Saturday, May 9, 2015

How Am I That Same Woman? (Take Two)

I wrote and posted this blog post this past Monday, (May 4th, 2015), 
but then I took it down right away because I wanted to add pictures, so here it is with pictures.


My oldest is 15 and my youngest is 12. For many years after the birth of my youngest child, we weren't sure if we were "done." We always pictured ourselves having 4 kids, but we spent a lot of time on the fence for many years after the birth of our second child.

Then my wise husband noticed that every time I thought I might be pregnant, it was met more with panic than excitement, so maybe that was our answer. Of course if I ever had gotten pregnant again, we would have welcomed that child with joy and love, but yeah, we figured out that we're good with two.

So here I am, 41, dealing with occasional peri-menopause symptoms and overloaded with baby stuff - stroller, walker, bath seat, toys, crib, you name it. Yep, we've kept everything "just in case." We weren't sure so we kept it all so that we wouldn't need to repurchase anything if we did have more kids. We kept this stuff long after we decided that yep, we're not having more (2009). Apparently, I'm a bit of a hoarder.

But with our move, we've started to purge some stuff and organize what's left. We've sold some things at a consignment sale - a high chair and a few other things. There's something bittersweet about parting with that stuff, the things that have helped you raise your babies. There's a pang, an ache. Your sweet babies grow up. Time marches on.

Mommy and Baby Kate in 2000
Today, we parted with the crib. A woman came to the house today and picked up all the crib parts and the mattress. It's on its way to a center in Africa for children with AIDS. As I helped her load the parts into her van, she told me that this crib will likely hold more than one baby at a time. I'm glad it's going to a place like that. That helps me, as well as them.

But for a moment, during the 10 minutes the woman and I spoke as we carried the parts and loaded them into her van, I felt a cosmic shift of time. I was me, but 16 years earlier, and I was standing outside unloading baby items from our car and into our home as we prepared for the birth of our oldest child. It took a conscious effort for me to bring myself back to the present, the here and now, and I was dizzy from the adjustment.

And that's when the emotions washed over me. In that moment, 16 years passed by in the blink of an eye, imperceptible to the woman loading up a crib that was no longer ours, but undeniably obvious to me. In that blip of time, I aged, regressed, and aged again. From 41 to 25 and back to 41.

How am I that same woman who was so nervous with anticipation for her first labor and delivery? How am I that same woman who was thrilled over ordering a new toy for her as-yet unborn baby girl to have when she arrived? How am I that same woman who packed up that crib and moved it cross country, unpacking it again so many states and miles later in a new home, this time for her baby boy? How am I that same woman? 
Mommy and Baby Maxim in 2003

I don't feel older. I don't feel like that much time has passed. It doesn't seem possible. It's been so fast. Too fast. Where has the time gone? Now my babies are 15 and 12, and time seems to be going faster. Why does it feel like time is such a thief?

It took me years to give up the crib and it hurts. How the hell am I ever going to be able to handle them going to college and starting families of their own? Will time shift again when I become a grandma? Will I stand there helping to unload a new crib and think again, how am I that same woman? Will it be in the blink of an eye? Like 25 to 41?

I gave away our crib today and aged 16 years in a second's time. And as I stood there, eyes burning with tears, all I could think was, how am I that same woman?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Random Thoughts Mostly From This Past Friday Apparently


Every Easter, my mom sends us Portuguese sweet bread
 that is baked with a boiled egg (in its shell) in it.
It's a (delicious) Easter tradition.

--------------------------------

I've figured out why I'm not enjoying Modern Family anymore.
The past two seasons have stunk, in my opinion.
All the characters are shallow and self-absorbed.
I *hate* shows where there's no depth of character in ANY of the characters
(like Seinfeld, King of Queens at times, etc.).
Phil has some depth, so they make him a stupid buffoon.
The show used to be touching. Now, it's terrible.

--------------------------------

I HATE contractors right now. HATE.
I'm so angry and frustrated and annoyed.
Our pipes froze over 2 months ago
 and they are DRAGGING their feet to repair it
and it's house buying season and we have an open house coming up,
and we're trying not to cry and rage
(unsuccessfully).

--------------------------------

My SIL just gave birth to a nearly 10-pound baby boy.
He came out looking like he's 3 months old!

--------------------------------

Why are phone camera pictures so fuzzy?
What can I do to make them clearer?
It's hard not to shake while holding the phone like that.

--------------------------------

Loved the show Parenthood. Sad it's over.
Even though a lot of the characters drive me crazy, their family is remarkable.
Are siblings really like that? There for each other like that?
Are you like that with your siblings? If so, why?
Did your parents do something to foster it?
That has not ever been my experience,
but I hope I'm fostering that in my own children.

---------------------------------

Easter is my least favorite holiday.
I don't know why, but I just haven't ever gotten into it -
not as a kid, not as an adult.

----------------------------------

I'm always jealous when I decide not to shave my legs
 and then get together with someone who has.

-----------------------------------

We're (maybe) hosting foreign exchange students this summer!
We've been toying with the idea for years and we're going for it.
I'm pretty sure we're getting one from Spain and one from France.

-----------------------------------

Max is so snuggly in the mornings especially.
Today (I wrote this on Friday),
I noticed something while we cuddled
and he stretched (he wakes up slowly).
He's at that age where I sometimes see a little boy
 and other times I see the young man he is becoming.
It's bittersweet.

---------------------------------

I love the feeling of being covered gently with a blanket.

---------------------------------

Our van acted up this past week and had to go into the shop.
That meant we couldn't do our 2-day family trip to Baltimore
 like we'd planned.
The van got "fixed" and today (this past Friday),
 while running errands,
did the exact same thing again.
And we have plans tonight and tomorrow that require the van.
This has happened a lot with our mechanic.
We went in and Mark raised hell.
Not happy.

--------------------------------

Why were we not happy, you ask?
Well, dear reader, that's because right before the van thing?
Mark drove by our farmhouse and saw workmen,
so he went in to see the progress.
You know, the progress that was supposed to be done a month ago,
but is DEFINITELY supposed to be done by today (this past Friday).
Except that there are new problems he didn't tell us about.
And it's all NOT going to be done by today (Friday).
We are beyond frustrated and the plumber got an earful.
Their feet dragging is holding us up in major ways
and it is totally stressing us out.

-----------------------------------
 
Since I wrote this on Friday and then had an extremely full weekend,
including an awesome, all-day Dr. Who party for my 15-year-old daughter,
I better go ahead and post it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Perfect Patience Award

Admit it. You're losing patience just thinking about whether or not you've won.

So on Monday of this week, we were waiting to hear the results of a major writing contest Kate had entered. We have had it on our calendar for a couple of months since in January we thought it was being announced, only to find out that the novel writing contest was a national award and the other categories were regional. After watching Kate (and Stacy for that matter) anxiously await the announcement at noon, only to be confused by being told simultaneously that she hadn't won and that the novel awards will be announced in May, I decided that there was a need for a new blog award. Thus, the Perfect Patience Award was born.

To be clear, I am not awarding myself the award. I'm far too impatient for that. I am just doing the inaugural post so I can nominate people who seem far more patient than I am. Or at the very least, they are people I think are clever and have interesting things to say. On to the actual award!

* * * * * * * * * *

You have shown exceptional patience in the face of a frustrating situation. You are the embodiment of graceful waiting. The rules are simple:

1. Post this picture on your blog.
2. Answer the 5 questions I've asked.
3. Tag 3 friends whose patience knows no bounds (or from whom you want to hear, patient or not).

1. Is there something on the horizon that will arrive soon, but not soon enough for you? 

The first thing that comes to mind is the next season of "Sherlock." How can you have such a wonderful program, only produce three episodes (which really are more like 6), and then make me wait TWO YEARS to resolve a cliffhanger? What kind of sick, cruel production team are you?! Also, I'm looking forward to the next Mumford and Sons album (arriving in May). Oh, and I recently found out Daniel Craig is doing another Bond movie. Yeah, I want that to happen soon. Oh, oh. John Mayer is reuniting the trio for another album, too. So, I have lots of things that need to happen soon.

2. What are three things that absolutely try your patience? 

Illogical arguments drive me batty. I don't care if your opinion is different from mine in the end IF you have a logical reason to hold that opinion. Or at least own the fact that your belief is based on nothing more than a hunch or a personal "gut" feeling. Be honest about where your opinions came from.

Racism and bigotry are intolerable. Hate them both.

I also can't stand the "we've always done it this way" argument for anything, especially when it hinders progress or new discovery. Reference my thoughts on illogical arguments. If the old way makes sense, by all means keep doing it. If there is a chance to improve a situation through innovation, PLEASE consider it.

3. Do you have any nervous habits or rituals that may not be obvious to anyone around you, but that help you stretch out your patience? 

I get chatty. Just ask my wife about me accompanying her to OB-GYN appointments. Have you seen that episode of "Friends" where Ross goes with Susan and Carol to the OB for the first time and he touches EVERYTHING? Yeah, that's me.

4. In professionally-produced articles or writing, which makes you crazier: grammar errors or spelling mistakes?

Spelling drives me crazier, but only slightly. I can accept, on some level, that writing can approximate our speech, and so many of us speak well, but not perfectly correctly, so it seems natural that there will be some dangling participles and sentence-ending prepositions scattered about. But there/their/they're? C'mon people!

5. Sherlock Holmes or Sheldon Cooper? Which roommate would try your patience more? 

Sheldon Cooper in a landslide. At least I'd have some great adventures with Sherlock. Plus, his brand of brilliance is more my speed. Something about how he just doesn't care one bit about what anyone thinks is very cool.

Now that your patience has been sufficiently tried, I nominate Kate, Stacy, and Emily for the Perfect Patience Award. Enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * *

Here's what I wanted to say to Kate earlier this week, which then spawned this award. You're welcome.

"Monday must have been especially frustrating since we've had that big date marked on the calendar since the last time we thought the Scholastic Awards were being announced. Sometimes the life of the writer seems to be filled with hopeful anticipation and guarded optimism, so I'm especially proud of how well you are showing patience. This award won't make the actual announcement come any sooner, but maybe it will make you smile a little longer."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Morning Meditation and Reflections

I did a little meditating and deep breathing as I ate my breakfast this morning. With Mark at work and both kids sleeping, it was quiet (except for Scout plaintively begging me to share my breakfast).

We have a lovely view from all the windows of our house - seriously all of them. When I sit at the kitchen table, I look out at a winding creek banked by many tall and beautiful trees. It's springtime, so the birds are getting very active - in the past couple of days, I've seen chickadees, robins, mourning doves, cardinals, bluejays, finches, blue birds (lots of blue birds!), ducks, Canada geese, snow geese, woodpeckers, and many more birds, including some I couldn't identify.

Another frequent visitor to our area, due to our proximity to the creek, is a very large blue heron. What a majestic bird! It sticks its legs straight back behind itself and flaps its gigantic wings gracefully as it takes flight and moves in a straight line across the sky. This morning, as I sat and breathed and meditated, it slowly flew right overhead, over our house, our kitchen, our deck, our yard, the trees, and down the creek toward where our business is (we could seriously jump in a canoe behind our house and ride the creek to work, since our business is also on the creek but down a little).

The sky had that morning look - overcast with wispy clouds, but not gray - so I got to see the blue sky peek out in snatches and slowly overcome the white-gray puffs as the sun broke through, aiding its presence.

Now I'm sitting by the fireplace, composing this post as I try to get myself back into the habit of writing more. When I was writing more frequently, the words came more easily and they flowed. Now I feel stunted, stagnant, staccatoed. I have so much I want to say, but feel stuck and unsure.

As I said at the beginning of the year, I'm actively working on being more present in the now, being mindful. I'm saying "no" to others more and "yes" to myself and my family - those I enjoy spending time with the most. It's been nice really. I'm even learning to accept and own that in the winter, I tend to hibernate and draw inward. Every time I fight that, I feel miserable and cranky. From about mid-January to mid-March, I don't feel particularly social. It's cold out and gray and I think there is a natural inclination on my part to withdraw. I used to get on my own case about it and see it as a negative thing. Only this year am I beginning to see it as a thing - with no judgment - and accept it, own it, and act on it. I am seriously considering having an "away/vacation" message on my email next winter and saying no to most every activity - "see you in the spring."

So, it's been good. We've been getting things done, though never as much or as quickly as we'd like. I've said it before, but we're horribly inefficient. We talk, we play, we watch shows, we research, we analyze . . . that's us. The biggest thing we've worked on these past couple of months has been an overhaul of schedule - mine, Mark's, our family's. For school, for personal time, for chores. For play, for dates, for down time. We've tweaked it here and there, once or twice, and overall it's going quite well. Yes, there have been some bumps, but the trajectory is certainly upward overall. We're trying anyway.

For instance, my email inbox got completely out of control these past few years, especially this past year. When we really sat down in earnest to work on it (and I say "we," because a lot of what's in there pertains to all of us and is due to us not being on top of things, so Mark is working on it with me), I had over 4000 emails. In the past month, we've whittled that number down to . . . let me go check . . . 371. Yep. There has been a lot to address.

I will say that the majority of those emails consist of texts and emails I send myself (I've said it before - I have a very distracted, racing mind) - mostly full of ideas for my books, ideas for school, and things to do. I often feel like most anything we do is on me, whether it's school, fun, activities, outings, vacations, house stuff, business innovations, yard stuff . . . so I find it difficult to relax and let go. I feel completely overwhelmed by it all. My mind races and I feel like it's too much to contain and so I write it down and make lists and, my god, the lists are endless. It's overwhelming. So yeah, many of the emails are notes I've sent myself and things to write or do. And many have to do with the homeschool group I organize. And many are from friends. But mostly they're from myself. And I'm trying to dig out. I'm feeling good about the progress. Now that I've got under 400 emails in my inbox, the ones that remain are the ones that need a bit more attention. I'm antsy to address them all, respond to those that need responses, and get my inbox to zero - and then keep up on it. That's the plan. That's always been the plan.

So, we're feeling good about that. Another big project is going through those extra moving boxes that occupy our garage and formerly occupied the 3rd floor of our farmhouse. Some of those boxes are from our move in 2007 from townhouse to farmhouse, so you can imagine what's accumulated. We've even worked on that - we've gone through several boxes and we've organized, donated, and even thrown out/recycled some stuff. Mad progress for us. It's coming along, though slowly. The inbox has taken precedence, but we've chipped away some at the garage, too. We've also done some small home projects and we've kept busy with school and activities.

Exercise. That's been better, too. We've been eating better (a priority we've had for years) and exercising more. We set up an exercise area. Jim got us an awesome new television for Christmas (thank you again, Jim!), so it's set up in the exercise room with two ellipticals in front of it. We also have a small trampoline and weights. I don't particularly like to exercise, though I do like how I feel when I exercise and I know it's important for physical and emotional health, so that's my motivation. Well, I've figured out that having a TV to watch while exercising? Key to my success with doing it more often. We're watching "Veronica Mars" and "Psych" while we work out and it's great!

So, I'm trying to do those three things - write, meditate, exercise - more. My constant quest, those 3 things. I'm writing some, but not as much as I'd like to. (I do think the inbox is what's mostly getting in my way. Once that's done, I see myself committing to writing more often.)  I am exercising more. And I am meditating more - casually, nothing super official. I have affirmations in 3 different places around the house (on my bathroom mirror, on my laptop, and as a bookmark in whatever book I'm reading) and I contemplate those every day in addition to deep breathing, mindfulness, etc.

Mark and I have often sort of dismissed the idea of a "date night," mostly because we've often seen couples religiously go on a weekly date night while being totally disrespectful to each other the rest of the week, so it always looked like a bit like a band-aid applied to a gaping, bleeding wound. Well, color us reformed, because while we do think it's important to be respectful always and to connect way more often than once a week, we do see how much life can keep us busy and make it difficult to have a conversation (there was one day this week that I don't think he and I got through a single thought without some interruption from someone or something - the kids, the dog, the phone, etc.), so we've been making an effort to do something more formal together weekly.

Quite honestly, we haven't ever really been able to go on a whole heck of a lot of dates over the years. We haven't ever lived near family and we aren't particularly trusting when it comes to people watching our kids. There have been a couple of times I've wanted to do something special, like a getaway, but when I asked for help with that (something I am loathe to do), I was turned down. We have always made a point of spending time together daily at home, usually before bed - playing a game, watching a show we both like, talking. Now that the kids are older and don't really need sitters, we can get out more and do things out together. More often than not, we go out for sushi - it's my favorite date together. Sometimes we play Mario Kart. Sometimes we watch a movie. But yeah, we're focusing on ourselves more, because I've worn myself out taking care of everyone but myself these many years. My biggest issue as I do this is GUILT. I often feel uncomfortably guilty taking time for myself. Clearly, I have a problem, I know. I'm working on it.

We're having regular, weekly business meetings, too. Before, they were sporadic and we didn't keep up that well. Now, it's near-weekly and regularly and we've got lots of ideas that we're implementing. I've been taking a more active role in our marketing and advertising and promotions. With the spring weather, I'm feeling more inclined to get out there and network and connect better with complementary businesses and see how we can help one another.

Well, anyway, those are my reflections on how the year is going. More to say, more going on, but I better go get ready for the day. As I was writing this, our St. Patrick's Day cupcake delivery showed up at the door. Color us GREEN with excitement!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Happy Birthday, Stacy!

Stacy with her good buddy

Happy Birthday to a wonderful wife, mother, and friend!
A day doesn't go by that I don't think of how lucky I am to have you in my life.
Thank you for making me smile every day.
I love you!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reflections On My 40th Year

Well, I turn 41 tomorrow. I find myself looking back over this past year and thinking about the whole turning-40 thing. What have I learned? What wisdom do I have about this milestone age? Uhhh, not much?

Confession? I started making a list a year ago. A list of "40 Things To Do In My 40th Year." I didn't ever finish the list, nor did I work on completing the things on that list. So maybe what I've learned is that a lot of things are the same as we age.

1. Like how I am constantly making lists.
2. And how I sometimes don't finish them.
3. And how whether or not I finish making them, I don't always look at them.
4. Or do what's on them.
5. How at 40, I find that one of the most challenging things for me is to keep up on life in general!
6. I feel behind a lot.
7. I make a lot of efforts and attempts to stay on top of things,
8. But there are always so many things that I don't get to.
9. Home repairs, car maintenance, check-ups, activities, goals.
10. I try. I really do.
11. I heard that it's not healthy to think things like, "There aren't enough hours in the day!"
12. But I admit that I often feel that way anyway.
13. I work hard every day to take care of home and family, keep up on school, business stuff, relationships.
14. Inevitably, I don't get to it all or do all I'd like to do.
15. My vision seems to always be bigger than my ability to make it so.
16. I suppose that's a good thing,
17. Always striving, always pursuing.
18. But there's something to be said for being content, too.
19. And that, I really am.
20. And isn't that what counts?
21. I see Facebook pictures of friends who travel all over the world and I'm happy for them,
22. But I don't sit here and wish it were me.
23. I don't.
24. I like my life, my simple pleasures.
25. Nothing makes me happier than spending a day at home with my family playing games, watching funny TV, and eating good food.
26. That's what counts in my book.
27. I don't have a grand working career.
28. I am not some big shot in a fancy field.
29. I haven't won any grand awards.
30. I try to be careful how we spend, conscious of our student loan and other debts (my parents were debt free by 40 - uh, yeah, that was clearly a different era).
31. I worry and fret and feel restless sometimes.
32. Nearly constantly, I think about and hope we are doing right by our kids with our life choices.
33. But if there's one constant in my life,
34. It is how much I love them.
35. My husband is, without a doubt, my best friend.
36. There is truly no one else with whom I'd rather be and I feel incredibly lucky that we have each other.
37. I've got a daughter who sometimes feels like a sister to me and always is my friend.
38. I have a son whose love for me is more than he can express, though he tries with hugs and words and gestures all the time.
39. I have the world's cutest, spunkiest, cuddliest, most adorable, most loving dog a family could possibly ask for.
40. So this 40 thing? Not too shabby.

There. I finished a list. And I feel pretty good about all that is on it - faults, flaws, and joys. It's the whole not-perfect, but perfect-for-me 40 package.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Thank you, The Magic Violinist, for nominating me! 




 Rules

  • Thank and link the amazing person(s) who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate some other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
Facts

1. I am a pretty open book, so I don't know what I could share that people don't already know.
2. I'm enjoying watching "Veronica Mars" with Mark and Kate.
3. We recently discovered (by accident) a goofy cartoon called "Clarence" and we all love it.
4. I have a mind that can race at speeds you wouldn't believe. It's rather stressful.
5. When seasons change, no foods sound good and I hate that.
6. I think I'm part bear, because I draw inward in the winter and feel like hibernating from the world.
7. Um, I can't think of a 7th thing. I'm afraid that's not very inspiring, but thanks for the award! :P

I nominate . . .


Jimmy and LMW (you can answer in the comments if you'd like to play along)
Sherri at "seventy-two fishes"
Emily at "Emily's Something
And whoever else would like to participate!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Encyclopedia of Me - H (Mark)

Photos from: writebrained.blog.com; thefrontporch.org; amazon.com; thefuzemagazine.com; alphabetphotography.com; mywrittenromance.com
So, I've already creatively used some favorites in other posts (Like Connick, Jr., Harry and Potter, Harry) and now I need to come up with more! And what's with my collage this time? So old timey!

Hemingway, Ernest: I remember reading my first Hemingway novel when I was 21, and I loved it. It was The Sun Also Rises, and is still one of my favorite books. I then ripped through A Farewell to Arms (another favorite), The Old Man and the Sea, and The Garden of Eden. Our book club read A Moveable Feast, which was a fascinating account of the ex-pat community in Paris during the 1920s. I think his simplicity of language makes his novels compelling. He gets right to the point, which then allows the reader to get to the characters and story and deeper meanings. Hemingway is still one of my favorites.

Hughes, Langston: I'm not a huge poetry guy, but I do love slam poetry. To me, slam poetry is jazz and hip hop. Hughes wasn't a slam poet per se, but I think a lot of his work compares favorably to rhythmic expression. My first exposure to Hughes, that I can remember, was in my senior year of high school. I came across a poem by Hughes called "Trumpet Player" and I selected it to dissect and analyze for my annual poetry project. Reading it I saw references to so many great jazz musicians. I then ended up reading a whole lot more by him and loved it all. (The kids are reading some of his poetry this week for school, and when I pulled out my book, there was a post-it note on the page with "Trumpet Player.") Later I discovered his book Not Without Laughter, which I'd never known existed. What a great read. I find the whole Harlem Renaissance era fascinating and can see where the authors and artists of that period laid the groundwork for so much of what happened in the 20th century when it comes to civil rights.

Hozier: I first heard the name Hozier in a video I saw of Ed Sheeran doing a Q&A with fans. Someone asked who he was listening to at the time, and he said he was obsessed with Hozier, so I looked him up. His song "Take Me to Church" was a Grammy nominee for the Song of the Year, and it is powerful stuff. Later, Stacy and I were in a music store doing some Christmas shopping and they played the entire album overhead. First of all, yes, we were there that long and beyond. What a day! Secondly, I said to Stacy, "This whole album is really good." I was not entirely surprised to receive it as a Christmas gift. Anyway, you should really check out this album. Some of my favorite tracks are "Jackie and Wilson," "Work Song," "Foreigner's God," and "Cherry Wine."

Huey Lewis and the News: As a Bay Area boy I have to include them here. Huey Lewis was everywhere when I was a kid--baseball games, local concerts, TV, you name it. He's got a great 80s/90s pop feel, including that ever so recognizable horn section. It is distinctly different from Chicago and Peter Cetera, but no less iconic in my mind. And who doesn't picture Marty McFly racing to school on his skateboard when "Power of Love" comes on?

Home: There is nothing I love more than being home with our family. It never gets old. Sure, we enjoy getting out with friends, or as a family, but honestly, home is the best. We play games, listen to music, watch movies, share TV together, cook and eat great food. Who wouldn't want to hang out at home?

Homeschooling: This has been such a great thing in our family's life. We have two great kids who are intelligent, creative, and motivated, and having the flexibility of homeschooling gives them such great opportunities to explore so many interests. There have been times that, for a variety of reasons, I haven't been as involved as I would have liked, and I feel like I missed out on some really neat experiences. We've got a great approach and schedule for our schooling right now and I'm SO happy that I get to do so much with the kids. It's incredibly fun and rewarding to be there when they make a discovery or have something "click" for the first time. Homeschooling is not for everyone, and not everyone who would like to can, so I feel so fortunate that our family is in the right situation.

Encyclopedia of Me - H (Stacy)

Photos from: Jwwartick.com; Digitalclaritygroup.com; Pixgood.com; Healthimpactnews.com; Udamonia.com; Hellogiggles.com

Harry Potter – I’ve read this series three times so far: once myself, once with Kate, and once with Max. I know it’s a little on the nose to say this, but it is magical. I can’t begin to say how lucky I feel to see these books come out and experience the wonder, excitement, and magic of it all. We’ve excitedly anticipated book releases; we’ve attended book release parties; we’ve turned our house into Hogwarts; we’ve dressed up as characters, including Hermione; we’ve attended midnight release parties; we’ve done Harry Potter birthday parties; we’ve read aloud together; we’ve listened endlessly to the audio version (Jim Dale, of course); the list goes on and on. We are BIG fans. I love the Harry Potter series and feel incredibly lucky to be able to share them with my kids and that we’ve been able to experience them in real time!

Home – I love being home. I love hanging out as a family. I love having a place that’s ours, that represents us, that houses us. I like to travel, but I love being home. It’s seriously one of my very favorite things. I love to look at the calendar and have nothing scheduled and know that we can chill at home as a family and eat good food, play games, talk, dance, read, listen to music, watch movies, whatever! Of course, having moved this past year, we are especially enjoying our new home very, very much. To be fair, I have loved every home in which we’ve lived. I like making a house a home. I like putting our personality into it. I love BEING home. I am a homebody. I have friends who go stir crazy at home, but that so isn’t me. I can be home for weeks at a time and not feel one bit of cabin fever. There’s no place in the world that I love more than being in my home with my family. We really try to be smart financially and save money in many ways, but if there’s one area where it makes sense for us to splurge a little, it’s home. It’s where we spend most of our time. We’re happy here, so we don’t go out and spend much money other places! Home, home, home. I love it.

Harper Lee – The author of my all-time favorite novel, Harper Lee, fascinates me. She has published one book (so far, for now). ONE! And a fabulous one at that. To Kill A Mockingbird is such, such, such a beautiful book – it’s beautiful; it’s hilariously funny; it’s spunky; it’s sweet; it’s heartwarming; it’s kind; it’s enduring. I love the characters and I love the story. I’m fascinated by this reclusive author who speaks little, eschews public appearances and interviews, and felt the need to write only one amazing book. I’m not one to reread books, but I’ve read TKAM many, many times, most recently with Kate. I’m so excited to read it with Max when he’s a little older, too. I have mixed feelings about her forthcoming book – I’m mostly excited, though I hope fervently that they are not in any way violating her wishes by publishing it. Also, not to be morbid, but she’s older and has health problems and is frail and I feel like I’m bracing myself for hearing of her passing. I get emotional thinking about her and that beautiful book she’s given us. What a gift! I’m very grateful to Harper Lee for her moving, inspiring work of art and literature.

Homeschooling – We are a homeschooling family. Never in a million years did either Mark or I think we’d choose that for our family. Yet, here we are. And we could not be happier. We really enjoy spending time as a family and we enjoy learning and flexibility and playing games and reading and computers and writing and on and on. This is a natural fit for us. Of course we were nervous to start and of course we had some preconceived ideas.

Growing up, we’d mostly known homeschooled kids to be “weird.” But you know what? There are all kinds of kids in all kinds of educational settings. There were “weird kids” in my public high school – was it because of school? No. You don’t hear people say that, though. You don’t hear people say, “That kid is weird. He must go to school.” Even though there are “weird kids” in school as well as out. Lots of factors go into personalities, and education and social lives are only part of it. We’ve had people say things to us like, “Your kids are so social!” or “Wow, your kids are really great!” or “I’m really surprised at how normal your kids are!” It betrays their judgments. Why would it be surprising that our kids are social, “normal” (whatever that is), and “great?” Oh, because we homeschool? Then those statements say way more about the ones uttering them than they do about us. I get that there are stereotypes and, believe me, I’ve seen many examples of them both in and out of school. We know hippie homeschoolers, weird homeschoolers, super smart homeschoolers, ridiculously creative homeschoolers, super-achieving homeschoolers, relaxed homeschoolers . . . you name it. See? Variety everywhere. There is no “normal homeschooler” or “normal kid.” And anyway, what’s normal? I don’t want our kids to be like everyone else or part of some kind of factory output. They’re individuals like everyone else! And they’re not one bit socially awkward. They’re fine and can hold their own with anyone. Kate hangs out with kids and adults alike with no problem whatsoever – she is hilariously witty, interesting, well-read, funny, thoughtful, and has incredible insights! And, as you already know, she is an amazing writer and story teller. Max talks to anyone. And I mean, anyone. He is very social and makes friends easily EVERYWHERE we go. He is empathetic and a natural leader and younger kids especially gravitate toward him. He is crazy good at logic games and is a deep thinker. He is always, always, always making up games and tweaking games and creating games. He’s got a mind for looking at things differently and approaching stuff in an out-of-the-box way. I love it!

I thought we’d do “school at home” and that it would be a ton of work, but it’s really not. Honestly, my friends who are sending their kids to school spend FAR more time in that than I do “doing school” with my kids. We don’t really “do school.” We did, at first. But over time, we do less and less formal schooling and more and more natural learning. It’s evolved over the years for us. School isn’t a separate event from everything else. Learning is life! We love it. I credit homeschooling and its inherent freedom and flexibility with helping our kids love learning and be creative. It’s amazing to watch them find their passions and develop them (writing for Kate and game design for Max). We’re able to pursue their interests through contests, camps, classes, and more. By approaching learning in this way, we don’t have to know all the answers and do all the teaching. We learn together! Yes, we were nervous at first, but the kids consistently test well beyond their grade levels and they are thriving. We can tailor fit their education – it’s awesome!

I was worried, before starting, of the risk of being socially isolated. Well, we’re so so not! If anything, it’s often a bigger challenge to fit the academics into a busy social calendar! I started a homeschool group about 10 years ago and that has helped tremendously, but even aside from that, we are involved with things around us and in our community. Our kids get tons of time with friends and with people of all ages and walks of life. It’s very natural and how life is really. I think school, while a good option for many including myself and Mark growing up, is not a terribly social place, so it’s kind of funny that people worry that kids who don’t attend school miss out socially! Kids are constantly being told to be quiet in school. I know I was always getting in trouble for talking in school. :P We try to make sure our kids have a variety of mentors in addition to us. It’s good. It’s healthy. We don’t homeschool to keep our kids from the world. We homsechool to give them the world.

We all spend a lot of time together, too, so we work well together (we kind of have to! How else could we do this?!?) and there are next to no power struggles or arguments or frustrations among us. Yes, sure, of course there are times here and there when there are – that’s normal. But it is in no way the norm. We’re happy. We’re respectful of one another. We like hanging out. We like learning together and playing games. The kids have a say and a hand in everything we do. They get good sleep. They eat well. They have tons of free time. They aren’t constantly being told what to do or to be quiet. They’re encouraged to explore, to ask, to question, to do, to try, to create. We all cook together, learn together, read together, fold laundry together, go to the movies together, exercise together, attend concerts together, travel together, shovel snow together. We visit presentations on college campuses. We take classes at science centers. We volunteer in our community. The kids work jobs. We visit the library. We all belong to several book clubs. We do a ton of social stuff. We play at the park (a lot!). We get together with friends. We research stuff. We watch movies and documentaries and videos and TED talks and TV shows. We listen to music. We study music. Mark and the kids do taekwondo. They learn instruments, play sports, swim, ride horses, go star gazing, you name it. We have so much flexibility that we get to visit lots of places and do lots of interesting things whenever we want! We talk A LOT. We’re always in the thick of conversation – anything from books to current events to gaming to ethics to healthy eating to pets to any subject whatsoever. There are no limits! I love, love, love homeschooling and am so grateful that we have this option – it is a great fit for our family and I’m sincerely thankful for that. I do not take it for granted. I don’t think it’s necessarily better than other options out there for everyone, but for us, it’s great.

Happiness – One of my favorite emotions (no duh, right?). I love feeling happy. And I am, generally, a very happy person. I like to laugh and joke around. I love to enjoy myself. As someone who has had some very real struggles with depression and anxiety over the years, I treasure feeling happy. I don’t have to feel happy all the time, but I do enjoy feeling happy. I am someone with VERY simple pleasures. I don’t have a lot of grand wants or desires. I like simple things – dinner as a family, playing games, watching favorite TV shows, reading, listening to music, my family, laughing, talking, friends, Scout . . . I love happiness. (By the way, that song “I’m Happy?” It irritates the crap out of me!).

Hot Weather – Oh, yes, I love hot weather. I do not like being cold. I like feeling the sun on my skin. I love going out in the summer. I love not having to worry about a million layers and boots and scarves. Putting on sandals and going out the door? Easy peasy! And sunshine and warmth make my heart happy. I love summertime. I love sunshine. I love summer music. I like visiting the beach. I like when the temperatures are 75 and higher. I love, love, love hot weather! I know so many people prefer colder weather and they say things like, “You can always put layers on! You can only take so much off!” But for me, I hardly ever feel “too hot.” I get cold easily, so hot is fine by me. I hate feeling encumbered by layers. I’m short, so all those clothes are too much for my liking. Warmth and sunshine? Much more to my liking! 

Okay, so the extra H-words I wanted to mention: I’ll spare you more about Harry Connick, Jr. as well as great Peter Cetera songs that start with “H” like “Have You Ever Been in Love?”. I’ve already mentioned our new house. I also love my long, dark hair. One of my favorite things to eat at our local Japanese place is a discovered treat: Hamachi Kama – it’s cooked yellowtail with a great dipping sauce and it’s delicious! Also, nostalgia factor here – I remember researching and writing about Harriet Tubman when I was a student in grade school and I also remember, growing up in the 80s, learning about and writing a paper on HIV and how especially scary that was at the time.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Encyclopedia of Me - C (Mark)

Photos courtesy of: en.wikipedia.org; www.funmozar.com;
www.simonsblogpark.com; atelierhob.com; www.nndb.com

California: Let's get the obvious one out of the way. I grew up in California, spending most of my time in the San Francisco Bay Area, not far from the Napa wine country. I love it there. The climate is great--four seasons, nothing too severe. The food and diversity are unrivaled. And besides where I grew up, the entire state is like a mini country with a little of something for everyone. One big drawback now is how crowded and expensive it is.

John Coltrane: Yes. This is my jazz reference for this list. C'mon. You knew it was coming. I don't play the saxophone, but any jazz musician worth anything should know Coltrane, and should own "Giant Steps." His work was groundbreaking, and there has never really been a jazz saxophonist that has touched him since.

Harry Connick, Jr.: OK. One more jazz reference. (but no baseball reference this time, so it's fine). I'm sure he shows up on a lot of my lists, but he's one of my favorites. I first became aware of him after Harry put out his "We Are in Love" album, which is great. It's a great throwback to Sinatra and the other jazz vocal greats. But he didn't stop there. Funk, bebop, New Orleans style jazz, standards, Broadway tunes, whatever. He can do it all. Plus, I feel like he's one of the big artists on the soundtrack of my life, especially life with Stacy.

Christmas: I love it. I love the music, the snow, the chilly temperatures, the excitement in the air, the lights, the decorations. I've always loved winter and the holidays, but especially after meeting Stacy and falling in love during that season. As much as she hates the cold, I feel like the holidays are "our" time of year. We were even married just before Christmas. I love seeing how excited the kids get about it now, too. And the dog is just crazy for presents!

Children: We've got two great ones. We talk about them a lot, and I don't know what else to say than I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful son and daughter. I'm blown away by their creativity, intelligence, kindness, and every other good adjective I can think of. I feel so honored to get to be one of their parents.

Canada: I lived in Vancouver for about a year when I was 8. I still remember a lot about it. I remember taking skiing lessons, which I enjoyed. I remember having an incredible neighborhood in the woods that we could explore. I remember epic backyard baseball games with my brother Doug where the Milwaukee Brewers were always the butt of every joke and never the winners. I remember not singing "O Canada" before school assemblies because I was American and didn't know the words. I remember singing "Bloody Mary" in our school's production of "South Pacific." I remember Doug coming home with a Canadian accent. And I remember seeing the Canadian Brass perform in a school assembly and thinking to myself, "I have GOT to play the trombone." I think I remember really liking Canada. I also remember a great band trip to Victoria, B.C. to perform in the Victoria Day Parade. That city has the look and feel of London and is a really cool place.

Chicago/Peter Cetera: I always liked Chicago. How could I not? They had a great horn section. But I really gave them and Peter Cetera a closer listen after meeting Stacy. The summer after our freshman year I went out and got all three Cetera albums that were out at the time and wore them out. Both he and Chicago have a great sound, and the songwriting is great. If you're into great 80s/90s power ballads, you can't go wrong with either one. Also, Peter Cetera kind of looks like David Rasche, star of TV's "Sledgehammer," a gem from my childhood that is too often forgotten. Maybe it's because it was so ridiculous, but I still liked it.

I could do this Stacy style now, where I list a bunch more words that start with C and overwhelm myself trying to list them all, or I could just list one bonus item, which I'm fairly certain will show up on all the other lists in this house. Calvin and Hobbes. So many reasons to love this comic. I'll just leave it at that.
Stacy, anything to say about this one?
(http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1986/03/11)

Encyclopedia of Me - C (Stacy)


Photos courtesy of: Pixgood.com;
 therangeplace.forummotions.com; arts-stew.com;
harryconnickjr.com; pri.org; gateplay.com; eatingwell.com
Chicago/Peter Cetera – My all-time favorite band growing up. To this day, the sound of their brass section combining with their electric guitars and drums and Peter Cetera’s unique vocals can take me back and give me all kinds of warm and fuzzy 80s memories (I think Chicago 17 is the soundtrack of the 80s for many of us). I have always been a huge fan of voices with that quality that Peter Cetera’s has – a higher man’s voice that’s kind of raspy/kind of clear, and one you can totally pick out in group and recognize in about one note (other voices like this for me include Sting’s, Adam Levine’s, etc.). My mom used to call him “lockjaw” because of how he looks when he sings. Mark and I listened to a lot of Peter Cetera during our dating years and newlywed years especially. I introduced him to a lot of Peter Cetera’s stuff and he got all the CDs, so we have two copies of some of them. Our wedding video of pictures of us set to music has this song on it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRuhR5_wtUw) as well as a few others. The summer after my freshman year at college, I got to see Chicago in concert (post-Peter-Cetera-as-lead-singer) with my best friend growing up (Cathy!) and a friend of mine from high school. The crowd had such a mix of ages! There were older people there, middle aged people, and young people. This group has been around a long time and spans generations. I was hoarse the next day – we had a great time.

Harry Connick, Jr. – This is the other side of that tape that is the main soundtrack of our relationship. If Chicago is Side B, Harry Connick is side A. I may have introduced Mark to Peter Cetera, but Mark (and my freshman roommate in college) introduced me to Harry. Oh, Harry. Dreamy Harry. You should really read my introduction in this post here, because it sums up my early love of Harry quite well (http://sushiandpizza.blogspot.com/2010/05/i-love-harry.html). The soundtrack for When Harry Met Sally reminds me of our early dating years. Harry is another singer we listened to a lot while dating and as newlyweds. Truth is, we haven’t ever stopped listening to Harry (or Chicago and Peter Cetera). We own most of Harry’s albums (and there are a lot of them!) and we love them all for different reasons. While his big band stuff is my all-time favorite stuff he does (well, that, and his piano playing), I’m a huge fan of his funk album, “She.” Funny story. When I went to that concert in college (referenced in that link), I fully expected Harry in a suit leading a big band. When we walked out in black leather pants and a t-shirt, I thought it was a gag. Then they played funk all night. I had a really great time and tried not to focus on my slight feelings of disappointment at the lack of big band music. Funny how that album has grown to be one of my favorites. Mark has seen him in concert. I have seen him in concert. And we’ve seen him in concert together (at the Newport Jazz Festival). We’ve also met him! We all went to Bethlehem, PA for a book signing where he visited a local book shop and signed his Happy Elf book at Christmastime. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but we were so excited to meet him and he was great with the kids – way more interested in talking to them than to us. Another song on our wedding video is “I Could Write a Book” by Harry Connick, Jr. (as referenced in our previous Encyclopedia of Me post). Love Harry!

John Cusack – There is a running joke that he is at the top of my laminated list (Friends reference) and Mike King has teased me that John Cusack is listed on there all 5 times. So many of my friends don’t get it, but I don’t care. I loooooove John Cusack. My heartthrob from the 80s. Yeah, yeah, I know. He wasn’t ever considered a “heartthrob” by traditional heartthrob standards. I know. But he’s my kind of cute. I’m not into the Channing Tatum types – to me, they’re the equivalents of the female Sophia Vergara types (interestingly enough, a type that Mark doesn’t find attractive either). It’s too . . . much, too on the nose. John Cusack is tall, dark, handsome (in my opinion). I love his character in Say Anything – so sweet and kind. Kind of geeky and awkward, but good. The best friend type, you know? I follow him on Facebook – he is crazy smart, involved, and an activist. I love that. He writes for the Huffington Post and is choosy about his movie roles. He backed away from being type cast as the romantic lead all the time and has done such a variety of things. He cares about films and he eschews the Hollywood lifestyle. He spends more of his time in Chicago than Hollywood and kind of always has. He loves his sports teams. He has an easy manner, a great voice, and a laid back personality. Wait? What’s this you say? Oh, so many qualities I list here are qualities my husband has? Why, yes, maybe that should say something – tall, dark, handsome, sweet, smart, politically active, a best friend, and passionate. Must be my type. :)

Catan (Settlers of Catan) – This is my favorite board game. I love playing it. I enjoy all the versions. I love getting together with friends to play it. I like that every time we play, it’s different. Just writing this has me wanting to play right now. I love the strategy of it. I love that it’s both competitive and cooperative. We’re big fans of tabletop gaming, especially European-style board games. This one is so cool, because the board is different every time. This and Ticket to Ride are two of the first of that style games that have gotten us into collecting and playing LOTS of these kinds of games. We watch Wil Wheaton’s “Tabletop” show. We play games together as a family. We play with friends. We do game nights. It’s no exaggeration to say that we play games quite often. Reading and writing are big around here. So are games. You know how Kate is always writing stories? Well, Max has been playing and designing games since the age of about 3 (not kidding). I have pictures of him as a toddler collecting parts of different toys and sets and creating games out of them with the various pieces. We love games and Catan is one of my very favorites.

Cookies – Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m more about salty treats than sweet ones. I don’t really have a sweet tooth and I much, much, much prefer savory food to desserts. In fact, I’m often frustrated at restaurants, because so many of them serve big, huge desserts and I mostly want a small taste of something sweet (I like that some places are now offering dessert “shooters” – a few bites in a small shot glass, much more my size). So I prefer food food. But if there’s a sweet treat that I really like, it’s cookies. To be fair, I also love donuts. But let’s focus on cookies. I grew up eating mostly store-bought cookies, my three favorites being Chips Ahoy (my very favorite), Oreos, and Nutter Butters. I didn’t grow up in a home where cookies were homemade. My mom is a great cook, but hasn’t ever enjoyed baking. I remember that once in a blue moon, she’d make homemade peanut butter cookies and they were really good, but that was a rarity. We were all about the store-bought cookies. I remember we had a lazy Susan in one of our cupboards where we’d keep our cereal boxes as well as our cookie jar. It is a cookie jar that our family continues to use today. My mom gave it to us when we got married and I love it. It has a screw-on top and it’s made of plastic. It’s OLD and has an avocado-green (or it was at one time anyway - it has faded) lid. The golden-line design on the front is mostly worn off, but we don’t care. It houses our cookies. We do a mix of store bought and homemade, though we mostly make our own cookies (I now prefer homemade to store bought). When I went to college and lived in apartments, I had roommates who would bake cookies and I was entranced. They always smelled so good and I was amazed at how delicious homemade cookies were, especially chocolate chip ones. After our freshman year of dating, Mark sent me MANY packages of homemade chocolate chip cookies. He knew I loved them, so he’d bake for me in California and package them, lined with paper towels, and mail them to me in Massachusetts. I loved getting them! At Christmas time, I love getting trays of lots of different kinds of homemade cookies – what a treat! Mmmm, homemade cookies. Kate has been baking most of our cookies for us since the age of about 11. I love when she gets in the mood to make cookies! Some of our favorites include Extraordinary Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter Chips, and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. Mmmmm.

Cooking – I really enjoy cooking. Mark enjoys it. Kate enjoys it. Max enjoys it. Quite honestly, most of the cooking that happens around here, happens as a group. We all help chop, sauté, stir, cook, bake, set the table, etc. I think we’re quite a team! Between all of us, food gets made, the table gets set, and everyone thinks of things like seasonings, serving utensils, drinks, etc. It’s awesome. We like ethnic foods and we like to eat healthy, too. We’re not super strict about it or anything, but in general, we try to avoid preservatives, artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup, etc. We cook a variety of things, rather than the same old thing all the time. Most of our meals are not your typical. We rarely eat the same thing twice in a given few months (to clarify: we eat leftovers no problem – in fact, I *hate* food waste and “hate” is not a word I use lightly. It really bothers me to waste food. Mark dubs me “The Queen of Leftovers,” because I can take a variety of leftovers or little bits of food and create some brand new, totally different, delicious meal out of it all. So what I mean by this one is that we rarely cook the same thing twice in a few months’ time). We love to try new recipes and play with them. We love good food and get bored by “regular meals” – we hardly ever eat “normal” stuff like spaghetti, mac-n-cheese, meatloaf, etc. It’s not that we refuse to eat that stuff – it’s that we’d rather eat other stuff. We eat a wide variety of foods. We often eat vegetarian or seafood meals. We’re not opposed to eating meat, but we don’t eat much of it. We like to “eat the rainbow” (making sure to get a variety of natural colors in our diet- it helps you get variety and different vitamins). A few years ago, I gave Mark a surprise gift of an all-day cooking class with a professional Mexican chef and that was really fun. He and I took a cooking class together this past fall at a local kitchen gadget shop – we learned all about Indian cooking. We love our new house – the set up is such a joy for cooking! In fact, since moving here, we are cooking at home far more and eating out far less (in the farmhouse – the kitchen is the farthest room away from everything, whereas here it is open to the living room, and at the farmhouse, the kitchen would get VERY cold in the winter and VERY hot in the summer, often forcing us to eat in the living room, order in, or eat out). Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE to eat out, too. Probably one of our favorite hobbies - along with books and games - is eating out, but we do love to cook. We are very lucky that we get to eat all of our meals together (we have our own business and we homeschool). Our lunches are usually simple – quesadillas or lots of veggies and hummus or fruit smoothies or salads or green smoothies or soup and sandwiches. We participate in a CSA and use the organic veggies in our meals. We often use leftovers for our lunches, too. Just for a totally random example of how varied our foods can be: yesterday for dinner, we had a variety of new recipes and old standards on the table for dinner (think Bento Box): Edamame, sticky rice, browned, Thai-stuffed tofu (filled with veggies and spices like red cabbage, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, carrots, etc.), Korean potstickers (like mini egg rolls filled with cabbage, onions, tofu, spices, etc.), sushi, teriyaki sauce, sriracha sauce, cauliflower pakoras (Indian-style), and roasted carrot fries. I’m not saying that kind of meal is typical around here – but it’s typical in that it’s atypical: every day is different! Thankfully, no one is picky. We all love to try new foods! We all pitch in. When Mark’s really busy, I cook. When he’s really busy, I cook. We all help out. We play with spices. We make things up. Cooking is fun!

So, here are other C-words that I thought of but will throw in this additional paragraph, because that seems to be how I do these things. I love castles. Hat tip to Max for coming up with this one for me. In Portugal, one of my favorite activities was exploring and hiking Lisbon’s beautiful castles. Like I said in the first paragraph, my best friend growing up is Cathy. A quality I appreciate is compassion. I love getting comments on my blog. And we’re big fans around here of Calvin and Hobbes. We read it, we share it, we quote it, we’ve watched documentaries about Bill Watterson, Kate owns the entire collections, Max reads them all the time. Such a great comic! Oh comic! I love comedy. Sit-coms are my favorite kind of TV show. I love to laugh.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Encyclopedia of Me - I (Stacy)

(Photo credits: internetbillboards.net; thedish.restaurant.com; interaksyon.com; amazon.com; lifeguide-blog.com; kinomanai.lt)


Italy - This is a place I dream of visiting one day (I predict that Mark will choose Ireland). I studied Humanities in college and learned about Rome, Florence, Venice . . . I'd love to see paintings, sculptures, and architecture in person that until now I've only seen in books. I've been in every state that starts with "I" (Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa). It's time to visit countries that start with the same letter. I really wish Mark and I had traveled to Europe when we first got married.

Indian Food - I love Indian food. It's not my top favorite (that would be Japanese). And it's not my second favorite (that would be Mexican). But it's probably next on the list. Mark and I took a cooking class together this past year and we learned about Indian cooking. The lady teaching was so laid back about measuring or following exact recipes that it boosted my confidence in toying with ingredients and spices and making stuff up when it comes to Indian cooking. I've been doing it since with great success! One of our favorites is a spicy chickpea and spinach dish. Yum!

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - After a 5-year hiatus from Facebook, I got back on this past summer. My first post said, "Just finished Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." I hadn't ever read any of her books before, but decided to read it after she passed away and I heard a rebroadcasted interview with her on NPR. Gorgeous book. One to be savored, much like "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." What a gift and treasure she has left us." It's true. The book is absolutely gorgeous. It is now part of my top 5 most beautifully written  books list along with To Kill A Mockingbird, Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Harry Potter ranks as a top 5 all-time personal favorite, but when we're talking about "beautifully written," well, that's where they switch places.

Internet - This almost didn't make the list! As a family, when we do these Encyclopedia of Me posts, we roll the Scattegories die and write up whatever letter we get. We don't share our choices until we post. Well, Max has been all excited because he thought of a good one that he suspected we hadn't thought of and he told us, so Kate and I groaned and knew we wanted to include it and we said we'd give him credit, so here you go, Max! GOOD ONE! I *love* the Internet. I think it's amazing to have so much knowledge at our fingertips. I could easily spend all day on the Internet, opening tab upon tab, reading article after article, looking up answers to questions . . . oh wait, I guess I kind of already kind of do this! Like just today, the kids and I looked up why Greenland is an island while Australia is a continent. When I was a kid, I would sit with a set of encyclopedias and read about anything and everything. And now, here I sit at a computer, typing so fast, looking stuff up, and posting my very own Encyclopedia of Me post that I can instantly share with people. AMAZING!

Intelligence - I've mentioned this before in our "N" post (N for Nerd). I mentioned that I think being smart is sexy and fun and interesting. Kate and I were reading an article on NPR today and discussing the word sapiosexual. I'd call myself a sapiosexual - one is attracted to intelligence or the human mind. It is one of the many things that attracted me to Mark. Even before we started dating, we hung out as friends and one of our favorite things to do was to play Trivial Pursuit. We kept a tally sheet of our scores and it was always really close. I kept it on my wall in my dorm and I have it in a box full of stuff from college. I love having intelligent friends and, if I can be an intellectual snob for a moment, dull people bore me. I know that sounds terrible. I don't mean it in an elitist way. I like people regardless, but I don't enjoy boring conversation. I like wit and banter and intelligence and humor and information. I don't know everything (who does?), but I like talking to people who are well read and I like learning and being challenged. That kind of thing.

Indie Films - Indie films, indie theaters . . . I love them! I like the whole smart coffeeshop vibe of small, local venues. I love our local theater in town. It's old fashioned in appearance, but state of the art in technology. We know the owner and he knows us. They have one screen and, in general, show the most interesting films! In addition to great current features, they also sometimes show old films, westerns, and silent films (complete with live musical accompaniment). It's awesome. There's nothing like it. Many of my clients tell me that they won't even see a movie unless it's showing there. We feel similarly - when there's a movie we want to see, there's no choosing a chain theater over our local theater if they're showing it. I think I owe a lot of my love of good, quirky, and well done films to my experience in college with the International Cinema. I majored in Humanities, so every class I took gave me a pass to go to the IC, as we called it, for free (even if it hadn't been free, it was only $1). I saw so many great foreign films and learned about how much better quality many non-Hollywood films are! From then on, I was hooked. I like smart movies, make-you-think movies, documentaries, foreign films, quirky films, indie films. Love, love, love. I've even done a post (with running comments) about these kinds of films.

So here are a bunch more "I" things that I thought of. I had a hard time coming up with "I" things at first, but then I thought of a bunch and had to pare it down. So, in typical I-stink-at-cutting-things-out Stacy fashion, here are a few more "I" thoughts . . . . I was going to write about the name Isabel, but I suspect Kate is doing that (it's a great story). I also like the Indigo Girls and we got to see them in concert as a family this past summer. I thought of iPods - I like that we can listen to so much great music so easily on them, but I don't understand how to work them. :P Some songs that are very nostalgic for me all start with "I" (there are way more than this, but here are some): "I Am By Your Side" by Corey Hart is on a mix of love songs I made for Mark our freshman year. Hearing it brings me right back to that feeling of the summer after our freshman year, being on the plane for visits home and listening to the tape on my Walkman and missing him, listening to the tape the summer after freshman year, long talks via long distance phone calls (oh, the phone bills that summer!) to each other . . . aaaahhh. "I Could Write a Book" by Harry Connick, Jr. is one of the songs on our wedding video - pictures of us set to music, so that song always makes me think of that and of us. "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel was my senior prom theme, but I was dating my first boyfriend (pre-Mark) then, so I won't go on too much about that one. ;) "It Had To Be You," also by Harry Connick, Jr., reminds me of our dating years - I got into Harry through Mark and my freshman roommate. The entire soundtrack for "When Harry Met Sally" all reminds me of that beautiful time. "It’s a Beautiful Day" by Michael Bublé is a great song that helps put me in a great mood. Love Michael Bublé! I was going to put "I Love Lucy" on here, but discovered I already put it in my "L" post. I would also add that I'm fond of the "It Gets Better" campaign; I enjoy and miss In-N-Out Burger; and I love the phrase "I love you." I say it often. I mean it when I do. I've got a bunch of notes from the kids from when they were younger - Kate would leave notes lying around with a picture of an eye and "I see you!" on them, and Max would leave me notes that say, "I L Y!" (for "I Love You"). Phew! I'm tricky. :)
It gets better In-n-Out Burger, I love you

Encyclopedia of Me - I (Mark)

(Photo credits: bestfreepictures.org; amazon.com; hrc.org; wikimedia.org; americantowns.com; fansided.com)

Ireland: Yeah, my last name is Irish. No, I'm not that Irish, but my mother did send me to school wearing a shamrock that said "Kiss me. I'm Irish." pinned to my shirt in elementary school. And even though my last name is the most Irish thing about me, I do have a fondness for a lot of Irish things. I make a mean Irish pork medallion and soda bread on St. Patrick's Day. And my special Irish boilermaker chili is fantastic (one can of Guinness and a shot of Jameson's--perfection). I like Irish folk and rock music (Flogging Molly is a particular favorite of mine). I think the accent from The Emerald Isle is great. One of these days we'll get over there and kiss the Blarney Stone. Or maybe just stand down below and let others lean out and do that. Éirinn go Brách!

"I Could Write a Book": The song is an old standard, but the Harry Connick, Jr. version from "When Harry Met Sally" has a special place in my heart. Whenever I hear the song I think of Stacy, not only because we both like Harry, but also for what the song's lyrics say. It ended up in our wedding video, so that should tell you something.

Inequality: This is something that I've given a lot of thought to over the years, and the older I get the more impatient I get with inequality in the world. There is no excuse to treat another human being with anything less than respect and fairness. It doesn't matter what that person's situation is; everyone deserves the best. White, black, male, female, gay, straight, whatever. Equality is the only way. Period.

"The Incredibles": I know this movie is polarizing among Pixar loyalists, but being a big James Bond fan I really enjoyed this movie. It was a bit more adult than the other Pixar films to that point, but I thought it was brilliant. The kids were watching it yesterday and from the other room I heard the music and you could tell they channeled Bond all the way. Plus, an eccentric billionaire with a private island, and a hideout beneath the waterfall. "The Man with the Golden Gun" anyone? (Sidenote, I love Nick Nack in that one. I'm just saying.)

Inglewood, CA: My father grew up in his grandmother's house in Inglewood, not far from The Forum (now Staples Center). I have a lot of fond memories of going to her house, digging holes in the back yard, climbing the lemon trees, looking up obscure words in her Scrabble dictionary, drinking fresh lemonade, playing with her cats named Boy (every cat she ever had was named Boy), and even spending some holidays there with my father's extended family. Nana's house was a great place to hang out, even if the neighborhood had changed just a bit since the 50s and 60s. It was also very close to Disneyland, which meant a day trip every time we went there. I still have two quilts my great-grandmother made for me, and I can often hear her say her favorite phrase: "Mercy, mercy, mercy." (Inglewood is also the home of the Los Angeles Lakers, which I loved watching from the days of Magic Johnson until now, though not as much these days.)

Ishikawa, Travis: This obscure first baseman/outfielder for the Giants hit one of the biggest home runs in San Francisco history this past season. His home run won the game that sent the Giants to the World Series, which they would eventually win, for the third time in 5 years. I've got to say, after watching him be traded from team to team during a very below average major league career, it was pretty cool to watch him have a moment like that. That's the thing about baseball: you just never know who's going to be the hero on any given night. (I just watched it again here. It never gets old.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Year in Review - 2014

  1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before? Turned 40. Celebrated my husband turning 40. Rode in a stretched limo as a family for fun (part of the 40th celebration). Attended the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC. Bought a beautiful, modern home. Expanded our business. Saw my daughter get her first job and her first book signing as well. Saw my son start a regular volunteering shift at the library. 
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  3. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Two separate questions. To the first one: Nope. I did horribly. Again. Same three things I wanted to do the year before that - write, meditate, exercise. I have this awful habit of wanting everything to be done/caught up/perfect before allowing myself to do something I want, which generally translates into not getting to things I want to do very much. I know better. I counsel people and tell them not to do that. I also tend to run around doing for everyone but myself. This needs to change. I think I do better when I live by a phrase like I have in the past, so I'm doing that again this year. So, to the second question: I am. Mark's clever play on words: The Year of Não ("No" in Portuguese)/Now. See, "Não" is pronounced "now." So it has two meanings - saying no more (in order to say yes to myself more - as in, don't overextend and also, make myself a priority) and also doing things NOW - not putting them off.  
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  5. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yep. Two of my SILs. They both gave birth to adorable baby boys - Duncan and Finnegan.   

  6. Did anyone close to you die? No. Thankfully, no.

  7. What countries did you visit? With the house and business moves, we didn't travel much this past year. We did have multiple guests. We did spend a day at the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC. And we did enjoy a week at the beach in Delaware, an annual tradition for us.  

  8. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? Again, I'd like to take better care of myself. I think a lot of my anxiety/depression comes from not doing enough of that. 

  9. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? April 28th (Harper Lee's birthday) - the day we bought this house. Our birthdays - the big 4-0 for both me and Mark.

  10. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Moving our home and business. Throwing Mark an awesome 40th birthday that I know he truly enjoyed. And, difficult as it is, making some breakthroughs on insights to emotional issues.

  11. What was your biggest failure? Like I say every year, I don't like to think in terms of failure. It is what it is. But I do tend to put my whole heart and soul into others without affording myself the same. It really needs to stop. It's simply not healthy.  

  12. Did you suffer illness or injury? I had a horrible neck spasm in January of this past year - it was extremely painful and scary. It limited my range of motion and was so bad that I almost couldn't lie down to go to sleep the first night, prompting many tears. It was during that really bad cold weather - stupid polar vortex. Stress built up for me this past fall and I dealt with a pretty bad bout of depression. It'd been 10 years since it'd been that bad (and even then, it wasn't as bad as it was in 2003). I had spent the past several years (and especially the past year) repeatedly saying, "I'm breaking." It just got worse and worse until in November, I feel like it snapped and went from "I'm breaking" to "I'm broken." I have felt burned out, overwhelmed, tired, stretched thin, unsupported, low . . . basically, I have run around doing for everyone else but not taking care of myself. I'm not good at it. I don't always feel deserving of it. I know these things intellectually. Putting them into practice is another story. I'm trying. I'm working on it. I'm learning where it stems from and learning how to address that and heal and move forward. It's a process and takes time and work. I've learned a lot from the experience (I have learned every time I've dealt with depression) and I am especially grateful for supportive friends who were simply incredibly dedicated to helping me. I've felt very supported by many, which is very different than 2003 when we had just moved here and knew no one (again, this bout wasn't nearly as bad as in 2003 - having older kids and a support system helps! -, but difficult nonetheless).    

  13. What was the best thing you bought? Hands down, our new house! It is modern and lovely and floods with light every day. Our views from every window are so beautiful that you can't help but stop what you're doing and take it in. As a family, we're often looking at the gorgeous sunsets, snow-covered trees, misty creek, farmland, hills . . . it's all so pretty! At our old farmhouse, we could see billboards and "Big Mike's Beer Warehouse" (or something like that) and McDonald's and while it was a wonderful place to be for over 7 years as we started our business, this change has been so good for us. Our business is now in its own location with TWO patient rooms (which is, as Mark keeps saying, awesome). And our home is modern and open and light-filled. We have closets, a garage, central air, gas heating, an open-floor plan, a fireplace (two actually - one in our room, too), LOTS of windows . . . we love it. We have now lived in a small apartment, a trailer, a townhouse, a farmhouse, and a modern house. It's kind of fun to have different adventures! 

  14. Whose behavior merited celebration? Sherri and Ron's. They helped us move. They offered. They insisted. They showed up. They lent a lot of time, muscle, and truck use as well as loads of friendship and emotional support. We're very grateful to them. And when I started getting down, Sherri jumped into action immediately. She rallied support and was present and reached out to others who she knew would be present, too. She's (and they're) awesome. Sherri, Lisa, and Laura all deserve shout outs on this one.

  15. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I think I'd rather not say on this one. This past year has been difficult and emotional and stressful in many ways and I honestly thought certain people would have been here, been present, been helping more and, well, they weren't. They didn't have to, of course. And it's my own fault for having expectations (I know better), but I thought maybe and, well, I was wrong. Some people did more dumping on me and not so much with the helping or even asking how I am.

  16. Where did most of your money go? Mortgages!

  17. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Celebrating turning 40 - a party for me, a great day for Mark, and a joint party for both of us. Our new business location. And our new house! We love it. Also, the spread of marriage equality. And Thing 1's first job and Thing 2's first volunteer shifts.

  18. What song will always remind you of 2014? 80s music. We played a great playlist of 80s music at our joint 40th birthday party and it was a big hit and lots of fun to reminisce about with friends! Sherlock theme music - Mark and I watched the first 3 seasons with Kate this past year.  

  19. Compared to this time last year, are you:
    a) happier or sadder? Similar, but hopeful?
    b) thinner or fatter? I think I've gained a couple of pounds - I've got some middle-aged tummy going on, methinks.
    c) richer or poorer? Poorer? The same? A lot of what we'd saved went toward the house/settlement, but technically, that's ours - just not readily available like liquid cash. 

  20. What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I'd been listened to more. I wish I'd done lots of things - more purging, more projects, more writing. I'm so depleted that I don't even feel as creative as I usually feel. :/

  21. What do you wish you’d done less of? Less feeling frustrated, less crying, less raging. Less being other people's dumping grounds with no thought for how it might be affecting me. That being said, I'm learning from it, so it's not for naught, I hope. 

  22. How did you spend Christmas? Here with my beautiful family. My mom and Jim joined us this year and it was low-key and very nice. I especially enjoyed rediscovering some favorite Portuguese treats, like shrimp rissóes.

  23. Did you fall in love in 2014? I'm already there.

  24. What was your favorite TV program? Parenthood, Sherlock, Gilmore Girls, Amazing Race, Modern Family, The Goldbergs, Big Bang Theory . . . I don't want to choose only one. I even got on an Everybody Loves Raymond rewatch kick this past fall. I wasn't into any new shows that I could binge watch, so I saw some of those and really enjoy them. I'm also watching Frasier with Kate, and Malcolm in the Middle with Max. Pop cultural competence and all. ;)

  25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I honestly don't hate anyone. Though I often feel like people suck. A friend recently told me, "You want to believe that everyone is like you (trustworthy, genuine, etc.) and because of that, you give yourself over to them. Then you get burned because it turns out they aren't all that . . . . There are great benefits to giving yourself over, but also great risks. I wouldn't put this on yourself. I've learned that most people are NOT like us." It was a really good statement to hear and I'm grateful to her for sharing it with me, for several reasons.

  26. What was the best book you read? Flora & Ulysses, The Fourteenth Goldfish, Because of Mr. Terupt - all three are books I've read with our kids. I love reading with them. Oh, and I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings for the first time ever. It catapulted to my top 5 favorites. Beautiful book. The writing was superb. 

  27. What was your greatest musical discovery? Sam Smith. What a dreamy voice. 

  28. What did you want and get? A new house and a business location with 2 patient rooms!

  29. What did you want and not get? Ha! Here's what I wrote a year ago - glad we did well with this one: "Moving forward with some big life/house/business decisions. So complicated!" I'd say more time/support working on taking care of myself.   

  30. What was your favorite film of this year? 3 come to mind - "What If," "100-Foot Journey," and "The Theory of Everything."

  31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 40 - the day itself was spent with my family and, of course, included gifts and good food. My husband also set up a surprise party for me and my mom and Jim even came down for it! It was the first time in over 20 years I'd had my mom with me for my birthday. We also had many friends there and it was a good night. Mark turned 40, too, this past year. I planned a really special day for him (he has said that he might blog about it). And, together, we threw ourselves a 40th birthday bash in our new backyard this past summer. We got it catered by Chipotle, had great music, a fire pit and torches, s'mores, good friends. It was really fun.  

  32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Feeling listened to and taking better care of myself emotionally.

  33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014? The same as usual. I hate clothes shopping, so I don't tend to get myself new stuff. 

  34. What kept you sane? My family, good friends, TV, books, and Scout.   

  35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Emma Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Daniel Radcliffe, and A.S. King.

  36. What political issue stirred you the most? The spread of marriage equality as well as greater focus on feminist issues and gender equality.

  37. Who did you miss? My dad.

  38. Who was the best new person you met? Well, we technically met them before this past year, but our local bookstore's owners have been very good to Kate - selling her books and inviting her to be a part of the local author night signings, and Max - finding Advanced Reader Copies for him (and for Kate) and helping him to become good friends with their son (the kids share a lot of similar interests). It's been nice getting to know them better and enjoying things we have in common.

  39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014. I have some stuff to work through that has been affecting me for years. Now that I've learned more about it, I've found some resources to help. I'm working through it now.

  40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
    I don't know, but I kept thinking about the theme song from "The Jeffersons" as we moved into our new, fancy house. 
     
    "Well we're movin on up,
    To the east side.
    To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
    Movin on up,
    To the east side.
    We finally got a piece of the pie.
    Fish don't fry in the kitchen;
    Beans don't burn on the grill.
    Took a whole lotta tryin',
    Just to get up that hill.
    Now we're up in the big leagues,
    Gettin' our turn at bat.
    As long as we live, it's you and me baby,
    There ain't nothin wrong with that."