Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November Has Come When It's Gone Away

It's here! It's here! It's finally here!!!

Are most of us doing the same thing? Writing this celebratory post on today, the last day of NaBloPoMo?!

I've attempted this challenge at least three times, completing it just two of them (although last time there was one day that the post didn't quite make the posting deadline). Last time, I put a lot of mental pressure on myself to perform and I think that caused me to freeze up a few of the days. This year, I tried to keep things more organic as the crunchy types might say. I also didn't feel terrible when I was a little blocked/too busy and had to post content that was not something I wrote.

When the end came in 2014, the first time I crossed the finish line, I was SO relieved. But also SO worried about the rubber band effect. That pulling myself so taut for the month would cause the equal and opposite reaction. And it basically did. I tried to pull myself out of it a few months later, but the well was dry.

Many expert writers say: write everyday. Make it a habit. While you're at it, write no less than a set amout, even if it's repeating the same word to fill up that space. Some days all you will end up with is the same word repeated. Others, it will blossom into a groundswell of words. Words that, strung together, amount to something of consequence. Those are the best days.

So where does this last day of NaBloPoMo leave me? It leaves me 30 days into this daily habit (isn't the rule of thumb that it takes 21 days to form a habit?!) Which doesn't feel much like a habit when I think on it, but it also hasn't felt like perhaps I've felt in the past. And I don't feel

I won't promise a post every day from here on out. But I certainly want to promise myself to keep cultivating my craft (humor me here) and sometimes, you know, seeking your validation. I mean, sharing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

First It Giveth, Then It Taketh Away

All day I was thinking about how I was going to write today's post about Giving Tuesday and the importance of community service and voluntarism. Yet here I sit to finally write and I'm all out of love.

So here's the deal: the children took everything I had to give today. And maybe then some. I may have muttered things about my kids that I don't really mean, but are nevertheless true. Like, things you don't think moms have the capacity to think about their spawn because feelings and hormones and bonds.

But I thought them and felt them and meant them. And of course I harbor guilt about it because moms aren't supposed to be, you know, human when it comes to her children, right? They are supposed to be superhuman, right? Always showering her progeny with love despite their foibles, defects, and peculiarities.

All I seem to be able to deliver are my own foibles, defects, and peculiarities in spades. As lovingly as my yelling can get.

So I wonder if I feel as I do because I see these flaws reflected back at me in my kids. And I think, "omg, what have I done?!" But at the same time, I wonder in earnest: "who are you and where did you come from?!" Because there is so much that I also don't recognize as me.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that raising kids would be so damned adversarial. Man vs. Man (or kid, whatever); Man vs. Self; Man vs. Nature. Man vs. Dinner and Laundry and Bedtime.

So tonight, I gave up a little. Because I had nothing left to give. Sometimes I even wonder if that's not at the heart of my problem: that I don't give up enough.

I guess I'll have to give it another go tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Are Those Leftovers in Your Meatloaf or...?

If you're looking for things to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers, look no further, Well, you can probably look further, but here's something to add to your arsenal: Turkey Meatloaf.

Now that I say that out loud, it sounds really dull. Maybe a little unappetizing, even? It has never occurred to me to come up with something catchier. Even though I've been making this meatloaf for a few years now.  Here's the background:

One year, I'm guessing the very first Thanksgiving I ever hosted, I over-estimated the amount of stuffing I needed to serve. (An aside: what do you call it: stuffing or dressing?) But stuffing was always my favorite, so how could it go wrong? Well, a double batch of stuffing is, I am sad to admit, bordering on wrong.

We had conventional leftovers. I made (and froze) Stuffin' Muffins for days. Yet, there still seemed to be an endless supply of stuffing in my fridge. Then, brilliance struck:

Too Much Leftover Stuffing Turkey Meatloaf
(Am I getting catchier? Maybe the acronym: TMLSTM?)
1 lb ground turkey
1 1/2 cup stuffing, premade
3 Tbsp gravy
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 egg
1 Tbsp brown mustard
For topping:
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
2 Tbsp brown mustard
Preheat oven to 350*. Combine all ingredients. Form into a loaf and place in loaf pan. Top with cranberry mixture. Bake for an hour.
Ain't no Pyrex like vintage Pyrex...

'Cause vintage Pyrex don't stop!

Serve with traditional sides: the Thanksgiving kind (goodness knows we still have some left over) or the meatloaf kind, which may or may not have some overlap, right Mashed Potatoes?

Since the year that saw no end to stuffering, a single batch of stuffing has been more than enough for our leftover needs. Including this family favorite. Stuffing Meatloaf? Thanksgiving in a Meatloaf? Give Thanks for Leftovers Meatloaf?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

No Future for You

I guess I was only 4 years old when Lady Diana took that long walk down the aisle of Westminster Abbey. So I'm not sure if my memories of it were from witnessing it on TV, or from seeing footage of it as I got older. But, like any redblooded girl spoonfed Disney fairytales, I was captivated by royalty. I mean, that dress, with that train and those jewels...oh mah gaw!

It should be no surprise that I am digging the Netflix series The Crown. It puts royalty in a different perspective for mere mortals (not to mention Americans). It sheds light on a lot of the poop-a-doop that those stuffy British folk hold dear.

I also enjoy seeing HRH portrayed as a human (even if her coronation imbues divinity to her position). With doubts and foibles and strengths and weaknesses. Ugh and the pressure!

It also acts as a mirror to our own American system. George Washington refused to take the title of King, for good reason. But is our federal government really much different than the British sans a monarchy?

Of course there are stark differences, but haven't we all heard the anecdote of the freshman senator/congressman learning things the hard way? Because that's not how things are done around here?

I'm all for tradition, but at what expense?

This went in a completely different direction than I thought it was going. Anyway, I couldn't help but thinking. And I suppose this calls for a rousing God save the Queen? If you're so inclined? Maybe just the Sex Pistols, then.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Just L-I-V-I-N

There is nothing better than recieving positive reinforcement directly from the object of a parent's toil.

Like today, after I returned from a breakfast date with friends. Miss Thing emerged from her room from what I thought was her nap (it wasn't) and says:

"Moooooom. What are you doing here?!"

Just L-I-V-I-N. No biggie.

Then at dinner, she composed this little Ode to her Parents:

You're nice to us
But you yell
And shout
And scream
But you're nice to us
But you yell
And shout
And scream.

So I've got that going for me. Which is nice?

Perhaps it's a sign of her prodigious sense if humor. Or the beginnings of a fruitful songwriting career. I mean, I can't even begin to imagine what else it could mean otherwise.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Same Auld Lang Syne

Today I am thankful the Thanksgiving is over. Not that we ought to forget the things we are thankful for, but all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with the Day. Despite how much I like doing it.

I'm also thankful it's over because it means we have clearance to come out of hiding and officially get our Christmas on! I've been listening to Christmas all day (Michael Bublé should be getting PLENTY of royalties this year, if Pandora is any indication). And wearing Christmas on my legs. And feeling all warm and nostalgically Christmas in my soul.

I mean...[shrugs shoulders] Christmas is cool, I guess.

It also means that the Fogelberg Alert System has officially been upgraded to SEVERE. As in, there is a severe risk that hearing Same Auld Lang Syne will render me unable to continue with my regularly scheduled program until I have sobbed uncontrollably over lost love and the anticipation of an illusory reunion.

No, I do not live vicariously through this song.

Ok, maybe a little.

The snow turns into rain, you guys. GAH!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Growing up, my mom (who was one of four kids) was the hostess for Thanksgiving. She hosted quite a crowd. When we moved to California, nothing changed in the hostess department, except the crowd dwindled to just us four.

The Thanksgiving after I was married, I offered to host. And this change in tradition has stuck (save for the year the Mayor was born, when we were so utterly racked by our perinatal complications that I couldn't even).

I think it was strange for my mom at first, but she cones bearing a pie and homemade dinner rolls and seems to have grown to enjoy the freedom from doing all of the holidays. Besides, she has a pretty big Christmas Eve smorgiebob to work up to in a few short weeks.

But I am thankful that I am able to take over from her, carrying on her tradition,  and have the opportunity to pass it on to my kids, as well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hey Sister, Go Sister, Soul Sister, Go Sister

Sisters, I'm told, have special bonds. Like many others, I was not lucky enough to be blessed with biological sisters, so I have spent my life seeking my sistren.

My first sistren are by circumstance of birth: my cousins. On my mom's side, I am one of two granddaughters. My cousin was the first grandchild, so the role of big sister was, well, her birthright. And she was the coolest big sister ever, giving me my first fake ID at the tender age of six, if memory serves. On my dad's side, I have two older cousins and I was always awed by their grace.

The next sisters-by-chance came into my life as a toddler: friends from the neighborhood. There were three of us, one just a few houses down from mine, another around the corner, and the third a few blocks away. These were the sisters were there for me starting from at least as early as my 2nd birthday party (maybe earlier) and on.

Unfortunately, our move to California took me away from these surrogate sisters.

After the move, it became more difficult for me to make these sisterly bonds. My friends seemed to change from grade-to-grade throughout elementary, middle, and most of high school, although there were a few constants.

Come time for college, I thought I was destined to forge that sisterly bond with my roommate. And while she is still very much like a sister to me, she had already been there, done that with the whole Freshman experience and was gone before the year was even half over.

So I did what any ship without a rudder would do, but participate in a formalized mutual selection of sisterhood otherwise known as Panhellenic Rush. And I found a group of sisters with whom I shared a lot of good times. They were one of the main reasons I stayed in school for as long as I did.

But once I was dropped out from college and back home, I hooked back up with a few sisters from high school, one of which became my main sister in crime (i.e., shenanigans, not actual crime). She and I grew our sisterhood by two more shenanigan-seeking sisters whom we met at a bar. And with their preexisting sisterhoods, grew it even further. Along the way, we even gained a sister through an ex-boyfriend.

And that's about where a sisterhood was gilded. The core five of us all have our satellite sisters, some who have been around awhile, others who come and go as life happens.

No matter how gold or silver my sisters may be, it is they whom I am thankful for today. I would not be the woman I am today without them.

New Friends and Old Friends

Make new friends, but keep the old,
Those are silver, these are gold.
New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.
Friendships that have stood the test
time and change are surely best;
Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray,
Friendship never knows decay.
For 'mid old friends tried and true,
Once more we our youth renew.
But old friends, alas may die,
New friends must their place supply.
Cherish friendship in your breast
New is good, but old is best;
Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.
~Joseph Parry

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mondays are my usual grocery shopping day. The Big Shop, as I commonly call it. Although depending on the completeness of the weekly menu, or forgetfulness of the Shopper in Chief, or just because reasons, you'll probably find me shopping Thursdays, as well. Perhaps an ocassional Friday or Saturday. Sunday if I'm desperate for dinner ideas that aren't takeout. Basically on an as-needed basis.

Over the years, I have become something of a Trader Joe's loyalist. And when we first moved to our house, I was hesitant to change stores. The extra half mile to go to my old store seemed like NBD versus having to deal with such a monumental life change!

I mean, new employees to have to get used to. I was, after all, a child brought up on Safety Town and Stranger Danger, I'll have you know. I wasn't BFF's with anyone at the old store, but the faces were familiar and that was OK by me.

Learning the lay of the land of a new store? No thanks. FFS, I can't hardly keep up with the constant changes in a familiar store, let alone a new one.

And then as luck would have it, a familiar face arrived at the new store. We hadn't talked in years and I couldn't exactly recall what sort of awkward terms we may or may not have been on. But inevitably, we reconnected and she became a driving force to embracing the new store.

And I could not be more thankful!

Yes. Silly as it sounds, I am thankful for my grocery store.

One slow Thursday morning, they greeted me like Norm walking into Cheers. And in the solitude of being a SAHM, that gesture was everything. The people there have become, dare I say, friends. I look forward to our banter and repartee, which on ocassion has continued after hours.

Among many, they have chosen to support my charitable efforts when they didn't have to. Which is not only a testament to their culture, but their dedication to the community and their customers.

The Mayor was just over a year when we moved. I did my last Big Shop between contractions before Miss Thing was born.  There was no judgment during the very lean times after I quit my job and we were juggling two mortgages. There was help when I look in my wallet and wonder where that twenty I thought I had went (in the the gas tank). We've been through a lot together now.

So my grocery store is more than just the neighborhood Trader Joe's; it is, to a degree, an extension of my village.

So thanks, Store 83. You're tops. Plus, you're a half mile closer to my house. Which, as it turns out, is a very big deal.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November Rain

It kinda feels like today was a banner day. Actually, it was kind of a banner weekend.

I got shit done!

My house is basically Thanksgiving ready.

The kids hardly batted an eye while I did it. Which also means they hardly lifted a finger to help, but that's neither here nor there. They were not too rowdy, not too suspiciously quiet and did not require my constant intervention.

I let them play in the rain. As long as they wanted to, which was until starvation and hypothermia started to set in.

I got to host a boutique and play dress-up with friends that stopped by! Friends who didn't give me the side eye for having painter's tape up everywhere, which has basically become the signature wall treatment in my hall, it's been there so long.

And don't tell, but there might have been Christmas music playing.

I got to save an unsuspecting mom from an unnecessary schlep to school in the morning. Because (and stop me if I've mentioned this before) the kids have NO school for the entire week.

My car is in the garage! No one can get in either it or the clothes dryer, but still.

So yeah. A good one indeed.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

It's no secret that becoming a mother changes you. There are the obvious ways, both physical and emotional. Recently, a seasoned mom, whose kids have already dry aged for 18 years, remarked how once she became a mom, she never really sleep the same again. Which got me wondering: will I ever think the way I used to again? Or rather, no longer think the way I do now?

We all talk about Baby Brain when pregnant, the phenomenon where becoming host to another human renders the brain less effective. Which, of course, morphs into Mommy Brain, because the synapses still don't fire quite the same as before kids. It sucks constantly losing words you need mid-sentence.

But ever since the Mayor was a born, I've silently suffered what can best be described as the disturbing spawn of day dreams and nightmares. Day-mares? That makes it sound more innocuous than the reality playing out in my head.

For the first few months, the thoughts were constant. I thought of every conceivable awful scenario that could happen to my boy. If you've seen it dramatized on Law & Order SVU or Criminal Minds, I imaginied worse, and it actually happening to my child.

Over time, the thoughts became fewer and farther between. They rushed back a bit after Miss Thing was born, but were not quite as intense as they had been initially.

But during bath time earlier this evening, MT contorted herself at a strange angle and--WOOSH! There went my over-active  imagination thinking unspeakable thoughts again.

It wasn't like she was tap dancing on the edge of the slippery tub, an obvious ticket to splitting open one's head. She was just positioned in the tub oddly and all I could think was:

OMG what if the worst possible thing you could ever conceivably think of happened right now?!

So I left the room to shake off the heebie jeebies I had just involuntarily evoked and wondered if this is normal? Do all moms have such...dark thoughts, too? Will I ever stop having these disturbing flashes? Like my seasoned mom friend, will I ever get back to thinking only about puppy dogs and ice cream again? I mean, *if* that were my default state of thinking, which of course it's not, but...NEITHER IS THIS!

Of all the changes I thought motherhood would bring, this one never crossed my mind.

Friday, November 18, 2016

When I Was Your Age...

Remember when Thanksgiving Break meant two, maybe three days off from school (plus the weekend)?!

The Mayor has nine days off. Nine. (Imagining that in the voice of Principal Ed Rooney makes it marginally palatable). And if we're getting technical here, Miss Thing is off for 11 days, but, I mean, it's Preschool. So... WGAF. Except for me.

I assume this is pandemic, that our kids no longer have to agonize through those pre-holiday lame duck days?

I probably ought to be glad that I don't have to shuttle these little humans all over tarnation next week. I probably ought to actually be glad that I get more QT with those same humans for whom I have creative culpability. I ought to be glad that I'll get to do all the gym things next week. At some point next week, #FunMom ought to make an appearance.

But I'm tired AF tonight, so I'm going to sit in hiding and bemoan that their whole week off means I have to do all the stuff I have to do next week with two dead (but very much alive) weights around my neck. And wallow in that it's not just the normal stuff, but all the get-ready-to-host-people- for-a-holiday stuff! Lastly, I'm going go ahead and feel sorry for myself because the cherry on top is rain. All damn weekend.

I know, I know. There's a support group called everybody; meetings are at the bar. If only!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

And You May Find Yourself In A Beautiful House

I sorta breezed over this point in yesterday's post, but I'm a little bit of a disorganized mess right now. Most of the time I blame it on having too little space. Or too little time.

Truth is I'm just plain overwhelmed.

Now don't misunderstand, I watch Hoarders and the like and realize my house is put together AF in comparison. But the bottom line is that the way I have always done things does not work anymore.

My name is Michelle and I'm a piler.

A little pile here, one over there, and neatly separated piles for each person in the dump zone because everybody puts there stuff here and it needs some semblance of order (and it is assumed to all belong to me otherwise). And if I need something from my piles, rest assured I know which pile it is filed among.

And here's where I probably ought to admit: I also have a paper problem.

It's no wonder I went into law. I mean, have you seen how much paper those people go through? And have to keep for a stipulated period of time if not in perpituity?! Swoon.

So piles worked when I lived alone or didn't have to commingle personalty. You know what it doesn't jive with?

Grown-up living spaces (and, you know, minimalist design aesthetics).

You know what else it really doesn't jive with?

Fucking kids.

They touch everything. Every. Fucking. Thing.

So one take away that I don't get from watching Hoarders is actual advice that translates to my (totally normal, not at all hoarding, I swear) situation. So a long time back I bought Peter Walsh's book: It's All Too Much.

The title is dead accurate because apparently it's too much to even read the damned thing, which I still haven't done.

But with everybody going and KonMari-ing the crap out of their, well, crap, I took the plunge and checked out her book from the library. And read it. Well, most of it, before my loan ended (but I am back on the wait list and determined to finish it). I have already started to use her clothes-folding method, which I thought was ridiculous in theory, but in practice it's kinda life-changing.

So I've gotten to the step where I can admit: I probably have too much stuff in general, let alone paper specifically.

I also attended a seminar with a local pro-organizer called De-Clutter to De-Stress.

I took away a few good points from her presentation:

1. Strive for excellence, rather than perfection. Sometimes I forget that the two are actually different standards. So instead of needing the perfect solution, I merely need an excellent one (or, let's face it, the one that works right now).

2. On a scale of 1 to 10, love your clothes between 7 and 10. This is a tricky one. I have clothes that definitely fall outside of this range, but because replacing them is not an option, I hold them. At least I don't have clothes I hold onto in hopes that they will fit me someday anymore.

3. Paper [insert dramatic music here] Most paper of mere mortals, such as myself, only needs to be retained for 3 years, including taxes. Hold if it pertains to a pending dispute. You guys, I just yesterday ditched some old medical records that were more than 3 years old. Boss!

4. Tips on how to sort and organize. Honestly, I'm looking at my notes and don't know exactly the context. I'll update if it come back to me.

5. More paper tips. Use three folders: a) To Do Now, within 30 days; b) To Pay, actionable items; and c) To Do, whenevs. I realize that last one is a slippery slope, but that's what my notes say. Regardless, this was a light bulb moment during which I could imagine all those papers and bills in the drop zone lining up and marching into their appropriate folders. This might be the next system that I implement.

So now that I have permission to lower my expectations of myself, perhaps I can figure out what the fuck sparks my joy and make some headway in this whole living like a grown-up business. And maybe, just maybe, my kids will follow suit. Because they certainly do now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This Is Not My Beautiful House

A few weeks ago, the Mayor put the "fun" back in fundraising when he participated in his school's Booster-a-thon Fun Run. For guilting obtaining pledges for each lap run, he got prizes. His last prize was delivered today. A big blow-up beach-style soccer ball. He. Was. Amped.

He and his grandparents tried to pump the thing up, but the universe knew I hadn't gone to the gym today and it beckoned me to figure out how to get the bike pump properly hooked up, ball filled with air, and sneak in some semblance of an arm workout. Added bonus: hero status.

He dragged that big ass beach soccer ball all around the house while his sister napped. He quietly took it out to the backyard so as not to wake her. He awed her with its majesty once she did wake up. They played with it for about 20 minutes when from the kitchen, I heard the wailing. A tear-streaked Mayor ran toward the back door, carrying his now flaccid ball. He had managed to rip a hole in it in record time.

The consummate consoler, I offered these soul-soothing words of advice: "well, you can't play so rough with your toys!"

He got over it pretty quickly (I am just that good!) and found something else to treat like shit, probably some of the furniture in the living room.

I know I'm far from alone on this one, but my kids are the biggest reason why we can't have nice things. Yet, I am tired of living in a house decorated furnished pieced together like an homage to one's first apartment after college.

I'd like to live in a house with a modicum of style. Yet I'm not quite sure how to go about it. Growing up, I was never really allowed (as if I needed permission) to cultivate my own style. When my turn to redecorate my childhood bedroom came around, my dad handed me the reigns (retaining right of first refusal) and his long list of Don'ts.

I didn't want another pink room. He only approved of pink. I wanted that comforter for my bed. Maybe you should consider that flowery quilt. How about this wall paper? Not that one, this one. I put my foot down at a wood chair rail and won that battle. But it meant the matching wallpaper trim border.

So when I got to college and while many of the other ladies were putting their beds on risers, piling up all the throw pillows in the matching bedding set, and hanging tasteful pictures on the walls, I was going in almost the opposite direction: mattress on the floor, one tattered pillow and Teddums, and posters (of bands, from concerts, Star Wars, and the piece de resistance: Van Gough's Starry Night). Tres original.

And since then, I've not had much of an opportunity to do much decorating of spaces of my own. I lived back in that pink room between college and law school. Then again between law school and getting married, at which time I moved into Fella's condo, the quintessential first-place-after-college. Outfitted with hand-me-downs and one-step-above-curbside finds.

We have replaced and upgraded a few of those things, including the condo itself. But we still have hand-me-downs, even if it doesn't reflect our style, because furniture is damn expensive and I married a guy who doesn't want to settle for IKEA (don't tell this to the IKEA couch that he bought).

I won't even get into my organization style, which does not at all mesh with the design aesthetic that most appeals to me.  

So between having kids and feeling rather impotent in the style department (and did I mention that very particular husband?) I feel like a deer in headlights when I try to think about how to make my house my home. So as with all things, I have to remember to take this day-by-day, baby step-by-baby step. And maybe one day, I'll feel like a grown up, living in a grown-up home.

A girl can dream.

P.S. this has rambled on WAY longer than I expected. I hope when I come back to read it in the morning it sounds better than I fear. So definitely many thanks for hanging in with me on this one!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Getting to Know You

It's the 15th. Out of 30. So I'ma give myself a little break and update an older post: the All About Me post.

I'm (still) a (mostly) reformed corporate law wino (as in from the wine industry). I had a friend in college whose many catchphrases included the truest of thruths: "winos never get afraid about nothin', but runnin' outta wine." (Apparently, he was quoting Richard Pryor, well, misquoting at the time. I can Google things now, which I couldn't do quite yet in 1995!)

I've been Director of Domestic Affairs now for 3 years, with my two underlings, the Mayor - 7 (nickname earned kissing babies and shaking parents' hands on the preschool playground) and Miss Thing - 3.5, but built like a 5 y/o (nickname given in the womb for no particular reason, but as it turns out she is pretty sassy). Still married to Fella, the heartless bureaucrat that loves old cars, movies, and Dame Judi Dench.

At nine, my parents transplanted the family from Chicago to the San Francisco/Bay Area. Even though I've lived here for 30 years now (less the three years of hard time I did for law school in Topeka, KS) my heart belongs to the Midwest.

Cooking is a pastime and I almost never make tuna noodle casserole the same way twice because my way of cooking usually doesn't follow a recipe and I never keep track of what I'm doing so it's hard to replicate. Did I mention I like wine? (It was hard to leave my job!) And not the plonk, although I won't say no if all you're pouring is Two Buck Chuck. I also dabble in working out (planks, burpees, and push-ups are my nemeses), volunteering (I never met a good deed I didn't like), sewing (although it's been awhile since my machine has seen the light of day), and crafting (by this I mostly mean curating crafty piles of paper throughout the house). There's just not enough time in the day!

I love a good pun, I've been know to drop a well-placed swear from time-to-time (which some might consider an improvement; were this before kids, I would have described myself more as "cusses like a sailor"), and I have a bawdy sense of humor (I never started a game of Catchphrase that didn't end as a game of Sexual Catchphrase).

I'm always and forever an Oxford comma gal.

However, I can't decide if we should be saying things are "on point" or "en pointe" and it really bugs me. Mostly that I think about these minutiae.

Life is a struggle, whether it's to be the best mom/daughter/wife/sister/friend/person I want to be. But this is what it means to be a in training: each struggle and triumph prepares us for the next just ahead.

And this is a chronicle of my Life in Training.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hello, Goodbye

I spent the afternoon in a nostalgia-filled hall for one of my best friends as she and her sister and brothers said goodbye to their dad. In truth, they've been saying their goodbyes for about 18 months now, each time unsure of whether there would be another in their future. This is an issue of first impression among my tight circle of friends here, so it has definitely left me thinking about my own dad.

A year ago July, my dad was having some back pain. Dad has never been one to run to the doctor at the first twinge of anything, so my parents went to a family reunion in Sweden as planned and would deal with his aged body when he got back.

After spending his trip in much discomfort, he got home actually motivated to see his doctor, who put him through the usual littiny of tests. And in the meantime, get thee to a GI doctor for ALL the scopes.

At the same time, my mom was called away to say what was ultimately her final goodbye to her mother. Having been quite the Florence Nightingale when Mom had cancer, I stepped right up to be Dad's chauffeur on Scoping Day. As he was sedated and exchanging innuendoed humor with his actual nurse, I went on a Target run for some La Croix.

I certainly couldn't have been the first daughter with whom his GI doctor had to share results and he was quite clinical about it until the moment before we went back to see my dad. He paused and asked, "are you okay?" I answered in the affirmative and we went back to find the still loopy patient sipping on a juice box.

"Your dad has a pretty significant mass towards the top of his colon, near the stomach. He needs to have surgery as soon as possible."

I wasn't shocked at the news, which was probably what the doctor interpreted my doe-in-headlights response as. What it actually was  was me steeling myself to handle shit, like, you know, tell my mom, who was clear across the country with my dying grandmother, the news. And she called as we were driving home. Now, I'm not a real stickler for the whole hands-free law. But did I invoke it for the sake of not telling her while driving? Fuck yeah I did.

Next came picking a surgeon. Surprisingly, my dad chose his based on my recommendation. His surgeon-to-be treated me for complications after having the Mayor by C-section and I loved him. He also treated Fella's late grandfather and was well beloved afterward. And after meeting him, my mom loved him for being a man of science and faith. The ringing endorsements abounded.

Surgery landed right around the Mayor's 6th birthday and was successful. Tumor completely removed (along with about a foot of colon) and it did not appear to have spread. The biopsy confirmed cancer, but determined to be Stage 1, so no further treatment was required. Shit handled.

It's been over a year now. Dad recently saw GI Doctor who gave him a clean bill of health and remarked how Surgeon had done an amazing job.

So I'm lucky. I don't have to stare down the barrel of an imminent goodbye with my parents just yet. And I know we never know what's right around the corner, so I will do my best to make the most of the time we have between goodbyes.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

More Ovaltine, Please

Because real life got unexpectedly heavy today, I've decided to share my secret to hot cocoa tonight.

I make no bones about my overwhelming feelings of concern for sweets, usually the chocolatier, the better. But let's face it, we can't always have our cake and eat it, too (at least I oughtn't). During the cooler months, I have found that a good cup of hot cocoa is the happiest of mediums. And if you follow me on IG, you've probably already seen a post too many about it this year.

Some time back, I ditched pre-made hot chocolate after realizing what all is actually in it. And while I was at it, started using alternatives to sugar: first agave nectar before hitting pay dirt with good old honey. I also prefer to use cow's milk alternatives and like the vanilla almond beverage in the refrigerated section at Trader Joe's, the one in the blue carton.

The piece de resistance: chocolate! I've tried lots of different cocoa powders. And you guys, dutch processed cocoa powder is the only way to go here. Trust. My favorite Y.O.Y. tends to be from Peet's Coffee (and Tea? Is it Peet's Coffee and Tea? I digress). Bummer thing is, it's only a seasonal item and its season is WAY shorter than hot cocoa season is long. I have yet to see it in a store. But I ran across some organic DPC at Costco (which is POOF! gone from the warehouse already) from Rodelle. It's gooood. Of course it is because I can't get it anymore.

Bottom line: high quality dutch processed cocoa powder = must.

Historically reserved only for weekends, but lately making a regular appearances, is the boozy component. Copious amounts of liqueur. In heavy rotation here are Irish Cream, Kahlua, and Frangelico. Usually in some combination.

I actually measured what I added on Friday: a shot of Frangelico and half a shot of Kahlua (because I was surprised the initial shot took up so much space in the mug, so I went easy). Feel free to add to taste or feel, depending on your intentions for the evening.

Finally, finish with your topping(s) of choice. Lately I've been going full bore with marshmallows AND the usual whipped cream. It's a blessing and a curse that TJ's now carries plain marshmallows, although the chocolate covered ones will work, too. I *might* have tried them last year.

Without further ado (because there's already been enough a-done):

1 cup milk of choice
1 heaping Tbsp Dutch Processed cocoa powder
3 Tbsp* honey, or to taste
Liqueur, such as Irish Cream or Kahlua
Whipped cream

*Reduce to 1 Tbsp if using liqueur

While milk is heating, combine cocoa powder and honey in a mug, mixing until it  comes together in a paste. If using, add liqueur and stir. Add hot milk and stir until cocoa mixture (mostly) dissolves. Top with whatever your heart desires and (hopefully) enjoy!

Growing up, we usually had Swiss Miss at the ready. Never Ovaltine. Ever. I think I had Ovaltine once at a friend's house and loved it, but for some reason my mom wouldn't allow it. Years later, I tried Ovaltine again an realized my mom was justified in her refusal.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

C'mon Get Happy?

For most of my life, all I ever wanted to be was a mom. Moms got to be home all day, perfecting things around the house. Moms got to watch soap operas while folding laundry. Moms conjured up dinner and disappeared the aftermath like magic. Moms got to tap away at her typewriter in the basement and get paid for it. Moms got to take you to the beach or the park or the ice rink and not worry (perhaps even be happy) about it. Moms were always there if you needed them. Moms got to live the life!

Maybe it's because my mom made it seem relatively easy when I was young and impressionable. Maybe it's because I didn't pay attention to her hardships. Maybe it's because I was cocky. Maybe it's because we've made childhood so complicated for both parents and our kids.

Whatever the reason, I have come to find that motherhood is not at all what I once imagined it to be. Mea culpa! Motherhood is a lot fucking harder than I ever imagined it would be.

What's worse, I find that I am a lot less happy doing motherhood than I would have ever imagined. I'm worried all of the time about my kids: about their behavior, about their character, about their performance in school, about their performance in extracurricular activities, oh and about keeping them happy, healthy, relatively unharmed, and, like, alive, or something. It's a wonder I have any time left over to not worry!

It comes as no surprise to me, then, that now I've begun to worry about my unhappiness and how it's impacting my kids. I see other moms who seem so much happier than me and look at their kids who seem so much happier than mine and I wonder: "why can't that be me, us? Why, when I get to do exactly what I always wanted, am I so damned unhappy, anyway?"

My mom always talks about how I was a happy baby, a happy child. Recently I made some snide comment to her about how that happiness is dead and buried. So she asked me why, what happened? What's a cynic to say, but: "life, Mom. Life happened to me." Sigh.

But somewhere along the way, life did chip away at my happiness and for the love of myself and my children, I have got to figure out how to get it back. Because maybe if they can start to see me happy, we can all start worrying a lot less.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Home of the Brave

Apparently, my kids are descended from a long line of brave men whose military service includes the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Great War, World War II, and Vietnam. Both of their grandfathers served, as well; my dad a Marine and Fella's was in the National Guard.

The closest I ever got to military service was when for a nanosecond, I contemplated joining JAG Corps after law school. Mostly because it was better than the alternative: unemployment and forebearance (maybe deferrment, depending). Either way, impending destitution. Then I remembered the part of joining the military that involved bootcamp and, well, nope.

So today we honor those who went before us, those who formed these United States, those who fought oppression throughout the world, and those who maybe didn't know why in holy hell they were even there, but their number got called and then there they were dropped in the middle of the jungle (I'm looking at you Uncle WooHoo).

And we thank those who continue to do so in the name of this great nation. You are all far better, selfless people than I can ever hope to be.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I try not to get myself wound up in/by politics anymore. It was something I thought I would do with my life at one time. Not be a politician exactly, but maybe be the gal behind a couple of guys & gals, behind a guy or a gal. I was into it, American Dream style.

But my cynicism got the better of me. Maybe a little apathy, too. Sprinkle a little hopelessness on top et voila.

Now I can only take it in small doses, lest I work myself into a lather about the sheer futility of it all.

So I put my head down and do what I can on a micro-level to make my little dot in the world better and hope it make some sort of karmic propagative impact on the world at large.

And the optimist emerges.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Surprisingly Flabbergasted

I had a volunteer obligation tonight that took my limited attention away from the political goings-on. When I got home, Fella sat pale faced in front of the t.v.

I looked to see the electoral vote tally stood at 254 to 209.

I looked back at pale faced Fella, eyes wide, mouth agape.

Just moments before, as I walked through the gate, I was imagining life with the first woman POTUS. I was thinking about what wholly unrelated to the election thing I would cobble together to post here for the day.

Now I am only at a loss for words.

While I may not be able to quite articulate the extent of my shock and awe, I am still able to empathize with the electorate that has brought this to fruition. Perhaps that's my privilege as a white woman. Perhaps it's because I left my west coast bubble and lived in a flyover state for a minute. Perhaps it's because some of my core values are the same as theirs. Even if I don't believe he is the means to whatever end they hope to accomplish.

It's hard to walk in someone else's shoes. Maybe that's all we need to remember. Not that those people are dumb or uninformed or backwards. It's also what we ALL need to remember, even Them.

I've commented after most presidential elections in recent memory: we are a country idealogically split nearly in equal halves. When balance tilts too far one direction, there will be the equal and opposite reaction.

We need our representative government to be made of mediators, not dividers. We need to take the buzz out of the word compromise and give it credibility again. We need to remember how to share, which is the essence of the so-called social contract, right? Share the burden to care for your fellow man, take when you need, give back when you can?

And here I thought I was at a loss for words.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Sun'll Come Up

Everybody's sitting around chewing their nails to the quick about tomorrow. I used to be worried about tomorrow, then a few months ago my worst nightmare about tomorrow came true, and since then, I have not worried.

However, I have been very much annoyed by tomorrow. Mostly when my dad's around. Because he is angsty about tomorrow. Because he's worried about Supreme Court Nominees. He might also be a little worried the I'll be wasting my vote tomorrow, but he doesn't get to determine that and besides, it's not like we live in a swing state.

Admittedly, I'm actually still an Undecided Voter. It's already tomorrow in over half of the geograohic country and I don't know if I'll be With Her or that other guy. Do I vote with future history or do I vote my principles? Because I have the privilege of doing so knowing the electoral votes in my state are already a foregone With Her.

So I'm not too worried about it.

I hope you'll stop worring, too. Because no matter what happens, the sun will still rise the day after tomorrow.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Pensive Sigh

Can we just not do this any more? Please?!

Browsing through my Facebook feed the other day and this post stopped me in my scroll:

Not in any need of steps (of either the 12 or aforementioned 8 variety) I did not click through to read the story, but after reading some of the comments, which were unsurprising, I was convinced it had to be sponsored content from some diet or fitness page, so I looked to confirm the source. All I could muster was an "Oh, Martha," whilst SMDH. And then noting that it was originally from the Today Show...sigh.

I don't quite understand: how exactly is this considered newsworthy anyway?

I scrolled on by, feeling betrayed yet again by the mainstream media.

Don't get me wrong, I am delighted that the subject of the story found her why to make a change for herself. But take the "bride" variable out of the equation and who actually gives a fuck?

Maybe I've become a Bitter Betty, but plenty of loved, cherished, and adored women are proposed to and married every day, yet where's the story on that? The headline for which I imagine sounds more like something one would find on The Onion rather than Martha Stewart or the Today Show. Kudos to The Guardian and Lindy West for this:

So why don't we all try to do better here: stop feeding the lie that women are unworthy to be a bride unless they go to extreme lengths to be thin. Because if we can take that one small step, perhaps there's hope that we can also make the ultimate leap and stop feeding the lie that women are unworthy unless they are thin.

A worthy woman can dream...

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Hustle

We last left our heroine, she struggled to find the balance between fun and, well, not fun. Today we find her quasi-natural habitat doing the minivan* hustle in Soccer Mom mode.

This has been an especially challenging soccer season for the Mayor and his team. It’s been a little bit Bad News Bears, not in the sense that they completely kick clods, because they’ve definitely had their winning moments.

To start, their coach is a Senior in high school. I commend her for stepping forward, but she has not provided the structure and leadership that six and seven year old boys need. Their assistant coach, a very busy attorney/dad, has tried to fill in the gaps as much as possible, for which we are so grateful!

And sure, easy to criticize from up on my pedestal, so put up or shut up, right? Right. So our league is all volunteer: from the top Board members on down the line to the coaches, referees, and team parents. Each team has to have so many volunteer points before they are alllowed to play games.

Guess which team almost didn’t meet their quota?

Guess who filled the gaps? Fella took one for the team as the team’s sacrificial Referee. I stepped forward as the all-powerful Team Parent aka Soccer Mom Extraordinaire. And I made up the snack schedule like a MF’ing BOSS. Hell, I even showed up to the first game with the snack when the Mayor was sick and couldn’t play. Soccer Mom Boss.

Two of the players were MIA until right before the first game because the team roster listed the wrong phone number for them! But thankfully, the Mayor is in the same class as one of them and word got back to their people and they got in it.

Not three games into the season and our BNBs lost a teammate because he just could not even. Could not even take direction from the coaches. Could not even keep himself together when he had to be benched for a quarter as a result. Could not even keep it together so his grandma felt in control enough to bring him to subsequent practiced and games. Just couldn’t.

The boys that remain seem to really like one another, but that also creates another challenge: they don’t always want to focus on the game at hand. The Mayor still has plenty of butterfly-chasing, dandelion-picking tendencies to grow out of, as do a few others. So some of the times, we see them in the back field in the midst of a rousing game of chase or zombie tag or some such nonsense as the ball sails on past and into the goal they’re supposed to be defending. And it’s hard for them (I speak only for the Mayor, here) to understand why/how they could have lost so convincingly when they were having such a jolly good time out there (and today, in particular, was a bloodbath, not that I’m counting).

So it’s challenging for me to muster up the desire to put together a team celebration when I’m not entirely sure that our kids our walking away enriched by the season. But I need to remember that we all have been enriched by seeing the camaraderie that our guys have developed and the friendships that are sprouting in spite of the challenges.

After all, we get the best wine from vines that have to struggle. Let’s hope that axiom is true of our kids, as well.

*No minivans were harmed in the writing of this post, mostly because I don’t actually drive one

Friday, November 4, 2016


I am not a fun mom.

It should stand to reason, then, that we are not really a fun family.

I don’t mean “fun” in the sense that we are marginally entertaining people with whom to spend time. Rather, the “fun” kind of people who are going out on adventures, seeing the sights, taking in museums and attractions, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I have admitted to some people that we just don’t do fun things. Which is a half-truth. Maybe a three-quarters truth. We do the bare-minimum of fun things. Mostly because they are emotionally exhausting and if we’re all especially in synch, everyone ends up in a puddle at some point during the fun.

When I left my job three years ago, I thought the world of fun family things would be our oyster. Somehow we manage to plan for fun when one or both of the kids have a silent ear infection plotting fun’s demise.

So earlier this year, I made a conscious effort to let go of convention and do something fun, the spontaneously capturing photographic evidence or these moments with my kids and branding them with hashtag #FunMom. You know, picture or #FunMom didn’t happen.

We did things like lunch at Krispy Kreme on National Donut Day.

Allowing for a #funmom moment at lunch for #nationaldoughnutday.

A photo posted by @sellbie on

And had sparklers on Fourth of July (which, let me tell you, got ALL the kudos from the grandparents who felt obliged to share their horrifying childhood fireworks experiences afterward).

#FunMom was at it again yesterday: first time fireworks for the kids! #happy4th

A photo posted by @sellbie on

Which really gets me to the point: I have a major stick up my ass when it comes to parenting.

I know what you might thinking: “but you seem pretty laid back with your kids when I’m around you….”

Sure, sure. I may appear laid back as my children willfully ignore my repeated requests to head home from the park or refuse to hold my hand to cross the street, opting for a rousing game of human Frogger instead.

But once you’re out of sight, my frustration knows very few bounds. I rant and rave, I mean, how dare they! And passive-aggressively sigh in resignation at my ineffectiveness as a parent. Weep uncontrollably in the driver’s seat of the car at my failure to get my kids to care even just one fraction of a fuck about me as their fearless leader. Among other winning parenting strategies.

What am I so worried about, you wonder?

Well, aside from their potential future spent in despair and destitution (and perhaps, incarceration), I care about being judged. Judged by those very non-judgemental parents of my own. Judged by my peers. Judged by teachers. Judged by society. Because all of my life I have cared about what people think about me. And also I’m terrified that someone is going to come along to say: “Just fucking with you! You’re not supposed to be a mom. We’ll take over from here.” [SHUDDER]

And I know we’re not supposed to be judgy, and I admit I have been a very judgemental person most of my life (probably to surmise what it is about you that my alter ego (see previous post) needs to be more or less like, but also because it was ingrained in me to be the adjudged, so as you are, so you do). I promise, though, I have been working on it.

So this spring and summer I tried to break free from the bounds of #NotFunMom (aka just regular old Mom) and be #FunMom. I wish I could say I thought my kids noticed the microscopic shift in the fleeting presence of #FunMom, but they were probably too busy playing in traffic. Against my wishes, of course.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Surrender...But Don't Give Yourself Away

“If enough people tell someone over and over that he is no okay, he will believe it. And one way or another, he will die.” ~Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry on Woman Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed

I have spent the greater balance of my life trying to figure out how to be someone--anyone--other than simply myself. If I were just: thinner, smarter, nicer, more focused or more clever; more athletic, graceful, or edgier and creative; more feminine and less intimidating; more like her, less like me. Ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

I’m not entirely sure where this idea that I must do anything within my power to not be me was sown. I was absolutely compared to my older brother, but I also remember being set apart from him, as well. I didn’t need this attention or that extra help because I didn’t have learning disorders like he had. But the comparison ultimately evolved into a “one-size-fits-both” approach to what I should be pursuing rather than looking at the convergence of what I like and what I’m good at and where to go from there.

I was also the subject of much concern. Everyone in my family was worried that I was too big and thought that my mom needed to do everything within her power to make sure I was made smaller. And I’m over there thinking how special it was to be the second tallest girl in my entire grade! But they didn’t see tall and active and strong; they saw fat and future misery. I have come to hate looking at my childhood pictures because the imagery simply does not match the narrative.

The summer between 9th and 10th grades, I went back to visit relatives in Chicago and got to stay with my childhood bestie and her family. The old neighborhood even pulled together its annual block party while I was with them and other former neighbors made appearances as well. 

I remember talking to the man who had lived next door to my friend for a few years and he admitted that he could not stand the likes of me back then. He thought I was a brat and he didn’t want me hanging around with the good kids that lived next door. He was relieved to find out that I had turned out so well.

But how dare I be this little blonde something who acted like she was comfortable in her skin enough to strut around her own neighborhood like she belonged there!

So here I sit on the edge of 40 and don’t really know who the fuck I am. Or if whoever I have become is really me. I question so many of the decisions I’ve made that got me to this point, wondering if I made it for me or for this bullshit alter-ego I’ve tried to create. 

And it is terrifying.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

If They Don't Win It's a Shame

I'm Talkin’ Baseball

It’s been an exciting October in my house. First, Fella’s and, by no fault of their own, the kids’ team (the Giants) played my team (DA Cubs) in the NLDS. Realizing it is an even year, the odds...were in no team’s favor, because that’s just lore (and I can say that because it’s also history and I know how it turned out).

Bring on the Dodgers

Despite besting the hometown team around these parts, choosing a team to back in the NLDC was your basic no-brainer: DA Cubs. I mean, Duck the Fodgers...amirite?! Because we ain’t afraid of no goats. And (SPOILER ALERT) the Titanic sinks at the end.

Since 1908, You Guys

Throughout this World Series, we’ve been thinking a lot about my Grampa. Earlier this year was the 20th anniversary of his passing, a day before my 19th birthday. He loved playing cards (no family gathering was complete until after the dining room was transformed into a poker table), a day at the track (my mom has fond memories of his generosity with his winnings), and sports in general (the Cubs very specifically).

I remember him faithfully sitting in his armchair in his tv room, tuned into his Cubbies on WGN, and armed with provisions of Diet 7Up, Keebler butter pretzel twists, and Velamints. I’m sure I sat on his lap a time or two, as long as my attention span could stand being torn away from the latest and greatest Mattel has to offer in a bright pink box.

Do They Get Fox Sports in Heaven?*

No matter how many memories others share about him, I still feel like he passed away before I could truly know him. I wish I had been to a game at Wrigley with him. I wish I could remember whether he saw me play softball as a kid. I wish he could have been here to watch this World Series. But he can rest easy knowing his grandchildren and great grandchildren (despite the geographical circumstances of their birth) were all holding vigil for Gus’ home least until bedtime.

*I kinda hope not. Because Joe Buck.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Fall Into November

You might have to dig deep, but remember that time I pledged to write for this blog every day for the month of November? Well here we are two years later and it’s another November (don’t shoot the messenger) and I’ve been thinking about punishing participating in NaBloPoMo once again. In an effort to maybe get things rolling again for this wannabe. 

And if you broadcast it on the Internet, it has got to come true, right?

I’ve had a couple people ask a couple of times over the months whether I’ve blogged lately (spoiler alert: it’s NO). But thank you couple of people, it’s a high compliment! And since we drought afflicted writers oft feel the need to provide explanation for such dry spells, the why for here is no less cliche than having been stood up (surreptitiously dumped?) by my proverbial Muse. You know, the ol’ Writer’s Block. Nothing has so stirred me to commit many words to paper, let alone share the few deeply personal, darkly unshareable words that have managed to leak out.

What I have done in the time since is a shit ton bit of reading, much of which has been sparred by some long overdue self- and soul-searching. So in an ongoing effort to be more “authentic,” as they say, I’d like to try to share again. If even just a little. And if you, my dear couple of people, will allow it (i.e., read it).