Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Woman in her Thirties Gets Political

Several months ago, a good friend named Heather told me she was interested in running for the Minnesota House of Representatives. This news wasn't terribly surprising to me-- she has always been very involved in politics, very opinionated, and very connected in the community. I was thrilled for her, but also thrilled for myself-- I'd never known a real, actual politician, and I think a woman in her thirties is supposed to know at least one.

The details are long and tedious, but I'll sum up thusly: Heather and I have always been aligned politically (we are Democrats). She is also a wonderful person and great friend, and after a few rounds of helping her edit some website material and other literature, she asked me to be her campaign chair.

I think my actual response was, 'You know I don't know what the hell I'm doing, right?'

And her response was something like, 'Yeah, we'll figure it out together.'

Our first major hurdle to overcome was the caucus in March. California is not a caucus state, so this was the first time I'd participated in such a thing. IT WAS WILD. Heather was running against a person who's held the seat for 1000 years (slight exaggeration), and another newcomer. Our point that day, other than voting for POTUS, was to become a delegate in the district convention in April, where the Democratic Party would formally endorse a candidate (hopefully Heather) to run against the Republican candidate.

Here I am the night of the caucus:

To this day, Anna thinks Auntie Heather was running for President of the United States. I stopped correcting her because I like that idea.  

In theory, on the night of the caucus we would go in, cast our vote for President, then sit in a room with our other Democrat neighbors, and listen to some resolutions people wanted on a ballot at the convention. When the chair asked, 'Who wants to be a delegate at the convention?', some people would raise their hands, get chosen, and go home to watch American Idol.

But politics is tricky. Heather knew that in order for her to do well at the convention, she'd need as many delegates on her side as possible at that convention. So the night of the caucus, we had LOTS of people who wanted to be delegates, from all the candidates. Long story short, we sub caucused, argued, and were there for several hours before the delegates (including myself) were chosen.

Wild.

It seemed like Heather did great at the caucus, but we live in a huge district, and it was hard to tell just how many delegates Heather would have voting for her at the convention. So the time between the caucus and the convention she spent door knocking, networking, mixing, mingling, and getting herself out there. I helped a little, but really it was all Heather.

(As part of my 'help' to her, I was on the Rules Committee for the convention. These are the people who make the rules for how the convention is run. This is a post in and of itself. What a crazy learning experience for me. Talk about 'government by the people'! It was really fascinating.)

So the day of the convention was last Saturday. I was on pins and needles for Heather, but also for myself because I was nervous for her. Truth be told, there was a part of me that was scared she would get the nomination. If there is anything I've learned in the last few months it's this: politics really are a yucky business at times. And when you have a dear friend involved in it, you want to protect her from the yuck.
Little politicians. 

The convention, in theory, can last a couple hours. Some resolutions, a couple votes, and the Democratic endorsement is set. But last Saturday was truly a wild ride. After a couple votes, one of the candidates (with the least votes) dropped out of the race and didn't endorse a candidate. So it was Heather versus the incumbent. We voted at least four more times... maybe more. I lost count because it was so crazy. They were neck-and-neck (last count she was down by FOUR votes!).  By 4:00 there was no way either of them was going to get the 60% needed for the endorsement.

So Heather had two options: she could go to a primary, which would divide the party and prolong the process, or she could concede to the incumbent.


When people have asked me about Heather in the last few months, I have described her as someone whose heart is pure gold. She's a firecracker, wicked smart, and very generous. Of course she wasn't going to do what might be best for her-- she did what was best for the party. This was her during her concession speech. I can't explain the amount of energy in the room at this moment. We were all emotional and so proud of her.

A few weeks ago, Heather and I were talking about this process and how much we'd learned. She likened it to us going to college together, and that was so true. Because of this process I understand what's happening on the news better. I understand my party better and feel more aligned to it. And I truly understand the amount of time and energy it takes to run for political office. It's not for the faint of heart.

And the craziest part: I loved being a part of this for Heather. No, I don't have what it takes to run. But I do have talents that lend themselves to being a part of politics, just like every other red-blooded American (WE ARE SO FORTUNATE TO LIVE IN THIS COUNTRY!). I'll always be grateful to Heather for allowing me to be a part of this first run with her. And as far as the next run goes.... well, let's just say I'm 100% sure that I'm going to have that friend in politics after all.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Woman in her Thirties Goes* Back* to* Work*

*Not at all sure how I feel about this title, based on the reasons you'll read below. But it works for now. It's a 'working title'. Get it??

You're not going to believe this, but I'm officially 'back to work':

(Look closely and you'll see me, toasting with my new co-workers.  Side note: always accept a job where they break out champagne when you sign on.)

This post has the capability of being very long and extremely boring, so I'll summarize by saying this: for the last six months or so, I've felt the urge/desire to go back to work. Please don't confuse that by thinking I was feeling 'bored' as a stay-at-home mom or 'unfulfilled'.  I was neither of those things.  I think what honestly happened was that I re-emerged as a real-life human being after getting a solid year of sleep that made me functional and able to put together a cohesive thought.  And when I did that, I felt the desire to re-enter the workforce.

If you've been reading for a long time, you know I loved teaching. I still do love it, and do it on the side. But I'm a mom now, and as I've mentioned before, my family life is not exactly conventional. Part of the process of going back to work was figuring out how to do that and still keep my family going, and I quickly (and sadly) came to the realization that teaching was not the right path for my family.*

*It really pains me to write that. I am a good teacher. Teachers are so important and so powerful. I will miss having that be a large part of my identity. 

I also had the insanely, ridiculously fortunate position of being a woman in her thirties with an incredible choice in front of me: I could do whatever the HELL I wanted.  My career choice could, quite simply, be whatever I wanted it to be. I could volunteer in an animal shelter all day, if I wanted to. I could go back to school and learn taxidermy (not sure why that thought popped up in my mind). Because of the life my husband provides, my choices were endless.

(Side note: Thank you, Daddy! For all you do!)

It was a few months ago during a meeting with my publisher that I talked about this 'dilemma', and during the course of that conversation she mentioned that they were needing to hire someone because book business is booming. And my newly-functional brain (because of the sleep) mulled over what it would be like to work for her, and how it could possibly be the perfect career move for me.

So I did what Brene Brown or Elizabeth Gilbert would do, and I put together a proposal. I didn't say what I couldn't do, but rather what I could. I needed flexibility (the one, major thing missing from my career in teaching) and I needed part time (another near-impossibility in education).  I needed to be able to work from home, mostly.  I told them that if they gave me a chance, I would make myself invaluable to them.

It feels appropriate to put a picture of my little monkeys here. Because I love them so much.  

Yesterday was my first day. I have a lot to learn, but man, it was exhilarating. We talked about business and monetization of services and how to uplift writers and build their platforms. I'll miss teaching, but I know I can give a lot to this career. And I still got to pick my kids up from school and play in the park until dance class.  Wins all around.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Woman in Her Thirties Sets Sail

Last year we were given an outrageously generous gift from L's parents: a Disney Cruise. Sometimes I feel bad bragging about what amazing in-laws I have, but in this case there is simply no getting around it.  My in-laws are really wonderful.

For months, we have been planning this trip.  And by planning, I mean getting passports:


Figuring out how, exactly, to get to the cruise ship itself, and visiting my doctor for an emergency-prescription of Xanax.

You read that right. Remember how I had that MRI when I was pregnant with Aaron?  Did I mention I cried the entire time through it because I'M SO STINKING CLAUSTROPHOBIC?

(This is Anna and me during our first ski lesson.  Space, people!  The great outdoors and SPACE for this woman in her thirties!)

Throughout the planning process, many people told me I had nothing to fear. Cruise ships, particularly ones of the Disney variety, are ENORMOUS.  There is so much to do, so much to see.  Disney does everything so amazingly well, there's no way you'll scratch your face off from anxiety the moment you board the ship.

(Us, the moment we boarded the ship.  My hands were shaking so badly when I took this photo that I'm surprised it came out, I was that nervous. But as any woman in her thirties with a little bit of crazy in her does, I tried my best to hide it.)

For all the advice I got before boarding the ship, this was the truest: Disney does it right. From the sendoff:

Dance party on the top deck.  Anna was into it.  

To the meals:

Brunch at Palo. Maybe my third plate? Fourth? I lost count...

To the activities:

The pools were crowded... but fun!

To the rooms:

Room service on our deck?  I mean, sure....

To the character visits:



To DISNEY'S OWN PRIVATE ISLAND IN THE FREAKING BAHAMAS:


Disney just does an incredible job.  Everything: the shows, the logistics, the fact that they give you hand sanitizer every single time you enter a restaurant.... It was truly a wonderful trip.

Magical.  



And probably most magical, of course, was that we got to experience it with all of L's family.  I don't care how many times Goofy makes an appearance in a sombrero:


The happiest times are spent with the people you love.  Who love you back.  



End note:  Not a single dose of Xanax was taken during the trip.  Dramamine, yes.  Xanax, no.  Disney, your magic was felt in this woman in her thirties, too!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Woman in Her Thirties Completes the Baby Stage

Guess who's potty trained?


At three and a half, and over six months of accidents, non-compliance, and frustration, it's official. Aaron is potty trained.  (Want to know the secret? There isn't one. Kids will stop crapping their pants when they're good and ready. So throw the books away and deal with that as fact.)  And to make matters even... more... he's finally decided use his monkey-like powers to climb in and out of his crib.  So daddy is taking the front of his crib off today, giving him his first 'big boy' bed.*

*Yes, at three and a half.  I have held on to the crib with bloody fingernails with both of my children. I'm all about containment, people.  

It hit me, last night, that these two momentous events are proof that we have exited the baby stage.  My babies aren't babies anymore.  They aren't toddlers.  They're... what is the word for this age?  I'm leaning toward 'big little monkeys'.


It is impossible to compile everything one learns while being a mother. Especially in the first years. I keep thinking back to all the advice I got during my pregnancies, both solicited and unsolicited.  Some of it was so spot-on, so important, that I feel I owe money to the person who gave it to me.  And some of it... well... some of it I wish I had ignored.  So here's my list of baby-truisms, for whatever they are worth.

1.  Take as many pictures and videos as you want.  Videos especially.  

Every few months, an article goes viral about how we need to turn our phones off and be present with our children.  They are reminders that we are social-media junkies and time-wasting jerk-parents.  Of course, some of that is true.  Turn off the phones and play with your kids.  But for all the times I'm grateful I've done that, I'm equally grateful for the times I've pulled the phone out to take a video. When my kids are teenagers and hate my guts, I have a computer full of videos like these to keep me happy:

video


2.  It's okay to not love the baby-baby phase.

Full, true confession.  I really struggled-- a lot-- through the infant stage.  Breastfeeding was so difficult for me and brings back unpleasant memories.  Recovering from a vaginal birth, recovering from a  C-Section... not fun.  Doing those things on no sleep while feeling chained to the house... especially not fun.  For the longest time, I've felt like a bad mom for not loving that time, especially when so many people told me to cherish every moment.  Every woman is different in this, and it's okay to know that.  I prefer pants-pooping toddlers to wailing newborns, and that's just the truth of it.

Cute as hell, though.  Cute. As. Hell.


3. Beware the parent wearing rose-colored glasses.  

Something happens to a parent after their child turns about five, and continually gets worse as the child grows.  They forget, black-out, or otherwise choose not to remember the truth of things.  They say things like, 'My first born never cried! I swear! He was a perfect angel!'  And you, the new mom who hasn't showered in three days, comforting your wailing three-month-old, want to punch that person in the face.


I've caught myself doing this, too.  It's a survival mechanism.  'Anna was a much easier baby,' I'll say, comparing her to Aaron, when the truth of the matter was that she didn't sleep, cried until she made herself puke, and refused to feed herself until after she turned one.  It's the same reason women 'forget' the pain of childbirth-- survival of the species.  But I wish someone had told me that when I had little, little babies and thought I was losing my mind.


4.  People's definitions of things vary WIDELY.  

As I have complained often, loudly, and for many years, I didn't sleep for a very, veeeery long time. There were a few good bouts here and there, some lasting more than a few days, but for the most part, I didn't sleep.  THIS MADE ME INTO A PSYCHO CRAZY PERSON.


To this day, when someone brags about their six-week old who 'sleeps through the night', I get pangs.  Violent ones.  But I have realized over the years that people define 'sleeping through the night' very differently.  According to the myriad sleep books I read, 'sleeping through the night' means a six hour stretch, somewhere around the month-two month mark.  That could be 9:00pm-3:00am.  Or 7:00pm-1:00am.  Do you see where I'm going with this?

I am a normal human being, who defines a decent night of sleep as 10:00pm-6:00am.  If my kid is awake at 1:00am and up every hour until 6:00am, THAT AIN'T SLEEPING  THROUGH THE NIGHT.


Same applies to a child being 'a good eater', or 'an easy traveler', or 'potty trained'.  People define those things very differently. Quite frankly, I can't wait until the day where I say something like, 'oh, my kids were pretty good sleepers', and actually mean it.  It will mean my rose-colored glasses are firmly in place, and probably will not move for the remainder of my existence on earth.

5.  The right thing to do is what works for your family. 

A friend gave me this advice at my baby shower, and oh, how true it is.  True regarding the day-to-day logistics of life, and true regarding the overarching job of creating a working family unit.  I have luxuries many mothers don't have.  I also have challenges many mothers don't have.  So the choices I make must be what works for US, and not what a book tells me should work for the life I don't have.
 

And this, more than anything, is the advice that sticks with me now that my babies aren't babies anymore. A woman in her thirties can easily figure out what works, logically.  She's probably a master at juggling schedules, multi-tasking, and keeping everyone else happy.  Well, at least alive.  But the challenge is taking the family unit we created-- whatever it looks like-- and accept it for what it is. Accept it, and then embrace it with gratitude.


Monday, January 4, 2016

A Woman in her Thirties Resolves, in 2016

Dude.  It's 2016.  Can you even?


I'm starting to understand what people are talking about when they talk about the chaos of the holidays.  We had some serious chaos over the last couple of months, but also some serious down time (strep throat and a Christmas Eve fever will do that to a family).  There's chaos I make time for, like cooking huge quantities of food:


And Santa:


But plenty I don't make time for, like the Elf on the Shelf stuff and a barrage of presents.  So, all in all, the holidays were manageable, the kids felt some serious magic, and the Christmas decorations are packed and put away on January 4.  For the win!

I've been blogging here for a long time, so anyone reading knows how much I love a good list.  Every New Year I get annoyed when people post anti-New Year's Resolution downers such as, "Why your resolutions are bound to fail", and "Why not choose to be a good person every day, not just January 1?"  I get that, but I have to say that's just not the reality for me.  I love making New Year's Resolutions, and very often keep them.  So take that, haters.

I've been thinking a lot about my 2016 list, so here goes.  Subject to change, as always:

1.  Meditate

Yup, you knew that was coming.  I'm a big ol' yoga hippie now, and meditation is extremely difficult for me.  I'm going to aim for two minutes a day.  That's it.  Two quiet minutes.  I hear the benefits are amazing-- we shall see.

2.  Teach independence

I have these wonderful, wise, and kind neighbor friends, who (lucky for me) have older children.  I went out with them last week and we talked about the importance of teaching kids to do things themselves and understand natural consequences for their actions.  I AM TRULY TERRIBLE AT THIS.  I spend so much of the day chasing after my kids, picking up after them, doing things for them that they should be doing themselves.  No more, 2016!

3.  Look for the 'value add' before saying yes to anything

This is an extension on my revelations in my last post, but it's worth making a priority this year.  I'm getting much better at saying no to things, but still struggling with seeing each and every moment as valuable.  Often, I'm trying to fill my days (and I do-- I fill them to the absolute brim).  So, before saying yes, I'm going to look at the value it adds to me, my community, my family.  If it's something that's just filling time and keeping us busy, then it's a no.

4.  Stop feeling responsible for other people's happiness

Ah, this is the biggie for me this year.  You know those people who have a party, and the whole time they're going around asking people if they're having a good time, if they need anything, what else they can do?  That is me.  I come from a long line of people like this: always caught up in the feelings of other people.  It seems noble, but it's actually a huge energy suck and waste of time.  A woman in her thirties can't make other people happy-- she simply isn't that powerful.  I'm going to let go of that this year, if it kills me.

5.  Disconnect

I love our connected world, I love social media, I love all of it.  However,  when I look at the parts of it that are valuable to me, it's a small percentage of the actual time I use it. Take email, for example.  How many junk messages do you get in one day?  I get about 100,000 (slight exaggeration).  How many friends on Facebook do you have that post things constantly that you either don't like or don't care about?  Unsubscribe, unfriend, disconnect.  (Especially as the elections near, amiright??)  Connect in the ways that are valuable, and disconnect from the crap that isn't.

Happy 2016, friends!



Friday, December 11, 2015

A Woman in Her Thirties' 2015 Revelations

2015 has been a great year for this woman in her thirties.  I'm a little overwhelmed at the idea of trying to recap it all, so instead I'm going to list some life-changing revelations I made in the past year.

1.  This age is the best


When my kids were babies, I thought I was missing something.  Everyone ooing and ahhing all over them, telling me to savor every moment. No doubt, that age was cute.  But it was SO FLIPPING HARD. At least for me. Now, at three and a half and five, I can honestly do that whole #stoptimeplease hashtag.  Because it's awesome.  Still crazy.  But awesome.

2.  Bring your own lunch


There are very few places my children will eat an actual lunch.  One is the pizza place pictured above, and the other is Panera.  After spending more than a few frustrating afternoons as well as more than a few wasted dollars, I decided at the beginning of the summer that I was DONE.  So I bought those cool bento boxes (pictured above, but my lunches are no where near that cute) and any time I know we'll be gone for lunch, I pack it before.  And that goes for me, too.  LIFE CHANGING, I tell you. 

3.  Reverse technology

When Anna was a baby, I got a Nook for reading.  I have read many, many, many books on it.  For three years, it was pretty much the only thing I used for reading.  Then, last year, I got an iPad.  The intention was for me to read on that, but I was annoyed by the backlighting options and found myself in the public library again checking out "real" books. And then I did something crazy- MATH- and realized how much money I'd spent on books since using an e-reader.  Almost every book I've read in 2015 has been an actual, paper book.  Free.  From the library.  

4.  Breathing

I have struggled with back pain for a long time.  Finally, in 2015, I got my old lady bootie to the chiropractor and acupuncturist.  She said lots of things that I knew, but more things that I didn't know.  Such as I DON'T BREATHE PROPERLY.  Did you know there's a way to breathe properly?  In your belly?  So I've gotten poked and beaten up by the chiropractor, which has been fabulous, but the thing that has really changed for me is that when I practice belly breathing my low back doesn't hurt all the time, and I'm a much nicer person as a result.  

5.  Just say no

Being a woman in her thirties, particularly a mom, is a major balancing act.  In my twenties, I felt obliged to say yes to everything.  But the best thing is that since I'm a full-fledged woman in her thirties now, I feel completely okay with saying no.  Join an organization I only feel lukewarm about? No.  Spend all weekend hustling from practices to playdates?  Nah.  Go out with a group, even if I really would rather be in bed by nine?  Nope.  Don't get me wrong-- we are busy, hustling, every single day.  But the things we are doing are choices I'm trying to make consciously, and that feels good to me.  To all of us.







Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Woman in her Thirties, Suddenly, Five

Dear Anna,

Today you are five years old.  Five!  Can you handle it?  Can you? (Trick question.  I know you can. You've been counting sleeps until your birthday for weeks now.)



Such a momentous occasion deserves one step further back down memory lane.

Belly:



Zero:



One:


Two:


Three:


Four:


Five:



I'm not going to do that thing I always do, which is lament the passage of time. Five years have gone by quickly, that is true.  But now that we have come upon five, it seems clear to me that all those parents before me knew what they were talking about when, as I struggled through the baby years, they said the best was yet to come. You're a little lady now, your own person.  And what a beautiful person you are.



A little about you:  You are So. Much. Fun. Everything you do, whether it's walking to the park or reading your books at night, or going to school, or spending time with your friends, or even a trip to the supermarket, it is done with what I can only describe as Anna Joy.  You love everything.  You love everyone.  You trust everyone.  You see beauty and happiness in everyone and everything.  

It is a sight, Bubbie, because I have bad news for you.  You know those movies you don't want to watch, because you're scared there might be a bad guy that might give you bad dreams?  Well, those movies aren't nearly as bad as the real world can be.  Someday, I'll tell you the week you turned five was a week of global tragedy.  Of cruelty, disaster, and then more cruelty on top of that.  Being a woman in her thirties right now, a mom of two beautiful children, I'm torn between the world in which we live and the world in which YOU live.  I used to get frustrated when, as a teacher, I would see parents shielding their children from the world.  But now, I get it.  I completely get it.  I want you to live in five-year-old bliss for as long as possible. 


Slowly but surely, I'm starting to understand that I'll never master this parenting thing.  I will never be a perfect mom, a perfect wife, a perfect woman for that matter.  But I can promise you one thing: whatever ups and downs the world has in store for us, YOU-- exactly the YOU you are-- have been a blessing beyond anything I could have imagined for my life.  I'm so proud of the wonderful little person you are.

So happy, happy birthday to my fun-loving, silly-song-singing, fart-joke-loving Bubbie Bubba Roo. Your happiness is infectious.  Your heart is generous.  You are everything hopeful in this messed up world, and because of you, I have hope for the future.

Love, 
Mom