Family Vacation

We just got back from an excellent family vacation. We took the train from Minnesota to Toronto and then, a few days later, from Toronto to Montreal. I feel like our family trips usually fall into one of two categories: the sit in one place (usually by water) and relax trip or the Do! All! The! Things! trip. This one was very much a doing and moving and seeing kind of trip and now I would kind of like a week of sitting by a lake to recover from it, but I’ll settle instead for a three day weekend and a return to work instead.

(I may have spent sometime online today looking for cabin rentals for later this summer. I’m only human.)

(I’m also a Minnesotan, which means that 95% of all the cabins in the state appear to have been rented already because we are a state obsessed with our lakes and spending as much time as possible sitting by them so my dream of spending my upcoming 40th birthday in the woods somewhere probably won’t come true.)

(I’m turning 40 this summer. I… I think I feel okay about this? We’ll see. But in case not, please brace yourself for the possibility of some angst ridden blog posts in August. )

This trip was probably the longest one we’ve taken as a family and it went 97% well. Please allow me to be a lazy blogger and share some thoughts in trusty old list format:

1. Taking the train is better in almost every single way than flying or driving in a car, especially when you have kids. The downside is that it takes longer than flying but the upside is EVERYTHING ELSE. You can get up and walk around! You have leg room! Sexy, sexy leg room!

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We got a sleeping car for the overnight portion of our trip and the kids basically vibrated with excitement about the whole thing. The rooms are small, especially for the more robustly built of us, but sleeping on a train is actually pretty great.

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I asked the kids if the want to drive, fly, or take the train on our next trip and they were instant and unanimous in their answers: TRAIN. This was even after we had a 10+ hour layover in Buffalo, NY which was kind of brutal.

2. Speaking of: there is nothing, not a single thing, to do at the Buffalo Depew train station. If you should find yourself there for longer than an hour or two, I highly advise that you make an alternate plan. We checked into a cheap hotel and watched TV and let the kids get a few hours of sleep. We’d thought about renting a car and going to Niagara Falls but this layover was at the end of our trip and we had a kid getting sick and I was pretty done by that point. Seven hours of screen time seemed like a good plan at that point.

3. Visiting aquariums gives you the opportunity to take cool pictures (#nofilter).

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Visiting aquariums that let your child hold cute little cleaner shrimp and pet stingrays may cause them to give up eating shrimp for the foreseeable future, which is slightly problematic when they have already given up eating most other meat. Let me just say that I’m not sure the aquarium snack bar should have fish and shrimp tacos on the menu.

4. We went to a major league baseball game (go Blue Jays!), which was E.’s first time going to a professional sporting event. Her interest lasted exactly as long as the money available for snacks did. Should you make the trek to watch the Blue Jay’s play, I suggest the $3 frozen ice pops during the 6th inning, when things are starting to drag for your average six year old.

5. We got a condo with a washer and dryer in each city and were basically able to do the whole trip with one backpack per person and one small shared suitcase. I’ve decided that trips over five days require a laundry option. That plus a kitchen makes the condo option my first choice for all future trips.

6. Canadians really are nice and polite. We used the subway almost every day in Toronto, mostly out of the Union Station which is large, under construction, and kind of confusing. But I discovered that if you stand still there with a confused look on your face for more than 90 seconds, someone WILL come and offer to give you directions. And they will be incredibly pleasant and helpful about it. It’s probably the quiet knowledge that they have a hot prime minister and universal health care that keeps them so kind.

7. To the extent that our being American came up, I felt like Canadians just feel, well, sorry for us. They pity us. This was especially true when there was yet another school shooting while we were there. Hearing someone say “we don’t really understand how you can live like that” was kind of a gut punch.

8. This whole trip would have been a wildly different experience two years ago. Travel is really one of those things that gets SO MUCH EASIER as kids get older.

9. Poutine is delicious.

10. Poutine is delicious and practically necessary when you average 17,000 steps a day. So. Much. Walking. But worth it when you are walking around Montreal which is just gorgeous.

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She approves of the vacation lifestyle.

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Family Dinner Party

My family and I had dinner tonight with another family who also has young children. It was really lovely, though I’ve decided that eating dinner with another family is a really excellent way to become VERY AWARE of how picky your own children are. They made a delicious chili. My children ate cornbread and 3.57 pieces of shredded cheese. They announced they were “very full” roughly 37 seconds after dinner began, though they rallied enough to be hungry enough to request second helpings of dessert when that time came. Funny how that works.

After having had dinner plans with other families in the past, I’ve come to believe that when you are trying to entertain with children involved, you WILL say at least five of the following things:

“Wait, is that yours crying or mine?”

“Was that glass breaking?”

“I SAID USE YOUR INDOOR VOICE!”

“I’m sorry, we can help pay to replace that”

“What do you say? What do you say? What do you say?”  (repeated until child in questions remembers the words “please” and “thank you” exist)

“Are you guys okay up there?”

“Let me get an ice pack, you’ll be fine”

“Are those happy screams or ?”

“Oh, don’t worry about it, my kids do that too”

I feel like I should make a family dinner BINGO card. The free space would be for running in the house or just random screaming. So much screaming (largely from my child whose natural enthusiasm level hits about 11 when there are other children around).

Even though trying to socialize with other families still involves a lot of conversations interrupted by child wrangling, it does feel nice to get invited somewhere on a Friday night. It seems so strange to remember that there was a time in my life where I did *something* every Friday night, often not even starting the evening until 9pm. Now it is 9:30pm and I’m already in my comfy clothes, as is totally appropriate for my emerging middle age lady status.

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I feel compelled to share that it is currently snowing quite steadily right now. Why does Minnesota feel so compelled to test my love like this?

 

What’s Making Me Happy?

My last post was kind of a downer, so let’s talk about something more fun, shall we?

I’ve been trying lately to be more aware of things that are making me happy or that I’m enjoying. Things have been really stressful at work this year and I’m facing a period of professional transition as I’ll be getting a new boss (a player to be named later) in a few months.  I find that bad days at work combined with the on-going shit show that is our current political situation can all to easily overshadow the rest of my life, making it feel like life is this grinding thing, when, in actuality, I’ve got a pretty good situation.

Somethings that have made my good list lately have included:

Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time

I LOVED Black Panther and I think it is the better of the two most recent movies I’ve seen in the theatre, but I’m really, really glad both movies exist. I don’t think A Wrinkle in Time was a perfect movie but I did get teary eyed watching it because I could already picture the day in the future when I’ll show it to Ev (at 5 years old I don’t think she’d get it yet) and she’ll see a lead character who looks like her and is complicated and smart and not focused on being nice or making life easier for the men around her. I want THAT in way more movies, please.

And Black Panther? Man, I can’t wait to show her that one too. The female characters were so bad ass – every one of them strong in a different way. If she wants to shave her head after watching it, I’m saying yes.

Where Am I Now by Mara Wilson

I’m about a quarter of the way into this memoir and really enjoying it so far. Mara Wilson is a talented writer and her perspectives on childhood fame are really interesting, especially given that she didn’t fall victim to a lot of the terrible outcomes for child actors. Her parents seemed to have done right by her, she didn’t end up on drugs, and her thoughts on her appearance and the value of being pretty felt really relatable. I recommend!

The plan to travel

I’m basically 47% happier at any given moment when I know I have a trip to look forward to. This year’s big trip is going to be a train trip to Toronto and Montreal and I am beyond excited about it. We’re going to sleep on the train and have adventures and it will be the first time the kids get to use their passports. I’m literally counting the days…but there are still a lot of days before we go, so I get to enjoy the anticipation for a good long while.

The Billfold

Full disclosure time: I’ve written a few pieces for this website. But even if I hadn’t, I’d still enjoy it. I’m a fan of real people talking about what they actually do with their money and finding how much things really cost. I also sometimes like the Money Diaries on Refinery 29, except that I find them to sometimes be unrelateable as the people in them rarely fess up to buying things like fast food or frozen pizzas. Surely not everyone is always eating organic, are they? The comments section for these posts can be bitchier than Billfold, which is a plus or minus depending on how much you enjoy people judging each other’s finances

My children’s teachers

My children are both fortunate this year to have REALLY good, caring teachers. My son’s teacher last year was (pauses diplomatically) NOT A GOOD FIT and I feel like he had basically a lost year. His current teacher is so good I want to send her bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils. And my daughters kindergarten teacher is basically the Platonic ideal of a kindergarten teacher – warm, lovely, tender hearted but firm as needed.

The Arrangement

This show is a soapy drama about an actress and her contract to marry a fellow actor who is heavily involved in group that is basically Scientology. It is currently the show I am most looking forward to getting the next episode of and since it airs on Sunday nights, looking forward to it helps me fight the Sunday night sads.

Pop Culture Happy Hour

My favorite podcast is always smart and funny. I also stole the idea for this post from their regular feature on what’s making them happy.

 

Blog cliché alert: what’s making you happy lately?

 

Dignity

“I just think I’d feel like super embarrassed.”

“I know, me too! I feel so bad for her.”

“She’s just gotten SO FAT.”

I had just ordered some scrambled eggs with cheese from the café at my work and had walked away to grab a bottle of water when I overheard two female students in the midst of an in-depth discussion of someone’s (a friend, I think? Although with friends like these…) weight. They chattered on, unaware that I was standing behind them. I found myself hoping their food would get done before mine, so I wouldn’t have to walk in front of them.

It’s uncomfortable to be reminded that my body is someone else’s worst nightmare.

I notice my radar is more up these days about when being fat is used as a punchline in TV shows or movies. It strikes me as lazy joke telling most of the time but today I wonder if the reason people to make fun of or tell jokes about fat people is because they are scared. They are scared to become one of us, afraid that treating bigger bodies with dignity might mean…what? That it’s okay to be the thing people dread being? I don’t know.

I’ll be honest. I’m not always great about treating my own body with dignity. I say and think mean things about myself. If I had the choice to be the weight I am now or a weight that started with a 1 as the first number, hell yeah, I’d choose to be in the 100 pound versus 200 pound club. Sometimes it feels like my weight is the biggest failure of my life and it is really super visible. Everyone can see that I’ve not managed to do the thing (be thin, be pretty, don’t take up too much space) that women are supposed to do.

But the older I get, the less capable I feel of being mad at this body all the time. This body carried my babies. This body powered me through a 5K last fall and through thousands of miles of swimming over the course of my life. This body carries my brain and my pretty eyes, both of which I am quite fond of.

Maybe I just wish other people saw all of those things too.

Date Night $$

I like nothing more than when people talk openly about personal finance stuff, so let’s do that here for a bit.

Last week my husband and I had our first overnight date in at least 3.5 years. I know having a date night is basic marriage advice 101 and I always enjoy going out with my husband, but can we talk about the reality of how much a big date costs, especially if you don’t have free childcare? Where we live, babysitting starts at like $10-12 an hour, unless you can find a 12 year old you trust who’ll only charge you $8, if you’re lucky. A standard dinner and movie date will probably cost you $50 for the babysitting alone, so you’re lucky if you can get the whole evening in at under $100 (movie tickets: at least $20, snacks $15, dinner at a low-key place $30). Date nights are supposed to be good for your marriage but marriage counseling might actually be cheaper.

Happily, we don’t need marriage counseling at the moment and we are lucky enough to have a good childcare option for an overnight date (something we haven’t really had before) since my awesome niece moved here for college. We hit her up for babysitting duties and scurried off to go to the movies (Black Panther — Wakanda Forever!) and then to stay at a semi-fancy hotel. Which, side note: I very much dislike that fancier hotels charge you for EVERYTHING. $15 for parking, $12 for wi-fi, we won’t even talk about the fact that an omelet for breakfast was $17 (spoiler alert – yes we will). If we do a date night again, I’m headed back to the Embassy Suites because that is fancy enough for me plus there is unlimited access to bacon for breakfast.

On the plus side, the hotel had a very large bath tub and I took not one but two bubble baths (getting my money’s worth) plus I slept in until after 9am, which is always a good idea. At one point I did start mentally doing the math on how much the hotel cost per hour and then I stopped that because I didn’t want to ruin my “I haven’t seen my kids is 18 hours” buzz. Instead, I read a Real Simple in the tub and wondered how long we could stay gone before my niece would start questioning her life choices.

Eventually, because I can’t help myself, I did finally do the math on our date and, well, I can say that it was both totally worth it and surprisingly expensive. One over night but not that fancy date (casual dinner, movie with snack, hotel room, lunch the next day, and babysitting) cost over $400. It could easily have been more if we had drinks with dinner or if I had been emotionally willing to pull the trigger on getting room service breakfast (The previously mentioned $17 omelet also required at $4 delivery fee and an automatic 20% gratuity — I just couldn’t get myself to believe that the privilege of eating eggs in my underwear was worth $25). It was SO GREAT to have almost 24 kid free hours with the person I like the most, so I don’t regret spending the money, but — yikes, it feels kind of indulgent to spend that much money on one night, you know?

 

 

 

Travel Time

When I was starting my career I travelled a lot. I was a college admissions counselor and had multiple states for my territory, so I would spend weeks of the fall moving from high school to high school, college fair to college fair. At first all the travel was exciting. I’d never really flown much as a kid and the novelty of airplanes and rental cars and new hotels was real. I also just felt really lucky. An admissions counselor position is a pretty great gig for an extremely extroverted 22 year old and I liked striding through the airport with my briefcase and business cards. In the admissions world there are short-timers (people who hold the job for a few admissions cycles) and lifers (the people who will eventually run the admissions department) and I was certain I’d be a lifer. I loved the work so much.

Over time though, the thrill started to wear off. I remember being on a two week stretch of fairs and chatting to the admissions rep from another college who had a similar territory to mine, so we’d been seeing each other for the same fairs for the last week. We compared notes on high schools we’d visited and then on poop — neither of us could remember the last time we’d had a decent #2. She thought maybe she had back in Albuquerque. I thought mine was maybe in Santa Fe. Or Colorado Springs. Too much fast food, not nearly enough water, countless hours in the car — we were both pasty and bloated. When I got back to my crappy apartment after that trip, I was so relieved to be home that it made me truly wonder how much longer I’d be able to do that job. It turned out that the answer was one more year.

Since that time, I’ve had seven or eight different jobs, all with varying levels of travel (though none with as much as that first gig). I’m traveling right now, actually, to present at a conference in Florida. As I’ve advanced in my career, the place I have to/get to travel to have improved (peace out, Colorado Springs), as have the quality of the hotels. I’m usually excited about the prospect of the trip, until I actually get there and then I realize that I really miss my family and that I sleep better in my bed than anywhere else and that there is a limit to the amount of restaurant food I want to eat. On my flight to Florida, I got upgraded to first class and I fear that the experience of actually having leg room and getting snacks may have ruined me for all future travel. I’ve seen the promised land now but I’ll never see it again, at least not on my own dime. My return flight home will be back with the riff raff in the economy section, where I belong. I’m never more aware of being a plus size person than I am when I am crammed elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder with strangers in a plane. I feel slightly claustrophobic just thinking about it.

But today I have a few hours to spare, so I’m typing this on my hotel room balcony, watching a storm roll in over the Gulf of Mexico. Soon I’ll video chat with the kids and husband and seeing their faces will cheer me. I’ll do my presentation, which always gives me a little high, and then quickly enough I’ll be back home. So maybe I should stop typing and go dig my toes into the white sand and have a moment of gratitude that it is sand and not snow.

 

 

Shut It

As a Minnesotan I was performing my civic duty and watching the Vikings get their asses handed to them play tonight when this Tom Brady thing (? hype video? Commercial? I don’t know, my eyes were rolling too hard to watch) came on. In it, there was all this talk about how hard he works and all he sacrifices.

My instant reaction was mockery. Oh, this poor sad multi-millionaire. The smugest man in Smugville has to work so hard, or so says his supermodel wife, sitting in the sun room of one of their mansions.

Later, I was watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians (shut up, I know it’s all fake) and there were the scenes about how one sister just doesn’t work as hard as the others. Kim work, work, works, don’t ya know? Such work. Much effort. All day.

And my reaction again could be best described as a full body eye roll.

While I think rolling my eyes at the Kardashians is a totally appropriate reaction in almost every circumstance, I did have a moment of pause. Why did this bug me so much?

I’ve written before in this space before about the fact that I grew up in a family that generally struggled financially. The older I get and the farther I get away from those days, the more I realize that there are parts of how I respond to the world that are directly linked to growing up the way I did. One of those parts, apparently, is that I have almost no tolerance for hearing rich people complain about working hard. Hmm.

Now, I don’t doubt that Tom Brady physically works hard and works out a lot. Obviously he does. And the Kardashians are probably quite busy doing their version of “work” (which seems to consist largely of eating salad and having fake hair attached to their heads)(I know, I should stop watching if they annoy me so much. But it’s complicated. I have Reasons for watching). But I think on some level I’ve decided that if you are rich, you don’t get to complain about hard work. It’s unseemly. I think the deeper level is that I suspect that many (most? all?) rich people think they actually deserve to be rich, because, gosh they work so hard. And, no ma’am, I can’t abide that.

It reminds me of an episode of KUWTK where one of them was talking about how “everything works out in the end” and that “God has a plan” and I wanted to scream that of course it works out in the end when you can throw money at the oh so complicated problem of finding the right mansion to live in. And believing God has a plan for you must be super easy when you get everything you want, all the damn time.

Now I’m all riled up. I should know better than to combine pro sports and reality TV on the same night. My tolerance for bullshit, cliches, and non-self aware white people is just too diminished.

Christmas by the Numbers

We’re in that weird zone between Christmas and New Years where I can’t quite keep track of what day of the week it is. Friday? I think? It has been super cold here lately and we’ve been mostly hanging out at home, drinking a lot of hot chocolate and, for my daughter, wearing the same pair of pajamas for the last three days. She’s starting to cross the line from cozy to dirty, so tomorrow probably means the reintroduction of pants to her lifestyle.

Some people might point out that I’ve been wearing black leggings for the last three days but that’s different… they are all different pairs of black leggings. I’m a style icon, obviously.

In a few days I’ll start getting itchy to get all the Christmas stuff put away, so before then, let’s recap the holiday, numbers style:

Time I woke up on Christmas morning: 7:45am (Having bigger kids is awesome. Miles woke up a 6:30am but just hung out until everyone else was awake. This is the same kid who, a few years ago, woke for Christmas day at 3:45am. This is better)

Miles we had to travel on Christmas Eve and Christmas day: 0 (We never travel for Christmas and I hope it stays that way forever. Waking up at home is aces for us)

Number of Christmas lights hung outside: 48, in a half-assed manner on our enclosed porch (I love people who go nuts with the outdoor lights. It is so pretty and festive. I am just not one of those people.)

Number of pounds of Christmas ham that had to get thrown away before it was even cooked because it had gone bad in the fridge: 11.5 (Sob)

Size of the new ham purchased the next day because damn it, I want ham at Christmas: 12 delicious, salty pounds

Flavors of hot chocolate currently available in my kitchen: 4 (regular, peppermint, salted caramel, and double chocolate. Tis the season.)

Number of presents that went straight from unwrapping to the Goodwill bag: 1 (I’m won’t share what it was but suffice it to say that there is someone who has a perfect instinct for getting me things I do not want)(Note, this person is not, thankfully, my husband)

Number of presents I purchased for a kid that it turns out the kid already had: 1 (Do I have a receipt or any recollection of where I purchased it from, many months ago? No, I do not. Will it be re-gifted? Yes, yes it will)

Number of terrible but cozy Hallmark or Hallmark adjacent Christmas movies view by me, alone, as I do my knitting like a proper old lady: 5 (The one where the woman falls in love with the ghost who assumes human form for the 12 days before Christmas was my favorite)(Yes, that is the real story line)

Eggs in my basically perfect Christmas egg bake: 8 (The perfection comes from the fact that there is A LOT of cheese also invited to the party.)

Children who still believe in Santa: 1.5 (I don’t think Miles still believes but doesn’t want to say it out loud yet. Still hedging his bets)

Days until I go back to work: 3

Days I plan to wear black leggings: 3

2017 Year in Review

Time for the annual year-in-review post. Previous years are herehere and here  and, as always, I’d love to read yours if you do one (so leave me a link in the comments!).

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

Participated in a protest march with my kid in January, which was a bittersweet milestone. On the one hand, my son was SO into it. On the other, we were driven there by a real fear and anger over the election of Trump who has, in my estimation, been as bad if not worse as I expected him to be.

On a much more fun note, I saw my first comedy show (Trevor Noah).

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

 

Last year I said: For 2017, I’d like to compete in some sort of athletic event- maybe a 5K or a sprint tri or the open water swim I’ve done before. I’m probably as un-fit as I’ve ever been in my life at this point and I know I do better when I’m goal orientated, so I should sign up for something as motivation. I’d also like to really learn how to use my sewing machine this year. We have a cute little one from IKEA and I’d like to master some basic stuff and maybe work my way up to an outfit for Ev.

I actually did do an athletic event — a 5K which was humbling and hard. I signed up for a sprint tri and then my body basically fell apart while I was training for it: back pain, hip pain, plantar fasciitis, general despair. I did not even touch my sewing machine once this year, sadly.

For 2018 I’ve got A LOT on my list of things I’d like to do. I’m turning 40 in August and I have a list of 40 things I’d like to accomplish before then. I’ve got maybe six of them done so far, so I’ve got plenty to accomplish. The biggest one is to finish the first draft of a novel I’ve been slowly working on for about two years.

3. How will you be spending New Year’s Eve?

We’ll be home and all I want is for everyone to be healthy. I’ve been fighting a stomach bug for the last few days and I just want to be home and cozy and healthy and able to enjoy some snacks.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Did anyone give birth?

My best friend E’s mother and that is still breaking my heart.

Lots of babies this year. I figured out that by the end of this academic year, over 10% of my staff will have taken time off for maternity or paternity leave. No new babies in my immediate family or closest circle of friends, however, which means not nearly enough baby snuggles for me.

5. What countries did you visit ? Did I travel this year?

I can actually answer this one with a “yes!” this year, thanks to my delightful trip to Montreal this fall. Other than that, we did a week up north for family camp (magical) and Kansas for Thanksgiving (fun as usual)(that is totally sincere, I love seeing family there).

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

A President who is sane and intelligent?

On a more personal level, I’d like to have better overall health in 2018 than 2017. I’d like to feel more comfortable in my own skin and less prone to back pain. I think I need to start swimming again.

7. What date from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

January 20th was a real low point for our country. There are family members I haven’t spoken to since Trump got elected and I think I held a tiny irrational hope that somehow he wouldn’t actually take office. January 20th is when I lost that hope.

8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?

I wrote over 20,000 words on my novel. I cut back on my freelance work to do that, which is a hard thing for me to do because I have a hard time turning down paying jobs for something that might not ever amount to anything. I traded some security for some extra space for creativity.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I don’t know. Maybe self-care? I don’t take great care of myself in terms of sleep and exercise.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes — both the usual bugs and illness that comes with having young kids and the previously mentioned body stuff.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Plane tickets to Montreal! It was such a fun trip and a great time to reconnect with a dear friend.

I’ll also say that the summer pool pass and our week at family camp were worth every single cent in terms of summer fun and family time.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Boring stuff: mortgage and student loans. Ev started kindergarten this year, so we got rid of a major monthly expense, so that was nice. I’m still on the 10+ year plan for student loans, so these will be the big two expenses for the foreseeable future.

13. What song will always remind you of 2017?

I binge watched Crazy Ex-Girlfriend recently and I am in love with most of the music but this one is was a personal fave:

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing and swimming. I also wish I’d done more date nights with M. My niece moved here for college this fall and we should really be taking more advantage of her babysitting prowess than we did.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Mindless internet wandering when I really should be sleeping.

16. What was your favorite new TV program?

I really, really loved The Good Place this year. Also a fan of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Blackish, which is the show Miles and I share an affection for.

17. Do you love anyone now that you didn’t love this time last year?

Hmm, no, I don’t think so.

18. What was the best book you read?

I read a lot this year, which was nice. For non-fiction, I read two books by Atul Gawande, Being Mortal and Complications, both of which were excellent. In the fiction realm, I enjoyed Attachments by Rainbow Rowell and the Robert Galbraith books.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery? Let’s change this question to something that doesn’t assume I am trying to stay abreast of the latest in pop culture. How about what item of clothing did I wear the most?

When I’m not dressed for work, I am currently obsessed with a tunic sweatshirt I found on Zulily for $14. It is warm, has pockets, and works with leggings. I am wearing it right now and I am cozy as hell.

 

20. What was your favorite film of this year?

Hmm, nothing really stands out, though I’m sure I saw some good ones. I am SUPER looking forward to A Wrinkle in Time though.

21. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 39 and it was fine. My birthday tends to coincide with the start of my busy season at work, so I don’t usually have a big thing.

22. What kept you sane?

My immediate family of four, some good friends (both in person and online), and feeling financially secure for most of the year.

23. Who did you miss?

My step-sons, always, and several friends. (Same answer as last year, same answer as next year, I suspect).

24. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned.

Travel and extended time off from work are critical to my life’s happiness.

25. What pictures best represent 2017?

This is (almost) 40

Tonight the mother of one of my oldest and dearest friends (E.) died after a long illness. She died at home and, as much as it is possible, on her own terms. She’s someone that I’ll always remember with a smile on her face, dancing at E’s wedding. She loved and was loved well. It feels incredibly unfair that she’s gone. She didn’t make it to 70 and that is some bullshit.

I’m not quite sure how to best be a good friend to E. right now. She lives far away and there isn’t a memorial scheduled yet. I feel like I’m in new territory here — I don’t think I’ve had a friend lose a parent before. Grandparents, sure. But not parents. It makes me feel an uncomfortable sense that I’m entering a new phase of life. In the last roughly two decades, the milestones in my friend’s lives have largely been weddings and babies. Those are easy milestones. Happy milestones. Sure, they can be expensive (I’m not sure I’d ever want to calculate how much money I’ve spent on bridesmaid dresses, travel costs, gifts, etc) but they are largely joyful.

But now I’m almost 40 and I don’t have any friend’s planning weddings anytime soon. I do, however, have a few planning for divorces in the next year, including some people I remember dancing with at their weddings. I know a few folks having babies, but they are mostly younger coworkers. My friends have mostly moved past the baby phase. A few of them are creeping into having teenagers. Several of them have parents who are ill are declining. These are much less joyful milestones and I need to figure out what friendship looks like in this phase of life. Everyone seems busier now, my friends live all over the country, we’re all crawling with kids and it makes dropping everything to be there — physically there — harder than it used to be.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the exact same person I was when E. and I met when we were both 21 and starting our grown-up lives together. Mostly I’m glad I’m not still 21. I’m happier, more content, less dramatic then I was back then. I like being a mom. I like being financially stable. I wouldn’t go back to being in my 20’s if I had the chance. I’m just not sure what I think almost 40 is supposed to feel like. Mostly I wish that it didn’t seem like there was some really hard stuff waiting ahead for people I love.