Caroline and the City

The first time I had lunch with my friend Caroline, she said “I’m only friends with people who are beautiful, talented, or smart.” I left that lunch feeling more than a little intimidated, but (to my surprise) we became friends! It was good for my ego.

She explained to me later that we all operate that way: we have to be attracted to someone for their beauty, talent, or intelligence* before we can become friends, and she’s right. Think about it… everything you love about someone fits into one of these categories (I would put kindness into the beauty category, funny into the smart one, etc.). As for Caroline, now a director and writer in New York, she fits into all three categories. I hit the jackpot with her for a friend.

The cool thing about being friends with someone who is beautiful, talented, and smart, is that they end up doing great things and I get to be a part of it. For example, this year Caroline co-founded Racket, an organization that brings feminine hygiene products to underprivileged* and homeless women. Talk about an underrepresented need! Here’s something that, because of my privilege, I didn’t even know until Caroline told me: pads and tampons are not covered by food stamps. They’re not tax-free. And y’all, that shit is not cheap. Because of Caroline, hundreds of women won’t have to choose between hygienically* managing their periods or feeding their families this week.

And. AND. She just published a damn book.

Seriously.

I was lucky enough to get an early release copy and was not surprised* to find Caroline’s honesty and passion unfold within its pages. All the Time in the World tells the story of a young woman, Charlotte, who nannies for a family in New York while dreaming of restarting her career as a composer. When the mother of the two little boys she takes care of dies unexpectedly, Charlotte realizes she must choose between staying and holding this family together and leaving to follow her own dreams. I’m not giving away any more, besides to say the book is sexy and smart and you need to read it. You can buy it right here.

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(How beautiful is that cover??)

Next week the fam and I are headed to the Big Apple to visit my dear friend for her book release party and um. I’m a little bit excited. (Hear me squealing?) Expect your instas to be inundated.

*Words I initially misspelled while writing this post. #ironic

Concerning Friendship

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I have been feeling lonely this summer and yes, a little sorry for myself. I tend to retreat so that I can feel even more sorry for myself when that happens. I know it’s not healthy. Whenever I feel myself turning inward I try to do something to break out of the cycle.

While I’ve been feeling lonely, though, I’ve been thinking about why letting go of friendships is so hard. Friendships based solely on one’s circumstances don’t seem to work out: when your circumstances change, so do your friendships. Of course.

It makes me wonder what makes friendships stick. It sometimes seems as if life just leads you toward or away from people however it wants to, and we’re just along for the ride. Maybe we want to hold on to someone, but the river forks and we grasp for one another but we lose contact, and we are whisked away and all we can do is wave goodbye as we are rushed to the next of life’s adventures. Do we really have any control over it?

We’re all the center of our own very important dramas, but the people who flit in and out of our scripts aren’t just projections of us; they each have dramas with scripts of their own. But for our own story they are just here for awhile or maybe for a long time, helping move the plot of our lives along, before they move out of the frame. We keep going even without people that we’ve come to love, people who have shaped us, people who have given our story meaning.

If there’s never any certainty that a friendship will last, it feels immensely depressing and unbelievably exhausting to invest so much into it at all. Why give yourself entirely to something that is only temporary? And if you’re not giving of yourself entirely, if you’re holding something back, why have a friendship at all? It’s not very mindful of me, and I know my mindfulness guru would say we can’t know what will happen in the future so it makes no sense to operate out of fear or uncertainty about possible future events, and we have to live in the now. But I can’t help but feel sad when I think it will all end. Is it worth it? But then, if it isn’t, what would life look like? Closing yourself, refusing to let anyone else play a big role in your story would be a horribly sad and cynical existence. It hurts me to think there will be loss and pain either way.

At the same time, I’ve been contemplating how important it is to express concern and love no matter the possible outcome. Letting go of pride seems crucial if you want a sincere, authentic, and lasting friendship. Letting friends know exactly how you feel without fear that they maybe don’t feel the same way about you. Keeping on keeping in touch, keeping on sending birthday cards and Christmas cards and writing emails and inviting them to have dinner and getting together as often as you can. Assuming your friends appreciate and need you the way you appreciate and need them. Remaining confident that you are loved.

I guess my question is, when do you fight like hell for someone, and when do you let them go? What makes some people stick around, some people leave with an explosion, and some people just fade away? Do each of us only get a few people in our lifetimes that will stick around forever, if we’re lucky? Is that ultimately why we humans keep getting married, making forever vows, so that at least we will have that one person we can trust will be there until the end?

If this is the human condition and we all experience it, why does it all make me so incredibly sad?

Dear One

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I think of you every day, every single day. So much reminds me of you; you’re in my little things and my big ones, too. Almost every memory I have is tainted by you; those that aren’t make me think of you simply because I want to share them with you. Your voice is in my ear and in my head, and in my heart. Your laughter. Your frustration. Your hurts. Your joys. Your stories. Your memories. I carry them around with me all day long.

But you need your space and I feel abandoned. I don’t know how to cope with your outpouring and your withdrawal. It’s not healthy for my soul the way I lean on you, the way I need you, but I don’t know if you’ll be there when I reach out to grab your hand. I have grieved you again and again only to find myself running back to you when you call, as soon as you call. And when I meet you, oh, so great is my joy! I’m outside of my body, consumed, giddy in my own happiness to see the face I know so well, to hear the words you say so well: I love you, I miss you, my friend. Then you are gone like seeds on a dandelion, blowing farther and farther away as I chase you, wanting to hold on, wanting to hold you, but as the wind picks up you disappear along the horizon. And I am left alone, watching as the sun sets where you once stood, left with my memories, left to grieve you once more.

So I must say goodbye, my dear friend. Not because I want to say goodbye. It costs me everything to do so. But because I have to. What we have shared no one can ever take away. Know that I miss you, so much, so much that it physically aches. I miss the us we used to be. I miss the memories we made when life was kinder and we had nothing to lose but time. Know that I will never forget you, no matter how many seasons come and go in what is left of my life. I will remember you with my last breath, with my last thought. No matter that we will see each other and speak to each other no more, because my heart will carry your heart throughout eternity.

I hope we meet again, dear one, in another life. When two hearts become one, I will be there with you and you with me. And I will know your laughter, your frustration, your hurts, your joys, your stories, your memories. How I hope that in that day, life will always be kind. And we will lose ourselves in one another once again.

Until that day, farewell. I will never stop missing you. I will never stop loving you.

Weekly Menu – Yup I’m Still Here Edition

I asked Noah what he wanted for dinner this week, and he predictably said “spaghetti and meatballs.” Which we had last week. And the week before. And for leftovers. I was like “DUDE. NO. There are more foods in the world than spaghetti and meatballs. Pick something else.” So then he was all like “Ok, how about burgers!” In other words, he wants another version of meat and carbs with limited vegetables, but I digress.

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I’m feeling worn out today, so I couldn’t even argue when he grabbed the chalk and said “Let’s have burgers tonight! I’ll write the menu for writing practice!” (Manipulative much?) This morning Noah made me so damn angry because he and Violet were outside (against their wills, cause I made ’em do it) and we heard her crying, and what do you know, he was tying her up with a rope. Again. He does this other times, too, including yesterday. What the heck am I going to do with this kid!? He is Calvin but he has no Hobbes. I’m exhausted from trying to talk to him gently and kindly. I’m exhausted from yelling at him. I’m exhausted from putting him into his room. I’m exhausted from ignoring him and comforting Violet instead. I’m exhausted from re-directing his energy. I’m just exhausted. Maybe it seems normal; maybe it’s just a phase. OR MAYBE HE IS A SOCIOPATH. What kind of person ties his sister up with a rope, gets in trouble for it, gets a lecture for it, gets the reason why it’s not ok explained, sees his sister upset, then does it again the very next day? A six-year-old Calvin who lives for experiments, that’s who.

Related: I think most stay-at-home parents are probably glad their partners are home because it means another set of hands, some help with the kids, some time to themselves. I’m glad my partner is home because it means he can make me a cocktail.

Anyway.

Here’s this week’s menu from one tired mama trying to make dinner to the rest of you. I let Noah put burgers on the menu for today and swapped the new recipe for Wednesday.

Monday: Turkey burgers with homemade brioche buns, roasted chili sweet potatoes

Tuesday: Black bean, roasted corn, and sweet potato tacos on homemade flour tortillas, guacamole

Wednesday: Creamy Farfalle with salmon and peas, kale salad

Thursday: Chicken parmesan meatballs, roasted balsamic brussels sprouts, French bread

Friday: Individual French bread pizzas, kale salad

 

Big is Beautiful and Bowling is Boring

I have the hugest hands in the world. Seriously, they’re Man Hands, like that episode of Seinfeld.

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It’s rarely a problem, except when I go bowling, which is never. I hate bowling because it’s a sort of sport that people do involving crappy beer and mediocre music and me walking in front of people with big slippery clown shoes on (I also have huge feet, but this isn’t a post about that), bending over, and hurling a ball towards some pins, then turning around and feigning disappointment when it inevitably rolls into the gutter. But the worst part about bowling is that they don’t make balls for weakling girls like me who also happen to have gigantic man fingers. Nice, light, pink balls have dainty little finger holes that I couldn’t cram my fingers into if a gun was held to my head, so I have a choice between carrying a 75 pound weight-lifter’s ball which will fit my sausage fingers or just forgetting about the damn holes completely and rolling the ball between my legs with both hands and hoping no one notices and tries to give me tips.

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I guess it’s also a problem when I try to buy cheap costume jewelry, but I haven’t done that in years because I know better now and no matter how cute those rings look I just walk on by. It wasn’t a problem when Lance proposed, though. Lucky me, he knew my ring size because (wait for it) his hands are the same size as mine.

But I can do some things other people can’t do, which is kinda cool. I can play barre chords on the guitar like a boss. I can stretch my hands across the piano like you don’t even know. I can palm a damn watermelon, which has for sure come in handy when I’m holding a baby and trying to grocery shop. (I can also palm sports balls of all kinds, which I have been told is bitchin but for the life of me I have no idea what to do with it after it’s in my palm.)

Why am I telling you this, Reader? Well, for one thing, I’m across from a girl with dainty little pretty hands and I still struggle with always feeling like a beast, so it’s just on my mind. But mainly, I’m telling you this because we recently read fairy tales in Noah’s Kindergarten book, and one of them was Cinderella. In the story my children learned a very important lesson, and that is that Cinderella wins because she’s tiny. No really. Her foot was dainty and slender, and the step-sisters can’t fit their gigantosaur fat feet into the glass slipper, so they don’t get to marry the prince. Maybe this seems like an absurd detail and maybe you never noticed, but maybe you didn’t grow up with Man Hands and Clown Feet (oh look, my huge feet are part of this post after all). My women’s studies major friend would say that I internalized stuff like the detail about Cinderella’s teeny little small-boned self, and I know she is right because when I was reading it again it hit me like a heavy-ass bowling ball with correctly-sized finger holes.

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My whole life, I felt too big. I shot up like a bean sprout in middle school, at least a head taller than all the boys (and the girls too, of course). I learned from a very young age to slouch, because when I sat up straight I was looking down on everyone. I remember giving hugs to friends in middle school and feeling like… well, a polar bear actually. Like a monster. My arms were so long, my shoulders so wide, my hands so big. My parents never made me feel like I wasn’t beautiful, so this feeling I had that big isn’t pretty had to come from somewhere else. As I read Cinderella to my kids I realized it. It came from fairy tales! The message in Cinderella is not a subtle one. It slaps you in the face! Big/fat = mean/ugly. Slender/dainty = kind/beautiful.

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My daughter, full of my genes, will likely be tall and will likely have large(ish) hands and feet. Like most little girls, she loves princess culture (though how I’ve tried to shield her from it, y’all), being pretty (how does she pick this crap up!?), and dressing fancy. I was the same at her age. I wore my mom’s nightgowns as dress-up attire and imagined myself on stage dancing and basically just looking gorgeous. But as soon as I became tall and someone first pointed out my big ole hands and feet, I started to believe I wasn’t beautiful. What if my daughter feels the same someday? That would crush me, because I know first hand how it would crush her. I’m torn between wanting to de-emphasize beauty and wanting to pour her full of reminders of how truly beautiful she is, how beautiful BIG is.

I compromise by talking about my huge hands and feet often, especially to my kids. I talk about them with pride. I look in the mirror and smile. Yep, I have big hands, big feet, a big nose, broad shoulders, large hips. Yep, I’m an Amazon. But how beautiful am I? It might not feel true all the time, but I’m all about faking it till I make it, y’all.

And fuck bowling anyway.

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A Few Pictures from the Farm

We had a bit of a drive yesterday because we went out to Bethpage, about an hour outside of Nashville, to visit some dear friends on their farm. As we drove, I gave Noah a sheet with some words he’d printed on it and asked him to read the words out to me. In response, he crumpled up the paper and threw it on the floor where none of us could reach it, as the kids were trapped in their car seats and I was driving.

So often, people ask me how homeschool is going, and I usually just say “It’s going well,” or “It’s great!” It’s hard to answer honestly, because it is going well, and it is great, and I do truly love it most of the time. My favorite times, the times I feel so lucky and content, are when we spend an afternoon baking bread and listening to French tapes or when we curl up on the couch and learn about Native Americans and figure out where on the globe Christopher Columbus was trying to sail. I love Mondays at the Frist with friends, Wednesdays at the zoo with friends, Fridays at the community center with friends, math lessons at the coffee shop together, and mornings I spend in the kitchen, the smells of breakfast still lingering as the dishwasher runs, listening to my children playing together upstairs. I love the slowness and ease of our days, the fact that we can stay in pajamas until noon if we want to, there’s no rushing to get out the door, we can watch Planet Earth in bed with hot chocolate on a cold day or spend the whole day at the park if it’s warm. I love that Tuesdays and Thursdays after my kids get home from “school” we can do whatever we want to do, we don’t have to worry about homework or studying for tests or getting home and getting dinner ready quickly so they can get in bed on time and wake up to do it all over again… we can spend the rest of the afternoon riding bikes at the playground until the last light from the day fades below the horizon.

Yet sometimes, times like yesterday, I feel ready to throw in the towel. At that moment yesterday, when Noah refused to read even five tiny words just out of sheer stubbornness, it brought all the doubt, all the insecurities, all the frustrations I’ve felt this year into sharp focus. I was so angry and, even though I know I’m not supposed to let this happen, my feelings were hurt. It seems like Noah and I are always fighting about schoolwork these days; if it’s not reading it’s writing, math, or piano practice. And this is on top of all the other things we fight about (“Stop stealing your sister’s baby doll!” “Don’t punch your friend!” “No! You’re six for God’s sake! It’s time you start wiping your own butt!”). I’m not sure how to cope anymore because I’m all out of energy and I’m all out of creative ideas. Advice from friends is tricky because everyone feels so strongly about it one way or another. I really am so grateful to hear encouragement and kind opinions, but I always know exactly what someone is going to say before they say it. Parents whose kids are in school are like, of course you should just put him in school, school is great and that’s what kids do. Parents whose kids are homeschooling are like, of course you should keep homeschooling and it’s just a phase and it takes time to hit your stride. I obviously have reasons for wanting to do both, but I can honestly say it makes me sad when I think I might not be homeschooling anymore. I’m torn in two; I don’t know what to do.

Lance and I opened a bottle of wine last night and talked late into the night (for us, 11:30) about it all. We went back and forth, and came up with some strategies and experiments (for instance, Lance is going to start doing school with Noah on Saturdays and I’m going to take Wednesdays off so all the school stuff doesn’t always come from me), and we’ve given ourselves a deadline of the end of the month to see if things improve.

In the meantime, I’m trying to live in the moment. One of the things I love about homeschooling is the freedom it offers us and the time we’re able to spend together. Yesterday the kids and I spent the whole day at our friends’ farm. It snowed off and on while we were there, and out there in the wide open fields and the woods the snow looks so beautiful and clean and white. I wish I’d brought my real camera, which I never bring anywhere anymore. I did manage to snap some great pictures with my phone, though.

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Weekly Menu: Day Late Edition

I suddenly realized what day it was a few minutes ago. We were snowed in all weekend, which was lovely and fun; we went sledding, had snowball fights, drank hot chocolate a few dozen times a day, and watched a lot of movies with the fire going. We also ate a lot of food… a LOT of food. Most of it involved chocolate chips. Now that the snow is all melted and the kids are back in school, I’m trying to get back to some semblance of normalcy over here, food-wise. I went grocery shopping yesterday for the first time in a week and a half, and it seems the rest of Nashville needed to do the same as they were sold out of almost everything I needed. (And no, I didn’t go for milk and bread.)

So, I swapped my new recipe of the week for a frozen crock-pot meal yesterday (Thai green curry and it was major good), and I’ll make my new recipe (another from my new Sweet Paul cookbook) on Wednesday. I’m headed to the Turnip Truck to find my missing ingredients right after I finish this cup of coffee….

Tuesday: fish tacos with mango, corn, and avocado salsa
Wednesday: roasted vegetable shepherd’s pie (via Sweet Paul)
Thursday: chicken parmesan meatballs, kale salad
Friday: slow-cooker apple chicken stew, crusty bread

I know half the nation got an insane amount of snow this weekend, but it was truly unprecedented here in the south, and I would be remiss if I didn’t post pictures. We’re so lucky to live within walking distance to the golf course, where it’s tradition to sled down the steepest hill with about 300 of your neighbors. It’s dangerous as fuck, sure, but it’s so fun. Noah was freezing so we finally had to give it up, trek back across the golf course and through our neighborhood home, but I think I could have stayed out there all day. Even with the chaos of sledding and playing, there’s something so peaceful about a world of freshly fallen snow. Everything seems quiet and still. I hope it snows again this season. I’ve never seen anything as beautiful.

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