To New York, With Love

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New York has an undeniable pulse to it. Step off the grinding subway to a thundering drum performance and you can physically feel the beat. Every corner turned boasts a different part of life.

Joy, sorrow, love, loss, beauty, disfigurement—it all can be found in New York. Centuries-old stone churches kiss new-construction steel skyscrapers. Every age, gender, race, and class swirl through the streets. You can buy a 99¢ slice of pizza next door to a restaurant where $99 is the standard entrée price. The dichotomies are overwhelming and gorgeous.

This past weekend my husband took an extra day off work and watched our kids while my mom and I drove over to visit my brother in the West Village. (Can I get an Amen for husbands who are equal partners?).

This was my fourth time to New York City but first time staying in the West Village and it offered a side of the city I’d never experienced. The residential feeling I never felt in Midtown and the Upper East Side was found in the West Village.

After this weekend it is easy to see why so many artists are drawn to the city. There is no shying away from life when you’re there. Art, music, theatre, food, people—there is inspiration seeping at the seams.

How cool is it to have a brother who lives someplace this awesome? To say I hit the sibling jackpot with my older brother and younger sister is an understatement. I hope one day my own kids will stop fighting over the Dory plate and like each other. I hope even more so that when they’re adults they’ll like to spend time together. I know I have years of refereeing knockout matches over Cozy Coupes, television shows, and car keys between now and then, but here’s to hoping.

My brother hosted the perfect weekend—great food, jazz, once-in-a-lifetime seats at Hamilton—and it was such a different scene from my day-to-day life. Don’t get me wrong—I’m deliriously happy with my life—but this weekend was a perfect testament as to why it’s good to step outside of our own lives every now and then and travel.

Taking a trip is the ultimate reminder that there is so much more beyond the walls of our homes, streets of our communities, and routines of our lives.

I can’t help but feel this past weekend was a little bit of magic. To be in the city where anything is possible and spend time with some of the people who have known me from the very beginning, who have informed who I am today, is priceless.

 

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Change and Control

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I wrote this the other day as part of a passage about growth in stillness and reason in waiting but this idea that there are many things we can change and few we can control has turned and turned in my head.

 

We have all made decisions that have led us to where we are in this exact moment. And while we have made choices to get here, we can’t always control the circumstances.

 

Since November 2017 Levi and I have had a second child, finished old jobs and contracts, listed our house, sold our house, went under contract for one house, bought a different house, moved 3.5 hours away to a brand-new town, our two-year-old and one-year-old both had surgeries, we started new jobs and contracts, and essentially started life over. Finding where the grocery stores are, our way around town, new doctors, new friends, new routines.

 

And it has all just felt like A. LOT.

 

We couldn’t control the kids’ health situations, when houses hit the market, whether or not a seller is willing to remediate black mold, or work projects.

 

Those are all circumstances we had no power over.

 

But we could decide what we could change in each of those situations. We could get the kids the help needed to improve their health, we could walk away from a house and buy a different one, we could say yes to great opportunities and take a leap.

 

And while the past year has been challenging, there has been growth in that too. All of the challenges seem a little more manageable if I can sort out what’s out of my hands and what’s in them. If I recognize I have no control over something, it’s easier to let go of it and ask, what can I change?

There is a lot we can’t control. But there is even more that we can change.

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choosing to embrace the mess and Valentine-making memories.

Sentimental Set

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I’m not an overly sentimental person. My family describes me as a purger and if something doesn’t serve a purpose or have a designated place it is swiftly and efficiently removed from the house—donated, pitched, passed along.

But there are odd items that seem to have a sentimental hold over me. Objects that anchor the family and act as a touchpoint. Our former kitchen table and chairs was one of these.

After it was gone I tried to find a picture of it, but I couldn’t locate one.

I could find lots of photographs that it appeared in, but none where it was the focus. This piece of furniture that three generations of families had gathered around. The chairs that were reglued, and reglued, and reglued. The sixth chair that was broken during a too-rowdy weekend. The chair that he draped a damp towel over the back of and its telling water marks. This table and chair set that bared nearly fifty years of stains and scars, each carrying with it its own story.

When I was growing up it was our eat-in kitchen table. The formal dining room set was reserved for things like Christmas and Easter, so this table was where we ate our family dinners most nights of the week.

Morning coffee and art projects. Macaroni and cheese and homework.

Place setting over the years ranged from paper plates, to my mom’s everyday Poppies on Blue pattern, to my grandmother’s china.

Candles blown out and prayers said. Weekday spaghetti dinners and grilled chicken on summer Sundays after church.

Just a piece of furniture? Or a constant? Something we could return to. Something that is there for us to gather around to celebrate the good and try to make sense of the bad.

It traveled with Levi and I from Columbus, Ohio, to St. Louis, Missouri, to Brentwood, Missouri, to Springfield, Illinois, to Aberdeen, South Dakota, and back to Ohio again.

Finally, we didn’t believe the chairs could take anymore glue. They wobbled and creaked with a simple slide in and slide out.

We needed a new set. Something sturdy. Something that we can hopefully have around for another three generations.

“Give it to someone who needs it,” my grandma and mom both said.

I did not go with Levi on the farewell drop-off to our local Goodwill. Yes, it is just a piece of furniture. An inanimate object. But it was ours. My grandparents, my parents, and then mine and Levi’s. It is where decades of birthday parties and family meals occurred. Where bewildering math problems and seemingly unsolvable life problems both found solutions. It was just an object, but it was so much more. It was the foundation that nourished generations of life and living.

 

All sisters eat dessert under the kitchen table right?
All sisters eat dessert under the kitchen table, right? Sharing laughs and dessert with my sister under the kitchen table.

 

 

*a version of this post originally appeared on former site, These Paths. 

Under the Top Knot

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Top knot, yoga pants, no make-up.

This is the unequivocal stay-at-home / work-from-home mom uniform. Instead of “Dress-down Friday” there is Wildcard Weekday where at least once a week you rock the pajamas you slept in the night before. No judging.

Before we moved to Hudson I would be in client offices 1-2 days a week and also squeeze in work at home. I set my hours and we had a nanny come to the house to watch the kids. As ideal as this situation was, it was still hard to walk out the door on mornings when the kids were crying for me.

Despite the tough mornings, I loved the work I was doing and valued the time where I still got to live the “business” side of myself.

Creative brainstorming sessions, client pitches, campaign development and execution. I loved the challenge of it all and I loved to see ideas take shape and make an impact.

When we moved to Hudson my work dynamic shifted to 100% remote.

Sounds awesome, right?

While it has it perks, I went through an adjustment period transitioning to being at home full-time. Other than eight weeks after Laine was born, I had never been home with both kids around-the-clock.

Creative brainstorming sessions suddenly became compiling lists of ways I could entertain both kids for 12 hours on inclement weather days (living in Ohio keeps this eternally relevant). Client pitches are now elaborate schemes to get the kids to eat one good meal a day.

Caring for my kids all day isn’t new to me—I was doing everything I am now before we moved. But before, when I had a buffer of being able to step into the business role one or two days a week, it all seemed more manageable.

There is a sense of perpetuity with staying at home with kids full-time that can be downright overwhelming.

There is no definitive start and end–at least in the infant and toddler stage we’ve been living the last three years.

From where I’m standing–in my leggings with unintentional and non-fashionable holes–these new parent years are filled with huge and invaluable moments with your kids that make your heart want to burst with love—but at the same time this period can also feel like endless days of singing nursery songs, microwaving chicken nuggets, and wearing yesterday’s clothes.

When you are at home full-time It is so easy to get buried in the caring for the tiny humans and feel like you’ve lost sight of the person you once were.

One pretty sure-fire remedy? Haircut and style.

I got a haircut this weekend and it was amazing.

You get to sit in a chair and not get up for an entire hour. 60 minutes without having to get something for someone. That in-and-of-itself is worth double the going-rate for a haircut.

More importantly, I got a glimpse of myself with my hair done, make-up on, and sporting real clothes. I got to feel like the person I once was.

When I got home the kids were thrilled to see me and it wasn’t even hour later that I had my hair tied back and they were climbing all over me again. Their joy to have me home with them is something special. And I know the window where this is possible is small.

It will be back to yoga pants and chicken nuggets this week, but this weekend I got the reminder that under the top knot I’m still the same person I once was. And an even better reminder that I wouldn’t trade anything to be the person I now get to be everyday—Mom.

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Tiny Toes

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You toddle over to me and reach your arms up. You don’t want anything in particular. Just to be held by me. To be near me.

I pick you up and plop you on my lap and when I look down I see your little feet resting against my legs.

Dimpled toes, arches still forming, ten extra-long digits just like my own. 

I trace my fingers through your wisps of baby hair and wonder where these feet will take you one day. What will you see and who will you meet? What thresholds will you cross, mountains will you climb, dreams will you chase? 

One day I will send you off into the world and you will stand on your own two feet. But, today? Today, I get to hold these tiny toes in my lap.