, but I still have several favorites that I check regularly.

That being said, I only have two blog posts that I have bookmarked and am probably dorky enough to actually print off on real paper just to ensure I never lose them. These are my two game changers that have actually changed my life in a small but noticable way:

1. Swistle’s In the Bucket. IN! Okay, so Swistle is probably the blogger that I would most like to be friends with in real life and her blog is my all time favorite. I love many of her posts because reading her blog feels like having coffee with a friend. The bucket post is peak Swistle, in my humble opinion. This post about not letting all-or-nothing thinking make you feel paralyzed in the face of tasks that need doing and life’s unending to-do lists spoke to my very soul. All-or-nothing thinking is a trap I fall into far too easily: I had some candy, so I might as well have that donut, pint of ice cream, and large bowl of Frosted Flakes. I don’t have time to clean the whole basement storage area, so I won’t clean any of it. I spent a little money on Amazon, so Zulily, here I come. This kind of thinking inevitably leads to a sugar hang over and minor feelings of financial guilt.

But no! I can put drops in my bucket. I have found that reminding myself of this post and using the timer function on my phone has really helped me get some shit done and feel a little bit better about myself afterwards. Today, for example, I set my phone timer for 15 minutes and started in one corner of the basement (which hasn’t really been cleaned or organized since we moved in three years ago, GAH). I was in a good grove when the timer buzzed so I kept going for a few minutes longer and managed to fill one whole trash bag, get another bag set aside for Goodwill, and post one item on the local BST page, which sold in three minutes. Now one small corner of the space is free of clutter and cobwebs and we have $10 more dollars for the family fun fund*.

I use this trick at work A LOT when it comes to dealing with the endless flow of emails I get. I set my timer for 30 minutes and do nothing but deal with email. I can almost never be fully caught up on email but I can make a bad situation better. Drops! In! The! Bucket!

*This year I’ve decided that everything I sell on the buy, sell, trade page or two a consignment or secondhand store is going into an envelope to be used for our next big family vacation, when and wherever that is. We call it the family fun fund and the kids are VERY into this as a concept.

2. Wil Wheaton’s Do Something Kind For Future You I read this post not too long ago and it has really helped me think about how I spend my time and energy. The basic gist is that whenever you can, you should do something that makes Future You’s life a little easier. I’ve been thinking about this in terms of things like exercise (I wish Past Me had done more to stay active so Current Me wasn’t having so many issues with back pain and generally lumpiness) and my time. Yesterday, for example, I was trying to decide what to do all afternoon with the kids. The weather was lovely and part of me wanted to do something outside, like go for a hike at a local state park I’ve heard good things about. Another part of me wanted to sit on my couch and read. Both of these are valid choices. But I asked myself which choice Future Me would be most glad that I made and I ended up taking the kids and my college age niece for a hike and it was beautiful. Pre-hike, the thought of getting the kids in their boots, packing the backpack, driving 35 minutes to the park, etc. felt like work, or at least enough like it that it distracted me from remembering that I really like hiking and I really, really like seeing my kids out in the woods. Thinking about what Future Me would have wanted helped me push through the work part so I was able to enjoy the fun part.

Okay, now I am going to go read on my porch because Future Me also wants Current Me to be happy.

 

 

 

Summer by the Numbers

For the last few weeks my Facebook feed has been filled with first day of school picture. I LOVE these, by the way. Please note that if you are ever wondering if you should share the picture of your little person with their fresh new backpack and head filled with hopes for a new school year, the answer is YES.

It did take me a little by surprise when the first of those pictures started popping into my feed at the end of July and early August. I always associate the start of school with the end of summer. Here in my part of Minnesota, school doesn’t start until tomorrow, so I end up feeling like we’ve snuck in some extra summer compared to the rest of the country. But the high temperature tomorrow is only supposed to be 63 and my son cleaned his crap magnet of a desk off so he can be ready for homework, so it seems like a good time to put summer in the books.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with summer. Summer contains both my slowest (June) and busiest (August) months of the year at work. Summer weather in Minnesota is fairly glorious, but also comes with a sense of obligation to be OUT and DOING ALL THE THINGS while the weather is good and sometimes I just want to sit inside and read and not feel vaguely guilty about it. Also, there are mosquitoes outside and I hate them. Summer is the time of year when I tend to have to most jealousy about my husband being the at-home parent during the days. I try not to verbalize this too much as I suspect summer is likely the time for him that the days seem the longest and the kids most loudly present all the damn time. I recognize one person’s “get to” can also be the other person’s “have to” when it comes to filling the long hours of a summer day.

Because I am nothing if not achievement and list oriented, I made a some goals for the summer along with a whole tracking system. Because Lord knows you can’t be having an easy breezy summer unless a chart is involved.

So, how did I do?

  • Go to the outdoor pool at least 10 times
    • Yes! The outdoor pool near us is open from the first week of June until Labor day. The math on buying a summer family membership means that we have to go at least 10 times to make it cheaper to have the membership than just paying per visit. My daughter loves to swim and her love seems to grow each year, so this year we hit our tenth visit by early July. All of those visits afterward were so satisfying because clearly I had made a good and wise investment in the pool pass. If a single visit would normally cost $20 for our family (high way robbery), I think I got our cost per visit down to closer to well under $10 per visit. Also, swimming is fun and I got to wear some of my many, many swim suits.
  • Read 1000 pages
    • Yes! I love to read but sometimes I get out of the habit, so I wanted to jump start myself. 1000 pages seemed like a decent sized number but then I realized this was really only 3-4 books, so this was probably too easy of a goal. The final page count ended up being 3715 pages which included 13 books (four non-fiction and nine fiction), including two that had the name Alice in the title and had main characters with memory issues: Still Alice and What Alice Forgot. Still Alice is a great one to read if you want to give yourself a panic attack every time you forget a name or where your car keys are. What Alice Forgot is much less stressful as the odds that I will give myself temporary amnesia seem much lower.
  • Save an extra $1000:
    • Yes! We have a certain amount of money that goes to savings every month but I was hoping that we could capitalize on the fact that we are done paying for preschool to throw some extra money in the account. I wasn’t sure how much travel we’d end up doing this summer, so I went for a more easily attainable goal and we met this goal in July, even after taking our big trip for the summer (family camp!) in June. Can I just state the obvious here — having a savings account is one of the most comforting things in life to me. After growing up poor and having some massive debt in my 20’s, having a safety cushion is one of the most measurable ways I take care of my mental health.
  • Get 1000 minutes of exercise
    • Yes! After a really sedentary spring (um, and fall) I decided to sign up for a triathlon, which involves having to actually train for the thing. I don’t think the tri is going to happen, thanks to some shin and feet issues I’m having, but just signing up for it got me motivated to move more, so I count that as a win. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, I got in 1650 minutes of exercise. Go me!
  • Ride 100 miles on my bike
    • Yes! Now, I confess that this goal is a little embarrassing to report. I live in a place where a lot of people LOVE to ride bikes and for a number of them, I’m sure 100 miles is closer to a monthly or even weekly goal. But I am not them, I am me. And I have a nice inside bike and outside bike, both of which I had not been using nearly enough to not feel guilty about and now I feel good about having both, having clocked in about 140 miles this summer.
  • Write 1000 words a week or 13,000 total
    • Nope. I have a fiction project I’m working on but it makes me nervous and so I avoid it or I put it last on my priority list. Or I write blog posts when I should be working on it instead (ahem). 9600 words for the summer.
  • Go 100 days without shopping online
    • No. I fought the good fight but a combination of work stress and some cute stuff on Zulily broke my streak after about 65 days.
  • Not get Lyme disease
    • Yes! I was very, very tick nervous this summer, especially since we were planning on a week long trip to the north woods for family camp. I don’t know if the ticks were actually worse this year than in other years or if I just read more about it than usual but I went to camp armed with lots of Deet infused sprays (no, I don’t want to use essential oils, don’t email me. I want CHEMICALS and POISON when it comes to ticks) and was pretty relentless about forcing the kids to stand still for tick checks. We ended up finding one tick on Ev (crawling on her pajamas after a late night trip to the outhouse) and one on me, but both were discovered before they’d settled in for a meal.
  • Go hiking at least three times with the kids
    • No. We got the kids nice hiking boots for camp. These boots were much higher than my usual comfort level for an amount of money to spend on shoes for kids, so I want to make sure we actually use them a few more times before they are outgrown so I can feel better about the cost per use factor. But my feet issues have limited my willingness to hike, so now I am feeing like some fall hiking may have to happen
  • See at least one movie in the theatre
    • Yes! Seeing a movie in an ice cold theatre with a big Diet Coke and a bag of popcorn is such an iconic summer thing to do but I average seeing maybe one movie per year in the theatre. This summer I saw Wonder Woman, Girl’s Trip, and Captain Underpants. Wonder Woman made me surprise cry, Girl’s Trip was seen with 10 friends (several of whom snuck wine into the theatre and were in a highly festive mood) which added greatly to the appeal and amusement, and Captain Underpants was exactly the movie you’d think it is.

 

This was a good summer. We had a great family trip, the kids are at good ages where they still want and enjoy family time, and nobody got any tick borne illness. I’ll call that a win.

How was your summer? Any highlights?

Conversations About Stock Photography

Photographer: “So glad it’s snowing tonight. I have such a specific vision!”

Model: “Great, sure. So, my agent mentioned that were asking for someone who knows how to ski?”

Photographer: “Obviously. This is a maternity photo shoot, after all”

Model: “Um, okay, but I’m not sure I should be like down hill skiing while pregnant…”

Photographer: “Sure, sure. No worries there, we’ll go for more of a cross country feel.”

Model: “Do they even make maternity ski pants?”

Photographer: “Ski pants? Why would you need ski pants?”

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***

Photographer: “We need a picture that represents teen pregnancy.”

Assistant: “Yes, yes. Something relatable. Something that would work for lots of different stories and such about teen pregnancy, because we are stock photographers.”

Photographer: “What do teens do? I mean, beside get pregnant?”

Assistant: “Homework?”

Photographer: “Yes, perfect! But what should she be wearing?”

Assistant: “Well, glasses, obviously because: school. And a pant suit.”

Photographer: “Do…do the teens wear a lot of pant suits?”

Assistant: “Of course. But only the coat and pants. No shirt. Everyone knows pregnant women love the feel of a tight suit coat against their skin. Don’t forget the push-up bra. Can’t be at homework without it.”

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***

Client: “I want a photo that says “pregnant” but also “creepy as fuck”

Photographer: “Hold my coffee. I know just what to do.”

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***

Photographer: “Just look relaxed and eat your salad.”

Model sits down, holding salad bowl

Photographer: “No, no. Relaxed. Lounge. On your side maybe?”

Model grunts as she shifts to the side.

Photographer: “Yes, yes this is a totally normal way that people eat salads. Perfect.”

 

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***

Photographer: “Okay, now you’re fun! You’re whimsical! You’re wearing baby shoes and socks tied to your bra, because that doesn’t seem insane AT ALL.”

Model: “And what if I was playing with the baby?”

Photographer: “Tell me more.”

Model: “The baby is still inside, right? But I’m playing with infant toys on my stomach. And I’ll smile so people will know that this is fun for me, a grown adult person. So. Much. FUN.”

Photographer: “Truly, you are my muse.”

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***

Photographer: “Now, imagine you’re at the world’s fanciest Cracker Barrel.”

Model: “Okay, okay, with you so far.”

Photographer: “So, what’s wrong with your outfit?”

Model: “I need to ditch the pants?”

Photographer: “Yes, but keep the teddy bear.”

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***

Male model: “But wouldn’t I have to be wearing a shirt to buy the flowers?”

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***

Model: “Wow, your ad on Craigslist was SO accurate.”

Photographer: “Like I said, this is gonna be real classy. Real, real classy.”

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