We Probably Should’ve

A couple of weeks ago, I changed the news alert settings on my phone because I was growing weary of of the constant bombardment of breaking news. When my phone would buzz, I’d be met with alert about Kylie Jenner instead of an email for which I’d been anxiously waiting. I was over it.

The weather was unseasonably warm yesterday afternoon, which is why a lot of parents gathered at the playground after school and chatted while our kids ran their little hearts out. A group of us moms discussed our concerns over the testing culture in our country and the rigorous coursework at our particular school. It was a casual conversation but also one that had the occasional shimmer of “are we doing the right thing for our children?” We also chatted about life, shared funny tales, and corrected our children when necessary.  After about an hour, we gathered our kids, their backpacks, and their Valentine’s Day boxes and walked home.

Continue reading

Advertisements

When Did Reading Become a Luxury?

As I type this post, I’m watching curling on the television and toggling between this screen and Wikipedia in attempt to have 2018 finally be the year I fully comprehend the sport. The kids are asleep upstairs, Lucy is next to me on the couch, and I’m awaiting text confirmation that my betrothed has safely arrived at his intended location. I could be using this alone time to strengthen my mind and actually read but instead, I am writing about books that I want to read. Life can be funny that way. We’re heading out of town for the Presidents’ Day holiday – while winter has been a bust snow-wise in the Washington DC area this year, we’re still escaping the cold for warmer temperatures. And my goal is to actually read a book (or maybe two!) during our little break.

In 2016, The Washington Post explored the long and steady decline of literary reading. The article mentioned how studies have shown that  literary fiction boosts the quality of empathy in the people who read it. So one could theorize that the decline in literary reading has resulted in a decline of empathy. I want to read more for many reasons, including this one. The Harvard Business Review listed 8 ways to read a lot more books this year. One such way is making a public commitment, which guess what? I am totally doing right now. At this phase in my life, reading feels a bit like a luxury. There is always something I could be doing instead of reading – cleaning, cooking, interacting with my kids, working, etc…

I love to read. But I am an all-consuming reader. When I read a book, it takes over my existence. I’m not able to simply put it down and go about my life. I sneak pages when I can and skirt real-life responsibility for printed words. For this reason, I struggle to incorporate reading into my daily life and it is usually saved for moments when I remove myself from everyday existence. I wasn’t always this way but the introduction of children, social media, and multiple streaming options into my life have all seemed to contribute to my issue. I want this to change. So I’d like to read the following books over the next handful of months…

books

 

Continue reading

Getting to Know Me {Year of Intention}

Yesterday morning I had coffee with a dear friend who knows me – really knows me. We can talk about anything and everything and one of my favorite aspects of our relationship is that we’re not afraid to dive into heavy topics and as a result, we’ve formed what I consider to be a deep bond over the years. And as I was driving back to the preschool to pick up my daughter, I was comforted by the fact that I have people beyond my husband who really get me. And they don’t run away when they get beyond my hard candy shell.

13094422_10102532983822038_4228694107918823753_n

I first started blogging years ago as my husband, Clay, was preparing for his first deployment and I was facing a brutal winter in Fort Drum, New York. I hadn’t landed a job yet beyond substitute teaching and I hadn’t formed the type of friendships that are vital to surviving such an experience. I was alone, I was cold, and I was scared that I’d be a widow at 22-years-old. So I created a blog and I wrote. I didn’t write about anything particularly meaningful – I just wrote. Since then, I’ve blogged on and off over the years at a variety of venues but I never considered myself a writer. I witnessed the blogging landscape change and what was once a fun outlet became a cesspool of sponsored posts and basket of words that lacked the authenticity that made blogging so great in the early years.

Last month, I declared 2018 as the Year of Intention. In full disclosure, one of my intentions this year is to dust off my previous blogs and really try to give this blogging thing a go once and for all. Analytics (yet another thing that wasn’t commonplace in the early days – bah hum bug) tell me that I have quite a few new readers beyond my immediate family and close friends so a good place to start is by answering some questions I’ve received over the past few weeks.

Getting To Know Me

Where do you live? Clay is currently assigned to an obnoxiously large office building in the Washington DC area. Because we’re priced out of most of the chic Washington DC neighborhoods that offer trendy restaurants and hip watering holes within walking distance of well-performing schools, we currently call Northern Virginia home. There’s a Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and two Starbucks within a 2 mile radius of our house so it’s pretty safe to assume that we’re living the suburban dream. Whenever we want to escape the land of infinite Targets and Mattress Firms, we drive five minutes to the nearest metro station and pretend we belong to the city that 535 members of Congress call home for at least part of the year.

If a movie was made of your life what genre would it be and who would play you? Because I think that You’ve Got Mail is pretty much the most perfect movie ever made, I like to think that my life would lend itself to frothy light-hearted romantic comedy in the genre of a Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers movie. Although – I just watched Baby Driver and would love to see my life choreographed to music with the help of Edgar Wright. As far as who would play me? Claire Danes because we both can rock some pretty stellar ugly-cry faces. And we both have large noses {btw Claire – I say that with love and admiration!}.

giphy

What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? I’ve had both alligator and rattle snake, which I feel like most people have had at least once so I don’t consider those very  strange. I’ve also had salt & vinegar fried crickets, which were surprisingly tasty. However, the strangest thing I’ve attempted to eat was deep friend chicken feet in Chinatown in Montreal. There was a miscommunication while ordering and I was quite disgusted by the plate that was placed in front of me. I ate what I could (which wasn’t much) and then accidentally swallowed a bunch of tien tsin peppers. Let’s just say it wasn’t my favorite meal.

How do you like your steak cooked? I know I should say medium rare because I consider myself a lover of food but I can’t help it – I’m pretty sure I best like my steak medium (ducks under chair).

Do you really love 80’s/early-90s era Tom Selleck? Short answer? Yes. Long answer? What originally began as a silly conversation starter has grown over the years into quite the appreciation for the guy. You see, growing up one of my favorite movies was Three Men and a Little Lady. My 10-year-old self thought that Peter was the most dashing architect in New York City. I would imagine myself as Nancy Travis in a puffy-sleeved wedding gown, marrying Peter in a remote English village with Waiting for a Star to Fall by Boy Meets Girl piping through the church. Then Tom Selleck showed up on Friends as Richard and by that time I was a teenager and the damage was done – I was 100% all-in on Tom Selleck. Once I got to college, I would share stories about my teenage lust for Tom Selleck over beers and the rest is history – I became known for my fondness for the mustached Romeo.

robin-then2

What job would you be absolutely terrible at? Anything that required extensive phone use. I’m not a millennial (actually – I think I am) but I recoil at the idea of having the schedule appointments on the phone. When I find a doctor or a dentist that utilize online scheduling software, I hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Handel’s Messiah.

What is the worst ingredient to fill a burrito with? Rice. When did that start becoming a thing? Ugh. Rice?!?

What is an embarrassing moments you’re willing to share? Back in 9th grade, I inadvertently asked my math teacher how long his “thingy” was…   ::dead::

Do you like having a husband in the Army? I met Clay two days before September 11th. He was a 2nd year ROTC cadet and I was an impressionable college freshman living in the same dorm. During our time as college sweethearts, we grew up together knowing that war would be an inevitable piece of our story. I was lucky enough to have pinned him when he commissioned and pin on his new rank during his subsequent promotions. While Clay didn’t originally set out to make the military his career, I’ve been with him since almost the beginning so the majority of decisions regarding his career, we have made together. Over the years, he has done a tremendous job at making feel like a valued partner and that my input matters. While we have gone through some really awful things that accompany war and death, I believe we’re both better versions of ourselves than if he didn’t choose this path for himself. I also like him in uniform – especially his Mess Dress. 😍

IMG_9174.JPG

Do you have any reoccurring nightmares? Yes! About one a month, I dream that it is finals week and I discover that I’ve been unknowingly enrolled in a class the entire semester and the final is in 30 minutes. I frantically try to cram the material but I have yet to make it far enough in the dream to actually take the final. Interestingly, the subject matter changes – one night it’s biology and another it’s French. One time, I even dreamed that it was a hydraulics class, which is especially puzzling because I studied political science and economics. Any amateur dream sleuths want to take a stab at that one?

What about you? 

I’d love to know more about you! Please feel free to answer one of the questions (or all!) or ask another question for someone else to answer. Do you have a reoccurring nightmare? How do you like your coffee? Are you more of a pancake or waffle person? What is your all-time favorite television show? Why do you read blogs?

Can I Be a Highly Effective Person?

So I’ve publicly declared that 2018 will be the Year of Intention.

yrtNVNN

So now what?

I’m writing this post in the local library because the county-wide two-hour delay shortened preschool to just two hours. It’s amazing what .5 inches of the white stuff does to our nation’s capital – and I’m not even talking about cocaine…ba-dum-tish. This particular library has a lot of natural light with modern architecture details, which I don’t particularly care for – give me old, give me musty, give me those gold lamps with the green shades and chain pulls. However, since browsing through rows and rows of books ranks up there as one of my favorite pastimes – along with hiking, eating cannolis, and drinking witbier – I make do and ignore the geometric shapes on the carpet as best I can.

I decided to thumb through some self-help books in order to gather some ideas of what it may mean to actually live intentionally this year beyond actively interacting and engaging with my life.

giphy

{My goodness – that seems like something mid-2000s Oprah would say, doesn’t it?}

index-1.aspx

However, the browsing did do me some good on my journey toward intention. For example, I loved the direct approach to the title of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, blogger at markmanson.net. I do care too much about what others think of me but thankfully, these concerns are lessening with each passing year as I inch toward my 40s. A key concept throughout the book is that life is too short to react so passionately about every little thing – perhaps my Year of Intention is about mindfully filtering through the onslaught of information we encounter daily and tell myself “I’m not taking this on“, as June Diane Raphael so eloquently stated on the Bitch Sesh Podcast.

220px-The_7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_People

Also on the shelves, I found the perennial The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey, which has been inspiring people for almost three decades. After all, you just have to be courageous enough to be proactive! One of the habits is ‘think win-win’, which is a call back to my professional mediator days in northern New York. I checked it out and now have up to three weeks to learn the habits of a highly effective person. And also to learn what is exactly a highly effective person. I do make the bed everyday…does that count?

After thumbing through my library’s offerings, I ventured over to Amazon because it is 2018 and I want to help Jeff Bezos achieve suborbital human spaceflight this year.

coffin

That is how I discovered an entire subgroup of self-help books regarding the making of our own coffin. My favorites in this niche woodworking how-to series include Do-It-Yourself Coffins for Pets and People: A Schniffer Book for Woodworkers Who Want to Be Buried in Their Work by Dale Power and Jeffery B. Snyder and Fancy Coffins to Make Yourself by Dale Power. There is an old adage that you can’t take your work with you when you’re gone but this book proves you can! And these aren’t just pine boxes…they’re fancy coffins. These books remind me of when Ron Swanson won a woodworking award and the in-memoriam portion of the ceremony featured pictures of the coffins the woodworkers made and were buried in. Just yet another example of how Parks and Recreation is applicable in every area of life.

So I suppose that means that my next step in this Year of Intention journey is to report back with my thoughts on 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and figure out where our miter saw ended up this move because my coffin isn’t going to build itself.

2018 – The Year of Intention

On the surface, 2017 was an unexceptional year in our little world. It began in Texas with a minor car accident and ended in Virginia with antibiotics. We existed within the minutiae of work, school, after-school activities, and the mundane tasks associated with running a household. My grandmother passed away and the kids grew bigger and more aware of the world around them. I turned 34 and I’m still growing out my hair from a particularly disastrous haircut. My body isn’t as strong as I’d like it to be but it allowed me to experience some great adventures so complaining about it seems unnecessary.

9c08a1e30418e0e1ea13d6b10bf4cabb--happy-new-year-cards-happy-new-year-wishes

In 2018 I will turn 35. I’d like to believe that I am still less than halfway done with my mortal existence but we all know that health isn’t guaranteed. I no longer feel invincible – at least like I did while navigating my late teens and early twenties. My worries now stretch beyond myself and those in my bubble. Will I be okay? Will we be okay? Will humanity be okay? Perhaps that is why the idea of New Year resolutions – at least those in the vein of ‘lose 10 pounds’, ‘survive Whole 30’, or ‘floss nightly’ seem not worth admitting to those around us.

Not that I am discounting the importance of resolutions – quite the opposite. I love resolutions. I love goals. I love starting over. I love lists. I love crossing off items on a list, so much so that I’m known for writing down tasks I already accomplished just for the satisfaction of crossing it off the list.

  • New blog address
  • Redesign blog
  • Write blog post

Last year my friend, Allyson, declared 2017 to be the Year of Better and her 2018 project is The Year of Living More With Less. I love the concept of The Year of _________ and earlier this month I brainstormed ideas about what I wanted from this year ahead of us and what I wanted to give to 2018.

  • The Year of ME!
  • The Year of Eating all the Pho
  • The Year of Writing More
  • The Year of Not Snapping at My Kids
  • The Year of Green
  • The Year of Not Reading Comment Sections
  • The Year of Exploration
  • The Year of Intention

IMG_2848

Last week, we took the kids hiking in Great Falls Park in 20° weather when school was cancelled due to expected inclement weather. We practically had the place to ourselves. It started to sleet while we were scrambling across rocks but we didn’t let that deter us from enjoying the icy water views and terrain. We couldn’t stop smiling. I was so happy to be outside doing something I love with the people I love most. My cheeks stung from the cold wind, we had to tell our daughter multiple times that jumping head first toward the rocks wasn’t the best idea, and our son ran ahead too far for our comfort but it was exactly what I needed because I felt alive climbing rocks with little pellets of ice hitting my coat.

It was an intentional choice to take the kids hiking in not-so-great weather. Now that our children are getting older, in addition to having to watch our language like a hawk, we’re really starting to think about the lessons we want to pass along. We want them to know that we do hard things. We want them to know that there is success in failure. And most of all, we want them to know that while a ship in port is safe, that is not what ships are built for. Life is made up of choices. It is up to us to define a purpose, to set goals, to accomplish these goals, and to learn from the experience. The hike may have seemed like an insignificant family outing, but we’re hopeful that it will be one of the many puzzle pieces that contribute to their overall world view when they leave the nest.

IMG_2858.jpg

The Year of Intention is about being purposeful in word and action. In 2018, I am going to actively interact and engage with my life. I’m not going to be overwhelmingly reactionary – just waiting for something to happen. And one of my biggest goals associated with the Year of Intention is writing here a lot more than I have been in recent years. I may be 15 days late but let’s do this. Cheers to 2018 and all the mornings that will bring new opportunities. I’m ready.

 

 

 

 

The Last Post of the Year

We’re currently en route back home after a quick trip down to Wilmington, North Carolina to spend time with Clay’s family. It had been a couple of years since we were last there during the holiday season and now that we’re calling northern Virginia home, we decided to jet down there when Clay’s scheduled opened up for a few days.

IMG_2495.jpg

The last time we were there, our family was patient zero for the stomach flu that eventually made it’s way through the extended family so I am happy to report that we were illness-free this time around. Well – except for me. But thankfully, the massive sinus-infection that overwhelmed my face during December is finally making it’s curtain call thanks to a cocktail of prescribed medication that limited my alcohol consumption during the holidays.

IMG_2395Clay was in and out of town throughout November and December so we did our best to squeeze in holiday traditions when he was home. One we introduced On December 23rd, we saw the Manassas Ballet Theater perform The Nutcracker. It was our first time attending such a performance as a family and we can’t wait to do it again. We will likely move around a lot during the next five years so it will be fun to see the performance in different places around the world.

IMG_2645.JPG

Last year, we made the decision to not travel for Christmas – instead choosing to wake up in our own home on Christmas morning and push any travel to the day after Christmas. When it was just the two of us and when the children were younger, traveling with gifts wasn’t an issue but now it just makes more sense to stay home. When the kids are teenagers, I can see us traveling again over the holidays and perhaps even taking an epic trip as our big gift to each other. Our church had a wonderful Christmas Eve service, complete with fiber-optic wands for the kids. Afterwards, we put on matching pajamas and ate appetizers while watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and tracked Santa via NORAD. Speaking of which – when calling NORAD on speakerphone with the kids, I misdialed and somehow ended up phoning a sex line. Obviously, I’m winning a parenting award for my achievements this year.

IMG_2392

Christmas morning featured excited squeals, some surprises, and enough cardboard and wrapping paper to fill the recycling can for the next few weeks. As always seems to be the case, the kids played the most with the $8 worth of Play-Doh that day. My sister and her family came down from Pennsylvania the following day for a couple of days. The kids acted like spider monkeys and us adults maintained our sanity by eating, drinking, and watching Curb Your Enthusiasm.

IMG_6538

After a trip to Urgent Care for me, we made our down to North Carolina, where we celebrated Christmas and took advantage of Clay’s sister’s beach house on Ocean Isle Beach. There was plenty of Clemson gear on display and the six cousins enjoyed playing together. We weren’t there long – less than 48 hours – but I’m glad that Clay’s schedule allowed for us to squeeze in the trip.

IMG_2457.jpg

The six grandchildren (ages 4 – 12).

IMG_2576

Hopefully the traffic on I-95 N will be kind to us as we make our way up to the national capital region and we will be home before the sun sets. Our New Years Eve will be a quiet one this year as we say hello 2018 – just the four of us. But if 2018 is anything like 2017, then it will be one hell of a ride. And as the sun sets on this year, I look forward to tomorrow’s sunrise.

Lucky Number Thirteen

We met and fell in love as teenagers and were married the same year that I could legally consume alcohol. Science says that frontal lobe isn’t fully developed until we’re 25, so for making such a major life decision before we were 100% rational beings, things have been turning out okay. Better than okay. In fact, things are pretty freakin’ amazing.

Today marks 13 years of marriage for us. In many ways, 13 years doesn’t seem like nearly enough time to encapsulate the infinite moments that comprise our story. It feels like chump change. I’ve been in love with this goofy, hardworking, kind, courageous, and beautiful man for almost half my life. We’ve gone through a lot together and we approach life with the idea that we are stronger together than as individuals. Together we are unstoppable. We are a team. And a pretty damn good one at that.

Like many other couples, our story is a collection of excitement, joy, and heartbreak. The highlight reel would show the exciting moments surrounding the birth of our children, the moments of anticipation before a reunion, the tender moments spent wiping away tears before a deployment or after a miscarriage, the thrilling moments of a new adventure, and the quiet and comfortable moments that let us know that everything is going to be okay.

I suppose that is one of my favorite things about being married to Clay – that no matter what is thrown our way, it will be okay. For no other reason than because we have each other. As we slide into the downhill portion of our thirties, we find our eyes have more crinkles in the corners. We’re finding gray hairs at an alarming rate and truth be told, it is becoming quite difficult to maintain the flat stomachs of our twenties. But he has never looked better to me. I couldn’t ask for a better partner, a better cheerleader, a better father for our children, or a better man. Not too shabby for a couple in love who decided to get married before their frontal lobes were even fully developed.