Catie was in first grade when the shooting at Sandy Hook happened. It gutted me at the time, all those babies who were lost, the same age that my little girl was. A friend’s nephew was one of the children killed; his twin sister was in another first grade classroom and survived. I can’t imagine what those families have endured.
This most recent shooting in Florida has been devastating in its own way, especially seeing cell phone videos and the screenshots of texts the kids sent to their parents and siblings because they thought they’d never see them again. I can’t imagine getting a text like that from one of my kids. It makes me sick to think about it.
Last night, Chris and I were watching the news, and saw one of the Newtown children’s moms being interviewed on TV.
I said, “Her son should be Catie’s age.”
Chris said, “Yeah, her son was the same age Lucy is now.”
Since Lucy was just a baby when Sandy Hook happened, I never thought of it that way. It just hit me hard, this awful feeling that none of our babies are ever safe in this world.
This morning, I asked the girls when was the last time they had a lockdown drill at school. Neither of them could remember, it’s such a common occurrence. They used to trigger Catie’s anxiety; the night after every lockdown drill, she would panic and cry, and I would have to lie in bed with her and rub her back until she could settle down enough to fall asleep. Now she doesn’t even really register it.
Since Lucy is only 6, I wasn’t sure how the school explained the whole lockdown drill process to them. I asked her if she knew why they did them.
She said, “It’s in case a bad guy comes in with a gun and tries to shoot us.”
And that, folks, is the story of how I ended up hugging both of my daughters and sobbing my eyes out at 7:30 this morning. (Until Lucy told me that I was hugging her too tight and she couldn’t breathe.)
I don’t know what else to say about this. I just hate that this is the world my kids have to grow up in. I’m watching these teenagers protesting, and I’m scared to feel anything like optimism, but I really and truly hope these kids can fix this mess, where all of the adults have failed them.
The end of 2016 was so depressing and bleak that I didn’t bother to do one of these recap posts, but so much has happened lately that I haven’t blogged about, that I feel like I should pick it back up.
1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
* Chris and I got married!
* Related to the previous point: I officially became a stepmom!
Honestly, this little blended family we’ve created is just about the greatest thing ever. We are so damn lucky.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
No and no. I tend to think resolutions are just something you give up by sometime in mid-January. Changes don’t always happen on a set calendar timeline.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Several friends had babies this year, and my cousin & his wife had a baby girl.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
It feels weird to mention a cat here, but Beaumont dying back in February really knocked all of us for a loop. I’m pretty sure I cried more for that cat than I cried over my own divorce.
5. What countries did you visit?
Jeez, this question is always so depressing. I don’t think I even left North Carolina in 2017.
6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
A home of our own. I moved into this house with Catie and Lucy in 2011, after Dave and I split up, and it’s been a great landing place for us for the past 6+ years. But it’s a rental house, so we can’t change things like the ugly wallpaper, pastel blue siding, etc. I want to buy a house that we can really make ours. One where the kids have their own bedrooms, a fenced backyard for Roxie, and where I have a home office with a door I can close (I currently work in the dining room, and it’s really hard to work when the kids are home because I have no sound barrier anywhere).
7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
* January 21st – Participating in the Women’s March the day after Trump was inaugurated.
* February 15th – The day we brought home our new kittens, Fifi & Sunny.
* November 22nd – The day Chris & I got married.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I’ve been kicking ass at my job, and I’m really proud of a lot of my work there.
9. What was your biggest failure?
I’ve been more short-tempered than usual, and that’s been weird, because it makes me feel unlike myself. I know a lot of it has been related to my health (see below), but it kind of sucks when I have to keep apologizing for being irritable and cranky.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I hurt my knee, which kept me from being able to run for a while. That was not fun. I’ve also been having a problem with recurring headaches, but my doctor referred me to a neurologist, and I’m cautiously optimistic that it might be getting better.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I don’t know if you can say that I “bought” it, but we paid for a marriage license. That was pretty great.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Until the day I die, I don’t think I will ever stop being angry that Donald freaking Trump somehow became president of this country. “Appalled and depressed” is an understatement.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, groceries, kids. The usual.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
It feels weird to keep mentioning my own wedding, but: that. Also my kids’ birthday parties. Adopting 2 tiny kittens. The new Star Wars movie. The new season of Game of Thrones. Lots of stuff, I guess.
16. What song will always remind you of 2017?
I’m going to say “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran – not because it’s a great love song (although it is). The real reason is because listening to my daughters sing it is one of the sweetest, loveliest things I’ve ever heard, and gets filed under that category of “man, I hope I still remember this when I’m old and senile.”
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? I don’t know that I have an either/or answer for this. Can I say angrier? Because I am. I’m so angry at the shitshow my country has become. All of the feminist ideals that my parents raised me with have just bubbled over into this endless internal rage-fire that I’m not sure exactly what to do with. b) thinner or fatter? Thinner by maybe 5 pounds, but not much. (Not complaining.) c) richer or poorer? Well, I got a raise, and my company’s stock price is doing so well that I’m about to use some of my stock options to buy a house. So definitely richer.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Being productive around the house. I did the “40 Bags in 40 Days” challenge during Lent, and I’ll likely do it again this year, because we really need to declutter if we’re going to move sometime this year.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Same answer as the past years, worrying about things that I have no control over.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
The usual. Christmas Eve church service with my family. My kids were with me for Christmas morning, then went to their dad’s to do Christmas with him. I took a nap and went for a long run with Roxie. My sister and brother-in-law flew in for a few days. We’ve had all 4 kids here since December 26th, which has been great, and I’m already sad that it’s going to end on Wednesday.
21. Did you fall in love in 2017?
Nah, the same guy. He’s still pretty aces.
22. What was your favorite TV program?
Game of Thrones.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Do political figures count?
24. What was the best book you read?
I’m going to plug a children’s book that a friend wrote: Bernadette the Brave by the amazing, lovely Allison Zapata. You should buy it for your kids. It’s really, really good. I’m not just saying that.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
He’s not new, but my kids got me into Ed Sheeran this year. It’s been a long time since I’ve had an album that I play on repeat. But pretty much everything on his last 2 albums has been my jam lately. (And yes, I’m probably too old to be an Ed Sheeran fan. Whatever.)
26. What did you want and get by year’s end?
I feel like Chris and I have been a good team for years, and I feel like our kids have been a blended family for a very long time, but having everything legal makes it all feel a little more solid.
27. What did you want and not get by year’s end?
A house. I wanted to buy a house last year, but it didn’t work out for a bunch of reasons. Chris & I decided to put off house-hunting until after Christmas, so we’re about to start searching again.
28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I want to say “The Last Jedi,” but I also really loved “Wonder Woman,” and I have to admit that “Thor: Ragnorak” was great fun.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 41. I don’t think I did anything particularly special? I think I just had dinner with my parents and my kids. The usual.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
Athleisure. I own more yoga pants than any reasonable person needs. But I mean, I work from home, so it’s not like I have to dress up on a daily basis to impress anyone.
32. What kept you sane?
* Having a partner who listens to me when I need to vent.
* A lot of various prescription medications. God bless medical science.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Chris Hemsworth as Thor, after his haircut. If you don’t get it, do a Google image search for pictures of Chris Hemsworth carrying his babies. You’re welcome.
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
There is no way I can answer this succinctly. I’ll just gesture broadly at the world in general and say: all that stuff.
35. Who did you miss?
There are a few friends who live far away who I really wish I could’ve seen this year.
36. Who was the best new person you met?
This feels unfair to try to single someone out. There are too many people I like.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.
ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. (*hyperventilates with rage*)
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Not a song lyric, just a quote that I think sums up my year pretty well:
“Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”
And since I always finish these posts with a song, here’s an acoustic version of “Take on Me” by A-Ha, which I’ve listened to probably over 20 times, and I could easily listen to it 20 more.
There’s a little Q&A thing I usually do at the end of each year, a sort of year in review thing. What did you do this year that you’ve never done before, what were your biggest achievements/failures of the year, etc.
This year, I just don’t feel like doing it.
2016 has been so awful on so many fronts. From politics (the election, Trump) and world events (Syria, Russia) to the loss of so many cultural icons from my childhood (I’m still upset about Carrie Fisher), to seeing friends and loved ones struggle with losses and heartbreak, and feeling helpless about the best way to support them.
At the same time, by any measure, my own life is pretty great. It feels gauche to even talk about it, but I have so many things to be thankful for.
My kids are healthy and doing great. Catie blows my mind with the stuff she learns at school. She comes home telling me about books she’s reading, which are the same ones I read at her age and loved. Chronicles of Narnia, everything by Roald Dahl, etc. That’s been so fun to talk about with her.
Lucy had a little bit of a rough adjustment to kindergarten (she did great at school, but she would come home exhausted every day and she was mean as a snake), but she eventually settled into her routine. She seems to be outgrowing her interest in princesses, which breaks my heart a little bit, but she’s still the same hilarious little ball of light that she’s always been. And she can read now! She reads books to me every day, and she sounds out everything. We’ll be in the car and she’ll announce the name of the street we’re on because she read it on a sign.
Chris is awesome, and takes care of me in ways I usually don’t even know I need. Do you have a partner who brings you bakery-fresh apple fritters and then does the dishes for you? You should. It’s pretty great. He gives backrubs too. A++, highly recommend.
My parents are still healthy, and since we see them at least twice a week, I feel lucky that the kids get to have a close relationship with their grandparents as they grow up.
Dave and I have evolved into a pretty solid co-parenting team, and I think we’re doing a good job at making sure rules are generally consistent between our households. The kids know that if they get in trouble at one parent’s house, the consequences (loss of screen time or whatever) will be enforced at the other parent’s house.
My siblings are both happy and doing well – and my brother got married this year, so I have a sister-in-law for the first time. She’s probably one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve ever met in my life, so I’m happy for them.
We had one of the best Christmases we’ve had in years. I was so stressed about it beforehand, but everything just fell into place, and it was wonderful and fun and so much easier than I thought it would be.
I’ve been at my job for 6 years now, and I continue to learn new things all the time, and I genuinely enjoy it. I got a raise this year, and our company’s stock price has shot through the roof, so from a personal finance angle, I’m doing way better than I could have ever expected.
So all of that is really great, but at the same time, I look at the state of the world, and I feel nothing but dread for 2017. And I suppose that’s mainly due to the political climate. I worry about the world my kids are growing up in. I have so many fears, I don’t even know how to prioritize them. Will we end up in a nuclear war with Russia or China? Will repealing climate change regulations kill us all slowly instead? Will my daughters have any autonomy over their own bodies? How do you fight back against literal Nazis taking over your country’s government?
And then the selfish angle: do I cash out my stock options and use them as a down payment on a house, or do I put them into some type of holding account so I have access to it whenever the Trump-apocalypse hits? It seems like such a minor, self-indulgent thing to worry about, especially compared to other people who are in fear for their actual lives. But as I am often reminded: our fears aren’t invalid just because other people have it worse.
So, like everyone else, I will be glad to see 2016 make its exit at midnight tonight. But I also don’t feel a lot of excitement or optimism about the coming year. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about that, for all of our sakes.
Things happen in the news sometimes, and I think “hey, I should blog about that,” because I have a lot of opinions on a particular subject and my thoughts can’t fit in a 140-character tweet. But then I never actually sit down and write it out.
(Well, ok, I did last July during the whole birth control ACA Supreme Court case. I guess political posts are something I do once a year now.)
Ok. So. The Confederate flag.
I grew up in Mississippi. The Confederate flag is one of those things that I’ve seen my whole life, in one capacity or another (bumper stickers, flying outside of people’s houses, on the damn state flag, etc). And I don’t want to write a whole long thing about whether or not the Confederate flag is racist, because it is undoubtedly, inarguably racist, and there are no less than a million books and articles you can read about it if you don’t believe me.
But there’s a weird thing I keep thinking about in this argument. The people who are in favor of the Confederate flag say it represents “heritage, not hate.” You hear that a lot. I hate that phrase, for what it’s worth. I think it’s a cop-out.
I’ve also heard people say, “I’m a Proud Southerner!”
And it got me thinking about pride in general, and the different things we take pride in.
I’m proud of my kids. I’m proud of my career. I’m proud to be a in a loving relationship with a good man. I’m proud to have built such a strong support system of friends and family in my life.
But being proud of the geographical place where I was born doesn’t make sense to me, because I had nothing to do with it. I’m proud of the things that I’ve accomplished, things where I actively made a choice that led to a good outcome – like, for example, I’m proud that I graduated from college.
Am I proud to be from Mississippi? No. Fortunate, maybe. I suppose growing up in Mississippi gave me a particular perspective on life that I might not have had in other places. I don’t think that perspective is any more or less valid than anyone else born in any other place, though.
I’m also fortunate that I was born into a good family that loves me, supports me, and has helped me to become successful in life. But really, the geography doesn’t matter at all, it’s the people themselves.
And on the subject of family and heritage: my great-great grandfather was a little boy at the time of the Civil War, too young to become a soldier. He had several older brothers who did fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War, and a few of them died in combat. (I believe there were 8 boys total, but I can’t remember how many of them fought in the war. It’s been a long time since I did that genealogy project.)
I also know, because there are African-Americans in Mississippi with the same last name as we had – which is one of those highly unusual, “Americanized spelling of a Swiss name” type of last names – that obviously at some point, my ancestors owned slaves.
But here’s the thing: it’s not hard for me to acknowledge that I love my family, and also acknowledge that my ancestors fought for the wrong side. Those two concepts are not mutually exclusive.
And to be clear, I’m not ashamed of them either. Just as I don’t take pride in anything I didn’t accomplish, I also don’t see the point in apologizing for my great-great grandfather’s brothers, who died over 100 years before I was even born. I have no control over what they did. I’m sure that at the time, they thought they were on the right side of history. And until someone invents a time machine, I can’t go back to try to enlighten them about race issues.
So, yes, I suppose the Confederate flag is part of my heritage. I’ll own that.
But just because it’s associated with my past, doesn’t mean it has to be part of either my present or my future.
The last time I got a cut and color was close to six months ago. I’ve been long overdue for a while, and lately I’ve been really itching for a big change. I texted my hairdresser, Kim (who’s also a friend of mine), and set up an appointment.
In the past, when I’ve mentioned making major changes to my hair, Kim usually advises against it. And since she always makes my hair look great, I usually defer to her advice. This time, I was planning my argument in advance: my face has gotten less round/more oval with the weight I’ve lost, and I feel like the long hair is sort of dragging it down and making it look even longer.
Instead, as soon as I walked in, she looked at me for a minute and said, “So! How adventurous do you feel today?”
And this is why I love her: she gets me.
The before and after shot.
She also re-did the color, with a few dark red panels underneath that only peek out if I’m in the sunlight. Nothing too severe or crazy, but enough that I felt like I got a major change (at least by my relatively tame standards).
I’ve gotten lots of compliments on it already, and Chris loves it. Funny story: way back when we first met, I remember that his dating profile said something about how he liked girls with short hair, and I kind of joked that if that was the case, I clearly wasn’t his type. Yesterday, I had told him that I was going to get a haircut, but I didn’t tell him how much I was taking off (I would normally just trim maybe a 1/2 inch), so this was kind of a surprise. And based on the way he couldn’t stop touching my neck last night, I’m going to venture a guess that he seems to be a big fan.
As for the kids, Catie said she liked it. Lucy gave me the backhanded non-compliment with, “Wow, Mommy, your hair sure is… different!” Um, thanks? But, you know, this is a child who says she wants “long hair like Rapunzel,” so I’m probably not taking my fashion cues from the three year-old.
Completely unrelated topic jump!
This week has been insane, weather wise. The schools let out early on Monday because of snow in the forecast, and they’ve been closed all week because of icy road conditions.
The girls liked the snow the first day. After that, they were just kind of over it. (JUST LIKE THE REST OF US.)
And really, I’m incredibly lucky because our daycare has been open a lot of the time that the schools have been closed, and even when they closed early (during the worst of the weather), my parents helped out, Chris has helped out, and Dave and I have managed to divide up the time with the kids, so we’re both able to meet our deadlines and not go crazy.
Well, ok, maybe a little crazy.
It’s been a stressful wrench thrown into our routine, but we’ve gotten through it fairly easily. I don’t know how other families with less of a support system manage when these things happen.
Really, though? I mainly want the snow to melt so I can get back to running without worrying about slipping on ice. And yes, I know that by comparison to other parts of the country, the amount of snow and ice we’ve gotten here is nothing. (Sorry, people of Massachusetts, but there’s a reason I only lived there for a year, and then moved at the first opportunity. Southern girls don’t do snow.)
And I also know that in another 3 or 4 months, I’ll be complaining about how hot it is when I run. The thing is, I don’t really mind the cold all that much, I can bundle up and still run. It’s just the ice. The cold weather can stick around as long as it wants, as long as the sidewalks and greenways are clear.
Oh well. I’ll stop whining now, go lace up my sneakers, and fire up my tablet so I can watch a movie on Netflix while I run on the treadmill. There are worse things in life, I know.
I’ve composed about a half-dozen blog posts in my head over the last couple of weeks, but I can never seem to find the time to sit down and write anything out, or make it coherent. So here’s a bunch of random little things.
Remember I said a while back that my goal was to be able to run 5 miles? Well, a couple of weeks ago, I finally did it. Let me repeat that: I RAN FIVE MILES. And I’ve done it a couple of times since then. Which is kind of amazing, given how terrible I was at running up until very recently.
I don’t know how many of y’all have seen the Running Drawing Tumblr, where the girl runs routes in various shapes on her GPS app, and most of the time they look like penises?
Well, a couple of Saturdays ago, while the kids were with Dave, I went for a run at a nearby park, got completely lost (there’s a lot of trails that sort of loop back on themselves, plus I have a crap sense of direction), and I realized when I got home that I… basically ran a duck.
Not my intention, but I’ll take it.
I don’t know what my next goal is. I’ve started thinking about half-marathons in the back of my head, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever do it.
Also on the whole fitness/exercise thing, have you heard of these Betty Rocker workouts? A couple of times a year, she does this 30-Day Fitness Challenge. Linda (@Sundry) does a good job of summarizing it here.
I was sold on it for a few reasons: I need to work on strength training, 3 workouts a week is totally manageable, and most importantly: it’s free, so if I decide I hate it and flake out, no big loss. I found a bunch of my Twitter friends are doing it as well, and that’s been kind of fun, to have people you can talk to about it, and commiserate with along the way.
Anyway, I just finished week 2, and I have no idea if I’ll make it the whole month, but… maybe? I’ll try. I mean, I’m halfway done, so I feel like I’m invested enough at this point to try to stick it out.
Catie is on her fall break, and just finished up a week at science camp. She was so excited about it, and had such a great time, and the whole facility is set up really neat, and I just can’t say enough nice things about them.
They let her keep her lab coat, and now she’s saying that she wants to be a scientist for Halloween. This will be the first year since she was 2 that she hasn’t been a dinosaur for Halloween, so I’d say that’s pretty huge.
Meanwhile, in my quest to encourage each of my kids to explore their own interests: Lucy has said several times that she wants to take ballet classes. So I thought, why not? She wants to wear tutus and be a girly-girl, then by all means, let’s embrace that, and let her be who she is.
I called around and found a dance studio that would let her try one free trial class. The class was called “Ballet, Tap, & Tumble,” and it was all 3 year-olds. That sounds completely awesome and hilarious, doesn’t it? I bought her a leotard and ballet shoes, and we borrowed tap shoes from a friend. She was so excited when I first told her about it.
Then, Saturday morning, when it was time for class, she freaked. She wouldn’t put on the leotard, she cried and cried. I figured she could go in her regular clothes, no big deal, maybe she’d decide to change when we got there and saw the other kids in their leotards.
She refused to go into the classroom. She clung to me like a baby rhesus monkey, and buried her face in my hip when the (very sweet) instructor came over to introduce herself. I couldn’t even get her off my lap to watch the class.
We eventually gave up and left.
I suppose 3 is awfully young to start ballet, maybe she could try it next year and have fun with it. Or maybe she’ll never want to take dance classes, and that’s ok too.
October seems to be a month that’s dedicated to raising awareness for a lot of various causes, and it’s a hard month for a lot of people. Like:
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
My mom had breast cancer, but she’s been cancer-free for 6 years now, so we no longer worry about recurrence. I had my first mammogram last year (a baseline before I had surgery), and it was normal. I know I’m very lucky.
October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
I know far too many people who’ve suffered that loss. Again, I know I’m very lucky. I’ve had a grand total of two pregnancies in my entire life, and both of them resulted in healthy babies. I cannot imagine that pain.
October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Yet another instance where I know I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been in a relationship where I felt unsafe or threatened, and no man has ever hit me. And it’s another cause where I know too many people who have dealt with the issue. And I use the word people intentionally, because of course men can be victims of domestic violence too, and it’s something that isn’t talked about as much because it’s considered emasculating. I can honestly say that the man I love knows more about being on the receiving end of domestic violence than I ever will, and I hate that for his sake.
(To clarify: not from me, obviously. I think the last time I hit someone, it was my brother, when we were in middle school.)
Point being: if any of those things apply to you, and it makes October a difficult month for you, I am very sorry, and I wish you peace.
Just so I don’t end this post on a complete down-note: in case Lucy’s sad, pouty face up there is too heartbreaking, allow me to show you what happened a few hours later, when I wasn’t paying attention and she found my Burt’s Bees tinted chapstick on the bathroom counter.
She said, “I so beautiful now! I can give you a kiss?” Then left a big ol’ purple mark on my cheek. Thanks, kiddo.
So, there. Purple chapstick’ed kisses for everyone.
Like pretty much everyone else on the Internet, I’ve seen about a million of the videos where people dump a bucket of ice water on their heads to raise money for ALS. My feelings about it were largely indifferent – hey, they raised a lot of money for a really terrible disease, and that’s awesome – and that’s about as far as I thought about it. I wasn’t gung ho about it or one of the people who complained about it.
Then my cousin nominated me for it, and he mentioned that he was also making a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in memory of our cousin Teresa, who died of CF ten years ago this month.
And dammit, if there’s one way to get me to jump on a bandwagon, it’s to bring in a cause that’s near and dear to my heart.
I think my dad enjoyed pouring ice water on my head a little too much.
I had shown the kids a couple of ice bucket videos, but they didn’t really get what was going on. Catie was kind of upset about it (“Why are you doing this? What if someone nominates ME? Am I going to have to do it too? I don’t want ice water on my head!”), but I reassured her that it was all fine, it’s just for fun, and nobody was going to make her do it. You can see that when the water is going on my head, she’s in the back covering her ears because I was screaming.
Lucy thought it was all pretty funny. “Pop-Pop put water on you head! Dat’s so silly!” Who knows what she’ll repeat to her daycare teacher today.
Anyway, I made matching donations for both ALS and Cystic Fibrosis, and it turns out my employer matches charitable donations, so that doubles my efforts.
Temporary discomfort for a good cause? Sure, why not.
And now I can’t wait to see what my sister and brother-in-law do for their ice bucket challenge…