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Happy New Year?

Happy New Year! 2016 wasn’t so awful on a personal level for me, but I certainly shared the collective pain of losing an absurd amount of pop culture heroes and possibly losing our nation’s democracy in the coming years. I’m very anxious about what is on the political and social horizon, but overall 2016 was a year of visible personal growth. I have grown in mostly good ways, with the exception of my actual mass. The year was heavy, man. I was asleep when 2016 finally expired, but I woke up determined not to let my skepticism of a happier year deter me from making “resolutions.” Since New Year’s resolutions are usually canned before trees bud in the spring, I regard these promises as my annual renewal, necessary for survival. Some of these practices that I’m implementing might fade away, but I’m inspired right now and they’re useful right now. No matter what goes on in a year, the last few months are always particularly crazy. In November I had surgery, a long weekend away, and Thanksgiving getting in the way of taking care of myself. (Not to mention the horror show that unfolded on November 8.) In December I was frantically trying to be an adequate preschool mom, preparing for holiday gifts, managing every day life, and trying unsuccessfully to avoid the constant influx of cookies. My life isn’t the epitome of hardship, but if I fail to take care of myself, the small world around me will cave in.

I am worried about our country in a way that is new and scary to me. I am trying to understand where everyone is coming from and the blindness of privilege that so many possess, myself included. For the first time in my life, I made phone calls to help with the election because I wanted my daughter to grow up knowing that I did something to try to prevent this nightmare that we hopefully survive from unfolding. I set up my donations for organizations that are threatened by the coming administration. I made it my mission to learn more so I can do more to make the world better. I don’t feel persuasive enough to change minds, but I do feel passionate enough about fighting for justice to educate myself to do whatever I can to keep our society moving forward. I know I can do more, but I often feel guilty about the privilege of being in a relatively comfortable position when others are worried about basic human rights being taken away. I feel guilty about having debt but still being able to do most of what I want to do with my life. I’m afraid that these liberties will end, but if the worst thing that happens to me is having to actually pay attention to grocery store sales, I’m still in an enviable place compared to those who may lose their healthcare or marriage rights. Of course, we may all be doomed if war is declared, and I’m not confident that our President-Elect has our best interests at heart. I’m terrified.

Guilt and anxiety have been dominating the emotions of most people I know. It almost feels immoral to ponder resolutions right now. What kind of monster worries about losing 20 pounds when our world is filled with senseless violence and injustice? No one should care about your daily green smoothies when your black friends are still dealing with racist bullshit in the 21st century.

Today I am grateful for Audre Lorde. She said, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I am going to find a way to display these words in my home where I will see them every day. I have always believed that people must take care of themselves in order to care for others, but to call it an act of political warfare makes me feel deliriously empowered. Sitting in my bed, scrolling through Twitter, and crying about babies dying in ravaged cities is not helping. I need to stay informed, but I cannot will the earth to peace with anxious ruminations. Getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well, and feeling content seem to be luxurious, but giving yourself the gift of self-care enables you to charge forward with purpose and determination.

Tonight I did all of the “selfish” things I wanted to do. I know that sticking with it on January 1 is easier than some other days will be this year, but I feel the need to document how gorgeous it feels to have “indulged” in self-care. Some of it was as sexy as self-care gets. I took a hot bath with a Sunnyside Bubble Bar from Lush while reading about Carrie Fisher’s affair with Harrison Ford in her most recent book, The Princess Diarist. But before that, I had to give my four year old a bath. I let her play with her tub toys while I completed a ten-minute-yoga-routine-for-small-spaces that I found on YouTube. It isn’t easy to practice asanas in a narrow bathroom while keeping a keen eye on your kid to make sure she isn’t drowning during suspiciously quiet moments, but it worked out fine. Both bath times reflected a part of my resolution to take care of myself. I want to do yoga every day. I am capable of much more than a ten minute routine, but I can’t make excuses about time or space if there is such a thing as a ten-minute-yoga-routine-for-small-spaces video on YouTube. Reading and using the products that I buy to take care of my body are also resolutions that I honored this evening. My skin is so soft and I smell like citrus oils and happiness. This will not be the part of my nightly routine, but using my time creatively to fit moments like these in, must be a part of my daily process. When I wake up in the morning, I want to have a plan. When I go to sleep at night, I want to feel content knowing that I learned more about the world and did something to make it better. A bubble bath and some light reading are not going to change the world, but I used the holiday to rest for tomorrow where there is a plan and purpose that I am prepared to take on.

2017 Resolutions

– Read daily. Get off of the dang Internet and read books! Read fun books, classic literature, poetry, history, and more. Never stop learning about different cultures and perspectives. It is so important to have empathy for everyone and an understanding of where people come from.
– Yoga daily. Strength training and cardio need to be a regular part of my life, but yoga is essential every day.
– Preparation. Meal planning, scheduled writing, getting things done in the early morning hours when no one else is awake and requiring my attention.
– Read news in the AM only. Treat news like coffee – none after 3PM or I will be up all night, unproductively worrying about things I can’t control. Trust that friends will let me know if there’s something I must know at later hour. If it isn’t life-threatening, the news will still exist in the morning, perhaps more accurately after facts have been filtered. (We should hope, anyway.)
– Be an activist. I will not tolerate hatred or injustice on any level. I’m not assertive or confrontational, but I will learn how to handle even the most subtle attacks on human rights. It’s going to take a lot of learning and bravery, but the safety and basic welfare of our society is worth the effort.

 

 

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Social Media Break

I need to actually say it outloud to keep myself accountable. By all means, call me out if you see me online this weekend!

I need a break from Twitter because the news is giving me great anxiety. I like being informed but it’s all just too much lately. I can’t do anything to save the world this weekend, so I’m going to try to save my sanity instead.

I need a break from Facebook because I don’t need to know every thought of every person I know. It’s stressful to know what everyone is really thinking. I want to like everyone, but everyone makes it hard as hell.  I’ll be back next week, looking for baby pictures, cat videos, and other pleasant things. I’ll be hiding the shit out of political posts and hateful opinions.

I don’t need a break from Instagram. This is the only one that makes me happy 99% of the time. But if I look at this app, I’ll be tempted to look at the others. This social media addiction is real, dude.

I have work to do online, but I’m not doing it this weekend. I have a house to clean, but it’s all going to wait until tomorrow. I’m logging off, getting cleaned up after a long day of work, giving my kid a bath, and then we are going to get cozy for the night. The whole world might end while we are snuggling in bed with books, but I wouldn’t be able to stop it from happening by refreshing Twitter and worrying anyway. This weekend is about books, connecting with my family, playing outside, swimming, and letting my eyes take in the beauty of the world without an iPhone obstructing the view.

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RIP Prince & A Love Letter To My Music People

I was driving when I learned that Prince died. I immediately plugged my phone into the car to play his music, letting those amazing songs transport me back to childhood. I was singing along, sad, but happy to know that these songs will always be a part of me. What a wonderfully weird little dude. He was strange and colorful and undeniably sexual. I didn’t know what I was singing about when I was a little kid in the 80’s, but as I grew older, I learned to appreciate the beauty of unabashed desire. A few weeks ago, I tweeted that I was “singing Little Red Corvette, baby you’re much too fast, while driving the speed limit in my Toyota RAV4. This is it. This pretty much sums me up.” With the exception of a few years after high school, I’ve lived a cautious life, doing things I thought I was supposed to do according to my family and society. The whole time, my jealous eyes have been fixed on those who drive much too fast. Before hearing about Prince’s death today, I was struggling with the same stifling fear that has always stopped me from taking risks. Driving home today, I listened to the music that I played when I was a fearless child full of hope and possibility. I was almost home when Purple Rain began to play, but I had to pull over and cry.

In my most angst-ridden days of high school, I tortured my unlicensed best friend who I drove to school every morning by playing Jeff Buckley’s Grace over and over again. “The moaning! How can you stand it?” she would yell. I just smiled at her because I wasn’t going to stop singing just to ask “How can you not?!” It helped that he was beautiful. I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty frontman or songwriter, but if he was just a pretty face, I wouldn’t have been so invested. “This beautiful, beautiful song was created from his pain!” She agreed that it was painful and made me promise to put fun music on after school. Later, she told me that she isn’t a music person. My mind was completely boggled. How can that be? It turns out, she’s not an anomaly. There are other people who listen to music passively without letting lyrics alter the course of their life, or at least invoke the possibility of doing so. Fortunately, my social circle has been expanded with other music people. These friends know why I have to see my favorite band every time their tour bus rolls into my town. We buy music and merch at shows because we want them to keep touring. Forever. They’re not allowed to die. You hear that, Old 97s? You’re not allowed to die. My music friends understand.

In the last few years, (ugh, yes, years) I’ve been pondering my unfulfilled desires. When brave, creative spirits like Prince and David Bowie depart the earth, I feel especially ashamed for not living life more fully. I am not nearly as talented as these iconic artists, but knowing that they will never create again, sparks an urgency to create without fear, or in spite of it. Music makes me dream. As the musicians of my childhood start to die, I understand that I don’t have forever to turn my dreams into something tangible. I won’t be leaving a catalog of genius recordings behind, but I hope that at least one person, hopefully my daughter, will find beauty in something that once only existed in my mind.

As we process the death of another musical icon, I am profoundly moved by my love for music and my gratitude for music friends. I call myself an agnostic, but there is a divinity that I turn to when I need to celebrate, to cope, to mourn. Music is my God and my faith is abiding.

RIP, Prince Rogers Nelson.

The People I’ve Unfriended On Facebook

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. It’s becoming less loving and more hateful as time goes on, but it has also become a primary point of contact for many people who I want to keep in my life. There are plenty of people who I am “friends” with who I wouldn’t call real life friends, but I keep them around anyway. I enjoy seeing pictures of things that make people happy, like babies and puppies and fun getaways. I don’t mind civil political disagreements, but I tend to hide posts that will make me angry or sad. Some people I hide completely, but I still would smile and say hi to them if I ran into them somewhere. Then there are the people I have unfriended. The list of people who I have unfriended is pretty short, but they all had to go.

1. Family members. Yup. I unfriended close family members. Several years ago, Facebook was kind of fun. I could be irreverent or post about politics without wondering who was taking notes for the next holiday dinner debate. That eventually changed when more family members boarded the FB train. I love my dad dearly, but his political posts made me crazy. His need to comment on everything I posted was sweet when it had to do with family things, but maddening most other times. I know. I’m a monster for unfriending my dad (and other family members). But I promised to email pictures of my daughter and I see him many times each week. We’re better with the in-person relationship that we’ve had since I was born than with the Internetting thing.

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2. Mean Girls. I ran into a girl from high school shortly after unfriending her on Facebook. She actually asked me about it, which could have been a little bit awkward, but I just told her that I was downsizing my friends list to include mostly family and very close friends. The real reason? She was the kind of person who would take pictures of strangers and ridicule their appearance. She was a girl who ridiculed *my* appearance in high school. I could see that she hadn’t changed. I just wasn’t interested in her mean-spirited posts. There was another acquaintance that I unfriended who commented often on my posts. I thought we were friends, but I could sense the negativity building for months before she said something intentionally to hurt my feelings. At one point, I respected her opinions because she is a super smart lady, but all respect flew out the window when I realized that she just isn’t a good person. Finally, another mean girl who never posted a thing, but lurked in silent judgement had to go. We met each other a couple of times but every encounter produced stay-away-vibes that I’ve learned to listen to. Yes I could have hid them, but if people feel completely toxic to me, I feel better distancing myself as much as possible.

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3. The celebrity crush. When a musician I love joined Facebook, I did not dare friend request him. Then I noticed him accepting a smattering of my friends on Facebook, so I decided it was harmless and sent the request. He’s awful cute and charming and makes me feel like a million bucks when he talks to me, so it was very exciting. I think he’s pretty great, but I don’t know who he really is and he doesn’t care who I really am, which is completely expected, normal, and fine. I don’t want to be the creep checking out his friend list and family photos. I realized that I had an unhealthy obsession and decided that his personal life was none of my business. I just want to watch him play music while I sing along with friends, not worrying about looking like a dork. Shows are much more enjoyable now that I’m not worried about being interesting or exceedingly unattractive should I garner his attention. This is fortunate since my mind goes blank when he does speak to me, even when I’m not worried about being a weird troll of a human. Since we’ve met enough times, I can’t go back to being an anonymous fan, but I can own that I’m just a fan who really digs him, his band, and their music.

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There you have it. If you are my Facebook friend and want to stay that way, don’t be an overly political family member, a bitch, or someone I might have a stupid crush on.

Mourning and Joy

Thinking of my mom’s dear friend who passed away a couple of days ago at the age of 80. I have memories of going to her house during summer vacation, running around in her garden, and sitting on her couch watching videos on MTV while keeping an ear out for the mention of my name as they spoke Japanese in the kitchen.

Like my mom, her friend was a young child in Okinawa during World War II. When I think of how little they had as children, I gain perspective on how little we actually need to be happy. My mom and her friend had quite a lot in common. They started their lives in dire circumstances, but survived and went on to live long, beautiful lives. They married soldiers whose jobs took them all over this big, beautiful planet. They found joy in gardening, traveling, and raising their children.

80 years no longer seems like a long enough time to be here, but when I think of the way their lives started, I feel lucky for every day that I’m given with family and friends. I plan to spend even the worst days finding moments of joy.

Her First All-Ages Show

First concerts are a big deal. My first is slightly embarrassing: New Kids On The Block, Oakland Coliseum. Give me a break though. I was an eleven year old girl in 1989, and I hustled to get those tickets. One of the after-school clubs at my brother’s high school was raffling off 4 tickets to see them. I had a little bit of babysitting money*, but not enough to buy myself a concert ticket. I went halvsies with every New-Kid loving middle school girl in my class and bought twice as many raffle tickets as I could have afforded on my own. My plan worked when a little girl named Georgia won. I remember wearing a teal sweater with my tightrolled jeans and teasing my bangs to the heavens.  I wanted to look my best if I was going to be in the same room as the love of my eleven year old life. At the end of the song, “My Favorite Girl,” my favorite new kid pointed in my general direction. I was seated in the back of the nosebleed seats, but I was certain that he meant ME.**
*In the 1900’s, people trusted eleven year olds to watch their babies.
** baby narcissist

Last night, my daughter went to her first real concert. She’s not going to remember it but I will never forget it. We have been to street festivals and such, but last night, I took my 2 year old daughter to Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia to see Ingrid Michaelson. Her ticket stub is saved and will be placed in a ticket stub album as soon as I find one that I  love. Jealous? I am! How amazing would it be to have one of those from babyhood through adulthood? One day, she will start her own collection of stubs and will have the honor of attending the first concert of her choosing, but I’m hoping to cultivate a love for music early so that she never knows life without it.

I was nervous. I packed a huge bag of toys and snacks. I decided early on that we would just leave if she started to get bored or toddler-crazy. I bought ear plugs to protect her hearing. Would she wear them? (Yes! There was no objection to my sticking foam plugs in her ears.) My friends and I purchased orchestra seats, but planned to sit on the lawn so we could get up and wander around as needed. After a few days of showers, the lawn was wet and it was an unseasonably cool night for June, with temperatures in the 50s. We ditched the lawn plan and settled into our warm, dry seats with our fingers crossed.

The opening act was a trio of baby boys called Jukebox the Ghost. I wasn’t sure if she was going to be into it, so I pulled tiny Elsa and Aurora figures out of her overpacked Minnie Mouse backpack of tricks. She found the coloring book that I was trying to hide because we weren’t sprawled out on a blanket. There was a lot of stuff on our laps. But then the music began. Her eyes were fixed on the middle of the stage where the drummer was planted between the guitar player and the piano playing lead singer. After studying him for a moment she launched into her own air drumming set. She was into it.

Right before Ingrid began her set, more people piled into their seats. My girl could no longer see  the stage from her own seat so she climbed on my lap. I was surprised that she sat there relatively still, but she was so happy to watch the show. Her little head rested below my own and I breathed in the smell of her lavender baby shampoo. The warmth and weight of my child enjoying live music on my lap was a thing of beauty. She was mesmerized with Ingrid’s performance. In between songs, my daughter’s sweet little voice could be heard singing the refrain from the last song.

Ingrid began to play her song “Everybody.” My girl knows this song because it is played at the end of the movie Ramona and Beezus, based on the book by Beverly Cleary. I was obsessed with the Ramona Quimby books as a child. The movie is adorable and I love that my kid loves this story that we will eventually share in book form. Ingrid started to sing the first few notes and I felt my daughter’s body take in a deep, sharp breath before she turned around and looked at me with the most exquisite smile and said, “Ramona song!” Magic.

We left when Ingrid started singing a softer song and my daughter remembered that she was two and started acting a little silly. It’s not standard practice for me to leave a show early, but I wanted to get my girl out before the crowd left en masse. Also, bedtime. I didn’t want to turn a late night into an all-nighter. She went to bed a couple of hours later than usual, but she woke up the next morning acting giddy, silly, and joyful. She also asked me to put on Ramona and Beezus. I happily obliged. This musical little Quimby loving sprite is definitely mine.

So tell me about your first concert. Who did you see? How old were you? Parents, tell me about your experiences with kids at concerts!

Christmas Wishlist

I hate writing a gift list. I know it’s helpful, but I prefer to be surprised with something that the gift-giver thought I would love. I usually do. Alas, I have been asked to create lists for the two Secret Santa exchanges that I am participating in and I don’t want to be difficult. Feel free to just use these items as inspiration for your own ideas, Secret Santa! Everyone else, I’m posting this here because this is actually a little bit fun – to shop and not spend any money is a lovely thing.

Things I want but probably won’t buy for myself. Click photo for link.

Van Gogh Starry Night pendant Etsy

Scarves This one is from Old Navy, but I’d love almost any scarf. I’m into plaid, polka dots, stripes, and most patterns. I’m not afraid of color, but black always works, too. White is a bad idea unless coffee drips become fashionable one day.

Funny things. It doesn’t have to be a tee shirt, but I like things that make me laugh.

Notorious R.G.B. sweatshirt.

Sweet Melody Alex & Ani bracelet in Rafaellan Silver Also love the leather and antique collections.

Lush Bath Bombs Any except for the seaweed one. It was lovely, but it made a HUGE mess of my tub!

A Beautiful Mess Happy Mail subscription. This is a pricy one since it is a subscription service, but I’m mainly putting this here so I remember to think about it if I ever want to treat myself. 🙂

 

Gift Certificates are FANTASTIC. Some say that they aren’t personal enough, but I love having the option to splurge on something weeks or months after the holiday has passed. Fear not. If I am given a Target gift card, I am not using that on basic toiletries or cleaning supplies. I will stash that card away for something special that I really, really want.

Stores where gift cards are appreciated, in any amount.
Macy’s
Nordstrom
Target
Anthropologie
Paper Source
http://www.uncommongoods.com
Ticketmaster (they’re the devil, but I need to go to shows)
Etsy
Amazon
Southwest Air
Barnes & Noble
iTunes

For a general idea of things that I love, think kitschy, unique, fun. I love sending and receiving real mail, so cute stationery is a plus. I love things that symbolize peace and kindness. I lost a silver necklace with a delicate lotus charm that I purchased at a holiday market one year in NYC. I don’t remember the name of the artisan, but I liked that it wasn’t a mass-produced piece that anyone could have. I’m not a hipster or snob though, and if things are popular because they are made well or serve a great purpose, great! I need new things in the kitchen like oven mitts (Sur La Table has cute vintage looking sets) or Silpat baking mats and that is something I’ll probably never feel like spending money on.

Rattling off random things I love:
Music, elephants, guitars, (guitar lessons?) books, notebooks, stationery, stickers, notepads, red wine, coffee, delicate necklaces, chunky watches and bracelets, hair things, fun beauty products that I never splurge on, Chanel Chance perfume, Thymes Lotus Santal lotion, In Style magazine, Real Simple magazine, cookbooks (I never did buy the Smitten Kitchen book and I meant to. Martha Stewart or any other books about one pot, crock pot, or easy meals works,)  mix CD’s.

Things I do NOT want
I am slowly decluttering my home, so while certain home decor things may be absolutely darling, I don’t have the space for most of these things. Picture frames are sweet, but I am trying to only buy black frames. Most of my frames are IKEA Ribba frames and I like the consistency on my picture wall. I don’t want things that only serve a decorative purpose. I have a small house with very limited storage space, so I need to make good use of every thing.

I don’t know if this is helpful for the two people who have to buy me something for Christmas, but I’m super easy to please. And in the unlikely event that some benevolent admirer is wondering, “what could I send to Stephanie to brighten her day,” anything on this list will do.