traveling

The problem with going so long between posts is, of course, that I run the risk of only ever publishing updates – longish recaps of where we were and where we are, completely disregarding the books I’ve read, the thoughts I’ve had, how the kids are, etc. I haven’t been posting as often as I had hoped partly because we’ve had a lot of family obligations that have kept me in northern Michigan, and whenever I am in Toledo I’m dealing with physicals for the kids or the DMV or car insurance companies. Since moving, I haven’t really made any friends or been much of a social partner for Sam – I’ve allowed myself a few months cushion to embrace my inner introvert mostly because I believe once I start accepting invitations and meeting people my social life is going to snowball. So I’ve stayed home most nights while Sam works rigorous hours, watching The Voice, reading novels and just generally enjoying my own company.

I arrived home from my last trip yesterday, however, recognizing it was time for this period of quiet to end. I’ve been present for Sam in a lot of ways – most importantly, of course, by caring almost full-time for our children so he can establish himself in his new job. I pay our bills and keep the house moderately clean – I secured a rental house for the winter and have handled all the communication with our realtors back in Pittsburgh. I haven’t, however, joined him during any of his evenings out and I haven’t made any attempts to establish friends or community here in Toledo, and it’s definitely time for that to change, for my children as well as for Sam. And for myself as well, of course.

My main goal is to establish work for myself that can be done around Sam’s schedule. I can’t keep the same kind of hours I did before and while I remain extremely interested in promoting women’s health issues, I am not interested in pursuing another corporate job to do so. I have a thousand different writing projects in mind, and I think I could potentially make a good living between balancing freelance PR work, community college teaching, and writing. Sometimes I feel a little bit like a failure since I won’t be returning to a corporate office job but I don’t want to so I’m not sure why I feel that way. What I would like is to earn enough of a living by the time Duncan enters kindergarten that I could support us if anything happened to Sam. In that way, my job in Pittsburgh was a comfort to me and while that security isn’t everything, it’s something, and it’s important to me.

I hope this is the last “catch-up” post that I write – that I am able now to dive into subject matter now and talk about working, writing, parenting, reading, fashion, maybe (hopefully) teaching and a few minor lifestyle items. I think it’s safe to say this won’t be turning solely into a parenting blog now that I stay at home – not once have I been motivated to capture perfectly-lit photos of my children in order to post them on this blog and share something insightful and/or meaningful. My children are brutes – delightful brutes, but brutes – and staying at home is alternately hella hard and absolutely wonderful. So for now I sign off with hope, that I will be here again soon, writing about the Wolitzer novel I’m reading. Thanks for sticking around – eventually it will be worth your while.

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working with and learning from those infamous millenials

Even though I worked for three years after college before returning to graduate school, I consider my career really beginning when I was 26 or so, after graduate school when I took a position as a science writer with a cancer hospital in Michigan. For the last seven and a half years I’ve worked in public relations for a different hospital, and truthfully I really couldn’t pinpoint when I first began hearing the term “Millenial” with any regularity. All I know is that for a while I was early in my career and now I’m smack-dab in the middle of my life, career included, and at some point the tale end of the Gen X generation to which I was born stopped being troublesome and irksome and instead became rattled by the Millenials joining the work force. To be fair, not that many joined – thanks to a rotten economy and people who hung onto their jobs much, much longer than they intended (my senior year in college I decided to postpone applying to graduate school to become a professor but all the profs i worked with encouraged me to, eventually, pursue my Ph.D. – loads of us will be retiring, they said. Lots of jobs opening up, they said. I am forever grateful I ignored them in this one instance!) but the ones that did join us in the working world? Whoa, Nelly.

I am trying to avoid saying something trite like there is a fundamental difference between people who grew up with smart technology and those of us who did not but, truly, there is a fundamental difference between people who grew up with smart technology and those of us who did not! I realize, of course, that every generation feels this way – my dad often marvels at how much change his parents witnessed – everything from the early days of the automobile to television to landing a man on the moon – imagine! There is nothing spectacular happening here, nothing that generations of workers haven’t discussed to the nth degree – I spend a goodly portion of my days convincing people with archaic views of PR that a press release isn’t really their best strategy in getting their message across, for instance. But the way Millenials think and approach the world is very different than how I grew up and how I started working and it’s taken some adjustment on my part to realize just how creative, engaged and valuable these younger workers can be.

I mean, it was a little disconcerting at first. For so long my colleagues and I were considered the younger employees – the workers who needed guidance and mentoring. I was incredibly fortunate that my first supervisor was a woman in her early thirties with impeccable professionalism combined with a very realistic approach to working in the 21st century – her father was quite ill while we worked together but she managed to attend every single one of his radiation treatments while still striving and achieving at work. She taught me two fundamental principles that I still think about every day: when working with the doctors and researchers who require our skills, our answer to their requests in always yes. Even if it’s really no, once we return as a team, we will evaluate and work so that they feel they are getting yes from us, even when they aren’t necessarily. Secondly, she always encouraged me to check with myself and make sure I felt I was doing the right thing, all of the time. This hasn’t always had the best consequences…in some ways it’s meant that I’ve worked during my vacation time because news doesn’t really conform to weekends or time off, because it was the right thing to do, or so I felt. When I worked with her I was encouraged to lead projects, take chances and rely on my creativity, and because of her I realized I could balance my own creative work while thriving in the workplace. When I moved jobs, I found myself working with people with more old-fashioned approaches to how a young woman operates in a corporate environment, and it was really tough. For the first time, I found myself not trusting my own judgment, and my value was based less on my creativity and much more on what kind of output I could achieve for the hospital.

And do you know what? This wasn’t a bad thing. I learned how to cooperate with more than one generation, and to adapt my working style to those I was working with. As it turns out, I’m not always right and my instincts aren’t always perfect. My current job is at the kind of place where you earn your seat at the table, and the experience has been invaluable.

That’s sort of how I work – I go along with the work culture I find myself in, generally agreeable and assuming the company knows best, basically. This is mostly because my life goals don’t necessarily align with climbing a corporate ladder but also because it’s my nature – I’m not tremendously assertive but I’m also not passive aggressive.

The biggest shock for me working with Millenials, then – these new shiny younger workers without the original good fortune to graduate into a Clinton economy – was their assertiveness. I don’t know if it’s because they’ve had to fight so hard to get jobs or if it’s a result of the helicopter parenting that came into vogue in the late nineties, but most of the younger women and men I work with don’t give up on their ideas easily, and don’t often defer if they feel passionate about something. I think originally this came across as brash, and, for someone like me, difficult to adjust to after years of listening, learning, respecting my elders and etcetera. For a while my colleagues and I even jokingly referred to the new, younger employees as millenemies, mainly because of the frequency with which they disagreed with us.

The other thing I really had to adjust to is how incorporated work and life are for them. I *thought* my life and my work were pretty interchangeable, what with working in the evenings but never having to worry about taking time off for a dentist appointment, but the younger men and women who work in my office now approach all of this with a mind-boggling flexibility, thinking nothing of taking the morning for a long bike ride but staying up incredibly late to finish a report. I tend to do my best with at least some routine in place that provides something resembling my own time, but Millenials don’t think this way. At all. And it is sort of amazing and visionary and shockingly effective, at least when it comes to work.

In the field of public relations, they are also devastatingly creative. We’ve recently hired a couple of women who are thirty years old, and even though there are only seven years of age between us, their ideas about how to promote medical news and research are completely different than mine. They make sure the work the rest of us do is easily accessible on mobile devices, for one instance. For another, they often dismiss pitching the New York Times in lieu of Reddit or the Huffington Post. They understand how people consume news today – which is less and less with CNN and more often on mobile devices.

Millenials, and the issues they face, remain frequently in the news. Burdened with student loan debt for educations that haven’t fulfilled their promises, often living with their parents and delaying marriage and kids – it hasn’t been an easy beginning for them. It’s a little strange, after being one of the youngest people in the office for so long, to adjust to younger colleagues and admit they have a handle on some of the more innovative and creative approaches to do our job, but hopefully I will continue to learn from them and vice-versa.

a note to all my mama friends

One late spring evening a couple of months ago, I met my friend, let’s call her Anne, for dinner at one of our favorite spots in Pittsburgh. Privately, I often think of Anne as my beautiful friend, not only because she’s physically gorgeous and not only because she cultivates a beautiful life, but because she has the biggest heart of nearly anyone I know – she is a beautiful person inside and out. After I had my daughter she was the first friend I spent time with outside of the house because she was willing to join me for breakfast in between my marathon nursing sessions. She is also one of the few friends I’ve really gotten a tad wild with in my thirties – a bus driver once threatening to abandon us miles from our homes because we were laughing too loudly after too many glasses of wine at dinner. Because she is so physically attractive and because she has financial resources a lot of people don’t, I know a handful of people whose jealousy has overridden their better selves, and they have failed to get to know her the way I have. The fact is I didn’t beginthinking of her as my beautiful friend – it is what she became to me over the many years we’ve spent time together.

So one late spring evening a couple of months ago, when the sun still dared to shine in Pittsburgh, I met my friend Anne for dinner at one of our favorite spots. I had squeezed a workout in as I am likely to do whenever Sam is home with the kids and our dinner plans don’t start until seven, and I was still squeezing chlorine from the pool out of my ponytail as I sat next to Anne at the bar. I leaned in to hug her and almost started to launch into some thought or idea I had had since last we met when she held up her hand.

“Before we get to all of that I just want to tell you – I’m fine now, totally fine – but I wanted you to know I had a miscarriage. I had a miscarriage, and I’m fine.”

I sat there, silenced. Stunned. How many times had I canceled our plans to meet, awash and overwhelmed as I was with my small children? Multiple times. I had canceled on my beautiful friend multiple times, for Evangeline’s earache, an unexpected business trip of Sam’s and who knows what other reasons. How long had she been waiting to tell me this? I felt horrified by my own actions (the earache had been treated easily with children’s Motrin, and I have a hardy list of qualified, wonderful babysitters) while terribly sad for Anne.

One late spring evening a couple of months ago, when the sun still dared to shine in Pittsburgh, I met my friend Anne for dinner at one of our favorite spots and she told me she had had a miscarriage and all I could think of was actions I hadn’t taken. Fortunately I retained the smallest amount of common sense and good will and didn’t start to apologize for my own inadequacies – instead, I listened to her. Her pregnancy had been ectopic, and dangerous. She was on the other side of it physically, but barely processing it emotionally, and we talked around and about it for a couple of hours. A few weeks later I came across a list of the top ten things to never say to someone who had a miscarriage (among them – miscarriages are so common! You just need to try again right away! and it happened for a reason. I had said at least half of the trite, unhelpful phrases to her and because we have a friendship like we do, I frantically texted her apologizing for the error, brought to light by the Huffington Post or Reddit or similar outfit.

I can’t remember exactly what she texted back, but it was along the lines of girl, please.

I have a lot of mama friends, all with varying availability and willingness to hang out in person. Those that work traditional office hours are generally the most willing to meet for lunch or even an evening out because they have systems in place to provide some flexibility, while my stay at home mama friends struggle sometimes because routine childcare isn’t a part of their life. With some of these women, our relationship is mainly conducted via text chains (and, I need to take a moment here to say I have a whole post coming about these text chains!), while others are conducted regularly and in person, over hectic brunches while we try and talk over our respective brood’s din. It doesn’t really matter – the support is there, never much farther away than the tips of my fingers. But my friends without kids? Well, I guess I understand why one of the chief complaints of those who don’t have children is that those who do tend to disappear. It’s so easy to continuously prioritize your young family over your valuable friendships – the needs of children are so immediate and physical. But that doesn’t mean the needs of your friends aren’t important – and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a good friend anymore, either. There are things happening with your friends – job loss (or new jobs to be celebrated) and aging parents and difficulty with spouses and to miss out on that is to miss out on their lives, and that is terrible.

One late spring evening a couple of months ago, when the sun still dared to shine in Pittsburgh, I met my friend Anne for dinner at one of our favorite spots. I almost canceled because who knows why but I didn’t, and that one small act of showing up has changed the way I approach my friendships. I show up, not just when it’s easy or convenient or affordable for me and my kids – no, I show up, sometimes with a spit-up stain on my dress I didn’t notice before or the echoes of my daughter’s temper tantrum, thrown solely because I was leaving her with her other parent, in my ears, and I be the person my friends deserve. The thing of it is – life is only going to grow more complex, with bigger and deeper issues to tackle – and I want to do it with friends like Anne by my side every step of the way.

the piece of career advice I’ll never give my children, or anyone else

I’m a particularly sensitive person, and for many years I had a tendency to internalize advice I received, taking it quite literally. In addition to being innately sensitive, for a long time I didn’t have a strong enough sense of self to question the advice I received – I truly believed if people older than I was were sharing their proverbial pearls of wisdom, then these pearls equaled the truth. One of the bitchin’ things about growing older is developing a stronger sense of self and now I hear certain pieces of advice and roll my eyes, or scoff, or point out to my children all the ways the advice is wrong.

As it happened, I received the same piece of advice for the three areas of interest I was most passionate about growing up (writing, acting, studying English Literature). If I wanted to be a writer, or an actor, or get a Ph.D. in British Literature, I heard time and time again that I shouldn’t be able to imagine doing anything else with my life, at all. All three endeavors, I was told, were inherently selfish acts, not conducive to earning a living, let alone raising a family.

I was reminded of this bit of advice recently when I was listening to the Diane Rhem show on NPR on my way to the gym. She had a British actor on her program whose name I didn’t catch, and he was sharing this particular bit of wisdom with the mother of a daughter in a theater conservatory. Something along the lines of “just make sure it’s the only thing – truly the only thing – she wants to do – because she will sacrifice everything else for it.”

I just rolled my eyes. I mean, nobody saw me because I was alone in the car but if someone HAD been there? It was a pretty impressive eyeroll.

Because, yes. Acting and writing and dancing and playing musical instruments and studying English or history or the history of stage direction? Not terribly profitable careers, of course. We live in a pro-STEM world and the value we place on the arts seems to be dropping disturbingly quickly. Chances of succeeding as an actual working actor, or supporting yourself by your published novels alone, or even landing a tenure-track teaching position, are slim. But ultimately I’m just not sure how helpful this particular bit of advice is. For someone like me, who grew up in a house where the grown ups were constantly worried about money, the need to earn a living trumped my less practical dreams. I felt tremendous pressure, not so much from my parents but from society, generally, to succeed in areas I didn’t naturally excel in (calculus and chemistry leap to mind), that my failure in those areas constantly seemed to overshadow the fact that teachers thought I was a good writer and members of the community found me a talented actress.

I think the word “imagine” was the word that tripped me up time and time again. Not able to imagine myself doing anything else? Are you kidding me? I could imagine myself doing EVERYTHING else – law school with a dramatic career on capitol hill! Practicing pediatric oncology! Environmental studies and saving forests and rivers! Yes, I could imagine myself in all sorts of careers.

Admittedly I haven’t seen things play out well – financially speaking- for the writers, actors and Ph.Ds I know. They struggle mightily, some finally accepting the need for a day job, others allowing spouses to carry the weight of financial matters for the family. Many have limited the number of children they have not because they want to but because their financial situation has forced them to – others continue to work in hospitality industry to support their art. Still, there is a part of me that admires their commitment to their craft – not to what I consider a lack of imagination so much as fierceness, creative dedication and core beliefs held dear.

In writing this I can see how maybe I come across as unsatisfied or disillusioned with my own life – that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have a beautiful, messy, creative life with a job that could support my kids and me if anything ever happened to Sam – all of those things hold importance for me.

As Evangeline, Duncan and their friends grow up, at least some of them are bound to be less STEM-oriented and more involved in the arts. I know I won’t be the grown up to say “you should only pursue X dream if you can’t imagine doing anything else” but I hope I have the wherewithal and judgment to say “that sounds amazing! What do you need to do to achieve that?” or “becoming a prima ballerina sounds like an amazing goal – I once worked for a doctor who did so until she was 32 and then went to med school – she works at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill today!” Or “acting and writing can be tough but if you combine them you’ll have astounding success.” Or “I’m in complete agreement – very little is as fascinating at Restoration literature. And the study of history is a great way to learn to think critically, which is useful in all sorts of fields.”

I will not, as God and this blog as my witness, ever tell someone they’d better not be able to imagine themselves doing anything else. Because life is short, but it is wide, with room for so many reinventions.

Happy New Year

I’ve tried to write drafts of this post twice now and both times I haven’t successfully saved them in wordpress but hey, third time’s a charm! Admittedly, it’s sort of difficult to rally the same spirit for this post the third time around but I am going to give it a try. So, yes, 2015 had some ups and downs for us but it is hard to dislike a year that brought us this guy:

Duncan1

Having a second child is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Watching Evangeline and Duncan’s relationship develop has given me more joy than I ever thought possible. Our finances are certainly strained and without any family nearby Sam and I sometimes feel overwhelmed but I wouldn’t trade these two for wealth or relaxation, not even for a second:

parkbreak

We are deep into early January – close enough that any resolutions we made can still seem shiny with promise – but far enough away that talking much about 2014 seems trite to me. I didn’t read or write nearly enough but I hadn’t planned on it – a baby’s first year can be terribly consuming and I made the conscious choice to simply focus on Duncan’s first year and work on everything else in 2015. One nice thing about my thirties – I’m growing out of making resolutions, but I did sit down on New Year’s Eve and write some guiding words for the year. (Okay, here is the point where I realize that I forgot to bring my journal with me and so don’t have the words immediately in front of me. I was going to explain a little about each word but instead I’ll just write about a few of my intentions.)

One of the concepts I am embracing wholeheartedly – indeed, that I started incorporating into my daily life before the new year – is the concept of minimalism. So often I feel overwhelmed by paperwork, my kids’ toys, by all of our things despite owning a large home. In the fall I started following Rachel Jonat at the Minimalist Mom and even downloaded her book, Do Less. Both her blog and the book are loaded with great information to steamline your home, your life and your mind. One of the first tasks I tackled was throwing away all of our old, ratty towels and buying one towel set for each family member, as well as a guest set. As they show signs of wear and tear I will replace them, but otherwise they get laundered on Saturdays and used the rest of the week – my linen closet is already greatly improved! She also had some really great tips for applying minimalism to our on-line lives. I really thought about the outlets that bring me joy (my blog, facebook on occasion, twitter almost never, instagram when I remember it) and relentlessly began defriending people on facebook who bring negativity to my space (the anti-vaccine crusader who I hung out with in high school, the racist Obama-haters), unsubscribed to a million newsletters and online catalogues (another concept she tackles is reducing the want in your life by reducing the number of catalogues and online advertising you subscribe to) and trimming my twitter lists.

I know most people probably don’t need a how to book to purge and improve their lives but I’m the kind of person who needs a bit of guidance so I’m grateful for Jonat, her book and her blog.

Another one of my guiding words – Art – is pretty broad, but basically by improving my home I am hoping to make more room for my writing and reading, and whatever creative pursuits my children set their minds to do. Evangeline really loves crafts and Duncan responds in a very visceral way to music so I am hoping to make lots of room for this kind of exploration for them.

In terms of the blog, I would like to make this a more visual space without it becoming all about the pictures. My favorite blogs to read are still the long text heavy ones that tackle subjects, ideas, passions and wormholes – but one or two good photos slays me every time. I also hope to keep up its overall theme by discussing “sandwich day” issues, but I also hope to use this space to talk about my current passions and interests. Thanks so much for sticking with me in 2014 – here is to a fascinating, complex 2015!

Showering With Pirates, Drowning in Paperwork

“It’s not the sleep deprivation, or the financial strain, or even the seemingly endless chores that cause me to dislike adulthood and parenthood,” I confided to Sam this morning as I pulled together Duncan’s bottles, oatmeal and pears for daycare. “It’s not stepping on Legos or even removing stickers from our sheets, although I could do without the stickers. It’s the paperwork I can’t stand.” I nodded in the direction of the most recent piece of mail that needed attending to – a threat from the library claiming I hadn’t returned a dvd copy of “The Jungle Book” even though, for the record, I know for a FACT I returned it. So completely confident am I, in fact, that I returned this DVD that I actually have plans to argue with the libraryover this when, if the library asked me for the equivalent money as a donation, I would gladly give it.

“I know, I know,” said Sam. “It’s endless and mountainous.”

Since having children, the amount of paperwork in my life has multiplied at least by a thousand, if not a million, percent. Is there such thing as a million percent? Yes, yes there is. A million percent increase in paperwork occurs when you go, over the course of three years, from a household of two to a household of four and two of you are required to show your updated vaccination records every other goddamn day.

Outstanding paperwork I currently have yet to deal with includes, in no particular order: two parking tickets for parking on the wrong side of the street on street cleaning days (to be fair, I maybe drive 2-3 times a week, at most, and never remember to move my car the one time a month street cleaning comes around); the aforementioned and incorrect library delinquency, paperwork related to Duncan’s NICU stay that has yet to be resolved, a slip signing away my permission for Evangeline to have henna tattoos at summer camp (which, yes, OF COURSE, but why can’t I say so verbally?), an updated request for Duncan’s vaccination records, registration forms for swimming and soccer for Evangeline, and all sorts of various and sundry reminders for things like making sure the kids are dressed in yellow and gold to support our baseball team or don’t forget crazy hat day! And let’s not even discuss the art work Evangeline brings home with her. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact her daycare exposes her to art activities on such a regular basis, but by now the kid has a practically Pavlovian response when she sees paint…must put hand in that. And her teachers feel they must send it all home.

I’ve digitized what I can digitize, I’ve automated what I can automate but there is nothing to stop Evangeline’s daycare from sending home scary notes in all capital letters warning that a case hand, foot and mouth disease has been discovered and my signature is required in acknowledgment.

I am trying, when and where I can, to control the chaos that is caused by our little family of four. I recently discovered Rachel Jonat over at The Minimalist Mom and I did something I rarely do – I downloaded her book in order to understand how I could successfully become more minimalist in my mindset and in my life. This is actually another topic for a separate blog post, but I found her book incredibly helpful, and have slowly started incorporating some of her tips and ideas into my daily life.

More often than not, when I shower I am stepping over the detritus from Evangeline’s pirate obsession, pushing her pirate ship off to one side, smiling to myself, knowing Sam did the same thing instead of removing it from the tub. The fierce yet joyful faces of her pirate characters – Jake, Izzy and Cubby – grin at me while I wash my hair, shave my legs. Throughout our second floor, baskets of clean laundry overflow, and at least half the time I am choosing my outfits and my kids’ outfits from the baskets instead of our dressers and closets. With two children in daycare our finances are more constrained than they were previously, and we find ourselves doing what growing families have done since the beginning of time – eating more creatively, eating – gasp – on a budget. This is something Sam and I haven’t done since college – we were both adverse to it after being raised in families where money was always, always tight. Gone now, though, are our days of picking up expensive steaks and pricey bottles of wine – tonight we are making Mexican wraps with baked fries on the side, maybe having a beer.

In my pre-kid days, if you would have told me all of this and also promised it would all be worth it, I wouldn’t have believed you. I hated the moralistic, sometimes snotty tone parents would take with me as they claimed every single dirty diaper they changed taught them how to love more than they ever thought possible. I particularly chafed against this as I went through my scare with infertility and began imagining an alternate future for myself, one without kids.

And sometimes, in fleeting, mere moments, I do wonder if it’s all worth it. I watch our paychecks disappear down the vortex of a mortgage and two daycares and groceries while I help my poop-phobic daughter wipe herself as the baby spits up down my bra while all the while my two sisters-in-law, child free by choice, are meeting up for a week in Amsterdam and in that moment, more than anything else, I want to break down in tears, think of myself as somehow a bad person and wonder what I did in a former life to always, always now smell like sour milk and even, potentially, some days, poop, but then, a different kind of moment occurs, almost always immediately, and Duncan reaches out to touch my face and buzzes his baby lips, and Evangeline draws me in to some moment of fantastic imaginary play, or maybe Sam pours me a perfectly balanced gin and tonic after both kids are in bed and for fifteen minutes we sit together and talk about our days, and I know this: for me, itis worth it. Having children, building a family – there are days where it feels like enormously hard work, but I wouldn’t trade it – not for a European vacation, new designer shoes or even for the chance to shower alone.

The paperwork, however, is for the birds.

Starting the New Year Off Right – First Bullet Post of 2014

I had really hoped to write at least one or two more blog posts before the conclusion of 2013, but a confluence of events, beginning with a sinus infection for me, morphing into a really rough illness for G, and then a stomach virus (me), combined with family visiting from afar, meant that many things had to take a back seat at the end of the year. For the first time in my life as a grown-up, my Christmas decorations are still up (I usually take them down on New Year’s Eve), many Christmas cards are scattered about the the house, unsent, and we aren’t as prepared for this baby boy as I would ideally prefer although, certainly, if he were to be born today he’d have everything he needs. My brain feels rather cluttered, but there is nothing like a bullet blog post to organize my thoughts!

* Despite concerns I presented in this blog weeks ago, our Christmas was absolutely lovely. I could say it didn’t “go” as smoothly as I had hoped, but by that I mean such *small* things – like, we didn’t make it to Christmas Eve service because family members faced such travel struggles simply getting to us that by the time everyone was under one roof, we didn’t want to leave each other. I got to step back and watch G begin to really form relationships with her grandparents and her aunts and uncles, and I loved every minute of it. Our holiday was full of cooking and relaxing togethers and a little lighter on traditional Christmas activities than usual, but I know it is one I will remember positively for the rest of my life, which, after our last few family holidays, is really such a joyous statement to be able to make.

* Last year, my main New Year’s resolution was significantly improved fiscal responsibility. I did fairly well in this area for several months but things sort of fell apart in October during my mother in law’s stay with us when my purse was stolen and I had to put a fraud alert on my account and our bills got messed up, only to be quickly followed by my account being screwed up thanks to the Target breach as well. On the plus side, we paid off a couple of bills, one of my student loans will be paid off this month, we made significant improvement on our house, and paid for most minor crises (car troubles, house troubles) with cash. We also saved money for Christmas and even had a small bit leftover! On the negative side we still carry credit card balances and I don’t feel like I have good sense of budget – I also feel like the bill-related paper work in our house is ludicrous, so this is an area I plan to concentrate on again in 2014 with renewed vigor.

*For a long time, I beat myself over the state of our finances. I felt this was one area we should constantly be doing better than we were and I wrapped up parts of my identity in in the way other people wrap up their identity with their weight. Ian has helped me settle down about this somewhat, pointing out that we paid for most of our educations ourselves and we chose to have kids – two separate choices many of our friends and family haven’t made. We prioritized education and are still paying for that priority, but I have absolutely no regrets about it – and I wouldn’t change motherhood for anything in the world. To that end, instead of constantly choosing to look at our financial situation and think we don’t have enough, I’m instead working on changing my attitude and offering thanks when I handle our finances – thanks that we can afford a home and children and our bills. Coach bags, diamond earrings and extravagant vacations might not be a part of our lives, but our lives are infinitely rich and blessed and gorgeous. Changing the way I look at money has actually made me quite a bit better with it – a skill I hope to build on in 2014!

*Other than that, my only resolution for this year is more of a mantra than anything else: day by day. I intend, quite simply, to take this year day by day. Knowing what kind of chaos a newborn can bring, I really want to focus this year on establishing, in the words of our pediatrician, our family’s “new normal.” I’ve given myself permission to cease worrying about postpartum weight loss or my writing or my career for one full year and instead concentrate on the growth of our family from three members to four. If we rebound particularly well and I have the focus and energy to move outside of this mantra then I absolutely will, but if I don’t that’s okay too.

*Which brings me to this blog. When I started this space this time last year, I did so needing a more anonymous space from which to write. I shared my old blog with too many friends and family members over the years and gradually began writing from a place of fear (what will my mother think if I reference my past smoking? What will my cousin think of my interpretation of our uncle’s death? Etc) I posted 34 times over the course of the year and while it was difficult in a way to leave my previous, somewhat established blog and watch much of my readership collapse, it’s been a wonderful decision overall. My readership here is steadily, quietly growing, I am able to experiment with subjects I want to write about (some succeed, some fail) and I’m able to use the blog to write around the edges of my life. It is tempting to create some lofty ambitions for this space in 2014 – I have so many ideas – but whenever I start ruminating on those ideas I remind myself day by day. There will be time enough for a loftier blog in the future.

* I started the year off reading Game of Thrones.Initially I thought it might end up being too complex in terms of number of characters and plots happening at once for this pregnant lady’s brain to handle but I decided to go forward anyway and I’m glad I did – parts of it are the tiniest bit campy but otherwise it’s the perfect January read – I enjoy starting the year off reading a “chunkster” and this book completely transports the reader to a different world -I’m glad I finally decided to tackle it.

*My television watching has slowed to a crawl in recent months which is never a bad thing, but I thought I’d give a quick shout out to two programs I enjoyed in the fall – The Black List on NBC and the Crazy Ones on CBS – both excellent shows that continue to uphold my theory you can never have too much James Spader or Robin Williams in your life.

I hope your 2014 is off to a wonderful start, whether you are taking it day by day, like I am, or whether you have larger ambitions for the year. I am looking forward to another year of blogging in this space – thanks so much for reading, commenting, liking and all the other sundry internetish actions we take to show we like one another – we really LIKE one another!